The Mountain Gardener: How to create atmosphere in the garden
by Jan Nelson
Sep 04, 2014 | 570 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy of Jan Nelson
Courtesy of Jan Nelson
slideshow
Courtesy of Jan Nelson
Courtesy of Jan Nelson
slideshow
Courtesy of Jan Nelson
Courtesy of Jan Nelson
slideshow
Summer may be winding down, but we still have lots of great outdoor weather to enjoy for several more months. This means more time to spend outdoors in the garden relaxing, entertaining, and cooking on the grill.

I like the relaxing part most of all, so it’s important to me that what I see and feel when I’m out in the garden have an atmosphere that appeals to me.

Here are a few ideas that I’ve used in my own garden, as well as other people’s gardens I’ve helped to create.

Outdoor spaces are just more inviting if they feel like a real room with a ceiling, walls and attractive flooring.

An arbor or pergola is a good way to provide a lid on your outdoor space. If you have natural trees in your garden, they can shield you from the sky in some areas and open up other areas to passing clouds and sun.

You can achieve a similar effect with groups of potted trees that shade your sitting area. Japanese maples, ornamental plums, cherries or crabapple are just a few of the trees that do well in pots. If you like to grow edibles, plant a fig in a pot to provide some shade.

The sounds you hear while in the garden are part of the experience, too. The atmosphere just wouldn’t be the same without the sound of rustling grasses, wind chimes, or birds splashing about in the bird bath or fountain.

Auditory elements can come from the sound of gravel crunching underfoot as you walk or the wind in the trees.

Create the atmosphere you like by using the colors and textures you most admire in your garden. I used to live in a lot of shade, so white, silver, and gold foliage and flowers were really important to bring life to the garden. I still love these shades, but cool blue, baby pink, and soft yellow also appeal to me.

Texture in the garden refers to the overall visual texture of the plants. Large and bold foliage like Flowering Maple, Pride of Madeira, rhododendron, viburnum, oakleaf hydrangea or hosta make a large garden appear smaller.

Soft, fine foliage will make the garden appear larger by giving it the illusion of more space. Examples of finely textured plants include ornamental grasses, Breath of Heaven, ferns and asters. You might use different textured plants in different parts of your garden to get the effect you like.

Blur the garden’s boundaries to make it more interesting. You won’t be able to see the whole garden at one glance if you curve the path behind some shrubs, tall plants or sheer, see-through perennials. Leave some wild areas for the birds and bees to join you. Garden organically and mix in native plants wherever you can to keep the garden healthy.

Creating atmosphere in the garden is the art of combining space and time, light and weather to make a garden that we feel reflects who we are.

It’s different for every gardener — one person might like straight rows of vegetables while another scatters poppies and nasturtiums randomly.

Whatever appeals to you, it should be close to your heart and that’s the atmosphere in your garden that’s right for you.

- Jan Nelson, a landscape designer and California certified nursery professional, will answer questions about gardening in the Santa Cruz Mountains. E-mail her at janis001@aol.com, or visit www.jannelsonlandscapedesign.com to view past columns and pictures.

 

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