LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
Gardening offers so many options to create relaxing green spaces. Whether you have a great deal of land to create sprawling gardens or you are working with a small patio, a well-thought-out design can help make useful and unique outdoor spaces.
According to Garden Media’s 2022 Garden Trends Report, people are creating “zones” for optimal use of space. There are many ways to build zones, from container plantings and window boxes to carefully placed outdoor furniture — and even outdoor paintings and curtains.
Let’s talk first about landscape beds, porches and patios at the front of homes. This front zone is often the first thing people see, and curb appeal is a real thing. These areas are an important destination and extension of our homes.
Patio areas that provide seating and outdoor décor can extend the square footage of your home, giving you more areas to entertain and relax. You also can create sitting areas in your landscapes with different zones and themes.
Another zone could be a children’s area with play equipment such as a swing set, tetherball, sandbox and trampoline. Why not complement these with a gardening area where kids can enjoy the art and physical activity of gardening?
A raised bed can be a great way to allow kids to grow their own plants and food. What child — or adult for that matter — doesn’t love digging in and playing with dirt? This also can be an area where kids can explore nature, observing insects, earthworms, birds and other wildlife. This area provides an outlet for children and charming appeal to the landscape.
Entertainment areas are excellent additions to the landscape. Areas for outdoor activities on the lawn such as corn hole, bocce ball and horseshoes can provide areas for play for both children and adults. Fire pits with sitting areas offer a cozy retreat in the winter, and areas that provide a reprieve from the sun with large shade trees are great for gatherings in the summertime.
Pollinator gardens are another great addition. Lucky for us, the plants that pollinators love to visit are some of the most beautiful ones we can add to our gardens. Many types of both annual and perennial color add beauty to the garden and draw in some of nature’s most graceful creatures.
Cottage gardens just scream “quaint” with their colorful plants. These gardens usually include a wide variety of colorful ornamental plants alongside edible plants and herbs all mixed together. Cottage gardens are charming and often feature white picket fences, arbors, clay pots and delicate signs. They are a relaxed play on more traditional gardens and can have the tendency to spill over into other aspects of the landscape such as paths and lawns, creating a continuation of space.
Xeriscaping is another type of green space. It’s also known as a desert garden and is not often seen in Louisiana. While typically found in more arid regions such as the Southwest, this does not mean one cannot have a place in your Louisiana landscape.
This type of landscape requires little water and zero irrigation. This type of zone utilizes permeable gravel ground covers such as decomposed granite and pea gravel paired with native plants and succulents such as agave, aloe vera, cactus and many other types of sedums. These types of zones require very little maintenance and are a sustainable option for homeowners and friendly to our environment.
No matter what type of area you wish to create, there is a plant perfect for that zone. In addition, containers help expand the limits of your space and make it possible to include most any type of plant you wish to highlight.
Plants add color and dimension to patios and extend your living area outdoors. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Create areas for children to explore and play in the garden. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Pollinator gardens filled with colorful annual and perennial plants provide a burst of color to the landscape and a place for pollinating insects and other wildlife. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter