Simple yet elegant: these are the words a friend used to describe a small garden I recently designed and installed. It was a small rectangular space about 4 feet wide and 30 feet long. Its only backdrop was an asphalt drive on one side and a sea of lawn on the other. A tough space to start, but now it is soft and colorful.
Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure until the garden is installed if the person you are designing it for will actually like it. I always wait with anticipation to hopefully hear the words, “It’s great, I love it, it’s perfect.”
Still, no matter how hard you try you can’t please everyone all the time, and occasionally after a garden goes in we have to tweak a few things.
I always try to match the plant selection to the personality and style of the garden owner. Some gardeners are fun and playful, some are soft-spoken yet very colorful, some are calm and formal, and some are simple yet elegant.
So what are some perennial flowers that would be considered simple yet elegant? Siberian iris, wood betony, the big hostas like ‘Blue Angel,’ epimedium, and perennial begonia are just a few. My favorite simple and elegant perennial is Solomon’s seal. The most elegant to me is the variegated Solomon’s seal, Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum.’
Variegated Solomon’s seal
The subtly variegated Solomon’s seal foliage comes off the stems in a very orderly fashion; each stem rises out of the ground fairly straight and then arches over gently, making a soft curve. It will spread slowly to form a nice group or mass planting, but it is never overpowering or aggressive.
It prefers to grow in the shade where it is moist, but it does extremely well in the shade of my garden even where it is normally very dry. I do water when necessary, but the variegated Solomon’s seal has received no special treatment since the day it was planted. It certainly holds its own in my sometimes complicated garden.
The flowers are subtle and beautiful. One-inch-long, white, bell-shaped flowers can be found in mid-spring, dangling in pairs from the point at which each leaf emerges from the stem. Subtly fragrant, too lightly scented for my nose to pick up, they are said to have a lightly sweet lily-like fragrance that occurs as the flowers open.
Variegated Solomon’s seal is perhaps the most popular of all the Solomon’s seals, because it is the most vibrant in the shade. You may also find dwarf Solomon’s seal, giant Solomon’s seal, and fragrant Solomon’s seal. All are beautiful and certainly elegant additions to any shade or woodland garden space.
Solomon’s seal has a very angular, almost architectural, quality as it grows in the garden. This quality makes it appropriate for many garden styles, from casual woodland to the very eclectic collector’s garden, and it is certainly most simple and elegant in a contemporary or Asian-themed garden space.
Tweak your design
If you are designing your own garden, you may also run into the occasion when you install a garden and then think, “What in the heck, this is simply not working.” Don’t be too hard on yourself; this happens to everyone, whether you are a new gardener or a trained horticulturist and garden designer like me. A garden is a space that is growing and changing constantly, and as the gardener I hope you find yourself growing and changing along with your garden. A garden is a place to be happy, so if something in your garden is out of place or bugging you, don’t be afraid to change it. Is it possible to ever be too happy when you are in your garden?
ASK THE GARDENER
by Angie McManus
What time of year can you get a cutting off a rose bush and when is the best time to do it?
As long as your existing rose is healthy, it is certainly possible to propagate by taking a cutting. Most roses take very well to this type of propagation. The best time to do this is during the growing season. Use a clean pair of pruners or gardening scissors and take your cutting. You will want to remove about 4-5 inches of soft or semi-hard wood. This is found at the tip of the rose bush. Remove all the foliage except that at the very top. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone (such as Rootone) and pot it up in a peat-based potting soil. You should be able to find both the rooting hormone and a good potting soil at your local garden center. After it has been potted up, keep it in bright light and gently water it. Make sure not to put it in full sun or to overwater, and you should have roots in about three to four weeks. Do not tug on the cutting to see if it has rooted—you will still need to be gentle with it so that you do not damage or remove any of the new roots. For more information on home propagation, go on the Web to www.ca.uky.edu and search for “propagating plants” to locate and download the Propagating Plants In and Around the Home PDF file.
HAVE A GARDENING QUESTION?
Go to www.KentuckyLiving.com, click on Home & Garden, then “Ask The Gardener” link to ask a question.