Saturday, June 9, 2012

Scaling Big Ideas for the Home Garden

When walking around a place like the Chicago Botanic Garden, it's easy to get intimidated by the scale of things -- especially considering the space is more than 1,500 times larger than a standard quarter-acre lot. When we are awed by the grandeur one of these display gardens, our minds often go into I can't do that at home mode. The problem is one of scale. How do we translate the idea down to a manageable size for our home garden?

For me the trick is to ignore size and look for the design principles at work. Take massing, for instance -- the use of large numbers of the same plant to create visual impact. Many of the gardens at Chicago Botanic Garden use massing to great effect.

The scale of the gardens in each of these photos is different. Some are enormous, others quite intimate. But each uses the same principle of massing -- and each could be reproduced on a smaller scale in a home garden.

For someone who is more plant collector than garden designer, I struggle to use massing well in my own garden. After my visit to CBG, I'm motivated to find ways to incorporate massing as a central element in my home garden design.


  1. I love this post. It's a great example of how much you can learn by visiting other gardens. Massing is a critical design element that has huge impact in the garden. Thanks, Christopher!

  2. This is one thing I always notice when it's done well and vow to do it more in my own garden. I am, as you know, a plant collector, and this doesn't come naturally to me, but I'm trying. Beautiful photos, Chris!

  3. I tend to love one of each of everything. ::GRIN::

    Great write up!


  4. I'm a one of everything kind of gardener, too. But these views were inspiring.