by Charlene Burgi
Have you ever walked into a garden that somehow felt flat? Imagine a backyard with a six-foot-high fence all around and nothing between but wall-to-wall lawn. Now, close your eyes and imagine the Japanese Tea Gardens in San Francisco or the Butchart Gardens near Victoria, Canada. There are three elements found in the public gardens that are lacking in the lawn garden: structure, color, and texture.
While color is self-explanatory, the other two elements may need more description. Think of structure as the bones of the garden. Those bones would look like trees or other strong upright plants such as Phormium (New Zealand Flax), Lavatera (Tree Mallow), Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker), Agave, or even Iris. The garden takes on strength by adding varying heights from these “bones.”
Texture is found in the contrast of fine, delicate-looking plants to the bold and coarse. A good formula for texture is to mix 1/3 fine-textured plants such as Helictotrichon (Blue Oat Grass), Gaura, Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’, or Coleonema (Pink Breath of Heaven) with 2/3 course or bold plants such as Stachys (Lamb’s Ears), Lavendula (Lavendar), Geranium (Cranesbill), or Helleborus (Lenten Rose). Add splashes of color seen in the foliage and flowers and you have created a delightful garden. If you have a winding permeable path like decomposed granite wandering through the taller plants, it will only increase the intrigue of what’s beyond.
This “recipe” works well with any garden. Try it by using all native plants . . . I can see it now. Can you? Share your comments below and let me know!
If you are interested, you can learn more about these techniques at our Bay Friendly Garden Workshops. Mark September 19, 26, and October 10 on your calendar and register on line.