A Gardener’s Design Tips

As a gardener I believe in creativity and a personal style. I am not a fan of any boundaries. Garden design is an art form and should express the talent of the gardener or creator. But there are always the natural restrains and plants have different requirements. So knowledge and experience are valuable and necessary to succeed at least in a long-term. To arrange a garden bed is much like being a composer writing a symphony. There are some things to take into account when arranging a garden bed. In this post I share my design tips.

A Gardener's Design Tips | My Green Nook

Basic research

First of all we got to get some perspective. Do some basic research to find out what you are dealing with. The choice of plants will be the next step after you sorted out the following questions below:

  • The surroundings – look around what kind of houses or buildings and other gardens is present in the area, does the garden have a history, characteristic of the period the house and garden was built, nature which native plants grow here
  • The location – what preconditions do you have taken garden zone, microclimate, soil, sun/shade into account
  • The purpose – for what are you going to use the area, what is next to the garden bed, is it a place for the kids to play, a relax or a social area (like a dinner place), edible (food production), entrance/passing by
  • The flow – are there other constructions, natural lines or a beautiful view to take into consideration. From where will you see the garden bed
  • Maintenance level – how much work/how much time do you want to spend
  • Seasonal value – when will you use the garden, which time of the year will you see the garden bed most. For example a home garden, a summer-house and a school have different seasonal needs regarding bloom, fruit and winter decoration.

Choice of plants

As you may have noticed there are some descriptions of the plants that repeat in my gardening posts. Like solitaire, ground-cover and so on. This is one way to divide plants in which is very useful when you are about to arrange a flower bed. These characteristics tell use something about how the plants grow and is vital to the composition. You may use all or pick a few depending on the purpose and look you strive for. I will describe the most common characters and list some examples to give you a picture.

Choice of plants. Garden Design | My Green Nook

Weaver, Group builder, Ground-Covering, Pop-up. Photo Credits in the end of the post.

Solitaires: Are plants with a striking feature often tall and architectural. They draw the attention and speak with capitals. These are standing by themself or in smaller groups, often of three plants.
Yucca filamentosa – Adam´s needle
Some species of Miscanthus sinensis – ornamental grass
Topairy shaped plants or bonsai

Weavers: Are airy, delicate, cloud-like plants which gently weaves themself in among other plants. Holding together and softening the structure of the arrangement.
Thalictrum delavayi – Chinese meadow rue
Knautia macedonica – Macedonian scabious
Gaura lindheimeri – Indian feather

Group builders/colonizers: Are often growing in rosettes or bouquet-like shapes creating a group of flowers. Some may slowly spread by creating new groups and become colonizers. These often make the base/mass of the arrangement.
Echinacea purpurea – purple coneflower
Hemerocallis – day-lilies
Lavandula angustifolia – lavender

Ground-covering: Rugs or matt-like spreading plants preferably quite dense. Most are low, some are evergreen with no showy flowers which can have its advantages. These makes the boarders smoother and hold the arrangement together like a rug creating an island under the furniture.
Vinca minor – dwarf periwinkle
Asarum europaeum – European wild ginger
Galium odoratum – sweet-scented bedstraw
Some species of Geranium – cranesbill
Most species of Thymus (for example Thymus serpyllum) – thyme

Pop-up plants: Often biennial or plants moderately spread by seed. These are popping up here and there making the arrangement dynamic and shifting over time.
Verbascum thapsus – great mullein
Angelica gigas – purple parsnip

This is one way to start working on a plan for a garden bed. Next time you look for plants in literature, at a nursery or garden center keep this in mind. See if you can find plants from each group.

Which tools and guidelines do you use when designing your garden or arranging a flower bed?

This post was previously published in two parts during the A-Z Challenge read the originals in K as in Kolkwitzia and Y as in Yucca. Curious about more plants? Check out the challenge by clicking the link above.

Happy Gardening!

