Kadinsky x 3

Mind Gardens 2 – Art As Inspiration

Gardens can evolve over time to reflect the interests and character of their makers and eventually a unique atmosphere will develop. Alternatively, they can be designed either by their owners or a professional designer with the aim of creating a specific mood or visual impact. In this series of posts – Mind Gardens – I will try to show how different ideas and dreams can be realised in the gardens we design and plant.

Where do you find a design idea when your garden is nothing more than a square area behind an average house with a view of boundary fences and other similar houses? This is the dilemma of many gardeners who are not fortunate enough to have a garden surrounding an architecturally distinct building or a view across glorious countryside. Many sources spring into my mind, but here I want to look to art for inspiration.

My interest goes towards the work of  abstract artists of the early twentieth century; your own interests may differ, but my process will hopefully suggest a way forward.


Whenever looking at works by artists such as Mondrian, Kandinsky and Malevich I cannot help myself from seeing designs for the layout of garden landscapes on a range of very different scales. Sometimes the patterns in these paintings suggest border layouts, lines can become paths or hedges and colours identify different planting arrangements.


It would be ridiculous to think that you would want to reproduce any of these works using garden components in place of paint and colour, but certain elements can be used to trigger a design process.

Kandinsky’s early work from the Bauhaus period consist of different coloured shapes linken by straight and curving lines. For Kandinsky these works were intellectual expressions of his evolving art philosophy. I am fascinated by their intriguing interrelationships of lines, forms and colours.

Taking the distinctive lines, some curved and some straight and tapering, I have attempted to create an abstract planting design in which a central yew (Taxus) hedge cuts across the garden space and changes in height and width along its length. A curving path to the left and a curving line of tall growing grasses further divide the space. 

Room has to be created in the pragmatic process of a garden’s design for sitting areas and access and these elements have eventually created a number of separate areas into which I have chosen to drop in three mixed meadow planting schemes taken from my Perennial Meadows eBook series. 

On the right, Scheme 3 is tall and robust and will create a sense of enclosure for the rest of the garden; it lies behind a curving hedge of Miscanthus sinensis ”Ferner Osten’. In the centre of the garden a bold mid-height scheme which is dominated by the long flowering  period of Rudbeckia fulgida var. daemii is divided in two by the taxus hedge. This hedge will be over 2 meters tall at the rear, dropping to just 90 centimeters near the patio area. Scheme 1 is the lowest-growing of the three with a fresh blue green colour theme and will demand full sun and well drained soil to thrive.

To link everything together theme plants from these schemes will be added as complementary plants to the others. So, for example, the Eupatorium of Scheme 3 will reappear as a bold block inside Scheme 1. Likewise, the Calamagrostis from Scheme 2 will appear here and there in the other two schemes. The advantage of this calamgrostis is that it grows and flowers earlier in the summer than the miscanthus which will eventually dominate the whole garden.

Scheme 1 – taken from my Prairie Meadows eBook

Theme plants – per square meter ( x 1 )

1 x 2 Baptisia  alba var. macrophylla (Syn. B. leucantha)

4 x 1 Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’

2 x 1 Schizachyrium scoparium (grass)

2 x 1 Salvia x sylvestris ‘Blaukönigin’

1 x 1 Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spire’

Complementary plants: Eupatorium maculatum, Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’

Scheme 2 – taken from my Prairie Meadows eBook

Theme plants – per square meter ( x 1 )

1 x 1 Phlox maculata ‘Omega’

1 x 2 Helenium ‘Rubinzwerg’

1 x 2 Aster umbellatus

4 x 1 Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii

2 x 3 Calamagrosts x acutiflora ‘Overdam’

Complementary plants: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Ferner Osten’ as background hedge

Scheme 3 – conceived for this project.

3 x 3 Eupatorium maculatum (planted as bold clumps)

1 x 2 Aster umbellatus

2 x 2 Vernonia noveboracensis (planted as bold clumps)

1 x 2 Phlox paniculata ‘Utopia’

2 x 1 Monarda ‘Saxon Purple’

Complementary plants: Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’, Phlox paniculata ‘Hesperis’

To understand how these planting schemes are put together and function you should read the early posts in the Meadows 101 section of this web site. Schemes such as those used here are to be found in the Perennial Meadows eBooks with details of the individual plants used.

The garden design presented here could never have been created by simply looking at the site and responding to its setting. By finding inspiration in art (in this case) I have created a ground plan that is both unconventional and exciting to look at. Later in this series of Mind Garden posts I will be looking for other source for inspiration and showing how these can result in a range of very different garden plans and planting schemes.