Garden designers chat

One of the joys of teaching horticulture is the conversations you have with fellow garden designers, growers and landscapers. As part of a residential course on CAD held at our home in France recently, we visited The International Garden Festival at Chaumont where this year’s theme was “colour”.

The artists and designers seemed puzzled by the theme and had difficulty in just letting themselves go. Black was much in evidence. Black isn’t a primary, secondary, or tertiary colour. In fact, black isn’t on the artist’s colour wheel and usually isn’t considered a colour at all. Instead, black appears when you bring ANY colour to its darkest value.

Chaumont 2009 Garden in black

Chaumont 2009 Garden in black

Artists, of course, do use black extensively, there exists a society for black plants and Karen Platt’s nursery near Sheffield, England, specialises in them.

This garden was constructed entirely in black and as we sat outside with our black standard poodle I told anyone who commented that she was the designer!

Europe’s entire production of Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ seemed to have been requisitioned for the show while for the red gardens there was no shortage of  Imperata cylindrica Red Barron – Japanese Blood Grass.

Chaumont 2009 Garden with Imperata Red Baron set against Silver Birch logs

Chaumont 2009 Garden with Imperata Red Baron set against Silver Birch logs

On the whole we found the use of colour at the show unadventurous and, at the time, disappointing. My thought is in a country where every roundabout and verge is a mass of colourful plants, the designers felt they had to be clever and come up with something different. In many cases, they failed to impress: pity.

But this is a show that rewards a little thought and looking through the photographs I took during the Garden Design Academy visit has been easily as exciting as seeing them in real life.
Back in Chabris, after a meal and a few glasses of white Touraine, we continued to chat about the use of colour. People have preferences but I have had several clients who have hated yellow, enough to tell me off severely when I allowed a few yellow flowered plants to stray into a planting scheme.


My own view is that it is actually hard to go wrong with colour in the garden: Nature didn’t employ a designer to create the wonderful scenes I see all around me (skipping around any religious view s you may have on the subject). But it is also possible to create some fascinating effects at any one time and throughout the seasons with careful design.
Just to prove it is possible I have started to establish a yellow garden, or rather, an area where many of the plants I grow have yellow foliage or flowers. I am particularly pleased that it seems possible to grow several variegated plants in close proximity: yet another general rule successfully broken!

Bee on Caryopteris Summer Sorbet

Bee on Caryopteris Summer Sorbet

Residential courses are held at irregular intervals throughout the year at the Garden Design Academy, Chabris, France. Details on:

Chaumont 2009 Garden in Red
Chaumont 2009 Garden in Red

4 thoughts on “Garden designers chat

  1. I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s