The Not-So-Secret Garden

contributed by Virginia Dhondt

BridgeAbout five years ago, I worked with a planner who helped me develop my vision of having what we called a “secret garden.” My financial goals were tied to wanting a large backyard with areas for relaxing, growing a garden, playing with my dogs, and entertaining family and friends.

When my husband Mike and I moved to our current home a few years ago, the backyard, just over an acre of dirt, was surrounded by a block wall, as is common in the Phoenix area. We had some ideas about what we wanted to do with the yard, what elements were necessary and what items may be negotiable. After gathering our ideas, we decided to work with our old neighbor to design our backyard.

Develop a plan and implement it. Working with the designer, we were able to develop our vision, adding details as we progressed. We outlined stages of the project, starting with replacing the small covered patio with a larger balcony, then adding a paver patio and outdoor “kitchen” area, and eventually a pool area and an RV garage to serve as a workshop. There would be a walking path around the yard connecting different areas.

While we worked with the designer and the contractors he recommended on the initial stages of the projects, we also did a lot of the work ourselves, with the help of my in-laws and some friends. As soon as we had a general layout of the yard, we planted two dozen trees. We used the beams from the old patio cover as backboards for a horseshoe pit. We added raised garden boxes near the house and a larger garden area in the back of the yard. We planted a grass area. We had a well installed.

When it rains, it floods. When we moved in, we knew that each yard in the neighborhood has a “retention basin” for rainwater runoff. Each time it rained, we got a better idea of where we needed to redirect water and where we would retain water. Near the house, we put in drainage under the patio for the water coming off the balcony. As the yard developed, we ended up with an area that held the excess water near the raised gardens.

Mike and his parents put in the rock around the new patio area, using larger rocks in between the walking path and the areas around plants and trees. In the retention area, they used river rock. After they were done, we realized that side of the yard was not going to have enough area for the walking path and it was not wide enough to accommodate the four-wheeler that we sometimes use for hauling compost or yard supplies.

So we decided to add a bridge. Although we had never discussed using a bridge in our design, it suddenly made perfect sense to add a bridge to the area. It would be functional, unexpected, and beautiful.

Have a plan; expect changes. Over the past few years, I have seen that if we had started with no plan, there were many times we would have made choices that did not work longer-term. Some work would have probably been torn out and redone; perhaps wires, gas lines, or water would have been routed a longer, more expensive direction. But having a plan did not mean that we were unable to change things as we progressed. The foundation of the plan stayed the same, but some of the details needed to change as we learned more.

As a financial planner, I know that there are countless options for any person to consider. When faced with the numerous possibilities, it can be difficult to make choices, say “this is what I want” and create the vision. I hope that I am able to help each person I encounter get closer to designing their vision, making a choice to reach a goal, and recognizing when some part of the plan is no longer the path to achieve the vision.

It is difficult to achieve the vision without a plan. If you need a financial planner to help you create or fine-tune your plan, please contact us.

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