In my last column, I introduced the idea of creating your outdoor space. It can be a daunting task, but if you take it
step by step, it can be much easier and useful.
I wanted to finish a couple of points from the first step - site analysis - before moving on.
It is incredibly important to understand the concept of microclimate. Toss out the questions of How long is Durango's
growing season?" or What is our hardiness zone?" because inevitably your location won't adhere to these pre-defined
answers. Instead, think about your own microclimate and ask these questions:
What is the orientation of my property and what are the shade patterns?"
What direction does the prevailing wind come from, and where does the air drain?"
Do I have temperature extremes? Cold pockets or heat sinks?"
Learning about the climate where you are developing your outdoor space will pay off in spades. I promise.
You also will need to take into account other environmental factors (i.e. precipitation), existing plant material and
the components of your extensional landscape (i.e. covenants, views, noise, traffic, privacy and security) and
integrate them into the design.
Once you feel comfortable with your site analysis, step two is the family analysis. What are the three most important
elements the family needs and wants from the landscape? My family was looking for food production, a small lawn for
recreation and ornamental beds as an extension of the living space (and to satisfy my occasional plant fix).
If you are having trouble determining these important elements, ask yourself:
How do I (we) want to communicate with the landscape?"
What does the landscape communicate to others?"
Time - what are the interests and values toward gardening activities?"
Dollars - what financial resources will be invested in the landscape?"
At this point, work toward developing a story line for your yard and garden - create your sacred space. What do you
want from this space? A grill and a horseshoe pit? Or a water feature, a sitting area and shade trees?
Step three consists of actually putting pencil to paper and to start sketching, delineating between hardscape (patio,deck, fences, etc.) and softscape (trees, flowers, turf, vegetables, etc.). Once you determine these, you will develop
hydrozones - selecting plants appropriate for our climate and grouping those according to watering needs.
Hydrozones typically consist of areas of routine irrigation (watered every two to four days); reduced irrigation (five
to 15 days); limited irrigation (watering only when dry spells occur after plants are established); and non-irrigated
Step four is the fun one - selecting plant lists based on the hydrozones. Colorado State University Extension promotes
the practice of water-wise landscaping (sometimes called xeric) with the caveat that xeric doesn't mean rock pile. We
are fortunate to have local nurseries that also promote these practices. Use their expertise and ideas.
Steps five and six will focus on the design principles of line, color, texture, scale, balance, etc., as well as tips
on creating effective plant combinations by pairing opposites.
Enjoy the process - don't rush it and remember to keep going back to that story line.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.
Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.