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Make Your Oasis

Make Your Oasis
March 2019

Design your dream landscape with help from local pro Kelly Megeath

A blank-slate backyard, a monochromatic front lawn, an untamed nook in the shade: when it comes to landscaping a new area ripe with potential, where on earth do you start? Kelly Megeath, owner of Garden Elegance—which has been designing and caring for Charleston gardens since 2005—advises on the essential steps. For help honing in on the best plants for your space, turn to a local garden center.

Ask the practical questions:

How much sun does the area get? You’ll need to choose plants accordingly.

What would you love doing outdoors? Make sure your answer informs your design.

What do you have to hide? “One of the most important things to think of is, ‘What kind of screening do we need to bring in?’” Megeath notes. For example, you may want to plant a hedge between you and the neighbors.

Create a grand vision:

Find inspiration. Megeath suggests roaming downtown and in Old Village Mount Pleasant, snapping photos of gardens that catch your eye.

Define the space. If you have an entire yard to work with, settle on a style: perhaps formal, tropical, or native (think beautyberries and dwarf palmettos). Within an existing landscape, you might carve out a cut flower garden or devote a sunny corner to fruit, like citrus trees and blueberry bushes.

Lay the groundwork:

Create structure. Hardscaping elements, such as a patio, pergola, or pathway, bring visual organization to an area. “And a garden shed with window boxes can really be cute in a back corner,” adds Megeath.

Pick a focal point. “You want something—usually at the far end of the garden—to draw the eye through the space,” notes the designer. It could be a statue, a specimen tree (weeping Japanese maples are a favorite), or a fountain.

Start with the foundation. Plant the larger shrubs or trees that will anchor your design. This task can be especially intimidating if you’re dealing with a barren backyard. For a formal look, you could create a solid hedge of podocarpus, then “tier forward with plants that contrast nicely,” suggests Megeath. Or go for a mixed border, “maybe incorporating forsythias, camellias, and ornamental grasses.”

Make your beds. Edged, mulched garden beds are game-changers. Simply determining the shape of a new bed can make it easier to visualize future plantings. Lay a garden hose on the ground and experiment with different lines, then follow up with spray paint.

Fill in plants:

Go big. For the greatest impact, plant en masse: a line of Italian cypresses, a swath of fatsia, not one plumbago but nine.

Create year-round appeal. Include plants that bloom in all seasons, and be sure to work in evergreens—from holly ferns to plum yews.

Add chartreuse. “It makes all the other colors pop,” says Megeath, “and is great for drawing the eye to a focal point.”