By Valerie Boudreaux
Good design should encompass both interior and exterior spaces, and to me the relationship between the built environment and the landscape is extremely important. In addition to my passion for architecture and interior design, I am a huge plant lover. So for this month’s blog post, I want to share an ongoing project I’ve been working on: my garden.
I am certainly not a landscape designer, but I love the outdoors and spending time in my own garden. A few years ago, my family outgrew our small townhouse and moved to a bigger, more suburban property with an actual yard. While in the townhouse I only had a collection of containers on the deck, our house now has a pretty big yard with a number of generous planting beds. Looking at all the potential, my husband and I quickly made big plans for the yard. Our efforts would become known as Project Outdoor Renovation.
The first season of Project Outdoor Renovation was the dreaded 2020. We moved into our new house in early spring and decided to focus on clearing out and cleaning up rather than making any changes. The various planting beds around the house were overrun with invasive plans and infestations of harmful critters, so we began the process of getting the yard into a more manageable and less overgrown condition. We found out very quickly which potted transplants were going to survive the move and which were not, and we also made some fun, non-harmful critter discoveries. We didn’t get much new added that first year, but we made good progress with our clean-up efforts, and that felt like a successful first phase.
The next season I set my sights on vegetable and herb gardening. With my husband and oldest child helping, we selected a variety of seeds, started them early, bought more containers for the deck, and put together raised beds for larger gardens. For the existing in-ground beds, we reshaped some of them, spread mulch to reduce the weeds, and attempted to plant a few small trees and shrubs in the gaps, with mixed success. We tested our soil conditions, expanded the lawn in back for the kids to play, and ended up with a good harvest of peas and radishes. The bunnies proved to be a setback on the berry bushes, but most of the plants survived.
In preparation for the 2022 season, I’d been researching cut flower gardening in addition to my general learning about gardens and landscape design. Cut flowers hadn’t been part of my original garden plans, but my plans were evolving quickly to encompass my new interest. In my excitement for trying new things, the planting probably started earlier than it should have, but luckily I had great success with seedlings indoors. Unfortunately, moving the baby plants outdoors killed a bunch of them, and the battle to protect my bulbs and tubers from the rabbits and squirrels was fierce. But despite the setbacks, we still managed to harvest plenty of beautiful dahlias, roses, zinnias, and cosmos. I planted vegetables too, in containers, raised beds, and an indoor hydroponic system, but my experimentation with cut flowers was where I really focused most of my efforts. And just because it made me so happy, I want to mention that we closed out the season by hiring a landscaper to plant a good sized magnolia tree, my favorite, in the front yard right outside my office.
This is the fourth year of Project Outdoor Renovation. Now it’s late April and the frost is finally fading away, and I am beyond excited to make real progress on our garden plans. My husband and I are finally settling on a clearer vision of what we want our yard to be and what we want to grow. I spent this past winter taking more DIY courses, researching plants, and drawing a new overall landscape plan. Our big goal for this year is to bring balance to the yard, with more plant varieties and better year-round interest. We want to take a more intentional approach to the vegetable, herb, and cut flower gardens, and we plan to make hardscape updates to improve functionality of the outdoor living spaces. I’m excited to share some of my plans for our flower and veggie gardens, and since I’m also challenging myself to take better notes and photos this year to see what works best, I will share updates this growing season!
I am eclectic in my design aesthetic, and that definitely extends into the gardens and my flower choices as well. If I had to choose a garden look, I would say my overall inspiration is probably mostly similar to Cottage Style, where the lush beds are beautifully layered with color, texture and pattern like what you see in the photos below!
In my own yard, we have a beautiful garden on the south side of the house that’s become our pollinator garden. Peonies, butterfly bush, and black-eyed Susans transition to roses, grasses and dahlias at the south and western edges. This year I’ll be introducing several new rose and dahlia varieties as well as some larger plantings aimed at keeping visual interest through the winter season.
The Vegetables and Herbs
New raised beds across the patio and onto the deck are at the top of the to-do list this year. My family is looking forward to growing a wider variety of food than ever, and after the lessons of the last two seasons we’ve decided to install netted hoop structures to protect the plants early on. We hope the raised beds and covers will help save our harvest from the wildlife that shares our yard, so fingers crossed we’ll have a great harvest this growing season.
While the far back of the property stays pretty wet, it can get very hot and dry on the southwest corner of the patio and deck where I plan to locate all of the vegetables and herbs. Our hose bibb is not convenient to the deck, so to tackle the issue of water access, we are installing a rain barrel right near the beds for easier access to water. As long as we don’t suffer from drought this summer, then I should be able to use the fruits of the rain barrel to nourish all our veggies and herbs!
I am so looking forward to the upcoming season and seeing how our yard continues to evolve, and for those of you that are fellow gardeners I wish you the best of luck as well. If you haven’t already made all your planting plans, I hope reading about my garden journey and seeing these photos inspires you to get outside and curate your own outdoor spaces. Check out our Instagram and I’ll share updates on the garden throughout the season. Please also share what’s inspiring your garden designs this year with us!