• July 12, 2024

Two Tricks for Excellent Garden Design

Imagination and a healthy dose of guts are required to color beyond the lines. Both Cassandra Barrett and Bryan have them. Under the moniker Barrett Landscape and Design, this husband-and-wife team creates, installs, and maintains gardens for a living as contractors and garden designers, respectively. For the gardens they design, there are no set formulae. You won’t find symmetrical groups, neat rows, or well-manicured bushes at their Dexter, Oregon, house. Their garden has a flowing, organic appearance. Despite all of its tiers, embellishments, and numerous plants, it lacks any untidy elements. Just like any well-planned casual garden, it looks cohesive without being overly formal. However, how precisely is that achieved? How can the Barretts combine so many plants that at first glance appear unrelated to make something so exquisite? Alternatively put, how do they successfully color beyond the lines? Their strategy is not as complicated as it seems. Here are two tips for creating beautiful garden designs.

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Step 1: Examine each layer of your garden carefully.

The Barretts’ garden is remarkable for a variety of reasons, such as its contrasting textures, meandering gravel walkways, and spectacular color that lasts all year. Less evident, though, is how the landscape slopes down progressively at each level, with the epimedium (Epimedium spp. and cvs., Zones 5–9) cascading onto pathways and the highest Thompson blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘Thompson,’ USDA Hardiness Zones 2–8) leading to the Barretts’ clapboard farmhouse. Every component is integrated. Naturally, this impression is intended. When gardeners are skilled in layering, they create deep beds and seamless transitions; Cassandra has mastered this technique. Every garden has four stages in her opinion, and each tier has a certain function.

Plant low-growing plants in the beds on the ground floor.

Plants that grow to be one foot tall or shorter are best appreciated up close. With their vivid colors and exquisite textures, consider them jewels. They’re ideal for adding finishing touches to pathways, entryways, and borders.

Connect the skyline to the terrain on the upper floor

Every yard should naturally include a few 80-foot-tall trees, but in newly built areas, that is frequently not the case. If there aren’t enough shade trees in your landscaping and you have the room, plant a couple cedars or oaks right away.

Connect the home and landscape on the secondary top storey.

This tier must be higher the taller your home is. Generally speaking, for single-story homes, choose trees and shrubs that will develop to be 8 to 15 feet tall, and for two-story homes, 25 to 30 feet tall.

Cassandra suggests creating a new garden by first purchasing trees and bushes. Make a frame out of them to encircle your yard. Plant them in clusters to provide seclusion along your property line and to soften the angles of your lot’s corners. These plants are easy to use to create focal points in the garden and provide beds year-round structure.

Midstory: Unite the home with the landscape

Perennials and shrubs that reach eye level make up this layer and comprise most plants in a garden.

Additionally, you want to put a few distinctive plants in the midstory. Just a few will do to make your landscape seem amazing. Look for ones that allow you to grow shorter perennials below by requiring less space around their base.

Step 2: Integrate the patterns with the layers in the background

The kind of rich, tiered beds that give the Barretts’ landscape its pleasant appearance are produced by completely completing each storey of the garden. Of course, there is a method to packing each layer full of plants. Arranging plants in an aesthetically attractive manner is just as important as choosing complementary colors, shapes, and textures. At that point, pattern-making becomes useful.

Selecting a plant: Choose three hues and a texture

One word describes the key to connecting all four stories: repetition. The Barretts chose burgundy, blue, and chartreuse as their primary color scheme and spiky conifers as its recurring texture in the early stages of garden design. The Barretts repeat these about every 20 feet, just enough to make them noticeable. Cassandra says, “That’s all the eye can really take in at one time.” Cassandra may then add just about any other plant that she wants, as long as the conifers and the hues of burgundy, blue, and chartreuse are constantly visible. Even with the addition of fresh plants, the ever-present color scheme and texture keep the composition looking unified.

When placing plants, consider “triangles.”

The many components of the garden are further interlocked when plants are spaced out rather than planted in rows. Cassandra thinks in threes, or what she refers to as “triangulation.” Cassandra makes triangle patterns everywhere, from zigzagging irises (below) down a walkway to placing a pair of burgundy-leaved shrubs at the base of a red strapleaf Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Atro­lineare,’ Zones 5–8). She purchases multiples of each hue, form, and texture, distributing them across the lowest three storeys of the garden. Working loosely inside triangles preserves the landscape’s general casual appearance, subtle patterning, and entwined layers.

Getting soiled

The Barretts’ garden takes very little upkeep, despite popular belief. Every task is completed by Bryan and Cassandra alone. But since they run small businesses, they frequently lack time. These are some of the techniques they employ to maintain their 2.5 acres immaculate.

How about some pruning? Don’t bother trimming the garden in the fall. The Barretts wait to clean up their perennials until after the final frost of the winter. Additionally, they only trim a particular plant once a year. They form late-winter bloomers in early fall, multistemmed blooming shrubs and weeping trees in late spring, and deciduous trees in winter.

Applying fertilizer? Fertilizing every plant is a time and money-consuming process. Cassandra uses wood ash in the spring to enhance the color of her peonies, and she also uses organic, slow-releasing fertilizer around fruit trees, vegetables, and a few heavy-blooming perennials. That is all.

Dousing? The Barretts purchase the appropriate tools, which helps them save time and water even if they don’t have an underground watering system. They utilize an oscillating sprinkler and a Gardena timer for overhead watering. Cassandra uses an American-made brass nozzle, a Gilmour 8-ply garden hose, and a brass fast connection with male and female connectors for hand watering.

weeds? Weed constantly—even in the winter. Cassandra utilizes a preemergent herbicide, such Preen Vegetable Garden Organic Weed Preventer, for the odd trouble spot.