It's been a fairly mild winter here, even by the local standards (which I consider low to begin with compared to the lake-effect snow belt city in which I grew up). But even still, the ground alternates between a patchy snow- and- ice combo and complete submersion under a sloppy lake of slush.
It's not exactly a landscape that inspires anyone to voluntarily be outdoors. (The notable exception being bordie collies, who believe that snow is the best possible environment in which to play. Can there be any better flourish to highlight one's skill in snapping a frisbee from midair than the tidal wave of snowy crystals that erupts during a flawless, four-point slide landing?)
Winter is, however, one of the best times to start planning summer projects. Victorian gardeners spent their long, dark winters mapping out extensive garden plans for the coming summer, charting the blooms to ensure a continuous riot of blossoms from the first tentative days of spring until the last burnished leaves of fall.
Enter Home Outside, a gorgeously photographed landscaping book I stumbled upon at the library. Written in the vein of the Not So Big House books, Home Outside is accessible, practical and inspiring. Appreciating that large swathes of Americans start with unkept, uneven or entirely barren yards - and very tight budgets - the author breaks down the basics into accessible, bite-sized chunks.
Simple, effective diagrams show you how to determine what style of yard works for your personality, family and property. Discussions on how to determine what plants are appropriate for your location and how to connect your outdoor space to your indoor space are easy to understand but avoid becoming insultingly oversimplified.
Most importantly, perhaps, is the budget-friendliness of the book. Glossy photos of intimate, gravel-lined retreats nestle side-by-side with wide flag-stoned patios, providing attractive options for every space and budget. There's also a unique and helpful exploration of how to design a multi-year plan for spaces in need of extensive transformation that will be functional and beautiful at each step. It's rare to see such books deal upfront with limits on time and money, but this book does so adeptly. Tips on up-cycling found pieces and matching your yard to your preferred maintenance level are also featured.
I know that when we eventually have a house (and a yard) to sculpt into our private haven, I'll be coming back to this book to help me design a plan to get the most out of our space. If you're looking to beat the winter blahs or hoping to get more out of your outdoors this coming summer, this is a great place to start!