The use of plants in modern gardens

Javier del Rio Mol. | Collegiate Landscaper AEP - 728 |

Dear reader of Solkysten magazine, in case you haven’t had the opportunity to read the two previous articles published on contemporary gardens, I will give you a short summary of what I wrote in them, in the first article we talked about how the design of the gardens should be. Gardens, in modern homes, in which I explained that they must follow the same straight and simple lines used in the architecture of the house, creating mainly rectangular and triangular areas only occasionally to break with the symmetry, in the second article, we talked about the materials that are used outdoors, I mentioned that the materials used inside the house are usually used outdoors aswell, the floors of the terraces and pool areas are a continuation of those inside the house. Concrete steps used for the paths and all kinds of gravels and boulders, reduce grass surfaces and thus maintenance and water consumption.

In this third publication we will talk about the characteristics and the way that plants are used, did you know that you can create a garden without plants? Japanese Zen gardens are best known example, with a whole millenary philosophy, sand and rocks, they are capable of creating gardens, without a single plant.

But let’s focus on gardens where vegetation is of great importance and a very particular use is made of it, both due to the change in the plants that are most used, and the way in which they are used.

Let’s start with the tallest plants, the trees, there is a tendency to choose plants with a lot of character, with very marked structures, trees must be carved in geometric shapes as perfect as possible, such as magnolias or cypresses. With palm trees or tropical groups we usually look for the most impressive, with very marked and clean lines or with special geometric shapes. Bismarckias, Roystoneas, Washintonias, Archontophoenix, in general all palm trees meet this requirement, as well as some exemplary tropical plants such as the Sterlizias nicolai, the Pandanus, the Cicas, or the Giant Ferns.

In the second level we have the bushes, small palm trees, tropical plants and the vivacious, here we mainly find three forms of use. One is once again for the plant type with a lot of character and very marked structures such as the Fornios, the Chamaerops, the Sterlizias regina, the Beaucarneas, all these plants stand out from the rest, due to the shapes of their leaves or their colors, they generate a focal point of attention.

Another use for them is for the hedges, they have a great protagonism, weather they are high or low, they are formed with different plants of, Eugenias, Metrosideros, Mirtus, Pistacia lentiscus, Westringias, etc, for hedges that overlap, marking the lines of the garden.

The third way widely used, is to maintain ball-shaped plants, sometimes they are large symmetrical groups and other times it’s isolated plants to contrast with rectilinear hedges, for this the Buxus, Mirtus, Pitosporum tobira nana and the Westringias are fabulous to use.

Finally, we have the flat surfaces, these are usually covered with fine grass such as the Cynodon, the Choisya, or the Paspalum, used generally in rectilinear shapes, or triangular, although, occasionally we can design them curvilinear, to break with the rest of the layout or to mark a different use of an area, but as I mentioned before, more and more people choose to create gravel and bowling surfaces instead of meadows to reduce water consumption and maintenance, as seen in Zen gardens.

The plants should be often be repeated and only a few types should be used to achieve the image of harmony and simplicity, which the architecture of the house requires to keep a balance with the garden.

This is simply my point of view about the gardens that I have had the opportunity to visit, and it’s the criteria that I use to design gardens, as each landscaper will have theirs.

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