Sunday, December 30, 2007

Winter Gardening: Form (Part 3)

Form is how the structure of the garden is put together and the kind of mood which is presented to the gardener. It is how the hardscaping and plant material are married to one another. But form does not require both hardscaping and plant material in order to work effectively.

A good example of both hardscaping and plant material is the above picture which shows a red twig dogwood in front of a hunter green split rail fence with a chain link fence to the left of the shrub. This is structure (the fences and the shrub) but then you look at the shape and feeling the fence and shrub present to the gardener and you get the feel for the form. The fence kind of gives a solid appearance while providing us a backdrop for the plant material. The plant material is a deciduous shrub which has a strange reaching spidery type of form. One might think the shrub is reaching out to you. The two together make the form of this particular winter vignette.

Form can also be the straight trunks of the deciduous trees. Not only are the trees structure, but they are in a straight and linear which is the form; which makes the viewer want to look up and down. Therefore, form is different from structure in that structure tells the gardener there is something there, and form tells the gardener how to feel or where to look. These tree trunks break up the horizon and keep the gardener's eyes within the garden. This is form. If these trees were all Christmas tree shaped fir trees, the gardener would have an entirely different feeling. It would seem form and structure are the same, but they truly are not. The structure is the backbone and basis for the garden, whereas the form tells us what kind of garden we designed.

Lastly, form can be just the plant and shape of the plant itself. This PeeGee hydrangea is a deciduous shrub just like the red twig dogwood above. But this hydrangea, while spidery and reaching like the red twig, has a totally different feel than the red twig dogwood. The red twig seems to be lighter and airier and gives the gardener a sense of space. The hydrangea would seem to give the gardener (me) a sense of messiness since the stems are all intertwined and seem in need of organizing. The form of the plants is what sets the mood of the garden. It is how the structure is presented which makes form important in all gardens, no matter what the season.

in the garden....


  1. Hi Guys,
    My peegee gives me a sense of messiness also and boy, it takes along time to bud.
    Do you have anything in the works for fruit or nut trees? Once we have the space I would like a small orchard and had a walnut tree once before.

  2. Tina, almost the first thing I said when I first went over to Terri-Lynn's was omg, Tina would love to have a pic of that owl. She got it for over 20 mintues on the camcarder but it does not have a usb port so don't know how to send that. However, she did take snapshots so when she finishes the film and gets it developed we will send some. They will not be as good as with the cam cause on the cam could zoom so it was right smack in front of you. Oh it was something to watch!! I have seen owls in the wild before but never that close and for so long.

    Again I will ask if anyone has any idea how many types of owls there are? I have always like owls, as did my mother. I used to save em as my kids can tell you and as my mother did. I did some research on them yesterday and never had any idea how many there were. Take a guess everyone and I will tell you how many in a couple of days.

  3. By the way Dawn, a lot of the folks down south will think you are nuts to say you want an orchard up here in the cold north but people do have em. There are a lot of fruit we can't grow, but a lot we can. Do you girls remember the fruit trees Nana and Baba had? They had 3 cherry trees, 2 pear trees, 1 plum tree and ofcourse several of the standard for up here, apple. They all produced every year and had been there since I was a youngest. Or at least they went back from when I was 10 years old. That is when Nana and Baba bought the house on the river and the trees were there when they bought the house so do not know how old they were then.

  4. I remember them flowering, I knew you could grow them all up here except I did not know about the plum. I have seen a mature black walnut, the bark is smooth and the folliage is fern like, really pretty. My was begining to take off(it was by the split rail) then I fertlized it. I did not know you weren"t surposed to do that and it killed it. Once I get the mobile out of here I need to decide what to do, either way I am having a small orchard somewhere.

  5. When u have it Nana will look down from above and smile and say "That's my granddaughter, just like she does with both of you girls gardens. Love ya both

  6. Jean, you have my curiosity with the owls....
    I cant wait to see how many there are. I am going to take a wild guess and say over 50 different types but probably more. I am always amazed as to how many things we thought were few are actually many in the animal kingdom....

    We have an owl occasionally in our yard woods but never see it. Hear it in the fall though. I think the resident Hawk keeps it at bay….

    We saw the hawk yesterday on a fence post in the back yard. He was wet as can be from the falling rain but still hunting around for a meal. The Saint took Minnie for a walk and spotted the hawk in a tree with its wings spread open drying them and screeching his loud chatters. He was on his way to get me so I could witness this spectacular scene but the bird of prey flew off before the Saint could get to me…

    Share the picture of the owl… I would enjoy seeing it…

  7. Hey guys,
    Let me try this again. I had a really long comment prepared and the Internet shut down. Grrrr Probably for the best since it was soooo long.

    Mom, by all means send me a picture. I found a website that has some pictures of owls of North America. Try it out.

    Dawn, I grow tons of fruit but I don't have anything like an orchard. I will do posts on the fruits I grow in the future. I am sure all will grow great up there. We in the south do grow fruits-even apples where the orchardists have special events to press cider-believe it or not. Not always successful due to not enough cold, too much heat and drought. I would contact some orchardists for some advice. This is always best when undertaking any new project. But really, you can just plant at least two cultivars of whatever type of fruit you want to grow, prune the trees as they grow and harvest. Watch for pests but with total integrated pest managment (IPM) you shouldn't have too many. Good luck!

    Skeeter, I love the hawks too. We have alot in the south. I do hear owls all the time but have's seen any. Owls remind me of my time in Iraq. Every single morning I would wake up to an owl hooting. Such a great experience. Can't wait to see the video mom.


  8. Skeeter, A hint...Yes, more, way more! We also have a lot of hawks and they are impressive with their size and wing span but I do not like em. They are mean, greedy, vultures. Loud screeching is an understatement on them. Oh I shiver just thinking of them. I am pretty much an animal lover but never like hawks or crows.

    I will most definitely send pics when she gets em.

  9. Oh darn, I forgot here i go again...can't blame the holidays anymore. LOL. Tina, I never complain about the lenth as I enjoy ALL the comments. Love ya