Theme Gardens

Timeless theme garden

Springtime is here, and it’s time to fill your yard with flowers. Want to get a little more creative with this year’s landscaping? Consider combining some of the thousands of plants that thrive in Georgia to build a unique themed garden. “The important thing is to match the personality of your home, complement the natural terrain and choose a theme that is conducive to your lifestyle,” says Avi Moyal of Atlanta Curb Appeal, Whether you prefer a peaceful Japanese garden, a compact container garden or a cottage garden that overflows with color, there are endless options for bringing an artistic look to your yard.

Japanese Gardens
Creating a Japanese garden comes down to combining just the right elements, from plantings to hardscapes. “Japanese gardens, historically, were designed to replicate the natural landscape of Japan; an island country, mountainous, with streams and tall trees,” says Lucinda Bray of Floralis Garden Design, “This original theme has carried through to the now common symbolic elements of Japanese gardens.” These elements include water features, rock formations, statues, bamboo, miniature trees and soft moss.

“Water is a critical element in Asian gardening,” says John Kenna of Water, Color & Stone, “Whether it’s a simple fountain or a waterfall with a pool, it’s a must! Large ‘character’ boulders create a feeling of timelessness and a sense that the garden has been there for a long time.” You can add privacy and serenity to your garden by using bamboo and other plantings to screen the area from the rest of the yard. Subtle hardscaping is especially important in Japanese gardens. “The blend of hardscape (stone, sand, statuary) and softscape (trees and small plants) is reflective of the yin and yang in creation – the central theme of a Japanese garden – and exudes serenity and balance in the garden,” says Tina Cook of Shady Grove Landscape Company, You might want to incorporate small fountains, bridges, stone steps and lanterns. If you have the space, a small teahouse or pergola can also add to the Japanese feel.

Overall, keep space in mind. “One of the most important elements is the use of negative space,” says Holly Brooks of King Landscaping, “The Japanese use strong, powerful elements like boulders, lanterns or carefully pruned specimens surrounded by negative space, such as gravel, moss or a low-growing ground cover.” When choosing plants, consider small trees that you keep closely pruned, and surround them with a variety of low-growing greenery.

Container Gardens
If a Japanese garden sounds too tough to tackle right now, think simpler: A container garden will allow you to get creative without spending much time or money. Most garden centers sell ready-made containers already bursting with a variety of plants. If you want to make your own, though, start with a large decorative planter and fill it with a variety of plants. These expert tips will help you get started (see our website for “Building a Container Garden” information):

•    Plant a variety of fragrant flowers with a pop of color. Also, variegated plants are very popular because they offer a variety of colors and will last throughout the year, offering lower maintenance. 
—Avi Moyal, Atlanta Curb Appeal
•    Mixing textures and varying the heights of plantings creates interest in container gardens. Don’t hesitate to add small rocks or an interesting piece of lichen-covered driftwood for interest, as well. 
—John Kenna, Water, Color & Stone Inc.
•    One of the most popular container gardens is edible. It doesn’t have to be tomatoes – herbs such as a rosemary centerpiece with edible nasturtiums for color and some trailing chocolate mint is a beautiful combination. Try Jerusalem Artichokes or Red Mustard with pansies in the fall. 
—Holly Brooks, King Landscaping
•    A great container plant that can sustain cool temperatures is parsley. The texture is nice and goes great with pansies and tulips. Plus, in the springtime, the Swallowtail caterpillars (soon to be butterflies) love them. 
—Mark Schisler, Legacy Landscapes,
•    If you want a low-maintenance container, try succulents and arid region plants such as Sedums, Yucca, Agave and Delosperma. —Betsey Norton, Going Green Horticultural,

Cottage Gardens
For those who love bursts of color and lots of variety in the garden, a cottage garden might be the right choice. “The origin of cottage gardens is based on the old English traditional design that depends more on charm and massive planting and less on the formal structure,” Moyal says. It’s very common for cottage gardens to combine ornamental plants, which can be used for cuttings to create flower arrangements, with edibles like vegetables and herbs. The plants are arranged very close together to give the impression of abundance. “Cottage gardens of yesterday and today have the common thread of appearing to burst at the seams, so lush and full that another plant couldn’t possibly fit, but at the same time not messy or overgrown,” Brooks says.

Choose an area of your yard that gets plenty of sun, and start planting! Often, people will sow a cottage garden in a spot where they can view it from a window or porch, especially since it’s likely to attract birds and butterflies. Trellises are an elegant addition, too, and they offer a place for vines to grow. Some of the plants that landscapers enjoy using in this type of garden are: roses, lily of the valley, clematis, peony, foxglove, salvia, butterfly bush, black-eyed Susan, dianthus, yarrow, verbena, hydrangea, catmint, garden phlox, delphinium, snapdragon, mock orange, Siberian iris, boxwood and purple coneflower. A variety of herbs may be mixed in, as well. “Cottage gardens usually offer a burst of color and fragrance while having a sense of organized chaos,” says Ben Hilliard of Selective Designs,

When planting your garden, try marking off the space in your yard with paving stones arranged in a whimsical shape, then fill the area in with a plethora of plants. “Curvilinear bed designs and drifts of plants entice one to take that next turn to discover what that heavenly scent may be or what floral treasure exists around the bend,” Cook says. “What seems to be fortuitous simplicity in the cottage garden is what lends it its grace and charm.”

Timeless Themes
Many other garden themes are also popular in Georgia. For example, you might try a classic Southern garden, which is lush and full of heavily flowering plants like hydrangeas, gardenias, azaleas and boxwoods. Or consider planting a monochromatic, color-themed garden that focuses on your favorite hue, from pink to yellow to green. “We recently did a white-themed garden, with Becky daisy, white astilbe, white drift rose, white alyssum and white perennial salvia, and it was very soothing,” Schisler says.

If you don’t want to take on a full vegetable garden, plant a small kitchen garden made up of beautiful edibles. “I plant ‘blooming salad bars’ every fall and spring,” Kenna says. “The foliage from the carrots and parsley is wonderful by itself and when planted alongside broadleaf herbs and flowers.”

Butterfly gardens are also popular, attracting not only butterflies but also small birds. Try filling this type of garden with Buddleia davidii, butterfly bush and Echinacea species coneflowers. If you love sweet scents, create a fragrant garden with plants like the Osmanthus Fragrans fragrant tea olive and the Calycanthus Floridus sweetshrub. It’s also simple to create a native-themed garden. “Native plant gardens highlight Atlanta’s rich array of native plants that are adapted well to our soil and climate,” Cook says. And for the night owls? A moon garden that’s filled with fragrant plants and white flowers that capture the moonlight will be a special treat in the warmer months.

Remember, you can always pick your own theme based on colors, textures, outdoor accessories and more. “To create and maintain a themed garden, choose plants that you are excited about, and integrate your personality into your garden,” Bray says. “Add a piece of art, a homemade bird feeder, or mix some vegetable plants into your garden palette to make your space both beautiful and functional.”

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