Integrate Your Plants
Vegetables and herbs have a place in the flower garden. Brian Minter uses herbs to edge his beds and borders, and he’s especially partial to variegated mint because it arrives early and stays late. “In the garden, integration is the key,” he says. The mint’s aroma wafts on the breeze when visitors brush against it, and the chefs in the garden’s restaurants snip sprigs to flavor the day’s fare.
Play Up Texture
Pay attention to foliage texture, as well as color. Here, for example, purple heuchera makes a lovely contrast against ‘Burgundy Glow’ ajuga and gray-blue stones.
Put Trees and Shrubs in Pots
Don’t think container gardens are limited to annuals — you can use trees and shrubs to make a bold impact. Here, for example, ferny Sorbaria ‘Sem’ is a stunning partner for burgundy-leaf Red Majestic hazelnut.
Plan for a Grand Entrance
Two spruces stand ready to usher visitors into a hillside garden of slow-growing conifers and alpine plants. The evergreens are just big enough — about 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide — to play hide-and-seek with the meandering path that leads to a vine-covered garden folly.
Leave a Spot to Enjoy Your Garden
“Gardens aren’t just about planting, pruning, and weeding,” Brian says. “They’re magical places, and there should be reminders along the way: pretty vignettes and little escapes.” Whether they’re used or not, a decorative table and chair invite contemplation. The invitation stands: Come, sit awhile, and smell the flowers, listen to the bird song, and watch the grass grow.
Grow Fragrant Herbs
Plant herbs in window boxes and containers so you can place them by your kitchen door or next to the grill so you can snip and tuck them into salads, soups, and sauces. They’re a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.
Create Drama with Plants
Big, bold Gunnera is at home by a wooded stream and waterfall, adding drama and dimension to this garden vignette. Brian uses the oversize perennial — it grows to 8 feet tall and 12 feet wide — to alter the scale of things, sort of like adding a skyscraper to a cityscape. Astilbes and skunk cabbage enhance the scene with their foliage.
Let Nature Be Your Guide
Brian carved out an alpine pond in a hillside where frogs and toads join the chorus of birds splashing in the shallow water. “The trick is to work with the setting so the pond and plantings look natural,” he says. Brian does so with lady’s mantle and cotoneaster in the foreground and alpine firs and weeping Nootka false cypress in the background.
Don’t Forget Containers
In early spring, long before the garden bursts into color, Brian pots up containers that bridge the seasons with bright foliage and subtle textures. He starts with a weeping hemlock, then adds a euphorbia or two. Next comes a sampling of Heuchera‘Marmalade’ followed by a streak of Sedum ‘Angelina’. “With foliage like this, who needs flowers?” he says. He does tuck in a few violas — but mostly for his chefs to toss into springtime salads.