A Deep V

 

My neighbor down the street has quite the landscape going on.  I stopped by yesterday when I saw she was in the front yard working.  I told her I really liked the garden.  I will say she did not quit edging and weeding while we talked-how like a gardener.  But I do think she was pleased by my interest.  Gardeners are born with the willingness to share gene.  Hers is a small but very striking garden.  Trees and shrubs are entirely symmetrically placed on axis to the front door-as is a wood arbor keeping a pair of red climbing roses aloft.  But the most visually compelling element are the pair of triangular shaped beds that make for a deep V, intersected by the walk to the front door.  

I will say I have never seen landscape beds cut in this shape.  These diagonal lines are very strong and exciting.  The formal geometry of my garden is much more traditionally and quietly laid out in squares and rectangles.  These are bed lines that zoom, zoom. How they looked immediately made me long for a project where I might experiment with this shape. 

The gardens are a mix of perennials and annuals-I see a lot of confidence here in plant choices-it is clearly a collection of those things she likes best. Red flowers are a dominant theme-there are red roses, geraniums, and a pair of continus on either side of the front porch. We did talk a little about it.  She told me that working in the garden was a great stress reliever.  But I could tell she gardened for the sheer joy of it.

It turned out that she was a docent in my garden years ago, when it was on the Pontiac garden tour; we had plenty to talk about.  I do so appreciate that she has turned the better part of her front yard into a garden.  I drive by twice every day, so I can keep up with what is going on.  I told her the neighborhood was lucky to have her.  We have our share of abandoned houses with the grass a foot long; this I hate to see.  


Her garden makes me feel good.

Leaves With Largesse

My spring season has been notable for heavy and regular rains.  Every leaf seems twice its normal size, and twice as juicy.  As a result, I have been thinking about leaves with largesse-those leaves that reward a gardener’s eye with their generously scaled appearance.  Plants with big leaves always catch my eye; I love lush in a landscape. The Kong coleus series features big leaves.  But none of the series with color capture my heart like this green cultivar.  The leaves are like velvet-stunning.  

My photograph offers little in the way of scale, but these leaves are huge.  Bear in mind they are still growing in 4″ square pots-what will they do, given free range via an expanse of garden soil?  A case of 4″ pots takes up a lot of square footage-I think I will plant some of these coleus, somewhere.

Cannas have big blue green leaves.  This plant is a living sculpture-never mind the flowers.  They look dark green and juicy, even when the air temperature is close to 100 degrees.  This canna variety Orange Punch I planted in my roof boxes, and in the 6 pots in front of the shop.  I am intrigued by the color orange this year, but those big leaves will provide stature, volume, and scale appropriate to the size of the building.  The big green leaves of cannas-luxuriant. 

The heavy spring rains proved to be a big dose of multi-vitamins to my Sum and Substance hosta.  The leaves are so large this year they scrape the sides of my Suburban when I back out of the drive. Not so many plants that are hardy in my zone have that overscaled tropical look; large leaved hostas can grace large shady areas with hundreds of umbrella sized leaves.  All of these chartreuse umbrellas-looking good.

The coleus Rainbowe Festive Dance has extraordinary coloration.  Olive green, orange, hot pink-do you see the French blue green on the edges of those big leaves?  The coleus variety on the left side of this photograph has medium sized leaves, and muddy coloration.  This variety does not pique my interest nearly as much.  Big leaves, whether green or of color, are exclamatory statement in a garden.  I am talking about rhythm.  Big leaves slow down and engage the eye.  Use them where you want the eye to pause, absorb, and reflect, before moving on.  

My butterburrs-how I love them, and how I hate them.  The giant green leaves are a texture like no other in my garden.  The flip side-they are invasive, and impossible to eradicate.  Do not plant one, unless you have plans to live with it til death do you part.  I am forever chopping them out of places they do not belong.  Once I dug up this entire bed, and threw away every scrap of root I could find.  They came roaring back two weeks later.  I decided to go along with their program.  Early every spring Gary Bopp, the grower for Wiregand’s nursery, comes and digs out all of those plants that have wandered away from this bed.  He could easily come again-I see some popping up 20 feet away from this spot.  Their giant leaves make them worth having-just be prepared to do battle, regularly.     

