Enjoy subtle elements up close
Up-close view: When your plants will be close at hand, take advantage of intricate foliage details and subtle colors.
Photo/Illustration: Designed by Wesley Rouse for his garden in Southbury, Conn.
Close-up views benefit most from intriguing details like intricate foliage patterns and darker, more saturated colors. I love the pattern of the glossy leaflets of Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata and cvs., USDA Hardiness Zones 8–10), which I can see right outside the dining-room window. Containers of annuals and small-flowered plants just beneath my office window are easy to appreciate from my desk, especially flowering maples (Abutilon spp. and cvs., Zones 8–11), which are just tall enough to give me a close-up look of their red and yellow lanterns. I’ve trained a clematis (Clematis spp. and cvs., Zones 4–11) across a pipe just outside the window so that I can look right down onto its big violet flowers. Outside my living-room window, I look up from my reading chair into the pendant white bells of Japanese snowbell (Styrax japonicus and cvs., Zones 6–8). If you were facing a bank, I can’t imagine anything lovelier than a sweep of pendant hellebores (Helleborus spp. and cvs., Zones 4–9). Dark flowers and leaves, fine-textured foliage, a small sculpture, or a water feature are also suited to tight inspection.
You can also add close-up interest to larger views. For example, the view from my office window includes the broad trunk of a sweet gum tree, nearby island beds, a faraway grape arbor, and a larger-than-life-size ceramic sculpture in the distance. To make the near views more interesting, I introduced ornamental details in the foreground—a rustic bird feeder is nailed to the stout sweet gum trunk, and a birdbath stands in the island bed closest to the window. I now enjoy watching the birds feeding, bathing, and swooping gracefully between these two destinations.