June 30, 2016

Three Practical Ways to Personalize Your Garden

Strawberry Moon + Orange tithonia, red spider lilies, and richly colored fall foliage of Boston Ivy, deutzia and various trees.
Inspiration board and montage of amber/gold/deep red colors I want in my late summer and fall garden.

Let's do two things this morning. Discuss ways to personalize your garden in practical and beautiful ways and also answer the question in yesterday's post:  what shrub did I plant in my own garden in this dastardly heat? Here goes: by planting one shrub, in this case the beautifully foliated
FIRST EDITIONS Amber Jubilee Ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius 'Jefam' (here) , which according to their product page, is described thusly,

Foliage of nine bark 'Amber Jubilee' in orange, yellow and red hues
Scalloped foliage of Ninebark 'Amber Jubilee'.

Plant Description, 

A unique blend of foliage colors. New growth takes on shades of yellow and orange in the Summer, matures to lime-green and then turns Purple in the Fall. This medium shaped was specifically created in honor of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Full Sun; 5-6'Hx4'W
I am simultaneously personalizing my garden in three ways  (I wrote a post about asking yourself the right questions in creating your own garden spaces here.. CREATING A GARDEN FROM SCRATCH). Here are some personal objectives I had in mind.

#1 Garden drama, in both bloom and foliage, that takes place largely in the seasons when my family enjoys and uses the garden most. 
In our case, spring and fall. I replaced a fussy and prickly 'New Dawn' rose, that would spit out a few blooms in the dead of summer, all of which would promptly succumb to intense heat and lack of rain....with a more rugged shrub whose emerging foliage will be in a vibrant rich palette of gold, russet and umber.....more effectively matching my late summer, early fall aesthetic of deep, warm and glowing hues. My inspiration board (including the unbelievable Strawberry Moon of June 2016 that this year coincided with the summer solstice) influenced the selection.

#2 Labor intensive, high maintenance plant material that only looks good for a brief period of time will be replaced with more stalwart, easy care shrubs that look handsome year round with a lot less effort.

Vibrant yellow leaves of Golden Pillar Barberry.
The brilliant foliage of Golden Pillar Barberry

I am intent on enjoying and admiring the garden more, and working in it less. The garden has catalyzed many other interests...photography, cooking, writing, blogging.....that I now want and need to make time to pursue...an objective high on my personal garden priority list. This ninebark, a plant variety that heretofore, I have not been all that enamored with, will fit the bill nicely. Go to this University of Vermont web page here to learn more about this rugged plant and the many other types and color choices available.

#3 Interesting and uniquely colored foliage is increasingly taking up more space in my vases and in my cut flower arrangements. 

I ALWAYS have cut flowers of some sort in my home. All over my home. In fact, I am more likely to have cut flowers on my kitchen table than food in my refrigerator, much to the chagrin of my menfolk. And while I can always go to my florist or Whole Foods, or local farm stand to find fresh cut blossoms when there is a dearth of them in my garden.......I CAN'T always find distinctive leafy foliage, stems and berries as filler to achieve the desired effect I am after.

And if you are wondering if I also planted the glowing Golden Pillar Barberry pictured above to augment my interior and exterior garden vignettes, you would be correct. Find it from Nature Hills Nursery Here .

I think this one plant really served its purpose, don't you?

June 29, 2016

How to Plant Shrubs and Perennials in Summer Heat

Glowing American flag is backlit by setting sun next to front door. Pots of fern grace the porch.
The 4 of July and the dog days of summer are upon us
Yes, it is that time of year. The Fourth of July looms and the heat arrived just in time for the festivities. So did the plant sales at local nurseries around the city as they tried to rid themselves of water-hogging inventory before even hotter and drier conditions set in. My buddy Lance West at NewsChannel4 and I are easy targets for these bargains, and in the course of discussing our respective scores before a 4 YOUR GARDEN  segment last Friday (watch past episodes on-line here)

Lance West and Linda Vater of NewsChannel4 on KFOR in OKC
Frivolity sometimes ensues before air time.

he suggested that it would be a great topic for an upcoming program. And while my first response is always to plant in spring or fall...fall being even better in the South than spring (so as to get those root systems established before the onslaught of summer heat)...I conceded that sometimes this was not possible.

