Garden Design Basics
Many gardeners will buy plants on a whim, with no particular idea
as to where they might go or how they will improve the existing
site. Having a landscape plan or strong direction for your landscape
will greatly help you use these plants in functional and attractive
combinations. Some of these details are basic and familiar, while
some will involve more planning.
Creating physical and visual texture will give your landscape enduring
appeal, so consider all of the characteristics a plant has to offer
In addition to flower color, include size, habit, leaf shape, texture,
and the colors of the various plant parts, all of which contribute
to a plant's sustained presence. For example, combine leafy
or succulent plants with spare ones, such as sedum with ornamental
grass or add sculptural or winter interest plants such as red-twig
dogwood in front of white pine. For a partial shade location, plant
highbush blueberry or snakeroot with hosta at the front and iris
throughout the planting bed.
Most gardeners are aware of some of the basic rules of plant arrangement,
one of which is that plants are often more appealing if they are
grouped in odd numbers. Plants grouped in even numbers, however,
will work well for formal arrangements. Grouping plants in masses
is also visually appealing, since it provides satisfying simplicity,
such as a massed planting of large leaf hosta varieties which utilizes
the simplicity of this plant's habit. The subtle variety of
the leaf colors make it stand out!
Large and bold plants give structure to a landscape, as these structural
aspects are the landscape mainstays that prevail throughout the
year. Structural plants that can accomplish this are big grasses,
evergreen shrubs and trees, and deciduous plants (those that drop
their leaves for the winter) with interesting branching. Non-plant
structural items include stonewalls, series of boulders or stones,
fencing, outdoor furniture, rocky ledges, and outdoor sculptures.
Imagine a wooded area cleared of underbrush with ostrich fern planted
as the groundcover and a stonewall cutting through or behind the
site. This is an idyllic site with significant presence. To increase
the dramatic presence, add a piece of outdoor sculpture, a very
large pot or urn, a specimen evergreen shrub, or a handful of large
shade perennials, which would also enhance the seasonal change on
the site. The idea is to augment or flatter the existing landscape,
using it as a stage to present your ideas and additions.
Just as plants need help to get to their full potential, gardeners
who are interested in changing the existing landscape need some
help as well. Consider the following ideas to help you get started:
Placing a light colored or feathery plant in a shaded corner will
both brighten that spot and highlight the plant, such as yellow
leaved bleeding heart under shady evergreen boughs.
Plant a single rhododendron in the woods within view of your home
or a path. This one plant in flower will bring meaning to that otherwise
overlooked area with a burst of color and texture.
Use a bare barn or shed wall to hang a bold wood or metal lattice
on, with a vine combination running through it. Combine climbing
hydrangea or arctic kiwi with a flowering vine of relatively delicate
habit such as any clematis or morning glory. Virginia creeper, a
native plant which has great fall color and berries, entwining itself
in a weeping evergreen would be a wonderful display, too.
Remember that a landscape is not static, since the plants and structural
facets in it are malleable, with many basic considerations of location,
effort expended, plant needs, and maintenance required. However,
if directed with your ideas and efforts, your landscape will bring
you satisfaction many times over for years to come.
Grounds by Design – Fine Landscapes is locally owned by Matt
Giroux, who is available for design, gardening, consulting, and
photography on your landscape project. Contact Matt
at 371-7093 with your gardening and landscape questions.