Personal Garden Coach

The Motivational Gardener at Large

Garden Designer’s Roundtable: Ideas for Adding Texture to Your Landscape June 26, 2012

Texture is my thing. Let me say that again LOUDER so there is no doubt in your mind. TEXTURE IS MY THING!! I adore it in the garden almost above all else. I see it everywhere, it dominates my design sensibilities in every conceivable way. The fact that I tend to see almost everything through the lens of a camera whether I’m holding one or not helps me to focus my design esthetics so that I see textural vignettes everywhere.

Bellevue Botanical Garden

Since all of us at The Garden Designer’s Roundtable are tackling this topic for June, you are sure to get some seriously great tips and techniques on the actual step by step of adding texture into your landscape. As is my way, I am not going to do the expected, but rather, I will give you a pictorial of what adding texture to your landscape means to me through a collection of photos. I feel strongly about learning visually on this topic, reading the actual variables is handy, but sometimes you have to just see it to know and understand it.

Bellevue Botanical Garden

Bellevue Botanical Garden

I am also sprinkling in some EXCELLENT links for you to go and visit as well as referring you to my fellow Lords and Ladies of the Roundtable and their collective expertise.

Bellevue Botanical Garden

Here is the first link that I stumbled onto the other day while doing a bit of research. This is one of the very best explanations of Adding Visual Texture to the Garden that I have ever read. Writer Doug Skelton, lays out the principles of adding texture expertly.

  1. Form
  2. Space
  3. Color
  4. Balance
  5. Man-Made
  6. Combinations

FORM – Bellevue Botanical Garden

SPACE- Bellevue Botanical Garden

Margaret roach explains “underplanting” here with great expertise, but even more, look at that TEXTURE!

From Margaret Roach’s Blog Post “10 Thoughts on Successful Underplanting” from http://awaytogarden.com/10-thoughts-on-successful-underplanting#more-540

This beautiful and simple post from LIVE PRONTO! shows the appreciation of taking a walk to admire the textures and breathe it in a bit after a long day at work.

BALANCE- Bellevue Botanical Garden

MAN-MADE

I love the glass ground cover in this link!

http://marpa.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/textureplay.jpg

One of the assignments I give my clients when I am Coaching is to have them take a photo of the anything in the landscape and look at it solely in black and white. This is a fabulous exercise for designing with texture in particular because it forces the eye to look at the shapes, balance and details in a completely new way.

Adding structural plants is a focus in this blog post called “Rooting For Ideas”, very well done by Designer/Blogger Don Statham in a post about “Texture in the Garden”.

Sometimes adding visual texture to a landscape can mean adding focal points that might be rare and unusual collectors plants or literal texture too!

Distinctive and Unique

I love the idea that sometimes you need a seemingly basic plant that has a high degree of textural interest simply to set a backdrop for pure drama in the garden.

Bellevue Botanical Garden

At other times the focus can be very macro on the texture of one plant in particular as blogger Matt Mattus explains in this post from his blog “Growing with Plants” about Pulsatilla and his love of the texture when they have those fluffy seed heads.

In this shot, the take-away is the literal texture and impact of the subject matter on the container and how it’s so balanced with the amount of detail on the foliage of a fairly common Caladium. Also, note the balance of the tone in colors here as well, if the pot was the same pattern in another color, this might not work at all. This combination takes both pieces to new heights.

Houzz.com is getting a lot of Buzz lately for their take on the “Idea Book” that people have fallen in love with lately- check out this post about adding lushness to the garden with layers, by Amy Renea.

And simply because I love these shots and ALL the texture they conjure, my beloved coleus cannot be ignored.

I love this post from “Not Another Gardening Blog”. This blogger does a masterful job of defining texture as it applies to the winter garden.

The many other talented Designers of the Garden Designer’s Roundtable await your visit, they have been working hard on their “Texture” posts for you to enjoy- so GO- ENJOY!! I left the links for you below:

Thomas Rainer : Grounded Design : Washington, D.C.

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

 

Garden Designer’s Roundtable – Must Be The Water July 26, 2011

The topic of water inspires a million different variants of thoughts and ideas if we think about it long enough. We are mostly water, the planet is mostly water, without it we are…well, dry. Pun intended.

For those of us in the Horticultural realm, water is even more the stuff of life. Growing, irrigating, draining, and manipulating water in all of its various forms is not only big business, its where at least as much of our time and thought is spent other than directly handling a plant.

Too much water, too little water, frozen water, thawing water, directing water, capturing water, restricting water. These conversations are not just about the weather, but huge logistical and sometimes ethical issues that we deal with every day. Who’s water is this? Can I have some? Can I afford to share more? How can I conserve what I have? I need to get rid of mine.

How to water, when to water, what tools to use for watering – all of these questions and answers could take a lifetime to address adequately. I certainly won’t try here in this short post. Take a peek here for some easy answers. But, I would like to give you some perspective on the breadth of the topic and maybe a little visual candy for inspiration as well.

The beauty, necessity, tranquility, complexity and raw power of water have led us to the height of creation of some of the worlds greatest achievements in engineering as well as to the depths of devastation. Take a look here for some AMAZING new things happening with water right now.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World

Hurricane Katrina

We crave water in our lives, for the obvious reasons of course. But, what about for the more esoteric reasons? It’s in our lives everywhere that isn’t damp! Take a quick look in your I-Tunes Library, and search for “water”, “rain” or “ocean”. See how much music has to do with water in one form or another. Check out “Must Be The Water” by Marc Broussard for a great New Orleans take on the mighty Mississippi. Even just the number of Holiday songs written about snow is mind bending!  How about your books or magazines? What about your favorite movies? Seen “Waterworld”? How about “Water For Elephants“?