Consequently, here is a preview on some tips and tricks for summer planting in Oklahoma's intense heat and sometime drought.

Dig a huge hole and loosen soil.
Dig a huge hole to accommodate the new plant

#1 Dig a huge hole. Plant care tags will tell you to dig a hole two and a half times the diameter of the pot. I say, in intense heat and hard pan clay like the picture here......make it at least 3+ times the root ball size. As best you can, loosen the soil around the perimeter.  This will be easier after you...
Use a shovel handle to indicate where the top of the hole is to plant top of root ball at soil level.
 #2 Saturate both the hole itself and the root ball of the plant beforehand. Fill the hole with water, let it absorb and drain. Loosen the edges of the planting hole one more time to permit even greater eventual root penetration. Fill hole again with water, let it absorb and drain. Rough up the bottom of the hole, sprinkle in a dose of a long acting fertilizer like Osmocote (find it here). If planting in an area with no danger of overwatering, add some Soil Moist Granules (here) to minimize water use in the future.

Position root ball (gently loosen its roots first) with the top of the plant level with the top of the hole. Use the handle of your shovel, or in my case, the stalk of a dry allium :) as your guide.

Back fill with compost and dirt.
#3 Back fill hole with half compost and half soil. I like the fine pine blend of HAPI-GROW Landscaper Mix/Soil Conditioner you can buy at Lowe's. Stock up when it is available as it is very popular and they often sell out. Gently firm soil. It helps if you are wearing waterproof polka-dot gloves from the Dollar Store. 

If you are using drip irrigation or a bubbler to water this area, position head or hose accordingly to make sure the plant gets adequate moisture in the future. Still, as the plant is getting established in the heat of the summer, with dry, desiccating winds, you will probably need to give it a hand-water drink every day or so depending on conditions. Keep this in mind if you are going on vacation and will not be able to tend it.

Back fill with compost and dirt.If you are providing adequate water,  but the leaves are showing signs of distress and/or heat stroke, consider creating some artificial shade until temps moderate.

Finally, top dress with a thin layer of mulch and water again gently. If your memory is bad like moi....

you might want to TEMPORARILY leave the plant tag in place until what you have planted where takes root in your head as well as your garden. Just saying'.

locate drip irrigation around base of plant
Water in newly installed shrub.
Mulch baae of plant with a thin later of compost.

(Not very exciting eye candy imagery but hopefully, they make my point)
The well-watered end result. Nestled and tucked in.

Perennials, like this shrub, should be treated in the same exacting manner. Planting in the heat of summer is definitely a case of:

*If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well.

*Go big or go home.

*An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

*Put a $1 plant in a $10 hole.

*Haste makes waste.

Or, to put it another way.....

Picture of Linda Vater in straw hat sitting in garden.

 It will probably die if you don't.  Toodles, Linda

To find out what I just planted, the color palette it will generate, the season it will show its stuff, and the aesthetic I am trying to create.....stay tuned for an upcoming post.


June 27, 2016

How to Grow, Dry, and Use Dill in Your Garden and Kitchen

In front of a dovecote, a large stand of dill flowers on tall stalks grows with nasturtiums in the potager.
Flat-headed umbrellas of yellow seed heads grow with nasturtiums in the potager.
Newbie gardeners, or experienced gardeners who have not yet grown this versatile herb, simply MUST try growing dill in their potager or ornamental gardens. It is the easiest of herbs to cultivate and is a joy to use in the kitchen, vase, and garden vignette. Here are my top five reasons to grow dill in your edible garden.

