Fans of Sunset magazine, cocktails and gardening should count themselves lucky in February, because this is the month when they all converge. In celebration of her soon-to-be released new book, The Drunken Botanist, noted author, Gardenranter and cocktail aficionado Amy Stewart shares photos from her new garden filled with botanical ingredients and garnishes—and even a cocktail recipe, la vie en elderflower.
I had the great pleasure of helping Amy design her cocktail garden, and if you read the Sunset article, it may leave you wanting a few more photos and information on the garden itself. Accordingly, I'm sharing a few of the design strategies we used to make Amy’s very small garden come to life.
Although collaboration is at the heart of the design process, it is unusual for me to work with a client long distance, providing all design documents and advice based strictly on photographs. Working with Amy was unusual in another way as well. As an artist (and also just as someone with generally strong opinions), she had a fairly definite idea of what she wanted to accomplish. My challenge: Making everything fit together in a way that honors the owner’s artistic, quirky vision, while still resulting in a garden that is cohesive and practical.Here are four tips that work to minimze the cramped, bowling alley feel in any narrow garden.
Despite the deceptively spacious feel of the garden in plan view, at its narrowest point it is only 7' wide. Instead of a path running straight down the center, vary the width of the planting beds on either side to add some visual variety, and have pathways merge seamlessly with patio space - don't use a different material. Be practical, however, and avoid the temptation to make the walkway too small. At only 2’ wide, the original path was too narrow for wheelbarrows and other garden equipment and actually made the garden feel smaller. The new one is 3’ wide at its narrowest point.
A chair set at an angle (which can be easily pushed against the wall when more access is required) breaks up the rigid geometry on one side, as does the checkerboard pattern of the corner planting bed on the other side.
Draw the eye up by taking advantage of wall space. A mix of vertical planters, vintage windows and artistic touches turn an ordinary fence into an art gallery. Varying the height of containers also creates vertical interest. This shows the original drawing I made to help Amy with container and art arrangement, and the final result.
I'll be sharing more photos and design lessons from Amy's garden as part of my small space design presentation at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show on February 20 and the Boise Flower and Garden Show on March 22 and 23. Hope to see some of you there!