The last post talked about the puff stuff. You know morale and inspiration. But honestly, they are very important in keeping interest and motivation. Working in a garden can easily demotivate you. It can be something very small, like a fungus or insect, or it can be something very big and damaging like poor drainage. But what most commonly stumps even seasoned gardeners are three things.
Help, I’m Stuck
As a professional, I find many people do not understand a few important aspects of design. Many have difficulty with what comes first, massing and scale.
Massing gives the landscape visual impact, it creates form, color and texture. Massing of plants keeps like plants together and reduces maintenance. Here is how you know how many plants to make up any given area, from my post, Mass Those Perennials Right With A Handy Chart.
When mixing different species, although adding visual punch and interest, the varied plants will compete for light, water, and nutrients. Having larger masses of each alleviates some maintenance by keeping weeds at bay.
You can see nature does the same thing, keeps like plants happy together. Meadows develop surrounded by protective trees and understory growth. Make nature your teacher.
In a garden, the composition is given more importance by combining the differing elements based on the massing of those elements. Some parts of a composition are more noticeable, while others become background elements.
Mass is also what you might look at in groups of solid color, like the goldenrod above. Visually weighted mass is also the ‘big’ plants like trees or groups of shrubs, seen in the Chanticleer image of the poppy meadow two above. This concept flows right into scale. What is big and what is small.
The background elements create the cohesiveness of a design by linking together features of great visual importance. This is the “what comes first” aspect of design.
Oh Yes, the Big Stuff Goes in First
The largest items and items to most disturb the site come first. Many times people start with perennials and annuals, which are the last things to be placed in a new garden. Hardscape items are preferably first, followed by trees.
Drainage is added to save existing trees, your home, and newly installed hardscape. Drainage is considered and installed when grading a site. Assuming your site is existing, drainage occurs when adding any hardscape. When one alters where water flows, tree and plants start to die.
This is stuff best left to professionals, but on a small-scale, experienced gardeners can handle the little stuff. Just making a berm redirects water, so think about that next time you are out mounding soil. Also, think about these images next time you want to make major changes to your property. Getting an idea what you want early saves time, plants and money.
Trees can be first if not in the way of construction or heavy equipment. You can see how gardens and trees above were removed to add the hardscape. Grading the property is important in keeping the home dry, but also adds interest to the property.
Dinky Doesn’t Do It – EVER
Scale always stumps a beginner. They start planting all tiny plants, not realizing the monotony that will follow. Don’t be afraid of big plants. Put in your trees and shrubs to give structure to your gardens. Big leaf plants adds a level of texture and visual interest. Even small gardens benefit greatly by having large plants, just not too many.
You have to think in terms of the architecture which is big, and you need to balance it in the landscape. Don’t think dinky. You should combine the scale of the built environment with human scale. Your circulation or paths should have some human scale elements (elements people sized), and your building should have scale to balance itself (trees and shrubs stepping down in scale).
To learn these design elements of mass and scale, talk to the experts. Once you conquer these two major design elements, you will have that magazine worthy garden. Just remember to put in the big things first and worry about the small flowers last. Even if you make a few mistakes, allow yourself. You will retain the information for a lifetime.
How do I know? I have helped some clients understand these principles. Next, I show you a few different gardens.