Concept Garden: Herbs and Butterflies

It’s been a while since I posted about my educational journey towards certification as a landscape designer. I’m still plugging away, moving around and through some roadblocks life dropped in my path, and my journey is taking longer than I want, but anything worth having is worth working for … so I continue to follow my Papa’s advice to keep dancin’ or, in this case keep studyin’.

One of the lessons involved designing a dynamic space – an area that urges people to move and allows them to do so safely and comfortably.  The dynamic space must lead to a static space that encourages quiet, passive activities. My creation for this lesson uses a paver pathway to lead from a flat lawn into a formal herb garden. The four ground-level beds have lower-growing herbs (thyme, Alpine strawberry, globe basil for instance) along the edges of the paved path. Mid-size (lavender, rosemary, chives, sage) and taller (fennel, blueberry bushes, hyssop, tansy) herbs fill the center and outer edges of these beds. A five-foot vine-covered trellis surrounded by mid-height herbs sits at the center of the first paved circle. With no benches or raised areas available for seating, visitors are encouraged to move along the pathways. But the the herb plantings serve as a distraction that slows movement so visitors can leisurely enjoy the scented foliage and colorful blooms of the herbal plantings.


Herb and Butterfly garden-1


The stroll through the herb garden leads to another circular area paved in an alternate pattern to denote a second garden area. Centered in this circle is a five to six foot tall potted specimen plant – think fig or citrus tree, or a flowering standard specimen.  This second circular area denotes the entrance to the butterfly sitting garden. At it’s center is a two-foot tall raised bed planter containing a solar-powered fountain – the noise of the moving water helps drown out distracting outside sounds – surrounded by flowering annuals/perennials. At the outer edges of the raised bed, opposite three benches, rests three shallow butterfly-watering basins. While sitting on the benches visitors can observe the butterflies as they flit from flowering shrub to flowering perennial to flowering annual to the shallow watering basins. Square potted container plants sit at the four corners of the square pathway. The planting areas at the edges of the square, paved path are planted with butterfly-attracting shrubs, ranging from three to six feet tall, that enclose the seating area in blooming shrubbery.

This formal design, which calls for paver pathways and  granite edging can be adapted to create a less formal feel. Planting beds could have less formal cut-soil edging to keep lawn grass at bay. The paths could be loose gravel, fieldstone, or woodchip gravel. Planters could be simple clay pots. Plantings in the sitting area can also be altered to attract hummingbirds, or the entire design could planted as a kitchen or edible garden. Some of the herbs could be replaced by salad greens, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and beans and the sitting area could be surrounded by small fruiting trees and shrubs.

The idea is to entice visitors into the area using the straight path, slow their movement by the attraction of and interest in the planting beds and, finally, give them reason to stop and reflect on the natural beauty surrounding them as they sit on the benches. Busy gardeners often need to be reminded to stop a while to enjoy the fruits or flowers of their labor. Creating a sitting area enclosed by gardens will do just that.

Click Training under the Topics heading in the sidebar to read previous posts related to landscape design and other training.

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11 comments for “Concept Garden: Herbs and Butterflies

  1. May 11, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Grand! I love the benches to sit and watch the butterflies and admire the garden. Thank you for sharing your designs.

    • joenesgarden
      May 11, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      Thanks, Sage Butterfly. Now I need to create such a space for me to sit in and enjoy!

  2. May 11, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    I love these design posts. I like that you can take a structured design and make it formal with granite edging and paver hardscape, then make the same design informal with softer edge elements and gravel. And the plant choices change the whole feel too. But it’s still a garden sitting area, dressed up or dressed down!

    • joenesgarden
      May 12, 2011 at 7:40 am

      Thanks, Laurrie. The plan can still be a peaceful garden even dressed in edibles.

  3. May 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Lovely plan. I am fond of herbs planted in quadrants.

    I planted herbs too close to a water feature and birds dropped in for a drink and a snack (BS caterpillars on parsley).

    • joenesgarden
      May 12, 2011 at 8:58 pm

      Thanks, Nell Jean. I’m also fond of the quadrant style herb garden. They are so orderly, yet so soothing.

  4. May 16, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Joene, As I was reading your last post, I was wondering about your on-going course of study, realizing that you hadn’t mentioned it lately. And, as though you had heard me, here is the answer! This is a beautiful design, and I really appreciate the way that you’ve explained the principles involved. Thanks. -Jean

    • joenesgarden
      May 16, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks, Jean. I’m happy things have settled down enough in my life to be able to again focus on my studies.

  5. May 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Beautiful design! I wish I had enough backyard space to design (and implement) something this pretty. Good luck on your studies!

  6. Julie Hill
    May 26, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Hello, Joene! I stumbled upon your blog while researching for lesson 6 in the Anna Gresham program! lol! I think that we share a kindred spirit with gardening, designing, and finally time to do more of it as children leave the nest.

    How is your program going? Mine is slower than I had hoped for since I have a teen still at home. Would love to keep up with someone who is in the same program.

    • joenesgarden
      May 27, 2011 at 10:44 am

      Hi Julie, I’ll send you a private email.

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