Pink House Chronicles – The Garden: Asking the Right Questions

For me, the Pink House Chronicles, Doni’s story of renovating a house that was built the same year of her birth, is a wonderfully appropriate story for someone re-building her own life. We all applaud what she is trying to accomplish.

Lucky for me, I get to be a part of the team working on this creative project! While Doni’s expert architecture and construction partners are well along on the building, I’m just getting started on the exterior space planning.

Doni and I thought it would be fun to show people how the house’s garden is re-born. Through this series we are calling Pink House Chronicles – The Garden, I’ll try to describe the steps this professional garden designer is using to bring new life to Doni’s mid-century California ranch house.

First, we need to come up with a design program. This is simply a very well thought out description of what we’re going to create. It will help tremendously to have a guide like this to keep our focus when, down the line, we must navigate one decision after another as we plan and build.

Everything in our lives is designed by someone – our cell phones and cars, our clothes and shoes, our houses and gardens. Someone asks the questions – what should it look like, how big does it need to be, what materials will be used – and finds the solutions. Good design embodies good solutions, which is arrived at by asking questions.

It’s like knowing what you’re shopping for before you go buy stuff. For example, you’re going to a party and you need something to wear. This is similar to the scenario where you’ve bought a house and need to do something with the yard. After thinking about it for a while, you decide on a classically styled black outfit in a natural, handmade fabric. You came to this decision after talking to a few people about the kind of party to expect, knowing the season and current weather conditions, and recognizing your own preferences. When you execute your plan (go shopping), your decision-making is simplified because it has been narrowed to looking at just those items. Zip – you find just what you need because you’ve defined your criteria (your shopping program) ahead of time. Success!

A garden design program states in general terms what functions your garden should accomplish. It seeks to resolve problems or issues you’ve identified, and it describes how it will look in terms of style, tone, or theme. It can also contain lists of favorite plants, preferred colors, particular materials, or special finishes. Initially, it may start our quite vague, leaving room to explore possible ideas as you fully develop the plan. By the time the plan is done, the vast majority of the details will have been worked out and coordinated with everything else. Time to build!

To define your criteria for what will be a successful garden for your situation, you must gather some information. And you get this by asking the right questions.

Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?

Taught to generations of journalists, the 5 W’s and the H must all be answered if a reporter is to tell the full story. Doni, award-winning journalist that she is, has no doubt employed this interrogative outline in some of her articles and postings.

But this is also an easy-to-understand format for structuring your garden planning. Before going out to buy plants, or hiring someone to build your new garden, first ask these questions so that you too can understand the whole project.

In the upcoming installments of this new series, Pink House Chronicles – The Garden, we’ll explore the 5 W’s and the H, and see how Doni’s garden design takes shape.

Karen McGrath is a professional garden designer working out of Redding in the foothills of north central California. Her mission is to bring people outside, which she accomplishes by designing custom-fitted, outdoor spaces for their homes. She also volunteers her time and expertise at the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Redding CA. Reach Karen via email at kmcgrath@charter.net, or at (530) 222-4277. Check out her website at karenmcgrathdesign.com.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

is a professional garden designer working out of Redding in the foothills of north central California. Her mission is to bring people outside, which she accomplishes by designing custom-fitted, outdoor spaces for their homes. She also volunteers her time and expertise at the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Redding CA. Reach her at kmcgrath@charter.net or at (530) 222-4277. Visit her website at karenmcgrathdesign.com.
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5 Responses

  1. Janet Tyrrel says:

    I will look forward to this series…when I need some input re: redesigning my backyard and gardens, Karen will definitely be my choice.

  2. Jennifer Jewell Jennifer Jewell says:

    So looking forward to this! how big is that garden? I want to make sure we will all fit for the celebratory garden party when it is ready….not done, mind you, a garden is never done…but ready for such guests. A great team for a wonderful, creative project.

  3. Karen McGrath says:

    Hey Janet and Jennfier! Thanks for the vote of confidence! I think you'll learn a lot from this little series. Karen

  4. Grammy says:

    Oooo I love garden articles.

    I have spent 30 years on my yard so that I have something blooming all year long.

    A ground vine is blooming different shades of purple right now

    Daffodils soon

    Day lilies next

    Roses

    Lilies of the Nile

    January is butcher the yard month followed by a rebirth of the grounds. Kind of hard to do when it is under 40 degrees during the day.

  5. Bernadette says:

    Wow this will be great for me. I have a huge front and back area and both are going to be completely redone by myself and my partner with tons of help we hope. We want to completely remove the grass in the front and replace with drought tolerant flowers, grasses and shrubs and break it up with paths. Boy do we need some guidance!!!

    I will be reading these articles with interest. When does the next one come out?

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