If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you’ve heard me talk about the “re-boot” I’m undertaking in parts of my garden at home. This past year I’ve been able to indulge my plant lust without remorse. I’ve had lots of open ground to work with due to heavy edits I’ve been doing in my front, side, and back gardens.
Before I go on, let me acknowledge this: I am a plant lover—unabashed and unapologetic. However, I’m also very committed to my garden as an expression of my artistic vision; as a four-dimensional art form.
Now back to that bit about plant lust. One of the ways that I bring order to my garden and to avoid visual chaos is by using repetition to bind potentially discordant vignettes together. Without this repetition, my garden probably wouldn’t hold together as well as it does. With it, I’m able to pursue my plant passions without abandoning my artistic aspirations.
This is one of the reasons behind the old rule: buy plants in multiples of 3, 5, or 7. When you think about this oft-repeated recommendation in the context of repetition, it makes perfect sense.
One area where I rely on this a lot is with the low, front-of-the-border weavers that I use. These plants are the glue that binds the garden together, helping to convey a cohesive, unified whole. They’re often ground covers or compact perennials and grasses.
That said, it’s difficult to see this principle in action from photographs. Typically, garden photos have a hard time fully illustrating repetition. Our brains take in exponentially more than the camera can convey. Repeated plants and colors can be subtle cues that lead you through a garden ― for example, the heucheras that appear in the front garden may be echoed by another in the side garden, and your mind and your body will pick up on the fact that there is a recurring thread. The camera can’t capture that.
Qualities of a good binder:
- Compact, tidy growth habit with small footprint.
- Looks good over a long season.
- Often reads as neutral vs. busy or showy.
- Relatively common and easy to find at a reasonable price.
- Reliable and easy to grow.
- Bonus points for being flexible and adaptable in terms of cultural needs.
Below are some of my go-to plants for creating continuity and cohesion in the gardens I make with clients and here at home.