Leaving to study landscapes for the first time in Europe, I expected to learn lessons about design and making gardens more beautiful.
Instead, I learned lessons about simplicity, repetition and copying. Keeping things simple in the landscape, repeating the same plants throughout the yard and copying great ideas from one landscape into another.
Following through and really doing these things is what makes the best landscapes, well, the best landscapes. It's the rare person who will follow advice and keep things simple.
Within the trinity of simplicity, repetition and copying, there was another important landscape design lesson: create a landscape work area. All of the gardens I visited across Europe had one.
How did I ever get through a horticulture degree and countless landscape design symposiums and never hear anyone mention creating a work area? No wonder it seemed hard to take care of my landscape.
Where should you put a work area in your landscape? Place it away from the sight lines of your house. If no such area exists, you'll have to create it with large evergreen shrubs. Shade would be good, too, for hot summer afternoons. A path to your work area should be wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow.
How big should a landscape work area be and what goes in it? They'll be different, individualized, for each landscape and each gardener. Some work areas can comfortably enclose a potting shed, while others are full with just a potting table. The size and contents of a work area don't matter so long as they are suited to your needs.
My entire landscape is less than 8,000 square feet, and my work area is located in what used to be the dog run. Neighbors' trees shade the area and shrubs hide it from view.
I have a huge compost pile, a large potting table, shelving for plants being propagated or awaiting planting and space to store wheelbarrows, tools without wood components and focal points currently off exhibit.
Similar to a kitchen, the landscape work area is a space where people like to congregate and visit during open gardens. Honestly, my work area is a fabulous mess - you could call it controlled chaos - but it teems with a happy energy that invigorates all who enter.
Why I like being in it and why it radiates so much positive energy, I've not yet figured out.
When they're not in use, landscape work areas should be styled for a cover shot of a garden catalog.
There are garden tours for plant and pond societies, yet I like to visit work areas. We tour beautiful landscapes, but sadly, there has never been a tour specifically for the landscape work areas of beautiful gardens.
Stone Mountain resident Tara Dillard designs, installs and writes about gardens. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.agardenview.biz.