I recently did a presentation on creating impactful gardens for roses. As it has been a very popular request, I am going to be condensing the presentation into blog format, taking you along with me through each step of creating a garden.
Creating a garden requires you to look at your space. Three main things must be considered when looking at a new (or existing) area.
-Soil- THE most important component to a successful garden.
-Light- no matter the plant, everything has a certain light requirement. Roses like at least 6 hours of direct sun to perform adequately. When in doubt, morning sun and afternoon shade satisfies almost all light requirements.
-Water- consider irrigation and accessibility. How will your roses and other plants get adequate water?
Soil structure is incredibly important. This is the true bones of the garden. Without proper soil, your garden will not thrive.
There are four main soil types:
If you are unsure of what soil type you have, I recommend getting a soil test done with your local extension office. When in doubt, compost will improve the soil structure of all of the soil types. Be generous with it!
Lighting is important, and will affect your plant choices. Watch your chosen space for several days to weeks. Check every few hours to see how the sun shines in that area. Use your compass to determine how much light your garden will get. North facing gardens are less than ideal for roses, south is the most ideal. East facing has the most gentle sun exposure, and west facing has the most intense sun exposure.
Water is extremely important to consider. Roses are thirsty plants. They perform best with 4-6 gallons a week in the heat of summer, per plant! However, roses also love to dry out between waterings, and prefer slow, deep waterings. Daily watering is adequate as well.
So now your space is determined, what next?
Now comes the prep work. You need to determine your planting method first- in ground or raised beds/pots?
In ground plantings are the most affordable, you dig a hole and that’s it!
However, raised beds and pots provide more versatility, but with additional cost.
Drainage is an important aspect to consider when you prep your space. Is the area low/prone to flooding? In ground planting requires intervention to prevent flooding. Roses (and many perennials) do not like wet feet. You may need to install a french drain, dry creek, or retaining wall to help facilitate proper drainage.
Consider how the light shifts with the season. As we move towards winter, the sun shifts in the sky, changing how the sun hits your beds. If you have your garden in a north facing area, the shifting may reduce the amount of sun an area receives.
Consider what is currently in the space you want to create. Is it full of grass and weeds? What type is there? Weeds (and bermudagrass) can create large seed banks laying dormant in the soil, which can pop up later on when conditions are favorable.
You can utilize solarization/suffocation to help kill weeds and grass. Keep in mind aggressive, rhizomatic weeds and grass may require spraying to help weaken. It’s very important to get rid of any weeds and grass before planting. You can use natural sprays (vinegar based) or other stronger sprays, just practice proper safety for yourself, your surroundings, and animals. Safety is key.
Now you have your space decided and prepped, where do you go from here? How do I piece it all together?
Start by considering what gardening style you are inspired by. A few common styles to consider:
-Formal: focus on lines, repitition, and evergreen structure
-Cottage: focus on lots of color and blooms. Use pathways or a simple structure like a fence to define the area, let everything else be free and full
-English: a proper marriage between formal and cottage. Add lots of color, but focus on structure and repetition.
-Tropical: bold leaves and bright colors will make this style pop
-Xeriscape: this style typically focuses on cacti and other drought tolerant plants
-Minimalist: lots of clean lines, not much color or difference. Lots of repetition and mass plantings. Can also focus on simple plantings with lots of structure and hardscape.
Once you have determined your style, you need to look at the fundamentals of design. These are going to be your building blocks, and plants are your design pieces!
The fundamentals of landscape design:
Colors- Use complementary colors, opposites on the color wheel, color block areas. Incorporate a variety of foliage colors (blue, green, chartreuse, red, variegation)
Texture- leaf texture can help define plants and provide distinction. Try combining large bold leaves with ferny leaves, and grassy texture. Additionally, you can incorporate items into the garden to help add texture (concrete pieces, wood, metal, etc)
Size- This aspect is very important to the design of a garden. Make sure that your tallest items are towards the back of the border, and go down in size as you get closer to the edge.
Lines are very important in a design. Depending on your garden style, everything may be lines, or it may be more juxtapositioned. However, every design requires a “regulating line”, which is most easily explained as boundaries. Some may consider this having “good bones” in the garden. This leans into repetition, clear definition, and defining elements.
Focal points are important. These can be large evergreens, a grouping of one variety, an arbor/bench/alternative structure. Find places for the eye to be drawn towards. These should be “main areas” in the garden. This can be difficult in long beds, but pieces like a bird bath/fountain/obelisk can help serve this purpose. Don’t be afraid to incorporate structure.
Accents should be secondary focal points, that compliment but don’t detract from an area. Don’t clutter, accentuate.
Another design aspect that is often overlooked is groupings/repeating elements. For lots of impact, plant multiple of the same variety or color. Repeating colors is a good way to draw the attention down the garden. This makes it look more natural. Layering is an important design aspect, as this is what gives gardens a 3-Dimensional feel. This is what truly helps define a garden space. Layering facilitates ongoing interest, and is defined by how you pull together the other aspects of landscape design. Layering is essential for a dynamic garden design. Make your beds deep.
One of the most important things in my opinion, having seen hundreds of gardens and studying design aspects, is don’t just plant roses.
Companion planting helps satisfy many of the design “rules” when considering your landscape. Companion planting also comes with dozens of benefits for your roses and gardens.
Here are some examples of why you should companion plant:
-Salvias and alliums can help prevent fungal issues.
-Many plants with fragrant foliage help repel pests like beetles and grasshoppers, as well as being unpalatable to rabbits and deer.
Some, like milkweed, calendula, nasturtiums, and a few others are ‘trap crops’ that ATTRACT bad bugs. This beneficial relationship in the garden helps protect pest prone plants (like roses) by attracting pests like aphids away from the roses, and onto these trap crops, which then become nurseries for beneficials like ladybugs and lacewings.
-Some companion plants attract beneficial insects, which feed on pests. Yarrow, coneflowers, alyssum, and goldenrod are especially well known for attracting beneficial insects to the garden.
-Companion planting, especially native plants, helps sustain pollinators and has a positive effect on wildlife and the ecosystem.
-Companion plants fill in the gaps between rose flushes.
I hope this blog has helped break down each stage of creating a garden (bones, prep, design) and made it easier to understand, and will encourage and empower you to create and design impactful spaces in your own gardens. Find the style you like and go for it! It doesn't have to be what everyone else likes.
Just remember, the key to a well designed garden is INTENTION. Be intentional with your plans, even in more free designs, because you are the master of your garden. Your focal area should draw the eye, and lead your guests to where you want them to go. Don't be afraid of adding in structures, and creating garden "rooms". Each garden has it's own personality, just like each gardener who is creating it!
Catch you in the next garden diary. Make sure you subscribe to our site and become a member (it's free!) to be notified anytime we post a new blog.