One of my favorite Italian dishes is lasagna. There is nothing like a well made lasagna dish: layers of carefully selected cheese, pasta and meat sauce along with spices make for a fabulous eating experience. Well… functional and beautiful garden designs are very much like that great piece of lasagna….carefully selected “layers” for a unique and rewarding all season visual experience.
Garden designs have transformed remarkably from the straight green line of foundation plantings I grew up with. In fact one of my favorite garden renovation projects is taking mid 20th century evergreen foundation plantings and transforming the area with colorful all season layers of interest. The old taxus hews and standard rhododendron straight line plantings no longer have the appeal they once did.
In creating the “layered” design, it does not have to be difficult and certainly can be functional and sustainable. But you must approach the project with eyes open to a number of elements. Your site and specifics will dictate just how much layering you can achieve. But don’t be limited by space. Last week I took a 3×4 foot area in a mature boxwood configuration, had to quickly insert a focal to replace a winter kill boxwood I gambled would come back this season. With a total of 9 perennials in that space I created a “layered” garden accent that really catches your eyes amid a sea of green while enhancing an existing garden sculpture.
Keep in mind your optimum visual vantage point for the garden. That may mean that the visual flow is tilted in a rectangular space. It may also mean you have multiple vantage points to consider. In a recent design we had to consider a 360 degree visual for a water garden. Very challenging and a very different perspective than straight line planting between sidewalks and foundations. In addition to working height elements…. tall in back flow…I like to add the element of seasonal bloom to my layered garden. Consider how you want that flow to transpire given the bloom time of the plant.
And finally I like to add different elements that offer a “surprise” layer in the garden, upright or ground level…these give your garden the “unique flavor” that sets your recipe apart from others.