November 30, 2007


Now that the hardscape , pond and pergola are in place it's time to address the very important structure of the garden - the " bones ". Just as your bones play an important role in holding your body together so do the evergreen and deciduous shrubs and trees in the garden.

I had decided on a patio garden ( that's when you surround the patio with plants ) and needed a great specimen for the very front. I fell in love with a Viburnum Plicatum 'Mariesii ' and she was my first purchase. I was a beginner back then and Marie as I like to call her was a itty bitty thing. I had no clue that she would grow so wide and tall ! Oops! Live and learn. After she blooms each year I have to prune her back. Even though deciduous, viburnums have a lovely framework that looks attractive when not in leaf.

My next purchase was an Olga Mezzitt rhododendron. I love it's cheerful pink blooms in April and the fact that it is very hardy for the Chicago winters.

I know a lot of people will disagree with me or say oh those evergreens ( Japanese yews ) are as common as spit. I HATE them. Well I love the particular cultivars that I have - Taxus x media 'densiforma.' It reaches about 4 feet in height and 6 in width unless you give it a haircut every now and then ( they grow slowly ). I don't mean shape it - I like mine to look very natural. And so I used two of them. I heard a lecture by an well-known English garden writer and he said that Americans don't know how to properly use Yews in their gardens and don't use them enough. I was the only one who begged to differ. The English love the Yew and use them liberally, not all pushed together and poodled to death.

Click to Enlarge

Notice that the placement of the shrubs next to the
pergola block the entire view of the garden and the pathway creates an inviting walk.

On the left is my Chinese Wisteria Standard next to the fence. Next to it are the Oakleaf and Limelight hydrangeas. I also have a Pink 'Knockout' rose in that area, as well as ornamental grasses near the pond.

In the narrow bed on the right I have a wonderful Forysthia, Dwarf Magnolia and Rose of Sharon.

All of the abovementioned plants provide year round interest and structure in my garden.

Next : The fillers.


  1. I'm glad someone else likes yews. I'm really enjoying reading about what you did in your yard, since I've been working on my own blank canvas for 2 1/2 years now. Sometime you need to tell us about your "path" to becoming a garden designer. I'd like to read about that.

  2. Thanks, David. I'm getting to the story about the path that led me to becoming a garden designer. Stay in touch.

  3. hey - enough with the poodle comments!!! it was not my fault! I did not ask him to do that!!!

    carolyn - i'm loving reading these garden design posts so keep them coming!

  4. I know, Gina. It wasn't referring to you but to the "green bubblegum" shrubs of our suburbs in Chicago where everyone has the same thing. "Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky....little boxes, little boxes, little boxes all the same...." You know the song !
    I once suggested that a client in the area add some beautiful blooming shrubs and she said she didn't want to appear she was better than everyone else on the street !

    Glad that you are enjoying the design posts. It will lead up to the story of how I became a garden designer.

  5. it's not so much being "better than everyone" as it is being prettier, more creative and more interesting than everyone else, yes?

  6. Yes? Yes! It just shows the mentality of comformists, Gina. It's so much easier being a conformists than a creative person.

  7. I also like yews, particularly the columnar 1s. Yes, I also hate "poodled" yews & green meatballs. I particularly like what was done to the yews in Grant Park, where they are clipped into undulating curves. Now that's how to have a clipped yew.


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