|Plant Lighting:||Full Sun, Partial Sun/Shade|
|Max Height (feet):||3-5'|
|Additional Characteristics:||Sub-Zero Rose|
Skilled designers combine plants and "hardscape" (stone, fencing, lighting and decorations), to create a beautiful garden.
Experienced gardeners have no problem deciding when to plant their peas, how deep to put their tulip bulbs, or how much to water their geraniums. But when it comes to garden design, even the most seasoned gardeners begin to sweat. We can spend weeks trying to find the perfect spot for a new shrub; spend an entire winter sketching plans for a new perennial garden; and agonize for years about how to reconfigure the front walk. Why do we find these decisions so paralyzing?
One reason may be that garden design is perceived as the work of experts: landscape architects, landscape designers, garden designers, and landscape contractors. Yet some of the most beautiful gardens in the world were not designed by experts. Sissinghurst, the home and gardens of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, is a perfect example. So, too, are the gardens of Tasha Tudor and Thomas Jefferson. These gardens are the result of an attentive eye, a sensitive hand, and many years of experimentation—skills that are not the exclusive property of design professionals. Our goal in this article is to help you overcome the garden design jitters, and give you the confidence to finally remove that hedge of overgrown yews, install a flagstone path, or decide where to put a water garden.
Some gardeners wouldn't dream of planting anything without having a comprehensive design and planting plan for their entire yard. Others don't think about "designing" their gardens until several years down the road. And still other gardeners never develop a long-range or a short-range plan. They do their planning in the moment, poised with a shovel and a couple of homeless plants.
Which approach is right for you? It depends entirely on who you are and what you are comfortable with. If you have the confidence to forge ahead and follow your intuition, do so! If you feel the need to get some professional advice, then that's the best alternative for you. Both approaches are equally valid.
It is good to remember that there is no ultimate garden design for your property. There are as many different designs as there are gardeners. And even if you had a detailed plan that you executed perfectly, tomorrow would bring a new interest, a new challenge, and a whole new set of design decisions. The trees will mature and turn your sunny meadow into a shady glade. The weeping cherry that anchored your spring bulb garden will die and need to be replaced. You will tire of the cottage garden and develop a passion for dwarf conifers. In garden design there are no "right" decisions. What you have is a delightful (though sometimes unnerving) opportunity to express yourself. The hardest part may be trusting your own intuition, and allowing yourself to experiment as you evolve your own unique garden design.
One of the most valuable design tools is a site plan, or bird's-eye view of your yard. Seeing your garden on paper makes it much easier to identify underlying design elements such as traffic patterns, scale, and symmetry. A professional designer will give you a site plan that is precisely drawn to scale, but your own rough sketch or a survey map will be adequate for all but the most complex landscape designs. Once you have a plan to work from, you can start to indicate the positive and negative features of your yard (trees, shrubs, fences, outbuildings, pathways, views) and natural environmental factors such as light conditions and soil or drainage problems. Pathways and garden areas can be sketched right on the plan. If you enlarge sections of the plan, you can also use it to create your planting map.
Should you hire a professional landscaper or garden designer to help you with your site plan? If you have the means and desire to do so, it will probably be money well spent. Professional advice will always give you a valuable new perspective on your yard and gardens. You may follow their recommendations to the letter, or select only the elements that you find most appealing or most manageable. It is not necessary to contract for a full-scale site plan. Most designers will be very willing to focus their attention on a particular area (like the entryway). One well-conceived and well-executed feature may go a long way toward identifying a design style that you can then carry forward yourself.
What follows is a list of design principles that are common to all the creative arts, whether it be painting, music, literature, or garden design. Don't let them intimidate you. Just use them as tools to help you see.
Style. Every garden has a style or personality to it. Unless you have a very large yard that is divided into distinct areas or "rooms," it can be difficult to gracefully accommodate lots of different garden styles in one garden. Begin by thinking about whether you want your garden to have a formal or informal look. Consider your site, the style of your home, and your own personality. Though you don't have to be too rigorous about striving for a consistent style, you'll want to avoid a jumble of diverse and unrelated elements.
