fouquieria(10b)June 8, 2010

One of the things that I don't see much of in this forum is the 'details'.

When I first began working on my plot of land 25 years ago, I started out planting the big stuff. Now I seem to be going back and filling out areas with the little stuff. But when I plant the little stuff, I want to incorporate it in an elegant, picturesque way. Over time I think it's these little vignettes that make a garden interesting.


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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Since there was some 'big stuff' (mature and maturing trees) here, I started at the vignette end (lots of fun with that!) and worked backward to reshape how it all fits together. This forum tend to be uninterested/hostile/dismissive of such things, clearly feeling that there are other forums for the discussion of vignettes. I think there could be interesting issues to discuss around the topic that other forums don't get into, but I doubt it'll ever get acceptance as a topic of discussion here.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 4:45PM
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Today seems to be a 'what's wrong with this forum' day with an unusually negative point of view from woody.

Details or 'vignettes' depend on the bigger picture, this was after all the whole raison d'etre behind the movement that lead to "form ever follows function": first have it work and then decorate it. The dismissive aspect is criticism of a noplan that begins with buying a cart load of plants and then trying to work them into a duhsign.

One of the most influential contributors to this forum once described his design approach as seeing his garden from the captains chair. Botann has a garden that works as a whole but it is when he is in his favourite spot that he appreciates the details, the combination of light and shade etc.. Ron is coming to the same place, I think they are soul brothers.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 5:53PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

I'm good with's the big picture I sometimes need help with.

A few of my recent "vignettes":
Pots from the front:

Same pots, side view, 10-20 minutes later in the day:

And the shadows yuri-hime makes (I actually PLANNED it this gratifying that it worked!)

One small bed:

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 9:42PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Ink - I'm being misunderstood again...:-( Yes, all that good stuff re the design first but somethimes things don't procede in a straight line and however/whenever you get there, at some point the 'decorating' happens. And some decorating works better than others. But this forum seems uncomfortable talking about it in anything beyond vague generalization about variety of forms etc. Pictures of flowers seems to make people uncomfortable here. Negative - or the truth?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 9:51PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

mjsee - we were posting at the same time.... The green vignettes are definitely the stars of those ones for me. The rock wall and the kitty were what I focused on in the others. I'm not sure why but the second-to-last one didn't ring any bells for me. Reasons...?

I'm a lousy photographer so can never get pictures to turn out the way I 'see' things so I'll just offer this small seasonal vignette

and counter your guardian kitty for a guardian dog :-)

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 10:22PM
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Pictures of flowers seems to make people uncomfortable here. Negative - or the truth?

The truth. Pictures are what drive me. If any forum should be driven by pictures, it's this one.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 12:26AM
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Vignettes are my weakness as well... getting in the whole picture design has been my task for most of my garden beds. Only in my more mature areas of the landscape, have I just recently been vignette or small details orientated. Starting with a blank slate and desigining it down to the vignette detail seems so overwhelming to me.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 5:36AM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

The rock wall and the kitty were what I focused on in the others. I'm not sure why but the second-to-last one didn't ring any bells for me. Reasons...?

Well, the second to the last photo has some problems.

1) It's not really a's an overall pic of the garden bed in photo five...the birdbath photo.
2) It's a poorly composed photo. Bad angle...but I wanted to show the whole bed.

I like my shade beds best compositionally. My "sun" beds (such as they are) are dotted with rose shrubs where they will get the light they need. I like to cut roses and bring them sometimes composition suffers for culture.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 9:38AM
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dsb22(z7 VA)

Mjsee, love the jm and the different lighting effects. I actually didn't immediately notice the cool cat in the last pic. I think the colors and symmetry of the container plantings nicely accentuate the lovely glass doors. What are the trees/shrubs in the largest pots?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 9:52AM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Daphne odora.They're wonderful when they are in bloom in late February. They've grown A LOT in the last five years.

When first planted:

Today (Same plant, other side of step)

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 1:06PM
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If pictures of flowers turns you on go ahead and post them, it would be best, in my opinion if the pictures were in the context of this forum, that is: landscape design. The notion of 'vignettes' is precisely the criticism aimed at glossy magazines, a close up photograph of the details in a combination of plant textures can be exciting but it does vignette in the photographic sense is selective and is not shown in context. Now, before anyone jumps on me as a flower hater let me say that I have nothing against individual flowers or precise arrangements of plants and pots etc. but it is unifying them or tying them together that can most properly be claimed to be landscape design.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 1:18PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

...but it is unifying them or tying them together that can most properly be claimed to be landscape design.

