Color Scheming

ageratum-artist.jpgSome gardeners come to a scheme for planting annuals based on favorite colors, or color combinations.  Others like a certain style of planting.  Others focus on the size of the flowers, or the color of the leaves.  The best plantings involve scheming on as many different levels as possible.  I plant the annuals in front of the shop in a different way every year.  That way, sooner or later, everyone will see something they like.  This is the best part of planting annuals.  Every year, there is a chance to try something new.

annual-planting.jpgLast year’s scheme was all green.  I planted panicum grass inside the boxwood.  More than a few customers said it looked like we were going out of business, as we had not cut the grass.   Like I say, everyone has a different idea of beautiful.  I knew I wanted to do something with purple. The color of this ageratum artist is so luscious.  It is a light blue/purple that I call heliotrope blue.  Lots of blue with a big dose of lavender.  Dark purple has a way of turning dull, if it does not have lively companions.  The blue salvia mystic spires has gorgeous blue/purple flowers that are so striking up close.  Plant it in a garden, and the color sinks into the background.  In the mid and background of this picture, you can barely make out the purple angelonia.

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The planting needed some friends that would make that brooding dark purple more visually appealing.  We added both lime and white nicotiana to the purple angelonia.  This plant is airy growing, simple in flower, and sports big flat leaves.  This will contrast beautifully with the narrow leaves, smaller stature and flower spikes of the angelonia. So far, the planting has three colors in the mix.

tricolor-petunias.jpgMixing colors adds depth to a planting. Pictured above is a bedding petunia called “Great Lakes Mix”. The mix of white, medium blue/purple and dark purple petunias is a lively way to visually represent the idea of purple. A mass of white, or another light color can be quite striking.  A mass of dark purple can look dull and flat.  The value of the color purple, meaning its lightness or darkness, is very similar to the value of many greens in the landscape.  Dark purple blends with green, rather than standing out from it.  Determined to have lots of dark purple?  Underplant it with lime or white.   I dropped a floret of a red geranium onto this mix. This is a scheme I have planned for a client. The red will be all the more brilliant, given the purple mix.  The purple mix is even more lively, given the red.  Color in a garden is never about a color.  It is about the relationships that define every individual color in a strong way.

the dinnerplate dahlia fluerelSo far so good.  But this is a big planting bed, with boxwood that is over 3 feet tall.  The garden would need to be anchored by something.  A four foot tall dahlia would certainly provide a visual anchor to the garden.  This white dinnerplate dahlia called Fluerel has a pale yellow center, and pale yellow green buds.  This secondary color will relate to the lime nicotiana. The big flowers will be visible from a car driving by.  The nicotiana will soften the look of this stiffly growing upright plant. We will stake it securely, early on. We will do the same with the nicotiana.  The stakes are not the best look, but plants will completely disguise them in short order.  All there will be to do next is water and wait, and how the scheme is a good one. If the scheme is a good one, all the relationships will be both friendly and serious.   KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI saved the beginning of the story about this garden for last. I read the garden blog Gardenista almost every day.  Last winter they put up a post about a dinnerplate dahlia called “Cafe Au Lait”.  The story came from a the blog of a florist who features home grown flowers.  www.floretflowers.com, if you are interested. This dahlia features flowers the color of cafe au lait, naturally.  Some flowers are more pink.  Some are more towards the cream side.  I have always been reluctant to grow these dahlias.  They can be too tall, too stiff, and too ungainly.  The blog post was very detailed in how and when to pinch them.  The pinching early on results in more flowers with long stems.  But it was the astonishing color that made me ask Mark from Bogie Lake Greenhouse to order 30 of them for me, and bring them on.  The entire rest of the garden is an effort to feature these dahlias.
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Tomorrow we will add more ageratum to the edge.  I am after an 18″ wide rounded band of this color rolling down to the gravel to border the garden.  That low carpet of ageratum may not be prominent for long, but when it does fill in, it will lighten the look of all of the other plants.  There is a good while before the dahlias will have much to say. The ageratum border might be the best part of the garden, for a moment.  I am still thinking about what will go in the window boxes. Having and taking the time to look at a garden before proceeding is part of the pleasure of the process.

