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GardenSMART Episode

Show #48/6209. Planning And Planting A Garden #2

Summary of Show

1st Talk About The Space
When Jim meets with a client he wants to first talk to the client and find out what they want, then after he listens he usually says, let's go out in your garden space and TALK ABOUT THE SPACE. Because that’s the area they're going to have to be selecting plants for. Once outside and walking around, the client will typically want all these flowering plants but have this fairly large tree in the garden, it's not a real big residence, it has limited space, but the tree is going to take up a lot of the sun. So the question then is “Have you considered removing that tree?” For More Information Click Here

Typography
After we've walked through the process of developing a new garden and thought about what we want and then done a survey of our sun/shade requirements that then relates to another topic that is very, very important and something that oftentimes gets overlooked and that is TYPOGRAPHY. Jim firmly believes that typography has to be considered right up front. If a property has more of a hilly topography, you have some advantages to that, often a lot of advantages. For More Information Click Here

Vertical Slopes
In the case of Jim’s Inspiration Garden this is a dwarf conifer garden. And the VERTICAL SLOPES are very, very effective in showing off these plants and they also allow the use of fewer paths because our range of visibility is so much greater. As one walks through this garden if we look down we see how beautiful looking over the plants is, if we look up, we have all these textures and colors, totally different. For More Information Click Here

Taking It In Stages
In Eric's experience one thing that he has found to be a useful way of thinking about the development of a garden is TAKING IT IN STAGES. Gardening can be an expensive hobby. It's also a way of staging one's budget. There are a number of considerations that need to go into the way we actually execute the planning part of a new garden. For More Information Click Here

Invest Money In More Important Plants
When thinking about a large space or a small space Jim always goes back to residential. Whether dealing with a smaller home or a medium size home or a large home, each one has a certain amount of land that you're dealing with. Select the plants, but remember, certain plants are going to give age and character to a garden. Typically those are larger plants. If cost is a consideration INVEST MONEY IN SOME MORE IMPORTANT PLANTS, then the step down level of plants are not as expensive, but they of course are more expensive than ground cover plants, which could be one gallon plants or four inch or six inch plants. Jim when talking with people will say, “Remember, you don't have to do this all at once. For More Information Click Here

Site Preparation
One of the most important parts of getting a garden right, is SITE PREPARATION. There's a lot that goes into that. We need to think about the start to finish, right up until the point where we start plugging plants in and there's a lot of things that we need to consider. For More Information Click Here

Initial Land Prep
Oftentimes we need to also be thinking about what is appropriate for the space. If we have a very, very small space, yet we have something really, really large that is eating up all the space and that's not consistent with what we want that garden to be we need to rethink our priorities. Perhaps a plant needs to be limbed up or thinned out, possibly even removed. At the point where we've made those determinations we’re at the stage where we do our INITIAL LAND PREP or land clearing. Eric knows there was a lot of that needed with this space. For More Information Click Here

Pathways
After we've done our land clearing or basic land preparation, one thing that's super important is to think about how is this garden going to be used? And the PATHWAYS go a long way toward determining how people are going to use the garden, even if it's a private garden, but especially in these beautiful public gardens like Gibbs Gardens. The pathway is your way, as a gardener, of telling visitors how they're going to experience the garden so, that's got to be done very early in the process. For More Information Click Here

Irrigation
Another important thing to consider as well is water. IRRIGATION is so important to any garden especially with the investment that that goes into the plants. If the plants don't have the water they need, they're not going to survive. So considering where we need irrigation and making sure that it gets installed before we even start putting any plants out is so critical. For More Information Click Here

Getting The Soil Right
Another thing that we need to think about with a new site is GETTING THE SOIL RIGHT. It's not that we can't make amendments to the soil later, but it's hard to do, and it can be very, very disruptive. So, understanding what the ph of your soil is, getting soil tests done early on is very important. Bear in mind, this is going to be the home for this plant, hopefully, for years and years and years, in some cases for decades. For More Information Click Here

Consider Hardscape Or Other Features
Another thing to think about as we're developing a site and before we start moving our plants in, is HARDSCAPE OR OTHER FEATURES. If we know that we want a gazebo or we have a place where we want to put some large containers, or statues, or in this case beautiful boulders, it's always better, easier and less expensive to do that before we have a fully established garden. Some of the boulders in this garden weigh two tons, don't forget you've got to bury them a little bit into the ground to make them look natural. The boulders that are in here have to go in first, then you put the plants around them. For More Information Click Here

