Garden Variety 

Small or large makeovers can jumpstart your garden.

Though the task sounds a bit intimidating and may bring to mind a crew of professional workmen with machines and construction equipment, landscaping your yard could be as simple as planting different plants or reshaping some flower beds.

Consider these suggestions:

Change the entire appearance of your yard by reshaping or creating a few flowerbeds.

Create an impression of open space and roominess by adding flowerbeds with curved lines.

Add a simple path through the yard or garden made of stepping stones, which can be purchased at any garden center, to make your yard look elegant and well maintained.

If designing your own Garden of Eden doesn't really sound like your idea of fun, leave it to the professionals. There are many firms in the area that specialize in improving the great outdoors. To find a landscape designer near you, check out the Virginia Society of Landscape Designers' Web site at www.vsld.org/memberslist.htm. This site is helpful because all the designers listed have taken classes and have been certified in landscape design.

There are two types of landscape designers. Some firms simply create a design or plan for your yard or garden and then make recommendations for contractors to hire to do the work. A design-build firm, on the other hand, will create a design and then do the actual work. However, you need to check the costs of a design-build firm carefully; some firms charge for both the design and the costs of the actual labor while some firms will design your garden for free as long as you hire them to do the construction.

Though hiring a professional landscape designer may be pricey (most charge anywhere from $30 - $100 an hour), you can be sure that with the help of these professionals, your garden will turn out looking beautiful. In the opinion of Shelly Arthur of Shelly Arthur Landscaping Design, the benefits of hiring a landscape designer easily outweigh the costs, since landscape designers know what plants will flourish best in the Richmond climate and can create a construction plan that works with any budget.

Sometimes, redesigning your yard is more a necessity than a luxury. Such was the case for Mary and Ben Colton, whose garden had filled with standing water and become unattractive and muddy. The Coltons talked to an engineer about solving the problem and implemented his suggestions, then took the project one step further to create an amazing backyard oasis.

"For a yard of its size," Ben Colton proudly says, "you won't ever see another yard this beautiful."

Colton began by building levels in his yard, which moved the water away from the house and out of the yard. These levels not only solved the problem of the standing water, which is important considering how much rain Richmond has recently received, but also completely changed the look of his garden. Inspired by this new change, Colton decided to continue redesigning the area to "make it beautiful for my wife." He created a patio and added benches, doing all the work himself. The result: a charming backyard hide-a-way for the family.

Whether necessity or just a longing for a change fuels your desire to design, redoing your garden is a fun, creative project that will increase your enjoyment of the great outdoors and make your yard more attractive. HS




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