Fairy Yardmother Landscape Design

by Kathy Oberg, Landscape Designer, Los Angeles, CA.

Thank you for visiting my site. I enjoy bringing you pictures of gardens, plants, and ideas from sunny Southern California. I love sharing after-photos that show how my landscape plans, plant lists and layouts come to life.
As a designer, I use plants to create drama, provide color and form, and compliment the architectural style of your home.
I strive to provide a buffer from sun, street, and neighbors while still fostering connections.
Inspired plant choices and site layout can make any space a success.
I am a Certified Watershed Wise Professional, with techniques to improve soil health and keep more water on your property.
I can help you makeover your patio, paths, planting areas, or entire property. I will consult with you, choose a look you love, and compose a plan and plant list to update your landscape, re-using what you already have wherever we can.
Each project is different because it is about making your space really shine.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vertical Elements

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.


Here is an example of a vertical element, Cordyline, with no anchor. It has nothing to tie it into the landscape. It desperately needs underplantings that would make it a part of a whole. This can also be a problem for tall cottage garden flowers like Foxglove. They need to be tied into the rest of the landscape, and anchored by shrubs and perennials, or they end up looking odd.

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.

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