Posts Tagged ‘color’

Green gradationA new client’s project calls for seasonal plantings in two important pots sitting atop columns flanking the front walkway.  I hope to be able to show you the changes we make to the planting palette in the rest of the garden, not sure when, but tonight I have seasonal plantings on the brain.

I don’t get asked for seasonal plantings very often, so I dove into all the bazillions of options – so many plants, so many cultivars of each!  Do you know how many Violas there are?  Heucheras?  Ipomoea, Coleus, Petunia, and so forth!!?  I wound up with 60 photos in short order and had to figure out how to organize it so the Owner (or I) wouldn’t have a stroke from too many options.  Below are 36 of the 60 I saved right off the bat, you can see how the editing process becomes king.  Some are my own photos, some from various growers, many came from Proven Winners (credit where it is due!) which is a large commercial grower that supplies pretty much every nursery I know:

too many choicesThere are many constraints in narrowing this down: changes pending in the rest of the garden, soil volume in the planters, and the intention of swapping the plants out seasonally.  Additionally, whatever we plant has to look good when it is new, add color coordinated with a TBD planting palette, and be showier than the succulents they have now which blend-in too much with their surroundings.  The most limiting of these is the soil volume – not much soil volume = not big plants and not very many.  I know, we’ve all seen photos of amazing stuff in teensy pots, but this is usually the result of growers’ careful (read: fertilized like crazy under perfect greenhouse conditions) management and not what we might expect at home.

I assume you’re familiar with the “recipe” for container plantings?  Some say you need “spillers”, “fillers”, and “thrillers”.  That’s great if you have room for all that diversity and you want mixed plantings.  I am not so sure these planters will look so good with too many different things; the soil is only 13″ across and 9″ deep.  They’re beautiful planters, just not very big.

I came up with a strategy – after I saved all those photos.  My strategy with most planting palettes is to gather in lists and photos everything I think will work and then edit until only a few favorites remain.  I often print photos of everything and arrange them all over my desk, developing groupings of favorites and rejects, moving photos between these groups often until I’ve covered all the bases – seasonal interest, form, leaf color and texture, etc.  Further edits seek to eliminate anything that clutters the vision, and viola!  … until I show it to my Client …

Chartreuse juiceSo tonight, to stave-off the aforementioned stroke, I limited the plants to 3 options:  two plant combos, one plant that will fill-in, and bulbs planted under something else.  I further limited the options to annuals (except the bulbs) and to color groupings I named “Chartreuse Juice” (a small sample of the options above) and “Lavender Carmel” (a small sample of the options below).  They seemed to separate themselves out naturally and fit in with the two plant palette options I am proposing for the rest of the garden.

Lavender carmelGiven that the planters are only big enough for one or two kinds of plants at a time, that will be the next step with the Client – what looks good together?  What can stand on its own?  I still have waaay too many options, but I know my favorite combinations, and the outliers will be held back so we both don’t need ambulances by the end of our meeting.

lavender gradation(and yes, I had entirely too much fun with Big Huge Labs making these mosaics)

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Two years ago this month I visited the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Az.  Even though I was in Phoenix for the ASLA conference, I think I was more excited about visiting this garden than anything else.  This year, they’re celebraing their 75th anniversary – SEVENTY FIVE YEARS!

8 Desert Botanical Garden 52The Desert Botanical Garden, despite being in the desert, has beauty, drama, softness, and life.  There’s a word that I hate (it starts with a “x” and ends in “scaping”) that makes most people imagine a particular layout and use of plant materials that just makes my head hurt.  Things have changed, though, and design of water wise planting has evolved!

1 arborThe folks at the Desert Botanical Garden have done a beautiful job with the materials they use.  Most of the arbors, gates, trellises, and things like that are made with raw steel and rebar.  They’ve oxidized into being gorgeous rusted pieces that are both crisp in their design and rustic in their finish.  2 Desert Botanical Garden 41Next up is the use of concrete – oh yes, concrete is wonderful stuff!  This board-formed concrete wall with the wood bench attached to it is so nicely detailed!

