What does design mean to me? And to you?

October 28th, 2010 Posted in garden design

Well, look who finally showed up at the party.

Shrimp plant
Last winter’s 14° didn’t kill my shrimp plants, but boy, did it scare their blooming bracts off! This one’s brave enough at last to show the whites of its flowers.

Shrimp plant in shade
I lost a few of the ‘Country Girl’ mums, but most weren’t fazed by FDD (freeze, drowning, and drought).

Country Girl chrysanthemum
My ‘Patrick’s’ abutilon wasn’t thrilled about FDD, but isn’t about to miss out on Halloween.

'Patrick's' abutilon
No matter how carefully we plan our gardens, weather still rules. Just as a stellar plant is at its best, it crashes, leaving a blank hole in our dreams. We move on and modify our design concept. Then we question: is this a design? What is design really all about?

A few months ago, Melissa from Zanthan Gardens and I got together with landscape architect C.L. Williams to discuss the ideas that C.L. and I had been tossing around for this week’s CTG on design philosophy.

It started with C.L.’s observation that there are gardeners who are: 1) plant collectors, 2) plant composers; 3) stylists. And artists, since every garden starts with an artist. It doesn’t matter if you failed 6th grade art class: you’re an artist in your garden.

That’s what I like about it. I’m a dabbler. I don’t fit it into any category except for stretching my imagination.

Cat perch with turks cap
My compositions involve thought to plant needs, heights, textures, seasonal interest, yammer yammer yammer. Often, though, they spring from a beloved passalong or drop-dead passion at the nursery, and I find a spot for the newcomer.

Mambo Maid daylily

Since that’s what it’s like for many of us, we can get intimidated by “designs.” We fall into the black hole of doubt: “Oh my gosh, I can’t do a design.”

But, as C.L. explains on CTG this week, “If you put three plants together, you’re a designer!”  His conversation with Tom captures the true essence of what design means to you.  Get more of his concepts.

On tour, visit one of his designs that reveals the concepts that make a garden meaningful. It can be as simple as a creative border with your cherished rock collection that needs standout recognition.

Rock design C.L. Williams
It can be plants that are significant to you, no matter what anyone else says about them. Really, it’s all about capturing your imagination and doing what makes your garden home to you.

Right now, weeds contribute a design element, including prostrate spurge, especially prevalent right now. This week, Daphne tackles this native euphorbia to spurn spurge from your garden.

Prostrate spurge
Since spring weeds are popping up like crazy, especially in those beds you just worked over for new plants, nab them now! Pluck a few as you wander about, before they overwhelm you when they hit adolescence.

On good plants, comfrey is one of them.  But did you know that it’s also an excellent fertilizer, compost booster, topical healer of wounds, and hair rinse? Trisha explains this week on CTG.

Stevia has become a favorite natural sweetener for people who want to avoid sugar. Trisha explains how to grow it,  how to dry it, and how to make our own calorie-free extracts.  Get her comfrey and stevia recipes.

On plants you DON’T want to eat, but are still fascinating, check out It’s About Thyme’s Hallowe’en Special on Horribly Poisonous Plants at 2 p.m.  on Oct. 31. Master Gardener Amanda Moon will make gardeners of all ages cringe with horror at her tales of the unexpected effects of innocuous-looking plants. Costumes welcome! Free admission.

Plus: if you love the Taniguchi Japanese Gardens at Zilker Botanical Garden, celebrate their 41st anniversary of this gift to the city of Austin on November 7 from 1-4 p.m.  Along with tours, hook up with the Texas Bamboo Society and the Ikebana Study Group. Hear the Taiko Drummers at 2:30, and bring the kids for story-telling.

Until next week, Linda

  1. 14 Responses to “What does design mean to me? And to you?”

  2. By Jeff on Oct 28, 2010

    Beautiful pictures. Great picture of the mums. Great blog with good info.

    TheGardenCloche.com | Protecting Plants From Frost


  3. By Diana on Oct 29, 2010

    Better late than never, right? The shrimp plant is lovely. Mine didn’t come back this spring, and neither did my abutilon. I love the comment about putting 3 plants together qualifying as design — so true! I’m always surprised when gardeners say “I’m not a designer.” Of course they are. Can’t wait to watch the show.


  4. By Cat-The Whimsical Gardener on Oct 29, 2010

    It’s taken me years just to call myself a gardener and even that just seems a little too ambitious a title sometimes! Most of the time I’m still feeling as though I’m at the complete mercy of the environment and just keep trying until something sticks! And then, once you find something that works, your light conditions change! It’s a never ending loop but I LOVE it! So full of possibilities and challenges and hope for a gorgeous garden for wildlife, family and friends ;-)


  5. By Iris on Oct 29, 2010

    As usual, beautiful photos! Gonna have to break down and get an Abutilon soon. I don’t think I particularly fit any of the three categories, but like other commenters, I can put together three plants. Now if I can just keep them alive…


    Linda reply on October 30th, 2010 4:08 pm:

    Good grief, you have lots of amazing plants! And I’m still astounded at how you got all those vegetables going in the heat. My hat is off to you!


  6. By Bob Beyer on Oct 31, 2010

    Oh Linda, lover of shrimp plants, have you tried Justicia brandegeana ‘fruit salad’. It’s a very colorful cultivar of shrimp plant that brings out contrasting red and yellow colors. Mine also made it through last winter and is blooming like crazy this fall. Having remembered shrimp plant from my tropical days living in FL., I never thought it would be so cold hardy. What a pleasant surprise!


    Linda reply on October 31st, 2010 2:18 pm:

    Oh, I will look for that one. Sounds delicious!


  7. By C. L. Williams on Oct 31, 2010

    I have known and worked with you starting with the Zilker Botanical Garden . Every year, your talent and your artistry have grown with your understanding of gardens as proven by your ctg work.
    Keep growing and learning!!
    Ty cl


    Linda reply on October 31st, 2010 2:17 pm:


    Thank you! You’ve inspired me since the day we met. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, philosophy, and passion.


  8. By Kathleen Scott on Oct 31, 2010

    You’re right. Gardens morph with life, like we do. Cold takes some things away, drought others. Some come back.

    I tend toward your school of design–start with a plan for plants that provide habitat and beauty, then add over time, sometimes by happenstance. It works; helps that I have a high tolerance for ambiguity.


    Linda reply on October 31st, 2010 6:02 pm:

    I love that! High tolerance for ambiguity. You hit my garden right on the head!


  9. By Annie in Austin on Oct 31, 2010

    My Girl Scout sash didn’t have many badges, but ‘Dabbler’ was the one that came naturally, Linda- not sure if that’s my design style but the show sounds interesting!

    I didn’t buy & plant my 2 abutilons and 1 shrimp plant until March 2010 – Patrick’s has made a few flowers, Marilyn’s Choice has been mopey and the shrimp plant nearly died. This week all three have buds. But can we please have a ‘normal’ winter?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose


    Linda reply on November 1st, 2010 3:16 pm:

    That’s a kick about Dabbler for a GS badge. You are now officially awarded one!

    Yes, this has been the most bizarre year. I’m mulching all those kinds of plants this weekend in case we get another bizarre winter.


  10. By Cindy, MCOK on Nov 2, 2010

    After a recent session with my go-to guy for help with the garden, I was feeling very inadequate about my design skills. It sounds like this week’s episode may help me feel better about that!


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