Even experienced gardens can fail in making a successful garden. They look out onto their gardens and do not have an idea what is missing. It is when they keep making the same mistakes over and over and not realizing what is not working. Remember I said to make friends with those in the know?
I have had clients (now friends) that hired me, not because they did not know their plants, but because they did not know how to use the plants. They did not understand that all gardens have and need some form of order and design. Design is not just for big projects. Let me explain.
Ironically, some people who are very long time gardeners do not always know what is not right in their gardens. They know something is off, but what? They keep investing money too.
Two very experienced gardening clients (not any of the images of gardens shown here) told me they did not see what was missing in ‘their design work’ until I was hired to redesigned the gardens. As a designer, it is my job to bring cohesiveness to the landscape and make it work within the character of the home. It is also to listen and make sure I meet their needs and wants.
In the image above, this woman loves red and you see the roses? Well far behind those roses is a row of Burning Bush (and below) that will keep the red following through Fall. To the left is a Sentry Maple doing the same. Red tulips grace this bed in early Spring.
Take note of all the trees. They give presence and scale. This design had to incorporate a park-like feel and also include a putting and chipping green. This would have been overwhelming to the homeowner to design on their own. But not all design is out of a homeowner’s reach when they understand design principles.
So back to my two clueless clients questioning what is off. Well it is that which is off all the time? It is what I discussed in the last post. It is mass and scale every time. People just don’t get it.
Once a new garden is professionally installed, they can understand the important design principles of massing and scale – two things often overlooked and misunderstood. It is important in every part of a good design too.
Below, this side path could be very forgotten about because this property adjoins a country club and is in view of their swimming pool. A pleasant screen had to be made, and you can see how the newly planted hemlock and hydrangea are massing out the view beyond. The shaded path is still kept intimate and scaled to people, functional too. The use of scale and mass through layering of the planting will create an intimate side path. Do these two factors cost money? Well yes they do when the planting scheme is layered.
What I was told by both clients after the money was spent and work completed, was although they were afraid of the cost initially, both realized they had spent that amount ten times over in failed attempts on their own. Once they learned, it was the best money spent on their gardens.
Just because people garden does not always mean they ‘get it right’ so to speak. My clients read every book and gardening magazine ever printed, but it never occurred to them why the gardens in the colored images work so well. They were reading all about something and not being able to understand until they SAW it. It is like the light bulb goes off.
In garden photos, often one misses things like texture, scale and massing.
Because with all the color and visual drama, these elements go unnoticed. The image overwhelms. A trick is to turn an image into black and white, strip away the color to see design elements more distinctly. You can do this with your own garden photos, it works especially well differentiating textures. See my post, W4W – Texture and Pattern in Design.
My advice to gardeners embarking on their own designs, really look at well designed gardens and try to pick out these design elements. Notice their relationships and juxtaposition.
The two clients both have huge properties and there was plenty of space yet to make gardens. They both did so, and when they were done, were so proud of themselves for what they accomplished. It only took understanding what was missing.