Green Gardens

The Beale sisters can keep their Grey Gardens. I prefer the green variety! On a recent trip home to visit my parents, I fell in love with my father's garden all over again. My dad has always had such a knack for choosing the right plants for the right spot, layering textures and playing with colour. It's the artist in him. (He worked for many years as a graphic artist.) What I was most taken by was his use of various shades of green in the garden. He is not a big flower lover, prefering the patterns, shapes and dimensions of foliage plants. I got down on my hands and knees and basically crawled through his garden to capture some of these verdant microcosms on film. You can see my photos below. I hope to convey several lessons with them:
1.) Having an all-green garden requires a careful study of plant types. varrying the size, shape and texture of the plants you choose will create the most interesting landscape. Don't plant a whole bed of similarly-coloured plants without considering those factors.
2.) Variegated leaves are one of the most effective ways to achieve dimension in a monochromatic planting scheme. Look at the subtleties of leaf patterns and play with them. Mingle the potted plants on the lawn in groupings that you find appealing before planting them.
3.) Photograph the garden regularly: from afar and from up close. You will learn a lot about whether or not the plants are working together to achieve a balanced scene.
Bishop's Weed (Aegopodium) is not actually a weed, although it is a very aggressive ground cover that should be treated with some respect. My father has planted them in a large swath around the perimeter of the back garden and regularly curtails their spreading habits. They make a beautiful carpet of white and green with tall, lace-like flowers.

This sedum has several weeks to go before it shows any signs of blossom. In the meantime, its thick, succulent-like leaves provide shadow, shape and depth to the garden.
Several fronds of a Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum) unfurl in the sunlight. Ferns are one of the most excellent ways to achieve texture in the garden. The stems of the feathery leaves of this species are tinted slightly purple.
The delicate, deep-ruby flowers of an Astilbe, a rhizomatous flowering plant that thrives in shady, woodland conditions, are only half the charm of this plant. Its leaves are almost holly-like: glossy and beautifully shaped.
Layer upon layer of varying textures makes a visually pleasing composition. A pair of hostas mingle with a grouping of low-growing yellow cypress shrubs. These are backed by the large branches of a blue spruce.
 Texture is often best detected in black-and-white, as this photograph of a budding hosta flower shows.
 Here is the same hosta photographed in colour.
In the front garden, my father made a hosta garden with various different types. The contrasting shades of green and variegation are striking.
White Nancy (Lamium maculatum) is mixed with a Stonecrop Succulent (both very effective ground covers) to create a beautiful mix of texture, colour and shape.
On their back porch, my parents grow planters filled with kitchen herbs, many of which they let flower, such as this oregano plant, simply to enjoy their pleasant scent outdoors. I picked several of these leaves to munch on while I was sitting on the porch.
Willow Nishiki - a very beautifully variegated plant - grows along the side of my parents' property. The mix of pink, green and white on the leaves is very attractive.

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diabolo' has deep purple leaves and wonderful flowers that attract bees. The plant grows into a tall shrub and is the perfect counterpoint to a lot of green in the garden.
My mom does have some say in the garden, of course, and peonies are her thing. She only has two varieties growing at the moment: Single and Anemony types. They are lightly fragrant and so beautiful when viewed up close. You should always make room for peonies!


Rowaida said...

Wow Andrew. I love your dad's garden, and selection of plants I would love to visit. Your photos are amazing
Best wishes xx

Anonymous said...

what a gorgeous garden and your gorgeous photos perfectly captures the beauty. thanks for sharing!
cheers from vicki in alaska


Thank you both, Rowaida and Viki. My father works very hard on his garden and the results of his labour are clear. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos!