An expert’s advice on making use of garden ‘rooms’

When we left you last week, noted television garden personality
P. Allen Smith was addressing

Color in the Garden

to members of the Garden Writers Association at their annual
symposium this past fall in Chicago. Allen, as he prefers to be
called, is a big believer at extending your garden from inside to
out through the use of so-called garden

rooms.

When we left you last week, noted television garden personality P. Allen Smith was addressing “Color in the Garden” to members of the Garden Writers Association at their annual symposium this past fall in Chicago. Allen, as he prefers to be called, is a big believer at extending your garden from inside to out through the use of so-called garden “rooms.”

Think about the view of your garden from inside your home, he said. “Consider planting a garden room that can be viewed from your kitchen or family room,” Allen said. “After all, you spend more time inside, particularly this time of year. But you can still enjoy your garden room if you plant it in a strategic location.”

Smith’s garden on his television show looks expansive, but is only 150 feet by 100 feet, he said. That’s because it’s divided up into nine different garden rooms. “Visitors to my garden are amazed when they see it,” he explained. “Not because it’s so impressive, but because it’s so small. On television, it looks like it’s acres in size.”

Allen uses evergreen shrubs – everything from rosemary and lavender to even deciduous roses – as backdrops to his garden rooms. “The backdrop is like an artist’s canvas,” he said. “You need to get your garden framework in place first, and then it gets easier.”

Allen conceded sometimes it is overwhelming to walk into a garden center and see so many choices. By dividing your garden into several “rooms,” you can gain more control of what you want to plant and where. “Planting individual garden ‘rooms’ will help you get organized and get away from this feeling of being overwhelmed,” he said.

Allen also recommended taking some of the same principles of interior decorating to your garden. Taking fabric samples to the garden center and matching them to impatiens, geraniums, petunias, roses and more are a great way to blend the interior of your home to the garden’s exterior, he said.

Allen said not to overlook the color white or gray in your color scheme either. “White or gray harmonizes with any color. Whether it’s white impatiens or petunias, or Dusty miller, artemesia or lamb’s ear – all offer white or gray flowers or foliage.”

Finally, Allen conceded he is a “big believer” in organic compost. His favorite? Good ol’ steer manure, which is available in bags from any garden center. “My brother gives me a load of steer manure every year for my birthday each March,” he says, laughing. “I have the smelliest birthday present in the neighborhood, but my garden responds beautifully.”

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