Monday, October 4, 2010

Adding Fireworks to your Garden's Design using Shape and Repetition

Plant and flower shapes can have an inherent energy that can add a dramatic presence to a garden. This is one of the many lessons that I learned from visiting other gardens this summer. 

Take the photo above. On its own a single heuchera bloom is rather unspectacular, but a spray of blooms rockets up from plant like a burst of fireworks. The fine flowers may be delicate, yet they can add subtle drama to the garden.

A floral plume can have remarkable impact especially on a tall, large scale perennial. This is Giant Fleece Flower or Persicaria Polymorpha growing at Lost Horizons Nursery. (I have it in my own garden as well and find that it prefers full or half day sun and does best in moist soil.)

Bears Breeches (Acanthus mollis), Lost Horizons Nursery, Acton Ontario

Best in part shade, plants like large scale Bear's Breeches can add an eye-catching structural element to the garden.  Three foot tall spires of white flowers, which are clasped by purple bracts, tower above large clumps of shiny green leaves. (Bear's breeches do best in deep, rich soil in part shade.They especially do not like afternoon sun).

Mountain Fleeceflower or Persicaria is another interesting perennial that I spotted at Lost Horizons. The narrow pink bottlebrush-like flowers shoot skyward from a base of deep shiny green leaves. (It has a long bloom time and makes an interesting ground cover when planted in drifts.) 

A fountain of leaves is flamboyant plant shape that you can also use to add a dramatic punch to your garden's design. Consider the Miscanthus below. It has a spectacular presence.

Lost Horizons Nursery, Acton Ontario

Doesn't our eye goes right to it? And nothing lights up a garden like a leaf variegated with white.

Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton

Applying the principals of repetition is another important design principal I observed in other gardens this summer. For example, you can make a bolder statement by repeating an plant. Instead of a single clump of grass, plant a row of the same plant.

Repetition in a private garden in Eramosa Township Ontario

Lost Horizons Nursery, Acton Ontario. 

Repetition not only creates a cohesive design, it can also be used here to create a stunning vista. Just look at this path flanked with rows of globe cedar at Lost Horizons to see this design principal in perfect execution. 

How about you? What is something you have learned from visiting other gardens this summer?


  1. Your fountain planting is so true and over here we are just getting into the full swing with calamagrostis and eupatoriums. Happed on you through Blotanical. Where are those dogs though?

  2. What I've learned this summer is that I need MORE land in order to have larger gardens (lol)! You know, I have never even heard of Lost Horizons and I consider myself a bit of a garden centre junkie. The photos are lovely and it will be on my list of places to visit next summer.

  3. Catherine, The dogs are right here wondering when I will get off the computer and head outside.

    Lisa, Lost Horizons is a great nursery to visit. The display garden never fails to impress and inspire me. Just make sure to put on some bug spray when you visit. There are tons of mosquitoes there!

  4. My big lesson for this summer was 'hardscape.' I've been so busy planting flowers in this young garden. Now that the perennials are filling in I realize I need some garden art to add height and focal points.

  5. Jennifer, I loved this post on repetition, so true. I have Persicaria Polymorpha and many Heucheras, beautiful when repeated in masses.


  6. OK, I have to get back to Lost Horizions, haven't been there for a few years.
    Love the last picture.

  7. Great posting, Jeniffer!
    Impresssive choice of pictures.

  8. Dear Jennifer. Less is more in a garden when it comes to plant varieties. I do so agree that bold sweeps make so much more impact and, rather surprisingly perhaps, add a calming element to the overall design. In addition, the use of repetition, which you illustrate so beautifully here, is a dramatic device which holds a garden together through the seasons, particularly when flower power is limited.

  9. I found Lost Horizons nursery last year and of course returned to it this year. They do have some difficult to find plants tho' don't seem to carry them from year to year. I have to learn to plant more of one variety of plant. Your photos show how great a difference it can make for impact.

  10. I like! I've never been into ornamental grass much, but I might have to play around with them.


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