Profusion of orange nasturtium, yellow lantana and zinnia seedlings grow in the potager.
Cheery and colorful nasturtiums make wonderful dill companions , complementing and enhancing the beauty of both.
#1 Dill is the easiest of herbs to start from seed.  I generally sow my dill as soon as the ground can be scruffed up and worked in late winter/early spring. I seldom even amend the soil...dill is remarkably unfussy. Broadcast the seed over the rough surface, allowing it to fall in the nooks and crannies of the bed. If you are a more detail-oriented gardener, about 1/4" deep. (Don't work your soil if it is too wet. It will ruin its tilth and friability.) Warming earth and spring rains will help the seed germinate into delicate, thread-like seedlings. I seldom thin, but if you choose to, simply clip out the unwanted or, if large enough to be worth the effort, toss into a salad. It will eventually put out a deep root, so if you want to move any seedlings about, do so when they are small and can easily adjust to new surroundings.

Looking through the front arbor into the boxwood enclosed kitchen garden with dill, peppers and sunflowers.
Notice how its flower heads (upper right) literally float over the garden.

#2 It is lovely in the garden and attracts a bevy of pollinators, equally as beautiful. Notice how it hovers over the boxwood and other companion spring edibles like lettuce and radishes (above), not unlike the butterflies themselves. I always save some stalks from harvest for the caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail, papilio polyxenes (here),

The striking yellow and black striped caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly feeding on a dill stem.
The striking yellow and black striped caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly feeding on a dill stem.
The striking yellow and black striped caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly feeding on a dill stem.
The striking yellow and black striped caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly feeding on a dill stem.
The striking yellow and black striped caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly feeding on a dill stem.

 unbelievably striking and fantastic in their own right.

lacy, fine textured dill foliage with red chair in background
Delicate, thread-like dill foliage
The foliage is the most nuanced and muted of colors, a lacy blue-green that echoes that of nasturtium foliage and lady's mantle, that when growing in profusion looks cloud-like in appearance.

boxwood enclosed kitchen garden is punctuated with rounds of golden eponymous and clouds of dill

One can pinch it back of course to keep it bushy and the delicate fronds coming in abundance, but I am always so anxious to see its beautiful flowers and seed heads that I rarely do so. For a wide variety of dill seed, like Dukat, Fernleaf, and Bouquet, go to Johnny's Select Seed (here)  Its delicacy and gentle growing habit lends a certain grace note to the garden that few other plants, edible or no, do. Absolutely magical when it moves and sways in a gentle wind.

Need I say more?
Tall dill stalks grow with swiss chard in a quadrant of the potager.
Fern leaf dill and swiss chard make for a wonderful textural contrast of foliage and growing habit.
#3 Its fragrance is fresh and clean and smells like summer....very attractive and evocative. In fact, it is a highly sensual plant overall....beautiful, scented, delicious and textural. Consequently, a great herb for kiddie gardeners to try.  Seed heads are fun to to shake when dried...

Dried dill seed head

(I always let some of them go to seed to have a potential second coming in the fall). And of course, young and old gardeners alike find the stalks entertaining to watch for incoming caterpillars. In fact, in my experience, dill attracts children almost as effectively as caterpillars. I recall telling a little visitor to my garden that dill 'is the dill in dill pickles' to which she responded with an enthusiastic "Really?!?" Who knew that would be so very interesting to a six year old?

Arching stems of dill sway in front of an ivy covered wall with french doors.

#4 It doubles as a great cut flower. I appreciate its hazy airiness in the vase as much as in the garden. Its dainty nature is a nice foil to daisies and veronicas and roses, performing not unlike Queen Anne's Lace lacy blooms in the vase. Plus its pleasant scent infuses the room and reminds me why I love it so much.

