Scaling Back? Think Again!

Walk in any garden center or big box store this time of year and you’ll find every shape and sized “cutesy” bird bath, whimsical garden sculpture, or artistic garden bench. Before you place that small feature in your landscape to add a finishing touch, here are a few tips for finding the right sized element that will be in scale once your landscape has matured.

1.  Big boulders to small pebbles…

Becca LaBarre

They may strike your eye now, but this is a new landscape and the boulders will slowly disappear as the landscape grows. When placing any stone in the landscape is important to put enough in the make a statement or don’t add it at all. It’s ok if it looks out-of-place right away. I like to add lots of groundcover or low perennials around boulders or outcropping to make the stone blend into the landscape. These two boulders are about 36 inch round and even though that may sound large the picture illustrates how small that can look in certain contexts.

2.  Water feature…small is still big

Pete Goodreau

This vase water feature sit about 40″ tall. The grasses behind them are brand new, but in a few years will be about 4-5′ tall. That will make them taller than the vase, thus making it appear smaller.

3.  Big house…big plants

This landscape is planted with all plants that will grow no more than 3 ft tall. Not only is there no diversity in sizes and textures, but the plants look lost in front of the large buff wall of the foundation of this house.

Bob Stell

It is typical to find landscapes using a million small round shrubs dotting the front foundation. Part of the problem is improper pruning, but the other part is improper scale. If you have a larger home, it makes a big difference if a larger specimen of plants can be used. To be more frugal, use a few larger trees of at least 7 ft tall ornamental trees or 3 inch caliper shade trees. I don’t get as hung up on planting larger perennials. They will grow in a year or two. The previous picture shows a newly planted landscape. The maple tree to the very right of the photo was planted at a 4-5 inch caliper tree.

Choose garden elements wisely and err on the side of oversized and you won’t be disappointed. In the scale of focal garden features…bigger is better!


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