Tips for Evolving a Naturalized Garden Quickly

Fine Gardening – Issue 208
naturalized garden

Adam Woodruff’s garden is undeniably beautiful, but it didn’t get that way by chance. What might take others decades to achieve, Adam accomplished in only a few years. A lot of planning and experimentation was involved, and he offers the following advice for three crucial points in the evolution of any garden.

1. Make a collage

collage of Deschampsia and Limonium photos
Photos: Danielle Sherry

To help visualize the overall composition of a new garden, Adam first creates a collage of plant photos (with similar cultural requirements) that he has collected from books, magazines, and online. In instances where he hasn’t grown a specific plant or seen it growing in a combination, he uses search image libraries. (For example, go to and search “Deschampsia AND Limonium,” then click “images” in the navigation bar. You should see many beautiful images, and from those results you can select one for your own garden-scheme collage.) Ultimately this vision board evolves into the planting plan.

2. Experiment first, buy later

plants still in pots placed in the garden

In a fast-filling matrix-style garden, you’re purchasing and installing plants in large quantities. Sometimes it’s a good idea to test a plant you haven’t grown before installing it in mass. Adam forced an assortment of alliums (Allium caesium, A. sphaerocephalon, A. ‘Red Mohican’, A. tripedale, A. ‘Summer Drummer’) in containers to see when they bloomed and for how long. He was then able to determine which species performed best and, with those standouts, to play with their positioning in the garden before committing to installing a quantity.

3. Limit the size of the swaths

densely planted garden bed broken up by stone pavers

Grouping large numbers of the same plant can be dramatic when they’re performing well. But what happens if there is a disease or some other problem that causes one type of plant to fail? Adam favors intermingled, highly diverse matrix-style plantings (smaller groups with smaller amounts of plants). That way, if an individual species under­performs or overperforms as the garden evolves, it can easily be replaced or adjusted to bring the display back into balance.

More from Adam’s garden

Danielle Sherry is the executive editor.

Photos, except where noted: courtesy of Adam Woodruff

View Comments


Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest