Design & Decor - Design Ideas

Special effects for your garden

Company coming? Garden not up to par? Try these quick ideas

Last summer, I impulsively agreed to let members of the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta tour my garden. They were having their annual meeting at Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario, and wanted an afternoon of diversion. I must have been out of my mind. It was August and my garden looked like the abandoned site of a drive-in movie theatre. I needed to stage an intervention to draw attention away from the dismal scene. Here's what I did.

Close for comfort
Put your best-looking plants and pots where you can see them: close to the house and seating areas. Why plant tree peonies in the back forty, when your guests can enjoy them as they sip wine on your patio? It pays to groom these high-traffic areas first, too. This needn't be labour-intensive. I have a pretty planting of Canada ginger, sweet woodruff, hostas and lady's mantle (and 'Jack Frost' Siberian bugloss, shown above) near my outdoor dining area. It looks good with minimal care from May to October.

Cheater plants
At least once a week, I check out new arrivals at the garden centres. Just before the AABGA members arrived, I picked up delicious ‘Sutherland Gold' and 'Black Beauty' elders (Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland Gold' and S. nigra 'Black Beauty') and put them on a pedestal in a ho-hum area. Propped up on bricks, their dazzling colours and leaf shapes lead all eyes away from the past-their-best perennials.

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