Saturday, January 5, 2008

Visualizing Your Next Garden - Green Thumb Sunday

What you're looking at is what I call a plant vignette. I use it as a way of studying how a finished design will look. Read on to see how this might help you as a designer and how to get 'er done.

This past week I completed a design for a great daring couple of clients. They provided a palette of plants as a starting point and I was very happy with their choices. Some fun, exciting plants. The front yard, including a secluded courtyard off the main bedroom, has an exotic flare with a few Australian chaps, and the back yard is more of a traditional cottage type palette.

After using the vignette technique to study the composition for myself (a quick and dirty process) I decided to go the extra yard for the client presentation (my treat) and dress up the "study" to help them understand the color scheme and character of the composition. If you have the time and some basic computer skills, you can do this for your own gardens as you try to develop your scheme and get a preview of how it all fits together. The idea is to get images off the internet, combine them on a page in the approximate proportions that they'll be used in the garden, and see how it all fits together.

The software I use is simple. On my iMac, running Safari as a browser, I go to Google Images and search for each plant I'm using in my palette. I've done the same thing on a PC using Internet Explorer, but I usually have to add a few steps. If you're not familiar with Google's Images search feature, just open Google and look for the tab. Then, when you type in Amaryllis, instead of getting text articles about the plant, you get lots of thumbnail photos of the plant (or of someone's cat they decided to name after the bulb).

Look for the photo with the higher number of pixel (at in the range of 200 x 200) and click on the thumbnail. That will take you to the site where that photo lives, then click of See Full Sized Image. Using my Mac, I can just click on the photo and drag it to my desktop. I have a folder waiting. It takes a while, but eventually I have a collection of photos of all my plants. Mind you, do not use these plants for any commercial purposes as you will be violating copyright laws.
Once I've collected all my plants, I open Microsoft PowerPoint. Yes, you can bring photos into Word, but it's a pain in the ass to move them around and rearrange them. If you have any PowerPoint skills, it's fairly easy to bring all the photos into one slide, crop and/or resize them, then arrange them as you see in the picture.

Here are a few hints to make this exercise valuable.

1) crop and size the photos to represent the character of the plants. If you are using Creeping Thyme as a groundcover, make a dozen tiny photos and group them together, proportionate to the other plants.

2) If you have a specimen shrub or tree you intend to use, have it dominate the slide.

3) Arrange the plants geographically on the slide - group them in masses similar to how you intend to group them in the garden.

This is only a start, not a master class, so you'll have to experiment. There are probably other programs that can do this, but I've found this set of techniques to work the best for me. Here are a few other slides.

Besides, what else to you have to do on a cold winter day?


Wicked Gardener said...

Hmmm. I'll have to try this.

il parra said...

Hi Billy,
You really give very accurate explanations about how to create your vignette plant. It is also very interesting and useful for everybody who wants to get any image from Google and create a collection of photos. Your vignette plants are very nice.

Yolanda Elizabet said...

I do the cut and paste thingy but with real glue and real scissors. It's faster that way (for me anyway as I'm not a pc wizzard) and I can take it where ever I go, even to clients who don't have a pc. ;-)

Garden Wise Guy said...

Garden Wise Guy three-in-one response!

Your Wickedness - This is a bit labor intensive at first, but you'll probably find your own way of making it work for you. For me, the key is to have each plant represent the approximate percentage of the garden that it will occupy. Also, if I have a long area (like along a property-line fence) I show only part of the bed each slide, then repeat the plants again on the next side where the "panorama" picks up again. So the Miscanthus at the right side of one slide reappears at the left side of the next.

il parra: I called it a "vignette" in the post, and also sometimes refer to it as a collage. I often save these and put them in my portfolio to show new clients so they can decide if they want to pay for this extra service. Most of them say "yes" once they see how helpful it is.

Yolanda: Doing it on paper would work great, but at least working on the monitor eliminates the risk of cutting myself ;-). What I like about having on the computer is that I can reproduce it an many formats (such as posting it on this blog) but it also allows me to refer to it when a new job comes along and I need inspiration from my own body of work. So I just save it to my laptop and bring that to my clients - I think they might also be additionally impressed with the technology. Also, I can send them a copy - so they have their own "baby pictures."

Be well, all of you.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

What a great, fun idea! And are these some of the actual plants that they are using, or other examples of the technique? (If it's the former, I hope that they let you show their garden when it's done--wow!)

Garden Wise Guy said...

BSG: This is the actual plant palette I'm using. There are actually about 4 more images to capture the entire garden. But this is the real deal. Planting will probably start in a few months, as these clients are highly motivated to get started.

Thanks for the comments. BG

Julie said...

I love this idea for an art project. Period. Framed, on the wall. Lovely.

Garden Wise Guy said...

Julie: have at it! Let me know when the gallery opening will be, and I'll try to make the scene.

The images on this blog are cooked down from PowerPoint, then saved as .jpg images, so the resolution as they appear in the blog is pretty weak. But when I put the show on my Mac laptop, it really pops.

Thanks for leaving a comment.

Ewa said...

Hello Billy,
What a great idea is this - thanks for the tip
I am not very skilled with papers and pencils, but I can well do things in powerpoint
great tip in great time
I just realised few days ago, that I have to rearrange my front garden, as plants grow and place shrinks :( dunno how :(