A client of mine once noted that in virtually every garden I design – from the smallest rooftop container garden to many-acre country gardens – I use plants in mass as part of the design.  It was a good observation.

Many plant lovers – and I admit I am one of them – satisfy their hunger for plants by getting one or a few of a beloved plant and spot them around the garden.  The result, as many have said before me, is a collection not a garden.  And I surely want to see and enjoy – and have others share — the details of the plants I love.

But creating spaces is my primary design goal…and plants are my design material, the means by which I create spaces.  You can’t do it with different plants spotted around.

So, for example, the driveway will be lined with Sargent Cherries – ten of them – creating a sense of direction, of motion, and defining the space which is the driveway. And incidentally, by leading to it, also defining the space which is the house.  Here’s the post I did about the Cherries.

Ten flowering crabapples define the orchard; it is a space of its own.

Similarly, the grass meadow – over an acre of tall grass (I haven’t decided yet which grass species will be appropriate in this climate for the effect I want) will be shared with red Flanders Poppies,  Papaver rhoeas in the spring.   Then, by the time the Poppies have died back the grasses will have their seed heads moving in the breeze for the remainder of the year.

The powerful bed displaying Bronze Fennel (200) and Rosa ‘Morning Has Broken’ (18) is a space of its own and will also help define the lawn that leads to it.

A copse of six Witch Hazels,Hamamelis fills the area between the driveway and the front door with winter beauty and fragrance.  It makes that area a definite Place.

These are all beautiful plants in their own right.   And they would be no less beautiful if planted in ones or twos.  But then they wouldn’t also be acting as part of the design.  They would be a collection, not a garden.


When I open my eyes in the morning, I will see this combination of plants, a huge field of them,  all summer.

Bronze fennelBronze Fennel, a deep purple, feathery leafed relative of the fennel we eat.

I’m planning 200 of them.  A wonderful, waving mass.




bronze fennel flowerIt gets to be about 4′-5′ tall and flowers in late summer, a yellow cap.






Rose Morning has BrokenInterspersed, a repeat-blooming yellow rose, ‘Morning has Broken’, its coarse, shiny green leaves to contrast with the delicate Bronze Fennel leaves and its golden, fragrant  flowers to repeat the flower color of the Fennel.




SmoketreeAll anchored by several Smoketrees, a haze of dark buff-pink over it all.