Garden Designers Roundtable: Bold in the Garden

Garden Designers Roundtable: Bold in the Garden

What is bold? It’s a term that is used often, but what does it mean to be bold? Some of what Mr. Webster says about bold is; showing or requiring a fearless daring spirit, adventurous, standing out prominently. Reading through the definition, the words fearless, daring, adventurous, and prominent, stand out, words also used to describe design, both in the garden and with the arts in general. To me bold is best exemplified through garden design in elements such as; color, scale, and mass.

In an excellent example of how bold works within these elements, take a look at this backyard concert put on by a friend of mine. (As an added bonus, click here to hear the band perform “Shanty”)

Preiser, O'Brien, and Taylor Band performing at "Twisted Lumber"!
Preiser, O’Brien, and Taylor Band performing at “Twisted Lumber”

The color of the sails is most certainly bold, as is their mass. That’s a large swath of color being used as a backdrop for the band. In regards scale, the sails act as a wonderful transition in size between the concert goers, and the very tall tree line behind the stage. We would have felt very small had they not been there. In all, this very bold use of color, shape, and size, set a very welcoming and pleasing ambiance for the concert. And how about after the sun went down, just stunning!

Preiser, O'Brien, and Taylor Band performing at "Twisted Lumber"!
Preiser, O’Brien, and Taylor Band performing at “Twisted Lumber”

So, now let’s get back to bold in the garden. How do we use bold to do the same thing in the garden? Let’s take a look.

In this first picture, Japanese Forest Grass is planted in front of Elegans Hosta. Both the color and the massed planting make a bold splash in this shade garden.

Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans' and Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'
Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’ and Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ – Planting by Blue Heron Landscape Design

Here in a winter scene at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston Massachusetts, is Midwinter Fire Blood twig Dogwood. The color, mass, and scale, of the planting, works very well in relation to the size and colors of the surrounding courtyard, creating a wonderfully bold hedge.

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'
Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

Grasses used en mass, can create a very bold look. The grouping here, although not bold in color (except for the Blood Grass in the foreground), create a bold front entrance to this house. The height and mass, work well in relation to the Flowering Pear to the right and the wood line in the background.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus', Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln', Leucanthemum x superbum 'Becky', and Imperata cylindrica
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’, Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’, and Imperata cylindrica – Planting by Blue Heron Landscape Design

This next picture is from The Guilford Visitors Center in Vermont on route 91 north. I just love the massed Pinky Winky Hydrangeas that greet travelers to the Green Mountain State. A very bold welcome indeed!

Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky'
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pinky Winky’

In Burlington Vermont, is the Church Street Marketplace. Several brick paved streets closed off to traffic, and lined with restaurants, shops, and in the evening, street performers. It’s a great place to dine on excellent food and entertain yourself on a warm summer’s eve. On one corner, planted alongside a very architecturally pleasing building, we find our next garden. Clearly influenced by the bold and romantic garden style of Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden, this planting is dripping with boldness. The mass of the plantings of Black-eyed Susan, grasses, daylilies, and sedum, under a low canopy of these under story trees, combine to lessen the size of the building, integrating into the landscape. It’s a great example of using color and mass boldly in a garden. My only issue with it though, is the use of some pretty wimpy annuals along the front of the bed. I’d rather have seen them mass a low growing perennial or grass to set the rest of the bed up. But, it’s mostly likely a different group maintaining it than those who designed it, so…

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm', Sedum x 'Autumn Joy', Miscanthus cvs., Hydrangea cvs., Hemerocallis fulva
Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, Sedum x ‘Autumn Joy’, Miscanthus cvs., Hydrangea cvs., Hemerocallis fulva

So that’s how I see Bold in the Garden. What do you think of these examples? See something different? I love to hear from you. Please leave me a comment, then follow the links below to see what my fellow Roundtable designers have to say about Bold in the Garden.

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Jenny Peterson : J Petersen Garden Design : Austin, TX

David Cristiani : It’s A Dry Heat : Albuquerque, NM 

12 thoughts on “Garden Designers Roundtable: Bold in the Garden

  1. Rudbeckia is beautiful when it does not fall over as mind does but echinacea always stand tall even in these tiresome hot winds the past week in Dakota.

  2. Solid post Scott, excellent job of showing how, both, perennials and shrubs each have the ability to be “bold”.
    I’d like to see you follow up on this with a post on “bold” hardscapes.

  3. Scott, I think you did an excellent job of showing how bold relates to scale! Red may be a bold color, but if there is only one red flower in a large sea of green it is much less significant and its boldness reduced.

  4. I like how you show shrubs as bold…that’s missed too often. The concert sails are something to take cues from, too…temporary, but so much effect when up. But especially that you went to Webster’s definitions to start…maybe that would be a good one, to contrast with what I interpret?

  5. Scott, ‘Aureola’ is one of my favorite bold plants. It seems to combine will with virtually every other plant and looks great massed. Great photos, as always!

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