What an indulgence and what a privilege it has been to visit so many beautiful private gardens around Brisbane open to the public through the Australian Open Garden Scheme and the various Open Garden Trails associated with festivals. And it’s not over yet; I have more to come and I can’t wait.
But even this early, I have seen some gems and really want to share some of the best ideas and some of the beautiful, gardens on show. Over the past two weeks I have visited the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers and the Tamborine Mountain Springtime on the Mountain Open Gardens Trail.
The gardens on show in each area have a very different feel.
Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers has been running for 63 years and the floral character of the many gardens on view is a reflection of the history associated with this event.
Yes, it’s a feast of flowers.
And to win, gardens need to be floraliferous.
And this feast can be seen, not only in private gardens but in Toowoombas’ parks too.
Flower filled gardens have not been the trend for many years now. But this is changing. Fashion this year has a strong floral feel, Interior decor is taking on glitz and a floral feel. Gardens are following this trend and becoming softer and flower filled.
Chelsea Flower Show is a garden leader and it was notable this year that there was an abundance of flowers in the exhibition gardens.
But there are a number of points to make about the trend towards more flowers.
In the Chelsea gardens, the underlying garden structure is strong, held together by strong lines. Many of the exhibition gardens played off the contrast between strong geometric lines and the fluff of flowers.
The vertical pillars and topiary and horizontal hedges, areas of lawn and pathways give the garden above a very geometric framework within which to perform. The flowers sit in this framework and show it off. Without the structural bones of walls, hedges, topiary and lawns this garden would not be so remarkable.
Behind the design some very clear decisions have been taken. The garden is only made up of a few elements, repeated again and again. Notice the pillars, the same shape in the topiary and even the same shape of the flower bed repeated, sometimes with really small differences to bring in accents.
Notice the relatively small range of flower choice. The white flowers provide the backdrop with accents in a few colors. the grey tones in the foliage set off the grey of the stone.
The thing about flowers is that very few plants will flower all year. And the choice of annuals in the beautiful gardens in Toowoomba is a response to the week long ‘Carnival of Flowers’ and the competition behind it. All those annuals are removed as soon as the Carnival is over. The other thing to remember is that this type of planting needs lots of sun, fertilizer and water. It won’t work unless you are prepared to put the time and effort in. There are other plants which are easier to use.
To last the distance, all gardens need to have the bones to survive the rest of the year. The Chelsea gardens are the same. The flowers will really only last the spring and summer. The garden needs to look beautiful in autumn and winter too.
The lesson is simple. Keep it simple. Be really sure about the style you want to adopt and don’t deviate. Plan the bones of your garden and add the splashes of color in a way which will not ruin your garden when the flowers are not performing. Reduce the clutter. Difficult for all the plants people among us.
It can be done and there are some very beautiful gardens in Toowoomba which will last the distance. The images below are from one garden where foliage and hedges lead the way.
This garden has strong bones of small trees, hedges and shrubs. The plants are repeated throughout the garden. Foliage color and texture is used to create a picture and the splashes of flowering plants add accents. This is a peaceful garden, made for living.
To my mind, all the gardens which worked had one thing in common. They used fewer flowering types and the flowers were contained by strong hedges or borders of single plantings of things like white alyssum.
One of the easiest ways to add that splash of color is to use pots and planters for flowers. But take care. Make sure the planters used are appropriate for your garden style and make sure you keep them uniform though the garden. A few big urns of the same type and with the same planting will have more impact than lots of different planters and plants.