Pitcher of dill and daisies adorn the kitchen table in front of the fireplace.
Daisies and dill keep company in a pitcher.
Fuzzy, blue green foliage and yellow blooms marry nicely with daisies in a summer fresh bouquet.
Daisies and dill keep company in a pitcher.
Fill your kitchen with the scent of summertime

#5 Lastly, but certainly not leastly...it is invaluable in the kitchen. Whether for those dill pickles, warm dill potato salad, grilled fish....well.  Use it fresh or dried. Drying dill is simple. I just spread the feathery fronds on cookie sheets and set out in the hot sun to dry. On a hot Oklahoma day, this takes not time at all. Simply crush the dried stems and store in a dry location until ready to use. I could go on and on, but I won't.

Masses of dill await a culinary fate.
Dill's culinary value is immense
Instead, watch Linda Cavanaugh and me make tzatziki (find a variety of basically the same recipe here consisting of yogurt, garlic, lemon, salt, pepper, and dill, of course). Simply click here to watch 4 YOUR GARDEN from last Friday, and forgive me if I sometimes confuse my tsatziki with my falafels.  :) Live tv, you know.

June 26, 2016

TERRITORY OKC Magazine Article: The Soul of a Garden

Cover page of The Soul of a Garden Article by Linda Vater in Summer TERRITORY OKC Magazine next to a tuft of mullein.
My article from the current edition of TERRITORY OKC
Since I am in a literary state of mind, I thought I would share another article I have out this month in the uber OKC-hip magazine TERRITORY OKC.  (Find out where to locate a free copy and more information about them here).

Cover of the Summer edition of TERRITORY OKC
 The whole crew was absolutely a joy to work with, and I am so happy they are encouraging gardeners of all stripes to pick up their trowels and start gardening in Oklahoma. It's quite a different muse I was channeling in this article. My garden and this gardener have interior lives as well as the public face you see in books and magazines. Here, if you will, is a peak through the branches. I hope you enjoy it. Leave me a comment and let me know.
~~ Linda


Looking back, I don’t know what the tipping point was.

Where and when I crossed the line from ‘I love to garden’ toI HAVE to garden’Or when I began to look at everything…my family, my life, my routine, my very self… through a garden lens. All I know is that everything about gardening: its marvels, its hardships, its creative expression, its very essence, became a metaphor to my life and to living it. Its lessons of patience and devotion and attention to life’s large and small miracles, became more than just Hallmark cliches and became truths to live by. They took seed in my soul and with varying degrees of success, I try to live them.

I started my family when I started my garden. I am humbled to admit (and my family will agree) that almost immediately my garden became as important to me as my husband and sons. My obsession and love and anxiety for family and garden happened both in parallel and cross-hairs.

Looking through sculpted branches of redbud tree toward boxwood enclosed potager.

When my boys were very small ( and when I could steal time away from them to work in the garden) I remember thinking that I would come to know my garden as intimately as I knew the contours and folds and marks on my babies’ bodies. And I would reflect on my anxieties and concerns for both. Where and under what conditions would they flourish? What was just enough, and not too much, tending and hovering and intervening? What strengths needed encouragement and what weaknesses needed time and attention? And boy! Did I learn in both parenting AND gardening, how important it is to pick your battles. 

Frequent drought and intense heat make our gardens work harder for the moisture and nutrients they need to grow and thrive. We hope and pray that our grass, our trees, our flowers, respond to this stress with deeper roots and tougher constitutions. So when my boys would experience challenges and heartaches: the game not won, the friendships not reciprocated, or the application denied, my garden reminded me that these disappointments and heartaches would make them stronger and tougher in the long run. Gardening isn’t always easy or pretty (duh), and neither is childhood. It makes me love and appreciate them all the more for it.

Looking through branches and picket fence into box enclosed potager.

I wrote a blog post once on the value of high, dappled shade in our Oklahoma landscapes (here). No matter the sunlight requirements on the plant care tag…  this is Oklahoma. In the hot afternoons of a scalding summer, every plant, every gardener is grateful for the gentle protection of a green, leafy canopy. Not enough to suffocate, or keep out light, but enough for comfort, growth and maturity. 

