The Principled Gardener Part 4 – Unity by Interconnection

Over the last several months I’ve been discussing the Design Principle of Unity and how it can be incorporated into our landscapes and gardens. We’ve looked at Unity by Repetition, Unity by Dominance and Unity of Three. Today I wrap up this discussion with a look at one last way we can create unity in our gardens, with the use of Interconnection.

Interconnection refers to the practice of connecting or physically joining all landscape elements and spaces. Now you’d think that since the definition of Unity is oneness, that the idea of interconnection or joining would be a no-brainer, but I have trouble convincing gardeners of this one. It’s certainly harder to achieve if the basic layout of your landscape is already in place, especially the hardscapes (patios, walkways, etc.), but if you have the opportunity to physically connect all your landscape spaces, the result is very pleasing. So what do I mean by this? Let’s look at the example below. In the image on the left, a number of different landscape features – a deck with a hot-tub, patio with a fire-pit, and kidney-shaped island beds – are all floating disconnected in a sea of lawn. This composition lacks interconnection. The image on the right includes the same landscape features but the spaces are now all linked together, hence this landscape has been unified through interconnection.

Left: landscape lacks unity. Right: landscape is unified through interconnection. Note how the lawn in the composition on the left, is ‘negative’ space, i.e. the space between the landscape elements. In the image on the right, the lawn has become a landscape element and the planting space is now the negative space.

What this means fellow gardeners, is – brace yourselves – no island beds. I suspect therein lies the gardener’s grievance with interconnection – we do love our island beds don’t we? But think about it, the word ‘island’ by definition means disconnected. Just to be clear though, this rule doesn’t apply to acreages where very large island plantings are often employed as spatial definers – perhaps to separate the landscaped area around the house, from the ‘back forty’.  In this case the plantings are large enough that the eye doesn’t experience them as islands, so unity isn’t compromised. Neither would it apply to botanical gardens, or show gardens – again the plantings are too large to be seen as island beds, and are planned in such a way as to facilitate foot traffic for maximum viewing potential.

Interconnection can also be utilized to unify an individual planting space – disparate groupings of trees, shrubs and perennials can be underplanted with a single type of groundcover or other low growing plant. This connecting plant material brings the dissimilar groups into relationship with each other, therefore unifying the whole planting composition.

A mass of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnickinnick) covers this entire bed thereby connecting the plant material and creating unity. Photo: Pat Gaviller

The idea of Interconnection is really underscored for me when I look at the evolution of my own garden. When we purchased our house almost 25 years ago, the only growing things in the front yard were two Cotoneaster shrubs, which the previous owner had tried in vain to kill, and a green ash tree, all of which were on city property. The only garden beds were small strips of soil against the foundation:

front yard 1

Over the next few years, I built upon these beds, first expanding the beds adjacent to the house and carving out a kidney-shaped bed around the ash tree:

front yard 2

A year or so later I decided to make the bed in front of the house a little curvier and I added a couple more island beds:

front yard 3

I kept adding and expanding until eventually it looked something like this:

front yard 4

I was never really happy with the design as a whole, even though each individual bed was nicely planted. When I’d stand back and try to take the whole thing in, what I saw was a bunch of scattered puzzle pieces – a disjointed picture, as if the puzzle was yet to be assembled. It wasn’t until I became a student of design that I discovered what the problem was; none of the beds were linked or touching, hence no interconnection = disunity. A number of years ago I decided to correct this and proceeded to join all of the beds.

front yard interconnected

It’s an improvement to be sure, but there are still flaws – a couple of acute angles which as you know is a design no-no. As well, due to the positioning of the sidewalk, the two sides are still unbalanced – but that’s a whole other story. In fact it’s a whole other design principle, that being the Principle of Balance which we’ll look at next month. Stay tuned.

Til next time,
© Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Has It Been Six Months Already?

Six months ago today I launched this blog – I didn’t mean to. I’d been preparing my first post – writing, inserting photos etc. I hadn’t even finished it, and I certainly hadn’t edited it for spelling or grammar, when I accidentally hit the Publish button. Oops! Lucky I hadn’t told anybody about the blog yet or that could have been really embarrassing. A month or so later I did the same thing – by that time though, I actually had some followers who get notification by email the moment I press Publish, and in some cases the email contains the actual post. Yikes, that is embarrassing! Anyways, in both cases I trashed the posts immediately, then finished them, edited and reposted. I also managed to trash some things I hadn’t intended to – good thing most of these were retrievable from the trash folder.

After a number of these little mishaps I thought to myself, ‘Maybe blogging is not for me’. My husband suggested I persevere and re-evaluate in 6 months – so here we are 6 months later and I’m doing just that. So what have I gained? Well for one, a hard-drive that’s almost full with the photos I’ve taken for this blog, not to mention the photos my sister has taken for me. And when I ask Pat to take a photo of a particular garden or vignette, she does so with zeal – from every conceivable vantage point, and at least 20, maybe 50 of each.  I have learned to do this as well – the more pictures I take of one thing, the better chance there is that I’ll get at least one that works……or not. So I go and take some more. One thing’s for sure – I’m becoming a better photographer. My eyes still glaze over when my sister talks about f-stops and apertures, shutter speeds and iso settings, but I know that I must learn about these if I want to continue to improve.

