Garden Spaces: Tips for a Scattered Space

| December/January 2009

To avoid an unkempt, scattered look in a garden space, keep these things in mind:

Create masses of color. For greatest visual impact, plant in groups of a single species rather than lots of individual specimens. A single lavender plant, for example, is not as impressive as a large sweep of lavenders blooming together. Clustering also concentrates fragrance. 

Plant heavily. Don’t worry about overcrowding, as you can always thin out extra plants later, if necessary. Planting a little more tightly than recommended will help you achieve a lush effect more quickly. Let your plants lean into each other and fill the spaces to overflowing. If you can’t see the garden mulch surrounding them, so much the better.

Balance colors. Rather than just splashing color randomly throughout the bed, think about balancing flower colors. A dramatic color, such as yellow or red, will draw your attention. Repeating a color with a different type of plant, growing at a different level elsewhere, will help unify a garden space—your gaze moves naturally through the bed. Here, the gold of St. John’s wort flowers is echoed in the yarrow, and the pink-red of the apothecary rose is reflected in the flowering thymes on the other side of the bed. As you admire this garden from your driveway, you will see a pleasing tapestry of color. 

Don’t overdo symmetry and formality by making the two halves of the garden mirror images. Although garden style is a matter of personal taste (and some people prefer their plants to line up like little soldiers), that’s not the way Mother Nature does it—and she does it best. Allow the plants to fill up and spill out of the more formal framework created by the arch, the hedge and the path, adding life and movement.

Think in layers. By planting the deodar cedar trees and large shrubs, such as butterfly bushes and roses, at the top of the slope, you’ve added impressive height to this garden bed. For visual interest, be sure to include some low layers (groundcovers), as well. To help unify the overall look of your garden, include some low-growing thymes and oreganos and allow them to scramble through the bed. (The bees will love them, too.) The slope of your garden provides the excellent drainage these and many other herbs need to thrive. As the plants grow and bloom, you can rearrange them to distribute the showiest bloomers throughout the bed.

Kathleen Halloran is a freelance writer and editor living in Austin, Texas.

For the entire article, Garden Spaces: Shaping Up a "Scattered" Garden, click here.



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