These photos of my yard are probably the closest you’ll get to seeing my house. I live in a cute and drafty old stone Tudor. Meanwhile, I build houses that are more “chic” than “cute” and more energy-efficient than drafty. I have a yard I’m proud of, and I’m perhaps most proud of it in the spring, when Nashville indeed springs up around us.
A few months ago, I wrote a blog post (with some fab Pinterest inspiration photos) about ways to create a resort-like outdoor space, but in this post I’m getting a little more specific with foolproof gardening tips and tricks. I should start by saying that landscaping is such an important personal thing. Not everything works for everyone and different light conditions may prevent you from being able to do all the things that I describe in this post, but these are some pretty good guidelines for most yards and conditions across middle Tennessee.
Foolproof springtime-in-Tennessee plant combinations: Some of my favorite combinations of blooming plants and trees this time of year are Bradford pear trees (can’t believe I’m saying that) and forsythia and redbuds and dogwoods and bridal wreath spirea and daffodils. That combo is just magical, and it’s so Nashville. And don’t forget the azaleas and the rhododendrons. My favorite azaleas are this intense purple, and when they bloom they’re electric.
The ultimate year-round plant combination: There are certain, specific plants that I like over and over in landscapes, and this may sounds like a cop-out, but when you put hydrangeas with boxwoods and arborvitaes it just always works in middle Tennessee. Hydrangeas start to be perfect right about now, but at any time of the year, I’m a sucker for hydrangeas with arborvitae and boxwoods. During the winter months, this landscape becomes a whole other canvas. When you see a heavy frost or a snow on a landscape with hydrangeas, boxwoods and arborvitae, you get a shrub that was all leafy in the summertime that’s now just twigs right next to a ball of green. There’s just something about the way the winter weather treats this combination of plants that makes it almost as lovely and stark in the winter as it is lush in the summer.
Plant contrast: I’m kind of classic about plantings, but I’m also kind of peculiar about the way they’re put together. I think the best landscapes are formal and informal all in the same space, and I think juxtapositions—think tightly clipped, round boxwoods next to plants that are just wild and untamed—create the most interesting yards.
White flower power: I pretty much just like white flowers, especially in a formal setting. Really the reason why is because of the way white flowers look at night. White flowers are the only flowers that reflect whatever light there is in the dark, whether it’s the moon or the streetlight or a light coming from the inside of the house. Plus, day or night, I love white with all the different shades of green—lime green and dark green. It’s fun to have all the mainstays in your garden that I mention above and then fill all the blank holes with white impatiens if you’ve got a shady garden, or white vinca in areas that are sunny.
Embrace the wildflowers: Everyone in Nashville wants to have gorgeous lawns, and I want that, too, but really only in my front garden, which is more manicured. In my backyard, I like to embrace the wildflowers that come with spring. I put off mowing until the very last minute, because it kills me to wipe out all the little violets and strawberry vines and dandelions and clumps of clover. It looks like a pasture back there. And, of course, in the middle of that pasture there are boxwoods and arborvitaes and things. So it’s sort of formal, but very unmanaged this time of year. I think it’s good to take pleasure in the season’s first wildflowers.
Too much of a good thing: I like for plants that are alike to be clustered together. It’s more of a commercial approach, but I think things like hostas look best when they’re clumped together in masses, rather than just one here, one there.
By the moonlight: Plenty of people use floodlights on their house that just blind you and make it so that you can’t see anything for the light. But I love when somebody instead puts a spotlight in a tree and it mimics moonlight as it shines down and makes shadows from the tree limbs on the yard. It’s also cool to put uplights against the wall of the house, behind plants, to create those shadows. You still get light, but you can actually see what you’re looking at.
Are you a gardener? What are you favorite plants for springtime in Tennessee?