5 Desert Botanical Garden 23 6 Desert Botanical Garden 247 Desert Botanical Garden 25 There’s this lovely seat wall with a green stone inlay that becomes a very discrete water feature at the other end.  The water aspect of this would be easy to overlook, it is not showy or loud.  Water, of course, is important for many reasons, but a big gurgling fountain would be out of place here.  Tempting, but not appropriate.

3 Desert Botanical Garden 1 4 Desert Botanical Garden 10I only recall one other water feature, also a nice quiet, appropriate piece.

12 Desert Botanical Garden 54Nearby were some very cool butterfly chairs with white slipcovers – they even looked refreshing – which caused me to realize that even if you don’t sit or touch the water, the visual cue of taking a break is still a powerful (refreshing) force.

10 Desert Botanical Garden 45 11 Desert Botanical Garden 51Above you can get a real feel for the place – materials retain their integrity; for example, stone is used like stone, and it isn’t just veneer.  The colors belong here, and boldness is introduced sparingly.  Here, the planting not only steals the show, it IS the show thanks to strategic restraint in all the other materials.  Take a peek at the next several images – notice how the materials are used honestly, With color and a sense of place in mind, here are more of my favorites:

9 Kornegay cast conc container 13 Desert Botanical Garden 72 14 Desert Botanical Garden 12 15 Desert Botanical Garden 16 16 Desert Botanical Garden 05 17 Palo blanco trunk 18 Desert Botanical Garden 26 19 Desert Botanical Garden 93 20 Desert Botanical Garden 7 21 Desert Botanical Garden 9 22 Desert Botanical Garden 71 23 Desert Botanical Garden 86 24 Desert Botanical Garden 44 25 Desert Botanical Garden 87 26 Desert Botanical Garden 88 Last, but not least I leave you with the parking lot (that’s right, the parking lot) and a bunny with two quail (the quail blend, just behind the bunny to the right, in front of the succulents).

29 Desert Botanical Garden parking 1 28 Desert Botanical Garden bunnyBotanical gardens and arboreta are a big influence in my life and someday I hope to work on another one.  In fact, I really should buy a lottery ticket because if I ever won, I’d buy some land and …. oh, do I have ideas!27 Desert Botanical Garden 92

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The front of my new place is awash with purple Lantana (Lantana montevidensis).  It is lovely stuff if you are both color blind (unless you’re into this sort of purple, nothing wrong with that!) and an admirer of wildlife.  There are butterflies, bees, spiders, and lizards all over it.  It is absolutely marvelous for year-round blooming and needs no supplemental water once established (at least not here, I turned the irrigation off last fall).

lantana HQ 043

The flowers are the pepto bismol of purples – not my favorite, though maybe someday I will find a companion plant with a color that mitigates the pepto purple hue.  Meh, maybe not.  A dear friend of mine said that the overwhelming amount of purple Lantana in my garden made my place look like a retirement home.

lantana HQ 044

As much as I’d like to be able to retire (I’d still spend my time designing gardens – I love it that much), I am not ready to live in a dadgum retirement home!  Talk about death by association; I can’t look at it anymore without thinking about retirement homes.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, my lovely boyfriend thinks the foliage smells like poo (the flowers smell nice at night).  Charming: a poo scented retirement home.

lantana HQ 039Here’s my vexation:  as much as I intend to remove the Lantana and put in other stuff, it is happy, healthy, requires no water, and supports oodles of critters.  So for now it stays…. providing food and shelter for all those bugs and lizards, but lookout, Lantana!  You’re living on borrowed time.  Wanna know what I think might fill the space above?  I’m considering a collection of spineless Opuntia that my friend Melinda sent me from Texas along with a few I’ve collected on my own here.  The ones from Texas are rooting in the shed right now – cross your fingers that they all take!

IMG_3647So there’s my dilemma – removing the Lantana removes habitat, but goodness gracious, there’s so danged much of it, I don’t really like it, and the new design/plants aren’t ready yet.  Patience….

