First, I drew up my “wish list”. This was fun as I never get to be the client! I knew that I wanted an almost monochromatic color palette – mostly greens and whites. Something in bloom in almost every season. And of course, an abundance of plant material to cut and bring indoors, without leaving “holes” in the garden.
But, like most projects, there were challenges too. Since this was a “front of the house” garden (also called a foundation garden), there would need to be some evergreens. And while I know that they are important to the garden – providing height, structure and year round greenery – they also take up valuable space. As this bed was just about 25 feet wide, I knew that I’d have to select the balance of the plants carefully, to make the most of what little room was left.
With these parameters in place, I designed my garden. I always start with the evergreens and settled on two types. I chose skip laurels for the back – they have a narrow, upright shape (perfect for a smaller garden), and fragrant white blooms in spring. And I added some boxwoods toward the front – they are slow-growing and practically maintenance-free. You can really appreciate the value of these shrubs in this picture, taken in early March:
As you can see, the garden would be pretty barren without them.
I wanted at least one flowering shrub, and settled on these “Limelight” hydrangeas:
They flower profusely all summer long with pale green blooms, and look gorgeous in a tall vase.
Now for the perennials. I decided to pick one variety for every season, and plant lots of each type.
Spring was a no-brainer – peonies. Peonies are my very favorite flower, and they signal “spring” to me like nothing else. Especially these – called “Duchesse de Nemours”:
Summer brings “Coconut Lime” coneflowers (don’t you love the name?). They look stunning with the hydrangeas – both in the garden and in arrangements:
And these “Honorine Jobert” anemones produce abundant white flowers straight through the fall:
But wait. There’s more.
I have two more tips for getting as much “wow” in the garden as possible – even when space is tight.
The first is: spring bulbs. Bulbs take up next to no room, yet provide tons of impact in the garden – typically before anything else is in bloom. I’m partial to alliums and planted 50 of them. They are so striking, don’t you think? I departed from my green/white color scheme here, but breaking the rules is part of the fun…….
The second tip is to plant vertically. Planting climbers is a good tactic for any garden, but particularly for smaller ones. The climbing structures (or “tuteurs”) provide their own ornamental element to the garden, while taking up very little space. And the clematis that climb up and around them produce enormous white blooms that look beautiful floating in a clear glass bowl. Win-win.
So there you have it – a “proper” foundation garden, lots of flowers for cutting, and something in bloom almost year round. And, in keeping with my “most important rule” – I have a garden that I love. One that make ME happy.