The end of March may roar like a lion or meet April in showers of flowers, but early spring is always the time to become inspired to create beauty.
Gardening not only provides benefits to the gardener with more fresh air, exercise, flowers and produce, but adding plants helps to clean up air and water pollution and provide all-important nectar and pollen for the birds and the bees.
Inspiration for adding plants to your landscape or patio is as close as your nearest garden center, but over the years, travel to outstanding show gardens in other countries has also planted the seeds of inspiration. If you can’t make it to my talk on April 4 at the Kirkland library on Stealing Beauty, here are some ideas to steal for your own garden this year:
▪ Steal from the Dutch: Beautify with bulbs – the easy way.
Even if you forgot to plant spring blooming tulips, daffodils and bluebells in the fall, you can still add enchantment to your world with these traditional spring bloomers. Head thee to a nursery and bring home a plastic pot already potted with bulbs budded up and ready to bloom.
No need to break out the trowel or purchase potting soil — just slip the plastic pot inside a larger decorative container such as a basket, colander or porch pot that is lacking color. You can hide the rim of the plastic pot with moss, wine corks, even plastic Easter eggs. You can even dig a hole and plant the bulbs pot and all into the ground. Once the flowers have faded simply remove the bulbs, leaves and all from the container and transplant them into the garden or add them to the compost pile.
In Holland the celebration of spring means potted bulbs are displayed in window boxes, public and private gardens, and tiny bulbs are even set into bird’s nest that are then wired onto the branches of street trees and public spaces. Nobody celebrates spring like the Dutch — but we can try.
Garden to visit near Amsterdam: Keukenhof.
▪ Steal from the French: Plan for pools of pastel colors.
Monet painted soft pinks, purples and blue color tones in his famous watercolors and garden scenes, and the highly developed artistic sense of the average French citizen means that even home gardeners pay attention to color echoes, color groupings and color families.
You can make like Monet and float some hellebore blossoms in your bird bath or as a table centerpiece (hellebore blooms closely resemble Monet’s water lilies) or take a cue from the French paint box and plant a container or garden bed in ribbons of pastel colors. Think cool, blue delphiniums, pink phlox and lavender petunias with accents of white or purple. Yes, you are painting with flowers and every gardener is an artist with a trowel.
Garden to visit near Paris: Monet’s garden in Giverny.
▪ Steal from the Italians: Formal forms.
Mama Mia! You won’t see bountiful blooms in a traditional Italian garden as lack of water has taught Mediterranean gardeners to use form and symmetry to create the living masterpieces of classic garden design. In your own garden use balance and symmetry to add a more formal look to the front of a house with matching urns or container gardens.
Do not try to grow the tall and narrow Italian cypress in our wet-winter climate. Instead substitute the tall and skinny Ilex “Sky Pencil” to create exclamation points in the landscape or to fill a classic terra cotta container with evergreen form.
Garden to visit near Rome: The Vatican gardens.
▪ April 4, 7 p.m., Peter Kirk Community Center, Kirkland, “Stealing Beauty: Great Garden Ideas from around the World,” free, beautifulplants.brownpapertickets.com