The Window Box

Detroit-Garden-Works.jpgI cannot remember what summer it was that I broke my leg, but I do remember being happy that it came after I planted the garden in front of the shop. In fact, I could have planted the window boxes dealing with a broken leg.  Window boxes are at an easy height to plant, and of a scale to encourage and support any planting idea. The shop garden is not so complicated.  A boxwood parterre, lots of gravel, and three big window boxes.  The big window boxes are the star of the summer show.  How I love planting those window boxes!   I am a big fan of generously scaled window boxes.  The planting is at counter height. Easy to plant.   A window box is a cross between a container planting, and an in ground planting.  There is more room and opportunity for a detailed expression in a window box than a container.  A window box can be filled with the most compost rich and friable soil.  I like planting with my fingers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlanting annual beds in ground requires a lot of digging  and turning with a shovel.  The work of this is daunting.  Real work.  Sometimes annuals planted in ground at grade do poorly.  Heavy clay soil, or sandy soil, can contribute to a poor show.  I like bedding out for the summer with my choice of soil, great drainage, and a place to work that is elbow level.  Planting in ground comes with a whole host of trouble.  I like minimizing the trouble, and maximizing the opportunity.   Big window boxes are my idea of a venue that affords lots of expression with not so much digging. I have seen plenty of window boxes that are 8″ wide, 4″ deep, and 18″ long.  What does one plant in a box of that edited a dimension?  Succulents are a good choice.  But if succulents are not your style, make bigger boxes.  I like window boxes that are wider than the window, deep enough to hold moisture for 2 days, and wide enough to plant plenty of plants.

mandevillea 2012 014Most commercially manufactured window boxes are made to sizes that fit UPS shipping requirements.  What gardener wants to be limited by those dimensions?  An investment in a custom sized window box will result in a lifetime of planting pleasure. The boxes at my shop are roomy.  I would suggest that if you have a mind to invest in window boxes, go for roomy.  Plants need a place to live.  They do not so much mind being crowded by a neighbor.  But they do need some space to put down their own roots.

DGW13You can see from this picture that my window boxes are wider than my windows.  And wider than my shutters.  In my opinion, whatever element is closest to the ground needs to be the widest and most visually sturdy element. A window box is a foundation which complements the window.  Any planting box framing a window is an empire.  Size those boxes accordingly.

DSC09624The window boxes at the shop are of a size that enables me to explore an idea about color.  A story about texture.  These boxes, which have been my pleasure to plant for summer once a year, for 18 years, are little cities.  The have a style.  A language all their own. A particular set of rules.  A commentary on design. A look.  The day I plant them is a good day indeed.

gleason0The window boxes take on a life of their own, once I have planted them.  They grow out, however they will.  The best part of any planting is seeing how nature responds to my ideas.  The big idea is to give every voice a chance.  And chance what you will. A properly scaled window box means you have room to explore.

 

Opperer 2011 042Shade window box

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shop boxes

Picture 006shop box

 

DSC_2670window boxes made to fit on a wall

Derda (3)window box planting

Celani 8-07 (42)roof boxes

Sept 16, 2012 043The roof boxes at the shop last year were as good as I could make them.  All of my boxes provide me with a chance to grow a community of plants on to a greater visual good.  Thinking about window boxes?  Go long and deep.  You won’t regret it.

 

Garden Design Magazine

the new Garden Design magazineThe new Garden Design Magazine just came out.  The original magazine, which was greatly appreciated by aficianados of great landscape and garden design, quit publishing a few years ago. The rights to the magazine were eventually purchased by Jim Peterson.  What he has created comes from a vision all his own.  The 132 page publication is more book than magazine.  Everything about it is beautiful, including the paper it is printed on.  If you have a strong interest in landscape and garden design, I would urge you to subscribe.

DSC_0936We have another reason to be thrilled with this premier issue.  A feature article about my work, and the evolution of my group of companies, is a very special moment for me, indeed. Most important to me is being part of a group of great designers from all over the country whose work is detailed here.  Thank you, Jim. If you are local, we do have copies available at Detroit Garden Works.

landscape-design.jpgwww.deborahsilver.com

May 20 2014 (3)Deborah Silver and Co, Inc container design

Detroit-Garden-Works.jpgwww.detroitgardenworks.com

May 13 2014 (22)Detroit Garden Works

May 20 2014 (7)Detroit Garden Works

May 19 BHG (18)planting workshop at DGW

May 13 2014 (9)the shop

May 16 2014 Branch (7)www.thebranchstudio.com

Oct 3 2013 (22)pergola fabricated by Branch Studio

fountain 1the branch fountain

May 20 2014 (9)box and derrick topiary form by Branch Studio

May 20 2014 (8)elliptical fountain by Branch Studio

May 19a 2013 (3)

My deepest thanks go to landscape and garden designer and writer Susan Cohan, whose article is a gift of a most perfect moment to me.