Flow. A garden is more pleasing if there is a logical progression from one area to the next. Think about how you would like someone to view and move through your garden. Paths are one way to connect some of the various parts to achieve a sense of order and cohesiveness. Focal points, such as a piece of sculpture, a distinctive tree, or a captivating view, can be used to draw the eye and pull us forward into a new space.
Scale. Scale is about proportions - how the sizes and shapes of things relate to each other. A 3 x 6-foot island bed floating in a half-acre sea of lawn will be seriously out of scale. The same will be true of a dwarf apple tree located in front of a two-story colonial house. Most scale problems are due to skimpiness, such as beds and paths that are too narrow, or plantings that are too small and tentative. If in doubt, err on the side of boldness and generosity.
Rhythm. By repeating plants and materials, you can produce a sense of rhythm, order, and predictability. Too much repetition is monotonous, but, as in music, variations on a theme are pleasing. You may want to repeat certain distinctive plant materials, such as the spearlike foliage of an ornamental grass or the velvety gray of lavender or santolina. Repeating splashes of color will also establish a rhythm in the garden and help to guide the eye. But don't be a slave to repetition. The best gardens always leave room for the unexpected—a giant pot of agapanthus, a whimsical birdhouse in a tangle of morning glories, or a blood-red rose tumbling over a stone wall.
Symmetry and balance. Humans seem to be naturally attracted to symmetry—toward creating perfectly balanced features. Our bodies are symmetrical, as are the cars we drive, the arrangement of windows in our homes, and often the shrubs that flank the front door. Used judiciously, perfect symmetry can be a powerfully appealing design technique. But when overused it can become stiff and boring. The natural landscape, which we also find visually pleasing, is not governed by symmetry. In nature, something more subtle is at work, something artists and designers refer to as balance. Balance is an essential factor in garden design. It refers to visual weight: a birch clump balanced by a large bed of hosta; a brick pathway balanced by a wide swath of lawn; orange Oriental poppies balanced by deep blue lupines. In these examples, the two elements are not identical in size, shape, or color, but there is a response from each side that balances the other. Successful garden design incorporates both symmetry and balance.
One thing great gardens share is a sense of place. Entering them is like entering a home—you are wrapped in a particular environment that is very different from the world outside. As in a home, the walls, roof, and floor help give a garden its unique character. When designing your own garden, you can use these aspects to create "rooms" in which plants are arranged in a context rather than floating in space.
Walls. English flower borders almost always have a background behind them. In England, this is usually a tall stone or brick wall or an evergreen hedge. The backdrop serves to stop your eye from roving and allows you to focus on the intended view. Most American gardeners don't make use of this very effective technique, and our gardens often get lost in the larger scene. Whenever possible, anchor your garden by placing something behind it: a structure, a fence, or a planting of shrubs. Remember to keep it simple. The objective is to direct the eye to the foreground, not create a competing element.
Roofs. Though there are plenty of very successful gardens that are totally exposed to the sky, most of us are naturally attracted to more sheltered, intimate spaces: a garden that's been carved out of a woodland or is nestled beneath an ancient apple tree. We are, for the same reason, drawn to arbors, bowers, allees, and pergolas. The roof need not cover your entire garden. Including the experience of enclosure somewhere in your garden—it can be as simple as an arbor at the entrance—will help to create that sense of being in a special environment set apart from the rest of the world.
Paths. Paths lead us through a garden and link one area to another. Paths in themselves are an age-old comfort, showing us the way we are to travel, assuring us of a progression that is safe and intentional. The paving material and the way the paths are laid out can help define the style of the garden. A meandering pathway made of flat stones spaced several inches apart will have an intimate, informal feel; a wide brick path suggests neatness and order; a broad path of closely mown lawn conveys grandeur and expansiveness. Paths also create edges that suggest where new plants or even entire gardens could be located.
