Amending existing gardens in winter

The most successful garden designs incorporate and make the best of their settings. Amending an existing garden requires a healthy dose of sensitivity to existing conditions, an eye for plant health, and the ability to capitalize on inherent strong points and dominant features that are already in place. But, although there is plenty of room for educated speculation, there is one area of the design package that is nearly impossible to be certain of during the leafless winter and spring months, and that is that of color. A designer with good plant knowledge can usually discern certain clues through the shape, size and bark of deciduous trees and shrubs, but other than that – your guess is as good as just about anyone else’s.

Here are a few progress shots from the planting of a garden that was re-worked this past spring, before the leaves opened. The existing plant palette was rather traditional NW, with lots of natives, and mature trees – which made the task a lot easier! The biggest surprises in terms of color came when the Japanese maples opened up, and we are happy to say that it all worked out beautifully.  The plant list for the redesign contained lots of additional natives, such as our native Huckleberry, (Vaccinium ovatum) Sword ferns (Polystichum munitum), Oregon grape (Mahonia), Kinnikinnick, etc., but also a few exotics that work well in woodland settings – Japanese Forest grass (Hakonechloa), Fatsia japonica, and Tassel ferns (Polystichum polyblepharum).

It is shaping up rather nicely, wouldn’t you say? Large drifts of Kinnikinnick to line the walkways…

Kinnikinnick along pathway

The fine, evergreen foliar texture of the Huckleberry, has red new growth that echoes the existing Japanese maples. Drifts of Japanese Forest grass and blue Sedge provides bright spots of color against the massive tree trunks.

Large existing trunks and understory plants

A new waterfall was added. The weepy habit of the grasses is the plant world’s formal nod to the watery rapids.

Landscape design - water fall

Color can be a challenge when adding to existing landscapes during winter, without the guidance provided by the then dormant plants. Landscape design during summer and fall involve a lot less guesswork, in terms of getting the color just right. Don’t worry – it is only July. You still have time! And, because of our upcoming 60th anniversary, our design fees are now 60% off! Can’t beat that!

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