Create a pinch point to home in on a sightline. This idea works for gardens of nearly any size and isn’t dependent on having a stunning vista. By narrowing the view, you can more clearly direct a viewer’s gaze just where you want it and emphasize a focal point. Place a pair of midsize structural evergreen plants — like clipped boxwoods, pittosporum or privet — on either side of a sightline. You can do the same with walls, hedges or fences. In this Mediterranean-style garden, two mature boxwoods framing the path help define the sightline to the cafe table set on the terrace.Find a landscape designer on Houzz
Keep planting to a minimum. Another strategy for what to put under western oaks is to nearly skip plants altogether. Spreading wood chip mulch, decomposed granite or pea gravel beneath part of an oak’s canopy can cut down on planting beds needing irrigation. Turn the shady area into an inviting destination with a pair of chairs or an outdoor table. Given that gravel can compact soil and reduce the oxygen available to oak roots, it’s best to limit the amount of ground covered with gravel to less than half of the area under a tree’s canopy. Not on the West Coast? Celebrate Eastern Oaks for Wildlife, Longevity and Seasonal Interest More 8 Reasons to Plant a Great Tree Discover more ground covers for your garden
Keep smaller spaces simple. Going with a smaller plant palette doesn’t mean limiting your choices or garden experience. A small space can quickly become overwhelmed and chaotic when there are too many plant species or their size overwhelms the space. Think about shorter plants and using more of one kind. Let’s say you have a 100-square-foot garden — maybe you’d use four to six different plant species but have 10 of each. Then if you clump them together or have drifts intermingle, you create intrigue and formal style without the perceived visual chaos of more plant species.
The artist. A garden belonging to the artist will be in a constant state of flux, as the artist is rarely satisfied with the end product. This garden will most likely provide spaces for small vignettes that will illustrate balance, whether symmetrical or asymmetrical, with particular attention paid to textures, shapes and colors. This garden will delight the senses, with particular emphasis on the tactile. Sculpture will find prominence in the garden of an artist. The story of the artist will be found in the palette of the garden.
This is a garden of the collector. Another way of dealing with a disparate collection is by employing the technique of juxtaposition. By taking plant shape, color, texture and size into consideration and pairing plants with two of these things in common, a sense of logical order will begin to emerge, while the unique qualities of each plant will still be preserved.
A great garden leaves something to the imagination. It unfolds through time and space, with new discoveries waiting at each turn. Such a garden has mystery, intrigue and depth. Perhaps you would describe your garden as anything but this. By adding scrim, you can absolutely transform your garden and breathe new life into it. Contemporary Exterior Contemporary Exterior SaveEmail What is scrim? Scrim is a light, gauzy fabric that is opaque until lit from behind. It can give a vignette a dreamy or foggy appearance when someone looks through it.
Do you remember learning about Roy G. Biv? This initialism was an easy way to remember natural color flow, the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. This same color flow can create a natural and peaceful transition in the garden. Notice the vibrant yet tranquil progression of color in this well-designed prairie-style garden. Red flows effortlessly into orange, which in turn flows into yellow. Wouldn't the introduction of a pink or violet flower be an unwelcome intrusion?
This often-overlooked technique can add a unique dimension. Perceived movement is most frequently found in Asian-themed gardens but is appropriate for any style. The garden shown here embraces this technique in two ways. First, notice the weeping spruce. This conifer has the look of being blown and shaped by the wind over time, almost as if it has surrendered to it. Second, notice the river rock path. The rock placement creates a pattern that simulates moving water.
As a garden designer, I am on a mission to inspire people to stop seeing their yards as decoration for the house and to begin seeing their outdoor spaces as living things that want to come into their own. I urge you to look past the generic foundation plantings and manicured turf. Look instead for possibilities, meaning and identity. You don’t need an unlimited budget. What you do need is the ability to look past your present reality and allow your space to speak to you about what it wants to become.
his photo shows a contemporary basin where we would all expect a continuation of the waterfall constructed of natural stone. Subtleties and attention to detail, with an appropriate element of surprise, will set your garden apart from the norm.