Its the same degree of shelter and comfort I try to give my boys…when they want to change their major or drive home late at night; to live in New Dehli, or backpack through Asia. Just enough parenting for growth and maturity, but with a modicum of shelter and room for mistakes.  

My boys are young men now.  I am proud of them, and more importantly perhaps, they are proud of themselves. Now my garden as teacher has set her sights on me. Revelations about my character and habits and priorities…the good and the bad… are gifted to me daily as I stroll the garden, coffee cup or wine glass in hand.  

As I age and the world becomes less certain, I find I want more structure and reliability in the garden. An inclination towards flowery profusion and color has given way to a desire for a stronger planting foundation, more stability, and (an illusion, anyway) of control. Stalwart and sturdy evergreens are replacing finicky roses and high maintenance perennials. I have become simultaneously a more understanding, yet tougher and stricter, garden steward. 

Oklahoma’s volatile, bring-you-to-your-knees weather is teaching me resilience and resignation, if not graceful acceptance. I am finally learning to work smarter not harder, and to learn the value of asking for help. I used to think that , in some way, it didn’t count unless I did it myself. (Though I don’t know who I thought was keeping score)All of it: design, planting and maintenance; all encompassing and absolute, had to be a product of my own labors. 

Not so now.. I love my garden more than ever, but at this juncture of time and space, 

At sunrise, looking through arbor into potager.

I want it to be the backdrop of my life, and not my life itself.  

(A verdant and well-clipped backdrop, but a backdrop nevertheless.)  Consequently, I am trying to become more the master than the servant in my relationship to the garden. 

Reclusive by nature, I am learning to let others in…
to lend a hand, to advise, to plant the shrub and sculpt the trees. I am learning that, quite surprisingly,
I don’t ALWAYS know best, and I don’t have all the answers. I am trying to loosen my grip on the ‘how’, and better communicate the ‘what’ of my garden aesthetic and personal desires..

Ironically, by letting go and allowing and asking for help, it is more beautiful, I think, than ever. My garden, and my life, have more texture and nuance now. Both more sense AND sensibility. In many ways, giving back more than it takes. To me and to others. A garden not just to tend and enjoy, but a language with which to communicate and connect with others. Or so I hope.

Looking through stems to mossy path of flagstone.

 I spend an incredible amount of time just observing and strolling through what is, in this most remarkable of springs, incredible lushness and bloom. Often mesmerized by the seedlings of a hellebore or the appearance of a bleeding heart thought lost. Completely immersed in thought, and captivated by the sheer loveliness of what Mother Nature and a gardener can create.  

I sometimes, rather self-consciously, wonder what those who drive by must think about the amount of time I spend so subsumed in garden reverie. And my, do people drive by! They take pictures, they ask questions, they say “I promise I am not stalking you; we are just admiring your garden.”  I smile and tell them I am so happy they enjoy it. When I go inside, I grin to myself as I often see them drive away… then circle back and stop again. Looking so carefully, so thoughtfully, as if trying to decipher a secret code.

Not that long ago I was a fledgling gardener and would do the same. Often intimidated by the skill required to create such a space, but always appreciative when the homeowner or gardener would engage….sharing ideas, inspiration, encouragement (that even in our harsh environment, beauty is possible). I try to remember this, the importance of sharing and being gracious when garden gazers stop by and want to visit…about the garden and other matters. The garden provides a reason to meet, to share and to identify with one another. A mutual language with which to communicate.

Recently, a neighbor whom I had not yet met told me that whenever she gets depressed she walks by my house to cheer herself up and we had a short, but nice visit about the restorative nature of a garden. No greater compliment could have been paid me. 

Another friend and neighbor that lives on my street, and with whom I often chat when he drives by, stopped as usual, but after something of an absence. I inquired about his wife who is undergoing treatment for cancer and is very ill.  Hospice had been consulted, he said.

