Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Rules of Good Gardening

#2 Texture and structure are more important than flower color.

Colors are very personal. For some, fiery reds, oranges and yellows dominate their accent pillows and perennial borders. For others, like me, the cool greens, whites, blues and lavenders are woven through our personal spaces.

When selecting the furniture for inside our homes, we seem have a good understanding of how colors and textures play off of each other. For example, if we fall in love with a patterned upholstered chair, we will select a more neutral couch. We make sure that the Persian rug that dominates the living room doesn't compete with wallpaper and the surrounding upholstery. A saturated color, like red or turquoise, is often used as an accent, not as the primary hue.
In this living room, neutrals dominate. The wall color, couch and chairs hold the room together. Remove the flower arrangements and it is still a welcoming and useful room. Change the color of the throw pillows to match the sofa and the room continues to work.

Even though the rug and pillows are the most interesting and eye-catching parts of the room, without the tables, chairs and sofa they don't make a room.

It is not color that holds this room together, it is texture and structure.

In our gardens, we often abandon this principle and let color rule.

A room full of decorative pillows, paintings and flower arrangements does not make a living room! It makes a yard sale.

And a haphazard mixture of whatever was flowering at the garden center that day does not make a garden! It must have structure and texture first.

When I lecture, I often use this garden image as an example. Tucked into a courtyard behind one of the houses South of Broad in Charleston is this sublime garden. Why does this garden work? First, there is structure. Even during the winter months, when this garden is dormant, it is held together by a brick wall, the fountain and two Palmetto trees. Second, there are different textures. The smooth finish of the fountain and walkway, the rough bark of the Palmettos, the large leaves of the banana and coleus and small, fine leaves of the Weeping Willow and Mexican Heather.

The true test of a garden is whether it looks as good in black-and-white as it does in color. And this garden passes with an A+.
Do you have an area of your landscape that just won't come together? Take a black-and-white picture and see if you are missing the crucial element of texture. Hint: If it all kind of blurs together, then you have overlooked the principle of texture. Identify where to add an accent plant or two and watch it all come together.

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