The following is a reproduction of the article which appeared in
Irrigation & Green Industry magazine, July 2000, about Weston Gardens.
For the last decade, Randy and Sue Weston, owners of Weston Gardens in Bloom, a nursery and residential/commercial landscape service in Fort Worth, Texas, have been creating extraordinary, English-style gardens using native Texas flora and acclimated plants.
The Lone Star landscapers use clusters and mixed borders of wild and wonderful native blooms, such as plucky Texas bluebells, columbine, winecup, and asters. But they admit coming up with the right combinations of plants to mimic the English look – particularly with the extremes of Texas weather in mind – can be challenging.
“Our biggest concern here is finding plants that can take extended periods of heat,” Randy Weston, an accomplished landscaper and lecturer, explains. “But the English-style garden can succeed in virtually any part of the United States, provided landscapers focus on plants that will grow in their particular region.”
While the idea is to get away from manicured gardens and flowers planted in tidy rows, it still takes careful planning to make things look the way nature intended. The understanding of sentimental associations with plants and landscape, combined with the site, orientation and soils, is a prerequisite.
The goal, according to the Jekyll school of thought, is to use plants to sequence movement through a garden and to spatially structure a landscape. Her technique also calls for the vertical and horizontal integration of garden spaces with trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals and the strong use of complementary color and color juxtaposition (sparingly in single beds, but boldly in adjacent beds).
Moreover, the Jekyll-inspired landscape involves the use of seasonal strategies to highlight different parts of the garden at different times of the year, and what she refers to as “spaces of temporary perfection,” reflecting the temporal rhythms of nature.
Other notable design features include site lines, particularly short views; “incidents” (special plants, plant arrangements or objects) to mark and direct pathfinding; variation in path width to increase intimacy with plants relative to their scale or to control movement; the arch to anchor and provide a transition from one space to another; and benches as anchors and vehicles to direct the eye both to and from.
Pinpointing areas of sunlight and shade within the intended space is a good place to start. Keep in mind that a sense of enclosure is fundamental to the Jekyll scheme. This can be accomplished with shrubs, partitions of old brick or stone, or fences. Instead of formal hedges, buffers can be created using junipers, holly, and arborvitae.
“Another option for achieving the desired, room-like effect is to plan the garden around a great spreading tree, with sheltering branches,” Weston advises.
Simple benches, classical statues and containers, and paths of aged brick pavers or stones can give the garden, or series of gardens, a British accent.
Mixed borders offer diversity with different layers, textures and sizes of plants. Beyond their propensity for sun or shade, plants should be grouped according to water and cultural requirements and root competition.
“Bloom times are also important. Pick the right plants and the garden looks good all year long,” the landscaper adds.
Gomphrena (bachelor button), larkspur, cosmos and California poppies are romantic-looking flowers. Other annuals – begonias, dianthus, coleus, gazanias, impatiens, marigolds, petunias, delphiniums, vincas, verbenas, and zinnias – create a dizzying array of color. Several full-sun perennials that fit the bill for the English look are Powis Castle artemisia, black-eyed Susan, butterfly bush, calylophus, purple coneflower, oxeye daisy, gaura, upright germander, Veronica, wild petunia, and yarrow.
Suggested shade-loving perennials include cast iron plant, strawberry geranium, hosta, woodland phlox, pigeonberry, lyre leaf sage, wild petunia, and wood violet, along with wood, holly, tassel and Japanese painted ferns. Various lilies also provide color and vertical interest.
For greenery, add liriope, mondo grass, germander, creeping thymes, strawberry geranium, calylophus and similar flowering ground covers, and “Moonbeam” coreopsis.
Incorporate textured plants with lots of leaves into the design. Oakleaf hydrangea, with its coarse foliage and cinnamon-colored bark, showy white flowers in the spring, interesting seed pods in summer, and glorious red attire come fall, pleases the eye all season long. Another well-rounded plant, standard nandina, offers delicate foliage, gold and red tones in autumn, and a plethora of plump red berries each winter. And it comes in a variety of sizes.
“For low-maintenance texture and prolific blooms, try antique variety, bush-type roses, such as Petite Pink Scotch, Duchesse de Brabant, and sweet-smelling Mutabilis. You can adorn fences or partitions with climbers, including Lady Banks, Old Blush, Cecile Brunner, and Seven Sisters,” Weston suggests.
Forsythia, flowering quince, and bridal wreath spiraea, as well as bulbs – daffodils, tulips, iris, crocus, and narcissus – are good choices for early blooms. To complement the plantings, consider the fragrant, blue-blossomed chaste tree, the smoke tree, and/or the popular crape myrtle.
Planted in clumps or worked into the border, ornamental grasses carry the gardens to yet another dimension.
“Lindheimer’s muhly grass is both a texturizer and an outstanding specimen plant, which boasts blue foliage and silvery flower spikes that bloom from September through December. Little bluestem is not quite as tall, but beautiful, with teal blue blades that turn bronze in the fall. Autumn blush muhly and black fountain grass also add a nice touch,” notes Weston.
In geographic regions prone to heat and drought, Weston recommends flame acanthus, wood fern, pink skullcap, rock rose, autumn sage, and Turk’s-cap for mixed borders. Trees able to endure intense heat, he says, are the chinkapin (chinquapin) oak, Eastern red cedar, cedar elm, lacebark elm, vitex, and wax myrtle. Sumac and American beautyberry are a couple of resilient, shrubby plants. The Texas says vines, such as coral honeysuckle and cross vine, also hold up well in areas of extreme or prolonged heat. He recommends drip irrigation.
“Most of all, be daring,” says Weston, “the overall effect is what counts.”
by Lana Robinson
Irrigation & Green Industry Magazine
© Copyright 2015 Weston Gardens in Bloom, Inc.