Thursday, May 18, 2006

CURTAINS UP! How to Make a Grand Entrance

The Wind Blows Hard against this Mountainside.........
purple_stapler: Blows. Hard. Heh. Heh. Heh.

Who will ever forget the electricity in the air when the opening notes to Kyrie filled the concert hall during the IT or when the chaser lights on the mother ship signaled the grand entrance for Where the Streets Have No Name? Making a theatrical impact, creating an exciting first impression is important for setting the charged environment for a concert experience.

Short of having Clay Aiken standing at the edge of my property as guests arrive, I will never get that same kind of reaction from my garden design.

purple_stapler: Wouldn’t FlatClay do? Also, electrical fences are great a creating charged environments. *hides FlatClay adorned with lei of blinky lights*

It sure would save me a lot of work though. I'd bet two front row tickets that no one would even notice the weeds or the dead moles the cat dragged to the door.

purple_stapler: Well, I hear that naked is the new black this season. Did you hear that, Clay?

purple_stapler ‘accidentally’ gets smacked over the head with gardening trowel wielded by beauzz, and makes a grand entrance to where the streets have no name.

As I watched the initial episode from the West Wing first season the other night, I was reminded as to why I got so hooked on this show right from the start. What a stunning introduction to the characters and visual energy of one of my all time favorite shows. What a way to make a grand entrance.

How do we create drama in the garden? The elements and principles of design that are applied to the stage are equally important for creating an impact in the garden. Think overall composition and the way each plant relates to each other in shape, size, texture and color. If we take a look at the elements of design, we can come up with a few examples as to how these principles can be used to advantage in the garden to help create an overall visual impact. These are just a few of my favorite combinations picked up from friends, magazines/books, garden shows, experimentation, gut reaction and pure luck. I'd love to hear about your favorite plant combinations that make a dramatic impact in your garden. I imagine they'll end up being my favorites as well!


When I began gardening years ago, I tended to choose a plant by flower color instead of foliage color. Any shade gardener will tell you the visual impact comes from the contrast in foliage rather than the flower. As the song goes, it ain't easy being green (all the time), so a great way to liven up that overall garden composition is to place high contrast colors to compliment the palette of your garden. I particularly love a well placed burgundy (perennial: barberry bush, coral bell, Japanese Maples, purple sage / annual: Persian shield, coleus) and chartreuse (in various hostas, Japanese iris, ferns, Hakonechloa grass, groundcovers). Even basic green comes in a variety of shades from the gorgeous silvery blue-green of Russian sage to the variegated beauties of euonymus.

When it comes to flowers, my favorite annual combination for sun is tall leilani blue ageratum (18" high) combined with fire and orange profusion zinnias. The large drifts of Van Gogh inspired complimentary colors pop in a sunny garden. These two annuals look great from May to November and never need to be staked or deadheaded. They are also disease resistant.

My favorite shade combination is the iridescent quality of Persian Shield combined with a cool palette of impatiens in roses, pinks, purples and white.

For perennial high key color drama, drifts of periwinkle blue Russian sage looks striking combined with yellow-orange Rudbeckia


Foliage seems to have endless possibilities for contrast in texture, size and shape. You can achieve a dramatic effect by including plants that vary and contrast sharply in height and form. I love mixing and matching textures and shapes with my hosta collection ( there are literally hundreds of varieties in every size and color imaginable) to create a contrasting and dramatic effect in the shade garden. My favorite hosta "companions" are hokenowia grass, spotted Pulmonaria, grasslike Liriope, bright green lacy textured ferns, arching Solomon's Seal, bleeding heart and varigated Jacob's ladder. Chartreuse (sedum), silver (lamium) and burgundy (ajuga) ground covers create a snap, crackle and pop and tie the whole shebang together with rhythm and unity.

No one will ever be standing on a lawn chair or craning their necks to get a better view of my "grand entrance", but a few well chosen plant combinations can create a visual impact for the garden that all will enjoy. There is one thing that a well designed garden and a certain red headed singer with a smoothly textured Voice by the name of Clay Aiken have in common...

.... they leave you wanting more.