So what else have I gained? Of course some faithful readers and a handful of followers – to all of you, I say thank-you.  And to the bloggers who follow me, or ‘like’ me on Facebook, ‘ping’ me, or mention me in your blogs, I really do appreciate it. I can’t always repay the favour, but please know that every time I see that you have liked me, pinged me, followed me, or referred readers to my blog, I go right to your blog and visit for a while.

As for site stats, the number of daily views is growing, but it certainly isn’t boast-worthy. It’s enough though, that I know my efforts are appreciated. What I find particularly curious is the ‘Views by Country’ statistics – there have been views from over 70 countries, across 6 continents! Perhaps this isn’t noteworthy, but I just find it remarkable.  That someone from a culture and a climate vastly different from my own would find their way to this blog is, like I said, remarkable. I often wonder what these readers think (many of them garden in the best gardening climates in the world) when they read the humble ramblings of a Canadian prairie garden designer.

So why do I do this, this blogging thing? It’s hugely time-consuming, I don’t earn a living doing it and I’ve chosen not to accept new clients through it. It’s true I needed an on-line presence of some kind – I was never interested in advertising my design services on a traditional website, preferring instead to take clients by referral only. Nevertheless, as a landscape designer, instructor and speaker, I wanted to be able to refer students, prospective clients or workshop participants to my……….my what. Yes that’s it – my blog!

Still…….none of this is what motivates me to write. The truth is I write to give voice to the internal dialogue – that endless stream of  words that fills my head from morning ’til night. Those who know me know that I can be a tad verbose – indeed I always have so much to say.  I mean really, it’s taken me six paragraphs just to say, “I like to write. Thanks for reading!”

I know many of you visit this blog for design ideas and pretty pictures. Sorry, no design advice today – come back Monday though, for Part 4 of The Principled Gardener, as I conclude my discussion on Unity in Landscape Design. But just so you don’t leave disappointed, here’s a few pretty pictures.

Mid August in the garden. Photo: Sue Gaviller

A nice place to sit – one of those brake-stomping vignettes I periodically drive by. Photo: Sue Gaviller

A rainbow after today’s brief sunshower – it appeared just as I was about to publish this post. I’ll take that as a sign! Photo: Sue Gaviller

Thanks so much for reading,
© Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Midsummer’s Daydream

If you could dream up the perfect perennial what would be on your wish list?

How about big beautiful blooms? Check.

Long blooming? Check.

Enormous selection of bloom colours, bloom-times, sizes etc.? Yes indeed.

Easy care? Definitely.

Tidy growth habit? For sure.

Handsome foliage? Yes please!

Anything else? Let’s see…… about sweet but subtle fragrance? Yes definitely!

If only we could conjure up such a plant…..but alas it’s only a dream. Well maybe not; that dream plant sounds decidedly like Hemerocallis, the daylily – in fact this perennial has oft been called the ‘perfect perennial’. Hard to believe then, that there are those who claim not to like daylilies, scornfully referring to them as ‘ditch lilies’. Ouch, what a derisive term for such a beautiful, useful, reliable perennial!  As a designer, in a difficult climate, I can’t imagine the midsummer border without them. Some are even fragrant.  And they have few enemies, except for maybe hail but don’t get me started on that (I have yet to fully assess the damage from Sunday night’s storm). Granted, the daylily dissenters are likely referring to the tawny daylily, Hemerocallis fulva, that ubiquitous orange thing found in many a tired garden – but even it has its place.

Daylilies Reader Rock Garden resize

Hemerocallis fulva – that old garden variety daylily – can make a stunning statement when used effectively. Left: tawny daylilies line the sidewalk leading to Reader Rock Garden. Photo: Pat Gaviller. Right: beautifully paired with blue Delphinium. Photo: Sue Gaviller

This summer has been exceptional for Hemerocallis, at least in my own garden, which is home to numerous spectacular cultivars – every single plant is loaded with blooms.  But let’s revisit our wish list and see whether this ‘perfect perennial’ meets all of our expectations.

Big Beautiful Blooms

Generally speaking, daylilies are a large-flowered perennial – even the smaller cultivars have relatively big blooms compared to other perennials. Because the blooms are large, and profuse, the colour impact is significant, especially the brighter-hued selections. So don’t go wild with too many different colours blooming at once.

