Garden Photo of the Day

Dense Plantings for Wild Beauty

Lessons from a talented gardener

Istvan Dudas, who designs and maintains a private garden in the UK, has shared images from the garden where he works with us several times (check out the most recent post here), and I’m always thrilled to have more, because every time I see images of his work, I come away inspired and excited for things to try in my own garden.

sagesA cloud of beautiful sages. In the front, a dark Salvia guarantica (Zones 7–10 or as an annual), which is a sage from South America. Behind it to the left is clary sage (Salvia sclarea, Zones 5–9) with silvery-pink flowers and bracts. This sage is native to Europe and is a biennial, growing a rosette of leaves the first year and then this marvelous explosion of flowers in the second year. It isn’t seen much in American gardens but deserves to be grown more. Behind them both is another European sage, the perennial Salvia nemorosa (Zones 4–9) with its narrow spires of purple blooms.

foxglovesSpires of foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea, Zones 4–9) and Lysimachia atropurpurea (Zones 4–8) contrast with the round flower heads of the ornamental onion (Allium) behind them.

clary sageMore clary sage blooming in the garden. Much of the color comes from the long-lasting bracts, not just the flowers themselves. This makes a big statement in the garden over a long period.

Istvan’s style is very lush, very full, and a little wild. The spilling of the plants over the edges of this stone path gives the feeling of the plants taking over a little.

hedges of lavenderBut sometimes simplicity rules. Huge hedges of lavender (Lavandula) in full, fragrant bloom contrast with a planting of just low-growing silver and white.

poppy blossomsA tapestry of silver, blue, and white foliage and flowers makes a stunning backdrop for these richly colored poppy blossoms (Papaver rhoeas, annual).

delphiniumsIt is hard to grow delphiniums (Delphinium elatum, Zones 3–7) to this level of extreme beauty and perfection unless you garden somewhere with very cool summers. But if you have the climate for them, they are some of the most beautiful plants in the world. Delphiniums can look very stiff and formal, but by placing them in an airy cloud of other flowers, Istvan softens them and helps them blend with the rest of the garden.

This planting could look messy and chaotic, but keeping the colors limited to shades of red, pink, and white brings harmony and unity.

packing in plants denselyMy number one lesson from Istvan’s plantings: Fill every inch! There is no bare ground here, no visible mulch, and by packing in plants densely, he creates a rich, flower-filled border that just looks amazing.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    treasuresmom 01/03/2020

    Istvan, as usual all is gorgeous. I have that Black & Blue salvia also & it is just gorgeous, don't you think?

  2. User avater
    simplesue 01/03/2020

    Wow! I found a lot of inspiration here! That border with the Delphiniums is perfection. Oh and the Alliums in with the Foxgloves- such a great idea! The biggest compliment is how inspired I am by your garden! I think I found you on Pinterest and added you! On this cold gray Pittsburgh day, I feel like I just somehow took a walk in summer- after looking at these photos. Thanks for sharing!

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 01/03/2020

    Istvan's work really does leave this particular commenter speechless (ha, not an easy feat). These garden beds are beyond perfection.

  4. sheila_schultz 01/03/2020

    The very first time Istvan's gardens were posted on GPOD my heart swelled. His style and eye for beauty is as Michaele said, 'beyond perfection'.

  5. btucker9675 01/03/2020

    Oh my... those delphiniums! And the lavenders! Love!

  6. cheryl_c 01/03/2020

    I'm again smitten with lysimachia atropurpurea, and with all the ways Istvan uses lavenders, blues, and pinks. Amazing.

  7. coastalgardener 01/04/2020

    These gardens are beyond beautiful, and the photos have given me many ideas for flower combinations I've not tried before. Love all of the colors that have been used...

  8. user-5117752 01/04/2020

    Well, that's it exactly!!! The gardens that dreams are made of!!! If you could only hear my ooohing and aaahhhing!!!

  9. carolineyoungwilliams 01/07/2020

    Thank you for sharing Istvan. This is beautiful.

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