Plants themselves can be important design elements, though few gardeners actually use them this way. The arching branches of a well-pruned cherry tree can frame an entire garden. The repetition of the spiky foliage of Japanese iris can be used to unify a long border. If you take the time to notice and experiment with the form, texture, and color of plants, you will discover a whole new palette of design elements with which to work. form. This is a three-dimensional consideration that takes into account the shapes and volumes of the plants in your garden.
A variety of different forms makes a garden interesting, but too much diversity can create visual confusion. Trees and shrubs often have characteristic forms that should be carefully combined to avoid clashing. Flowers, too, have characteristic shapes: the rounded heads of alliums, verbena, and globe thistle; the vertical spikes of delphinium, snapdragons, and veronica; the diaphanous look of baby's-breath and Queen Anne's lace; the strong architectural lines of a 5-foot martagon lily. You can experiment by grouping plants with the same form into a drift, or by repeating a pleasing composition of different forms several times.
Texture. Plants have a tactile quality that can be used as a valuable design tool. Think about how the glossy leaves of holly, magnolia, and roses contrast with the suede-like foliage of lamb's ears, heliotrope, and coleus. Or how the fat and fleshy leaves of a sedum differ from the needle-like foliage of rosemary or the quilted leaves of a blue-green hosta. Flowers also provide textural interest. They can be rich and velvety like a rose, or as thin and translucent as a poppy. Even tree bark contributes textural interest - especially during the winter months.
Color. Entire books have been written about using color as a design tool. You can approach color as a technician, using the color wheel to create harmonious combinations, or you can use your own eyes and emotions to guide you in creating the look and feel you want. Combining colors in new and interesting ways offers a lifetime of exciting possibilities.
As a general rule, red, orange and yellow are colors that jump out at you. They are lively and stimulating, and give the impression that they are closer to the eye than they actually are. If you plant too many hot-colored flowers, and don't balance them with cool-colored, less assertive plants, your garden will be a jumble of blaring trumpets. Green, blue, and violet are cool colors. In the garden these flowers create a more soothing, restful feeling, and tend to recede into the distance.
Visiting other people's gardens may be the best source of design inspiration. Take along a camera or sketch pad to capture features that you find particularly successful or appealing. Notice when some of the design techniques described above are being used. Don't be afraid to ask questions about what the gardener was trying to achieve.
Glossy picture books of gardens run a close second for design inspiration. They have the distinct advantage of being available for perusal year-round. Use sticky notes to mark images that capture your attention, then go back and review your choices to see where the similarities lie. Comparing and contrasting different types of gardens can be very useful in helping you decide what sort of look attracts you. If you are gravitating toward a theme garden (colonial, Japanese, Southwestern, English cottage), you'll find dozens of books that illustrate the design features and techniques that distinguish these styles.
Some garden design books include complete planting plans that are theme-oriented, or are specific to a certain type of site. They usually provide a site plan, a planting list, and an elevation drawing that shows what the garden will look like at eye level. You can follow the plan, or pick and choose the elements that appeal to you.
Creative gardeners read garden design books the way creative cooks read recipe books. Don't feel compelled to follow the garden design verbatim. You can lift ideas here and there, and combine them into your own unique expression.
Some purists believe that ornamentation—trellises, furniture, sculpture, and decorative planters—has no place in the garden. Others fill their gardens with so many decorative elements that it can be difficult to find the plants. Used judiciously, the furnishings and decorative features that you incorporate in your garden help give it style and character.
Decorative elements can be characterized as formal, informal, or somewhere in between. This has something to do with what the piece is (a whirligig versus a Japanese lantern), but also what the piece is made of. Fanciful wooden birdhouses and split-rail fencing have a casual, country feeling; whereas a bronze nude or a Grecian urn are more elegant and formal. When choosing decorative elements for your garden, the challenge is to select items that appeal to you, and that will also fit harmoniously with the style you are trying to achieve and any other decorative objects that you already own.
