As gardeners, we often focus on flowers and foliage, which are wonderful, but we don't always think in spacial terms. We don't use enough sculptural elements, especially vertically. When we include vertical elements in our designs, they are usually the Shade Tree for our patio, a Hedge for the Side Yard, tall cottage faves like Mullein, Delphinium, and Gladiola for the flower beds.
Vertical elements are an opportunity to bring plantings up into the sky. They create silhouettes, add another dimension to a planting, and balance or contrast with other large elements on a property, like the house.
One classic vertical element in gardens is the Italian Cypress. It is often used as hedge or allee, but I think grouping it in twos or threes gives one an opportunity to enhance a planting. Imagine one or more of these small groups of cypress integrated into a mixed planting, and you would have a composition that used height in a very dramatic way. When used correctly, Cypress can be like Garden Sculpture.
Another quintessential vertical element is the Cactus. It's silhouette is so recognizable, it is an icon. Here is a composition that works well because all the elements work together and balance each other out. The contrasting forms are a huge reason for the success of this arrangement.
I love the interplay here between in the vertical, columnar cacti, the clump of strappy yucca, and the lacy Palo Verde with it's horizontal branching. What a beautiful contrasting composition. It also adds drama to have cacti against the sky in this way. This vertical element would never look as striking if it were not against the horizon.
What's interesting to me is that this composition could easily translate to non-desert plants. A trio of Cypress, a large clump of Miscanthus, and a lacy tree like Jacaranda could be the backbone to a planting that took its cues from this composition.
Take a moment to think about how you could use vertical elements in your compositions, and I think you will be happy with the results. Here are some more plants that can serve in that role.
|There are also plants that grow temporary vertical elements: Grasses, Agaves, Phormium. These can regularly add another layer to your plantings.|