New Year, New Gardening Plan!

How to have fun redesigning your outdoor space

After digesting many holiday meals, why not sit back and look forward to a new year of garden dreaming? With so many ways to rethink flowerbeds, containers and veggie patches, we asked longtime home gardener Sharon Hoyes for her wisdom.

Sharon calls her 2.3-acre property the Everchanging Garden. She’s spent 11 years reinventing her garden, starting with a simple spreadsheet.

How has your garden evolved?
The first year, we planted a vegetable garden and a few shrubs in the front. Then I moved onto the walkways near the house and a huge kitchen patio, designing the gardens from my vantage point, which meant I’d often run into the house and look out my kitchen window when planning where to put things! Over time, I added more gardens, paths, a pool, woodland areas and a barn we call The Garden House.

How do you decide what to plant?
I love variety, so I’m a danger to myself in a garden center! I try to choose something unique that’ll look good long-term in my yard. I have some amazing trees including a Tulip tree, a hedge maple that I love because we can shape it, a River’s Beech, Blue Beech, Katsura, and dozens more.

What lessons have you learned in planning your garden?

• Pick a style and know your objectives.
I call my own style ‘tidy natural’: I needed easy-to-maintain gardens. I lean heavily towards trees and shrubs. I make sure there are flowering shrubs blooming somewhere in my garden all season, and I rely on foliage to add colour. Those perennials I do use are easy-care varieties: peonies, daylilies, Echinacea and Black-Eyed Susans.

• Tackle jobs slowly.
One year, we removed our children’s jungle gym and covered a huge area of grass with free mulch from a local tree removal company. It stayed as a ‘mulch bed’ for almost a full year before I began planting the next spring. Approaching the job this way saved a lot of work in the long run – the sod just composted under the mulch, and it gave me time to consider what I wanted to do with the space.

• Not everything looks like it does in pictures.
Try to see something growing in someone else’s yard or test one before buying 10, to get a better sense of what it really looks like.

• Everything grows. A lot.
I’ve learned that almost every shrub grows twice as big as they say it will. Plant them far enough apart to give them room to grow.

• Plan your garden on paper, then spread your plants out in their pots.
Walk around and look from every vantage point. Consider how high and wide things will get. Leave some open spaces to see deep inside the bed or beyond into other beds. I’m a big fan of varying plant heights; it’s always intriguing to leave openings to entice someone to see what’s beyond or around the corner.

• Never be afraid to dig something up. It’s part of the process: if you love building a garden, nothing should ever be considered ‘finished’.


ALL PHOTOS: Courtesy of Sharon Hoyes,

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