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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Garden Design - Part 3

In the past week I've posted part one and part two of my Garden Design class. Today I'd like to look at the things I consider when actually looking at the plant material used in the garden.

The last thing I had written on this topic was that I feel diversity is the key to a healthy garden. To me, diversity is what makes a garden call out to me, I'm just not a mono-culture kind of person. Maybe that's a result of growing up in New York City.

Diversity means many different things. In the plant world it means that I look for all different kinds of plants. I want annuals, perennials, bulbs, biennials, big blooms, little blooms, excellent foliage, and more. There's an amazing array of plants out there to add to the garden and I'm always glad to try something new. In the photo above you can see Camassia quamash which is a bulb that I rarely see in gardens. Next to the Camassia is Euphorbia polychroma. My two clumps of Camascia were given to me by my gardening friend Mary Kay and this year I will have enough to divide and spread about a bit. Thanks Mary Kay!

Another bulb that I see for sale often but don't see in enough gardens is Crocosmia. I admit I'm a lazy gardener when it comes to this plant and often just buy it already potted up. While Long Island is considered in the safe growing zone for this beautiful bulb, it hasn't always made it through the winter for me. You can bet if that happens I'm going to go out and buy some more.

Diversity also pertains to the size of the plant material. If you want to read an excellent article about why size is important in the garden you should take some time and visit the Garden Renegade, click on his link Design and then scroll down and click on "Top 10 Gardening and Landscape Blunders - and How to Avoid Them!". Warning, before you head over there, take a potty break, get yourself a cup of something to drink and a snack, you will be there for a long time! Don't forget to come back here and visit me again :-)

This hardy perennial is Veronicastrum and it grows over 6' tall (2 meters) in my garden. When it's in bloom I'm guaranteed that people will stop and ask for it's name.

This photo is a bit blurry but it shows you how the Veronicastrum stands out in the garden. What it does is take a border that might be a bit boring (all mid thigh high and lower) and add some much needed punctuation points.

Foliage is another key when choosing plant material. If you want to read more on foliage, you can read through the last few weeks of my blog where I've touched upon it more. It's obvious that you can choose plants with hot foliage colors and never even have a flower blooming in your garden. These plants though are annuals for us but don't worry, there are perennials too with great foliage.

Hosta 'Spritzer' and Pulmonaria 'Raspberry Splash' have similar shaped foliage, even similar shaped growth but the foliage contrasts wonderfully. Other foliage combinations might have the same color foliage but totally different leaf shapes.

Of course we can't forget about color. Everybody sees color differently, and everybody has different color favorites. If you want to check out some excellent articles on color, head over to Hayefield and see what Nancy J. Ondra has to say. Take the time to scroll back through her blog, her sense of color has me in total awe.

This is an older daylily variety named 'Fairy Firecracker' yet it gathered quite a bit of attention when the American Hemerocallis Society (daylily folk) toured here.

Taking color a step further, you have to consider timing.

Are your plants going to bloom at the same time? Believe me, I've made that mistake often, either I plan a wonderful combination and they don't bloom together or I plan to have two distinct colors bloom at different times and they end up blooming together.

Many people don't realize that the plants they buy at the nursery often come from a different climate. Those plants aren't necessarily blooming at the same time that they will bloom in future years when they settle into your garden. Sometimes it takes a year or two of experimentation before you find the right time combinations.

The above photo shows the hard to find daylily 'Jeanne Fitton' and another unsung perennial hero Stachys monieri. I absolutely adore both plants and they don't look bad together, they just could look better next to something else. If I brought forward the blue cloud of Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' that's barely visible in the back drop, I'd have a better combination.

If you aren't sure of combining colors, you can still have diversity with your plant material and keep things in the same color range. This daylily (name not available) and the Echinacea purpurea are very similar in color and even in bloom shape yet earlier in the season the foliage of each plant contrasts nicely.

For the more adventurous, you can take your colors and use them for contrast like I have done here with the daylily 'Eggplant Escapade' and Rudbeckia 'Herbstsonne'. Luckily for me this is a very tall, late blooming daylily. When the Rudbeckia flopped a bit because I forgot to pinch it back, I didn't cry, instead I grabbed my camera and enjoyed the view.