Floral Border


© The photos are licensed by Creative Commons and some rights are reserved. License Attribution 2.0. Photo credits as follows:

Knautia macedonicaStefano
Echinacea purpurea – free
Thymus serpyllumKingsbrae Garden
Angelica gigasChris Kreussling

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Z as in Zinnia

Z as in Zinnia. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Asteraceae

Genus: Zinnia

Species: Zinnia elegans

Common names: common zinnia, youth-and-old-age Swedish name: zinnia

Zinnia is a genus of annuals, shrubs, and sub-shrubs native to scrub and dry grassland primarily in North America, with a few species in South America. Members of the genus are notable for their solitary long-stemmed flowers but some have a lax habit with spreading stems that mound over the surface of the ground. The flowers come in a variety of bright colors and a wide range of appearances, from a single row of petals, to a dome shape. Zinnias seem to be a favorite of butterflies, and other pollinators like hummingbirds. Making them valuable as wildlife plants in the garden. Zinnias are a desirable companion plant, benefiting plants that are grown with it. A number of species of zinnia are popular flowering plants, cultivars and hybrids are common. Their varied habits allow for uses in several parts of a garden.

Zinnia elegans is an annual flowering plant grown in the summer. It is one of the most familiar zinnias. They are popular garden flowers for many reasons. Wild Zinnia elegans is a desert plant found in Mexico. Garden varieties may escape and naturalize.

Zinnia flower. Z as in Zinnia. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Zinnia

Description: Zinnia elegans has hundreds of cultivars in many flower colors, sizes and forms. Flower colors range from white and cream to pinks, reds, and purples, to green, yellow, apricot, orange, salmon, and bronze. Some are striped, speckled or bicolored. There are single, semi-double, and double forms and even pom-pom forms resembling dahlias. Sizes range from dwarf to about 1 meter tall. The smaller varieties can be grown in containers.

How to grow: Zinnia elegans is grown in fertile, humus-rich, and well-drained soil, in full sun with good air circulation. They grow best in dry, warm, frost-free regions, and are drought-tolerant. Deadhead spent blossoms to continue flowering. They will set seed each year so make sure you collect some. Propagation by seed.

Wrap-up of the A to Z bouquet

April has passed by and the final post is now written and hopefully read. I have made a category for all my posts published during this month, called A to Z challenge. There you will find all the plants from the Amaranthus to the Zinnia. If you search for a recipe or a craft just search for the category in the sidebar. I hope you will stop by and pay a visit even though the challenge of 2015 is finished.

Thank you! A to Z Challenge

I want to thank the participants of the challenge for sharing your posts. I have found a diversity of blogs and bloggers from all around the world. Which have been enriching and joyful. I have a lot of catch up to do since it was impossible to read every post and visit every blog during this month.

Thanks to the hosts and team behind the challenge for your response and a well administrated challenge. I had so much fun.

I am also thankful for every visit, like and comment. My gratitude is beyond words.

Participant 613 – over and out!

 


Challenge completed…

Y as in Yucca

Y as in Yucca. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Asparagaceae

Genus: Yucca

Species: Yucca filamentosa

Common names: spoonleaf yucca, filament yucca, Adam’s needle Swedish name: fiberpalmlilja

Yucca is a genus of 40-50 species of perennial shrubs and trees native to the hot and dry (arid) parts of North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. They grow in rosettes of evergreen, tough, sword-shaped leaves and produce large terminal panicles of white or whitish flowers. Some species have stems (tree-form) on which the old dry leaves are collected to protect it from the heat and water loss. They frequently store water in their thick roots. The channeled leaves of a yucca direct dew and rainfall water to their roots. Yuccas are among the first plants re-colonizing after wildfires. They have a very specialized, mutualistic pollination system, being pollinated by yucca moths (family Prodoxidae).