Who’s Choosing Whom?

stone-urns.jpgShopping for anything is one part fun, two parts research, and 5 parts anxiety. The anxiety is the toughest part. Is this avocado ripe enough to serve tonight?  Will these tennis shoes be comfortable? Will this washing machine handle all of my needs? Is this tennis racquet appropriate for my level of play?  Will I like this sweater next year?  Is this the right choice?  You get the drift.  If you have a mind to plant containers for the summer season, the first order of business is choosing the containers.

concrete urns.jpgContainers first and foremost need to be of proper proportion to their placement.  Little pots belong on a garden dining table.  Mid sized containers are fine on a terrace.  Container that flank a front door need to have a size appropriate to the front porch.  Proper proportion is to my mind the single most important design element. Galvanized buckets on the stoop of a cottage or an apartment balcony are appropriately sized for the occasion.

galvanized-tub.jpgGiant galvanized containers next to the side door may overwhelm that secondary entrance. That same container in the center of an herb garden is a properly sized anchor for the garden.

concrete-pots.jpgOnce the issue of scale is determined, there is the issue of style. A cottage style house does well with informally designed pots.  A very formal house asks for formal containers. An Arts and Crafts style house has its own language and vernacular. Containers that fit answer the architecture.  A home is the largest sculptural element on a property. The pots need to follow suit.  Breaking the rules can be effective.  A large pot in a small space can be very effective.  A traditional home complimented by contemporary pots can present an unexpected visual  pleasure.

black-aluminum-urnsContainers are available in all sizes.  Tall and short.  Tall urns can sit on the ground.  Short urns can be elevated off the ground with pedestals. Narrow containers can dress up a tight space.  Wide containers can hold down a big space.  The tall and the short of it depends on what you want at eye level.  Tall containers, or urns on pedestals, can be seen from the sidewalk.  Low and wide planters can warm up a pool deck.  Small planters can dress up a garden table.  Medium height planters can put the flowers at eye level on a dining terrace.  A big tall planter, planted big and tall, becomes a screen warding off bad views.  A fabulous antique stone urn planted with a dome of moss focuses attention where it should be – on the urn.

stone-trough.jpgAntique stone troughs come with lots of history attached.  Planted with succulents, they are great for those moments when a gardeners looks downward. They can be filled with water and water plants. Any container properly sited will look good, even when it is empty.

Italian-style-urn.jpgNo container does face to face better than an urn on a pedestal.  Face to face is good at the front door.  Or in the center of a beautiful garden.  Or as a focal point in a landscape.  This English concrete urn in the classical Italian style has a considerable presence, and could organize a fairly large space.  This urn features detail such that the planting would need to acknowledge rather than cover it.

fiberglas-bowls.jpgFiberglass planters are light weight.  They are perfect for water gardens.  Spherical planters are especially effective in contemporary and geometrically organized landscapes.  They are great next to a lounge chair, or a bench.  A well planted bowl will keep you company.

oak-orangerie-boxesThe material of a planter says much about style, period, and architecture. Formally designed and fabricated wood orangery boxes recall an age centuries old. French formal, for sure.  Four wood orangery boxes could organize a formal landscape with ease.  One casually fabricated or vintage wood box stuffed with herbs at the center of a cottage style vegetable garden is all about home. Great meals. Fresh food. When the wood starts to deteriorate, no cause for alarm.

Belgian-stoneware-pots.jpgBelgian stoneware containers are subtly textured.  They are solid, simply modern in shape, and frost proof.  Any contemporary home and garden would be happy for them. That said, the simplicity of their shapes make them easy to fit into any scheme.  galvanized metal.jpgGalvanized metal buckets and tubs are an alternative idea.  Once you have sorted out the proportions, the style, and the size, and the aura,  you may have the idea to go way wide. Or way unexpected. Have at this.      Italian-terra-cotta.jpgI find that no matter what containers I would choose for my landscape, the container usually chooses me. The containers that would work well for you will choose you, if you listen.  This can make a decision much easier to come by.  What container would your home, terrace or garden choose?

square-steel-tapers.jpgEvery home and garden has an identity all its own.  What gets contributed by the gardener in charge makes that presentation all the more beautiful for being personal.

burlap-sack-pot.jpg Who’s choosing whom?  Good container choices depend on a lively interaction.