In need of a little inspiration? Are Flickr, Pinterest and landscaping makeover shows just not cutting it anymore? We’ve all been there. And it’s easy to overlook the fact that even without the resources to completely redo your entire backyard in three days (ala makeover shows), making a few changes can reap big differences in the look of your garden. Consider the alternative to just viewing virtual impressions: Incorporate those ideas with those from real world environments. Let me explain. When was the last time you took a stroll through a manicured park just to observe the landscaping? Or when was the last time you visited your local botanical garden or arboretum?
Of course, I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir with many out there, especially those who already have their season passes to their local botanical garden. Recently, I even had to remind myself just how many enriching opportunities are within reasonable driving distance from me. From the arboretum, botanical garden, college campus/horticultural department, historical gardens/museums, theme parks and zoos – there is an abundance of inspiration in the real world. One of the many things that I appreciate about botanical gardens is that there is a sign identifying every plant and its binomial nomenclature and, in some cases, a little background information. For those of you have a smartphone or tablet, you can enjoy the same enhanced experience anywhere with apps. Yes, “there’s an app for that.” Take for instance NatureGate, an Android app which allows you to identify over 700 flowers for free and without an internet connection or iPflanzen for the iPhone which allows you to identify more than 1500 species using its identification key. Now that walk in the park just took on a whole new dimension.
There are many garden design apps under $10 like Garden Designer for landscape design or Garden Plan Pro for those who prefer to grow their own comestibles. As you can imagine there are numerous apps available for plant identification and landscape design, some you can download for free and many for a nominal fee. The above are but a few of the higher-rated and more well-rounded offerings for both Android and iPhone/iPad operating systems.
For those without these gadgets, there’s a certain charm to bringing one of those “good old” reference books filled with glossy paged pictures along for your stroll in the park/garden. For children, I personally feel this method is a great way to help them develop both a love for books and for nature.
Another benefit of utilizing online multimedia platforms is the ability to quickly cross reference the plants you see in an installation with the USDA hardiness zone map and the American Horticultural Society’s Heat Zone Map. Will that plant that has caught your eye thrive in your area or a created micro-climate? And if so, what are its maintenance requirements? Don’t forget to always factor in your own realistic time and energy expenditures when contemplating new additions to your garden.
While you’re admiring the landscaping, also take in what plants are planted together. Some plants have a symbiotic relationship with each other, meaning they have a mutually beneficial effect on one another when grown in a given proximity. The reverse is true as well. Some plants will stunt each other’s growth when grown too close together. If you are planting a vegetable garden, do some research on the science of “companion planting” to maximize your harvests.
So the next time you are sauntering about embracing nature, think about embracing both old and new media to enhance your experience and your own garden.