Thursday, May 21, 2009

Garden Design 101; The White Garden

Designing a garden is something that quite a few gardeners find difficult to do but it isn't, really. Today I'd like to blog about how I designed my front garden on what was quite an unprepossessing and impossible plot to start with.
This is how the front garden looked originally; a few humongous shrubs pushed against the front wall of the house and a bit of law with a very narrow path leading up to the front door. Boring? Definitely! Ugly? Without doubt!
As you can see the front garden is (when looking at it from the side) a very long and narrow strip of land. How to turn that into a garden that looks both good and interesting?
Let's start with the basics. That narrow 2 feet (60cm) wide path looked ridiculous as the front entrance is 6 feet (180cm) wide. So a new path was laid that is just as wide as the entrance. Makes sense, doesn't it? And, because there was no height to the garden, a pergola was added which also ties in the garden to the house and makes the transition from inside to out much more gradual.
During many months of the year you are enveloped in a cloud of rose fragrance as soon as you leave or enter the house, courtesy of rosa Madame Alfred Carriere and rosa Guirlande d'Amour.
Underneath the windows on both sides of the entrance paths were laid as well for easy access for window cleaning and the odd paint job. Then a berberis hedge was planted to keep the dogs from using my garden as a toilet as they really don't like those sharp thorns and also because it ties in so nicely with the surroundings. If you look closely at the pic above (click to enlarge) you see another berberis hedge across the street. In the third pic from the top you see a nice tree in the same colour as the berberis hedge. When designing look what is there and use it in your own design if you can.
Then rectangles were made using box. Why rectangles? Take a good hard look at the house, it's pretty rectangular, wouldn't you say?
And it's not only the house that's rectangular in shape, just look at how that wall to the right of the entrance is divided into 4 rectangles. On the right 4 rectangles of box were made and 2 on the left.
Perhaps you have heard of that old hoary chestnut that you should always use uneven numbers to make things look good in the garden and, as I've just admitted, I most certainly did not; I went for even numbers. I had to because otherwise the rectangles would be either too big or too small. But still it works. How? Well I may have 2 rectangles of box on the left but there are also 3 gravel paths there so 2 + 3 = 5 which is an uneven number.
On both sides of the path to the front door I made 2 borders. In spring they look very colourful in pink, blue, yellow, white and purple but come summer everything is white. In autumn they are brimming with colour again. I love white but not the whole year round.
Spring in the front garden
Summer in the front garden

Here's the white garden in full swing and it looks great. White is such a great colour to use in the garden, making it look a bit dreamy, romantic, ethereal. So, a white garden has only white flowers in it, right?
Wrong! You have to smuggle in a bit of colour here and there to keep it from being very flat and boring. I've planted all the rectangles up with white flowering plants and in the middle I've bunged a pyramid in every bed for a climbing rose to climb over. In one bed I've planted rosa Sombreuil, a lovely and very fragrant old white rose.
Rosa Sombreuil

But is she really white? On closer inspection perhaps not so much.
On the pergola Madame Alfred Carriere is flowering her socks off for many months of the year. The colour of her fragrant flowers is either a very delicate light pink or white with a pink blush.
This bed is planted up with Gillenia trifoliata that flowers white but it has red stems and a reddish tinge to the leaves. So the trick with a successful white garden is to smuggle in some other colours but be subtle about it.
Mother Nature was less subtle this year. I had sown some foxgloves last year that were supposed to be all white but there appear to be a few purple ones too. I'll leave them for now as they look so good but I will remove them before they can sow their seeds. The white ones will be free to self sow all over the place.
I'll leave you with the whitest rose I have in my white garden, it's rosa Blanc Double de Coubert. I love her delicate flowers that look like tissue paper, her very pretty leaves and, very important, her absolutely wonderful scent. It's a joy to work near her as her fragrance fills the air; it's a lovely rose scent with a hint of pineapple. Scrumptious! This year it was this rose that unexpectedly won the race of the roses as she flowered first on April 23.

copyright 2009 Y.E.W. Heuzen


Sylvia (England) said...

Yolanda, I have always admired your front garden whenever you have shown us pictures. The story of how you achieved it is very interesting and instructive, thank you. I am glad I am not the only one with problems of dogs - I am also putting up a small hedge along the side (also open plan and by the road) officially I am not allowed a hedge in the front but I am considering it! Owners still let their dogs in via the front path!

Best wishes Sylvia (England)

Web said...
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NewShoot said...

Amazing! I had imagined your front garden to be huge from the photo you had been showing at the head of your blog. Just shows how good design can be really can we see the other bits in detail please!!!

Arabella Sock said...

You could read a hundred books on garden design and never come across anything as informative and interesting as this post. It just makes all those ideas so real and easy to understand. A lovely post and a lovely front garden.

jacqueline said...

Mooi zeg zo die rozen bij je voordeur. Ik krijg er helemaal inspiratie van.

Dirt Princess said...

WOW!!! You have done some outstanding work there. It looks amazing!

Kathy said...

I like that you considered future house maintenance in your design, by providing an access path. I never considered matching my plantings to those of my neighbor's. I don't think I would let it be the determining factor for a design, because your neighbors could rip out their current plantings at any time.

EB said...

Very, very interesting and helpful, thank you. And all in your chirpy, breezy style which makes it so much more enjoyable! (That makes is sound like a canary who's eaten too many beans, sorry)

stadtgarten said...

Your front garden looks really wonderful!
Groetjes, Monika

Lisa at Greenbow said...

It is interesting seeing how your front garden came about. You have addressed all the oddities and the problem of the bad dog owners. You front garden is beautiful

Glo said...

What a difference your changes have made to the whole character of your home! I think the pergola was an especially brilliant addition, offering a beautiful and fragrant entryway and at the same time adding dimension. What type of boxwood have you chosen? I'm heading outside to take a look at the front of my house! Thanks so much for your enlightening post :) Looks lovely.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

* Sylvia: it's nice to know that you admire my front garden. Good luck with your hedge! I'm shocked that dog owners would still let their dogs into your front garden via the front path, what an appalling lack of manners!

* New Shoot: grin, you now know that my front garden is very wide but not very deep. ;-) A good design can trick you into believing something to be much bigger than it really is and, of course, taking pics from certain angles also help in making unsuspecting blog visitors think it's much bigger than it actually is. ;-) Hmmmmm, you want to know it all, don't you? ;-)

* Arabella Sock: I do the explainy thing pretty well or so I'm told. Glad it made sense!

* Jacqueline: beter inspiratie dan transpiratie. ;-)

* Dirt Prinses: thanks!

* Kathy: it pays to be practical and maintenance is something we all have to do from time to time.
There are several reasons for taking a good hard look at what your neighbours grow in their gardens. What thrives in theirs will probably also perform very well in yours as you have the same soil. Over here people do not tend to rip out their front hedges any time soon, they seem to be rather fond of them. ;-) But that purple leafed tree was more of an inspiration to use a purple berberis hedge and that tree doesn't stand in anybody's garden so it will probably be there for a very long time as even the city counsel have to get a permit to chop down a tree.

* EB: giggle, I quite like that canary full of beans thingy. ;-)And I also like that this post has been helpful and interesting too to you.

* Monika: thanks!

* Lisa: with a good design you can make an awkward space less awkward. And it certainly helps that I trained as a designer albeit an interior one. But space is space, whether it's inside or out. ;-)

* Glo: yes, I feel the same. My house looks much more friendly and inviting now than it did before. A front garden, a good one that is, can really enhance the appearance of your house. The box I used is buxus sempervirens.

Take a good hard look at the front of your house and start designing, it's really not that difficult once you know how and you do now. ;-)

Hanneles Paradise said...

Nice photos. Design is difficult, not my thing ;)

healingmagichands said...

Hi Yolanda. I truly enjoyed this post, it was informative and inspirational. I guess I have done "planning" before and will again, but my planning sort of ends at the structural shape of the beds. After that, I tend towards complete chaotic disorder with a very informal cottage look. It allows me to enjoy the vivid colors I love so much.

Every once in a while I think about creating a "White Garden" or a "Pink Garden" or a "Blue Garden", and then reality hits and I say "Nah." I'm not sure I could stay within the discipline of one color even when it is good to add other colors for contrast as you suggest. Still, the effect is wonderful. Maybe I should strive for some discipline.

Hmmm. Maybe not.

Mindy said...

What a beautiful transformation in your front garden.

I love the idea of the white garden... I am *trying* to do a green & white garden... but some seeds didn't sprout and other plants reverted back (like your foxglove). I guess mother nature is the real gardener. We are just the care takers. Thanks for the lovely photos!

A wildlife gardener said...

I think you have created an amazing front garden, Yolanda :)

You have cleverly designed something for all seasons which compliments the shape of your house :)

There is a very well-coordinated colour scheme, with fragrance and beauty as well as order and balance :)

The story is full of inspiration; and you have managed to create height and dimension within a relatively small area :)

The use of box hedging is clever too. You should be invited to design one of the small gardens at Chelsea :)

Gail said...

Dear YE, I know I posted here earlier, but sometimes blogger misbehaves...I did have a brilliantly written comment that said something along the lines of ~~"This is a great post; it's very instructive. Were where you 15 years ago when I started expanding the garden!" Have a delicious weekend~~gail

easygardener said...

Fascinating post. I enjoyed it particularly as the area was such an odd shape yet the final result is so attractive. Dogs - so unrefined, unlike cats!

Aiyana said...

You've turned it into a beautiful oasis! How long did this process take?

Marian said...

Wat een énige voortuin was het oorspronkelijk, daar gaan je handen van jeuken!
Waar is de wedding day terechtgekomen, oook in de witte tuin natuurlijk!

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

That was one great explanation. I liked how you explained about tying your landscape to that of your neighborhood. That way, it looks like it goes with everyone else's.~~Dee

Annie in Austin said...

A most excellent post, Yolanda - your sleight of hand has worked, because most of us thought that garden was much bigger. I can see how you get more texture and dimension by using slightly different shadings of white for the roses and then get depth with the dappling under the pergolas. Wonderful!

I don't know if we'd be allowed to build something that close to the street in my subdivision - we're not even supposed to have any fences or hedges in the front yard.

Bloggers like MSS of Zanthan Gardens or Vertie live in the Central part of Austin and they don't have these restrictions but subdivisions toward the edges of Austin run into them.

Wish I could fence dogs out of the whole front yard and try to make a garden of white flowers, as you did.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Ewa said...

Dear Yolanda, this is great designing lesson. We share so many things alike :)
I planned exactly same thing with digitalis - pink ones will fly away! white ones will stay - I love them!
Have a great weekend,

LadyLuz said...

So lovely, as usual. Ours is mainly a hot garden, as you know, but the splashed of white oleander, geranium and buddleia have such a cooling effect.

Would love some foxglove seeds to try if you have any going spare.


econcept infotech said...
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EJ said...

Your garden is lovely! Have you ever thought about adding garden decors like wind chimes and garden spinner? They add a bit of pizazz in any garden space.