University of Illinois Extension
Setting Garden Goals - Introduction to Perennial Garden Design - Stepping Stones to Perennial Garden Design - University of Illinois Extension

Setting Gardening Goals

Why do you want a perennial garden? An odd question you may think, but the answers will lead to your garden goals. Goals guide us through a process. They keep us focused. They prevent wasting time, floundering through design decisions.

Upon completion of your garden you can compare the end product with your intended goals and see if they were met. Goals can change through out this process. Accept the change and discipline yourself to follow it. So again, why do you want a perennial garden? What do you want from a perennial garden? Common answers are to have pretty flowers or a pleasing view. These can be goals. If you want flowers only, then don't spend time researching foliage plants. If you have a beautiful view, try to enhance it and avoid tall plants that will interrupt or conceal it.

Achieving aesthetically pleasing gardens is always a goal, but is there a mood or a feeling you want to create? Will the garden have a utilitarian purpose.... herbs for cooking.... cut flowers.... dried flowers? Or will it offer sensory pleasure.... fragrance.... sound.... touch? This task of pinning down your gardening goals can take some time. Before you continue on, take a few minutes every day and think about what your goals are. Here are some questions to help you:

  • Where have you seen a garden you particularly liked?
  • What did you like about it? The size? The colors? The plant shapes and textures?
  • Will the garden be a backdrop, a border definition that you view from one side?
  • Will it be an island bed, viewed from different sides?
  • Will your outdoor living space (patio) be nestled within the garden?
  • Is there a view to enhance or an eyesore to cover up?
  • Is the garden primarily for curb appeal or resale value enhancement?
  • Will the garden be a private retreat or a public display?
  • Are birds and butterflies desired visitors?
  • Is there an intended theme to your garden?
  • Do you want fragrance infused throughout your garden?

Your answers create your goals - you now have a list of reasons for wanting a perennial garden. Remember your goals to keep you on track. Goals can be changed. But remember, you will evaluate your gardens' performance based on them.