Introducing Form and Foliage

By Sara Malone
Welcome to a design concept that produces gardens rich in color, texture, form, and even scent – without relying on flowers! If we add that gardens so designed provide interest 365 days of the year with minimal care, doesn’t it get even better? We invite you to look beyond flowers to the joys of form and foliage. Most gardeners focus on flowers and the majority of plants in most gardens are herbaceous perennials. Structure is often sacrificed for mass drifts of color, a legacy of English garden designers such as Gertrude Jekyll. Most gardens languish in winter, as too little attention is paid to year-round interest. Most nurseries, alas, are enablers of this sad state of affairs. Nurseries have the most stock in spring and early summer and most people buy plants when they are in bloom. Gardeners are particularly susceptible to impulse purchases in spring after being cooped up all winter. The result is that many gardens look their best in spring and summer with little fall or winter appeal. In addition to having a long off-season, flowering perennials require at minimum an annual shearing to refresh and clear out the previous year’s growth. Many should be cut back several times during the growing season to look their best. That’s a lot of work and a lot of debris. If you’re tired of your garden’s lack of structure, lack of year-round interest and just plain tired of doing all that work, change your focus:
  • Focus on plants with year-round (or at least 3 season) appeal
  • Choose plants as much for form and structure as for color
  • Choose at least half your plants for fall or winter interest
  • Focus on plants whose cultural requirements are minimal
As our photographs depict, this approach does not mean giving up the color and textural variety that we love. It just means that we can appreciate our gardens more fully through the seasons, and spend more time enjoying them instead of being enslaved by them. Copyright 2011 by Form and Foliage