Customer photo by Theresa B. of Fleetwood, Pa.: "The variety of this rose is Honey Perfume. My husband bought me this rose bush last year for our third wedding anniversary present. It is a very special rose bush."
America's most popular flower is also one of the very oldest flowers in cultivation. There are more than 2,000 different rose varieties to lure us with their history and fragrance. This is because the rose, like the orchid, cross-breeds readily—a trait exploited first by nature, and then by horticulturalists. Today, we can choose from old-fashioned favorites, as well as modern varieties that are the result of intensive breeding programs throughout the world. The rose is a flower with a rich past, and an exciting future.
There are thousands of beautiful roses, far more than any of us will ever have the opportunity to see, much less grow. When choosing a rose for your garden, there are five considerations that should make the selection process easier.
1. Growth Habit
Though roses are usually planted for their flowers, it is important to know what the plant as well as the flowers will look like, in order to determine where it will fit in your garden.
Tea roses and cluster-bloomers (floribundas) usually grow no more than 2 to 3 feet high. Their form is coarse, but they do produce an abundance of flowers throughout the growing season. The hybrid tea has large, single blooms on long, stiff stems, whereas the floribunda has slightly smaller clusters of blooms on stems that are not as stiff.
Miniature roses have tiny flowers, and may be only 10 to 36 inches tall. They are ideal for containers.
Shrub roses, including both the old-fashioned and the modern types, and ground-cover or landscape roses, are generally large and leafy.
Climbers grow from 7 feet to 30 feet in length, and most of them benefit from some type of support.
Tree roses, or standards, are roses that are grafted into a tree-like form with a single stem and a rounded bush or weeping display of flowers on top.
Northern gardeners need to know exactly how hardy a rose is. Southern gardeners must also watch to see what zones are recommended for each particular variety, because some roses do not grow well in hot and/or humid weather.
3. Bloom Time
Many roses, especially the old-fashioned varieties, have just one flush of blooms per year. Will you be satisfied with a cloud of heavenly pink blossoms for three weeks in June, or do you need your rose to bloom all summer long? This consideration may narrow your choices very quickly.
4. Disease Resistance
Selecting a disease-resistant rose is the single most effective way to avoid problems and the need for chemicals. You might start by considering some of the old rose varieties, many of which have natural disease resistance. You can also look to many of the modern roses, which are now being bred for improved disease resistance.
5. Stem Length
This may seem like an odd consideration, but it's important if you are growing roses for cutting. The traditional florist rose is a hybrid tea, and it is the only type of rose that flowers on a long, stiff stem. All other roses have shorter, weaker stems, which gives them a more casual—some believe more beautiful—presence in a vase.
Roses are rather particular, and you should be aware of the growing conditions and care necessary to keep them happy.
Site: For most abundant blooms and greatest vigor, roses need to receive 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. In hot climates, they will appreciate receiving protection from the most intense afternoon sun. In cool climates, a fence or a warm south- or west-facing wall can add enough extra warmth to boost flower production and reduce winter damage.
Soils: Roses need good drainage and a rich, moisture-retentive soil, with a pH between 6.5 and 7. If your soil is heavy and wet, you may want to consider planting your roses in raised beds. Compost should be added to create a loose texture with a high organic content. For help correcting a pH imbalance, read Building Healthy Soil.
Water: Roses require more water than most other landscape plantings, especially during the first year as the plant is getting its roots established. The best way to water your roses is with drip irrigation. It concentrates the water at the root zone where it is needed, and keeps the foliage dry to minimize disease problems. A good, thick layer of organic mulch will help conserve moisture, reduce weeds, and encourage healthy root growth. As the mulch breaks down, it will also add organic matter to the soil.
