Tag Archives: evergreen perennials

How My Garden Grows: Seven


A “Bird’s Eye View:”

Designing the Horizontal Spaces of  Your Garden

Dear Readers,

To read or review the previous posts in this series, click here:  How My Garden Grows: One.

Each post, One through Six, will provide a link for the next post.



Margot’s Get-Real Guide:


Identify the horizontal space:  Do you wish to create a border, bed, island, or garden path?

Speak Compass:

Toward which direction does this space face?

Sun exposure requirements will determine your plant choice.


Choose plants that will soften the angular architectural features.

Standing Feature:

Consider one standing “feature” in each large bed, border, or island.

Ex:  a fountain, a stone statue, a bird bath, a bird feeder, a fogger/mister, an obelisk, or a tutor.


Within the design, plan open spaces, for these purposes:

  • Walkways [“allees”] for trimming/pruning.
  • Access to water spigots/hose, fountains, bird baths, bird feeders, utilities. etc.
  • “Growing and breathing space” between plants and buildings or between plants and fences or walls.
  • Foot-paths, stepping-stones, etc.

Study Notes:

Research, using The Southern Living Garden Book:

Which “care-free” and “bullet-proof” plants are best-suited for the space?


For beauty and low-maintenance all year round, perennial evergreens should form the “spine” or “backbone” of your garden spaces.

Ground Covers range in height,  from 6 inches to 4 feet, so you have a great variety of sizes from which to choose.


From your Study Notes, create a Table or Chart, listing each “care-free” and “bullet-proof” plant.

Include these categories:

  • Formal name, informal name
  • Requirements for light exposure:  Su=Sun; Sh=Shade; P=Part; Lt=Light; F=Full
  • Requirements for: soil, moisture, fertilizer
  • Size:  height, width, “OC,” which means “off-center” or “space between plants”

Use this Table/Chart, to revise the Sketch of your garden design.

Keep the Chart:   At the end of the season, add notes:  What worked?  What did not?


Draw a rough sketch of the horizontal space.  Indicate approximate sizes of each section.

Refer to your Study Notes and add your favorite plants to the design.

Stature & Size:

Height, Width, Depth

Do not line up your plants like little soldiers!

Within the space, mix up the height, width, and depth.

Surface Texture:

Provide contrast between/among the plants.

Consider the shape of the plant [macro] or the texture of the leaf [micro].

Shades, Hue, Color:

Break out your color pencils, crayons, or water-colors, as you design your Sketch.

I do not like a strict color scheme:  I have a Georgia red-brick house but I use a “Crayola” color palette.

Consider the color of the bloom, foliage, stem, bark, etc.

An all-white night-blooming garden is fabulous, with a view from a porch or window.

Snow Drift:

Imagine a snowdrift, on a slope, with soft curves of snow, covering the earth.

This is the soft, organic look you want.  Avoid sharp edges.

For perennial evergreen ground cover:   Plant three different plants in three large “drifts,” of roughly the same size, with the central drift slightly larger.


The “Paisley” shape is one of the most pleasing designs to the human eye.

In your composition, employ the “paisley” shape:  Use a different plant for each paisley shape.

Interconnect and overlap the shapes, as above drawing illustrates.


Within each paisley shape [above], stagger the plants, with an odd number of the same plant.


Take your Sketch and your Table/Chart to the Nursery.

Select your favorite “bullet-proof” and “care-free” plants.

Choose an odd number of each type of  favorite plants:  1, 3, 5, etc.


Shear or Prune?

Most perennial evergreen ground covers do not require maintenance.

For those plants that require maintenance:

Consult the Southern Living Garden Book and choose the appropriate method:

Prune from the inside:  encourage a natural, soft shape;  allow air to circulate; eliminate weak stems and branches.

Shear according to the natural design shape; plants should look lush and full.

 Plan Your Future Design:

Gradually eliminate turf and replace with beds, borders, islands, and garden paths.


Coram Deo,



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How My Garden Grows: Five

Dear Readers,

[After you read this entry, click: How My Garden Grows: Six.]

This is Part Five of a series on Margot’s Get-Real Guide to Gardening in North West Florida.   


I said previously, “When designing your gardens, think of a lofty and enchanting dwelling space, containing five stories or levels.”

Notice the enchantment of the visually captivating assortment of vertical levels or stories of the gardens, in the photos above and below.

I draw inspiration from enchanting English country gardens, especially the gardens of British authors of classic literature:

Northmoor Road:  Home of J. R. R. Tolkien, Oxford.

The Kilns:  Home and Garden of C. S. Lewis, Oxford

Hilltop Farm:  Home of Beatrix Potter

However, before you get “carried away,” by English Gardens, please remember:  this is Garden Design in North West Florida!

Previously, I described Stories or Levels Five through Three, in descending order.

Today, we begin with Story or Level Two.

However, first, I will offer some Terms & Definitions:

Annuals bloom for only one season.  You must re-plant them every year.

Perennials re-emerge, every spring, after lying dormant all winter.

Tender perennials may not re-emerge, after a hard frost during the winter.

Each perennial has its own life-cycle:  Usually, they  thrive for three to fifteen years, after which you may have to re-plant.

Evergreens: the foliage stays green all year.

Perennial Evergreens:  the foliage stays green all year AND it provides seasonal blooms and interest.

A Note on Evergreens and Evergreen Perennials:

To me, there is nothing more depressing than walking out to my garden, in the winter, to view vast blank spaces where plants hide dormant.

So, I plant plenty of evergreens and evergreen perennials:  They provide the “canvas” upon which I “paint,” when I add the color of annuals and perennials.

