In a previous article, I bemoaned the seeming silence in the garden because there were no honeybees or other pollinators visiting the flowers I had specifically planted for their benefit… OK, the flowers were for my viewing pleasure as well. They evidently have a subscription to the Chronicle-News! I am pleased to report that I now have pollinators in spades, and the garden is humming with activity.
Don’t forget to set out a shallow pan of small rocks or marbles filled with water for our hard-working friends during the summer heat.
Let’s talk about the use of illusion in the garden. Understanding the placement of warm versus cool colors can make a small yard look more spacious or a large yard feel more intimate.
The warm colors are red, yellow and orange. These colors are energizing and seem to advance toward the viewer. Purple, blue and green are the cool colors. Their effect is calming and tranquil. In addition, they appear to recede from view. The color gradations of the Sangre de Christos Mountains in the early evening with their purples and blues provide a relaxing transition into the night.
If you have a relatively small garden and would love to engage a more spacious feeling, plant warm colored flowers closer to your main viewing area and utilize cool colored flowers in the background. (The photo showing yellow, orange and purple flowers from my garden are a perfect example of that principle.) The yellow Kannah Creek buckwheat and orangey-red Pine leaf penstemon are only a few feet from the purple Walker’s Low catmint, but they appear much further away. By the way, check out the Kannah Creek buckwheat in the Cimino Park planters on your next visit to the Farmer’s Market.
Line is considered a powerful visual element in landscape design because it controls how our eyes read what is being viewed. (Consider the photo of the path and bench I recently saw at the Denver Botanic Garden. You don’t actually know that the path continues on as you can’t see it [it does], but the mind assumes the continuation.) I’ve utilized this trick many times in smaller back yards to create the illusion of a larger yard by simply bending a path out of view, even if the path ends only a few feet around the bend. Often, this “space” can be hidden by large shrubs or grasses turns into a utility area for gardening supplies.
I should remind you again that understanding the cultural needs of your plants is more important than any design guidelines. Unhealthy plants will not create a pleasing garden. You can always google the plant for general information. There is also a local plant information resource on Facebook called Purgatoire Valley Gardeners, administered by yours truly and Jennifer Laidig. People share photos, ask and answer questions, and generally connect with others who love having dirt on their hands.
Finally, the moon garden uses the illusion of changing colors. Moon gardens are popular now because many people work longer hours, so twilight is approaching when they get home. In addition, the summer evening cool-down encourages us to venture outside. White flowers and silvery gray foliage are more easily seen at night, even without lighting. This type of monochromatic color scheme combines shades of a single color together and is considered mood relaxing. The lacy silver foliage of Partridge feather is a great xeric addition for nighttime viewing. Other useful silvery plants are lavender, lamb’s ear and Artemisia/wormwood.
Step outside this evening, imagine your ethereal garden glowing in the moonlight and ponder these words of wisdom from the Moody Blues album, “Days of Future Past.”