Strutter's Ball Daylily 2 resize

Hemerocallis ‘Strutter’s Ball’ is a big beefy daylily and can hold its own even when surrounded by mostly woody plant material. The velvety magenta flowers are huge and very showy.
Photos: Sue Gaviller

Hemerocallis ‘Purple Bicolour’ – a rather simplistic name for a stunningly unique cultivar. The soft rose-pink petals and sepals, and the wine-purple eye zone, merit a more exciting moniker. How about ‘Wine and Roses’ – a much more fitting name don’t you think? Photos: Sue Gaviller

Long Blooming

While each individual flower opens for only a day, there are so many buds on each branched scape that a single plant can bloom for weeks. And since there are early, mid-season, and late bloomers, daylily season is pretty much all summer long. As well, there are an increasing number of reblooming varieties that can rebloom several times throughout the summer.

‘Stella d’Oro’ was the first ever reblooming daylily cultivar. Her reliable bloom habit and dwarf form have made her a favourite of both gardeners and landscape professionals. Photo: Pat Gaviller.

Another reblooming cultivar, ‘Little Grapette’ is a dwarf selection. Though the blooms are smaller, they are profuse and richly coloured, so provide significant colour impact. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Enormous selection

Daylilies were once dismissed as pedestrian plants unsuitable for the sophisticated garden, but early in the last century they made a come-back with the introduction of new colours. This daylily renaissance marked the beginning of a new era in Hemerocallis hybridization, with cultivars now numbering in the tens of thousands – over 60,000 registered cultivars now exist! Breeding programs have produced a mind-boggling variety of colours – reds, oranges, yellows, golds, pinks, peaches, dark wines and purple-reds, near-whites and bicolours. Some have ruffled edges, some are fragrant, some dwarf and some huge. Early bloomers, mid-season bloomers, late bloomers and rebloomers……well you get the picture.

Much of the breeding has concentrated on producing new tetraploids – this refers to the number of chromosomes; 44 for a tetraploid, 33 for a triploid and 22 for a diploid. Those extra chromosomes result in stouter scapes and sturdier petals and sepals – thick and almost rubbery compared to the papery thin petals and sepals of non-tetraploids.

Chicago Antique Tapestry resize

Hemerocallis ‘Chicago Antique Tapestry’ – a rare find, this tetraploid is a really classy cultivar. Huge, ruffled and mildly fragrant blooms – a real stunner. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Another tetraploid, Hemerocallis ‘Starling’ is a regal addition to the midsummer border, pairing well with the above mentioned ‘Chicago Antique Tapestry’. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Hemerocallis ‘Kitten’s Paw’ is bright peachy pink – a lovely tetraploid with characteristic sturdy scapes and firm petals. Photo: Cathy Gaviller

Ruffled, spicy orange Hemerocallis ‘Hot Embers’ – another stand-out tetraploid. Photo: Pat Gaviller

Easy Care

Daylilies aren’t fussy plants – they’ll be happy just about any place you put them. From zone 1 to zone 11, in sun or light shade, moist or dry, clay or sand, they will perform. They are sufficiently drought tolerant to be a staple in our semi-arid climate, but they will appreciate a little extra water when in heavy bloom.  Deadheading every day will keep the plants looking fresh – luckily this is an easy task as the spent blooms snap off easily. I can deadhead all of my 20+ plants in a matter of minutes. Hemerocallis is for the most part pest and disease free and requires dividing only occasionally. I’d call that pretty easy care.

Tidy Growth Habit

I’ve never owned a daylily that required staking or tying of any kind. Even the very tall cultivars like ‘Tetrina’s Daughter’ or ‘Autumn Minaret’ stand up nicely on stiff stems, despite being bloom laden.

Handsome Foliage

Hemerocallis has wide strap-shaped leaves that arch gracefully, so the plant has design value even when not in bloom. They are ideal for underplanting trees or focal points, edging around planting beds, massing, and filling in difficult areas.

Grassy daylily foliage makes a nice underplanting, lending visual support to the bird bath. Photo: Sue Gaviller

A swath of dwarf reblooming Hemerocallis ‘Stella d’Oro’ is an effective way to plant a difficult space like this long narrow bed. When not blooming the arching daylily foliage still provides a simple elegant line. Photo: Pat Gaviller.

Sweet Subtle Fragrance

Many daylilies have a very pretty scent – some more so than others. It’s not overpowering, but if you’re standing or sitting nearby you’ll get a light bouquet on the nose.

Hemerocallis ‘Mary Reed’ is a dwarf cultivar with pretty mauve-pink blooms and a delicate scent. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Hemerocallis ‘Ivory Edges’ is by far the most fragrant daylily in my garden – strikingly beautiful as well. Photo: Sue Gaviller

When I awoke yesterday morning I peeked out the window to survey the devastation wrought by the previous night’s hail storm. Miraculously, what first caught my eye was cheerful daylily blooms – they seemed to be wishing me a beautiful day. How apt, since the word Hemerocallis comes from the Greek words hemera, meaning ‘day’ and kalos, meaning ‘beautiful’. May your day be beautiful – Hemerocallis!

Thanks for visiting – y’all come back now.
© Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.