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Garden Photo of the Day

The Four Components of Juxtaposition

Jay "Juxtaposition" Sifford shared some fresh photos of his Charolotte garden.

"I took these photos of my garden in Charlotte, North Carolina,  on April 7. The foliage color and texture, along with the form of the plants make me want to celebrate nature exuberantly in a way that flowers alone cannot do. My garden is primarily a collector’s garden, which can be tricky at best, as beautiful specimen plants can easily look like cans of green beans lined up on a grocery store shelf. I’ve found that the key to making a garden like this work is by thoughtfully employing the concept of juxtaposition. I kid with my clients and gardening friends that Juxtaposition is my middle name. To me, juxtaposition is comprised of four components:  size, shape, color and texture. Closely matching all four of these is too “matchy matchy” and reads and boring and contrived. Matching none of these looks like someone went to a big box store sales rack and loaded up a mini-van. But matching two and varying the others creates diverse interest with enough continuity to hold the composition together. At least this is what I’ve endeavored to do in my own garden, which is part therapy, part experiment, part composition and total escape."

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  1. PerenniallyCrazy 04/08/2016

    Looks like GPOD is on a roll this week. Such an awesome garden and a design lesson to boot too. This is why I sought you out on Facebook and Houzz Jay. Love your garden and your design! Thanks for coming back and brightening our spring day.

    1. Jay_Sifford 04/08/2016

      Thanks, and you are welcome. Happy gardening!

  2. frankgreenhalgh 04/08/2016

    Not sure about your theory 'Juxtaposition', but your garden looks good.

  3. User avater
    meander1 (Michaele ) 04/08/2016

    Happy spring good morning, Jay, I cant help but gush that your somewhat newly finished curving rock wall already looks like it has been there forever. It really is beautiful and a wonderful addition to the woods experience. I love the chartreusy stream of the 'Everillo' carex that starts above the wall and then picks up again on the other side of the path and gently tapers off. And do you recall the variety of super gorgeous fern in the last picture? It's so sumptuous..yet delicate.

    1. Jay_Sifford 04/08/2016

      Hi meander1. That's an ostrich fern. The cultivar is 'The King'. It's probably my favorite fern. When it's happy, it will spread, so I give some away and replant some. If they grow in too tightly they can lose their vase-shaped form, which is what I find so attractive about them.

  4. user-4691082 04/08/2016

    That looks like a huge property to maintain! Is that a water feature in the last photo? In PA, we are expecting 1-3 inches of snow tomorrow , ugh. Very little here had leafed out. Thanks for reminding me that spring has sprung in NC! Beautiful!

    1. Jay_Sifford 04/08/2016

      Hi Rhonda. I have half an acre, but I back up to 'borrowed views' of the forest. It's actually not as much maintenance as people think, unless we have a drought. I have no irrigation. I water everything by hand.
      I do have a water feature in that photo. It's generally very little maintenance as I designed it thoughtfully and with good equipment.
      Happy gardening!

  5. cynthiamccain 04/08/2016

    Just beautiful, Jay. These images will help me deal with our current weather, which is still very much like winter. The Japanese maples are lovely--could you share their identities?

    1. Jay_Sifford 04/08/2016

      Hi Cynthia. Sure. The first photo, above the verbiage, is 'Hana Matoi'. The maple by the granite post is 'Olsen's Frosted Strawberry', then a close-up of 'Hana Matoi'. The next two photos after the cotinus are both 'Shaina'. Then we have 'Twombley's Red Sentinel' with 'Crimson Queen' in the background.The close-up is 'Rainbow'. Happy gardening!

      1. cynthiamccain 04/09/2016

        Thanks, Jay, I wish I had some of your wonderful shade. I'll just have to content myself by looking at photos. Cheers!

  6. Quiltingmamma 04/08/2016

    Lovely photos, all those Japanese Maples - lovely colour and form. I appreciate the design lesson as well. I am not always successful and tend to run an eclectic garden. I will endeavour to achieve the 2 out of 4. I am waiting for Wednesday's 5 inches of snow to melt...again

    EDIT: I came back to see remarks, then read the comments below. Now I remember Jay's new rock fence and the rolling stones - that might be gathering moss. As mentioned, definitely looking established. (I got distracted with the colour and missed the form, clearly).

    1. Annek 04/08/2016

      I also have that 'eclectic look' nailed, quiltingmama!

    2. Sheila_Schultz 04/08/2016

      Count me in on mastering the eclectic style, too!

    3. NCYarden 04/08/2016

      Nothing wrong with eclectic. ROGUE GARDENERS UNITE!