I agree. Over the years I've been trying to do just that...with mixed success. The creamy pots with the jap maples and hostas in them were an attempt to speak to the color of the light that I get in that corner when I am most likely to be sitting out on my the dark brown "decorations" are supposed to speak to the black clay I've been attempting to unify my pots with as time and money allow. (Still a lot of terracotta going on...but sooner or later it'll happen!)In turn, I chose "black clay" pots for most of my plants because it speaks to some of the dark tones in the stone in the walls and the pavers.

woodyoak...your pup is doing a good job guarding that bunchberry in the first photo?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 1:51PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Ink - what I'd like to see you 'pros' discuss with respect to the 'decorating' stage is exactly that sort of thing - how do you decide what to chose/plant and what are the unifying element etc. I agree re context for vignette pictures. One of the reasons why I think this forum could/should deal with the 'decorating' issue is that most other forums where the 'pretty pictures' of combinations are posted, nobody is interested - or willing perhaps - in starting a discussion of why it works or not; would something else work as well or better, how context should/could affect the choice, and so on...

Since my sunny garden is the 'public' face of the garden, to some extent I plant things I think other people will enjoy (e.g. our elderly next door neighbours who like the garden) so it's always interesting to see what people like or don't like. On other forums nobody ever says they don't like something! Sometimes just the pretty picture with no context or critique can still have value because, if it's something that appeals to you, you can make your own assessment if it would 'fit' with what you have. Sometimes if you're a 'regular' on whatever forum you know the context because you've seen other pictures the person has posted.

I'm sure there are valuable things we can learn about the 'decorating' stage if it ever got discussed here.

mjsee - the first photo is hosta albomarginata with young Trillium grandiflorums. Trilliums grow well here and I'm trying to create a 'trillium wood' in parts of my woodland garden under the red oak and under white pines. There is a magnificant 'trillium wood' a short distance away that I'm using as a model for growing conditions. There were trilliums here when we moved in and most of the neighbours have some. They are probably either remnants of what was here before the houses were built in the 1960s, or poached from the woods - or both. I've got a long way to go before my patches match the grandeur of the trillium wood but mine are now spreading well both from offsets and seeds. There are literally hundreds of seedlings this spring so I'm obviously doing something right :-) (BTW - I'd love to grow bunchberries - I have fond childhood memories of them. I've tried several times and have had no luck with them at all. I'm not sure why...)
To put the close-up in context, if you look closely at the edge of the path near the dead tree, you can see the hosta among the trilliums:

And this is my 'model':

Misty is 16lbs but thinks she's a Rottweiler! She's a quite effective guard dog - and also a good rabbit hunter! The rabbits disappered from the backyard within a year of her arrival 6 years ago. Very useful little beast :-)

mjsee - I think it was you were were alarmed that I had a Chinese wisteria? If so, here's another vignette from May (the two things we most look fordard to in the garden in May are the trilliums blooming and the wisteria.) I call this vignette 'Purple Prince':

And this is the somewhat bigger context:

Ok - that was a sort of tongue-in-cheek excess of flowers :-)

But this one might be a more useful starting point for a discussion:

This is the south alley gate at the end of May. The lilacs are finished now and the clematis almost. The New Dawn roses on the arbour are just starting and the mockorange (that the clematis is climbing on) will start blooming shortly too. As that pair near the end of the June bloom period, A Jackmanii Superba starts blooming, spilling down from the top of the arbour for much of July. In August the New Dawn rose continues a small rebloom but the late summer color in this area is a Rose of Sharon pruned fairly flat to the wall at the end of the rose swag on the north side of the alley. While the New Dawn rose keeps putting out a few blooms through the fall, the series of vignettes is mostly finished by the end of August.

When the Jackmanii finishes blooming in late July this year, we will be clearing all the mess off the top of the arbour and letting the New Dawn start again, swagging all suitable canes as they develop and removing the others. It's got out of control up there so needs a severe renovation. I've been using color - quasi-monochrome combinations - and roses as the theme to set the sequence of vignettes for this area. Since a renovation is planned for this year, I'd be interested in hearing any thought on what else I should consider or alternatives....

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 10:44PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Woodyoak--I thought they might be trillium...but was unsure. Good for you for encouraging them. I've given up trying to get them established...the deer eat them.

I, too, plant for the neighbors as much as myself...mymajor gardens are on the street side of my house. Though, in many ways, my front yard is my backyard. We have a sewage easement that runs along the creek in our backyard...people think it's part of the public greenway. Gets a little irritating at times...but what's a person to do? Fence it all off? I'm not allowed to put a permanent fence across the right-of-way and if I fence the other area of the yard I'm concerned that it will reinforce the concept that the un-fenced area is Public Space.

I can't see your pictures...may be my end. We've been having internet issues. You remembered correctly, it was I who was horrified by the Chinese wisteria. I know you keep yours under control...but many folks don't. And I have wisteria PTSD from our former home. (We moved just about the time I got it eliminated from our yard.)

I'll check back later to see if the pics will load...I'm curious about your arbor.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 8:22AM
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Trying to keep this thread up on in your absence Ron.

