More Lessons from Garden Tours

Path in gardenI posted over the weekend about the Hudson, Wis., Artful Garden tour, which included a variety of large and small gardens and different garden styles. On Sunday, I attended the South St. Paul Garden Tour, a one-day event with eight  private gardens (and one public) open to the public. The gardens illustrated many of the basic concepts of garden design and demonstrated how to put them into practice in your own yard. Here are four lessons I took away from my afternoon in South St. Paul.

Make a path. Gardens are meant for wandering. You want visitors (and the gardener) to be able to get from one garden space to the next easily. This photo was taken in a two-tiered urban lot that was immaculately designed. It had a Japanese aesthetic, I thought, and it felt very comfortable and soothing, in part due the the paths that led you around the garden.

Plant big. Big plants, like this fabulous giant Japanese butterbur (Petasites Japonicus), have impact. They cover a lot of territory, giving a grounded feeling to parts of the garden. This one is in a back corner where it disguises some utility areas and acts as an exclamation point in that section of the garden.

Hypertoufa container with rocks


Use texture. Yes, plants can provide texture with their leaf shapes, prickles or downy coverings. But sticks, rocks and sculptural elements also add textural contrast. This hypertoufa container of rocks adds a different dimension than it would filled with fluffy annuals or spiny succulents. It’s especially interesting next to the twig arbor leading to the lower section of this garden.

Have fun! Why not hang a bird cage in the garden and put a black-eyed Susan vine in it? Or how about putting mannequin heads with caps on them in a shrub? Antiques make great additions to gardens because they have a patina and texture of their own.

Here’s a photo gallery with more shots from the South St. Paul tour, including some of the fun elements I saw. What are some of your best ideas from garden tours?