Go beyond flower color to add contrast and visual excitement in the aging-in-place garden. A good way to start is with #1: Shrub Color.
Did you think those yellow shrubs in front of a neighboring house were sick?
Deliberately created yellow-leafed shrubs are turning up everywhere. Here are just a few examples:
Yellow is one shrub color that works well in gardens with alkaline soils. Our naturally occurring greens have a larger percentage of yellow than blue in the mix, making combinations with yellow shrubs a pert contrast that’s not strident.
While grey and reddish hues or leaf variegations have been around for many years, check out your local garden center for new plant options now on the market.
Here’s an orange-leafed barberry. Can't you visualize this one as a gorgeous contrast in a deep blue container?
How else could you expand the plant contrasts in your garden? Now that we’ve considered color, here are the rest of the designer’s toolbox : form, size, and texture.
#2 - Form. Yes, plants have an amazing variety of shapes, but there are constants once you look. And one advantage of aging eyes is that slightly fuzzy eyesight is great for discerning plant forms!
One of the best blog posts about form is this one by the Renegade Gardener http://www.renegadegardener.com/index.htm?content/187_form_foundation.htm~mainFrame
And here’s an example from my yard – note the weeping nolinas, the round shape of the blue agave and the Mexican oregano echoed by the concrete ball, plus the upright form of the ground cover.
This photo also illustrates the differentiation created by #3: Size. Here the plants range in diameter from 12 inches to 4 feet.
My favorite option for playing with contrast is texture. Again, just a few photos taken in my garden this morning.
The texture contrast can be striking, as in this example of Agave ‘Victoria reginae’ sitting on a bed of rounded pebbles, nestled into the side of a pink skullcap. The pebbles and skullcap leaves are about the same size, making the comparison of rounded shapes with the bold sharp leaves of the agave attention-getting.
And here is a more subtle example, where the soft texture of the frothy Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ plays against the rubbly ground. The fuzzy leaves of the heartleaf skullcap are a bit gray, mimicking the Artemisia while diverging from its fine filament, with simple leaf shapes a foil for the rugged stone edges.
How does your aging-in-place garden play with color, form, size and texture? Would you like some help?