The Plant Collector

You’d expect an avid gardener to have a lovely garden, full of healthy, well-cared for plants, arranged in pleasing combinations. And yes, most are a delight to the senses. However, even the most dedicated gardener can make mistakes. Here are three foibles common to many a crazy plant person. Can you relate to any of these?


Getting Into Shape

Brilliant border_DBG_LAH_1398-001

When we think of combining flowers in a flowerbed or border, the first consideration that usually comes to mind is color. Do we choose warm  oranges and yellows, or cool lavenders and whites? Or do we combine the two, juxtaposing orange and yellow with deep violet, for example? Of course, color isn’t the only issue. Plants have other features that we should also take note of, such as height, foliage, and, in particular, bloom time. (There’s no point in combining flowers if they bloom at separate times of the growing season.) Then, we need to ask if they have the same cultural needs—shade vs. sun, or damp vs. xeric, for instance.

But how often do we consider flower shape when pairing blooms?


Planning the Planting

HolzmannWith the hardscape decided, it’s finally time to consider the plants—my favorite part! Since our home came with a certificate good for a free garden design (e.g., they make you pay for it in the price of the house), I decided to hire a professional. She asked for a scale plan of our property and a list of plants I particularly like. I gave her four pages worth! (Really, I tried to only list my favorites). I also included a shorter list of plants I do not want in my yard—with junipers in the number 1 slot. (See last month’s post.)


Surviving the Winter: Basic Garden Design 3

Too many times I find myself wandering around my yard, holding a new plant in its pot, wondering where I can squeeze it into my landscape. While those impulse buys are a lot of fun, that’s probably not the best way to go about adding plants to a garden. It’s best to consider the size, shape, and color of a plant first, before trying to determine what exact species is best.

Consider how nature positions plants. In any forested area, trees form the highest canopy. They reach up to capture the full brunt of the sun pouring down on them, and provide shade in varying degrees to the plants underneath.

In the shelter of the tallest trees grow understory plants. Usually large shrubs or small, multi-stemmed trees, these plants form a middle layer of the forest. (more…)

Surviving Winter: Basic Garden Design

After dreaming about blooming zinnias and vine-ripened tomatoes, I woke up and looked out the window this morning. Yup, still winter. What’s a frustrated gardener to do?

Dogwood's red branches add winter interest
Red-Twig Dogwood

Winter is actually the ideal time to think about spring. This is the best time of year to design a new garden, or improve upon the one you already have. With all the foliage out of the way, the bare bones of the garden show clearly. Is there still a sense of design to the landscape, even without growing plants? Is some of last summer’s growth still attractive in its dried and dead state? What about interesting bark or seed pods? Dried berries and other fruits? Bare branches form winter sculptures. Look at your dormant landscape—do you like what you see?

When I can’t take another day of leafless branches and frozen soil, I grab a mug of hot tea and head for my favorite chair—the one that has a view of my garden. Then I start to imagine. (more…)