Elegant Design & New Garden Friends
Recently I did some pruning and consulting with a dynamic couple in Poughkeepsie, John and Gayle. Forty years ago they converted a red brick barn into a contemporary marvel of comfort and beauty (John’s an architect).
One of the outdoor design features that really delighted me was this fantastic tiered series of perennial planters in the shade. They create a magical sense of space in the way they greet you on the way into the house. They pleasingly separate the deck and house from the driveway. They read like living sculptures. They get you to consider individual plants closely, but they also provide a harmonious garden at raised bed level.
The whole property is quite shady, so the plants in these planters had to be shade-tolerant. I love that Gayle went with perennials, like foamflower, bleeding hearts, astilbe, and Siberian iris. There are so many interesting and sufficiently cold-hardy shade perennials one can use in planters. She adds impatiens (annuals) in the summertime to fill in when the bleeding hearts melt away.
Digging squirrels are an ongoing nuisance; they love to dig in the fluffy potting soil medium and in doing so, uproot all the new annuals. I suggested putting something spiky in there, like teasel seed heads or prickly barberry and firethorn cuttings. I’m not entirely confident it will work, but it seemed to slow them down when I used this technique years ago.
The thing I like best about the planters was the way they brought Gayle and I into conversation and friendship. Gayle is a retired hospice nurse and a most interesting lady. This is the beauty of gardening; in admiring plants and good design together, and in working together, we connect with other people in a meaningful way. For me, more and more as time goes on, this is what horticulture is really all about.