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I love container gardening! Love it.  I garden both in the ground and in containers at home, I can’t keep from filling pretty much everything with soil and something growing.

I wanted to post this because not every pot looks good with every plant, some look truly wonderful together, and some just awful.   I design for clients very differently than I treat my own container garden.  I choose containers for clients that go with the architecture, the plants, and so forth.

In my own garden, however, the containers can be almost anything – kitty litter buckets with holes drilled in the bottom, nursery liners, and a random assortment of impulse purchases and gifts. 

I think that the most important thing when putting together a container garden is deciding what you are showcasing; the plant or the pot?

Which plant looks good in a particular pot can be surprising.  I have found that it is important to see them together if the purchase is an important one.  If you’re like me, and buy plants and pots on impulse, don’t sweat it.  But, if the container and the plant will be important focal pieces of your design, then it is worth it to take either the pot (or a small sample with the same finish) or the plants that will be used (at least a bouquet of the leaves and a good imagination) around with you when shopping.

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I am working on the design of a garden in San Francisco and was pleasantly surprised today by the delivery of the Hellebores that were ordered from Canada.  While I was potting them for protection during their wait to be installed at the site, it occurred to me that this shipment of plants represented some thoughts on customer service and the design/construction processes.

Most Landscape Architecture firms would not be able to accept delivery of plants for a client and care for those plants until they could be installed.  They might rely instead on either using only the plants that are seasonally available or contract growing (with someone else) to care for those plants that must be received before the site is ready.  There are issues of liability (what if they die?!), space, and materials for the task.  What results can be either a prohibitively complicated and expensive ordeal, a garden that is skewed to one particular season, or having to ask the client to be patient and wait while plants become available in the future (not always acceptable by some clients). 

Included in this particular project there will be a discrete courtyard featuring a statue.  We are using four different plants; Ficus pumila (Creeping Fig), Ophiopogon nigrescens (Black Mondograss), Helleborous ‘Onyx Odyssea’ (a double black flowering Lenten Rose), and Iris ‘Frosted Velvet’ (a “miniature tall” form Bearded Iris).  The Ficus and Ophiopogon are evergreen and will form the main planting to show off the sculpture, then the Iris will be in bloom in the Spring with leaves from late Winter through Summer, and the Hellebores will be in bloom in Winter with leaves holding on through Spring.  I don’t expect to have both Irises and Hellebores flower at the same time, though it is possible that this could occur depending on weather conditions and temperatures (especially in the Bay Area).  While the Irises prefer more sun and the Hellebores more shade, the site location and orientation make it possible to use both in the same small area.

I presented the palette (above) to the client earlier this month.  Before doing presenting, I learned that the Iris were not going to be shipped until next July, and that our local growers who carried the Hellebores had already sold out for the year.  I explained to the client that we would be ordering the Iris for delivery nine months in the future and that the Hellebores would need to be ordered immediately from Canada before the grower’s shipping season closed.  He accepted the planting concept, so I had the plants ordered with delivery to my home.  I did this for a couple of reasons:

1.  I wanted to inspect the plants before anyone else saw them to make sure there were no problems (and I work from home).  Having them shipped to my home also meant that I could accept delivery at any time (they arrived today – the Saturday after Thanksgiving) regardless of holidays, weekends, and business hours.

2.  The plants would be shipped bare root and would need immediate attention by someone who knew what to do and had the time.

3.  The landscape contractor had not yet been formally retained.

4.  This also made me feel that I was giving my client the best service I could by personally protecting his investment in them and, by extension, his trust in me.

It is my habit to order plants from all over the world.  Because of this, I knew ahead of time that both mail order companies were reputable and that the plants would likely be in great shape.  I was not disappointed!  Fraser’s Thimble Farms worked with me to hold the plants until the payment arrived.  I took their advice to pay for air priority shipping.  The plants also required a Phytosanitary Certificate (they were inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency) before coming into the U.S.   The shipment was also opened and inspected by U.S. Customs upon arrival.

Below are some photos from this morning’s potting:

All in all, excellent plants – potted and ready for what comes next.  My own Hellebores have not leafed-out yet, so it will be interesting to see how these behave, but they each have new growth on them (see the middle photo).  They’ve been through a lot, being bare-rooted, inspected twice, then finally re-potted (they’ll be disturbed again soon when they’re planted in their new home).

I have been frustrated in the past with the issues that come up when trying to design a garden around the seasonal availability of the plants I want to use.  I think it is well worth the extra effort to get the exact plants desired rather than giving up and just finding something else that is less of a pain.  I am looking forward to seeing them planted in their new home and will post again….

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I wonder sometimes about the planting design process of other designers. Some always design the “bones” of the garden first and work their way down to smaller plants, others begin with a point of inspiration, a style, and build a garden around that concept. I seem to work in more than one direction at a time. Occasionally a garden will tell me what it wants to be, sometimes I have to ponder longer to find its voice.

Whatever happens on a project, though, I maintain a substantial image library. I recently visited Filoli earlier this month and took the photo above of Crocosmia and Hydrangeas planted together. I recognize that not everybody would respond favorably to this combination based solely on the colors, but seeing them together like that gave me the idea for this post – what if you compared several cultivars of Hydrangea with a variety Crocosmias (in a mix-and-match format)? What interesting planting combinations would arise? Would others find Crocosmia combined with Hydrangea attractive then?

Just a thought.  I like them all.

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I am so fortunate to live in the Bay Area and be able to get over to Filoli once in a while.  I realized last fall that I hadn’t been in a couple of years, and was determined to go again soon.  I’ve only visited Filoli in the Spring.  Not on purpose, simply because of the timing of house guests’ visits and their desire to see the famous house and gardens.  I intend to make 2010 my year of Filoli visits and to see it in as many different moments as possible.  This last week we were supposed to have rain all week and I waited (not so) patiently for a sunny day…which we enjoyed Monday through Thursday despite the wet forecasts.  I gave up my wait on Friday the 12th and drove over to enjoy the first day of accurate forecasting (rain!) with a few other early season visitors.  I enjoyed seeing things before everything begins the uber rainbow of Spring at Filoli in full bloom.   Despite the rainy day light (and my wet lens and cold hands), I snapped a few photos:

Notice how even in lousy light and with the deciduous woody plants being void of leaves, this garden is photogenic?  That it’s simple (especially at this time of year, before the flower riot is in full swing) the plantings are stunning, and how the structure of this garden – the layers and mass of its “bones” – support the flower beds.  When looking at the images, did you feel like it was not colorful enough?  I didn’t.  I love that evergreens and deciduous plants are together to support each other visually.  The evergreen plants are also a whole variety of greens – the Olive trees, Boxwood, Yews – all different.  The paths are simple, made of modest, honest materials, and support thousands of visitors annually.

Horizontal layers, vertical layers, plant heights and widths, and even the width of paths are all different.  In some places, the paths are a scant 18″ wide – enough for one person to walk carefully.  In other places, the paths must be 6′ wide or wider, but they’re always appropriate for the space they’re in.   What would be appropriate for your garden?

Horticultural side note:  These trees and shrubs are cared for and sheared with laser precision which is impressive all by itself, but notably (especially for modern gardeners who don’t get it), the shapes of the hedges are horticulturally correct.  They’re wider on the bottom, tapered to a slightly narrower top.  This supports the plant’s ability to maintain foliage at the bottom because those lower leaves can get enough light.  It also makes the paths comfortable to walk since there isn’t some big thing leaning at you – especially noticeable in the image of that dapper gentleman who is walking away.  Those shrubs are huge, but still not uncomfortably imposing thanks to this shape and the proportions of the garden as a whole.

I’m looking forward to going back in a month or even sooner – to see how this garden changes with the addition of hundreds of thousands of blooms.  Will it be necessarily better?  What do you think?

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