As a designer I am not immune to creative dry spells – but the key to maintaining a steady stream of ideas is to know how to re-inspire yourself. I gather inspiration from nearly every thing in my life; I never know when something is going to strike me in a way that causes new ideas start flowing. But when I am in a pinch and feeling the need to force the issue…I have to actively go looking and often I find the answers in the art of others.
When I was in design school we had to study plants in depth – and a huge part of that study was learning a way to use them that was not only effective and practical in the garden, but also in a way that was artistically distinctive to each of us as designers. The idea was that if we could strike on signature groupings, we could begin to define our distinctive styles as well as make the design process easier (by providing ourselves endlessly repeatable templates).
Do you have a signature planting look in your garden?
If you don’t, it would be an interesting exercise to go through at the very least so that you can re-inspire yourself. Here is what I do when I am trying to come up with something new and interesting:
- Find an inspiration source. I like art; maybe you might pick something that is already hanging on the walls of your home.
- Study the piece for composition, pattern, and notable personality elements and also pull out the colors that appeal to you.
- Using these reference points to start, look for plants that reflect the work. Let the list of possibilities ramble – maybe use a pinterest board to collect the ideas.
- Narrow it down. Once you have a pool of ideas, start refining a plan based on bloom time (if you want your plants to play together – they probably need to bloom together), habitat (they need to be able to survive side by side) and individual characteristics as they meet your needs.
I’ve been playing with the collection above and it started with this painting by Carolyn Swiszcz (if it appeals to you as much as it appeals to me – you can buy it as 20×200). The Coleus ‘Alligator Tear’s is a unique version of this plant – its feathery leaves reflect the pattern in the rug and the colors of all three plants are inspired by the painting. I also want the planting to consist of things that are good for cutting and arranging….so that helped me to eliminate other options. I am still working on this — and I think that I might add something that is the softest shade of peach pink….like perhaps a Verbascum ‘Southern Charm’. And once I get it planted…perhaps it will be become something that works well and I can use it again elsewhere and in future projects – this is how I grow as a designer and gardener.
This collection is as quirky as the original inspiration and I am pleased that I have captured that. How about you — have you used art (or anything else) to inspire planting? What image might you use to do the same?
Images: Images courtesy of proven winners, and my instagram images are from one of my all time favorite design books – The Conran Ocotopus Garden Color Palette.
Art: Garden Hallway, Grand Rapids, MI by Carolyn Swiszcz
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Proven Winners. I am not an employee of Proven Winners and all opinions are my own. See the other posts in this series.
It’s January, Are you in planning mode? Yeah, me too.
I’m planning windbreaks and barriers, berry gardens, possibly some new trees too, and the completion of my patio and arbor.
You might remember this post about black slats from last summer (you know where I was all talk about getting the arbor over the patio done – but then it didn’t get done….well this time I mean it). I mean it so much I am planning the containers that will sit at the base of all those gorgeous black stained posts and slats (Note: My optimism about the completion of this is overflowing now that we have decided to hire a carpenter to finish the job rather than doing it ourselves – sometimes you just have to be realistic).
As I plan out the pots and accessories, I am so tempted to add a strong thread of another color, but green and black and white are just so great together that I have decided (at least for this year) I must resist.
I’m big on clusters of pots that go but don’t match; different heights and shapes and one type of plant per pot. Keeping the plants separated from each other – each in its own little manageable world – always seems to work better for me and I can re-arrange much more easily.
What do you think of the mix? Here is my thinking on each choice:
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Knot gardens in your average American garden always seem to me to a be bit of a trick. In their most traditional style of implementation…they come across as a little pretentious (IMO), slightly old-fashioned and unless you have a house that looks like an English Manor with a gardening staff to accompany it…they are are probably too high maintenance for the average homeowner.
But taking inspiration from the classic Knot garden – these modern looser versions are much more achievable and appropriate. This one by Eckersly Garden Architecture in Australia, uses sedum and a variety of drought tolerant grasses to create simple patterns.
The Filoli Knot Garden, while being precisely the kind of place you might expect an old-fashioned, clipped-tight Knot garden, takes the idea in a looser direction by using plants that don’t need the clipping and it is their looser form that gives this knot movement. The lavender and berberis appear in glorious drifts that also happen to be pleasingly symmetrical
Some of the plants used in this garden:
- Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ –English Lavender
- Berberis thunbergii ‘Crimson Pygmy’ – JapaneseBarberry
- Ballota pseudodictamnus - Woolly Horehound
- Teucrium chamaedrys- Germander
- Rosmarinus of icinalis ‘Tuscan Blue’ – Rosemary (topiary standards)
Here is a looser example that uses a variety of berberis and boxwood from cherry gal.
And another completely achievable version from dry stone gardens.
I’m a huge fan of Sedum – it is simply stunning through New England autumns and am thinking to use it to even greater effect in a loose knot. Besides Lavender, Berberis, Santolina, grasses and some of the other plants mentioned here, I am wondering if you have experimented with loose knots and found any plant treasures to make them more modern, low maintenance and achievable for modern homes?
Images: by Tobi, Eckersley Gardens, Landscape Focus, Filoli Knot Garden with Lavender from Naturetime by Pam and Richard, cherry gal, dry stone gardens.
I am having a little obsession with garden whites right now. I have recently discovered a ocupel of plants as well as some bird lovers accessories that I am eager to find a place for – either in my own garden or someone elses.
I am a sucker for a beautiful leaf, and Allium karataviense ‘Ivory Queen’ aims to please don’t you think.
image from plantsgallery.
Nancy at Gardening Gone Wild has this allium planted in her garden and shares a great picture on her site where she has it paired with white-flowered dwarf fan columbine (Aquilegia flabellata var. pumila f. alba) , ‘Spotty’ dianthus, ‘Brookside’ geranium, ‘Marcus’ salvia, ‘Cramer’s Plum’ love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint (Nepeta), ‘Caradonna’ salvia, and Rozanne geranium. I love it, but am thinking of a display that is more modern and probably contrived to really highlight these plants.
I am similarly obsessed with the ghostly qualities of Hosta ‘White Feathers’. White foliage is just so unnatural but eye catching, I can’t help but obsess. I think the only place I could do this is in the some good shade and paired with something to really make it stand out, like maybe Ophiopogon planiscapus (Black Mondo Grass) and something silver like Dusty miller or perhaps more appropriately for the shade Japanese painted fern.
Image from J. Parker.
I am not interested in creating a white garden in the spirit of sissinghurst, but rather something completely modern that uses white for drama in a clean green space. This bird bath, bird house, and bird feeder would fit perfectly. I am not sure that the bath is substantial enough on its own but, I think maybe by doing 3 at different heights it could really be a stunning focal point.
Images from (from top right)
Allium image from plantsgallery. Bird Bath and Birdhouse both from Bobby Berk Home. Bird feeder from binome jardin. Dusty Miller Image by LelisA. Hosta White Feather from Dutch Bulbs. Japanese Fern image by mistymisschristie. Ophiopogon image by Ge®t®ude
I’ve been outside snipping little bits, gathering tiny treasures from nature and making inspiration boards for the Thanksgiving Floral workshop that Rochelle and I are holding on the 14th. Todays board is all about berries. SO many colors, sizes and density of clusters to play with. - Roanne
clockwise: callicarpa, crabapples, viburnum, cotoneaster, ilex
Photo credit John Gruen