Garden Photo of the Day

What would you do?

Click to enlarge.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

I’m not sure how I feel about this little patio at the Cross Estate Gardens in Bernardsville, New Jersey. I like the globe/circle theme, but perhaps they should have embraced it a little more whole-heartedly and put another globe-shaped shrub in the central pot. Or maybe a massive fountain of miscanthus, perhaps ‘Morning Light’ (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9) to create a stronger focal point. What do you think?


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  1. arboretum 07/20/2011

    Contrived? or Uninspired,lazy design? or just Boring? Off with their heads!

    Spray paint the gum drops with the appropriate bright colors , arrange gigantic candy canes in the central urn, and call it The Candyland Court.

    yours in joking smarminess,

  2. Deanneart 07/20/2011

    Hmmmm..... Would like to more variation in the sizes of the globes and that small one should NOT be featured in that urn. Needs some art and perhaps a zing of color?

  3. ncgardener 07/20/2011

    I think that they should go big or stay home! Try a larger focal point or work of art. Maybe a metal orb of some type or metal rod curved into half an orb with a ivy vine covering it. I love the orbs though!

  4. Plantcraze 07/20/2011

    We can all critique other gardens but just remember that sometimes less is more.I personally would have put in another shape as you suggested to get a punch but hey, to each his own

  5. bsj 07/20/2011

    It looks like they have dappled shade in the pic. I would fill in the space between the globes with hostas or some other low growing plant and place a large fountain in the middle of the walkway. This variety of heights would create a more appealing visual. It looks like a lovely spot in the garden.

  6. Chrisbosa 07/20/2011

    This was really fun to read. You are all very creative.
    How about a new blog of "photos of the day: what would you do?"
    with pictures of garden space that aren't quite perfect.....

  7. user-7006910 07/20/2011

    What makes this arrangement boring is the lack of contrast - in size, shape and texture. This rule of thumb is as applicable to garden design as it is to interior design. Everyone who has commented recognizes this omission - our eyes rarely deceive us!!

  8. bellsbabe 07/20/2011

    The fountain look of the miscantus would be pretty but would block the view all around. A large round urn with fountain or a tall round planter on a pedestal with a spikey plant int he center and trailing plants around might be more of a compliment.

  9. user-7006900 07/20/2011

    I like the serene look of this spot.

    I think a vertical spike of some sort would be best. At least a cordyline in the pot, at most grass or even a dwarf Japanese maple tree.

  10. Ruth 07/20/2011

    Chrisbosa, we have a Garden Design Gallery, where site visitors can post photos and ask for design advice. We'd be delighted if you and others would mosey over and help out.

  11. shirleyjean 07/20/2011

    I agree with cecemax, size, shape, and texture. Everything is near the same size; the row of stones in the background; even the planter. Everything is near the same shape, and there is no variety in color or texture. They need to scrap most of the balls and start over. In fact they need a new gardener. The one they have is great with a hedge trimmer, but that is all. They need variety in height, texture and color, color, color. Change the planter as well, or fill it with flowering plants, spikey plants and trailing plants. Put some LIFE in the place! They don't even have mulch for the weeds around the balls. This is not relaxing! It makes me itch wanting to get my hands on it.

  12. MichelleGervais 07/20/2011

    Great ideas, everyone! I love this type of post, where everyone gets to weigh in with a solution to a design problem or helpful suggestions. Unfortunately, they're much harder to come up with than you'd think. I'll keep my eyes open for more examples like this.

    Regarding this one, according to their website, this garden is maintained almost completely by volunteers, and I'm amazed at how much they accomplish. Kudos to gardeners who work for free, just for the love of it!

  13. IrisMarch 07/20/2011

    Wow, for all the hard work that went into this garden, it is still incomplete. It cries out for color! I like the idea of a large tallish urn in the center with bright colored flowers--some of which should hang down. I also like the idea someone suggested of hosta as an edging plant.

    All that said, the garden workers deserve credit for their help. Hooray for volunteers, my garden hat is off to them!

  14. greengrowler 07/20/2011

    Well, this is the classic example of "to each his own"... Personally, I prefer shrubs to be left in their natural state, perhaps with a bit of judicious pruning to maintain natural shape. I wholeheartedly agree with "arboretum" - gum drops fallen from the sky! To my eye, it looks strange, like some sort of giant rabbit scat. Just not feeling the love for this design....

  15. Jean_DigGrowCompost 07/20/2011

    Reminds me of a post I did called "Gumdrops and Meatballs." Kudos to the volunteers, but they could conserve some hours of work by letting the shrubs go au naturel. Some color would be nice and some contrast.

  16. Vespasia 07/20/2011

    I actually quite like it, it is very restful. However if you are going for the perfect look, someone should weed, both the beds and the path I find they give it an uncared for look. I would also have added stone benches this would add interest and somewhere to sit and enjoy the peace and serenity.

  17. skevanston 07/20/2011

    If the point of this prettily brick paved spot is 'topiary', then I would suggest building on that. I do think repetition has gone overboard. I would suggest leaving the spheres ringing the brick circle, but taller clipped forms on the outside. And for the urn, how about a really bold topiary, with 'waves' or 'twists'? As with any formal garden, the attention to weeding and perfectly clipped grass is essential. And finally, I think I would connect the spheres by putting them in a bed with a very low growing and leafy ground cover... perhaps chocolate chip ajuga, but there are many other options. The bed need not extend more than 3 or 4 inches beyond the spheres themselves, but would ground them in a formal bed so they look more intentional and less like they just 'landed' there. The ground cover would also add a third texture to the scene beside the grass and clipped forms.

