Saturday, October 2, 2010

Garden Design III – Defining the Concept

Violet and white color scheme

Now that your base and concept sketch are prepared - see Garden Design I - Getting Started With a Plan and II - Design Strategies for Creating a Concept - it's time to begin defining plant masses.

Plant Description
Lay a piece of trace over the concept sketch to refine the plan further.  Jot notes about types of plants for each mass - shrub, perennial, annual, height, color (flower and/or foliage), and season of bloom or interest.  Feel free to modify your concept as you work through this stage.  Design is a process which won't be finished until the garden is planted... if then.  You can always add or move plants over time. 

Concept Plan 2

Utilize the design principles discussed in Design Strategies for Creating a Concept - layering, focal point, repetition and contrast.  Adding some color to your sketch will help you visualize the color scheme.  This is still a rough sketch - it's a step in the process of getting your thoughts on paper.

Mixed plant tyes

Plant Characteristics
Use these variables to set the design concept:

Plant Type - Shrubs provide structure and year round interest.  Perennials add seasonal color but return year after year. Annuals add color during gaps in perennial blooms and make it easy to change things up a bit each year.  Trees make a bigger statement, acting as an anchor or focal point.

Size - Ultimate plant size is an important consideration.  Don't crowd the bed or leave it too open.  I like to see plants cover the bed when full grown (which helps weed control, by the way).  Size is important in layering - keep taller plants to the rear and plant in descending height towards the front.  In defining your concept plan, note tall, medium or short as a guide in plant selection.

Color - Effective use of color will set your garden apart. 

Colors create moods.  Blues and purples are cool colors and are calming; reds and oranges are bold and dramatic, while yellow is bright and cheerful.  Note the different moods created by the calming palette of violet and white plants in the photo at the top of the post and the vibrant red, yellow and blue garden below.  What atmosphere are you aiming for?  
Vibrant Red, yello and blue.
Reds pop, blues recede.

Add color through foliage

Colors also impact the sense of depth.  Cool colors tend to recede or appear further away and have less impact when viewed from a distance.  Warm colors appear closer and can draw attention to areas in the distance. 

In addition, colors can create repetition, contrast and balance in the garden.

Finally, flowers aren't the only color in the garden - foliage color can play an integral part in the color scheme.

Bloom time - Stagger the bloom time of plants.  A spectacular spring display which turns to wilted leaves the rest of the summer will be disappointing.  That's where planning comes in - choose plants with various bloom times and focus on those with long bloom displays.  Plants with fleeting blooms can be interspersed for accent, but don't depend on them to carry the show.

Foliage - Foliage can add season long interest.  Include plants whose foliage shape, texture or color provide contrast or a foil for blooms.

Foliage color and texture provide interest
Form - Form is another element to use for repetition, contrast and to create drama.

Yucca echos the form of Fountain Grass
In the next post - Garden Design IV - Choosing the Perfect Plants - we finally get to the fun of choosing plants that are right for your garden.

Happy Gardening!

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