The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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Building Garden Interest with Texture

DSCN4963The elements of texture and form, shape and garden occupy my thoughts more and more as I add plants and the garden matures. I really like the textures of plants in the shade bed, but the main bed along my patio is starting to look a bit messy. I’m not sure if it’s because the dwarf blue spruce is so slow to grow unlike the grasses, which are getting very big and therefore the balance is off, or because there are so many spillers in the garden and that’s creating some visual chaos. Either way, I’m exploring the themes of texture, balance and color as I consider moving things around next year.WWW Cacophony3I never thought much about texture until I started gardening. Texture creates interest and interplay among plants. In the world of texture, contrast seems to be key, and there are a couple of ways to achieve texture in garden design.

  1. Placing plants with contrasting leaf shapes near each other.
  2. Placing plants with contrasting bloom shapes near each other.

Properly combine fine, medium and coarsely textured plants in the garden and you’ll get visual interest. Too much texture and you can end up with visual chaos. And there’s both tactile and visual textures to consider.Yikes. (When I initially started planning my gardens, this overwhelmed me, not to mention other considerations of size, shape and color.)DSCN4968Most plants have medium texture. I typically use coarse and fine textured plants as a great way to achieve accents.Then I try and spice things up through complementary or contrasting colors of plants. The finely textured leaves from Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) complement the medium-textured leaves of rudbeckia. The bloom shapes from all three are small, medium and large. And the grayish-green Russian sage also provides a color contrast to the green of the other plants. DSCN4976Proper texture pairings provide lots of interest and result in pleasing vignettes. This is not as simple as you might imagine. It’s probably one reason why gardeners move plants around year after year.

Balance combines with texture and creates unity. I like the balance in my shade bed, achieved by repeating astilbe, hosta, fern and Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa) throughout its linear shape. The  astilbe’s bottle brush-shaped bloom lends coarse texture in contrast to the smooth leaves of the Japanese forest grass. Visual interest if further achieved through contrasts in color and leaf shape.

In the combination below a trifecta of color, shape and texture unite to create a pleasing vignette at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The coarse brown center of the yellow rudbeckia and the soft, finely textured brown plume from an ornamental millet pair up, as do the daisy-like petal shape and the contrasting shape of the brown plume. And last but not least, brown and yellow make a complementing color contrast. bes and milletWith so many varieties, succulents are a great way to add texture to a container. Soft rosette shapes combine with coarse texture, and the grayish hues of all the plants create color harmony in a succulent display at the Toronto Botanical Garden last summer. I love the fuzzy texture of the echeveria next to the crassula princess pine.DSCN2996 (1280x960)How important is texture in your garden? And what plants are you incorporating for textural variety?

 

 

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Wordless Wednesday: Summer Go-Togethers

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The Garden in Time

One of the benefits of a Midwest garden is the beauty each season brings. Here’s a look back at one garden bed as it appeared throughout 2014.

Late winter 2013 and spring can't get here soon enough.

Late winter 2013 and spring can’t get here soon enough.

The newly planted foxglove provided lots to look at as the garden got under way in spring. I love the maroon shades of the maple with the blue of the spruce

The newly planted foxglove provided lots to look at as the garden got under way in spring. I love the maroon shades of the maple with the blue of the spruce

Happy summer hydrangea. Little Lamb and Little Lime wind throughout the bed.

Happy summer hydrangea. Little Lamb and Little Lime wind throughout the bed.

I under-estimated just how many plants I will need and how long it will take to fill in this bed.

I underestimated just how many plants I will need and how long it will take to fill in this bed.  I also miscalculated on how large this penstemon would get. I moved her to the back in the fall.

The gayfeather returned this year...I still never really believe the stuff I put in the year before will come back.

The gayfeather returned this year…I still never really believe the stuff I put in the year before will come back.

A close up of texture and shapes. To keep in the garden or snip to add to a vase?

A close up of texture and shapes. To keep in the garden or snip to add to a vase?

Anchoring the south edge of the patio bed, the rudbeckia is a profusion of blooms in the hottest month of the summer.

Anchoring the south edge of the patio bed, the rudbeckia is a profusion of blooms in the hottest month of the summer.

As summer give way to autumn, the rusty brown plumes on this perennial grass contrast well with the blue spruce

As summer give way to autumn, the rusty brown plumes on this perennial grass contrast well with the blue spruce

The grasses plumes drape gracefully under the weight of a wet snow.

The grasses plumes drape gracefully under the weight of a wet snow.

The muted tones of fall beneath a blanket of snow: Harvest brown foliage and faded hydrangea blooms and the tall maple at the top of the bed; maroon leaves on the Japanese maple; and the tall pine in my neighbor's yard.

The muted tones of fall beneath a blanket of snow: Harvest brown foliage and faded hydrangea blooms and the tall maple at the top of the bed; maroon leaves on the Japanese maple; and the tall pine in my neighbor’s yard.


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Some Like It Hot

In celebration of week-long temperatures above 90 degrees F., here’s a short list of plants that are sumptuous in a St. Louis swelter:

Echinacea purpurea "PowWow Wild Berry" coneflower.

Echinacea purpurea “PowWow Wild Berry” coneflower.

1. Echinacea purpurea. Like black-eye Susan, coneflower is a hardy soul. And breeders have developed an assortment of colors for us choosy gardeners. This year I added a very pretty pink variety called “PowWow Wild Berry.”

 

Blanket flower is a summer-long bloomer.

Blanket flower is a summer-long bloomer.

2. Gaillardia “Arizona Red Shades.” New to the garden this season, this blanket flower seems very happy and has put out bloom after bloom. It is a short, compact plant that rewards with blooms all season long–from early summer to early fall. And talk about carefee. It performs best in poor, well drained soil (check!), without fertilizer (check!) and in the sun (check!).

The young beebalm "Pardon My Pink" is dwarfed by black-eyed Susan on the left and tall garden phlox on the right.

The young beebalm “Pardon My Pink” is dwarfed by black-eyed Susan on the left and tall garden phlox on the right.

3. Rudbeckia “Black-eye Susan.” I have divided the two plants I purchased three years ago at the Webster Groves Women’s Garden Club plant sale and increased the stands of “Susans” in the yard. This is one tough native that likes it hot and loves, loves, loves the sun. Not yet blooming, I look forward to vases full of these sunny flowers.

A nice color combination of yellow coreopsis and orange butterfly milkweed. Growing behind the milkweed is canna, a new addition this year  to the fence garden bed.

A nice color combination of yellow coreopsis and orange butterfly milkweed. Growing behind the milkweed is canna, a new addition this year to the fence garden bed.

4. Butterfly milkweed. Another native, the orange blooms on this plant attract butterflies, which are fun to watch flit about the garden. I have it placed next to coreopsis and in front of canna (new to the garden this year).

The Russian sage nearly glows in the afternoon sun.

The Russian sage nearly glows in the afternoon sun. And the Shasta daisy seems to be well adapted to this spot which receives lots of sun.

5. Perovskia atriplicifolia.The wispy, powdery-hued wands of Russian sage cool off the heat but hold up well. The tall Russian sage is on the verge of blooming. The specimen shown above anchors the corner of this bed which faces South and East. The East view is what is showing here. Planted nearby are tall garden phlox and hot pink roses.

A pretty combination of sunny "Amelia" Shasta daisy, a rugged sun lover.

A pretty combination of sunny “Amelia” Shasta daisy, a rugged sun lover, and Russian sage.