Tag Archives: Focal Point

Designing with a Point of View

This handsome zen garden demonstrates how you can view it from four sides and have a completely different interpretation of what it represents with each passing angle. One step forward and you might see islands in the ocean, two steps back around the other direction and you may see something entirely different. Other zen garden styles force you to view them from only one angle in an enclosed setting. Each experience is unique and yet the intrinsic reverence for nature and simplicity are both honored by differing views.

This vignette at the Franklin Conservatory was a wonderful example of this same idea for allowing us to experience the garden from many vantage points. The designers used the angles of the walking paths along with the dips and turns to make the most of each particular view. It made a huge difference in how you see the complexity and layers of this gorgeous foliage. That’s saying a lot for this photographer who is VERY close to the ground.
Layers and layers of luscious grasses, conifers, shrubs and specimen trees came together here with subtle color echoes, textural crescendo’s and ethereal color tones that force you to stop and take it all in slowly. These are very large-scale examples obviously, but what can we learn in our own landscapes about how we can make the most of each view-point?
This large garden is a sunny jewel toned mix of color, texture, and layers. While voluptuous lemon-lime toned privet adds ruffles in the foreground, the ribbon of Russian Sage creates an amethyst river that is a complimentary color. The red-ombre effect from hard pruned smokebushes are a delightful larger leaf that brings a marvelous garnet color addition. The point of view, in this case, was broad and deep. There is a hedge in the foreground that hides a colorful foliage and bloom surprise.
Blues and golds or purple and yellow are such happy friends on the color wheel. When you look closely at the entirety of the design from afar, you can’t see this perspective. But, it sure was worth coming up for the close-up! The entire river of Russian sage was underplanted with ‘Samantha’ Lantana, a fantastic choice with that incredibly jubilant foliage. It was like stage lighting for the sage to glow against.
Next time you’re out perusing your garden with a glass of your favorite beverage, force yourself to look at it from angles you might not ordinarily see. From the neighbors view? From the back facing toward the house? From under a tree even! In small or large expansive landscapes, we can all afford to be more open to all of the views, not just the ones we are used to seeing.

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Finding the Spotlight with ‘Sun King’

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Every landscape, large or small needs “focal points” to focus the eye or the viewer’s attention to a particular spot. The focal point element doesn’t want to be competing for attention with anything else. A tree, a shrub or an outstanding piece of garden art are all excellent examples of options you have for creating that point of focus.

But, in shady nooks, the one point of interest that is sometimes the best, is that one singular spotlight plant. That beacon that draws the eye in for a closer look in a less than boisterously colorful location might just be a foliage plant, rather than a flowering plant.

If you like fluffy, focal point plants (say that three times fast) with larger than life personality then Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ (Sun King spikenard) is just the plant for you. It’s that golden ray of sunlight in the cooler shade garden. A late season star, it gains momentum from July through fall, growing taller than wide at 6ft. by 3ft. in part sun to light shade. This plant also boasts blooms that are SO reminiscent of the white, fireworks shaped Fatsia flowers at a time when many perennials and shrubs are winding down. ‘Sun King’ makes beautiful purple, bird-craving, ornamental fruits in the fall too!

The photo above illustrates beautifully “Why This Works” so well because it shows this sparkling plant, shining in its best light, both figuratively and literally, as the afternoon sun gets past that mid-day heat, its glow is NOT understated. Its marvelous! But, also because it acting as a standout against the typically “look at me” Hydrangeasthat flank it.

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Happiest in zones 4a to 8b, in part sun to full shade, this relatively new arrival from Japan, is a welcome striking new foliage option for gardens both large and small. The one I bought last year for this container will be moved into a larger container for this summer to gain some size before I find its optimum home in the landscape.

This super star plant would love to be surrounded by other shade loving perennials and even evergreen shrubs too- just none that are too dinky or they will get none of the spotlight from the King.

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Photo courtesy of Plant Delights Nursery, Inc.

Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ (Sun King Spikenard)

– See more at: http://www.plantdelights.com/Aralia-cordata-Sun-King-for-sale/Buy-Sun-King-Spikenard/#sthash.EOAkserL.dpuf

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Photo courtesy of Plant Delights Nursery, Inc.

Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ (Sun King Spikenard)

– See more at: http://www.plantdelights.com/Aralia-cordata-Sun-King-for-sale/Buy-Sun-King-Spikenard/#sthash.EOAkserL.dpuf

Focal Points with Foliage

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Trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and container designs with foliage as the focus is a design paradigm that is finally gaining the attention it deserves. This lovely Weeping Willow planted at the Bloedel Reserve outside of Seattle is a great example of how much forethought went into this view many years ago.

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However, a focal point created with foliage doesn’t have to be something planned out 50 years ago. You can have a sophisticated foliage combination by your front door that adds drama to a shady entryway and provides a transitional and versatile, season to season container.

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A showy fall container on your back deck or patio to brighten up a gray autumn or winter day is an appreciated focal point element in many climates.

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A path designed with lush foliage and texture as the focus might just be leading you to a WOW factor, view or vignette at the end of the path.

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September 2011 Scott & Dina Ferris Balcony 026-001

Or maybe that foliage focal point IS your entire design. 🙂 So, how do you use foliage in YOUR focal point designs?

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