More and more I’m drawn to naturalistic designs — where land form, stone, light are more impactful than the plant material in the overall composition — and to modern, streamlined, simple spaces where plants are used as sculpture,” she said someone and I agree too.
Problem: Compact garden Solution: Play with horizontal and vertical lines If you have a backyard that’s on the tight side, make the area appear larger than it really is by working in horizontal and vertical motifs. Here, square pavers are arranged in a stepped and linear pattern, and direct the eye to the back garden wall, creating the illusion of greater depth. Meanwhile, the ipe wood slatted wall draws the eye from one side of the garden to the other, which visually widens the area and amplifies the feeling of space.
Problem: Boxy space with harsh lines Solution: Introduce curves Introducing gently curved or circular design elements to a backyard that’s boxy or angular will soften its harsh lines and make it feel more soothing and inviting. If your alfresco area is cube-like in shape or features sharp angles, take design cues from this backyard and consider incorporating a curved bench, paved circle, round fire pit or winding garden bed (or all of the above).
Leave the soil alone. In vegetable beds, it’s a great idea to amend the soil to suit whatever goodies you’ll be growing, matching soil nutrients to plants. But in most gardens, it’s best to use what you have, matching plants to the native conditions. Plus, tilling soil destroys the structure and a lot of beneficial life. (It’s said there are more life forms in a tablespoon of soil than there are people in the world.) In addition, avoid putting “good” soil in a planting hole — all that does is
Dot groupings of plants here and there, and not evenly — maybe in a gaggle of five grasses, have two close together, one farther away and two close together again but not as close as the first two. Play with things. Be natural, not dogmatic, with your plants.
Bring shrubs and small trees into the garden, away from the house. Our default landscaping mode is to put trees on building corners, along with shrubs, and place shrubs up against a wall or fence. That’s too bad, because when we invite these woody plants into the garden, surprise and intrigue occur — the garden suddenly becomes elevated sculpturally and creates a more dynamic ecosystem for wildlife
One technique I've discovered is what I call a garden bottleneck. They are useful in any garden, but they are especially important for making small gardens seem larger and more exciting. A bottleneck is simply any barrier with an opening in it: a water channel crossed by stepping stones, a wall with a gate, a bed of tall flowers that is cut in half by a small path so that you can access another "garden room" beyond. The first photo is a clear example: imagine the rectangular pond replaced by low hedges, walls, flowering plants... the effect is the same. A barrier that forces you to stop, and the rush you get from finding a way through to explore the rest of the garden. In a very small garden there may not be room for a winding path, but you can still divide it into two "rooms" and connect them with a bottle neck. If you compare the first and last photos, you can see that the last one (the courtyard) is more static because it lacks this feature.
Myth 3: Amend the soil when planting trees and shrubs. Let’s say you’ve got clay soil. The first instinct is to make the soil easier for roots to penetrate. But if you make the soil in the dug hole nice, what’s to encourage the tree roots to expand? You’re left with a tree that can’t support itself, because its roots circle in the hole and don’t reach out into the native soil. Those circling roots cause other problems down the road, like girdling, which chokes the trunk. So don’t add anything else to the original soil — and if it’s clay, do go ahead and break the soil surrounding the hole up with a spade.
Myth 6: Add gravel or pot shards to the bottom of planters to improve drainage. Actually, doing so makes drainage worse. Studies have shown that water does not want to move out from potting soil into gravel or pot shards, preferring instead to stay in the soil until it’s beyond soaked. Pot shards and gravel also just make the water sit higher in the pot instead of draining out. Just use a good potting soil mix and make sure your container has drainage holes.
2. Mix dull tones with color. The slate-gray tones of many surfaces can be miserable in a small garden under a cloudy sky. In this garden we can see how the beautiful gray limestone paving is surrounded by a burst of bright color that makes the paving even more beautiful.
$$$Plant shorter flowers, grasses and ground covers among larger ones to mimic nature. There’s a tendency to think of garden borders and beds as tiered levels: short up front or on the outside edge, medium-height stuff in the middle and tall plants in the back. But our landscapes don’t need to look like bleachers at high school football games.
7. Repeat, repeat, repeat. One great way to give your garden a professionally designed look (with little effort) is to repeat the same plants and hardscaping materials in different places throughout the landscape. Avoid picking one plant of each type, as this tends to appear jumbled — even in a wild English cottage-style garden, plants look best when repeated or planted in clusters. The same goes for other materials: Choose just a few hardscaping materials for paths, pots, planters and outdoor furniture, and repeat, repeat, repeat.
Dark fence recedes
4. Mix bolder colors to add depth. This planting could have been a little too flat had it only consisted of a pastel palette of blue and white agapanthus and purple tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis), but the burst of bright red Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ adds contrast to the whole scene. The strong red also helps the quieter pastel colors recede, giving the planting more depth.
Reinforce Your Home’s Texture If your home is clad in stucco or rough-sawn timber, consider incorporating some very textural plants into your design to create continuity through texture. Plants such as paperbark maple (Acer griseum, zones 4 to 8, shown here), river birch (Betula nigra, zones 3 to 8) and various ornamental grasses are useful in making this connection. In fact, the swirling growth pattern of some grasses mimics the circular technique frequently used in applying stucco.
In the landscape, green is a neutral that grounds the space. By creating this foundation first, you can then embellish the garden with appropriate colors, shapes and textures. Green is rather like a rug that pulls together a room full of eclectic furniture. Additionally, it is a calm neutral that gives the eye a place to rest and keeps a space from appearing too busy. Too much green, however, can seem unimaginative. In the example shown here, the tone of green on the siding contains a gray that complements the secondary gray coloration of the brick. The darker green ground cover provides a foundation for the scheme. Notice how the older blooms on the hydrangea next to the wood bench subtly repeat the pink tones in the brick. Don’t overlook the opportunity for seasonal interest to bridge home and garden.
Let’s look at some elements of this garden and how they seamlessly marry this home to its lot. First, the tall house is intimately nestled against some even taller trees, not unlike the way a child nestles into the strong arms of a parent. Secondly, the heavily toned green, gray and red house colors are pulled into the garden by the ceramic pot and the bugleweed (Ajuga reptans, zones 4 to 8). Additionally, the bugleweed picks up the texture of the home’s stone cladding. Pops of red flowers pull the window color into the garden, while pink coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea, zones 3 to 8) and black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia cvs, zones 5 to 9) add contrast to the almost monochromatic space. The subdued color palette and serpentine lawn pathway give the vignette an immediate sense of tranquility. And who doesn’t need more of that?
Front door. A well-chosen door color can make or break the connection you are working so hard to produce. The same color principles that work for siding and trim apply to door hues. You can play it safe by choosing analogous hues, or you can dare to choose complementary ones. Consider tints, tones and shades when choosing complementary door colors in order to eliminate a potential garish combination. Buy the most expensive paint it will age better
n a garden you can intermingle drifts of plants. Toss in a few massed clumps of flowers amid a backdrop of grasses, then repeat that flower and grass pattern elsewhere on a larger or smaller scale — say, three of a kind here, seven of a kind there. If you have a large area, you can do this with bigger plants and more of them; in a small space, choose smaller plants with a more limited species palette.
Dark green is a safe foliage choice for many people. Even though this overused hue can be predictable and boring, dark green is useful in separating pops of color and providing the eye with a soothing place to rest
Don’t evenly space your plants. If you’re into lining up plants like a cadet review at a military academy, then go for it — it’s your landscape. But I suggest going bold and emulating nature by staggering your plants, placing two close together and then a third one twice the distance away
Here’s another example of working in a little bit of navy for a unique dash of drama on the exterior of a home. Blue and orange are complementary colors, meaning they offer the most contrast. The deep blue siding really sets off the orange brick nicely.
Provide some accents. In the garden here, patches of bright green along the walk draw your eye through the cool pinks and purples to the front door of the house. Plant or foliage color is a good way to highlight areas of the bed, but a flower color outside your color theme or an unexpected shrub or tree is also a good choice.
Plant for all seasons — or at least three of them. There are very few plants that bloom prolifically from spring to fall. As you’re choosing plants, especially perennials, look for those with different flowering times and spread them throughout the garden. Bulbs might provide early spring color, then can be protected and hidden while their foliage fades by the taller, summer-blooming perennials they’re planted under. Don’t forget late-summer and fall color as well. It will keep your garden from looking faded as summer ends. If you’re not sure what will bloom when, or you do end up with a bare spot, remember that annuals can always fill in. See what’s in bloom at a local nursery, though check before purchasing to be sure they, too, aren’t at the end of their bloom season.
Accept nature’s editing. Every year the garden is different. One plant thrives, another waffles. Genista moth larvae decimate a Baptisia, and Liatris lean the wrong way. The birch begins shading out some asters, and the Joe Pye Weed mysteriously dies back. It’s OK. I’ve let go so I can garden on a different level and learn from the evolution of what I’ve given birth to. I’ve even let some things start growing in the lawn that borders the garden just to see what happens — I’d never have done that five years ago.
4. Use more drifts and massing. Don’t you ever feel sorry for plants separated from their family? Think about drifts of the same plant and see what happens. I believe you can do this in large or small spaces; it’s just that the smaller the space, the less variety you should have — you don’t want visual overload. See what happens when you curb your variety and mass with just a few species; isn’t the garden suddenly more tranquil?
Water slowly. Spraying a full blast on a garden is more likely to wash away the dirt than provide the plants with enough water. Take it easy, and let the water fall gently on the soil and plants. Water consistently. Plants do best when they’re on a regular schedule rather than a seesaw approach of overwatering followed by droughtlike conditions.
Know your soil type. The ideal garden soil is a rich, easy-to-work loam that is porous enough for water to easily (but slowly) seep down, yet heavy enough to keep the water at the root level. If you’re lucky to have this soil, rejoice. The rest of us are jealous. Sandy soil is just what it sounds like — very loose and porous. The good news is that sandy soil absorbs water easily. The bad news is that it also allows the water to quickly pass by the roots and drain away. If you have sandy soil, you’ll want to amend it. You’ll probably need to water more often to be sure the soil near the roots stays wet. With heavy clay soil, you’ll water less often but you’ll need to make other adjustments. Because clay soil absorbs water very slowly, it’s easy for the water to run off before it penetrates the ground. The solution is to keep the flow low, almost a trickle if the soil is very dense. Also, try watering in two blocks — water for 5 to 10 minutes, turn it off for 20 minutes, then water again for 5 to 10 minutes. This allows the soil time to absorb the water.
Water in the morning. Try to give plants a drink at the beginning of the day. Consider it your garden’s morning caffeine jolt. Being hydrated helps plants combat the heat of the day. It also gives the foliage time to dry in the sun, which helps prevent diseases. If a morning watering session doesn’t fit your schedule, your next best choice is the evening, especially once things have begun to cool down. Be sure not to get foliage too wet, especially if your edibles are prone to fungus. At mid-day, water only the plants that are wilting significantly.
Water most when the plant is growing. Cut back at other times. Most edibles need the most water when they’re flowering or fruiting. Cut back or stop altogether once the edibles have finished producing. The exception would be perennials or fruit trees, but even for those, you can cut back significantly when the plants are resting. More: Grow a Beautiful Garden With Ecofriendly Greywater
This is a close-up of a much larger garden, but you can see how drifts and masses are working on both informal and formal levels among the plants themselves. Grasses up front encircle the coneflowers, while both lead up to the taller Joe Pye Weed blooming white. There’s both a formal, stepped succession of height we expect in a tended garden, and a more informal surprise as the viewing angle changes from point to point; the intermingling drifts provide new vistas as we walk the landscape, creating surprise and cohesion at the same time. Plants shown (click photo to see the plants tagged): Spotted Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum ‘Bartered Bride’, USDA zones 3 to 8; find your zone), Ruby Star purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘Ruby Star’, zones 4 to 9), Shenandoah switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’, zones 4 to 9), Hubricht’s bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii, zones 4 to 9)
2. Repeat key elements. The use of a key element repeated throughout a garden gives it peaceful continuity. This technique is especially effective when the key element crosses over a pathway into the parallel bed, moving the eye back and forth throughout the space. Notice how this shady mixed border by James McCain carries the eye through the space. Even though this garden relies heavily upon hostas for interest, it is the large-leafed hostas (Hosta cvs, USDA zones 3 to 8) that punctuate the space from side to side and move the eye down the pathway. The repetition of the large-leafed hostas allows for the peaceful transition to pockets of different plants.
