A mud hole, a rather majestic mud hole if I say so myself, is what I've been looking at all winter. Hardworking and clever workmen ?— Bobcat drivers, concrete pourers, rebar positioners, posthole excavators — populate the scene occasionally. We have been remodeling our backyard. 

Perhaps you can learn from my experiences. For what it's worth, here are a few reminders on planning a garden remodel or landscape from scratch:

  • Get professional help (designer, landscape architect, contractor). It takes a sharp eye and design training to plan the best use of outdoor space —? to say nothing of dealing with outdoor lighting and (yikes!) plumbing.
  • Figure out what you really want —? what do you like to do in the garden? —? and create your spaces around that. We are adding an outdoor grill (42-inch Viking) and a Mugnaini woodburning oven. We like to cook outdoors, and I have dreamed of cooking pizza outdoors since I saw an oven in the garden of Napa landscape architect Jack Chandler.
  • Be realistic about what to keep and what to get rid of. Some plants are replaceable, and work will go more smoothly with them out of the way. I was talked out of saving calla lilies —? it's easy to grow more. But we are building a protective box around a 12-foot, 15-year-old Camellia reticulata.
  • Keep your plan simple. Complex things will come up, especially around an older home. Who knew that water line was there? Or that sewer-line clean-out? 
  • Whatever you think, the project will cost, add 50 percent. (Make sure you arrive at as firm a price as possible at the beginning; allow for contingencies that will add on later.)
  • However long you think the project will take, double it.
  • Have fun.

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