I have designed and installed many lovely perennial gardens. Many of clients ask for lots of color and variety, with plants and shrubs able to provide interest throughout three or four seasons. I penned the term "Jewel box gardens" for these delightful gardens, packed with color and texture. Here are a few examples of recent garden installations.
Endless Curb Appeal
This garden took over the entire front yard of small Victorian home in Jamaica Plain. We removed the turf, amended the soil and the planted several dozen plants including perennials and small shrubs. The plant list for this garden includes Baptisia australis (False blue indigo), Artemisia schmidtiana (Silvermound), Heuchera (Coral bells), Hakonechloa macra (Japanese forest grass), Platycodon grandiflorus 'Fuji Blue' (Balloon flower 'Fuji Blue'), Hosta 'Mouse Ears,' Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost,' (Siberian bugloss 'Jack Frost'), Ajuga reptens (Carpet bugleweed), Geranium sp. (Cranesbill), Paeonia lactiflora (Peonies), Astilbe sp. (False spirea), Anemone x hybrida (Fall-blooming anemone), Spirea thunbergii 'Ogon' (Spirea), Hemerocalllis x 'Rosy Returns' (Day lily 'Rosy Returns), Sedum spectabilis 'Autumn Joy' (Stonecrop 'Autum Joy'), Actea simplex 'Brunnette' (Baneberry 'Brunnette'), and Alchemilla mollis (Lady's mantle).
The plant palette contains plants which flower from early spring to early fall, with some providing foliage with good fall color and winter interest.
The backdrop to the garden are foundation planting containing shrubs which give an array of color throughout spring summer and fall - viburnum, lilacs, rhododendrons, azaleas, and peonies.
This client has an informal stone wall that rises above a backyard patio. Filling the interstices with plants - flowering perennials, ferns, and succulents - created an instant garden at eye level. Plantings were chosen to provide 3 or even 4 season interest. Some of the plants chosen include Thymus serpyllum (Breckland thyme), Sagina subulata (Scotch moss 'Aurea'), Scabiosa columbaria 'Pink Mist' (Pincushion flower 'Pink Mist'), Santolina rosmarinafolia (Lavender cotton), Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam' (Threadleaf coreopsis 'Moonbean'), Dianthus grantianopolitanus 'Firewitch' (Cheddar pinks 'Firewitch'), and Sempervivum x 'Red Rubin' (Hens and chicks 'Red Rubin.')
Edge of the Meadow - A Garden for Pollinators
This front yard garden bed has the feel of a small meadow with grasses, sedges and tall arching flowers. This client wanted bold colors like yellow and orange, as well as hardy meadow plants like goldenrod and milkweed. Flowers in this garden include Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly weed), Spirea japonica 'Candy Corn' ('Candy Corn' spirea), Echinacea x hybrida 'Red Ombre' (Cone flower ''Red Ombre'), Liatris spicata 'Kobold' (Blazing star 'Kobold'), Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima' (Fall anemone 'Robistissima'), Geranium x cantabrigienses 'Karmina' (Perennial geranium 'Karmina'), Filipendula rubra 'Venusta' (Queen of the Prairie 'Venusta'), Rudbeckia fulgida 'Viette's Little Suzy' (Black-eyed Susan 'Viette's Little Suzy), Veronia longifolia 'First Lady' (Longleaf speedwell 'First Lady'), and Crocosmia sp. (Orange Monbretia).
A Departure from Traditional Foundation Plantings
The foundation garden areas of this small Cape were a blank canvas when I came on the scene. The clients wanted something different from the ubiquitous suburban foundation plantings, yet they wanted an understated design. They did not want plants and shrubs that would grow out of control over the years and hide the front of the house. They wanted some evergreen plants but not the traditional yews and rhododendrons.
Here Steed's holly provides a soft conical shape and something different from boxwoods. The variegated red twig dogwood provides winter interest as well as white flowers in the spring, nice foliage in the summer and berries in the fall. This Mountain hydrangea cultivar 'Tuff Stuff" has upright, light pink flower panicles. The sedge cultivar 'Ice Dance' provides a soft, spikey texture against the leaves of the deciduous shrubs. Japanese forest grass mimics flowing water; its yellow foliage adds a nice contrast against the other plants. Hosta cultivar 'Fire and Ice' provides delicate blue flowers on borne on tall spikes in mid-summer.