Where do I start? It’s a question heard repeatedly in gardening webinars. Or maybe the question really is, how? When you’re contemplating a piece of ground you’d like to convert to a gardened space, how do you figure out which plants to select from the many thousands available? And how do you arrange those plants to create a design? For practice, start with a manageable space.
Intentional or not, natural light affects how we see. It has the power to capture attention, turning an ordinary garden into a memorable experience. Natural light becomes a design element, along with color, texture, landform, and plant type. How can we include this element in a garden design plan and control its impact on what we perceive?
If you read enough gardening and garden design literature, a few rules of thumb will emerge – guidelines to follow for planning and planting. Keeping these in mind can help when you’re not sure where to start or when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the advice available.
Green spaces—gardens, parks, nature trails, urban forests—are a lifeline at any time but especially, as many of us have discovered, during a pandemic.
Trees are a natural choice for creating the framework of a garden, marking the perimeter, serving as focal points or a kind of sculptural art, and providing shade and privacy for intimate areas within the larger space.
Native plants have virtue. They’re good for the environment. Planting them is the right thing to do. Planting them may even save the planet. How could any gardener or landscape designer not choose native plants? I confess to reacting with a bit of resistance when I first heard statements such as these.
Edges define and create spaces, and these spaces can become important design elements, in a landscape, along a roadway, or in the home garden.
At a lecture earlier this year hosted by Montgomery County’s Brookside Gardens, David Culp, author of The Layered Garden, explained the garden design process at Brandywine Cottage, his home in southeastern Pennsylvania. Plants spoke first, Culp listened and responded, and a garden evolved, built on plants selected for sustainability and designed (or layered, as Culp describes it) for visual appeal in every season.