Please share your garden "vignettes". ;)

*beauzz collects thoughts, hostas, and prone body of purple_stapler*

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The ConCLAYve-Nan said...

Yeah, point and counterpoint - waves to purple_stapler. My gardens are more the shabby-chic colors of white, pale pink, purple, blue and some pale yellow. I wish I had a bigger area so I could do some of the "hot" colors. One place I always put bright plants is in the whiskey barrels by the garage - those orange zinnias you like so much, marigolds and pansies. It's so cheerful when I pull up to the house. Our barrels are falling apart but they are so heavy we haven't gotten around to replacing them. And it's been taking us so long to drink all that whiskey!

Divayenta said...

What a gorgeous garden you have. My talented hub ( with me as co-designer) created a focal point fish pond with a Japanese maple draping over it in our tiny backyard. Because we back onto a culvert with a line of trees and snags, we have a rich , birdy scape behind the pond. A crab apple tree is on the other side of the pond. In the shady area are lotsa hosta and some native ground cover. To the left, stands of black-eyed susan with my personal fave, coneflowers. They really bring the butterflies! Coming closer to the house is a gorgeous pink crepe myrtle when in bloom. Ilove the bark of crepe-myrtles. Several bird feeders on the myrtle. Then you come to a low deck with pot gardens on it. Our main feature in front was influenced by years of living in Germany- window boxes filled with ivy geranium which cascades out throughout the summer. Hi everyone!

CB said...

My way to a gorgeous garden is kiss up to ex neighbor who runs a nursery and have a husband who likes to plant things. I've been known to kill a plastic plant.

Ah, the West Wing how I will miss it. I wish it was on one more season so Clay could do a cameo. He is friendly with Kristin Chenoweth and you think Brad Whitford would put in a good word after Clay's Emmy clothes raised $16,000 for their Clothes off our Back charity.

And because I am a total famewhore, I will remind you that I called the Kyrie opening before the first show.

geekette said...

With all the green thumbs here, next time that "certain red headed singer" comes to Raleigh, we should gather the gardeners and go to the which is quite near "Dort Narina".

Thanks for the push - I need to put a little more thought into what I'm sticking in the ground.

Pink Armchair said...

I wish I had some "garden vignettes!" But thanks for the pretty pictures...I'm thinking of getting some window boxes for my back porch and giving it a go...

Anonymous said...

Whoohoo! Gardening, The West Wing, and Clay Aiken in one place! This is my kinda blog. Thanks for creating this. I love reading about other's gardens.

I have found lamium stands out nicely amongst the greens and floral colors, too. Here's a pic of some in the foreground, with roses and not yet blooming gladiolus and coral bells in behind/beside it. (the lamium and other plants immediately around it are in a raised section of the yard and garden...they are not really almost as tall as the roses behind them.)

Nelle's roses

That's my gardening shed in the background. There's glads and tall dahlias in a small bed in front of it, and they make a spectacular show in the summer. On it's left, accross a small flagstone patio, there's a rambling yellow rose on a double trellis that creates a little shady spot I like to sit under and read.

beauzzartz said...

Nelle!! Your yellow roses look striking with your blue painted shed. Utilizing painted structures to compliment plants is an artform itself. You're going to have to update that picture as the summer progresses so we can see those glads in bloom!

geekette: maybe we can drag Clay along to a vegetable show? Hee. Thanks for the link!

my nature buddy diva! You're going to have to put up a picture of that beautiful imagery you created with your words. And she sings too!

CB and pink....try it, you'll love it. It's really QUITE addicting. Next thing you know you'll be collecting "plack".

I'd like to thank conclayve-nan for finding pictures to go with my garden plants. I'll get my own pictures up once I figure out how to do that. :) And as always, thanks to purple_stapler for providing "color commentary".
*waves to p_s*

Thank you all for sharing!

The ConCLAYve-Nan said...

Hey Beauzz - was that your Academy Award for best garden blog speech?

beauzzartz said...

OMG,I forgot to thank all the little people who made this possible! How could I forget the garden gnomes??

TheClayBlog said...


oh dear. What's the opposite of green thumb? That's me. I do have success with weeds though. Lots of success.

~ YSRN ~ said...