Well, that's it for today. It must almost be spring, my garden club is having our first meeting of the year and we have an awesome speaker lined up. I'll tell you all about it some time.

Auf wiedersehn, Cheerio, Tah Tah and all that jazz.


lintys said...

Very nice! Thanks for the class Melanie!

Minnesota Kathi :) said...

Oooo, ahhhh, mmmmm...that's what I'm doing at this very minute while reading your post :) How beautiful, thank you for sharing, we're still in the midst of snow here but warmer spring days are coming soon. Awesome post, thank you!

Gail said...


This is a great post for of my beds is very prominent in the yard and is BORING. The Veronicastrum or similarly tall plant would help. I love the way you showcase Day liles with other perennials.


Wurzerl said...

Wow!! What a wonderful post, what a wonderful border, what wonderful plant combinations. I love the Hosta and the Pulmonaria and the daylily in the same color like the Echinacea, it' so great. My Echinacea tells me, she is wishing the same partner. Ok, I will go and have a look at a pink daylily.
I' m sorry, that you don' t have an aunt or uncle in Munich! I would like to see you in summer.
Have a nice day Wurzerl

Connie said...

Great looking plants! Every time I read your posts, I add a few more things to my wish list. :-)
The Camassia quamash is such a beautiful plant. It grows wild here... full fields of it! (I'll try to post a photo later this spring.) The Nez Perce Indians used the root for food, calling it Camas Root.

Lin said...

Great info, beautiful photos... thank you! Couldn't agree more...diversity in all things.

Any experience with kaffir lilies/clivia miniata? I'm working on that section of my garden now. They're not looking as good as they should.

GardenJoy4Me said...

Melanie .. great post .. love the plant and colour combinations .. I have planted veronicastrum last year .. wanted the pink cultivar but settled on getting "one" at all ! .. and what will happen in my small garden .. well .. I have the full form Joe Pye and a few Black Cohosh .. I keep squeezing them in and the garden keeps pushing them out ! haha

Melanie said...

Hi lyn, you're welcome :-)

Kathi, glad I share, now where's those cookies?

Gail, adding height really turned out to be a big change in my gardens. So often we forget that aspect and keep everything too low.

wurzerl, the European Daylily convention is in Munich this summer. I believe their official name is Hemerocallis Europa. The best daylilies are bought right from collectors yards.

Connie, I've heard that about the Camassia but I could never eat something that pretty and then miss the bloom.

lin, I tried Kaffir lilies once many years ago. That was before I'd research something if I didn't know about it, they croaked but I'd try them again if I saw them for sale.

Joy, I had clumps of Veronicastrum, white and lilac colored. I killed the two largest clumps because I read you should pinch them back so they bloom shorter and more compact. The two clumps I pinched back died within two weeks of that process. Now I will never pinch them again.

Carla Dorausch said...

Hi Melanie as I read your post every morning with my cup of coffee at my side, I smile and
cant wait for spring to come to see the garden on Mothers Day
Love Mom

Melanie said...

Hi Mom! I'm so happy you were able to get on here!

For everybody else, my mom is a weeding machine! She's my number one garden helper and I can't wait until she's here in May, even if it's only for a few days.

Love you Mom!

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Melanie, another wonderful post! I love your border garden!

Anna said...

Hi to Melanie's MOM--she needs you!! Melanie, the only thing holding me back from buying all those flowers you spoke about I want them all! I used to plant in mass groupings but then a bug on a feeding frienzy would wipe that out. So now I'm a diversity kind of gal. I hear ya and I second what you are saying.

Marie said...

Are all these photos from your garden? What a lovely garden you have!
Thank you for your comment on my post. It was my daughter's birthday yesterday and the photos are from her life. I translated a bit into english on the post today. So if you want to take another lokk you may understand most of the text.

Now I'm going to pay Garden Renegade a visit. I wish you a nice day :)

Frances, said...

Thanks for a beautiful morning given by all that color. Fairy Firecracker is now on our to get list. The shot with all the colorful leaves was jaw dropping! Were those in containers or in the ground? And kudos to your mom, sometimes I am the weeding mom at the offspring's, not a machine but trying to lend a hand!

Frances at Faire Garden