Friday, June 6, 2014

Some Simple Natural Garden Design Tips

Here are a few ideas for planning and planting your gardens.

Wharton Memorial Gardens, Bedford, Virginia

Odd Number Plantings: When deciding on flowers for your gardens, it's always a tough decision. How many should I buy? Do I have room for three or more? Is one plant going to look too scrawny in the place where you want to plant it. Is the cost of one specific plant more than enough for your current budget.

If you are able, and you have room for them, and it fits in your budget, it's always visually appealing to plant your flowers in groups of odd numbers. By planting in groups of three, five, etc., of the same flower, that is usually more satisfying to the eye, and gives a more pleasant visual appearance.  This can also be achieved by using an odd number of the same color of plants that bloom at the same time.

When you plant in odd numbers they look more natural than an even number of plants. But of course I don't always abide by that rule myself. My garden beds are not that large and also because of cost, I might only buy one plant of a specific species. I'll try that plant to see how successful it is in my garden environment, and how it holds up with our severe winters. I also like to see how big the plant gets, and if it spreads very much. I tried planting three Siberian irises one year, and they just about took over the whole garden area where I planted them in. I must have ended up with over 50 Siberian irises when I split up that grouping of three.

Balancing your garden with symmetry by using an even number of plants is more suitable for the formal garden. When you have an even number of groupings like two, four, etc. your mind is always trying to balance out the flow of the garden.

Here is an interesting article on planting your garden in groups of odd numbers: Planting in Odd Numbers; The Secret for a Beautiful Garden

Mass Plantings of the Same Plants: You can achieve a very coordinated look in your yard/gardens if you use the same color of plants throughout your flower beds. When using this technique your plants should be hardy and low maintenance. I've attempted to achieve this by using sundrops (Oenothera Frutiose 'Fyrverki') around my house which a friend of mine shared with me (thank you, Tammy). Well, I have to say that this is one of the best flowers ever. They thrive in full sun, but will also do fine in some shade. They do re-seed easily, and will spread out from runners in the shape of rosettes, but they are easy to pull out if they start getting invasive in an area. I've planted them all over and they add spots of color and highlights in my yard. They seem to do well in just about any soil condition. And the leaves have some red on them. They do not do well in poorly drained soil. I just wish the bloom time was longer for them. However, the stems and leaves stay attractive until fall, and the leaves will have additional red coloring in them. Here is some additional information on Mass Planting.

Sundrops (yellow flowers)

Foliage Texture and Color: You might try adding various plants that have a different leaf texture or color. This creates a contrast and adds interest in your garden. One way to achieve this would be by adding some variegated plants. You can also mix it up by adding some different colored hostas or coral bells (Heuchera). The heuchera are now available in several different colors of reds, rust, lime green, and mixed colors of all of the above.

Left- Hosta (unsure of variety), Burgundy Heuchera, and Campanula Blue Waterfall (not in bloom yet)

Variegated Solomon's Seal, ferns growing behind them, and ivy at the base. 

Curved Borders and Edgings: Another simple design principle is the use of curved edges surrounding your flower beds, lawns, and borders. When you have a curved edge in your garden, your eye is following it and not stopping at the 'end' of the line. It creates a softer line while a straight border appears to create a hard edge. It also creates mystery about what's going on around that curved edge, and it appears to be a more natural border with a nice flow.

Curved walkway and borders. This photo and the one below is from the Wharton Memorial Gardens, Bedford, Virginia

While both walkways are visually appealing, the curved walkway in the photo above this one offers more interest.

You do not have use bricks or stones to add a path. You can do it with your grass/lawn by mowing an area into a pathway. There are several materials you can use as well such as gravel and mulch. Here is a link with some photos of garden borders and paths and the materials used for the paths: 9 Ways to Create a Garden Path
Even if you are not interested in doing a path the photos are beautiful and demonstrate the curved borders very well.

This is one of the paths in our backyard. 
The photo at right is one of the paths that my husband 'mowed' through our ivy. I wanted a place to grow some hostas without having the ivy take it over. After mowing, the paths were covered with pine needles or mulch. When the ivy starts coming up through the mulch my husband will mow it. The paths only have to mowed a few times a year.

There are really no rules when it comes to YOUR Garden! It's your garden and you can do what you want and what appeals to you. If you don't like something after a few years or if you have a plant that's too fussy, dig it up and give it away to a friend or toss it out. Or if it's doing great you can propagate it and increase your number of plants.

Here is a list (alphabetical order) of Common Plant Names and suggested uses for that specific plant: Common Plant Names

Eastern Phoebe with bug in it's beak
Eastern Phoebe: The Eastern Phoebe is a flycatcher. The flycatchers are a family of birds that catches flying insects. Insects are their main diet. They are pretty funny to watch sometimes because they will fly in patterns similar to a hummingbird, and occasionally will fly around your windows or doors trying to catch spiders or flies. They will sit on a perch or branch and scout for something flying around that looks good enough to eat. They will also return to the same perch or branch. Also when sitting they will flick their tail up and down.  They also catch their insects off of branches and leaves. When I saw one of these birds for the first time I was able to identify it by it's call. It sings out a raspy squawk of "Phoebe".

The Phoebes construct their nests of mud and grass, and usually in a protected area such as under a bridge, a barn, house or shed. The bird in the photo above is using the same nesting spot that they did last year which is on the side of our pole barn (pictured at left). I haven't been able to get a photo of them on the nest (yet). Right now I'm pretty sure their eggs have hatched because they've been busy flying back and forth to the nest.

The Phoebes are found in open woods such as parks, woodland edges, and yards.

"Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."
~ Steven Jobs

You can never have enough toads in your gardens!

Thanks for taking the time 
to read my blog post. 
Feel free to leave a comment. 
#Garden  #GardenDesign  #GardenPaths #EasternPhoebe  #Nature  #Blog  #Blogging


  1. Nice and useful tips. Is that Galium odoratum in your woodland? It looks lovely as a ground cover. One thing about planting odd numbers is many plants like the tulips and some perennials multiply and they don't keep to the rules of odd numbers. The mass always looks good, especially when it is too many to count.

    1. Thanks Donna. Yes, that is Galium odoratum (sweet woodruff). I was given a small patch several years ago, and it wasn't doing that great so I moved it and as you can see it's spread really nice throughout our yard. It does make a nice ground cover and very easy to pull out if it spreads out of its bounds. And that doesn't happen too often because it's such a small plant I just let it grow where it wants to.
      I like the mass plantings, too. They make such a great impact. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I agree that curves as so much more pleasing and mass plantings make a great statement...Sue you have some beautiful pictures of your gardens. MIne aren't worth seeing as they are filled with more weeds than flowers...sigh....I love sweet woodruff and have it growing in the white is well behaved and I should plant it in some other beds.

    1. Thank you, Donna. Believe me, there are a lot of weeds in my gardens. You just can't see them in the photos. I like the fact that a lot of the ground covers choke out the weeds.
      The sweet woodruff is such a dainty flower it doesn't choke out the weeds like some of the other ground covers do, but it does fill in around other ground covers. It has naturalized in my back yard and has filled in between the lily-of-the-valley. I also like the musky smell it gives off when it's flowering. It usually flowers the same time as the lily-of-the-valley and they both smell wonderful.

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    1. I'm glad you found the article worthwhile and thanks for sharing it with your friend. Enjoy your lunch!

  8. Replies
    1. Thank you, John. I'm glad you liked it.

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