The Forgotten Dimension

The forgotten dimension, the vertical. The lack of this one feature is the easiest way to spot a beginning gardener. And conversely, the easiest way to make your garden look as good as anything in a glossy magazine spread is to add vertical interest. Vertical interest can be defined as anything that rises at or above eye level. This interest can be plant material or hardscape. When creating two very large perennial flower boarders for my son’s wedding I added six 8-foot tuteurs (wooden towers) painted a deep purple. They added color, continuity, and height to a new garden making it appear more mature than it was.

Photo credit: Robert Murdock

Staggering heights in a flower garden also adds interest. Don’t fall into the trap of regimented tall plants in the back with medium and low growers in front. Mix it up a bit and have a surprise tall spike here and there upfront. The classic English mixed perennial border is when trees and shrubs are combined with perennial flowers. This combination guarantees vertical interest. Be careful to pay attention to the mature heights and widths when adding these larger elements. If you only have room for a small garden anchoring it with one well-chosen shrub will suffice.

Vegetable garden interest and productivity are also enhanced by growing up! Examples are pole beans growing up a bamboo tepee or simply adding tall crops like corn or sunflowers to the mix.  Similar to the tuteurs in the flower boarder, paint a post a fun color and top it with a birdhouse. Grow a vining flower or vegetable on it or not, it’s up to you. Vegetables that grow on vines can be trained to grow up on a support. Try cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, peas, beans, gourds, or even tomatoes. The types of supports they can grow on is only limited by your imagination.  Use upcycled materials when you can. An old gate, a recently pruned or fallen tree branch (white birch looks especially good used this way), the base of an old standing lamp are some examples. Building a trellis using a piece of fencing or hog wire which is very heavy gauge fencing that comes in 4’x20’ panels, works well for heavier vegetables like pumpkins. Attaching it to metal or wooden posts makes a great archway entrance to your vegetable garden. If you have a small poly tunnel for starting seeds, you can remove the plastic in the summer and use the upright hoops to train vines. This has the added benefit of creating a shaded area underneath to set up a sitting or dining area. Add fairy lights…magical.

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