Transforming a Garden Design with Color, Texture, and Form

Carolyn Black
Adams County Master Gardener

Gardeners must continually evaluate their gardens because they are constantly changing and frequently require some adjustments. You donít have to spend a lot of money to transform a mediocre plot into a beautiful garden. Sometimes it simply involves rearranging plants to different locations to create the most harmonious and effective design. This is what makes gardening enjoyable and challenging.

The first step in evaluating your garden is to look at it through the eyes of others and their perceptions of it. Set aside any garden art from your garden and observe the plantings without any extra adornment. Be your own garden editor and critique your garden. Remove unnecessary plants or those that are struggling. Perhaps a plant simply needs to be relocated to another area in order to survive and thrive.

Take photos of portions of your garden that you think need improvement. Enlarge the photos and analyze your garden. Circle the areas of the garden in the photograph that you would like to improve. Think about the location and if the plantings require full sun, partial sun, partial shade, or shade. Ponder what your garden will look like five years from now. This is very important because a garden changes considerably from year to year. Take your photos to your favorite garden nursery. This will keep you focused on what you need to purchase. Then you will know exactly where your new plants will be planted when they arrive at their new destination.

A helpful suggestion is to take a favorite plant and repeat plantings of it in several different areas. Dividing a favorite plant that has outgrown its space is a great way to do this. There will be no cost involved, and repeating the plantings of the divisions will help unify your landscape design. Select plants with similar foliage to place together to create a harmonious combination. Different types of coleus will create excitement by adding different hues and textures. Grasses will enhance the form, texture and color of the area.

Texture adds subtle beauty to a garden. Rudbeckia looks beautiful not only when in bloom, but also when it goes to seed and adds texture and interest to a garden. Dill strategically planted in a garden can add a beautiful cloud-like dimension. Edibles provide a wonderful source of color. Kales and cabbages are interesting accents in the landscape. Swiss chard (variety "Bright Lights") creates fascination to the setting.

Form and shape are important in a garden. Many computers include a free photo program that removes the color from photographs. This will allow you to visualize and evaluate the form and shape being created and determine what changes need to be made in the landscape. In analyzing your garden design, questions to ask are: Do you need contrast? Is it harmonious and not monotonous? You can then detect texture, form, and any adaptations to be made in the garden.

Color is a powerful tool in your garden. Visualize a color wheel. The primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. The colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel are the most harmonious. Those that are opposite create exciting combinations. For example, yellow and purple flowers are opposites on the color wheel, and they create a sensational blend of color. Be observant of the different hues.

Keep in mind that sources of color can also come from tree bark, plant stems, hardscaping, and artwork in the garden. Bark is an amazing source of color in the garden in the winter months. Examples of this would be a white birch and a red twigged dogwood. The term "hardscaping" refers to inanimate elements of landscaping. Examples of hardscaping would be a patio, flagstone walkway, stone wall, or a deck. Plants and container gardens should complement a hardscape and not compete with it.

Remember that each garden is unique. The most important person to be satisfied with your garden is you because your garden must bring you pleasure. Relish experimenting with the transformation in your garden by investigating the techniques of color, texture, and shape.

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