Thoughtful use of plants and trees will make your garden more dynamic. Shadows and patterns created by foliage create interest, capture the eye and diffuse views. Plants can also be used to define space, provide screening, or add privacy without putting up a fence or wall that might make a space feel dark or confined.
When I am designing a garden and I want to create the feeling for more depth, I look for plants that have a growth habit that is visibly transparent or can easily be kept that way by pruning. Thinking about how plants will respond as they mature is essential. Some plants lend themselves to being manipulated by pruning (think of a clipped boxwood hedge, an espaliered fruit tree or the Japanese art of bonsai) but most plants look best if they are allowed to grow in their natural habit with only a bit of thinning and shaping.
Regular maintenance and pruning will prevent the need for more drastic measures later if plants have been allowed to outgrow their intended role in the landscape. When using plants for screening, avoid over-planting in an attempt to get quick results—you could end up with other problems later, such as unwanted shade, damage to surrounding hardscape, or encroachment on pathways, neighbors’ yards, and views.
With thousands of plants to choose from, it may seem like an overwhelming task to select plants that look good and support your overall landscape plan. Identifying the type plants you favor is a good place to start. With that information, a garden designer can figure out which ones will thrive in your garden and how those can fit into a cohesive plan.
I hope this blog post helps you get started thinking about enhancing your garden. Summertime is the best time to evaluate your landscaping and plan for the following year. If you are not a gardener or don’t have the time, you can work with a landscape designer to be able to enjoy the beauty and benefits of curated outdoors spaces.
Need more ideas? Contact me for a design consultation and learn about landscape design or the best plants for any spot in your garden.
The owner of this Seattle home, a garden enthusiast, wanted to upgrade the landscaping and asked me to come up with a plan.
The sloped lot on a wooded hillside provided both opportunities and challenges. I created a series of terraces along the side of the house to transform an awkward slope into a place for a new patio surrounded by plantings. The terraces themselves function as a series of connected garden rooms that flow together, making it easy to move about the site.
On the home’s entry level, we enlarged the main patio using architectural slabs that reflect the clean lines of the house and blend seamlessly with the existing concrete. Steppable groundcover adds visual interest and natural stone risers provide a graceful transition to the woodland garden below. The natural flagstone patio underfoot, with lush plantings all around and mature trees overhead, enables you to feel as though you’ve been transported far from the city. Beyond the woodland, and visible from the patio during summertime, a collection of shade-loving perennials is bordered by organic timbers. A combination of native, woodland and ornamental plants keeps the garden palette interesting.
Click the thumbnail images below for full size versions.
architectural slabs merge the old and new and provide visual interest
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Spiralis’ will grow into an architectural feature
fence posts extend overhead for stringing lights for summer parties
transitioning to natural stone reflects the woodland feeling
stone risers are graceful steps that connect the two hardscape areas
Hydrangea petiolaris will soon cover an original retaining wall
A lovingly restored Ballard bungalow deserves a fitting garden. The owner, a master gardener, loves plants and hired me to create a comprehensive plan to solve problems like screening the apartment house next door. The pathway is made of repurposed brick from the original chimney and recycled stepping stones add to the relaxed air. I focused on plants that create structure and continuity with emphasis on seasonal focal points. The result: there is always something interesting popping up or coming into bloom.
evergreens screen the apartment house next door
planting the parking strip gives the illusion of a much larger front yard and adds instant curb appeal
plantings in the parking strip effectively double the size of the front yard
an informal pathway leads to the backyard
a woodland retreat awaits in the backyard
stepable groundcover creates a luxurious carpet under bare feet
Well-designed topography adds richness and dimension to a landscape. In gardens, grade changes offer opportunities for artful design and dynamic compositions. While terraces, rockeries and retaining walls are often put in place to capture views and manage functional needs (such as drainage and steep slope), they are also opportunities for mindful garden design.
With some forethought, plantings cascading over walls, graceful terraces, and bubbling streams can look completely natural. On a hillside, cozy grottos create welcoming entries or back yard escapes. Terraces that have been made to maximize views are also excellent vantage points to enjoy gardens below.
If you are building or remodeling, think about how your landscaping will integrate with the architecture of your home and other site features. Consider landscaping from the outset while making decisions about grading the site.
Bring together your engineer, garden designer, architect, and general contractor to collaborate on a holistic design. By planning ahead you will probably be surprised by all of the creative options those professionals can suggest. You’ll be able to choose the one that best suits your own vision for combining form + function in your garden.
Are you ready to remove the guesswork and increase your success rate with plantings and garden features? Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and solutions for challenging sites.
What is your winter garden telling you about its overall design? Using Witch Hazel, Hellebores and other winter blooming plants bring color and depth while the bare deciduous plantings and wetter weather expose the core of your landscape plan for you to scrutinize. Use this time to assess how your landscape design is working. How did it look during the winter months? Are there things that did not work the way you hoped or features that you would add? The final weeks of winter are the best time to incorporate any lessons learned from this winter into a landscape plan. Things to take note of include:
Screening and privacy: Did you have the coverage you wanted when deciduous trees loose their leaves?
Circulation: Are pathways and patios in the best location? Is it easy to walk the entire garden and keep your feet dry?
Structure: Are garden focal points and plant groupings positioned for views from inside the house too?
Winter color: Do perennial borders need something additional for dormant season interest? Would evergreen color and texture add depth?
Outdoor living: Did you have sufficient covered space for being outside on wetter or colder days?
You don’t need to wait for spring to start thinking about your seasonal transition or about your longer range plans for your garden.
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