October 29, 2008

Purple Rocks!

Have you ever seen a garden feature so creative that you had to find out the story behind the inspiration? On my recent visit to the NC State Fair, there was a particular garden design that made me smile. Why? Because the design was so different and unique, yet I could see myself enjoying this in a little secret garden.

I can’t begin to adequately describe the “centerpiece” of this garden inspiration, so I asked the creator, Tammy Kennedy, to tell us about her design. Tammy has a background in art, graphic design and photography. Her husband and children helped her with the garden entry for the Romantic Theme category in the Flower and Garden Show at the Fair.

Opposites Attract by Tammy Kennedy

The “Opposites Attract” design for our NC State Fair display originated from a stream of consciousness. My husband and I wanted to do a tête-à-tête bench, which we've both always loved. We realized that the spine of a tête-à-tête bench forms a backward ’s’ shape. We also realized that the shape forms the central portion of a yin yang, which represents male/female harmony and opposite traits. We felt that the yin yang went with the romance theme. Rather than trying for a black and white yin yang, which I felt would be too stark for a garden; we decided on dark purple and light peach.

We tried to play the lighter and darker tones of the two colors off each other everywhere possible in the design. We added a lot of little white touches for sparkle and night appeal, both in variegated foliage and small white flowers.

The design was sketched out on the ground with a stick after first figuring out the orientation on graph paper. We took measurements of the plot, sketched until I got the design I wanted, and then just transferred the design by eye. I knew the center circle needed to be about 4.25' because we already had the chairs and we wanted the back curves to echo the yin yang in a tight fit. We used the “stick and string” trick to mark a circle; I marked out the paths and then worked around the circle and paths when planting.

The rocks are painted using Setacolor Soleil Sun paint. Soleil is fabric paint, used for sun dying. The paint is translucent—great stuff to work with and you get fabulous results.

To mix the paint, I diluted about 5 parts water to one part paint and put it in a spray bottle. We spread our rounded stones out on bird netting to make it easier to pick up later. We gave the rocks 2-3 coats of sprayed paint, then turned the rocks over and repeated. I really like that the paint gives the stones color, but you still see the subtleties of the stone, too.

The design was edged with metal duct strap that was screwed every foot or so to an OSB base. We made the two halves of the yin yang separate so the gravel would stay separate. The rocks were poured into each half (one bag per half) and sprayed and rustled around then sprayed again. I gave the purple several coats, whereas the peach only needed a little bit of color to match the larger stone on the path. The eyes in the design are stones glued onto a plastic lid with silicone caulk and nestled down into the gravel.

Also playing the extremes game are a fountain and candle, representing the classic opposites of fire and water. We hilled up one corner with large lush plantings, while one corner is deeply sunken and has low and soft plants. Lovely sounds arise from bamboo wind chimes and the trickling fountain. Magical twinkles of light sparkle when the sun catches the twisting flappers of the chimes. Rounded gravel crunches underfoot to allow easy access to the seating area and gardens. There are many fragrant plants in the garden that bloom throughout the seasons.

For your own special garden retreat, create a space that really rocks…with your own favorite colors and plantings!

Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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