Column: Creating an artistic garden

Sometimes I look out at my gardens and imagine looking at a painting of a landscape.  All the bright colours mixed in with many shades of green bring to mind some of the pastoral scenes we have lingered over in paintings seen in many art galleries we have visited.

Now my garden beds are not perfect, far from it.  They are just what I have created from my own visions and my love of colour (and reading a lot of garden design books).  It is kind of like taking a lump of clay and creating a piece of art that may only please you.

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I was recently reading a Garden Design article that spoke to creating art in the garden.  The author, Pam Penick, had some great tips on creating gardens that “make you feel like you’re in a gorgeous piece of artwork.”  Now that is my kind of garden space!

Think about approaching the design of your gardens as if you were going to paint a beautiful landscape.  It was recommended to incorporate native plants into your design and use shades of green to add to your colour palette.

The article offered some tips on helping to create your work of art in your garden.

Over the years I have had to convince myself to buy more than one plant of my very favourite plant at that time.  For example, I love pasque flowers, Pulsatilla, which is in full bloom right now in my garden.  One plant.  Only one.  Imagine if I had ten plants of this gorgeous shades of purple flower throughout my garden beds.  To create a feeling of a heavily textured piece of artwork you need to have masses of plants in your space.

The article suggested that if you have five or six species of plants in your design, you would use 10 of one type, 20 of another and 100 of small ground cover plants.  This would even work in a small garden design.  You would have to do your homework on choosing the right plants. 

It brings home the importance of starting your own seeds well before planting time or propagating and dividing existing plants.  It would certainly help save money on acquiring the needed plant material.

We have a very small garden which has encouraged us to grow vertical as much as we can.  A small garden feels much larger if your eyes are focused up with heavy flowering vines or tall columnar trees in the background. 

Another tip is create a long view in your gardens, even in a small space.  Instead of creating meandering paths through your small garden, the author suggests creating a straight path with dramatic focal points at each end.

Incorporating native plants into our gardens has become a trend this year.  Many of our native plants attract our declining pollinators and are much more resilient to pests and diseases.  Native plants contribute to the health of your garden and to our environment!

Lighting is also a nice feature for your artistic garden.  Hubby and I purchased a solar set of mini white lights which we wrapped carefully around our red twig dogwood shrub, Cornus, which adds a level of delight to our garden after dark.  Lighting in your garden should softly highlight only what you want to showcase; a favourite plant or structure at night.

Give your garden a sense of depth by adding plants, shrubs and trees that you can see through. Plants like a big potted bamboo has your eyes moving up and also gives you the sense of seeing right through the plant.

Water-wise water features are important additions to our gardens for providing a lovely habitat for our pollinators.  The sound of running water is also so peaceful in a garden space. We have a small waterfall structure in our garden.  We purchased it several years ago and of course, have been working on creating a garden around it so it just becomes part of the garden.  We have done a great job once the plants fill in for the summer but it does become a bit of an eyesore in the winter when most of the plant material has died down.  This is our challenge this year.  The water feature should look just as good dry as when the water is flowing.

Hopefully you are painting a beautiful landscape in your mind to move outdoors to your garden as we get closer to planting season. 

Lynda Pasacreta is the current president of the Richmond Garden Club.  To get a head start on your planting needs, visit us at our upcoming Mother’s Day Plant Sale, May 11, 9am to 2pm, South Arm United Church parking lot, Number 3 Road and Steveston Highway.  Perennials, annuals, hanging baskets, houseplants, children’s area for potting up a plant for Mom, herbs, vegetable starters and much more. Cash only.

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