As a contributing editor to Organic Gardening Magazine, Doug Hoerr’s articles over the past year tackle garden design dilemmas with a blend of practical tips and illuminating suggestions. Each one helps readers see their spaces through the eyes of a designer. Together, they’re a great resource for design. We collected some of our favorites here for easy reading. Enjoy!

Shape Lawn Into a Strongly - Defined Design Element.

HOW TO USE LAWN IN YOUR GARDEN DESIGN

With the need to keep chemicals out of the water system, and the chore of routine maintenance (where do all the clippings go?), lawn has earned a reputation as a four-letter-word. But for all the debate about America’s iconic green stuff, a lawn is still found in most yards and, in fact, is often part of what people regard as “garden.” As a designer, I’m often asked to include turf in a garden plan as a place for children to play (another reason to avoid harsh chemical regimes to keep it green and lush). My approach is that if you are going to have a lawn, use it as a dynamic garden-design element and not as the main feature—or a way to fill leftover space. Less can be more, and if you design your little rug of grass carefully, it can be a very effective component. It is also one of the lowest-cost items in your toolkit for landscape design. Keep reading “Make the Most of a Little Lawn.” (Organic Gardening Magazine, February/March 2014)

HOW TO GREEN GARDEN WALLS, FENCES, AND HEDGES

Fences, hedges, and walls are a mainstay of America’s suburban landscape. They are the functional elements in your yard that keep toddlers safe, pets from roaming off, and neighbors from peeking in. As someone who is paid to be creative, I look at situations that need a barrier or screen as an opportunity to do something special. In design, my motto tends to be “green over gray,” which means I use plants instead of hard surfaces wherever possible. Looking at a space, particularly a small one, from this perspective means I often look for vertical greening opportunities—solutions that layer horticulture with architecture in ways that maximize the available space and the amount of green. Using a hybrid of the two can often turn elements that begin as purely functional into beloved areas of your garden. Keep reading “Green Grows Up.” (Organic Gardening, April / May 2104)

CREATIVE USES OF GRAVEL IN THE GARDEN

I first became attuned to gravel as a design component in gardens while in England in the late 1980s. I was there working as a gardener for two incredible designers and plantsmen, John Brookes and Beth Chatto. Each of them used pea gravel extensively in their personal gardens as pathways and a matrix through which to grow plants. Since then, I include gravel in designs for everything from terraces and garden planting areas to drainage areas around houses without gutters and downspouts. Pea gravel is low-cost and easy to install, which makes it a great budget stretcher. It is a fraction of the cost of stone, brick, and often even concrete. Aesthetically, it adds a pleasing texture, can be found in just about every color, and offers that irresistible crunch that adds to the audible experience of a garden. It also adapts itself to any climate and architectural style, from French formal to West Coast contemporary. Installation is simple, but it needs to be done right or the results will be discouraging. Keep reading “Versatility of Gravel in the Garden.” (Organic Gardening April/May 2013)

A courtyard extends over the garage, merging recreation with function.

LET YOUR GARAGE ENHANCE OUTDOOR LIVING

Most classically beautiful gardens incorporate some sort of structure to give shelter, frame a view, or provide a destination. In small lots, adding something like this gets tricky, so your best bet is to utilize a feature that may already be there. For many, this would be the garage.

Since garages are used only for storage or parking and are usually unattractive, the typical strategy for landscaping around a garage is to hide it with foundation plantings. But take a second look. There are huge advantages to co-opting a garage into the garden scheme by treating it as a theatrical backdrop for an outdoor living space. Changes that can be made include enlarging the entry door, incorporating vertical greening, or adding a faux porch. Stylish alterations can imbue a service building with personality and charm, turning it from intruder to welcome addition. The benefits of such improvements go beyond cosmetic—they can reinvent the way you use and enjoy the garden. Keep reading “Co-Opt Your Garage.” (Organic Gardening, January 2014)



SIX TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL SHADE GARDEN DESIGN

Most gardens and landscapes have some areas in shade, which can range from wet, dry, root-infested, or dappled to the worst case, which is closetlike darkness. Correctly assessing what you have to work with is more than half the battle. Since this is a national magazine, I won’t begin to describe specific plants. There are dozens of great resources for finding the right plant to suit each of these types of shade in your specific region, including your local botanic garden, arboretum, garden center, or favorite nursery. Instead, I’ll outline a few ways to think about shade that will, I hope, help you get the maximum value for the time and money spent taking on one of the toughest challenges gardeners face. Keep reading “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.” (Organic Gardening, June/July 2013)

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