Lessons from a Remarkable Garden
by Jill Johnson, VCE Loudoun County Master Gardener
From spotting unusual plant combinations to ideas for creating garden rooms, there’s nothing like a visit to Blandy Arboretum in Boyce, VA or the Loudoun County Master Gardeners’ Demo Garden in Leesburg. I recently visited a 20 year-old one acre garden in Fauquier County that has been featured in Southern Living and Virginia Gardening magazines- I left in awe and inspired! The following are lessons learned from this garden.
Lesson 1 is avoid putting a onesie-twosie patchwork of plants. Select a palette of colors and stick to it. Three of a kind is better that one. Linda Hofstetler, owner of the garden I visited, is both an artist and a designer, as well as a Master Gardener, and her artistry is evident in the stunning colors she uses. Her chosen palette is primarily red, blue, and yellow with many, many shades of green, and the same colors are repeated throughout the garden. That is lesson 2. Repetition is a key concept in design that helps the eye unite various parts of a garden.
The third lesson is to consider textures when buying plants. Linda selects and groups plants with a variety of textures and shapes that provide contrast. One spot in her garden features a Japanese maple with fern-like cut leaves, underplanted with the large rounded shapes of hostas and the sword-like foliage of Japanese fountain grass. Another area featured a blue ceramic fountain edged with boxwood balls, two needle-tipped evergreens, with flag iris providing the linear shape.
Curving paths of stone lead to a number of hidden destinations, or garden rooms. This has the effect of making her one acre seem much larger and the same can be achieved in a smaller garden. Linda has many seating areas hidden throughout the garden, and a cobalt blue color is the unifying element. One “room” has a blue fountain, one a blue painted wrought iron bench, another blue iron arbor.
This garden also has few bare spots. Trees are not circled with rings of mulch but instead are underplanted right up to their trunks. Some of the plants used are epimedium, hellebores, native ginger, Japanese painted ferns, trilliums, and Virginia bluebells.
Finally, have patience. Gardeners have a saying about perennial plants: that in the first year, they sleep, in the second year, they creep, and in the third year they leap. Imagine your garden in twenty years!