While walking around my garden the other day my friend excitedly commented ‘I totally get what you’re doing here – you write all about this in your book!’ Curious as to what she meant, I asked her to elaborate. She then began to excitedly tell me how I combined this texture with that, placed this color to echo that color, put the upright form here, etc.
It was definitely a pinch-me moment to have someone not only explain the thought process I used in my own garden, but to also use passages from my recent book as a guideline. It sort of felt like the time I overheard my daughter (who likes to get a rise out of me by telling me she’s not into gardening) confiding in her friend ‘oh, that’s a hydrangea – one of my favorite flowers‘. Ahhh….to be listened to!
It was a really interesting experience having my garden visually dissected by my friend, and it allowed me to take a step back and look at things through her eyes. As we walked around together I realized my garden consists of many different layers, with various ones peaking at different times throughout the year. And while my book deals with the three biggies (color, texture and form) I’ve also got layers in my garden such as scent, climbers, beneficials, bulbs, etc.
So instead of just showing you pretty pictures of my spring garden, I thought I’d show you the different layers that are shining brightest right now. These layers take time to create, but over the years they build upon themselves and transform a pretty garden into one that’s unique and breathtaking throughout the year. Enjoy!
In my book, I emphasize the importance of creating seasonal echoes in the garden, with color being just one of the layers. Color echoes not only help knit together a seemingly disjointed garden (which can easily happen to those of us who are plant-a-holics) but they’re an opportunity to create powerful, yet subtle, layers in the garden.
Simple color echoes are created when using foliage and flowers as a repeating source. Take it up a notch by creating complex echoes using other, less obvious, elements of the garden to repeat a color – such as edibles, a plant’s new growth, stems, containers, hardscaping, etc. Here are some of my favorites happening right now:
When people think of spring gardens their thoughts generally turn to colorful blooms. And while this is completely understandable (after all, by the time spring rolls around we’re all sick and tired of winter’s dreary days) don’t forget about the importance of texture. Many blooms offer a textural treat (as is the case here with the loropetalum’s fringe flowers and the euphorbia’s frothy blooms) but don’t forget the longer-lasting texture coming from foliage. Here are some of my favorite sources of texture happening right now in my garden:
Shape & Form
I often get asked the difference between a plant’s shape and its form, as the terms are frequently viewed as interchangeable. Really, though, the plant’s shape refers to its two-dimensional qualities; otherwise known as an outline, silhouette or contour. A plant’s form, however, is three-dimensional and includes depth along with an outline or contour. Another way to define form is the overall shape of a plant when in leaf (the leaves emphasizing the depth). On the other hand, when plants are dormant (without leaves) it’s their shapes (or two-dimensional outlines) that are most noticeable in the garden. Does it really matter which term you use? Not really. In my own garden, it’s the twisting form of Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, the round snowball flowers, the perfectly concentric circles of the camellia or the horizontal planes of the viburnum tomentosa that provide this long-lasting layer in my garden.
There’s nothing quite like jasmine’s first wave of perfume in the early weeks of March, or the sweetly delicious scent of citrus to provide an unexpected moment of bliss. My garden wouldn’t be complete without these powerful fragrances, each one signaling ‘Spring is here!‘ Some of my favorites come from the dainty blooms of the pheasant’s eye narcissus, pink jasmine, my ‘Washington Naval‘ orange tree, roses and ‘Belle Etoile’ philadelphus.
My garden isn’t considered large, just under 1/3 of an acre, but because of the many different layers I’ve incorporated throughout it seems so much bigger once you’re wandering through it. That’s the magic of layers. The top layer of my garden (besides the trees, that is) are the many different vines and climbers that I have scrambling over fences, trellises, arbors and even up my daughter’s now outgrown play structure. If there’s a blank vertical surface, you can be sure I’m going to cover it!
Bulbs are some of the very first harbingers of spring, with their cheerful colors and promises of warmer weather to come. Some of my favorites are the simple pale yellow freesias that I bought decades ago at a garage sale, the oversized and otherworldly purple umbels of the Peruvian Scilla, the delicate nodding magenta blooms of the ground orchid (a gift from my friend, Saxon Holt) and the little crocuses that I like to mix in with my herb pots.
And what’s a garden without the magic of hummingbirds? I love to plant flowers specifically for them, with favorites including our native currant (ribes sanguineum), grevillea ‘Superb’, abutilons, ‘Hawkhead’ fuchsia and ‘Candydrop Red’ phygelius.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my garden tour! I plan on writing something similar this summer, fall and winter to help further illustrate how to create year-round interest in the garden during the different seasons. In the meantime, though, what are some of the favorite layers in your own garden?