    4. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 04/08/2016

      I wish people would refer to both me and my garden as eclectic....unfortunately other adjectives always spring to people's minds!

      1. Quiltingmamma 04/08/2016

        <> What?!? Creative? That is not a bad reference.....
        I will admit, eclectic suits me and my garden. Neither is totally predictable, but generally reliable.

    5. User avater
      meander1 (Michaele ) 04/08/2016

      My gardening stew includes different amounts of eclectic. some serendipity, a pinch (or two or three) of improvisational, what's available, what's on sale, etc. Ha, it's a merry mix!

  7. NCYarden 04/08/2016

    Fantastic, Jay. Love the collection, especially the maples. Great contrasts among the plants. How did you fare in Tuesday's frost...you ready for Saturday's? Double whammy...ugh! Despite all my efforts I took a pretty good hit. Some unsightly damage unfortunately. I was so visibly saddened, Christine pretty much avoided me. Once again I suppose we will put plant resilience to the test. Fortunately I got some great photos prior to the cold death.
    But your garden looks incredible and certainly a great inspiration. Best of luck with the weekend weather!

    1. Jay_Sifford 04/08/2016

      Thanks! I'm on the Mint Museum garden tour here in CLT in two weeks. I didn't receive any frost on Tuesday night but tomorrow night is supposed to be 29. I really can't cover much of anything. The only thing I'm concerned about is my hostas. But, in my garden, it's survival of the fittest... so we'll see. Good luck to you and your garden as well!

  8. Annek 04/08/2016

    For as riotous as 'juxtaposition' sounds, your garden leads one on the path of calm and serenity. Truly lovely Jay, with the appeal of a garden that has been there forever and one that was created through effortless design. I know neither of those descriptors are true, which only underlines your design abilities. Now, I shall, once again, go back over your photographs to study, drool and contemplate

    1. Jay_Sifford 04/08/2016

      Thanks for the compliment, Annek! I think that some of the best designs don't look too contrived. The front stroll garden, which is where the majority of this batch of photos is from, is my metaphorical take on a forest... rather childlike, rather Seusian. Most of the trees are prostrate, contorted, weeping or just plain weird. There has to be a common thread throughout, or it would be way too much.

  9. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 04/08/2016

    Jay, I'm always ready for more views of your wonderful garden. Everything is gorgeous and your planning and thought processes have really paid off. I really get your 'therapy, experiment, composition and total escape." It's a fun process and a partnership, isn't it?
    Studying the third to the last photo, I see a Chinese Podophyllum. Is that your Spotty Dotty? It looks more like Kaleidoscope or Galaxy to me, but it's in the background. Some of my Podo's have come up early, and like most of us, I'm coping with temps dropping below freezing at night, so out come the towels and cages for protection! Cheers.

    1. Jay_Sifford 04/08/2016

      Hi Tim. The podophyllum: a friend gave it to me and she says it's Spotty Dotty. But I have another friend who has one that looks completely different, so I'm not entirely sure. On a related note, I tell people that my garden reads like the Chinese calendar: there was the year of the heuchera, year of the daylily, year of the Japanese maple, year of the hellebore, etc. This is turning out to be the year of the podophyllum and trillium. I can't get enough of either! I'm sure you understand.

      1. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 04/09/2016

        I love the Chinese calendar metaphor, Jay. I think we're related....except my calendar has year of the hosta instead of year of the daylily.
        I am still pretty smitten with the Podophyllums and I'm finding that the leaf shapes and patterns seem to change as they mature, but I'm definitely a novice. I adore Trillium and so many species are native here in Ohio, but for some reason I have a very low success rate. What are you growing and trying? I bought T. kurabayashii last year and already it seems to be struggling; this year I'm adding T. camschatcense 'Nemuro'. I always have high hopes. Hope you don't get your cold weather. Snowing here all day, but not sticking; mid 20's tonight. :(

        1. Jay_Sifford 04/10/2016

          I think we escaped a frost last night and the 15 day forecast looks good. I'm going to go ahead and plant my coleus as I'd like to get them growing a bit before the garden tour later this month.
          RE trillium, I like the lutea and cuneatum the best. I'd like to try a kurabayashii and tried to buy one but they were sold out at Far Reaches, where I was getting an order together anyway.

          1. User avater
            Linda on Whidbey 04/10/2016

            I tried to buy one of the kurabayashii from Far Reaches at the Heronswood plant sale last weekend but a woman swept in and grabbed the whole flat right in front of me:) Oh well, at least I got to see many of them blooming there in the garden.

