It’s rare when a gardener has enough confidence to design a sidewalk garden. I know I’m guilty of the typical 1950s rambler style with my endless expanse of unwatered lawn with scraggly foundation shrubs; I think many of us consider ourselves amateurs and practice in the back yard. However, master designer Wendy Welch, who specializes in containers and is a lead garden designer at the Seattle Children’s Play Garden, has shared her plant and color knowledge with neighbors in NW Seattle.
Smart Plant Choice
This subtle garden is easy to drive past in a hurry, but if you stroll along the sidewalk, you’ll see drought-resistant and forgiving, low-maintenance dwarf shrubs and perennials. Shown here with a backbone of Cotinus and Juniperus chinensis ‘Torulosa’ (Hollywood Juniper), the low mounded golden Cedrus deodara, two different small-leaved Hebes, possibly H. cupressoides ‘McKean’ and H. topiaria, Santolina, and several well-behaved box (Buxus) anchor the bed.
Our Seattle Grey (a future Pantone Color, perhaps?), reflected in the pea gravel, is carefully complemented with a palette of citron, lavender, and midnight purple. The Euphorbia and hellebore introduce the theme with chartreuse and pale green flowers in the spring. It is cleverly continued into summer with this dramatic combination of the golden-green Nicotiana langsdorfii, the pale lavender Catananche caerulea and the dark Alcea rosa ‘Nigra’. This blue Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ echos the bluish tint of the tough Euphorbia.
You could almost miss the dark Scabiosa atropurpurea here, but it is repeated in several places and echoed with another, Scabiosa caucasica ‘Fama Blue’, on both ends of the border.
This is not your grandmother’s cottage garden inviting you in for cookies and iced-tea. It is bold, dramatic and challenging. You wouldn’t want to walk your dog too close to the edge. Even the spiky Eryngium giganteum ‘Sapphire Blue’ and E. giganteum ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’ say ‘go away’. Yet, these are the plants that stand up to Southern exposures and little watering. If you have sandy or well-draining soil, embrace your inner Addams Family and include these spiky, no-nonsense plants.
This garden has much to recommend it with dramatic texture, subtle color and ease of maintenance. We should all take note of the new, improved Rambler Style, get rid of our lawns, and share our gardens with our neighbors. Maybe not too closely, though.