Take Gardening to the Next Level…By Design

A photo of a shade garden


When we take that passion and create a space to entertain, play and relax that is filled with the plants we love, we are taking gardening to the next level, a landscape.

By Steffie Littlefield

(This article was first published in The Gateway Gardener May 2014 issue)

I love being outdoors and experiencing nature, whether it’s in my backyard in U City or at my farm & Vineyard in Potosi. Naturally, gardening is a passion for those who love every aspect of being outdoors. When we take that passion and create a space to entertain, play and relax that is filled with the plants we love, we are taking gardening to the next level, a landscape. Careful planning and design is needed to truly make a garden livable and enjoyable.

Transform a shade garden from a mass planting of hostas under large trees by adding A photo of a shade garden.small trees, shrubs and groundcovers and you define a cozy space . When working in a shaded space the plants should be chosen to want shade and the design kept open to allow airflow. Small decorative trees like Japanese Maples and Flowering Dogwoods work well, surrounded by azaleas, smaller hydrangeas and a blanket of low groundcovers like creeping jenny or ajuga. When trying to hide a view, use the larger English laurel evergreen shrubs, fluffy and flowery oakleaf hydrangeas or large bold Allegheny viburnums. Now add hostas, heucheras and ferns in designated spots for texture and color.

Sunny perennial borders can include early spring blooming bulbs, dwarf conifers for winter interest and a variety of plants chosen for a layering of heights and bloom times. Tall late-flowering Japanese anemones camouflage the not-so-fresh-looking peonies late in the season, and summer-blooming daylilies cover up the spent foliage of early blooming narcissus. Planning gives the border depth of interest and beauty.

A vegetable garden laid out in a pleasing geometric pattern, using trellising for height and herbs and cutting flowers for color and fragrance, is a garden to experience, not just to harvest. Borders of bright marigolds repel pests as well as attract visitors. Decorative obelisks support peas with charming flowers in the spring and cherry tomatoes covered with decorative and delicious fruit in the summer.

Developing a shrub border that includes a mix of fragrant blooming shrubs to attract hummingbirds and butterflies will delight the neighbors as well as provide the homeowner with privacy. Butterfly bush and rose of Sharon will be covered with vibrant flowers and alive with wildlife activity as they block the view.

Add a path whose destination is a seating area or water feature to entice the visitor to explore a woodland garden. Plant colorful drifts of native plants along the way to entertain those who wander towards your relaxing retreat. Virginia bluebells, celandine poppies, bleeding hearts, columbine and cardinal flowers will colonize themselves along the route creating an enchanting journey.

Through careful planning and design the full potential of a garden can be achieved and enjoyed. Take your garden to the next level by creating a space to experience and share. There is more to gardening than just tending, developing a plan will coordinate the various aspects of your landscape and the plants that will thrive there.