  10. Annek 04/08/2016

    One question, Jay: do you struggle with deer munching your plantings?

    1. Jay_Sifford 04/08/2016

      Hi Annek. Good question, as I have 8 deer that live almost full-time on my property. I have sought to buy plants that are fairly deer resistant, for the most part. The hostas, for example, are closer to the house, and did you know that deer apparently do not like 'Sum and Substance'? I do spray fairly regularly with a deer repellent. The one I'm using now contains peppermint oil and doesn't wash off the leaves like some of the other brands do. I've planted over 800 ferns; they contain a mild toxin that gives deer a stomach ache. Illicium and more fragrant shrubs are left alone. Japanese maples: they'll nibble but not really eat them.

      1. User avater
        meander1 (Michaele ) 04/08/2016

        Hi, again, Jay, I've been having a problem with voles over the past year and I have noticed that they seem to be leaving my several 'Sum and Substance' alone. Many of the other hosta varieties are having their roots devoured...grrr. Do you have any opinion on if ferns are untasty to voles?

        1. Jay_Sifford 04/08/2016

          I'm not sure about that since I fortunately don't have a problem with voles. I'll ask some of my gardening friends who live a couple miles from me as they have voles.

  11. Sheila_Schultz 04/08/2016

    It always gives me such pleasure to see images of your gardens, Jay. They never fail to intrigue me with all of the textures, shapes, colors and sizes playing so beautifully together. You are definitely the master of your peaceful kingdom.

  12. GrannyMay 04/08/2016

    Like Tim, I was caught by your perfect description "which is part therapy, part experiment, part composition and total escape." That statement captures my reason for gardening and for studying the gardens of others. Your garden is one that provides total escape, a joy to see!

  13. Schatzi 04/08/2016

    Gorgeous, Jay. You make it look so easy and I know it's not. Love your serene woodsy garden, J. maples, rock wall, color combinations and the blue jar in the first photo. Great job.

  14. terieLR 04/08/2016

    Divine! My helper-husband will most definitely be viewing this post! 😉 Those mini walls into the woods' sloped area made my heart smile. What to do with our abundance of crowded ostrich fern? Perfect! Love all your elements and vivid interest Jay.

    1. Jay_Sifford 04/08/2016

      Hi Terie. Thanks. My extra ostrich ferns have been transferred down to the banks of a small creek and create the most exquisite lacy serpentine pattern when the creek is viewed from the deck on top of the hill. Happy gardening!

  15. wGardens 04/08/2016

    Always such a treat to see your gardens, Jay! Thanks so much for sharing. Really have the "Spring Fever" going here now, but it will be awhile yet before we see such wonderful plant growth in this area!! Wonderful gardens, great specimens! Would love to visit some day!

    1. Jay_Sifford 04/08/2016

      Come on down, Margaret, anytime you're in the area.

      1. wGardens 04/08/2016

        Thanks so much, Jay. I hope to take you up on that one day!

  16. Cenepk10 04/08/2016

    A Juxtaposed Masterpiece…. If I do say so myself…… Fabulous….

  17. Meelianthus 04/08/2016

    Isn't it wonderful that we, as gardeners, have a place in nature that we have created to "escape". A place to leave all of life's pressures behind and just enjoy the surroundings. You have created a beautiful stroll thru the forest that certainly does look tranquil and so peaceful. Beautiful foliage and the Ostrich fern is one of my favorites! Happy Spring time.

  18. brendaaddington 04/08/2016

    Absolutely love your garden ....definitely my kind of garden. I too tend to be a collector and have found that my garden design is somewhat leaning towards my plant obsessions--which is fine by me ;).
    Is the weeping blue conifer in the 3rd to last photo Cupressus arizonica var. glabra "Raywoods's Weeping'? I have them in my landscape and love them!

    1. Jay_Sifford 04/08/2016

      thanks Brenda. Yes, Raywood's Weeping is correct. Isn't it an awesome tree?

      1. brendaaddington 04/08/2016


  19. Jay_Sifford 04/08/2016

    Hi Diane. 'Golden Spirit' is the same of that chartreuse smokebush. It's such a beautiful thing. I have it near a burgundy variety as, again, I love the juxtaposition!

  20. User avater
    Linda on Whidbey 04/09/2016


  21. jeffgoodearth 04/10/2016

    looking great as always! hope nothing freezes in your garden tonight. disheartening for things to have to start over

    1. Jay_Sifford 04/10/2016

      I think we escaped the freeze, Jeff. I see no evidence of it. I'm going to go ahead and plant my coleus to get them ready for the garden tour. Hope your garden fared well.

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