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Monday April 19 , 2021

Blue Daisy Blog

Blue Daisy blog written by Nicki Jackson & Jules Clark - for news, views, garden design, gardening and plant observations and thoughts.

Garden Design Quick Tip: Movement

Posted by on in Garden Design

grasses2Quite often I am asked the question ‘how can I make my garden more interesting’ and movement is one element of good garden design that often gets overlooked.  It is just as important as all the other elements, not only does it create a feel, an ambience, but also added interest.   Movement doesn’t have to be dramatic or exciting it can be soft, understated and subtle and each person can have their own take on what movement in the garden means.

It can be incorporating moving water, for instance, which shimmers and sparkles in the light but also adding that refreshing trickling sound as it moves, creating a mood.  The sound of movement often adds that extra layer that works and plays on the senses too - not only trickling water but rustling leaves, swishing grasses and other 'movement sounds' all play their part.

Navigating around a garden can also be what some people define movement to be, how to create journeys so you interact and move through the garden.  Paths are great elements for this but care must be taken with the dimensions of them and their exact purpose, adding a path as an afterthought can often look out of place.  

Incorporating plants that move gently in the breeze and give that extra vertical lift can really make them stand out from their more static counterparts.  Ornamental grasses are great for adding movement as their habits are quite different and there are some that offer good all year round interest of both foliage and seed heads which last right into winter.

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Garden Design Quick Tip: Texture

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echinopsTexture in garden design often refers to the surface quality of the plant and can range from classes known as delicate to coarse.  It is a character element that can be used by itself or with other elements to create a feeling of unity.

Textures appeal to multiple sensory experiences at once. You can often tell what something is going to feel like just by looking at it, but there may be more surprises in store as you explore. Certain forms and surfaces invite touch and the visual and physical effect of a border is heightened when there is great textural contrast because of this ‘invitation’ to interact with the textural plants.

A plant’s texture can also set the mood of a garden; many bold and coarse plants can create a tropical feel, picture ornamental banana plants or Cannas.  If your garden is lacking in texture remember that too many plants with fine textures can create a fuzzy blur, too many bold or rough plants can make it feel claustrophobic.  Think of the ratio 1/3 fine and 2/3 course texture and you usually can’t go too far wrong.  

Remember it’s not just leaves that add texture; a few well placed trees in a garden such as the River Birch (Betula nigra) and the Tibetan Cherry (Prunus serrula ‘Tibetica’) will encourage you and visitors to interact with the garden and touch the tree bark.   

Three plants that are often used to add textural elements to the garden:

  • Hosta - their broad leaves adds weight and drama to any border and is classed as bold.  Being perennials they come back every year so are a good investment, they prefer to grow in part shade to full shade and benefit from dividing every few years.  They do flower in the summer but they are used specifically as a foliage plant, use them to brighten up a shady corner.   Slugs love them so be prepared to either pick off or kill the slugs.  One way to deal with them is to use nematodes a biological control that are safe for animals and children.
  • Cosmos – with its thread-like leaves their texture is classed as fine.   It can be a perennial but the annual variety is a cottage garden favourite; they can grow up to a metre tall and are good as cut flowers too.  They look great planted in drifts and thrive in well drained soil and a sunny aspect.
  • Echinops (main picture) - have a spiny texture.   A thistle like plant that can add a touch of drama and an almost tropical feel.  They are known for their blue or white spherical flower heads that attract lots of different insects.  Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’  will get to around 1m in height and 45cm in width and are happy in full to part sun.
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Garden Design Quick Tip: Focal Points

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focalpointThe purpose of a focal point in the garden is to ‘bring the garden into focus’ - and while it might sound pretentious what it’s really about is leading or directing the garden viewer’s eye to a particular point or points in a garden.

It’s almost like a signpost that tells a viewer where to look and give their attention and in looking at the focal point, the setting around it - the rest of the garden - suddenly seems to come into focus too. 

It’s a typical designer’s trick but we all tend to do it inside our homes without thinking – the fireplace, the coffee table with a striking ornament or flower arrangement, the large screen TV on the wall – all of these things are focal points, but they give balance and context to the rest of the room they’re in. The same principle applies to the outdoor space too.  

The means of creating focal points in the garden are limitless – you can create them with sculptures, plant pots, colour, planting, structures, water, doorways, shapes, collections of things – the list does go on and on. There were some lovely examples at Chelsea Flower Show 2013.

The trick to using focal points though is to limit them; you only want 1 per ‘viewing area’ or section of a garden otherwise they will compete with each other and the viewer’s focus of the garden will be lost.

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Chelsea Flower Show 2013

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In case you’ve missed mention of it The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been on this week and I’ve been gutted that I haven’t had the opportunity to go down and check it out for myself this year.  While it’s for a good reason - I’ve been so busy doing designs for Blue Daisy's own clients - not being able to get there in person hasn't stopped me taking a sneaky peek at the TV occasionally.  From what I’ve managed to see, here are some of my favourite garden designer bits:

Arthritis Research GardenDesigner Chris Beardshaw never seems to disappoint, and this year he continues to inspire with his Arthritis Research Garden.  A personal journey for him - he was diagnosed with arthritis in his teens - his planting is absolutely gorgeous and I just love the scupture that's forming the focal point in this shot. 

This garden is a sum of its parts and is split into 3 sections that represent the journey that arthritis sufferers go through from diagnosis through to managing their condition effectively and with confidence.  The warm, vibrant planting in this image forms the Radiant Garden, representative of that final happier stage.  See Chris Beardshaw talk about his 2013 show garden here.

Chris won a well deserved gold medal for his efforts and the coveted People's Choice award.

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Using Colour in the Garden

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colourwheelHow people use colour is quite personal and if one person said the colour red to 20 people, those 20 people would view the colour red in different tones or hues. This means that colour is subjective and is undoubtedly affected by our own likes and dislikes as well as location, light levels and use of the garden.

Colours can appear in different ways to us for example, red is classed as a 'hot colour' and it really does demand your attention and has the effect of coming towards you. Yellow also comes towards you but isn't as demanding as red yellow tends to reflect available light. Green is 'cool', it makes a good backdrop to other colours and blue is a very cool colour that often seems to merge with the background and looks smaller to its red counterpart.

Hot colours – red, orange and yellows - are strong, warm, attention seeking, stimulating and lively and can make your space feel smaller and more intimate. Most plants that fit this description will come from the sunnier climates like South Africa and the tropics. These colours can become quite difficult to see during the evening or in lower light levels.

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