Collector’s Garden – Garden Bloggers’ Fling 2015


You may have learned that too much color or too many blooms leads to chaos.

I personally like a lot of color and bloom, but it really is a hard garden design to pull off. We visited a garden during our garden fling where the gardener collected plants and used color with abandon. Strong reds and yellows contrasted and looked heavy in the noonday light.


This type of garden is very hard to photograph in harsh daylight and in no way can it be shown to its potential unless visited in very early morning or very late afternoon. This garden was unique and rather beautiful, but would have been more so at those periods of the day. The bright, strong sun hampered what could have been a more rewarding experience.


You can make a vastly varied collection of plants have cohesiveness by creating specialty gardens within the overall garden. This gardener did that so well.


She had a collection of dwarf conifers and succulent plants using a design principle of grouping compatible and like plants. Her plant partnering included using harmonious colors in groupings in many areas of her gardens. Confusion, contrast and competing colors equals chaos if not handled with care. She made the effort to avoid the chaos trap that others may create using such strong elements and color.

I personally find using a softer variety of colors can be easier on the eye, but a repeating strong color adds visual excitement and a feeling of energy to the scene. Too much and it over-stimulates the viewer.

Collectors-Garden-20In my own colorful garden I have one consistent color throughout the growing season – blue, and lots of it. I limit certain strong colors to certain seasons and beds of the garden. My garden is following this post. I explain how I cram in the plants and keep them healthy. I also talk about using a lot of color and how to tame it down.


General Design Principles for Using Many Colors

Advice on having a garden with excessive color, texture and plant height would be to limit the color palette or type of plant.  Create garden rooms where the transition is subtle and each area is identifiable. Hedges are instrumental in taming the vibrancy of bloom. It is why you see so many public gardens having billowing garden beds backed by large hedges or contained by small boxwood. The green organizes and gives the eye a way to take in and organize all that color. The hedges also aid in creating and dividing garden rooms.


Use foliage to unify the garden with shades of green. It helps make a place for the eye to rest. Sections of lawn can serve as circulation and create visual separation. My own garden has turf and hedges to temper the colorful palette.

I use neutrals like white or gray to break the color from bed to bed, and use repetition to unify. A healthy garden is a must in a chaotic garden of color and texture. While plants were well maintained, some of the conifers had unattractive browning in the garden we visited. It was the only visual distraction worth a mention.


Like I said, this garden was almost impossible to photograph in a pleasing manner by no fault of its own. I would have loved to go back when the sun was about to set. I am sure it would have been seen in a whole new light. You can tell by the photographs, the more pleasing vignettes are seen in shaded conditions. Imagine this garden under a clouded sky. It would shine even brighter.

More on Fling gardens coming up. I looked through my images and oddly found some of the most interesting spaces had the least easily recognizable design. Some had character and ambiance in spades. The down home feel of comfort and the relaxation of island living was in the post Ward Island Gardens. It is a great example of spaces created of organic garden design. They grew and grew around the architecture of the cottages.


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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28 Responses to Collector’s Garden – Garden Bloggers’ Fling 2015

  1. Maria F. says:

    Simply beautiful!

  2. Jardin says:

    I do agree with you about the difficulty of photographing gardens, such as the one you visited, in strong sunlight.
    I also use a lot of blues, purples and soft hues in my own garden, along with lots of green foliage plants as you suggest.
    Thanks for a lovely post.

  3. I also prefer a more subtle color harmony in a garden but she has managed to create a beautiful garden even if it seems rather busy at first glance. Yes, sunlight plays a crucial role in photographing nature but imho you have captured it beautifully.

    • Her garden was beautiful. I would have loved to see it in better light though. You know as an artist, how light affects vibrant color. Some of her maples were very red. The yellows were bright too.

  4. Your in-depth and detailed garden design advice is so interesting, even for a non-gardner! I wonder if there is any subject matter that can truly be captured at its best in full mid-day sunlight.

    • Honestly, photographing gardens in strong light is not advised. Often that is when we see them though. Had there been puffy clouds, the garden would have photographed better. Clouds make light softer as you know. I don’t even like photographing birds on a sunny day, but do it quite often too.

      • I agree – I rarely photograph birds in mid day, no matter what season. In addition to the too-bright sunlight, the birds are usually less active at midday.

  5. thequeenofseaford says:

    I enjoyed the bold colors of this garden. I will have to go back and look at my photos, they didn’t seem as bright as yours. I was thrilled with the various varieties of Japanese maples…wow.

    • If I had the big camera, I could have controlled exposure better. The little camera does not do RAW images and the jpegs always have a brighter appearance since the camera controls that. I did not edit the images, because if I did, I would have toned them down. Her maples were bright red though. I remember thinking that at the time.

  6. I find your photos and advice so fascinating. I have always been positively affected by the play of shade and shadow on a garden. I remember, with great fondness, blue morning glories climbing up a telephone pole in our early morning yard when I was a child, and my father’s tall sunflowers bowing down to the evening sun. Very few things look their best in noon sunlight, I think. Thank you for this wonderful post.

    • I have the morning glory in my back garden, front garden is posted after this post, then the back garden. It struggles a bit with our crazy weather, but at least it is starting to take hold. Thank you for visiting.

  7. Loretta says:

    Great advice as always. The harsh mid-day sun does nothing at all to the photos I agree. Thanks for the tour 🙂

  8. It is difficult to photograph gardens in harsh light, but you did a great job!

  9. Great story and fabulous tips! And yes, that garden was tough to photograph, as were all those in the afternoons. At home, we’d never be photographing at those times, but you did a great job! Hate to look at my pictures yet. . .

  10. Judy also finds it a challenge to do photography in strong sun,. My own reaction to this garden was positive. I felt it was certainly busy and energizing, but not chaotic. It made me think of a pointillistic painting. There was enough repetition to tie everything together. And I was drawn to many of the plants which seemed to be highlighted by what was planted around them. I also like lots of color, but I go in for big drifts of a smaller number of plants.

  11. debsgarden says:

    Bright light is always a challenging condition when photographing gardens. In spring, when all the Japanese maples are in their full glory, I think my own garden would suffer from some of the problems you highlight here, though perhaps I have more blues and greens than this garden. I alway photograph in late afternoon. Early morning is also good, if I am up!

    • It depends on where the garden is located for time of day. I cannot really get good images in my own garden because the sun gets behind the big Norway Maples or tall homes early or late in the day. Overcast is the best time for me.

  12. Pam/Digging says:

    Yes, this was a very difficult garden to photograph at that time of day. I bet evenings are absolutely stunning, with golden light of the setting sun lighting up all those golden and russet leaves. Sometimes rainy days during the Fling are a blessing in disguise because they provide soft light for photography. At any rate, I enjoyed your thoughts on the Marion’s design style.

    • Yes, the cloud filled days are great. Shooting into an evenly shaded spot helps to even out the lights and darks also. Thanks, Pam. When I wrote the post, I did not know she worked at the Botanical Gardens until I read another blogger’s post. I think that explains much.

  13. I really liked the textures and colors in this garden although as you say it was hard to photograph in the bright light. And great advice for designing with many colors.

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