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Two Secrets to Great Design

Establishing layers and creating patterns are the keys to crafting an informal garden

Fine Gardening - Issue 138
From poppies to spruce trees, this garden boasts an eclectic mix of plants. But they all harmonize, thanks to patterns. If you want to add patterns to your own garden, start by buying more of a plant you already have.

Coloring outside the lines takes creativity and a good bit of courage. Bryan and Cassandra Barrett have both. As a contractor and garden designer, respectively, this husband-and-wife duo makes a living conceptualizing, installing, and maintaining gardens under the name Barrett Landscape and Design. There are no formulas for the gardens they create. At their home in Dexter, Oregon, you won’t find symmetrical groupings, tidy rows, or manicured shrubs. Their garden has a fluid, natural look. And yet, with all its layers, ornaments, and myriad of plants, there is nothing messy about it. Like any well-designed informal garden, it maintains a sense of order without looking rigid. But how, exactly, is that accomplished? How do the Barretts unify so many seemingly random plants to create something so beautiful? Or rather, how do they color outside the lines and do it so well? Their approach is simpler than it might look.

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