Yuccas are widely grown as ornamental plants in gardens. Popular as architectural plants providing a dramatic accent to landscape design. Many species also bear edible parts, including fruits, seeds, flowers, flowering stems and more rarely roots. Yucca filamentosa is native to the southeastern US. And is one species I know to be grown outdoors as a perennial in the southern parts of Sweden.

Yucca filamentosa - Adam´s needle. Y as in Yucca. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Yucca filamentosa – Adam´s needle. Photo: Carl Lewis ©

Description: Yucca filamentosa is a usually stemless evergreen shrub with blue-green, elongated leaves with thread-like filaments along the leaf margins. The nodding bell-shaped creamy white flowers grow on up to 3 meter tall stems in long terminal panicles. They bloom in summer. It creates suckers which sustain the growth. Y. filamentosa is widely cultivated in mild temperate and subtropical climates as a broad-leaved evergreen plant. Some cultivated varieties are ‘Bright Edge’, ‘Ivory Tower’ and ‘Color Guard’. They attract butterflies.

How to grow: Yucca filamentosa is fully hardy, though in cultivation it benefits from a sheltered position away from winter winds and moist. It thrives in well-drained, dry and warm sandy soils in full sun. But it tolerates partial shade. It is suitable as a solitaire in the rock or gravel garden or in mixed boarders surrounded with lower plants. It can also be grown in container but then it needs winter storage in shelter from frost. The leaf rosettes wither after the bloom and make room for the suckers. Remove spent flowering stems. Overall it needs low maintenance. Propagation by seed or rooted suckers.

Garden design part II – Choice of Plants

As you may have noticed there are some descriptions of the plants that repeat in my posts. Like solitaire, ground-cover and so on. This is one way to divide plants in when you are about to arrange a flower bed. These characteristics tell use something about how the plants grow and is vital to the composition. You may use several groups or pick a few depending on the purpose and look you strive for.

Garden Design part II. Y as in Yucca. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Weaver, Group Builder, Ground-Covering, Pop-Up.
Photo credits in the end of the post ©

Solitaires:

Are plants with a striking feature often tall and architectural. They draw the attention and speak with capitals. They are standing by themself or in smaller groups, often of three plants.

  • Yucca filamentosa – Adam´s needle
  • Some species of Miscanthus sinensis – Ornamental grass
  • Topairy shaped plants or Bonsai

Weavers:

Are airy, delicate, cloud-like plants which gently weaves themself in among other plants. Holding together and softening the structure of the garden bed.

  • Thalictrum delavayi – Chinese meadow rue
  • Knautia macedonica – Macedonian Scabious
  • Gaura lindheimeri – Indian Feather

Group builders/colonizers:

Are often growing in rosettes or bouquet-like shapes holding together as a group. Some may slowly spread by creating new groups and become colonizers.

  • Echinacea purpurea – purple coneflower
  • Hemerocallisday-lilies
  • Lavandula angustifolia – lavender

Ground-covering:

Rugs or matt-like spreading plants preferably quite dense. Most are low, some are evergreen with no showy flowers which can have its advantages.

  • Vinca minordwarf periwinkle
  • Asarum europaeum – European wild ginger
  • Galium odoratum – ssweet-scented bedstraw
  • Some species of Geranium – cranesbill
  • Most species of Thymus – thyme (for example Thymus serpyllum)

Pop-up plants:

Often biennial or plants moderately spread by seed popping up here and there making the garden bed dynamic and shifting over time.

  • Verbascum thapsus – great mullein
  • Angelica gigas – purple parsnip

Did you miss Garden design part I? No worries, here it comes:
How to arrange a flower bed

Garden Relax. Y as in Yucca. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Do not forget to relax and enjoy your garden.


© The photos are licensed by Creative Commons and some rights are reserved. License Attribution 2.0. Photo credits as follows:

X as in Xerophyllum

X as un Xerophyllum. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Melanthiaceae

Genus: Xerophyllum

Species: Xerophyllum tenax

Common names: bear grass, squaw grass, soap grass, quip-quip, Indian basket grass  Swedish name: björnlilja

Xerophyllum is a genus of perennial plants native to North America. There are two species, X. asphodeloides and X. tenax, both are monocots and closely related to lilies.

Xerophyllum asphodeloides (common names: turkey beard, eastern turkey beard, beartongue, grass-leaved helonias, mountain asphodel). This species grows in the sandy soils of New Jersey pine barrens habitat, as well as oak-pine woods in the Appalachian Mountains. It is threatened by the loss and fragmentation of its habitat and fire suppression. It is considered a popular garden plant, producing spikes of white flowers.

Xerophyllum tenax is an important part of the fire ecology of regions where it is native. It has rhizomes which survive fire that clears the ground. The plant thrives with periodic burns and is often the first plant to sprout re-colonizing burnt out areas.
The elongated leaves were used for basket weaving by the Native Americans. Its fibrous leaves, which turn from green to white as they dry, are tough, durable, and easily dyed and manipulated into tight waterproof weaves. They also braid dried leaves and adorn them on traditional buckskin dresses and jewelry. Today the bear grass are harvested for commercially use in flower arrangements (both fresh and dried) or sold in craft stores for use in arts and crafts as well as home decoration.

I have chosen to describe the bear grass because it is the one I have found out being grown in Sweden. But the description and plant care is mostly the same for both species.

Bear grass. X as in Xerophyllum. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Xerophyllum tenax – bear grass

Description: Xerophyllum tenax is a hardy long-lived solitaire plant with spiky pine needle-like or thread-like herbaceous leaves. It blooms in the early summer carrying small stellar flowers of white at the tip of the stalk like an upright club. The flowers are slightly fragrant. Plant colonies typically only bloom every five to seven years. It grows in a tuft and creates colonies by the spreading rhizomes.

How to grow: Xerophyllum tenax prefers full sunlight and well-drained but moist, rich soil. It can tolerate wet soils. It is important to supply mulch in spring to keep the moist in the ground. Regular watering is needed. Once established do not move. Propagation by seed or dividing in the spring in cooler areas or the autumn in warmer areas. 

Native arts and crafts

Almost every country, indigenous culture, and native folks have their significant crafts. Some skills have been lost over time but some still thrives. It is amazing what we can do with natural materials and the art that can be preformed. Garden/nature crafts belong to gardening and a greener living. If we do it with care and respect. At the ethnographic museum I can stand and study the arts and crafts of long gone people. Mesmerized by the beauty made by hand and few but abundant resources. Have you ever tried basket weaving?

Woven basket. X as in Xerophyllum. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Let your creativity loose. Gather old scraps or whatever you got at home and make a basket. Here follows some tutorials for inspiration.

Tutorials

W as in Wisteria

W as in Wisteria. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Fabaceae

Genus: Wisteria

Species: Wisteria sinensis

Common names: Chinese Wisteria Swedish name: blåregn, kinesiskt blåregn

Wisteria is a genus of about ten species of woody, climbing flowering vines in the pea family, Fabaceae. They are native to the Eastern United States and to China, Korea, and Japan. Some species are popular ornamental plants. Wisteria climb by twining their stems, depending on species, either clockwise or counterclockwise round any available support. They can grow 20 meters high and reach a width of 10 meters. The flowers grow on long racemes, some spieces have scented bloom. The seeds are poisonous and grow in pea-like pods. Wisteria has nitrogen-fixing capability, so mature plants may benefit from added potassium and phosphate, but not nitrogen. Wisteria is an extremely hardy plant that is considered an invasive species in many parts of the US, especially the Southeast, due to its ability to overtake and choke other native plant species.

Wisteria sinensis is one of the most popular flowering vines for home gardens due to its grandiose blossom. But it will only flower after passing from juvenile to adult stage, a transition that may take up to 20 years. Meanwhile it can live for over a hundred years.