  18. accidentalgardener 07/20/2011

    It must be something other than another globe shaped ball of green - otherwise what is the point of putting it at the center and in the elevated planter. Either must add color or a different shape or something.

  19. arboretum 07/20/2011

    i have rarely seen this number of not-short comments on FGPOD. while we have learned from ruth that a 'plse help me design' forum also exists, it seems that this particular forum is where many people are and so, michelle,perhaps you WILL decide to a incorporate this type of photo into the regular rotation of FGPOD. Seems like you hit some paydirt here!

  20. Vespasia 07/20/2011

    This has really got everyone enthused and involved, just great. To continue withthe topiary theme perhaps the same shrub trimmed to a fairly large obelisk with a circular stone bench (still like the bench idea, more friendly) around it. Don't think it needs colour at all.

  21. LiaMe 07/20/2011

    It's definitely mono-everything and crosses the boundary of relaxing straight into boring. A small fountain, a few benches, mulch, gray-green foliage and something that sways in the breeze or arches gracefully would go along way. Is that lawn grass in the smaller sections?

  22. maddeleaf 07/21/2011

    The biggest problem I see is the weakness of the focal point in terms of literal size and visual weight. In order to dominate the surrounding ball forms as a focal point must, the urn needs to be about four times bigger and weightier. After that, give the plant(s) in it a form and/or color that contrasts with the ball shrubs, and finally add detail, whether in the urn or the plants, for something for the eye to linger on.

  23. deckercreek 07/21/2011

    It is lovely, however, I think I would plant more boxwoods and add a larger centerpiece.

  24. JardinDelSol 07/21/2011

    My votes go to Greengrowler and arboretum!

    Needs organization and in color. The globes (globs?) need grounding for sure, and something variegated (hostas are a great idea offered by several folks) or something of another color - the chocolate ajuga was a nice thought too.

    How about a nice "Tropicanna' canna lily in that pot in the middle, and purple ajuga groundcover between the globs? Adding another punch of orange to tie in the canna and ajuga would kick it up a notch, but it appears too shady for some nice dwarf orange zinnias amongst the purple ajuga.

    Also, stop torturing the poor boxwood into those shapes and let them grow into a more natural state.

    But kudos to the hard-working volunteers for doing their best! It's not bad, just.......... needs some punch!

  25. nanslee 07/21/2011

    Although purple ajuga would look good as a circle of ground cover bordering the paving and tying the globes together, I might prefer the glossy-leaved, small-textured Partridge Berry or Wintergreen as the ground cover. In the center I can see a very low stone-edged, simple circular pool, with or without a small fountain, also encircled by the dark green, glossy ground cover. This would add to the formal look. Or for some subtle color and contrast, you could use dwarf variegated vinca as the g.c.

  26. discoguy 07/21/2011

    Lacks for color in the flower pot, or move the flower pot and insert a concrete statue, or a work of art to peak
    interest and draw the eye to invite you to explore the area.

  27. diecierose 07/23/2011

    For sure a change is needed- lots of great ideas
    I would take out the container and add another which is taller than the globs but more rectangular(upright) in shape, make sure it has either a texture or pattern of interest but not from 'Clown College', neutral in color . Then add a 'spiller' and maybe even a'thriller' for a another change in the texture and growth direction.
    airy vine(fig) and a fine grass-'Bunny Tails'- whatever will still work with the dark green box

  28. user-7006867 07/24/2011

    When I looked at this, I actually wasn't so focused on the urn problem. I would like each gumdrop-meatball to be the base of 8' pillars of sorts that is somehow connected to some sort of open roof, forming some type of open-sided gazebo frame.

    Deanne, was that you on Chronicle the other night? Very cool!!!

  29. littleloiee 07/26/2011

    Hate to be negative on this one but hate pruning in little round balls, upside down pyramids that look like tables and just got rid of an entire privet hedge that my neighbor wouldn't let any worker prune so it had a very unkempt look and was put in in 1928 when landscapers didn't charge a fortune to prune. Am going to put in a gorgeous row of Incrediball white hydrangeas with blossoms as big as beachballs. I don't care if it doesnt keep its' leaves in winter it will hide a chain link fence during the growing months!

  30. MCgardener 02/02/2016

    This is a lovely garden that seems unfinished. The scale of the center pot is too small. The center needs a very large urn with a large center plant and perhaps a bold color combo.- different color themes could be used each year in the urn. I would remove the grass in between all these boxwood and plant perennials. Not a busy looking planting, but a restrained one with the same few plants repeated in each section. A mass of Catmint and perhaps Sedum Autumn joy under-planted with daffodils would be very effective. The Sedum does get covered with bees so I would put them in the center of the beds, not along the edges or no one will want to walk through here!
    Plant underneath the center urn (so no weeding would be necessary) a Sedum groundcovers such as Sedum "John Creech" (which is a great alternative to grass in a small sunny area) or Sedum kamtschaticum.

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