9 Tips on Selecting Attention-Grabbing Plants for Your Garden

Bengal Tiger Canna Lily

Knowing what to plant where in the garden is a skill that is acquired over time. Visiting other people’s gardens can give you ideas as can tips from experienced gardeners. It is all too easy to buy individual plants that you find attractive without thinking how they will fit in to the overall garden scene. I came across these nine tips in an article by Jan Johnsen which I found on the Garden Design Magazine website.

Planting design, often overlooked, can be tricky for new and experienced gardeners alike. Use the following suggestions to ensure that the plantings in your garden have a clear purpose and grab the attention of people, bees, birds and butterflies.

SELECTING PLANTS WITH PURPOSE

1. Choose Plants Wisely for the Front Row

The plants at the visible edge along a walk, patio, or lawn, can make all the difference in its appearance. Low-growing plants in the front row accentuate the shape of the bed, soften harsh edges, and help draw attention to the taller plants behind.

Boxwood Edging, Boxwood Globes Johnsen Landscapes & Pools Mount Kisco, NY

Low-growing boxwood, shaped as small globes, make a neat and intriguing edge along a stone walk. Photo by: Jan Johnsen.

Low growing plants in the front row should be full, look good in a line, and not require too much care. If you view a garden bed from a distance, the height of edging plants can be relatively high—around 2 feet. In beds that are viewed up close, the border plants should be lower than 2 feet.

Annuals such as sweet alyssum make a wonderful white edging with its dense, tiny, fragrant white flowers. If cut back they will bloom all season. The perennial green and white variegated lilyturf (Liriope muscari) is another of my favorites for edging beds.

2. Think About Sunlight’s Impact on Color

Our color choices in the landscape are, for the most part, influenced by our geographic locale, the sun’s intensity, and the time of year. For example, in England, pastel colors captivate while bright colors may appear garish in the muted, north light. This is why Gertrude Jekyll, the famed British garden designer, saw purple as a difficult color. But in a bright, sunny subtropical garden, every shade of purple and magenta is exuberantly appealing.

Echinacea Purpurea Magnus Johnsen Landscapes & Pools Mount Kisco, NY

The orange and purple found in the ‘Magnus’ coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’) looks great in the intense summer sun. Photo by: Jan Johnsen.

Similarly, our color preferences can change with the season. In early spring, when the light is soft, we are thrilled by light pink and soft yellow. As the year progresses, and the sun becomes stronger, pastels look washed out and we crave stronger reds, golds and oranges outdoors.

3. Consider Form, Line & Color

It is not often that plants are referred to as an arabesque, which means a sinuous decorative line or motif. But it makes sense that a master landscape artist from Brazil, Roberto Burle Marx, saw plants in this way:

“A garden is a complex of aesthetic and plastic intentions; and the plant is, to a landscape artist, not only a plant — rare, unusual, ordinary or doomed to disappearance — but it is also a color, a shape, a volume or an arabesque in itself.”
– Roberto Burle Marx

He counsels us to view plants as part of a design palette, appreciating their form, line or color and to envision what they might add to a garden.

Bengal Tiger Canna Lily, Striped Canna Lily Johnsen Landscapes & Pools Mount Kisco, NY

The yellow-and-green-striped, bold foliage of ‘Bengal Tiger’ canna lilies always steal the show. They contrast nicely with the white flowers of the peegee hydrangea in the summer. Photo by: Jan Johnsen.

See more at Garden Design Magazine


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