He told me that he had just been to the gym to work out, then to Whole Foods for some shopping. “I find that I am drawn to happy places now, and these are happy places to me,”  he said. I asked if there was anything I could do. A few days later, he contacted me and asked if I would give them some suggestions on their landscape. I was thrilled to have a way to maybe inject a little joy into a grim situation.

This reminded me of another story. A number of years ago, at a family reunion before my dad died, my older siblings and I were asking him questions about a topic seldom discussed in our growing up years: the death of our mother at the young age of 36. Far too young to die and leave a 1950’s-style dad in an Indianapolis suburb with seven young children, ages 1 to 12. I was five at the time.

Even then, he didn’t say much. The subject had been taboo for so long that details had been forgotten, his memory dulled by grief and time. But he did share one memory that I think of every now and again when I am working out front and people stroll by.

“In the evenings”, he said , “after your mother died , I would take you younger ones on a walk. Barb in the stroller, you and David by my side. You would pepper me with questions like: How will she get a drink of water? and Who will take care of her when she gets sick again?  and other questions I can’t recall”.

And then he continued with a kind of puzzled and far off look on his face:

“But what I DO remember is that the neighbors down the street, working in their front yards,  would see us out walking, a sad little foursome, I am sure.
 But then, as we approached, when we got closer… they would hurriedly go inside… before we got near enough to exchange words and I wondered why. I guess,” he said, “It was just too much for them to handle. They didn’t know what to say. 
They just didn’t know what to say.”

Stand of daisies.

So I think of this when people, both friends and strangers pass my garden… some looking for ideas, some for inspiration, others for weeds I may have missed. Maybe looking to see if I will raise my head, acknowledge them, say hello. Or maybe looking for something less tangible, but something I think, that is in my, or any garden's power to provide.

Hosta bloom resting on basket.

Connection. Respite. And, maybe, a happy place.

June 24, 2016

SOUTHERN LIVING: A Garden from Scratch

Cheery blooms of sunflowers, zinnias, veronica and rudbeckia create a still life on the potager bench for the SOUTHERN LIVING shoot.

I was doing a garden consult yesterday with some neighbors of mine who are about to start a makeover of the lawn and gardens they inherited when they purchased the house. They moved here from Seattle (I know, poor things....) and we mutually commiserated on how difficult it is to garden here in OKC. As they are doing all of the work themselves, they of course wanted to know...

The potager as it looked the week of the SOUTHERN LIVING shoot.
Where Do We Start?

I found myself referring to points in the article I wrote for the June 2016 issue of SOUTHERN LIVING over and over again as it addressed this very topic.  In case you didn't see the article (it will probably remain on newsstands for a couple more days), here are some of the points I made.  Maybe it will help you put the pieces of your own garden puzzle together as you create a space that is uniquely yours. (For other tips on gardening in the South, consult SOUTHERN LIVING'S The Grumpy Gardener here, on the blog The Daily South.

Large swath of black-eyed susans in front of a dark picket fence and bordered in brick
Large masses of 'Goldsturm' Rudbeckia make a strong statement in my small garden.  Time to divide and share, me thinks!
(Excerpts from the June 2016 issue of SOUTHERN LIVING. Images my own taken week of the shoot.)

When we moved into our 1935 Tudor home twenty-five years ago, I knew nothing about gardening or garden design. The small back yard contained exactly one gnarly old tree , a nest of blackberry brambles and an abandoned sandbox. Crumbling concrete steps led to a ‘lawn’ of weedy, hardpan clay. But after MUCH trial and error, hard work, and a LOT of missteps, the pieces finally fell into place. Now it’s a beautiful and much-used extension of our home. Here are some garden design lessons I learned along the way.

Photographer Ryan Ford (see her work here) sets up shots in back yard.


Your landscape should reflect your personality and the way you and your family live. Before planting even one petunia, ask some questions. Do you need a space for entertaining or a kids’ jungle gym?  A sunny spot to grow vegetables or a shady spot to read?  Do you enjoy puttering in the garden or strictly low to no maintenance?  Are you traveling all summer and home in spring and fall?  Questions like these help decide what is important, where to put what, and how to get what you want from a limited amount of space. 


Home and garden should relate to one another and be similar in style. For example: my Tudor home cried out for the quaint appeal of an English garden. Its asymmetrical architecture with rounded window and door frames inspired an informal style with soft, curved bed lines and mounded forms. I repeated its brick and stone exterior in the edging and hardscape. Traditional English cottage flowers balked at our torrid summers. After killing a lot; okay, A LOT of plants, I learned to substitute tougher look-a-likes that spoke the same language but with an Oklahoma accent.

Pink hibiscus flower with red center and rudbeckia blossoms in garden
 PW Hibiscus 'Cherry Cheesecake" and rudbeckia.


I think of a garden as I do a house…but with ceilings, walls  and flooring made of plant material, garden structures and hardscape. Tightly clipped evergreens, carefully pruned trees, large containers and arbors make strong garden bones that help divide small backyards into functional, intimate ‘rooms’. In my outdoor entertaining areas, crushed gravel and flagstone are appropriate to my garden style and make a long lasting, 

Large grouping of concrete container plantings.
A group of container plantings creates a sense of enclosure in the dining area.
cost effective floor for outdoor furnishings. A green wall of shrubs and climbers covers the wood fence that encloses the yard. This adds texture, depth, color and softness, creating the illusion of a much larger space. Redbud trees surrounding the perimeter of the dining area have grown together, creating a ceiling of pink blooms in spring and green shade in summer. Twin arbors flank a boxwood hedged potager, enclosing a kitchen garden and providing much needed vertical growing space.

Arching branches of redbud trees create a living ceiling over the dining area.

Not only should a home relate to its garden, but each section of the garden should relate, connect, and easily flow to every other part. (I think of it as the Gardener’s Theory of Relativity). 

Border of Goldsturm rudbeckia flanks a short gate into kitchen garden.
Goldsturm Rudbeckia in huge swaths makes a dramatic statement in a small garden.

In my yard, flagstone pavers set in the lawn (and easily mown over) tell visitors where to go next. They visually connect the shady dining area with the sunnier lawn, and from there to the kitchen garden. (It is also a charming way to save wear and tear on your turf.) 

Brick, soft-set as edging, encircles the lawn with intermittent gaps for low growing ground cover and flowers. Their rhythm and repetition provides definition and helps to unify the space.

Terracotta pots march up and down the back steps creating rhythm and repetition.

Gardening in Oklahoma ain’t for sissies. I learned early on to try and work WITH, not against, Mother Nature. As every Okie knows, there are but two seasons…before the heat and after the heatwith record-breaking ice, cold, wind, rain, heat, drought, hail and earthquakes thrown in to keep it interesting. Consequently, when back to back ice storms felled three river birches, I replaced them with tough,native redbuds. When my grass reliably died each summer from drought, heat stress and fungal issues, I downsized my grass carpet into a throw rug. I practice a three strikes and you’re out rule. After relocating or replanting three times, if a plant dies or underperforms, out it goes with something tougher in its place. Gardens of ANY size have no space for slackers!
The area to grow edibles in the potager is small. I try to only grow those things we will actually consume!

Only television shows and people with deep pockets have instant gardens. True gardens require patience, experimentation, perseverance, hard work and a sense of humor. Once you have a vision of your fantasy garden in mind, be smart. Take it one area, one room at a time. Learn how to care for, nurture or maintain 
it.  THEN move on to the next area. Eat that elephant one bite at a time. DO remember that what you want from your yard will change over time, so be flexible in your design.  

Most of all, enjoy the creative process as well as the end result. After all, a dream garden is much more than just the sum of its parts.