Wisteria sinensis 'Alba'. W as in Wisteria. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Wisteria sinensis ‘Alba’ – Chinese wisteria. Photo: Tim Waters ©

Description: Wisteria sinensis is a woody, deciduous, perennial climbing vine native to China. It twins counterclockwise. It can be trained into a tree-like shape, usually with a wavy trunk and a flattened top.The flowers are white, violet, or blue and are fragrant. The racemes bloom in spring before the foliage has expanded. Usually reaching their peak in mid-May (in Sweden in June). The fruit is a flattened, brown, velvety, bean-like pod. It matures in summer, cracks and twists open to release the seeds. The whole plant is toxic if ingested so it is not suitable for playgrounds or likewise.

How to grow: Wisteria sinensis prefers moist well-drained soils. It is considered shade tolerant, but will flower only when exposed to partial or full sun. It grows best in a warm, sheltered spot with something to climb on. A warm wall or pergola is suitable. Chinese wisteria needs to be trimmed and pruned continuously. Cover the basal parts with leaves or hay during the first winter for extra insulation. The variety ‘Prolific’ has a weaker growth and can be grown in container, but it still needs a firm hand to prune it. Keep the container in a sheltered place during winter. Protect it from the worst cold. Propagation is by seeds, cuttings or layers, alternative by inoculation. When grown from seed it takes a very long time before it sets the first flower. So patience is needed though the foliage is a beauty itself. It is a bliss when the first flower burst into bloom.

Wordless – Wisteria

Some plants and flowers need no words. Just one look and you are captured…

Wisteria sinensis fruit. W as in Wisteria. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Wisteria sinensis fruit. Photo: 乌拉跨氪 ©

Wisteria sinensis tree. W as in Wisteria. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Wisteria tree. Photo: Empower Network


© The photos are licensed by Creative Commons and some rights are reserved. License Attribution 2.0

V as in Viola

V as in Viola. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Violaceae

Genus: Viola

Species: Viola odorata

Common names: wood violet, sweet violet, English violet, common violet, florist’s violet, garden violet Swedish name: doftviol, luktviol

Viola is a genus of flowering perennial and annual plants, a few are small shrubs. It is the largest genus in the family, Violaceae, containing between 525 and 600 species. Most are found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, but some are found in divergent areas such as Hawaii, Australia, and the Andes. A large number of species, varieties and cultivars are grown in gardens for their ornamental flowers. The terms viola and violet are normally reserved for small-flowered annuals or perennials. And the term pansy is normally used for annual or biennial large-flowered cultivars which are raised from seed. Cultivars of Viola cornuta, Viola cucullata, Viola odorata, are commonly grown. Other species grown include Viola labradorica, Viola pedata, and Viola rotundifolia.

Viola odorata is native to Europe and Asia, but has also been introduced to North America and Australia. The plant is known as Banafsa, Banafsha or Banaksa in India. Several cultivars have been selected for garden use. The sweet scent of this flower has proved popular throughout the generations particularly in the late Victorian period, and has been used in the production of many cosmetic fragrances and perfumes. Viola odorata flowers and newly sprung leaves are also edible. The flowers, leaves and roots contain vitamin A and C.

Viola odorata - sweet violet. V as in Viola. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook.jpg

Viola odorata – sweet violet.

Description: Viola odorata is a hardy herbaceous flowering perennial. The flowers are aromatic and normally either dark violet or white. The leaves and flowers are gathered in a basal rosette. The plant spreads with stolons (above-ground shoots). The sweet violet blooms in Spring (in Sweden April-May). There are cultivars with pink, yellow, blue and white flowers some are even double/filled. One of my favorites is ‘Königin Charlotte’ or ‘Queen Charlotte’ (and it is not because of the name).

How to grow: Viola odorata prefers a somewhat moist and humus rich soil in partial shade. Fertilization is not necessary. Giving it too much nutrition discourage blossom in advantage of leaves. It is suitable as a ground cover under airy shrubs and in garden beds. It is lovely in a woodland edge or let it grow wild in the lawn. Some treat it as a weed since it easily spreads with both the stolons and seeds in the grass. But to me it adds more value to the lawn.

To sweet to eat?

Violet Decoration Cake. V as in Viola. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Violet Decoration. Photo: distopiandreamgirl ©

The violet was a symbol of fertility and love to The Ancient Greeks, they used it in love potions. Medicinal the flowers and leaves of viola are made into a syrup used in alternative medicine mainly for respiratory ailments associated with congestion, coughing, and sore throat. But the syrup may be used for other purposes too. I remember the small candy boxes with Violet Pastilles we used to get when I was a little girl. The lovely taste lingers in my memory, when I got older I discovered the awesome taste combination liquorice and violet.

Recipes:


© The photo is licensed by Creative Commons and some rights are reserved. License Attribution 2.0


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U as in Urtica

U as in Urtica. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Urticaceae

Genus: Urtica

Species: Urtica dioica

Common names: stinging nettles, bull nettle Swedish name: brännässla

Urtica is a genus of flowering annual or perennial herbaceous plants. The perennial species have underground rhizomes giving them a weed-like growth. Many species have stinging hairs on their green parts and are often called nettles. Thanks to the stinging hairs, Urtica species are rarely eaten by herbivores, so they provide long-term shelter for insects, such as aphids, caterpillars and moths. The insects, in turn, provide food for small birds, such as tits. This makes Urtica valuable wildlife plants.

Urtica dioica is a perennial native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and North America. The species epithet dioica means di (two) and oikos (house) which indicates that the male flowers and the female flowers grow on different plants. Urtica dioica has a long history of use as a medicine, as a food source and as a source of fibre. In Europe nettles are associated with human habitation. The presence of nettles may indicate human and animal influence. Being responsible for elevated levels of phosphate and nitrogen in the soil, providing an ideal environment for nettles. Nettles are the exclusive larval food plant for several species of butterfly.

Urtica dioica. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Urtica dioica – stinging nettle

Description: Urtica dioica has widely spreading rhizomes and stolons, which are bright yellow, as are the roots. It bears small greenish or brownish numerous flowers. The leaves and stems have stinging hairs (trichomes), whose tips come off when touched, transforming the hair into a needle that will inject several chemicals causing a painful sting.

How to grow: Nettles are not usually grown rather seen as a weed. But you may purchase seeds from companies that sell herbal and medicinal plants. Before planting, think twice and chose a patch where you can keep it under control. It needs full sun or partial shade. A moist and nutritious soil. Tilling is the best way to keep it in place.

A weed with many uses

In folk medicine the stinging nettle was used to treat anemia, oedema, diabetes and arthritis. The whole plant was used but the green parts was said to be diuretic, blood building, and a weak lower of the blood sugar. The circulation in the skin was thought to be improved. The active substances are vitamin C, iron and in fresh plants histamine, acetylcholine and formid acid. The stinging nettle is also used to improve the appearance of the hair, and is said to be a remedy against oily hair and dandruff.

The neat spring sprouts can be harvest to eat. The stem can be use to make fibers reminding of the process making flax. Of the fibers a fine fabric was made, called nettle cloth. The root can be used as a natural dye for textiles.

In the garden it is a useful companion plant. Stinging nettles can be used to make nettle water which is used as nourishment feeding it to plants and vegetables.

Recipes:

Stinging nettle pizza. U as in Urtica. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Stinging nettle pizza. Photo: Theresa Carle-Sanders ©


© The photo is licensed by Creative Commons and some rights are reserved. License Attribution 2.0


Disclaimer: Be careful when using herbal remedies since the effects may be uncertain. I don´t recommend herbal medicine as a substitute for school medicine in any way. Always consult the professional health care.

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