LINKS:

Gibbs Gardens
World-Class Garden | North GA Destinations | Gibbs Gardens

Jim Gibbs
Jim Gibbs | Gibbs Gardens

Buddy Lee - Encore Azaleas
Meet the Man Behind the South's Iconic Encore Azalea | Southern Living

Brent Markus - Rare Tree Nursery - Japanese Maples
Japanese Maples – Rare Tree Nursery

Tom Cox - Conifers
Cox Arboretum |

Plant List

Show #48/6209. Planning And Planting A Garden #2

Transcript of Show

Have you ever wondered what goes through the mind of great garden designer as they take the first steps on a new design project? Many have. In this episode GardenSMART returns to Gibbs Gardens to follow the next steps in the development of their latest addition to the gardens, the Inspiration Garden. The Inspiration Garden is one of Jim Gibbs crowning achievements and we've had the pleasure of following his process every step along the way. In the last episode we dove into Jim's vision for the garden and the early stages of its' development. A good start, but there are so many things to consider along the way. It all starts with having a vision that can evolve into a plan that can be implemented. We're back alongside owner and founder, Jim Gibbs, to discuss the process of implementing a new garden design and the many steps necessary to ensure its success.

Eric thanks Jim for, once again, joining us and welcomes him back to the show. Jim thanks Eric and GardenSMART for telling the story of the Inspiration Garden.

We're talking about one of Eric's favorite topics, which is starting a new garden. Embarking on this amazing journey there is no one who has more experience planning and planting new gardens than Jim. Jim has been doing this for almost half a century and Gibbs Gardens is a snapshot into over 20 different gardens so the process is one that he's very well acquainted with. Eric would love for Jim to talk to our gardening viewers about starting a new garden, what is the spark or idea for a garden. What are you thinking about?

When Jim meets with a client he wants to first talk to the client and find out what they want, then after he listens he usually says, let's go out in your garden space and TALK ABOUT THE SPACE. Because that’s the area they're going to have to be selecting plants for. Once outside and walking around, the client will typically want all these flowering plants but have this fairly large tree in the garden, it's not a real big residence, it has limited space, but the tree is going to take up a lot of the sun. So the question then is “Have you considered removing that tree?” If you truly want flowering plants, maybe you should take the tree out. One needs to think about these things. It's a big decision, but if the site's not appropriate, you've got to make it more appropriate. If you are convinced you want full sun plants, part sun plants, part shade or shade plants selecting plants for those areas in essential. A larger space could actually have all three groups of plants, smaller spaces - not so much. In a large space one area could be for full sun, one could be for part sun, one could be for part shade. But that may not be possible with a smaller garden area. This garden, the Inspiration Garden has all three - full sun, part sun, part shade, but you have to select the plants for that space.
Thinking about all of that in advance is just one of the many ways that we set ourselves up for success. It's very difficult to coax a plant into growing somewhere that it doesn't want to grow and the sun/shade requirements are at the very top of the list of the things that we need to think about when embarking on a new garden. 

After we've walked through the process of developing a new garden and thought about what we want and then done a survey of our sun/shade requirements that then relates to another topic that is very, very important and something that oftentimes gets overlooked and that is TYPOGRAPHY. Jim firmly believes that typography has to be considered right up front. If a property has more of a hilly topography, you have some advantages to that, often a lot of advantages. When walking on a walkway in that garden, you're able to look down on one side over the tops of plants, then turn, reverse your position and you're looking up toward the hill above and you're seeing all the plants on the levels above. In north Georgia or Atlanta where we are, we have an advantage because our topography varies a lot, it has a lot of elevation changes. Every garden is different. Consider the sun requirements and the topography. Don’t worry about the pictures you've seen, they have nothing to do with it. Think about your garden, what the size is, what the topography is, what the sunlight requirements are. These elements effect the way we plant the garden.

In the case of Jim’s Inspiration Garden this is a dwarf conifer garden. And the VERTICAL SLOPES are very, very effective in showing off these plants and they also allow the use of fewer paths because our range of visibility is so much greater. As one walks through this garden if we look down we see how beautiful looking over the plants is, if we look up, we have all these textures and colors, totally different. But then because of the topography it can require bringing in, sometimes, a lot of fill dirt to create the walkways. Remember, as we said earlier, the walkways guide you through the garden so, wherever you walk, you're going to see a different view. Looking down is totally different than looking up.

