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It may be cold outside, but if you’re a gardener worth your salt, you are already dreaming of the season to come. Now I’m no expert gardener, but I have been known to plant a seed or two in my time and I’m hoping this year will be the year I can really get my hands dirty while polishing up that green thumb.

Photo: inspiration from Martha Stewart's gardens

Who wouldn’t love to stroll down this garden lane? But a spectacular garden like this takes planning — and it’s never too early! Ordering plant stock and seeds begins in the dead of winter, so let’s start daydreaming, shall we?

Photo: inspiration from Martha Stewart's gardens

Let’s start simple with landscaping. So many houses lack the softening that a few plants can bring. And I’m not talking about a tiny strip of love-starved annuals bordering a house’s pathway and foundations! Note how this house has sweeping curved beds filled with soft mounds of vegetation. The plants and trees help to frame the house and create a natural, welcoming presentation.

Photo: inspiration from Martha Stewart's gardens

Even if you start with a few containers, your house could likely do with a dose of green. I will forever love terra cotta pots, for their nostalgic and earthy charm. Now please, do as these people did and get plenty of pots! One or two just won’t do! Threes, fives and sevens are best with lots of different shapes and textures. Use them to march up your front (or back) steps, clustered on a verandah, or to create high and low levels within the garden itself.

Photo: inspiration from Martha Stewart's gardens

Remember to colour block people! This means planting drifts of one kind of plant instead of polka-dotting them all around. Above you’ll see several such drifts, so that each ‘colour block’ makes an impact. Here there are lots of pinks and violets in the peonies, foxgloves and salvia so the whole area blends, but you don’t have to do it this way. If you’re going to mix colours, just remember to keep them complementary and use this drift method.

Photo: inspiration from Martha Stewart's gardens

More drifting here…

Photo: inspiration from Martha Stewart's gardens

If you have a shady garden, drool over this. This is basically a forest, but the same principles apply to a residential garden with shade. Learn to live with the moisture-sucking trees and add lots of compost and mulch to moisten the soil. Plant mounds of shade-loving hostas and astilbe and even mosses or ground covers to soften a meandering pathway. Secretly, I dream of having my own little forest just outside my door where I can plant native shade-lovers and perennials in lush swaths like this one. Sigh…

Here are just some of the plants we’ve seen above that you might want to consider when planning for your 2010 garden. In order of appearance, they are:

Photo: Poppies

Poppies {Gorgeous tissue paper-like petals emerging from fuzzy green eyeballs.}

Photo: Lady's Mantle

Lady’s Mantle {This chartreuse-bloomed perennial will zing up any garden, is great with roses, softening pathways, and I love the way dew is collected like diamonds on its leaves.}

Photo: Violas/Pansies

Violas/Pansies {Dainty, quintessentially English, great in cold weather like early spring and fall, perfect for pots. Violas, often sewn by seed, used to be called Jonny Jump Ups and will come back year after year.}

Photo: Foxgloves

Foxgloves {One of my all-time favourites, these aren’t used enough and have a majestic, mysterious quality. So Beatrix Potter!}

Photo: Salvia

Salvia {A large family of plants, I like the annual version which is cheap and cheerful, adding deep blue/violet to the garden for little money or commitment. A nice way to balance off lots of hot colours like red, pink or orange.}

Photo: Anemones

Anemones {Planted from small blub-like ‘corms’, the anemone is unusual and show-stopping.}

Photo: Hostas

Hostas {A lovely shade perennial, they are lush and the perfect foil for other colours in the landscape. Grown and prized for their leaves.}

Photo: AstilbeAstilbe

Astilbe {Another personal fave, these perennials work well in woodland-type settings and have pretty, feathery blooms which make for beautiful cut flowers.}

For more garden planning tips, watch our Ask A Landscape Designer video.

Photo credits:
1. Marthastewart.com
2. Marthastewart.com
3. Marthastewart.com
4. Marthastewart.com
5. Marthastewart.com
6. Marthastewart.com
7. Seedman.com
8. Gardens by Grace
9. BlueWorldGardener
10. MoPlants
11. Meredith.com
12. Estabrook’s
13. Bali-Hai Nursery
14. The Garden Helper

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