Monday, March 5, 2012

Back to Basics

Color echoing
A great marriage for sun in deer country
Day 47
The Daily DuBrule

Tuesday night I teach the first of a two session class on Basic Landscape Design. It is interesting to prepare for this class, and an excellent exercise for this time of year when designing and consulting steps up to high gear. Having to explain the basics to a group of new gardeners is good for me. Sometimes I just worry I make it all so complicated and overwhelm the folks I work with. Basic principles of design are key. I have to keep remembering that.

Contrasting shape, texture, form
Look at the very simple picture of the front of my house at the top of this post. I remember the day I planted those deep burgundy tulips. I was wandering around, looking for a place to put them. The leaves were off the trees already as I tend to wait until really late in the fall to plant my bulbs. I looked over at the framework of the 'Bloodgood' Japanese maple on the corner of my porch and thought "they would look perfect on the other corner, the two burgundies would talk to each other". That is called color echoing. Designers do it without being conscious of it. 

Look at the next photo of Iris pallida 'Variegata' surrounded by the frilly silver foliage of Anthemis marshalliana. Spikes and frills. Broad strap-like leaves with a petticoat of silver lace. They both take the exact same conditions-hot, dry and not eaten by dear. Notice the Anthemis is in a drift of 3 plants. Basic design stuff there.

Look at the next photo of a combination in my courtyard. My criteria for this space is "keep it simple". Molinia caerulea 'Variegata' is a really nice, small growing grass that doesn't like a lot of water. Bingo. It won't get that in my courtyard, I don't water much if at all. The stems of the grass flowers turn bright yellow in the fall and the sun sets behind them, causing them to glow. This was an intentional placement. The Ajuga 'Caitlin's Giant' has broad purple foliage and is a perfect foil for the linear, variegated foliage. Again, opposites next to each other make the Molinia more linear and the Ajuga broader. Opposites attract. Hmmm... I've heard that somewhere before.

The Basic class will cover site analysis, bubble diagrams, scale, proportion, measuring, and all the thing we do in my design department to take dreams to reality. It's not complicated but to get people to step away from what they are looking at and analyze their property with a designer's eye is a big step. Everyone should try it BEFORE they spend a fortune on plants. It makes perfect sense.



  1. Wow, love the Molinia with the ajuga. Perhaps my ever advancing ajuga marching past my newly planted last fall Caryopteris divericata will provide a similar contrast? And I didn't even think consciously of that. For all the planting disasters in my yard, maybe I got something right?

  2. I like that Molinia - I may have to put a couple on my front slope... with my ajuga. :) I'm such a sucker for pretty grasses. And other stuff...