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Smart Garden

Connecting the house and garden

House and garden

When I first visited the site in the winter of 2010, I was immediately struck by the site and the possibilities began to enter my mind's eye. My clients built a beautiful, contemporary home on a clearing with wide open views to the surrounding woods. Surrounding the house is a productive blueberry farm, pastures for livestock and outbuildings to support the farm. Big properties call for big ideas, and big budgets are needed to execute a big idea. Over the next few years, we were able to facilitate this magical transition without extensive and costly hard changes to the site. We did this by moving plants to center stage.

Know your lines

The "living lines" created by the arrangement of plants not only connect the house to the landscape, but also add a unique flair to the natural environment of the garden. Using large numbers of the same or similar plants also helps keep maintenance to a minimum. Early on, I learned that my client loved the look and feel of grasses. This was a great find because they were a perfect fit for the job at hand. We set out to create a simple hardscape garden, using gravel paths and steel edging to define the lines of the garden. In addition to being budget-friendly, gravel made sense because of its organic, casual vibe.

Common plants, extraordinary beauty

In the lower garden, a simple but effective tapestry of four flowering perennials continues the color story started by woodland perennials with shades of pink, purple (light and saturated) and blue. Taken as a whole, they represent a delightful variety in flower forms: the daisy-like flowers of the coneflower; Simple five-petalled flowers from geranium; Crimson Spears of Persicaria; and sedum dense, rounded clusters.

Plenty of grasses earn their keep

To maintain a balance among perennial players, some should be checked while others should be encouraged. For example, 'Firetail' persicaria grows quickly and has a tendency to crowd out the most sluggish members of the tray, so it is usually divided to allow enough room for others to thrive.

Imposing this discipline does not mean closing the door to options. For example, even though we use a variety of grasses, if you start taking care of one, you know the training for the others. We used Japanese forest grass (Hakonegloa magra, zones 5-9), but we chose two varieties: straight species and 'Areola' (Hakonegloa macra 'Areola', zones 5-9) for different effects. Using a golden 'areola' in a large, grass-like swath would have been too much: too showy, too yellow. But straight species perfectly convey what we're going for—a calm, flowing sea of ​​green, moving with the wind. In another area, a yellow glow on the forest floor. Two grasses, same maintenance method - this allowed us to achieve similar but non-sam results

Simple yet stylish

We kept the overall palette of plants as small as we could while still achieving the desired effect. A key consideration was how the garden was going to be maintained, so I chose fewer plants for the client to learn and understand. Although low maintenance is a priority, we approached the design with our eyes wide open, knowing full well that no garden is "no maintenance."

Because of their proximity to natural areas, we excluded plants with known bad habits, and none that are at risk of invasiveness were considered. Daily fuss doesn't happen, so we haven't included any plants that require deadheading, staking or high-touch codling. We embraced the concept of aging for the grasses and perennials on our plate, choosing plants for the balance they exhibit as they mature. Perennials such as coneflowers and sedges and large lawns are allowed to senesce naturally – the seed heads are left in place. The reward is that some of the garden's most memorable moments take place in late autumn, as the low, dim light illuminates the grasses from behind.

Autumn joy sedum

Name: Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’

Zones: 3-9

Size: 18 to 24 inches tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; average to dry, well-drained soil

‘Merlot’ purple coneflower

Name: Echinacea purpurea ‘Merlot’

Zones: 3-9

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; average to dry well-drained soil

‘Firetail’ persicaria

Name: Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’

Zones: 4-8

Size: 3 to 4 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; medium to wet soil

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