These are the first few lines of the song by “Water” by Lauren Hill

Moving down the streams of my lifetime, pools of fascination in my sleep, cooling off the fire of my longing, warming up my cold within his heat,

Bouncing down the walls of inhibition, evaporating all of my fears, baptizing into complete submission, dissolving my condition with his tears, he’s just like water….

When I think about water features in the landscape, I like to imagine the feelings that they might conjure, not just the design aesthetic or the sound. Though those two things are high on my list of importance as well!

Even the vaguest ripple of water can create a peaceful harmonic resonance.

We are drawn to the water in all of it’s forms by a primeval pull like the tides and the moon. The feelings that range from a child’s sheer bliss at stomping in a puddle to soaking in a blue lagoon can last a lifetime.

The magnetic lure of quiet meditation here is unparalleled.

A water feature that is also a true work of art can also stir a depth of emotion that you may never have expected.

This pond in the garden is about communing with not only the peaceful feeling of the pond, but the surrounding nature of the garden as it interacts with the water.

How about a good laugh in the garden with a water feature? No need to take life too seriously ALL the time!

"Create-A-Scene"

I adore water in the garden in any form. I think I will always endeavor to have it no matter what shape it may take. Bringing emotion, movement and a captivating charm are pretty good side effects too! All I can say is “It Must Be The Water!”

Please take some time to read and invest a comment or two in blog posts (links below) written by other Lords and Ladies of the Garden Designer’s Roundtable and most especially our esteemed Guest Poster for this month Debra Baldwin- Empress of all things Succulent, Photographer, Author and Blogger. 

Debra Lee Baldwin : Gardening Gone Wild : Escondido, CA

Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold : Atlanta, GA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Jenny Peterson : J Peterson Garden Design : Austin TX

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Designer’s Roundtable – Shining In The Shade June 28, 2011

Customers at the nursery where I work, as well as my own private clients, frequently lament to me about the challenges of frustrating boredom or lack of success they have with their shade conditions. This “woe is me” line of thinking does not linger long around me. I enthusiastically explain how they have bountiful, dazzling design options and plant choices to play with that others with no shade don’t have. Dry shade? No problem! Damp shade, even better! Bring it on, let’s get your garden where you want it to be together.

Fatsia Japonica

Why not take full advantage of this location and all it has to offer? Try new things, break out of your shell. You are not limited to Impatiens or dry barren areas. Now more than ever in the history of gardening, you have the ability to make a wide range of plant choices beyond the every day standard OR the defeatist attitude of  “Nothing will ever grow well there.” I will simply have none of it.

Hosta and Paris in the garden of David Fishman

In my own garden, just like most people, I have several little micro-pocket zones of varying shade conditions. I have had a ball experimenting with different perennials, shrubs, grasses and groundcover. I like to think of myself as a test driver for plants. Then I know what to expect from them and I can speak with authority about the dodgy ones versus the top performers.

Dwarf Hydrangea and Japanese Forest Grass

My fascination with the unending variants that create shade conditions is a deep and wide river of exploration. For me, trial and error is truly the only way to learn what does and does not work. I’ve had my greatest success with some of the craziest combinations. If I had played by “the rules” on the tags or in the books, then I would have not been able to achieve some of my most creative pairings. If we all knew exactly what plants have a tolerance for what circumstance in every spot in the garden, designing and gardening would get very dull, very quickly!

Thalictrum and Actea

Sometimes I want certain sections of the garden to tell a story about how I would like them to be perceived by the person experiencing it. Maybe a bright and playful area of color in bright shade are followed up by a moody, quiet and contemplative space in full, deep shade. I want it all!

Double Flowering Hellebore

Cypress, Heucherella and Begonia

In my line of work as The Personal Garden Coach I’m usually in the clients garden with them to see each condition that they face. At my nursery job I have to learn to ask exactly the right questions to deduce what the customer actually means by “I have this shady spot, where nothing will grow.” I have to be like a detective to discern what they mean by “nothing”, how they define “shady” and what plants they have tried that don’t seem to be working.

“What’s shading the area?”

“Is it damp there, or dry there?”

“How do you water?”

“What plants have you tried so far?”

“Is it AM shade, PM shade, or shaded all day?”

Ultimately, I surmise a draft in my imagination of what the area is that they’re describing and advise some great plant suggestions. I can draw from my own experiences with shade conditions in many gardens that I’ve worked and create an action plan for design success, while tweaking it for their personal tastes or style.

Hosta, Heuchera, Heucherella, Coleus, Yarrow

Without the experience of failures and success in my own shade garden, I don’t think I would be as quick to assess difficult garden situations and turn the challenge around into opportunity for a gardener to create their vision.

Winterhazel, Sambucus, Fern, Molinia, Hosta

I also adore stretching the plants limits with the various fickle conditions that shade can deliver. From the most dark and cool shadowy corner under trees to bright shade where the garden gets glowing light but no direct sun. Both can offer a sense of experience that you can’t get with a full-on sunny location especially if you are an adventurous gardener!

Hydrangea Paniculata, Coleus, Pennisetum, Sage, Euphorbia

I could go on and on about the technical definitions of shade, design ideas and lists of plant selections that would be great for you to try. But, the ultimate bottom line is that you have to honor your vast set of options and try new things. Some may work and others may not. You have a boundless set of resources from plants to books and websites that few before our generation had access to, use them! A great nursery person, experienced friend or blogger can be just the inspiration you need to dive into the shade and conquer it.

Nandina 'Firepower'

Explore more Shade plant blogs of The Garden Designer’s Roundtable by reading more from this month’s guest writer Margaret Roach on her blog “A Way to Garden” and all of the other fabulous writers below.

Margaret Roach : A Way To Garden : Hudson Valley, NY

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

 

 
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