No one will ever be standing on a lawn chair or craning their necks to get a better view of my "grand entrance",
If I cough up a little garden angst, can I smut this?

Ok, seriously, your design descriptions are amazing. I don't really have a big design plan, but I do plan out each little section and, as you mentioned, I do it based on flower color. I'm getting better at shrubbery. I need to be because I really need some garden anchors and I have LOTS of sun. I tend to do things visually rather than by the book... I kinda make things up as I go -- the same way I cook. Some might call it living by the seat of my pants. I call it spontaneity. Hee. Drove my mathematician father insane, while my artistic mother loved me best. She did. Really! ;)

The cool purple paired with the HOT orange makes me swoony! It's like a hot, spicy curry with a dollop of sweet, refreshing yogurt on top. Mmm.

*waves to p_s*

TechnoGeekGirl said...

That would be BLACK thumb, and I definitely have it. ;-)

beauzzartz said...

BWAH! ysrn. You know you don't get to view the "grand entrance" until you've made a few overtures.

The cool purple paired with the HOT orange makes me swoony!

You mean like when Clay wears that HOT orange shirt with the purple lighting dusting the top of his hair? Like that? Oh, your'e talking about plants.

You techno geniuses crack me up, sooner or later you'll get in touch with your inner gardener. *g*

Tsathy said...

Tsathy like toadlilly.

Long shapely green leaves, just like Tsathy. Leaves fuzzy for extra cuddliness.

Has delicate flower, just like Tsathy.

- T

Tsathy said...

Tsathy took moment and came back.

Tsathy give link to toadlily.

purple_stapler said...

technogeekgirl and theclayblog - you may have a black thumb, but there's nothing that a bit of green paper (or plastic) won't cure.

1. It is never your fault that the plant failed to live. It is the plant's failure, not yours. You are blameless.

2. To assuage any (forbidden) feelings of guilt, use your green to buy more plants.

3. Go to the nursery, and select plants with names or appearances that appear to you. (If people do that at a wine store when they start out, why not plants?)

4. Obviously, the more green you use in plant procurement, the better the chance of the plant succeeding to live (the baby plants are easier to rear than the seeds, etc.)

5. Also, if you adjust your plants expectations accordingly during the initial planting, your plants may realize that they are their own best hope for survival. Makes them less co-dependent and needy.

I personally love lamb's ears. Pale green and fuzzy. So not what a plant is supposed to look like.


Spotted Dead Nettle!OpenDocument

Blood Grass!OpenDocument

Or go by theme - Dragon's Blood with Maiden Grass!OpenDocument&Highlight=0,copper

*waves to nan and ysrn*

Vox Vixen said...

I'm going to try that ageratum/zinnia combination. It sounds really lovely. Here in Texas, it is so hot that many flowers do not do well. I'm fond of the blue New Wonder and the orange lantana.

theresa4624 said...

Another black thumb here! Good thing I live in an apartment. I am thinking about getting one of those window herb gardens, though. I really want to grow some basil, cilantro, parsley and thyme. Everyone tells me it's a no-brainer, but this is me we're talking about. Any hints??

aloil said...

Dang...I've obviously been doing it all wrong. I wasn't using the foliage color at ALL. I was trying to match up the salmon color in my plastic flamingoes with the purple of my grape hyacinth, and the rust on the old 1956 Ford with the yellow of the daisies. *hangs head*

Maybe this time if I use foliage as a guide...

Off to dig it all up and start over. Again. *wilts*

P.S. p_s I LOVE lamb's ear. The flowers aren't all that, but how can you not like a fuzzy leaf that is THAT soft. It's almost like having a plant pet. Although if it is a pet, I probably shouldn't be pulling it's ears off so often. Heh.

beauzzartz said...

theresa, go with the garden kit. I received one of those herbal gardens for Mother's Day and the basil is already popping out of the soil.

Aloil, keep working with that flamingo. kitsch is kool! Wrap a stylish Clay Aiken pashmina around the neck to compliment all your favorite garden plants.

Seriously, I saw in one of my garden magazines masses of lavender and perennial geraniums planted under the hood and trunk of a classic car. I definitely would say his mileage does vary. *g*