Garden walk inspiration: Ideas blossom for next season's designs

January 26, 2015

Geraniums provide a cheerful burst of color against black-framed windows.

We’re taking a walk down memory lane with some special gardens that we visited on garden walks this past summer. Instead of letting these visits be only a pleasant memory, we will put them to work as we plan for a new season of gardening.

Garden walks can be a treasure trove of ideas. They’re usually sponsored by local garden clubs and civic groups. There’s also the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program, the creme de la creme of walks, which provides a peek into some of the most magnificent gardens across the U.S. that are not typically open to the public.

Many organizations have already begun their plans for the 2015 garden walks. Check the website of the Garden Conservancy for its Open Days schedule.

Here are some designs that sparked our imagination.

English country border: Who says you can’t have a touch of England in the States? This mixed sweeping border of perennials and annuals would make any Brit proud. Dahlias, cosmos, salvias, cardoon (a thistlelike vegetable related to artichokes), nicotiana, phlox, thalictrum and roses are just a few of the plants repeated throughout the border so that your eyes are drawn along the sweeping curve. And who wouldn’t want to try his or her hand at the English sport of lawn bowling on this tightly manicured turf?

Theme garden: Victorian gardeners were smitten by flower beds that focused on one color, such as blue, pink or, in the case of moon gardens, all white. This planting wowed us with its lovely pastel palette of blues, purples and mauves. White roses join a host of annuals including several types of salvia, ageratum, petunias, angelonia and Mexican heather (Cuphea). The best thing about using annuals is that you can change the color palette from one year to the next.

Window dressing: Some windows just cry out for a window box, especially those on detached garages that face the backyard. With windows framed in black, glossy paint and backed by lace curtains, this geranium-filled window box provides a glamorous pop of color that lasts several months with minimal cost. More window boxes, please.

Table setting: This delightful collection of plants is elevated to showcase the wonderful sculptural effect and textures of succulents — a group of low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants that include aloe, agave, crassula and echeveria. Think sofa table, only outdoors.

Houseplants on vacation: This vignette shows the wisdom, and beauty, of giving your indoor plants some fresh air. This lineup includes asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’), flowering maple (Abutilon), bromeliad, echeveria and the rose-colored flowers of a new hybrid foxglove (Digiplexis ‘Illumination Flame’).

So remember, past summer’s garden walks yield ideas for next year’s planting