Because of our passion for plants, we tend to focus on gardens that feature collections of specimens and stretch our imaginations devising pleasing and provocative combinations of colors, textures and shapes. Sometimes, however, the strongest statements come from the deft use of massed plantings and fundamental color and design principles. Paul and Paula’s garden is a beautiful example of keeping it simple without sacrificing interest or sophistication. And in best form and foliage fashion, this garden shines through the fall and winter months as well as spring and summer!
Despite the unfettered design, much care went into its conception and the selection of the plantings. Paula, who has an artist’s training and sensibilities, chose the Loropetalum to border the path because she wanted to echo the tones of the brick with a complementary plant that was appropriately sized and attractive year-round. The decision to use deep reddish-purple against the brick was daring; most of us think ‘red’ when we think of brick, but the purple brings out the rosy tones. Also, most of us would have not been able to resist the urge to plant a jumble of different colors and textures; Paula’s confidence in the essential design principles of repetition, scale and color harmony allowed her to resist that temptation!
The distinctive purple of the Loropetalums is repeated in the carpet of Sedum ‘Voodoo’ around the foundation plantings of Chamaecyparis obtusa cultivars. This is horticultural ‘color blocking’ with rich, deep tones, and the repetition of the purple and green makes for a unified design. While respecting the formal lines of the brick house, these plantings also soften, enrich and complement it.
On the side of the house, Paula used more mass plantings of evergreen shrubbery and chose two Cedrus libani var. atlantica (Atlantic cedars) as focal points. Those of you that read our post on Color Scheming will recognize that the purple/brick combination represents an analogous color pair, while the blue/brick is a complementary combination. That’s why the cedars are edgier and demand more attention, and their skirt of shrubs is correspondingly subdued. The brick borrows tones from the adjacent plants, appearing rosier next to the purple-leaved Loropetalum and more orange next to the blue cedar.
Note the crisp edging and the clean lines of the multi-trunked trees (an Acer palmatum cultivar on the left, Arbutus ‘Marina on the right). The planted are sited to ‘let the shapes show’ and their structure is as important as their colors and textures. In this bed the Loropetalums function as punctuation and connect it to the walkway and foundation plantings.
The rich jewel tones are repeated throughout the garden, with different plant combinations. The Japanese maples and ferns adorn the wooded side yard that is shaded by towering Atlantic cedars and oaks. By varying the plant materials but sticking to the color scheme, the different areas of the garden are connected and unified. The overall sensation is one of serenity; the simplicity of the design is in itself relaxing and the choice of colors reinforces the calmness.
We like to say that sometimes the best plant for a particular spot is a stone…and Paula repeats the blue of the cedars with specimen stones. The combination of purple, icy blue and rich green now has many textural components that continue to be unified by color and simplicity. The stones also echo the structural lines of the woody plants and provide interest throughout the year.
The latest project is a rock garden at the back of the property with newly planted roses, succulents and a few specimen conifers, anchored by a pair of mature Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ (Harry Lauder’s walking stick, one of which can be seen on the right side of the photo). Here purple gives way to accents of brilliant gold and chartreuse, and when the plantings spill over the rocks this will be the spot in the garden where the formality eases a bit, as it is away from the house and can set its own tone.
We look forward to visiting the garden again when the plantings around the rocks have matured and provided the cohesiveness that Paula intends. Although this spot is across the back lawn from the house, the brilliant Caucasian fir ‘Golden Spreader’ shines like a beacon and calls the eye. Another design principle that Paula has employed: light, bright colors project, dark colors recede. The strategic placement of one golden plant draws attention to the entire bed.
While Paula works with plant selection and design, Paul tends the Koi pond that not only provides pleasing sound and interest, but reflects the branches of the specimen trees. We came away from Paul and Paula’s garden feeling relaxed and as if our blood pressure had dropped a notch. Isn’t that a wonderful gift for a garden to bestow?