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Posts Tagged ‘flowers’

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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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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GAP Photos is a UK based website that has an insane quantity of garden photos.  They’ve got the most amazing search abilities, and their photos list actual plant names whenever possible.  Being of the UK, most of the images are “english garden” types, but there’s also images of flower shows (like Chelsea) and beautiful veggies.   I think the site speaks for itself, just watch the clock – a person could get lost in there for hours.

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Lawn daisies

Anyone who read this blog post on turfgrass lawns probably understands the arguments against turfgrass lawns.   So now what?  Do we all need to tear out or grassy swathes and put in wildflowers?  Not necessarily – there are TONS of turfgrass lawn alternatives, and so much documentation that it would be insanity to try to catalog everything without actually considering a career in publishing….go ahead, google it.

But this morning I was thinking about a mid-way point between eliminating an existing turfgrass lawn in favor of other groundcovers, perennials, or the extreme artificial lawns that seem to be gaining in popularity at the moment (due to extensive television advertising?).

I came upon the mixed lawn as a compromise / move in the right direction.  When I was little, the local library had tons of tiny daisies in the lawn which I thought were completely charming.  At our home, there was clover in the front lawn that I would sit in, pluck at the flowers, and hang out with the cat or bunny.  Even if you don’t go to the expense and trouble of removing an existing lawn regardless of its condition, simply overseeding with white clover can start a remarkable transformation.  Adding clover to your turfgrass lawn can begins the transformation of adding little flowers, benefits from nitrogen fixing, and gaining a more textured, greener appearance.   What can be a better solution in having a lawn than having one that eliminating the need and expense of chemical fertilizers, needs less mowing, uses less water, and it is prettier and greener as well?!  Sign me up.

Oh!  and by the way – an added benefit of intentionally mixing other plants in with your turfgrass is supporting bees in your area (they like clover very much) – and please don’t get me started on the crisis facing the bees in California!

It seems that Oregonians are embracing mixed lawns already, something I have yet to notice much here in California.  Hobbs and Hopkins in Oregon offers some clever seed mixes for more interesting and environmentally friendly lawns.  They include all sorts of things from clover to lawn daisies and dwarf yarrow.  Isn’t that so much more fun than plain ole turfgrass?!  Am I the only one who loves this!? Their photos look like exotic salads – not dull, flat green carpets.

As soon as it is released, I will have a copy of The American Meadow, a book that John Greenlee has been promising for a couple of years now.  It isn’t quite the same concept as mixed lawns, but maybe he will cover that in the book?  We’ll see when my copy arrives….oh, I am so excited!

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Why yes, yes I do thanks for asking!

I enjoy focusing on an esoteric subject, learn all I can, then keep it as a favorite topic but turn my focus to something new for a while. I do that with colors, plants, ideas…..knitting and pattern writing, quilting (including quilt AND paving pattern design – so many parallels!), and um…. you name it, please pardon the rotten sentence structure.

Two of my favorite things below: silver/gray foliage and green flowering bearded irises. See, I told you it was esoteric.

mosaic green irises
mosaic silver foliage 1

OH!  and many thanks to www.bighugelabs.com for their mosaic making thingy.  Very fun.

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