In Eric's experience one thing that he has found to be a useful way of thinking about the development of a garden is TALKING IT IN STAGES. Gardening can be an expensive hobby. It's also a way of staging one's budget. There are a number of considerations that need to go into the way we actually execute the planning part of a new garden. Putting in the big trees first, looking at hardscape, do we want boulders, etc. What were Jim’s thoughts about those in relation to this space?

When thinking about a large space or a small space Jim always goes back to residential. Whether dealing with a smaller home or a medium size home or a large home, each one has a certain amount of land that you're dealing with. Select the plants, but remember, certain plants are going to give age and character to a garden. Typically those are larger plants. If cost is a consideration INVEST MONEY IN SOME MORE IMPORTANT PLANTS, then the step down level of plants are not as expensive, but they of course are more expensive than ground cover plants, which could be one gallon plants or four inch or six inch plants. Jim when talking with people will say, “Remember, you don't have to do this all at once.” The Inspiration Garden at Gibbs Gardens is a big garden and, he too, has cost considerations he needs to think about. But in the area they're standing the larger plants behind them are bringing the lower part of the garden up and balances it. They balance the topography. But they're very expensive because they are 15 and 20 year old conifers that are dwarf conifers, so the cost of these and shipping them here is very, very expensive. But can you imagine on this hillside, if everything in this low area was smaller when looking down the vertical slope, it would just look like a hillside with a lot of little vertical plants. So, he needs the bigger plants behind them to give the garden age and character. Now, if one is looking up, you can go with much smaller plants because the slope has vertical scale, and you're adding plants to the vertical scale.
Eric, in the past, with his gardens has put in the plants that tend to grow slow - in first. With the fast growing plants we have the luxury of time with those, but looking at those more structural plants, the bones of the garden, especially if we're on a budget and we can't afford to put in 15 to 20 year old plants, at least starting with those plants that we know are going to take a few years to really come into their own, get those in so they can get established allowing them to start growing and filling in. Then later start thinking about things like perennials, ground covers, annuals. Eric thinks it's just a nice way of thinking about the progression of the planting of the garden. 

One of the most important parts of getting a garden right, is SITE PREPARATION. There's a lot that goes into that. We need to think about the start to finish, right up until the point where we start plugging plants in and there's a lot of things that we need to consider. As we think about this site, Eric wants to know what Jim considered, how did he go about figuring out what the site preparation was going to look like? What was that chore?
The first thing Jim had to do, and he thinks this should be done with every garden is decide what is existing, what trees are there, what are the desirable and undesirable trees and plants. Take out all undesirable. As an example if you have a sweetgum, maybe in the corner, the balls can be very messy as they drop. They offer a little bit of fall color, but to him that would not be a desirable tree to leave. So, take out any of the undesirable trees or if you have a privet hedge you know to take that out, it's undesirable. Just get the undesirable out and then what's desirable you leave and add more desirable trees and plants to that. And as you're going through your landscape design, you're selecting plants that are going to have beautiful form, beautiful texture, beautiful color. All of that working together will help make a beautiful area.

Oftentimes we need to also be thinking about what is appropriate for the space. If we have a very, very small space, yet we have something really, really large that is eating up all the space and that's not consistent with what we want that garden to be we need to rethink our priorities. Perhaps a plant needs to be limbed up or thinned out, possibly even removed. At the point where we've made those determinations we’re at the stage where we do our INITIAL LAND PREP or land clearing. Eric knows there was a lot of that needed with this space. Jim agrees this space is a large space and the elevations vary as we go up the hill, and there is probably 75 feet of elevation change from where they're standing to the top of the conifer garden. Regarding the selection of plants  make sure that as we select the plants think about the overall size, not just when you buy it or one year out, you want to think about what it is going to look like in 10 years. Most plants have a little label on them that will tell you what the size of that plant will be in 10 years. If you're planting a three gallon container plant, you would know what size it would be in 10 years and then you want to put it in a space that will let it grow to that size.

