Creating Fabulous Neogardens
Do you get frustrated trying to create the perfect neogarden? Everyone has their own personal tastes, of course -- what plants and items you like, how you want to combine colors -- but it can be hard to create just the right gardens for you and your pets.
If you're happy with your gardens, that's great; keep doing what you're doing! But if you're disgruntled with neogardening, here are some tips that might help you find your stride and create gardens you love:
Inspiration for gardens
- A particular item: You see an item or plant that gives you an idea for a garden to showcase it.
- Garden type: You decide you need a patio for entertaining guests or a play garden for the youngest pets.
- "Real-life" garden: You see a garden in the world outside Neopets (wait, there is such a thing? ;) and decide to recreate it.
- Pet interests: Your Cybunny wants to play in the snow year-round, your Nimmo wants a meditation garden, your Koi wants an underwater garden complete with squid, your Aisha wants someplace scary so her younger sisters will leave her alone sometimes ... Wait, those are my pets ... Well, I'm sure your pets will have lots of ideas if you just ask!
- Lively: Consider colorful items, bright flowers -- pairing flowers from opposite sides of the color-wheel (mordongos and pebeanjay flowers, colour lilies and electric daisies) can make them really stand out. But be sure to leave places for the eye to rest so it doesn't get overwhelmed.
- Soothing: Consider lots of greenery, fountains or ponds, flowers that are in the same color range (warm colors, cool colors), places to sit and look out at the garden. But be sure to provide enough variety to keep the garden interesting.
- Formal: Consider plantings that mirror each other, a hedge that helps divide the garden into different areas (using, for example, blackberry bushes, spiky bushes, rowzez). This garden style can look rigid, though, so you might want to combine it with more informal elements or open space.
- Informal: You might arrange plants in clusters, with several types of plants in each area, or put plants along a gentle curve. But be careful that the overall effect isn't chaotic.
- Focal point: If you want to build your garden around one or more items, think about plant colors and styles that help the item stand out without overwhelming it. You probably also want to place the item toward the front of the garden so it's noticed. You might cluster mixed flowers or Sunday bushes around a gazebo for a spring-like look, or surround it with curly vines and ring vines for a more overgrown feel. Once you have your focal point chosen, you can also think about other garden items that would accent it. Just be careful not to distract folks from what you want them to appreciate most.
- Path: Decide where you want the path first and then add in plants that frame and follow it. Think about bridges and stepping stones to help define the path and provide contrast with the plants -- or just leave a green swath of open space. And paths don't have to march across the center of the garden. Sometimes a curved path helps break up rigid symmetry and creates a more interesting garden.
- Relaxation garden or patio: You probably need at least one sitting area. Where will it be and will there be something nice for folks to look at while they sit there? You can also tuck benches into small areas surrounded by plants to give them more privacy. For a patio, you'll want a more open area, perhaps with picnic tables and lawn games.
- Activity garden: You'll want play structures or games, but also lots of open space to give pets room to move. And think about safety, too. You probably don't want the slide to dump your pets into a picnic table or the croquet balls to end up in the pond.
Other general tips
- Dividing the garden: Gardens can be easier to work with if you think of them as having different areas. You can also use walls and hedges to make these areas look more distinct -- maybe a play area in back with shrubs separating it from the patio in middle and then a wall toward the front that helps define an area for the flower garden. You can also create separate areas more informally by adding private sitting areas or nestling a pond in a curve of plants off the main path.
- Symmetry: Gardens can look very rigid and formal if the plantings on the left look exactly like the plantings on the right. If this isn't the effect you're looking for, try using the same plants on each side but change how they are arranged. Or you could try creating symmetry "on the diagonal" by placing plants and items along an imaginary diagonal line cutting through the flower bed or garden. Repeating plants in a pattern can look lovely, esp along paths or garden edges, but try clustering plants more informally in other parts of the garden.
- Leaving space: A full garden can be overwhelming if there's nowhere for the eye to rest. Try to leave a path or some space around your plant or item groupings -- or even cut down on the number of flowers and items for a more open lawn or meadow.
- Grouping items: Just like furniture in neohomes, garden plants look better when they're put together rather than strung out or evenly spaced around the garden. Try clustering groups of flowers, filling in some areas with lots of plants, or putting three or four of each plant in a gentle curve.
- Adding greenery: Greenery is more than just filler, it can also help bring together plants that are different in color or texture. Greenery can also help you get the effect you want. For example, zobamints are a deep green so they might make a garden look more lush than yellow-green faerie bean plants. Zobamints also turn dark in the back of gardens, which might help you create a spooky feel.
- An illusion of activity: Gardens can seem more interesting if there's something going on. Gnomes are good to help create this illusion of activity. There are gardening gnomes, gnomes that look like they are talking, and gnomes whose poses can help create the mood you're going for (playful, contemplative, exploring).
