Life by Design Inside and Out – Third Edition

This is the third in a series of creative perspectives about life and the design process from interior designer Kim Macumber and myself.  You can read Kim’s blog at:

A Garden Symphony by Heather McLean 

DSC02108“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Last week I worked with a client who felt overwhelmed by a perpetual mess in her garden. She had committed long hours of weeding, clipping and racking mulch but still felt it looked jumbled and without order. She thought she needed more flowers to break up the monotonous border of shrubs that lined up along her back fence. Under the shade of mature oak trees, she reported that her roses did not bloom and annuals she planted never flourished.  She asked me to meet with her and create a plan for a garden she would love.


When I arrived I discovered a long hedgerow made up of a variety of small evergreens that had been pruned into submission. All of the specimens were about the same color of green, with small ovate leaves that had been trimmed into a neat little herd about three feet tall.  They were all lined up along the fence like a dejected band of kindergarteners sentenced to time out.

One of the most common mistakes that I encounter in garden design is a lack of diversity in foliage color, shape and size. When everything else looks the same, even the flowers will not stand out. Structurally a garden is much like a musical composition, where the chord progression and melody must support the lyrics. Repetition and contrast give the music rhythm and the variations in tone and volume makes it more interesting. Trees, shrubs, and grasses need to create a beautiful background for flowers to highlight. The colorful blossoms are the crescendos of the music, making it vibrant and exciting.

DSC00371“There is music amongst the trees in the garden, but our heart must be very quiet to hear it.”  Minnie Aumonier

I like to think of the garden as a symphony evolving in movements; the blossoming of Spring trees, followed by the bouquets of Summer and the swirling leaves of Autumn. Even the resting time of Winter should hold our interest. In classical music a portion of a complete work will stand well on its own and is often separated by a brief silence. This break gives the ear a rest just as quiet spaces in the garden can give us respite from our busy lives.

Our gardens offer us a gift each and every day and in all seasons, if only we will take the time to look… and listen.

remember, goodness grows,


This entry was posted in Garden Design, Gardeneing, Life by Design, Inside and Out and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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