A beautiful perennial garden isn't simply a
collection of beautiful individual plants. It's the group
dynamic that makes a garden turn heads.
It takes many years to get to know
the hundreds of plants that can form complimentary plant
partnerships, but here's the main secret - it's not just about the flowers!
It's at least 50% about what surrounds the flower - the foliage colour
... plant form or shape ... leaf texture ... etc. of the plants in
the "eye-full" group.
Very quiet plants that aren't "wow" in themselves, are often the most
important ones in a good design for their support-the-star role.
Here's how I go about designing any garden, and some rules of thumb to
No plant should be just put in a garden wherever it
might fit best or in height order. Always consider the overall garden dynamics
and find it a suitable contrasting and supportive partner.
My formula for any garden design is to create individual eye grabbing
vignettes throughout the bed - groups of at least 3
plants where each has a different foliage texture,
colour, or stature, and where only one of them is in flower at a time, with
the other two playing a supporting role.
With this formula your garden is constantly changing with something
fresh happening all through the season, while each flower has a design
partner to help it look better than it would
otherwise. Sometimes you might want two plants flowering at the
same time, but still, the plants should compliment one another in texture,
some other way - not be just two pretty flowers side by side. Two
"stars" on any stage just end up battling one another for attention
instead of blending together harmoniously. Aim at the principle of
one "star" at a time, with complimentary supporting "actors"
to help the star look its best. Or, in a shade garden
where flowers aren't plentiful, groups of plants could be based on
strong foliage texture and colour contrast only, with perhaps a pop of bright
foliage colour as the star.
Contrasting textures and plant shape is the key to a good
perennial garden design.
Flowers are just the bonus! Like a lovely outfit you put together
to head out to a party, flowers are the jewellery, not the foundation
Think of a beautiful painting - is it not even more beautiful when
fitted into a suitable frame with a complimentary background matte?
It's the same kind of thinking - one "star" with supporting
players to help it shine bright, makes for a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
and ... don't forget to have fun!
Enjoying the creative explorations of the many possibilities, is at
least 50% of the pleasure growing a garden offers.
plants. Oh the possibilities! Where to start?
Annuals can be relied on for tons of splash and
colour, but there's nothing like
to ignite a collector's passion!
I've been an obsessive
collector of perennial plants for well over 30 years by now.
Whenever I discover a new plant genera or species that appears garden worthy, it seems I'm
compelled to start a collection of as many
cultivars/varieties as I have room for! I justify my unbridled plant
shopping frenzies by telling myself that I'm purchasing
plants for my clients' gardens, but somehow it always quickly turns into a
for them, two for me" shopping trip.
When I get home and see the sea of plants I need to find room for, I justify the purchases
again by saying to myself "well ... I'll be able to report on some unusual new
plants in my
newsletter". This gets me past the moment
quilt free, but it turns into
a Catch-22 since I need to spend so much time looking after my
plant collection that I don't have time to write any newsletters!
Ah well - I know I'm not alone
in this plant collecting obsession - there's lots of us out there
and we're all having a blast! Any lingering guilt soon fades as we
revel in our new discoveries.