You probably know of What Not To Wear, where some poor schmuck has her (or his) wardrobe made over from scratch. I just realized that one of WNTW’s tenets applies to gardening. More on that in a sec.
My revelation came about because Sarah and I recently joined Blotanical, a great online directory of garden bloggers from around the world. If you’re looking for a blog about gardens in your area (Toronto Gardens, for example), Blotanical will help you track them down. Plus, with hundreds of bloggers to choose from, you can find ideas that work anywhere. For bloggers like us, it’s a way to learn from other gardeners’ insights and expertise.
My idea was sparked by a post from Blotanical founder and webmaster Stuart Robinson of Brusselton, Western Australia. In his blog Gardening Tips ‘n’ Ideas, he writes: Don’t plan your garden at the nursery. Stuart sagely warns that you shouldn’t step into a nursery without a garden plan. He compares it to a hungry person grocery shopping without a list. You’re sure to glut on the garden equivalent of premium chips and chocolate.
I’ve been there. As a matter of fact, I think I was gorging there just last Sunday.
Yet, some of us are too inexperienced or our dreams too fluid to have something so logical as a plan. So here’s my thought, straight out of What Not To Wear: Think outfits not pieces.
• If you’re overwhelmed by the big picture, break your plan into smaller units: let’s call them outfits.
• Each outfit would have elements of threes or fives – classic flower arranging numbers. See, less overwhelming now.
• Before you buy that plant you’ve fallen for, think how it will work with other pieces in your garden, old or new. Consider the shape, colour, texture and size of plant, flower and foliage, as well as the bloom times, and of course (horti)cultural compatibility.
• The goal is to create individual garden pictures using these elements. Focus on one picture or outfit at a time. Once it’s working, move on to another, keeping in mind how it will work with what you already have.
• Think about a main focus and accessories. It doesn’t always have to be plant material.
The photo of a neighbour’s garden that heads this post is a lovely example. The flaming orange tulips and purple irises provide great simultaneous contrast, softened by the variegated euonymus foliage. Anchoring the picture with something big or strong, perhaps an upright form to accent the many horizontal lines, might have created an even stronger outfit.
An overall garden plan is certainly the wise way to go. But, failing that, you can start one step at a time. Create effective garden outfits, and eventually you’ll have a whole, coordinated wardrobe. One that suits you, and your garden.