Fertilizer: Roses are heavy feeders, and will benefit from a steady supply of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You can provide these nutrients with either liquid or granular fertilizers, at a ratio of approximately 5-8-5. In most cases, regular applications of compost, rotted manure, fish emulsion and seaweed extracts will provide roses with all the nutrients they need. These organic amendments also help to moderate pH imbalances and stimulate beneficial soil life. Other organic amendments favored by rose growers include greensand, black rock phosphate and alfalfa meal.
Pruning: Dead, weak and sickly stems can lead to disease problems. Pruning these away will increase air circulation to the center of the plant and minimize fungus problems. Pruning also stimulates new growth, and allows you to shape the plant in a pleasing manner. Spent flowers should be removed during the growing season to encourage reblooming. Use a scissor-action pruner for the cleanest cuts.
Winter protection: If possible, select rose varieties that are hardy for your growing zone; ones that can survive the winter with no special protection. In cold climates, hybrid teas and floribundas, as well as some of the smaller shrub roses, will benefit from a little extra insulation.
Once you have had several weeks of below-freezing temperatures, cover the base of the rose with 12 inches of soil or mulch, and then cover the canes with straw, leaves, pine boughs or even foam insulation. Climbing roses can be wrapped right on their supports, or you can lay them on the ground and cover the canes with straw or brush. In severely cold climates, hybrid teas are sometimes partially dug up, laid down onto the soil, and the entire plant is then covered with more soil or mulch.
Pests and diseases: Prevention is the best way to avoid pest and disease problems. Start with disease-resistant varieties, keep plants in healthy condition (well fertilized and well watered), maintain good air circulation, keep foliage dry, and remove any diseased foliage or spent flowers. For persistent pest problems, you can use botanical insecticides such as sabadilla, neem, rotenone, and pyrethrins. These are broad-spectrum controls, meaning they kill many types of insects, both good and bad. Though they are organic, these controls are potent and should be used sparingly.
For caterpillars and Japanese beetle grubs, use Grub Guard or Milky Spore (Bacillus popilliae). Insecticidal soaps, such as Rose Rx are effective against scale, spidermites and aphids.
Some roses, such as Dr. Brownell, are tough and beautiful. Check out the Sub-Zero Roses Collection for more super-hardy beauties.
Can I grow roses in a spot that is sunny for only part of the day? For most abundant blooms and greatest vigor, roses need to receive six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. In hot climates, they will appreciate receiving protection from the most intense afternoon sun. In cool climates, a fence or a warm south- or west-facing wall can add enough extra warmth to boost flower production and reduce winter damage.
My soil is quite sandy. What do I need to do to make sure it's good for growing roses? Sandy soil usually drains well, so you've got a good start. Roses need good drainage. However, roses also like rich, moisture-retentive soil, with a pH between 6.5 and 7. So, you should add compost to create a loose texture with a high organic content. If your soil is heavy (clay) and wet, you may want to consider planting your roses in raised beds.
I've been using a sprinkler to water my roses, but my neighbor says drip irrigation is better. Is this true? The problem with overhead watering is that it can spread diseases, such as blackspot and powdery mildew. The best way to water your roses is with drip irrigation. It concentrates the water at the root zone where it is needed, and keeps the foliage dry to minimize disease problems. A good, thick layer of organic mulch will help conserve moisture, reduce weeds, and encourage healthy root growth. As the mulch breaks down, it will also add organic matter to the soil.
How often should I fertilize my roses? Roses are heavy feeders, and will benefit from a steady supply of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You can provide these nutrients with either liquid or granular fertilizers, at a ratio of approximately 5-8-5. In most cases, regular applications of compost, rotted manure, fish emulsion and seaweed extracts will provide roses with all the nutrients they need. These organic amendments also help to moderate pH imbalances and stimulate beneficial soil life. Other organic amendments favored by rose growers include greensand, black rock phosphate and alfalfa meal.
I've heard that roses have lots of pest and disease problems. Are they difficult to grow successfully? Yes, pests and diseases can be challenging. Prevention is the best way to avoid problems. Here are the key factors: