You've got an empty backyard or terrace, some money set aside and the resolve to finally do a little landscaping. But what kind of plot is for you?
As G8 leaders meet at Camp David today, U.S. first lady Michelle Obama will be hosting their spouses at a White House lunch featuring produce grown in its potager, a garden type she has done much to encourage and popularize. North of the border, Canadians have also been plowing headlong into the edible-garden craze, cultivating everything from potted herbs and container tomatoes on condo balconies to flowering fruit trees in backyards. The impetus has had as much to do with dollars as diet, says Peter Cantley, vice-president, floral and garden, for Loblaw Cos. Lt. "You control what goes in the soil and cut down on grocery costs. What's not to like?" Ideally, kitchen gardens should be set in full-to-partial sun, while foundations can run the gamut from raised beds to planters to pots.
The foodie plant list: Herbs such as hardy thyme and sage, pretty-leafed basil and sweet-smelling lavender. Mint is also appealing, but be careful: It spreads. Vegetables of all kinds and especially decorative ones, from clambering runner beans to red-stalked chard. Flowering fruit trees such as apple, cherry and pear.
Marked by swaths of grasses and sculptural blooms corralled by paths and crisply clipped hedging, the artfully naturalistic gardens of Dutch horticulturalist Piet Oudolf have long been revered by green thumbs in the know. This summer, his work will probably gain a new hot of fans when his designs for London's Olympic Park are unveiled. How to emulate Oudolf's sensuous post-modern style? Plant billowing colourful or feathery grasses alongside tall, structural perennials such as alliums or veronica. (If you have a large plot of land, define the grasses with paths or parterres; if you're working on a terrace or balcony, use boxy metal planters.) As a capper, throw in some clean-edged outdoor loungers, then lie back and take it all in.
The post-modernist plant list: Orna mental grasses, from small-scale sedges to soaring, feathery species. Tall , sculptural perennials such as spiny veronica, globe-topped alliums and fanning perovskia. Clippable hedge material including box and yew.
The flower child
Ever since Vita Sackville-West and her politician husband, Harold Nicolson, completed the gardens at England's Sissinghurst Castle in the thirties, the site – a riot of roses and other blooms – has become a magnet for flower buffs from every corner of the globe. As enthralling as they may be, however, gardens that incorporate more than one bright colour must be carefully mapped out and executed to ensure both balance and oomph. To this end, Cantley suggests pairing orange (the season's lively new colour) with hot pink (a perennial favourite) and filling in the patches with lime-green foliage. Consider contrasting petal shapes, from pinwheel-shaped daisies to puffy begonias to tightly packed cabbage roses, for variety and texture. On the subject of roses, combine ramblers with climbers for added vibrancy and intoxicating scent. Woody vines such as clematis cover walls and arbours well, too.
The flower child plant list: Climbers an d trailers such as roses, hydrangeas and clematis for walls, trellises and arbours. Colourful bed an d border plants , including annuals such as daisies and begonias, and perennials including cosmos and Russian sage. Fragrant plants such as phlox, daffodils and many roses and daylilies.