How to - Gardening Basics

Start your garden from scratch

By
Ellen Novack

Is your yard a blank slate? Here are expert tips to getting your garden blooming

Think in layers
Layer plants by size. Begin with trees to form the backbone of your plantings.  “Many landscapers recommend evergreens for year-round interest, but many get huge,” warns Masson. “If the property lot is small, consider columnar trees such as columnar Blue spruce, Vandewolf’s Pyramid pine, Pyramidal white pine or Siberian columnar crab apple. “ He strongly warns against “instant landscaping” where the plants will outgrow the space in a few years. Consider blooming times and for winter, don’t restrict yourself to evergreens, but look for seasonal interest with berries, red bark (Dogwoods) or interesting forms (Corkscrew hazel).

Decide on a colour scheme
Reflect on the colours you want to use to paint your garden. “Colours are emotional,” says Masson. “Colours change depending on what is planted next to them.”

The layer behind your flowers can include shrubs, which can also provide a variety of coloured leaves in different seasons. 

Buying tips

  • A rule of thumb when purchasing plants is to buy in threes. “It creates a three-dimensional effect as opposed to a two-dimensional one. You don’t look at a garden, you look through a garden,” explains Masson.
  • With new homes come many unexpected costs. Perennials end up being bargains, because not only will they return every year, but they can be divided and replanted or shared.
  • “Perennials and ornamental grasses cover a lot of space,” says Masson. “There are a multitude of fuss-free planting ideas, such as groundcovers. Periwinkle, Ajuga, Pachysandra and Sedum all need little attention."
  • Annuals can fill in until trees, bushes and perennials are grown. These provide blooms all season long and provide an opportunity to play and experiment with colour.


Gardens are forgiving—plants can always be moved, divided, dug out and shared. So don’t be afraid to experiment and most of all, enjoy the time you spend in your newly designed outdoor space.

Ellen Novack is a freelancer, writing about her favourite things: gardening, yoga and life in between.

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