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Planting schemes


Introduction. Shapes in nature. Colour and movement. Mellow yellow. Tropical white gardens. Finding.


First I must thank all the Balinese gardeners – particularly Ketut Marsa, Wayan Legawa, Dewa Putu Sedana and Dewa Made Mudita – who bring me to wonderful land of gardens with this books . Without their hard work, patience and deduction now I am like without hands. This work will initiate you to beautiful world of shapes in nature, color and movement, mellow yellow and tropical white gardens.

Sculpting miniature landscapes or realizing nature in miniature is an essential skill for a good garden designer. So too is knowing how to make naturalist design look effortless and yet artful. Effortless, because Mother Nature is the best garden designer (and She doesn’t try too hard); artful, because our sense of beauty, nay our sense of appreciation of beautiful garden, is often triggered by natural cues such as horizons, reflections, interesting silhouettes and attractive sequences of volumes rather like the Grand Canyon. The shaping of "volume" of plant material is the basis of good garden design: the flowers, artworks, water bodies and other feature are but the accessories.
I like to think of a garden as a set on a theatre stage. One has a backdrop, (the garden’s boundary wall, a forest or a skyline), and a proscenium arch (the verandah’s eave, a window frame, or the garden entrance gate). Then there are various "flats", i.e. banks of planted areas or borders. Some of the "volumes" are human height, soft and round, whilst others are knee high and spiky. In the corner of the set are wee washes of ground-cover, and centre stage the odd stately trunk which divides up space and adds sculptural interest. It is important that the ordering of these "volumes" looks natural as they head for the edge of the composition. Small trees and palm clump help one taper back a planting scheme. Try oleanders, cane palms, MacArthur (or Hurricane) Palms, Plumeria and Pampas Grass to achieve a natural look and a balanced composition. The stage should also be properly lit, if the garden is to be enjoyed at night.
In tropical gardening one has to consider that extra dimension of rapid growth. The landscape designer must be aware of the potential for quite radical change to the balance of shapes during a garden’s adolescence. It is almost like designing a not-too-slow motion kinetic artwork. Some of my European friends and hotel guests I have met in Bali seem to abhor the gusto with which tropical gardeners attack foliage during the wet season. However, when shaping a garden in the Tropics, you have to be harsh in order to maintain healthy growth and a balanced, not messy composition. Wilderness gardens are not a sensible option in the Tropics – wild grasses harbour wild beasts. By all means let your tropical garden run amok but be prepared for the invasion of fungi, bugs and possibly snakes that thrive in tropical bush. A good tropical garden needs plenty of sun and air, the former to soak up the moisture after heavy rains and the latter to blow away the bugs.
During peak periods in wet season, a mature tropical garden can be ‘thinned out", exposing all the brand-new palm fronds and healthy branches. This gives the garden a spruced-up, almost polished look, and allows more air and light to enter and circulate in the moisture-laden mass. In tropical pruning you should be bold. Carve out big curves and elliptical "windows" in the planting scheme to open vistas and frame patches of sky. At the height of the wet season, when the Ficus have started growing in the gutters, creepers should be ripped off statues, walls and tree trunks, and ground-covers cut right back. Wade in with a machete before the pergolas turn to a pulpy mush. This sort "radical pruning’ is part and parcel of the nature shaping cycle of a mature tropical garden.
Design a garden with pockets of both and you will be rewarded with sensual shadows and wafts of fresh fragrance. Drape, chip, preen and prune – these skills are all part of the sculptor’s art. Think about the framework of the garden first, then add the sparklers. Soften with impurity. ...

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