Landscaping: The Fourth Pillar

Nov 14, 2023

Color in the landscape is by far my client's most requested design element. 
I have been presented 1000's of Pinterest boards full of vibrant landscapes bursting with color. Hues that seem almost impossible. The expectation has been set by these examples of well-designed and tended gardens.
My journey in refining my design palette began with taking on the challenge of 'year round' color in our region. A region of 4 very distinct seasons. Timing, layering, nuance, and exploring 'beyond the bloom' is key to the color cycle. 
I remember well the moment I fell in love with Creation's palette. That moment was delivering and off-loading a truck load of mums to a local KC garden center in late October of 1993.
The drive from the farm alone was awe inspiring. Clouds of orange, red, and yellow arose from the horizon capturing every ray of morning light. As I opened the van door, I was greeted with the thick aroma from the BBQ joint next door to the garden center. This aroma lofted thru the crisp air that seemed to hold the fallen leaves aloft a bit longer.
I was unprepared for the sensory overload as I opened the cargo doors. Boom! Vibrant mums, clouds of trees, rich aroma, and that chilled air! LOVE The finality of Autumn struck me. The trees would soon be bare. The mums would fade. Gray and white would follow in an icy embrace. Life would go to sleep. 
I became a brat about that. Winter color became an obsession.
I became aware of how much contrast could enhance my sight's receiving of color.  Redtwig Dogwood became a huge and obvious addition to my design palette and lead me to explore bark deeper. Sango Kaku Japanese Maple and Paperbark Maple are true champs of contrast Blue hued Cedars also gave my eyes that needed color relief, but it was boulders that sent me over the moon. 
Yes, big chunks of rock it the landscape. These big chunks are filled with color. Orange, yellow, purple, and red of sandstone boulders in particular. Its as if they welcome a snow to preen. The soft white finds the crevices and frames the contours. Sun light and moonlight give their own prism to highlight the geological composition. 
Bringing color into the gray of Winter is a need that sculpture and texture can fill. Be bold. Give your outdoor space moments even if it can only be experienced from behind a window.
Imagine how snow lays on your landscape. Playing with textures and elevation can present moments.
There is abundance of color within all 4 of our seasons. Embrace the dormancy of Winter as the unique opportunity for color that it truly is.
Yours in The Garden, Chris


Written By Landscape Designer Chris Oursler