After we've done our land clearing or basic land preparation, one thing that's super important is to think about how is this garden going to be used? And the PATHWAYS go a long way toward determining how people are going to use the garden, even if it's a private garden, but especially in these beautiful public gardens like Gibbs Gardens. The pathway is your way, as a gardener, of telling visitors how they're going to experience the garden so, that's got to be done very early in the process. That's actually the first thing to do after you've cleared the trees, the pathway is going to guide you through the garden. As you go through the garden, the path leads you in and out of interesting and intriguing spaces, which creates a lot of interest in the garden. Jim always tries to add a little bit of a curve, even in a small garden, just the slightest bit of a curve then  plant a few evergreens at the end of that curve. It makes one wonder - what is beyond? It's intriguing, it lures one into that space, you want to see what’s around the curve. So, add a little mystery to your garden. In this garden, the pathways were so important because they wind around, following the topography and in certain areas there are long distances that are basically level, then we're going down an incline. Even if a small garden, the same thing applies. As one walks on your walkway, you want to make people look to the right, look to the left and stop, look at the plant material, check it out.

Another important thing to consider as well is water. IRRIGATION is so important to any garden especially with the investment that that goes into the plants. If the plants don't have the water they need, they're not going to survive. So considering where we need irrigation and making sure that it gets installed before we even start putting any plants out is so critical. Get your main lines in. That way you won't be digging up plants later by putting in irrigation. It needs to be included in the initial investment. It's so important because hand watering is high maintenance and time consuming.

Another thing that we need to think about with a new site is GETTING THE SOIL RIGHT. It's not that we can't make amendments to the soil later, but it's hard to do, and it can be very, very disruptive. So, understanding what the ph of your soil is, getting soil tests done early on is very important. Bear in mind, this is going to be the home for this plant, hopefully, for years and years and years, in some cases for decades. Jim agrees, our soil in Georgia is clay, so for almost every plant he says let's just take the clay out, dig the hole twice the diameter of the plant, then surround the plant with good soil and nutrients. Get a soil in there that has some compost, some bark in it, a little bit of sand mixed in - a real good soil mix. That will allow the fibrous roots to reach out into that new soil. It’s one of the most important things you can do. Also, when you put the plant in, raise it up a little bit above grade, mound it slightly.

Another thing to think about as we're developing a site and before we start moving our plants in, is HARDSCAPE OR OTHER FEATURES. If we know that we want a gazebo or we have a place where we want to put some large containers, or statues, or in this case beautiful boulders, it's always better, easier and less expensive to do that before we have a fully established garden. Some of the boulders in this garden weigh two tons, don't forget you've got to bury them a little bit into the ground to make them look natural. The boulders that are in here have to go in first, then you put the plants around them. This all goes to the bottom line of how important planning is. When starting a new garden thinking through all of these in sequence, thinking through the process of what needs to happen next is very important. Not diving too quickly into something that needs to happen further down the line may limit our options and our opportunities for our garden. It does involve some patience. This is a garden that Jim has been working on for years.  GardenSMART goes all the way back to the beginning when Jim started the Inspiration Garden and it didn't start with a shovel. It started in Jim's head and it started on paper. Because of all the planning that went into the process, Jim got beautiful results.
But the planning stage should not be skipped. It is a very, very important part of building a new garden. If we get these things right out of the gate, it will save so much time and so much heartache. We want these beautiful, rare plants that we spend money on to thrive in the garden and with these basic steps, any gardener can be successful at home. 
Eric thanks Jim for spending the day with us. It's always a treat, we enjoy so much learning from his many years of experience. Thank you so much. Jim in turn thanks Eric and GardenSMART for visiting.
In this episode we discussed the process of the beginning stages of designing and implementing a new garden, as well as many things to consider as the new garden takes shape. In the next episode we'll continue exploring the process of building a new garden with Jim Gibbs. Be sure to join us.

LINKS:

Gibbs Gardens
World-Class Garden | North GA Destinations | Gibbs Gardens

Jim Gibbs
Jim Gibbs | Gibbs Gardens

Buddy Lee - Encore Azaleas
Meet the Man Behind the South's Iconic Encore Azalea | Southern Living

Brent Markus - Rare Tree Nursery - Japanese Maples
Japanese Maples – Rare Tree Nursery

Tom Cox - Conifers
Cox Arboretum |

Plant List


   
 
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