 The Second Story:  THE FOIL
In literature, the foil is:
“One that by contrast underscores or enhances the distinctive characteristics of another:  ‘I am resolved my husband shall not be a rival, but a foil to me’ (Charlotte Brontë).
“. . . a character that has traits which are opposite from one of the main characters, in order to highlight various features of that main character’s personality.”  [wiki answers]

Every garden needs a FOIL:
These plants, usually a hedge, form a “backdrop” for the plants in front of the foil.   These foil plants, attractive in their own right, contrast with those plants placed in front of the foil.  The contrast  is very visually pleasing.
In my garden, the foil is a hedge of evergreen perennials:  Viburnum tinus ‘Compactum’ [Spring Bouquet Laurustinus].  
These are my “foundation plants,” placed in front of the foundation of my brick home.  However, I  staggered the young plants, to avoid the look of “little soldiers.”  Also, I planted them with plenty of space away from the foundation.  The open area between the brick and the staggered hedge of viburnum allows for “breathing space” and provides an allee:  a walkway for gardeners and a hiding place for children.

An Allee
[Photo Credit:  “through the hedge,” from the blog: “morning sun rae”]
View the photos and read the description below, to appreciate the four-season  interest of the Spring Bouquet Viburnum:   

  Spring Bouquet Viburnum:  Winter
 Spring Bouquet Viburnum: Early Spring
 Spring Bouquet Viburnum:  Spring
 Spring Bouquet Viburnum: Summer
Spring Bouquet Viburnum is an evergreen shrub with small, leathery, dark, green leaves. The new stems flush wine-red then fade to green. Viburnum tinus ‘Compactum’ has dense fragrant white to light pink flowers in the spring. The fruit is a blue black berry in the fall. This Viburnum has a round compact upright growth habit and can get 5-6′ tall by 5-6′ wide making it perfect for small hedges or screens. [magnoliagardensnursery]

Hardiness: USDA Zones 7-11
Plant Use: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun
Water Requirements: Medium

In front of the hedge, I have planted contrasting textures of Story or Level One evergreen perennials.  
I will cover Story or Level One in How My Garden Grows:  Part Six.

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How My Garden Grows: Two

My Front Garden Walk: April 2012

Front to back: 

Rudbeckia “Herbstonne,” Dietes [African Iris], Euryops [Bush Daisy]

Garden angel, two bird bath stands flank a mister [fogger] stand [barely visible]

Dear Readers,

[Note: After you read this entry, click How My Garden Grows: Three.]

“White Coral Bells, upon a slender stalk;

Lilies of the Valley grace my Garden Walk. 

Oh, don’t you wish that you could hear them ring? 

That will happen only when the fairies sing.”

~~~A Nursery Rhyme Song, source unknown

Initially, I wanted my Garden Walk to have a theme of Nursery Rhymes and Songs.  I began with the rhyme above but I discovered that Lilies of the Valley are poisonous!

So, instead of the Nursery Rhyme Song theme, I decided to create a “Prayer Garden” with a special emphasis on babies, children, parents, and families.

As I work in the garden, I pray for  couples who desire to have children yet struggle with infertility; for parents who have lost babies through miscarriage or stillbirth; for parents who have suffered the loss of a child;  for families who struggle with health problems; for adoptive families; for children who are lost or missing . . .

In the morning, I turn on the “mister” or “fogger” and the water fills up the bird baths.  As I sit on my Front Porch steps in the morning, I can watch the songbirds splash in the water.

By the way, my philosophy of “good” gardening is similar to my philosophy of “good” parenting:

I carefully nurture both my children and plants, until they are firmly rooted and established.  Thereafter, both children and plants receive my “benign neglect” and, quite naturally, may appear to struggle.  Once they are “pushed out of the nest” toward independence, however, they thrive.

The child/plant metaphor continues, as I go to “Native Nursery” to view the young plants. However, here the metaphor breaks down, as we do not choose our children as we choose our plants.  It is the Triune God who bestows upon us the blessing of children.

Since I am able, however, to choose plants, I research the best “bulletproof” North West Florida native plants.   I ignore any plants that need any special care beyond the basic  “sun, water, and soil” requirements.

I give a new plant a full year and, if it cannot endure the extremes of temperature and moisture during the year, it has to make way for a tougher plant.  

If I plant in the fall, I coax the new plants along but, as winter approaches, I remind them, “Now, no one is going to come running out here to cover you up with a sheet, if a cold snap threatens – so, you will just have to tough it out!”

Stephen built for me a raised bed for the Front Garden Walk, where perennial evergreens flourish.  Our “Natchez” crepe myrtles are thriving and, during the summer, they provide a canopy of shade for the Front Garden Walk.   We do not prune them; we allow them to grow [to almost 20 feet] and we enjoy the shade and lovely cinnamon bark.  We  enjoy the blooms but we object strongly to “crepe murder:”  this describes the practice of gardeners who severely prune the trees, caring only for the profusion of blooms, which appear above the sad, ugly stumps.

For my garden, a plant must offer something beyond transitory blooms:  I derive pleasure from the four-season interest of the overall shape and proportion of the plant and the texture and color of the foliage or bark.  If the plant attracts songbirds, hummingbirds, and butterflies, then that plant is an excellent candidate.  If the plant also requires no staking, pruning, spraying, or fertilizing, then it is, indeed, a winner.

And that is How My Garden Grows . . . I’ll share more specifics in this series, including suggestions for “bullet-proof” plants for NW FL.

Coram Deo,


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