Magazine article Sunset

Perfectly Made Beds: How to Shape, Plant, and Edge Them

Magazine article Sunset

Perfectly Made Beds: How to Shape, Plant, and Edge Them

Article excerpt

LaMina Smith puts together garden beds with the flair of a fashion designer. She has six of them in her garden in La Selva Beach near Santa Cruz, California--some filled with flowers, others with foliage plants. "I'm not a perfectionist," she's quick to point out. "Just an amateur gardener who loves a little gardening therapy."

Why do her beds look so striking? Their shapes, for one thing: There are small square beds and round ones, island beds surrounded by paving, and long beds that gracefully embrace a lawn or paths. Another reason is that Smith uses a controlled palette of plants. "Keep each bed's design fairly simple," she suggests. "You lose impact when you try to combine too many different plants in one area."

How great beds evolve

Each of Smith's beds starts with a particular element--a favorite color, a newly discovered plant, a piece of garden art. The design grows from there. Take the "geese bed" pictured above right, for instance. To display a pair of bronze geese made by artist Joe Halko of Choteau, Montana (406/466-2190), Smith carved a gently curving bed out of the lawn, edged it with brick, then built a miniature berm of soil at one end--"one wheelbarrow at a time," she says--with help from her son, Stan. Toward the opposite end of the bed, Smith planted dwarf mondo grass to simulate a stream, edged the "banks" with stone, and planted clusters of low, mounding blue fescue and variegated euonymous. In the spring, giant stipa (S. gigantea) pops up like a fan behind the berm. Three variegated hinoki false cypress trees flank the stipa, and a coral bark maple ('Sango Kaku') grows at the back of the bed.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Nearby is the "circle bed," pictured at right, inspired by Smith's love of pinks, purples, and whites. "I looked at plants in the nursery and knew instantly where they would go," she says. 'Otto Quast' Spanish lavender lines the front; marguerites in pink and foxgloves and penstemons in shades of pink, purple, and red grow behind. …

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