When working in outdoor spaces, you have a little more leeway mixing greens based on nature's example. For instance, in this garden, the yellow-toned autumn ferns are surrounded by true green and blue-toned greens. The scheme works because it is balanced by the light-colored trees in the background and the grass between the pavers.
If you would like to include a blue-toned mint green and a bright greenish yellow, bridge the two with a neutral green. In this example, a focus grabbing statement leaf in deep kelly green is the perfect medium between the wall color in the background and green accessories in the foreground. Also notice how the green and yellow combination is emphasized again in the gladiolus.
Most greens will mix easily, but you must tread lightly and thoughtfully when mixing greens with competing undertones. In this example, the greens in these hanging baskets are a deep green with a yellow undertone. The wispy green on the walls also has a slight yellow undertone, and both are complemented by tiny yellow flowers and warm sunlight.
3. Interject an element to induce transition. Boulders can be used to provide interest and contrast. This gives the designer a natural opportunity to begin something new. In this photograph a boulder has been cut into the metal edging along the pathway to provide unexpected interest and a natural transition point between a moss garden and a mass planting of autumn ferns (Dryopteris erythrosora, zones 5 to 9).
The Semicolon This punctuation mark is used to separate major elements of a sentence by degrees when more than a comma is needed. Perhaps your garden needs more than a small pause to join sections in a cohesive manner. This turn in a pathway in my own garden resembled an elbow and needed softening in order to join two sections of the bed in a cohesive way. The solution was to plant several chartreuse shore junipers (Juniperus conferta ‘All Gold’, zones 6 to 9) along with a Feelin’ Blue deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara ‘Feelin’ Blue’, USDA zones 7 to 9). The billowy textures of each plant complement one another while softening the bend.
An exceptional garden is one that embraces and celebrates the unexpected. This can be a challenge in the smaller, more urban gardens that are becoming the norm for many of us. One way to inject unexpected interest into your small space is by introducing plants with large foliage. Many of us were taught that small rooms require small furniture to match the scale and not overpower visitors. We often design our gardens in the same way. However, the proper use of larger elements in smaller spaces can create contrast that reads as a positive. Let’s look at how to create that contrast with large foliage, when to do it and some plants that will help us do it with style.
Repeat a common color. Instinctively, the human eye is first drawn to color. Use this instinct to your advantage by creating a thread of one color throughout your space. This composition of a red boardwalk and an art piece is a perfect example of how color can be used to best advantage. It gives the visitor a sense of comfort so that he or she is free to explore the myriad plant textures and shapes in this otherwise monochromatic woodland garden.
Round Out Your Plant Palette Once you have designed the foundation of your plant palette, you can embellish and individualize it by adding colorful foliage to strengthen the connection between house and landscape. Red is a color that I refer to as a pivot hue, meaning that it can be placed between other colors to blend them harmoniously. For example, red in a darker tone can be useful in blending chartreuse and blue foliage. Additionally, red can be a stand-alone hue that can pull siding color into the landscape, as shown here.
Shrubs or small trees can bring structure to an otherwise relatively loose, informal design. By creating symmetry and playing off the linear form of this pool, as well as echoing the dark green shadows of the woods in the background, the simple inclusion of two specimens brings a bit more order to what at first may seem like visual disorder.
Looks blended. Orange on the roof is orange wall and steps faded orange.burgandy plant matches the tree in foreground. Orange flowers only color. Light green pillar matches plant on steps. Tall cacti similar as color on the house. Plants on a diagonal. Like the space/between.