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A beautiful garden is a work of heart

There is immense satisfaction in creating your own garden plan -- the satisfaction derived from relaxing or entertaining in the garden as well as the satisfaction that comes from a job well done.

How do you begin to create a garden space that is unique to you? Here are ten simple steps that will help you move effortlessly through the process.

1. Identify WHY you want a garden.
How will you use it? Who else will enjoy the garden? Remember that you may not be the sole inhabitant, so get input from all family members on how your outdoor space will be used.

2. Do a little dreaming.
Now that you know why you want a garden and how you intend to use it, let your imagination play with all the possible features in your special space. A little dreaming will uncover those attributes that will put your personal imprint on the garden.

Also decide whether you want a formal or an informal garden. Formal gardens are highly structured, divided by a strong central axis and cross axes. Informal gardens have a more natural look with strong, flowing curves.

3. Make a list of "must haves".
What items are essential? Listing your needs up front ensures that your final plan won't be missing anything important. Do you need a retaining wall? A privacy fence? A path to the garage? More parking space? Do children need a place to play? What about pets?

Walk around your property and make note of everything that is essential. Your final design should balance dream features and "must haves" to create a satisfying and functional space.

4. Evaluate what you already have.
To get where you are going, it helps to know your starting point. Is your space large or small? Is the site flat or sloping? What is the climate? What type of soil do you have? How much water is available and from what sources? What are the predominate views?

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