‘Gatsby’ great with gardens

SCOTT Fitzgerald’s plan when he sat down to write The Great Gatsby was “simple and intricately patterned”. It’s the perfect blueprint for a garden too, and neatly sums up the two key ways in which pattern plays a role in the picture.

First there’s the structural pattern, created by the layout of paths, paving, lawn, beds and water – which should be strong and simple – and then there are the decorative patterns of the plants themselves: intricate.

In his book Fitzgerald said, “In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”

ON THE GROUNDGet the primary pattern of paths and paving right and everything else in the garden falls into place. Their layout should be simple, practical and in harmonious proportion to the house.

Well-designed hard surfaces are an investment and especially valuable in a new garden because they organise the space and make it accessible and usable. They also help to unify young plantings and enhance the value of a property.

Instead of simply rolling out plain brick or concrete pavers, make it interesting with a sympathetic combination of two or even three different materials; for example, use pavers and bricks and/or pebbles, and immediately you have the foundation around which to plant up a lovely, atmospheric space.

WALLSDon’t choose your paving materials without taking the walls of both house and boundary into consideration as an important element in the picture.

Bricks, palisades, trellis, stone and timber all create strong patterns in themselves and may also be overlaid with a tracery of climbers or the evocative shadows of leaves and branches. If you don’t like the colour or pattern of your walls you can always call in nature to draw an evergreen curtain over them.

Climbers such as the trumpet vines (Distictis sp) and mandevilla will provide exuberant and colourful rococo loops and twirls of flowers and foliage, while ivy will weave itself into a quieter, more regular pattern – green damask.

LEAF PATTERNUpright or spreading, catching the light, greening branches or carpeting the ground, leaves offer a vast range of patterns via endless different combinations of shape and growth habit. Subtle or bold, they are the major pattern makers in the garden.

For a tranquil, unified scene, plan to make collage leaf pattern at least two-thirds of your planting.

FLOWER PATTERNThere are two aspects to enjoy here: the flower itself and its form and markings, and then the repeat of that form, close or scattered, and its arrangement on the stem that makes the fabric pattern in your picture.

The variety is huge – starry daises and umbels, columns, globes, buttons, plumes and spires. All can be used to offset one another, like rosy linens and cottage prints, in stripes, sheets or generous patches.

SCREENS Tall, airy plants that act as sun filters and flowered net curtains, layering see-through pattern upon pattern, are the hallmark of modern planting and especially attractive when backlit by low sun.

Grasses dominate, but there are also tall umbellifers such as fennel, feathery cosmos thalictrum and willowy shrubs such as purple broom (Polygala virgata).

TREES Bark, leaves, branches, vertical lines of trunks and shadows are all part of the palette. Trees need space to show off their patterns to best advantage – in small areas keep planting around them low and simple, to show off trunks, bark and dappled shade. In larger gardens, plant groups or lines of the same species. © Home Weekly

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