It is only by becoming acquainted with the flowering period of our plants that you can be sure that those you bring together for the purpose of constructing a contrast or color harmony will be in bloom at the same time. They should start blooming at approximately the same time and but periods of bloom should, as far as possible, coincide in length. The effect will be measured in duration by the period of the flower that lasts the shortest time.

By judicious selection of flowering plants, it is possible to contrive that there shall be few failures in this area. Succession is the very keynote of good gardening, for you cannot afford to shorten the period during which flowers are possible, nor can you tolerate empty spaces in your borders, unless you plan on filling them with a water wall fountain, patio statuary, or outdoor waterfalls.

By consulting a seedsman's list you can select your plants and dispose of them so that as the spring blooming plants start to fail, others will succeed them for the summer months, and still others will take their place in autumn. This system of succession, when well arranged, will give you flowers from February to mid-November, thus covering the maximum period during which you are likely to be able to enjoy your garden.

It demands having a method to your choice of flowers, especially when the borders are laid out for a broad color effect, implying that each separate color group must contain plants of which some will always be in flower. In other words, the distribution of early, middle, and late-flowering plants must be over the whole space and in intimate association. Hardy plants alone come within the purview of the garden designer. The effects you can obtain from annuals and bedding out plants belong to the routine of garden management. But the same principles apply with regard to color, habit, period, and succession.

Art should be as much in evidence in the minor details of the garden as in the more important and more obvious ones (garden statuary, large fountains, outdoor water features). Carelessness in small matters may go a long way to undo the results of thought and skill devoted to the main features. Along with understanding the rules of guidance to which you should adhere when planning a garden, you must also understand the "how" and the "why" of these principles.

Although the construction of a garden plan on paper is a necessary preliminary to the practical operations on the site, it will only carry you a certain way toward the desired result. Much of the detail will have to be filled in on the ground. It is in the finishing touches that he may add distinction to the picture, and you should, therefore, study your work as it proceeds, looking for opportunities for minor embellishments and effects in detail.

This does not mean you should look for an over elaborated result, but you should be open to possibilities and not neglect any of the opportunities that may present themselves for an artistic style for your garden. In addition to beds and borders, there are other places where you can introduce charming effects such as large statuary, a wall water fountain, garden waterfalls, or ivy plants. A Virginia creeper, for example, planted at the foot of a clump of small firs can produce one of the most gorgeous pieces of color in a garden, with country residence in the foreground.

In only a short time, you will see that it will clamber up amongst the green foliage and festoon it with graceful sprays. In summer, the foliage will be light green against dark green, but when the leaves start to turn red in autumn, it will be indescribably beautiful. You can obtain a similar effect in a Scottish garden, in which a flame nasturtium (Tropaeolum speciosum) had taken possession of a large straggling elder tree, and wreathed it about with masses of scarlet. Even if the colors you create are by accident, you will take note of them and try to replicate them in other parts of the garden.

By: Allison Ryan

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