Design basics for annuals and perennials | VailDaily.com
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Design basics for annuals and perennials

Staff Reports

Creating maximum functionality and aesthetic beauty in gardens (annual or perennial) requires a thoughtful design that considers several basic characteristics.Successful garden designs include both physical and visual characteristics of plants. Part one of this column focuses on the physical elements of plants. The next column will concentrate on the visual characteristics of plants.The most obvious, eye-catching physical trait is color. Colors can influence a design by attracting attention, influencing emotions, creating atmosphere or producing special effects. Color schemes can either create harmony or contrast. Harmonizing color themes create a smooth, uniform look that is pleasing to the eyes. Using contrasting color combinations of complementary colors creates accent in a garden. The complementary color pairs are yellow and purple; green and red; and blue and orange. Complementary colors are most successfully used in a two-to-one ratio. A popular annual combination of colors from last year was yellow South African daisies (Osteospurnum) with dark purple petunias.The second element of physical design is form. Each type of plant takes on a unique form due to its shape and structure. Plant forms include round, globular, oval, pyramidal, upright, weeping, spreading, horizontal or irregular. A common example of form would be a Colorado Spruce. The tall, blue-green needled evergreens used extensively in landscapes are pyramidal. Proper use of forms can create, define, enhance or mold the perception of a garden.The last element, texture, is often overlooked the planting process. However, it should not be discount or lost in your design. The tactile and visual character of the physical surfaces determines a plant’s texture. Changes in texture add another dimension to a garden. In a perennial bed, add dimension by mixing textures of plants. For example, try to combine a variety of textures like irises, artemesia, and grasses instead of using all broad-leaved plants. In annual pots or beds, use at least one variety of foliage plant for additional texture. Examples of interesting foliage plants include Dichondra argentea, Coleous hybrids, or Perilla magilla.In landscaping, planning cannot be neglected or you will end up with a hodge-podge of random, individual plants living next to each other in the same space. To create a truly stunning landscape, it is essential to remember design basics. The proper use of the physical elements of color, form and texture will enhance the aesthetic pleasure of your garden for many years to come.– Stacey Kay Helm is nursery manager at SHC Nursery and Landscaping in Edwards, and has a B.S. in Landscape Horticulture from Colorado State University.


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