Don’t you wish occasionally that you could just plant something and walk away? Never have to prune, water, feed, deadhead, divide, or replace when it turns up its toes? Then maybe I have an idea for you. What if I told you you could just about have it all? Year-long color and zero maintenance. Never have to reach for your snips because your garden addition would always be exactly what you put in the ground. I’d like to show you some ideas for additions to your garden that will last and last.
A great landscape design is not just about the plants, or color at specific times of the year. You’ve heard me say that before, but it bears repeating: In order to truly enjoy your outdoor spaces you need to provide points of interest and novelty, not just perennials and annuals, growing cheek by jowl. Further visual interest can be incorporated with rock and what’s known as ’hardscape,’ These additions can contrast perfectly with what’s growing. But how about adding another sensory element, such as sound? No, I’m not talking about a speaker system. What can work well can be a water feature, which adds much, much more to your visual design. I’ll show you two distinct fountains that can add real pleasure to your outdoor spaces.
This traditional fountain placed at a strategic point in the garden performs a great task; it serves as a destination and focal point. It has all that typical fountains provide, such as low maintenance, attraction for songbirds, and a style that is complementary to the house. Bust as you gaze at this photo, you know what’s also here: The calm and lovely sound of trickling water. That one sound makes a fountain, no matter its size, a point of interest to all. Something else cool about this one is that, no, it’s not made of cast iron. It’s concrete stained black. Talk about low cost and upkeep. And your foundation plantings and annual planted for seasonal color seem to almost lean into this water feature.
One of a pair, this fountain is fabricated from recycled brick, vintage waterspout, and glazed jars we offer at Botanica. I designed this pair to serve as a sort of boundary in the garden, and everything to build them was found and repurposed. I created an open top, and installed four LED uplights within. The fountains are also lit at night. I used vintage spouts and inserted the motor in each. You can just plug these water features in and walk away. What’s nice here is that they’re upright and not bulky, which means they won’t overpower the space and you’ll have plenty of room to nestle plants all around. Fountains, by the way, don’t call for specific or traditional plantings only. A water feature will only bring out the best of your plant groupings, no matter the style or quantity.
Remember this fountain is not cast iron, but concrete. You wouldn’t know that unless you studied it closely. It is a great addition to this garden, however, because it’s on another level and creates further dimension to the design. And, like I said before, the sound of the water–soothing and tranquil–will attract and delight your guests.
Because this pair of fountains would be part of the garden boundary, I wanted to make sure the fence itself didn’t detract from them. And, in keeping with the recycle-reuse-repurpose philosophy I was mindful of while creating the fountains, I chose iron salvaged from an old carport on the property. The brick fountains pull the eye up, and aren’t hulking or massive, yet are also unexpected. These fountains have spouts that control the water flow, so what you get in the way of sound here is a ’burble,’ not a splash. Which means you can convene the book club nearby, and everyone can be heard.
Garden design doesn’t have to be confined to elements that we can see only. Don’t forget your other senses when planning your space. And fountains don’t have to be expensive or large. You can find a fountain design–or design one yourself–that will fit any budget and any space. The sounds of water flowing up, over, and down as it follows gravity will delight you and your guests, no matter the season.
Live Life to the Fullest,
Chris H. Olsen
Hello again, and happy summer! I hope you had a wonderful Independence Day and are enjoying many al fresco moments with cherished family and friends during the warm weather months. Whether it is a riverside camping trip, a boat ride on the lake or, of course, a garden gathering, now is the time to get outside and soak up some sun!
This spring I embarked on a project that I am very excited about and wanted to share it with you. I added a brick privacy wall and gated entry to the perennial garden along the west side of my house. You can see what the results look like with respect to the front facade in the above image….
Many of us reside in houses with great front entrances, nice walks, and a cozy view of the street, which means the landscaping we choose can be that much more impactful. But that’s just the area you see at first glance. Sometimes the best places to plant are the least expected ones. So look up. If you have a flat roof over your door, perhaps a bit of an overhang, here’s an idea for you: plant it.
You’ll want a flat roof that can handle a bit of weight. Then select your plants with an eye for scale and effect. A bit of formal design works best. Work your way back from the edge. You’ll want a vine for the front because its happy cascade is what will seize attention first. We chose ivy because of its hardiness and exuberant growth. You’ll need a series of deep pots for planting. Line them up so the plants are crowded together and appear to be one continuous row. Use pots as deep as you can without them being seen from below. The volume of the pot matters because you don’t want them to dry out too often. You’re going to have to water, which means in some cases resorting to a ladder and hose or bucket. The bigger the pot, the fewer trips with water. Make sure you have deep saucers for each pot, which will further help with moisture retention.
Behind the ivy, for definition of the area, we planted a pair of boxwoods, which provide a sort of anchor and formality. A nice pair of green foundation plantings such as these cools things off and provides a bit of depth.
Directly behind the ivy is a row of white begonias. Because the flowers along the walk are white, white was required above. Remember what I always say about uniformity and simplicity of design; it’s a big deal. Use of the same color throughout just means your design is stronger. You’re not working in a large area, so one color gives you more oomph.
And speaking of what’s below, here’s how to think about this critical area flanking the walk. Mix your planting, as in use some perennials, with numerous annuals to do most of the seasonal work. It’s the annuals that will provide you with continuous color throughout the season. We made the two planting areas wide as well, so they’re that much more of a statement. Behind that stretch of color and rhythm along the walk, you’ll see we put in some arbor vitae for height and heft. They also pull the eye up, so the planting above the door instantly registers with people walking by. We also placed the shrubs farther from the door, and not in a straight line, so as to play up the width of the overall design. This front yard is fairly shallow, so the idea of width was critical for design success.
While our plantings weren’t fussy or perfectly symmetrical, they play up the architecture of the house. And the planting on the roof above the entry meant the doorway becomes a really exciting entrance to the house. And don’t all these components seem happy? Above and below, along the walk, and in front of the house. The planting above the door frames not just your entry, but also your guests as they arrive. Use simple design principles and simple plantings to reap multiple rewards. Don’t forget to amend the soil, use time-release fertilizer, and water on a regular basis. The same rules apply for your overhead plantings, too. Keep your plants happy, and your guests will marvel at your design ingenuity. And just think: all you had to do was look up.
Live Life to the Fullest,
Chris H. Olsen