Friday, February 23
Cleveland Home & Garden Show: Getting Garden Ideas
As was discussed in comments on an earlier post, the builders of these temporary display gardens aim to win design and installation contracts--not to give ideas to the average DIY gardener. I do not think that inspiring gardeners and convincing non-gardeners to hire you are mutually exclusive, however.
It would stand to reason that good design is attractive to both camps. A green, bronze and white color scheme may not be your thing, but the strength of the foliage arrangement around the urn in the first picture might catch your eye anyway. Those gardens that are especially strong design-wise are often the ones that stay in your mind long after the show has been disassembled.
Interesting elements can simply be amusing, too. Perhaps you wouldn't want to have this moss monster greet your garden visitors, but his mushroom cap nostrils and orange sunflower eyes probably made you smile and take a closer look. These first two vignettes came not from a landscaper's display garden but from that of a large local garden center chain. Might they feel more comfortable taking risks at shows like this than a landscape designer does?
In spite of my enjoyment of certain elements within the displays, my reaction was mostly: "Nice... but Not In My Garden." There was only one garden to which I kept returning. At first glance it looks simple, and feels a little quiet--not my usual style at all. So I studied it, trying to figure out just what it was that I liked so much.
Much thought had gone into the placement of sight lines within this display. The garden had a main diagonal axis highlighted by metal and stone pathways. The garden structure boasted an open, pergola-style roof and a flagstone floor. The walls were rigid sheets of pierced metal within wooden frames, and all of these panels were attached to the structure with rolling, barn-door-style hinges. The structure was nestled within an interpretation of rocky, open woodland.
I finally decided that there were actually three things about this garden that intrigued me. The most obvious one was the clever use of metal. Metal generally adds visual weight in gardens, but the spaces in the metal elements that the designer chose mitigate that heaviness here. Instead, the metal forms a nice bridge between the dense rocks and the soft plantings of epimediums, moss, hellebores and junipers. The pierced panels add a sense of mystery to the garden views that they blur. The rusted grate provides a sturdy path to the structure over uneven ground without completely hiding the terrain beneath it.
The second element I identified was the skillful use of line and repetition. The grate is set in the ground at an intriguing angle--not the expected one, perpendicular to the structure, but one that makes more visual sense because it follows the garden axis. The bars within the grate line up with the three feature stones, compliment the lines of the structure, and even lead your eye beyond the structure to the flagstone path beyond. (See the first picture of this garden for an illustration of that last point.)
The third element of interest is more of an idea or a statement. At first glance, this looks like a very naturalistic garden with browns, greens, rocks... but consider that the brown of the path is an industrial floor grate, and the most eye-catching rocks have been cut very deliberately and set on edge, evenly spaced in a very deliberate way. Then see that there are plants sprawling over the metal grate and junipers creeping through the stone trio--nature is trying to take the space back. I appreciate this illustration of the tension between the natural and manmade worlds that so many modern gardeners feel instinctively.
If you have not yet guessed, the grate is the metal element that I am planning to use in my own garden. I am enamored of it for all of the reasons stated above, and also for two others: 1) As an elevated pathway, it will afford me the rare opportunity to incorporate an "elevation change" in my tiny, flat lot. 2) Planting the area below the grate with thymes and rocks (I don't have the moisture for moss) will definitely create a more interesting walk to the Japanese rock garden. Hopefully it will also slow people down as they look underfoot.
I realize that I probably will be hard-pressed to find such a heavy industrial castoff in my neighborhood on trash day. So this spring I'll have to find out where the nearest salvage yards are located. And that could be the start of yet another very dangerous hobby...