Landscape architect/blogger Thomas Rainer is one of my favorite designers, something I may have mentioned before on this blog. Gardenblogger Margaret Roach is a Rainer fan, too. She sought him out for an interview on her podcast, and it’s terrific. (Transcript here.)
My favorite bits are toward the end, when Thomas offers what I’d call garden-coaching. It’s advice that I agree with and repeat frequently, to anyone who will listen, so I’m passing them along here with some of my own photos to illustrate.
On the importance of the groundcover.
I find inspiration in wild plant communities, which are essentially layered. They usually include a ground-covering layer, a functional layer that serves to resist weed invasion, and hold the ground. In nature you rarely see bare soil at all. In our gardens, we use endless mulch. By continuing to add mulch in our gardens, we’re effectively preventing the plants from establishing a real community there. Once you establish this ground-plane layer, you can really have the flexibility to have the next layer—which is really the design layer. The ground layer holds it together.
On the importance of widening the borders by removing some turf, and how to achieve lushness.
We tend to have too much lawn—we can often change it from wall-to-wall carpeting to more like area rugs. In the places we take out, sometimes adding a low, herbaceous layer between our foundation plantings and the remaining lawn–a little layer–softens a garden so much and helps transition things. You don’t even have to rip out your foundation plantings, but just planting a transition layer maybe 3 or 4 feet in front of them can really help. I also think we don’t use enough plants: Plant more–plant small, and in abundance. Get a tray of 50 of something. More lushness, less mulch.
Yes, please, more lushness!
Lush borders are easy for experts like David Culp.
They can be achieved with a lot less work with just grasses.
Also low-maintenance are all- or mostly-shrub borders.
Above, in a neighbor’s yard before make-over, turf once met the hedge. Today, it’s almost filled with lush shrubs (Abelia) and perennials.
Finally, on the “endlessly tiring debate” about natives and exotics (where? This blog?), practitioners like Thomas need to choose plants that do well, wherever they’re from.
Posted by Susan Harris on July 18, 2014 at 8:09 am, in the category Designs, Tricks, and Schemes, It's the Plants, Darling.
The last decade, as we learn more about the ecological benefits of plants, we are expecting more out of them than ever before: We want them to look beautiful in four seasons, and decorate our landscapes, plus clean our storm water and remove pollutants from our soil; to cool our cities and sequester carbon.