In reply to your question from last night woody, there is no doubt that garden design is not rocket science, sure when you lay sod it is always best to have the green side up but beyond that very little is cut and dried. If you try to weigh up all the options like young daniel, confusion ensues so you have to make a decision at a certain point and whatever decision you make nobody gets lost in the stratosphere. You studied those principles of design which although theoretical have a practical component so that their validity can actually be observed. It is strange to me that you are asking for input on why something works or not when the over riding attitude has been "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so if I like it and it is my garden anyway, on yer bike" Ron's "pimping for votes" is asking for confirmation and criticism will be ignored.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 6:15PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Ink - Huh? You lost me there... :-) 'asking for input' - why is that an odd thing to do? I find talking through ideas with people - 'brainstorming' sort of thing - very helpful. Just because I (or whoever) might reject an idea doesn't mean it doesn't have an effect at some point; it may have introduced an idea I hadn't thought of that might alter my final choice or get incorporated into something else later. Do you expect all your ideas presented here to be embraced and adopted as the only right answer? When you are designing a garden, do you not explore multiple options before deciding on the best one? Some aspect of the 'rejected' options might still appear in the final one or have contributed to the shaping of the final one. Because you 'rejected' some ideas, does that mean the time spent on considering them was a wasted effort? I don't think so... What I'm asking here is for anybody who might be interested in the planning of a succession of vignettes for an area like the one(s) I have and has some ideas, I'd be glad to have them. I certainly wouldn't commit to guaranteeing I'd accept them 100% but they will undoubtedly help shape changes or additions we make.

If you want to generalize a bit and avoid specifics, talk to me (us) about how you use/plan/choose vignettes in your designs - assuming you do (and if you don't, talk about the reasons for that...) I'm very interested in how people with expertise and experience do the things I'm trying to do/get better at doing. I don't know anybody in 'real life' to talk about things like this in person (although I know a few similarly avid gardeners but they have no more design expertise than I do...)so I read a lot and lurk - and sometimes post - here as a substitute. The LD course I took through the U of Guelph in the winter of 2009 was great and I wanted to do more this year but circumstances got in the way.

I'm always disappointed when I can't get people here to engage in discussion. Your comment seems to say that you don't want to 'talk' to me (or other OPs?) unless we always agree that we should do what you say. That disappoints me. I'm probably misunderstanding you as much as you appear to be misunderstanding me...:-)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 8:45PM
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My guess is that my garden has no vignettes ... I don't really want to confess the poverty of design execution that exists in my domain. I have things that I'd like to do, but they're all on hold for the want of dollars.

That being said I'm not sure what to do with the details? Or the decorating? Or whatever is meant by these smaller pieces of the bigger puzzle. Another term for it is "composition". What I look for, or wish I had more control over creating, are those sweet spots, or "thin places", or places in the garden that you simply cannot walk through without slowing down to take it in.

I'd like to know better how to set it up so that that is what transpires. I have this suspicion that an over dependence on sight deceives many into thinking that a garden is principlly a thing to be viewed. Hence, "curb appeal" and "vignette", which I think has a root meaning pertaining to sight. But, and this may go beyond what happens in the standard practical issues of design, a garden is for many primarily a relationship. It's a love affair.

Inkognito- I spent a fruitless half-hour or so using the search function to discover the spring image you posted from your garden a couple of years ago. Do I remember that correctly? Did it have an arbor in it? Tulips? Oh, maybe I'm nuts?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 9:29PM
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I guess it's my turn to be misunderstood woody. It's not you that is strange but your wanting to talk about why some things work and other things don't is not the norm. like I said, the norm is "I like it and that is all that counts" "Do you expect all your ideas presented here to be embraced and adopted as the only right answer?" You ask, no I don't but I had hoped for a little more respect than the cr8p you just laid on me, to be honest this is the norm when straightforward opinion is offered, attack the messenger even if you don't understand the message.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 10:01PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I wish I could talk to you face-to-face Ink! I was not intending to dish cr8p. I was trying (unsuccessfully obviously!) to frame the rhetorical questions in a way that made it obvious that the answer was 'of course not'! , so talk to me about why some things work and other things don't ....

My real lament is the inability of this medium to communicate tone of voice, so we frequently wander off into unnecessary arguements and misunderstandings. I suspect I'd have a grand old time talking to you and a few of the regulars here in 'real life'.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 10:15PM
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dsb22(z7 VA)

Thanks a lot, mjsee. Going to look for it when I'm at my favorite nursery this weekend.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 12:04AM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

And once again, the limits of this medium come to the fore. Ah well. One day we must all meet up somewhere...I think we'd have a grand time.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 7:57AM
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This does beg the question of how to make this medium more win/win instead of a percieved or unintentional Win/lose?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 9:17AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

wellspring: yes, Ink posted a picture of his arbor. I remember it also. I've no memory of tulips, but that doesn't mean much.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 10:39PM
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I think a vignette is a focal area (as opposed to a point, but that also depends on the definition of scale), but this area would have to be in contrast to non-focal areas. If the entire landscape is vignette quality then it becomes a Jackson Pollack painting (that assumes a vignette composed of contrasting color/foliage pattern).
I went to a play recently with based on the '60s hippie era and all of the cast was dressed as brightly, colorful, paisely, and ill-dressed hippie. The stage was just a riot of color, spots, and shapes (Pollack-ish) that it hurt my eyes to focus on this play, so I had to close my eyes and just listen to find some solace.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 7:03AM
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