- What about the back of the garden? You'll notice that many items get really small when you put them in the back of the garden, which makes it challenging to fill this area. Some folks deal with this by leaving the back open in a sort of meadow or closing it off with bushes or walls. Or you could extend your garden space by creating additional garden beds in the back with items that stay a decent size, such as holly bushes, pink cyclamen, or feather weeds.
Some common garden types
- Flower garden: This garden doesn't have to be entirely flowers, of course, but you'll want the flowers to shine. Think about putting plants together that complement each other (small flowers, similar colors, leaves or bushes with similar textures) and then mix it up a bit by having them contrast a little. For example, mix smaller red flowers with larger ones or delicate-leaved green plants with larger-leaved greenery. This is important in all gardens, of course, but especially so when the focus is on the flowers.
- Woods or jungle: You'll want lots of trees, of course, or tall plants that could pass for trees. You may want less expensive trees (tree weeds, frooble bushes, rubber trees) if you're planning to use a lot. And think about adding flowers -- small, sparse flowers (for example, sleeping blossoms, exploding pod plants) for deep forest, larger, medium-colored flowers (for example, cineria, columbine) for a woodland park, lots of greenery and bright flowers (for example, snap draik, extra wild orchid) for a more overgrown garden or jungle.
- Water or beach garden: Kelp and seaweed are easy to work with because they are big and cheap, but think about other plants, too. Plants and items can help define the riverbank or shoreline, create an illusion of water (glass roses, snow angels), and add variety. Corn trees and lawn chairs give a more tropical look.
- Swamp or spooky garden: Think about the spooky items you want to add and what plants will emphasize the mood. Many people use purple and grey seaweed, but think about adding some spots of bright color, too, to enhance the otherworldly effect.
- Seasonal gardens: You'll probably want pastels for spring, reds and yellows for fall, etc. But think about mixing things up a bit -- include early spring flowers in your snow garden or some autumn trees in your late summer garden.
- Play garden: Add lots of play structures and plants that young neopets would like. Or add a maze to explore, treehouses to play in, a scavenger hunt in progress.
- Utility garden: You might want a shed and a potting bench, a lawn mower or wheelbarrow, but think about what else might be in this garden. Maybe it's more overgrown because it's not for show? Or there are lots of seedlings waiting to be planted in the other gardens? Do you need storage for extra lawn furniture?
- Kitchen garden: Think about the sort of food your pets like to eat and be sure to include that in your garden. While many kitchen gardens (including mine) are set up in rows, they don't have to be. Think about clustering your crops or even combining them with herbs and flowers.
- Use cheap items as filler or background: Kelp can be used in the back of a garden to create an overgrown lawn or swamp, a forest of rubber trees might have a scattering of more expensive plants, or beds of colorful poppies might include a few trees.
- Cut down on the number of items: A lawn with one or two flowerbeds won't use as many items as a garden that's full of flowers. Bushes can often be laid out so that most of the bush in back shows without giving the impression that it's sitting on top of the bush in front. Just be sure that the bottom part is covered enough.
- Don't use try to showcase too many items in one garden: How many ponds does a garden need? Unless you're after a particular effect, don't cram in too many items that could be focal points in their own gardens.
- Use items given out by Tarla: Tarla is an Ixi who gives out items (including garden stuff) through the Neopets toolbar. You don't need the toolbar, though, to stock up when the prices drop!
- Save up for just the right thing: Gardening can be expensive. And sometimes a garden just isn't perfect without items (sometimes a lot of items!) that are more spendy. If you take your time and save up for those expensive items, you'll like your garden better in the long run -- and you may have more ideas for it along the way.
- Depth in gardens is tricky: Often the lazydel you placed behind the blackberry bush will jump in front or cause some seaweed somewhere else to jump out of place. It's also hard to find the selection arrows for items that are behind other items, making it difficult to move the ones in back over just a bit. This can be really frustrating! I find it best to place one item at a time (so I can fix anything that jumps out of place), save often, and be prepared to reload.
- Experiment: Don't be afraid to buy a bunch of different plants and play around with them. Sometimes these unexpected combinations work better than what you had in mind to start with. Experimenting can also spark ideas for other gardens. You can also create new items or find ways to use only part of existing items. And if the items don't work out, just resell them.
- Don't rush creativity: While some folks can build gardens in a day, others (myself included) garden much slower. By taking my time, I make sure I'm happy with all the items and where they're placed. I also get additional ideas to make the garden prettier and more interesting.
- Think big: Gardens don't have to be just gardens. What about a night sky or a mountain range or a picture of some sort?
- Remember it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks -- your gardens are for you and your neopets to enjoy. So create gardens you're happy with!
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