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Today's Life Solutions  
Today's Life Solutions / Gardening / Teresa Watkins, Gardening With Soul

Your Dream Garden

June 28, 2007

Do you ever fantasize about having a dream garden? Have you ever visited a garden, sighed thinking to your self: “I would love to have this garden in my own backyard” but you don’t have a clue as to where to begin? The garden of your dreams is possible – and do-able – if you can realize what you’re actually looking for.

The first question to ask when designing a dream garden is: What do I want? Do I want beautiful colors all year round? Do I want to attract more birds and butterflies? Would I like a garden that will help I can enjoy my favorite hobbies like cooking, reading, or meditating? Do you love to cook? Then a cooking garden may be in your future. You will want to try edible landscaping with herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables and native plants.

Reading your favorite book on a bench or while swinging in a hammock under a cool tree in the summertime is a wonderful pastime. A literature garden may be just the inspiration to spend more time perusing the latest best seller. Creating a garden bursting with flowers, shrubs and trees from the pages of literary classics like Greek mythology, Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, and Frances Hodson Burnett can be very energizing and interesting to meander through. Research is definitely in order to find the plants utilized by authors in their writings. You will want to make sure that the flora cited is appropriate for your zone.

Think back to a childhood moment, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, or when you were the most happiest; were plants, flowers, or gardens involved in your memories? For me, when I incorporate those memories into my garden, I find that I relax and enjoy the fragrances, the excitement of the colors, and I even enjoy gardening chores more. It rejuvenates my soul, my energy and I feel more at peace.

Want to explore more gardening themes? You can check out Themed Gardens and Gardening with the Arts on my website at http://cfyn.ifas.ufl.edu. There are a plethora of choices on the website pages that range from holiday gardens, gardens from around the world, musical gardens, and biblical gardens, to children’s gardening, flowers, shrubs, and trees, enough to fulfill anyone’s fantasy.

Secondly, planning your layout and analyzing garden beds before planting is important. Deciding on a theme or purpose for your garden will allow you to create a smart plan to streamline your labors, and keep your budget under control. How much space do you have? Where are your windows, doors, and pathways? What traffic areas are already being used in your yard? What kind of soil and sunlight are in your yard?

Knowing the height your shrubs and perennials will eventually reach will help you purchase mature size-appropriate plants. Low maintenance gardening means using plants that won’t need high-maintenance pruning.

Traffic patterns such as how you bring your garbage cans to the curb or what path you take to visit your neighbors are important to incorporate into your design. There is nothing more frustrating than to have to haul your full 50-pound plastic garbage bin through your nice thick St. Augustine grass, around the shrubs and flowers, to make your mornings more hectic. Remember it’s important to not stress when you’re in your yard, landscape or garden, smooth and easily accessible walking areas are vital.

Soil conditions are important to a healthy landscape which will ensure the success of your dream garden. Analyze your soil pH; amend the soil if necessary to create better moisture- retention and nutritious conditions.

Ensure that your garden will receive adequate moisture especially in our drier seasons and during unexpected droughts by installing an efficient watering system, i.e. micro-jet irrigation, rain barrels, cisterns. Make sure your irrigation system is zoned properly – turf areas on one zone, garden beds on a separate zone.

Pay attention to what kind of sunlight in garden areas you have throughout the day and throughout each season. Areas with less than five hours of sunlight are shade only – planting beds, while five to eight hours are partial sun/shade, and eight or more hours are full sun plantings only. Knowing your sunlight ranges will help with water conservation, appropriate fertilizing, and keeping your flowers abundantly blooming.

Are you dreaming about your garden yet? Or are you feeling like you could be getting into a nightmare? Don’t stress - it may seem like these are just gardening chores reiterated over and over again, but in fact if you hired a landscape contractor to design the perfect garden for you, he or she would ask you these very questions and implement these gardening basics for you. You would be paying for their expertise, time, and labor. To save money, you can implement the basics yourself, as your budget permits, and in turn, be in control of all the details of your landscape. You don’t have to do it all in one weekend, one season, or even one year. Your dream garden doesn’t need to be hundreds or thousands of square feet. Start in a small corner of your yard, with an idea, a plan, a shovel and your favorite plants. As you grow more confident in your designing abilities, you can expand your garden to reach the sky and venture into worlds far away.

Now close your eyes, grant yourself the wish to have a beautiful garden of your heart’s desire? Dream big, you really do have everything you need to have your dream garden!
 
Teresa Watkins, Gardening With Soul
Teresa Watkins is a recognized leader on water conservation principles in 'environmentally-friendly' landscapes., Watkins teaches educational and motivating workshops to Florida homeowners on creating and maintaining 'Florida-friendly' yards that are attractive and almost carefree with 'earth-smart' practices. Over 24,000 Central Florida homeowners have attended Teresa’s landscaping programs in the last nine years earning Ms. Watkins the Florida Water Education Association’s 2007 Public Education Award.

Teresa Watkins’s professional background ranges from working with individual clients, private nurseries, commercial retail garden centers, and homeowner associations. She assists city, county, public and private water suppliers on Florida-friendly water conservation and stormwater pollution education efforts for homeowners. Watkins advises builders and developers on landscape best management practices in new communities. Teresa, a horticulture expert, also provides down to earth advice in her ‘Gardening with Soul’ articles. National business
publications, green builder magazines, Internet websites, and gardening magazines quote Teresa’s articles and philosophy of 'ecologically-aware' gardening.

An award-winning radio and TV host, Teresa Watkins designed the landscaping of the 'first energy and environmentally efficient' DREAM home in the state of Florida to be certified as a 'green home' by the Florida
Build Green Coalition. Watkins hosts a weekly call-in radio show; 'In Your Backyard' on WLBE 790 AM, Leesburg, Florida showcasing environmental issues and landscaping advice across the state.

Teresa has received numerous Gold, Silver and Bronze UF/IFAS IMAGE, “Institute Marketing Awards for Gaining
Excellence” awards for her Central Florida Yards & Neighborhoods environmental and gardening website, brochures, and radio show. A Class VII Fellow and Vice President on the Board of Directors for UF/IFAS Florida
Natural Resource Leadership Institute Alumni Association, Teresa was environmental landscaping consultant for the Green Builder - Vision House 2008, which was showcased at the 2008 International Home Builders Show in Orlando, Florida. Teresa serves on the USGBC-LEED Technical Advisory Group.

When not putting her hands in someone else’s backyard, you can find Teresa digging in her own garden, looking for slugs and lubber grasshoppers ~ creatures, that she adamantly swears do not have souls ~ aided in that effort by Nipper, and MacTavish, legendary Scottish terrier lubber hunters.

“Finding your garden theme is as easy as seeing what brings a smile to your face.”~ Teresa Watkins

GardenwithSoul@aol.com

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