The dracaena “Janet Craig” does not have giant leaves per se, but the width of these strappy leaves is considerable.  The chartreuse color makes it impossible to miss.  They are happy in deep shade; this makes them a very useful focal point in dark places. In fact, any sun whatsoever will burn the leaves.    

I have always planted caladiums in shady places.  Imagine my surprise seeing a municipal planting of this white leaved variety along a busy downtown street, in full sun.  They made such a strong statement in a visually confusing setting.  They were thriving-not a sunburn mark anywhere.  Some plants that ordinarily want some protection from sun can thrive in sunny spots, given sufficient water.    

Nicotiana mutabilis is one of my most favorite annual flowers.  I love that tall and airy look.  I usually pull off the giant leaves that growe at the bottom, so my underplantings can get some light.  This city of Birmingham pot I planted some years ago had no such maintenanace-and all for the better.  The giant leaves are as much a part of the beauty of this planting as the flowering stalks.   


Few plants have large leaves that could rival the beauty of this crested Farfugium Japonicum.  These giant, shiny and substantial leaves are an exciting visual study in big curves and flounces.  Would that they were hardy in my zone.  They are fairly easy to winter over indoors.  The yellow flowers, somewhat similar to their relative the ligularia, are not nearly so beautiful as the leaves.  Leaves such as these-a visual feast.

The Garden Cruise 2011

There are but 10 annual plantings left to go this season-I am very happy to be on the far side of what is the most intensely felt and most rigorously engaging part of my gardening year.  I did have a client tell me yesterday that it was too late for me to plant herb pots for them.  For Pete’s sake, I told him, the first day of summer is ten days away.  I am trying myself to keep that in mind-my pots at home are barely half done. In the cracks between the days, I have been organizing our 4th annual garden tour to benefit the Greening of Detroit.  The fabulous garden pictured above is but one of 7 gardens on tour this year.  Please save the date – Sunday, July 17, from 9 to 4:30.  

The Greening of Detroit has been actrively involved in the reforestation of my city for the past 21 years.  I greatly admire their focus, and their results.  In recent years, they have sponsored over 600 urban farms. They teach.  They never give in or give out.  I am in awe of what they have been able to accomplish; I even more admire their dreams.  It is my simple intent to provide my clients with a landscape better than they thought they could have it.  It is even more important to me that they experience and engage with their environment in a successful way.  I sit on the board of the Greening, but I am not much good with meetings.  The only way really for me to help them is to try to raise money in support of their programs. The landscapes and gardens are of my design, or influence.  One landscape was designed and planted from scratch 15 years ago.  Another was designed and planted from scratch last year.  Some gardens are renovations.  One garden has but one connection to me; his mother is one of my oldest and best clients.  His garden is solely of his own making-and beautifully made at that.  You won’t want to miss it.   

My garden is on tour, as usual.  I tinker with it often enough every year that there is always something new to see.  At least people do not seem to get bored with it.  Another member of my group has graciously agreed to put his garden on tour-my landscape superintendent. This garden goes far beyond a design and installation.  Almost everything in his garden has been handmade by him.  A beautiful privacy fence and pergola.  A fountain.  A terrace of handmade concrete tiles.  Anyone with an interest in creating a gorgeous garden space with their own two hands will find a lot to look at here. 

The 7 gardens are uniquely styled.  I would say my garden is very traditional and formal.  There is a very contemporary garden, and a traditional garden with contemporary overtones.  There is a classic French influenced English garden and a cottage style garden.  A 1970’s modern garden on a large piece of property is in contrast to a small, intimate and uniquely styled garden.  Many points of view are persuasively represented. 

I am hoping that if you live in this area, you will join us for the tour, and the afterglow reception at Detroit Garden Works.  In return for your contribution to the Greening of Detroit, we promise an exciting day of touring gardens, and great gin and tonics at the close. 


For more information, see our cruise website:  www.thegardencruise.org

A Little Change

A little change can turn out to be a very big change.

See what I mean?


Scale, volume, shape, mass and porportion-these elements are so important to good design.