Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Great Design Example from Carpinteria


It’s still pretty toasty in Santa Barbara, though in some areas we’re dipping into the low 30s and some plants need to be covered. So to warm things up, I picked some plants with toasty-warm golden tones. You might be tempted to take off your bunny slippers and hold your feet up to your monitor – your choice, but it’s hard explain footprints on your screen.

Here’s a second installment on my little design symposium. Let’s continue with the topic of contrast and harmony, but this time it’s two, two, two compositions in one.

I frequently rant about removing lawns that don’t serve a needed recreational purpose, approaching the topic from an environmental / sustainability mindset. But for completely aesthetically selfish reasons, another great reason is to give yourself more real estate in which to play with fun plant compositions. As you’ll see below, when you allow enough space to create “Uber-beds” you can really play.

Here’s how the “twofer bed” idea works. If you have a planting area that can be seen from more than one angle, consider placing a “ridge line” of taller plants through the middle of your bed so that it blocks the view of plants on each side of the ridge. The ridge plants now offer a backdrop for experimenting with more than one composition, using the same backdrop twice.

Since a picture is worth oh so many words, these photos, taken at Seaside Gardens, just north of Carpinteria, CA. will tell the tale. Seaside is a truly unique nursery in that they’ve given over a substantial bit of acreage to invite local designers to create a series of theme gardens. Even better, the plants are well maintained AND set out to allow them to reach their full size without any hacking or pruning, so you really know the character of the plants your buying.

This stunning combination of Gold Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare 'Isla Gold') and Smoke Bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple') is the type of bold “killer combo” I encourage my students and clients to explore as a bit of design risk-taking. Who needs flowers when you can almost pop an eye out with the pairing like this?


Now let’s hike over the ridge of Tansy. Behold!

On the reverse side is a silvery planting of Silver Rye (Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince'). Whether paired with the boldness of Smoke Bush or the subtler textural shift of the rye grass, Tansy is a force to be reckoned with.

So find a plant that can play two roles in your garden and consider placing a surprising pairing on each side.

Nuff for now…gotta go see Golden Compass.

5 comments:

Ginni Dee said...

Hi Wise Guy!

I love the layers of color in your photos! I've been California-dreamin' all day...temp here is 21°, there's 5" of snow from yesterday covering the ice we had Tuesday! Your garden is amazing!

Thanks for the touch of summer! Happy GTS!

Ginni, freezing in Illinois

Wicked Gardener said...

Oh what a great idea! That could help me with a bit of a problem I have - How to pack all the great plants out there in my small garden without looking completely cluttered.

Enjoy the Golden Compass. The book was great.

Angie said...

I LOVE the smoke bush/gold tansy combo. They really bring each other out!

Glad to hear that someone is still warm! :)

barbara said...

How can roofs be so lovely? Wow!

Blackswamp_Girl said...

What a great tip... and I definitely agree with you on the issue of foliage combinations being the big payoff. Who needs flowers, indeed? When you think of them as the frosting and bake a great cake for them to top off, you get much more enjoyment out of the whole dessert.