Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Garden Industrial Chic

My friend Jane's Arlington, Virginia, garden was on tour on Sunday and it was still looking quite spiffy this Monday morning.  I need practice shooting--with my camera that is-- so what better place to take aim than in her crisp, cutting-edge garden, which she's recently updated with industrial chic metal features painted in bold primary colors.  A driveway of permeable paving is a new eco-friendly feature made possible with a grant from the local county's StormwaterWise Landscape Program  

This fence hides the trash bins and will ultimately have a gate attached on the right

The yellow Yuccas 'Color Guard' are the perfect foil for the newly installed azure blue trash corral. The combination injects a dose of Mediterranean, or could it be Californian  (Jane is originally from Pasadena), flair in this small town garden.  

The fence sits at the back of her new driveway.  In the photo above you can see into the garden where grass now replaces some of the old driveway leading to the garage.

Beds flanking the grass contain plants that like to bask in the southern exposure and reflected heat of pea gravel mulch. (That's Yucca rostrata on the left below.)

Perhaps the most unifying detail in the garden is the chunky red metal edging (seen below), a satisfyingly 2 inches thick, though hollow inside and secured by long flanges plunged into the ground. This sleek powder- coated curb visually defines and anchors the beds in the sunny portion of the garden. The bright garnet color stands out even in the harshest mid-day Virginia summer sun.  

Jane designed all the metal features, including the warm, rusty brown fence made of panels of cut out circles.  In addition to the nice visual texture, it's a good support for twining vines.

Grass seen through a close-up of the fence

A cultivar of Campanula glomerata

Above Cuphea and an orange Colibrachoa make a color echo against the red edging.  

Amazingly,Curry plant winters over (and you know what our past winter was like) in the opposite bed up against the chimney.  And that's the grey green leaves of Eryngium yuccifolium on the right. 

Clematis happily twines

Turning the corner in front of the garage, you discover the "Zen Sand Circle," as Jane calls it, a pool of raked sand surrounded by chartreuse Spirea, a tall Cryptomeria and a Sweet Gum screening the apartment house behind.  Jane has played with adding an object, like a sinewy tree limb, to set off the space, but her preference is to leave the circle empty, a  simple void in an otherwise lush garden.    

A close-up of Oenothera fruiticosa and Rhus typhina 'Tiger's Eye
At the back of the house Jane designed a set of blue steel stairs with a landing at the top just big enough for two to sit overlooking the sand circle.  Jelly-bean-colored plastic chairs were a cheap find at the local Harris Teeter about 5 years ago and add a whimsical punch.  

On the north side of the house there's a respite from the dazzling color and open spaces of much of the garden.  Here a brick path cuts through a shady, woodland planting.  The fertile fronds of Royal Fern brush up against the house.

Native Ginger canadensis
Jane's garden is, in many ways, a big garden in a small package.  I admire how daring she's been with her architectural features, as well as her planting scheme.  She manages to grow a wide variety of plants well  and doesn't rely heavily on the regular repetition or broad sweeps of plants that many designers do to achieve unity.  I hope I can get back in her garden again soon to record the changes. 


  1. What a refreshing look at the key hardsccape of a garden. Absolutely love the fence and edging treatments. Would both sell very well on the market. She should be very proud of herself.

    1. Thanks, Patrick. Indeed, Jane should be proud. If only some of her clients were as daring.

  2. Brilliant. I shall abandon the two acres forthwith and make a town garden like this. Love the colours and the whole design. Exciting. I guess it would need less gardening and more scrbbing and painting to keep it sparkling..

    But why have I only just come across you, Sarah? And why do you follow my husband's blog (Charles Hawes) but neither of mine!! (http://thinkingardens.co.uk/ and http://veddw.com/blog/)

    May I take this opportunity to introduce myself and say hello, on the back of your apparent familiarity with Charles?

    Anne Xxx

    1. Ah, but I do follow Thinkingardens, and have commented a few times. It just doesn't show up on my list. I shall have to fix that! I'm happy you found me this post. (I'm a new blogger, so not many posts .) In fact, I was just telling Jane about your blog and its sphere of influence ;-)

      The red powder-coated edging may need some washing now and then, I suppose-- like a car, as someone commented during tour. I think the blue steel structures should be pretty maintenance free -- time will tell! For this area, Jane's garden is an usually exciting garden. (Jane is a transplanted Californian and it shows.)

      One day I hope to visit Veddw and the walk the welsh trails. Thanks for visiting, Anne. xox sarah

  3. I like the bold decision-making that it took to engineer this garden design and I like the eye with which you viewed the garden. But personally I'm still too much of a naturalist to want to incorporate all those manufactured elements. Interesting, nonetheless.