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Q: I just moved to a town house – having left behind a fairly large garden. I have a nice sized deck which I know what I will do with but I also have an area which is approximately 20′ x 40′ with fences on both sides which is grass at the moment. My plans is to be rid of the grass and build an arbour of some description at the foot of the garden. I am looking for ideas as to what to do with the space in between. I have several fountains and bird baths which I wish to incorporate into this space. Would you be able to give me a suggested plan for this space? I have not previously gardened with perennials (usually I am a container gardener) but I feel that maybe it is time to experiment with perennials. I live in Northern Ontario – a 4b climate zone.
Think of your garden spaces as an opportunity to provide what I can a ‘stage set’ and use a planting composition to set or compliment the theme for your deck, and garden accessories (like your bird baths). Do your homework and look at images in magazines, books and the internet for ideas that will work with you theme. You will begin to see that certain plants or compositions of plants will lend themselves to a particular look and go with your ‘gut instinct’ as to what works with your vision.
As you are new to perennials part of your homework is to look at what I call ‘bomb proof’ perennials. Perennials that are low maintenance, drought tolerant and aren’t bothered by common pests and diseases. One of my favourite palettes is ornamental grasses. Depending on what you select you can create everything from a contemporary to an English Garden look.
Make sure to repeat the same kinds of plants throughout the garden. This will unify your space and avoid a ‘spotty’ appearance. Plant in drifts of the same species – minimum 3-5 plants per grouping. And like a painter’s palette pick a colour palette. Colour is very psychological and creates a mood or ambience. For example in our garden I have a large outdoor lounge area where chocolate brown wicker couches clad in red cushions and sheltered by red umbrellas play off of the drifts of blue Lavender and gold Rudbeckia. This creates vibrancy, excitement and energizes the space for our outdoor gatherings and parties. In short think of three things:
1. Do your homework and look at images of planting compositions that appeal to you and compliment your theme.
2. Pick a colour palette that works with the theme and mood you wish to convey.
3. Plant in drifts of same plants and use ‘bomb-proof’ plants.