Classic-this word suggests those design details that withstand the passage of time.  A classic suit, a classic black dress, a classic room- each is timeless.  Satisfying and visually meaningful , no matter the era.  A landscape design that is classic gives no hint of its age or period.  These extraordinary designs in no way reflects a trend, or popular opinion.  They just are, on their own, in spite of the passage of years or the whim of popular opinion, extraordinary.   

The gardening trends that turned my head over the past 35  years are many-that story if of not so much interest to you, or to me.  But some gestures are classic.  Worth going back to again and again.  Green and white-this color scheme is a garden classic. 

Green and white has a history of expression in the landscape that knows no bounds.  White flowers nestled into a green landscape-Sissinghurst, in a word.  A white garden-timeless.  Green and white awnings-a classic expression that can be interpreted in an entirely contemporary way.  Green and white is a simple, maybe obvious decision for a landscape or a garden room, but it is a classic one. 

I am attracted to color.  Bright color.  Saturated color.  Like a moth to the brightly colored light-that would be me.  But I am appreciative of those classic garden gestures that rely solely on green and white.  There are lots of shades of green.  White in the garden has a wide range-from cream to bright white.  Green describes no end of colors-from lime to blue-green.  A good garden pays much attention to the greens of the foliage, as the flowers are so ephemeral and short lived.  I admire any designer who works with an eye for color.

The fall season features the colors traditionally associated with the harvest.  Orange, yellow and cream.  The drying leaves are taupe, and brown.  The kales and cabbages are dark purple, and turquoise.  The pansies are cream yellow, and strikingly intense yellow.  Pansies are available in blue, lavender, and rose.  Fiber optic grass is lime green, as is angelina.  

That said, there are bright whites, creamy whites, dark greens available in the fall. Green and white is a classic-in the garden, in the conservatory, in the landscape.  Local growers are happy to oblige those gardeners who have a mind to represent a classic look.  Or a traditional look.  Or a funky look.  The availability of lots of different choices means that every gardener can have a look that expresses their own distinctive point of view.

This client subscribes to a classic look.  No matter the season, she likes green and white.  Should you not be interested in the yellows and oranges that characterize a Michigan fall, you have other choices.  She was hesitant to fill these steel boxes with gourds and pumpkins, until I told her she could have green and white. 

The cultivation of a garden is the product of a very indivual expression.  The head gardener-that would be you.  Each Michigan fall harvest season is big and wide enough to provide materials that enable every gardener to speak their piece. In their own way. The oranges and brown traditionally associated with our fall are not a given.  You have the freedom to express the fall in whatever way you want.  Nature provides for a lot of choices.  You need only choose.  These boxes loaded with green and white pumpkins and gourds would not be  to my client’s taste.  She was not aware that she had choices other than orange.  She was relieved not to have any orange, yellow, brown, or cream.   This does not surprise me-she has taste that runs to the classic.

What’s Good About This?



These pots are a bit of a bedraggled mess, but there are some good things about them.  It is proof positive that we have 4 seasons, each of which lasts about three months.  I planted them the end of September- that makes this planting just shy of three months old.  This client got a full season’s worth.  I did have a client who did not plant fall pots this year.  By October 15 she was wondering when the winter pots could be done.

Twigs and greens become available in the early part of the winter season.  The twigs arrive after all of the leaves have dropped; in a good year, this is November 15.  The winter cut greens are not far behind. She emailed me threee times-that fall season with empty pots proved to be a long one for her.  This fall pot is finally beginning to succumb to the effects of relentless fall rains, and cold.  The kale are still amazingly fresh looking and colorful.

 The mess of a deteriorating situation reminds me of the look of my perennial garden in early winter.  The grasses bend, go over, break off, and blow down the street.  The kales are still their inflexible and massive selves.  Brown is beginning to seem like the dominant color. Clearly my client has not touched these pots up in any way.  All of the dead leaves are still there.  Not one thing has been snipped off, propped up, or fluffed out.  What I am looking at is the end of the fall season, plain and simple. 

I don’t mind the look of plants going dormant, or succumbing to the cold.  There is a certain stark beauty in that.  I had to chop back all of the perennials in my rose garden early this fall, as I repainted all of the trim and windows on the house. I am already missing seeing that garden in its early winter incarnation. 

This spike will eventually dry to a pale cream color.  The wiry stems firmly resist decomposition.  Would that my hosta leaves would dry, rather than collapsing into mountains of yellow mush.  Hosta leaves are mostly water; a good frost finishes them off for good.  Have you ever tried to rip a spike leaf in half?  The entire plant would come out of the ground first.  If you have a plan to leave your dead plants in your pots over the winter, spikes and grasses will brave the winter weather better than most.

Certain plants represent robustly-all fall long.  The cabbages and kales far outlast the pansies, and the creeping jenny.  The seed heads of grasses far outlast their foliage.  Vinca maculatum is the most amazingly cold resistant plant.  It is as green as green can be, in December. 

There are those bridge plants-plants that can thrive for more than one season.  The succulent trailer known as angelina is green all year round for me.  Persian Queen geraniums are great in the summer, and good very late into the fall.  The fairly new perennial geranium Rozanne is still throwing flowers in December.   Some pansy cultivars planted in the fall are right back the following spring. I probably will redo this container for winter, but I do not really need to do so anytime soon.