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Monday, October 27, 2008


Sometimes all you need is one type of grass that you like as with this Italian Timothy. Then you mow a path through and your blade contrast is created by the mown to unmown transition. Very simple planting design can be best.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Silhouette

This may be jumping a bit ahead to go right into lighting design, but I want to share one of my favorite lighting techniques. I call it the 'Silhouette'.

The idea is to have a soft glow behind your plants so that the outline of the plants is defined by their shade side. It reminds me of the old comedies where they would have people with a light on in a tent or behind a curtain and their silhouette makes them look like they're being naughty... then they show the characters and they really aren't even close to each other, it was just an optical illusion. Did I lose everyone on that one?

Anyway, this technique works best with these ingredients:

- Character or sculptural planting such as bamboo

- A backdrop to catch the light behind the plant subject such as a plaster wall or smooth fence

- Wide angle, filtered, low voltage, lighting. You want the light close enough to the backdrop to illuminate and create a silhouette, but not so close that you create 'hot spots.'

I really do not like to see the source of lighting, so in-grade up-lights with a 'hood' to hide the lens from the onlooker works best. In these applications where the source is being hidden, do not waste your money on expensive brass or bronze fixtures. You want it to be hidden anyway. The black, high-density plastic ones are fine. Check your warranty and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Helleborus x hybridus 'Walhelivor'

The Lenten Roses you will love if you ever have the chance to discover them. They have very understated beauty and have an amazing, subtle flower.
The Helleborus x hybridus 'Walhelivor' or Ivory Prince Lenten Rose is one of my favorites. There are few truly green flowers in nature. This one will make you fall in love with planting for contrast. Not to mention, it does well in shade and thrives with little attention. This is a great flowering perennial to pair with Pittosporum eugenioides 'Platinum'.

Plant type: Perennials
Cold Hardiness Zone: 4-9
Heat Tolerance: >60 to 90 days
Mature size: Forms basal clumps to 12 in. tall, spreads wider.
Growth Habit: Clumping
Flower Color: Green
Blooms: Blooms early spring.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pittosporum eugenioides 'Platinum'

One of my favorite shrubs right now is Pittosporum eugenioides 'Platinum', or common name, Platinum Lemonwood. In planting design, you have to remember, color choices and combinations are not just about flower color, but more importantly, foliage colors.
The 'Platinum' color in the leaf of this Pitt really comes to life in contrast with darker leafed shrubs or like green/lemon colors. Put this shrub next to soft white blooms and full leafs of the Hydrangea quercifolia 'Vaughn's Lillie' or the inconspicuous bloom of the Helleborus x hybridus 'Walhelivor' and you will know what I mean.

Plant type: Evergreen Shrubs
Cold Hardiness Zone: 8-10
Heat Tolerance: >150 to 180 days
Mature size: Large, bushy shrub 8 to 10 ft. tall and wide.
Blooms: Small, greenish-yellow flowers in spring.
Light needs: Full Sun
Key Feature: Dramatic Foliage Color

Monday, April 21, 2008

Design Basics

Try and keep your plant palette simple. Once you've decided on a planting style (modern, zen, cottage, formal, etc) and filtered through planting zone, light and soil requirements, you probably have a list of plants you have no idea what to do with from there. Here are some more filters to run your palette through:

Hierarchy: Have few focal pieces and build your garden around them. Many times, depending on the size of the place, one focal piece per area is plenty. More than one will become busy and start to look like your neighbor's place who has gnomes and stones with sweet sayings on them lining the walk. It is better to do one 'big move' than many little choppy bits.

Height Layers: Know the mature height or the height you intend to maintain your plants and layer them into the landscape accordingly, giving rhythm and balance.

Contrast: Color among other attributes can be very powerful when used sparingly. Take note of the colors of green that work together as well as bloom colors. Also, make sure the colors work with your structural backdrop. Red, orange and pink do not work together! Sometimes it's best to use one or two colors and mix variations of the same color throughout.

Texture: This is something you probably won't be able to do from images. Go to the nursery, and pull leaves from the different plants you are interested in and put the leaves together. Do the textures work well together or are they fighting each other? Leave size and pattern also play a big role. Spiky then leaves aren't typically going to go well with soft, lobed leaves.

We will get into many other design aspects in later posts. I just thought it was good to get some basics down before jumping right into plant species.

I hope you enjoyed!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Coming soon to a garden near you


I just wanted to say 'Hi' on the first day I am starting my landscaping blog. Each week or so I am going to highlight a different plant or tree species, post images and give tips that I have learned about using or avoiding that species. I hope you enjoy and maybe learn to appreciate a few new species along the way. Please feel free to post comments and questions you may have for me and readers to enjoy. See ya soon!