Designing our 2022 Annual Garden Displays

Each year the Annual Garden's displays are different, but the design process is similar each year.

Rose and chocolate colors for an antique cottage-style garden.
Rose and chocolate colors for an antique cottage-style garden.

I recently finished planning out our annual garden displays for the 2022 season and wanted to share a few highlights you can expect to see this summer. Typically, there is a certain color palette that I generally adhere to for the season, but this year, I have planned a little bit of everything, literally! 

Last year, near the fountain in the annual garden, my student employees planted four identical beds, but limited themselves to a single color-family for each bed. Their challenge was that they could only use leftovers from the spring plant sale, so they mixed all the white flowers together in one bed, and the yellow/orange flowers in another, etc. Photo 1Not only were these some of the best-looking student-designed beds I’ve ever had, but they inspired me to do something similar. This year, I have planned an all-white bed for our main wedding ceremony area. In addition, I will be planting a rainbow bed around the entire perimeter of the sunken garden (the fountain is in the center). As you progress around this bed, the colors will shift through white, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, blue, green, and finally black. I have considered doing this before, but it is quite the undertaking. This bed normally requires about 1,500 plants and I normally limit myself (for sanity’s sake) to a repeating pattern of approximately 5 varieties. This year, I currently plan to use at least 76 varieties (about 7 to 10 in each color family, pictured right) and will probably pick up a few more here and there as the opportunity arises. Luckily, almost everything planned for the rainbow bed is already being grown for use either in another area of the gardens, or for the spring plant sale (or at least that’s what I keep telling myself, when I start hyperventilating).  

Another area I’m really excited about are two brand new beds in the north-west corner of the annual gardens. Last summer, I arrived to work one morning to find that some very prominent shrubs had been removed overnight (we’re told it was for safety reasons). Surprise! I now have two sizeable bare areas that I hope to eventually use as trial beds. However, I would like to plant the area in display plants for at least the first year or two until we get the area developed better.

Photo 2My plan this year is to do a cottage-style garden in all antique colors (pictured right), like peach, cream, rose, and chocolate (pictured above, top). I am incorporating many varieties that I want to experiment with on a small scale before using them on a larger scale elsewhere in the garden. I went a little nuts here too and currently have 42 varieties planned for this area (and I’ve only ever grown about 5 of them before). On the list are 7 varieties of Nicotiana (flowering tobacco, a favorite of mine), including an oddball open-faced variety I stumbled upon called Peach Screamer that inspired this entire design. The hope is that even if some of these untested varieties end up performing poorly, the cottage garden style planting will hide any major gaps. 

Hopefully you can get out this summer and check out these designs as well as all the other amazing gardens we have planned! 

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