Water + Foliage = a Perfect Vignette


We all love the soothing sound of water, whether the rushing torrent of a waterfall or the gentle trickling from a fountain. It stills the soul, giving us permission to pause and enjoy the moment. Shallow birdbaths and fountains attract birds from hummingbirds to Western tanagers while butterflies can be seen 'puddling' in a simple dish rock.

A large water feature may well be a major focal point in your garden or a partially hidden birdbath could be a delightful 'garden moment' – discovered as you stroll along the path. Whatever the size there is one key design tip that will transform your focal point into a vignette and that is FOLIAGE and there are two ways in which it is typically used;

1. As a backdrop



Tall Shenandoah switch grass (Panicum v. 'Shenandoah') is the perfect backing for this luminous red glass birdbath by Seattle artist Jesse Kelly. A shorter copper stand would not have had the same impact. Rather the height of the stand emphasizes the erect architecture as well as the color of the tall grasses. The deep burgundy smoke bush set off to the side also plays into this scene well.

In the top photograph a rusty old tractor has sprung a serious leak! Love the whimsy of this. In this instance the hefty vehicle is seen against solid conifers while a rhododendron appears to be trying to escape from within. Great re-use of something that was headed to the landfill.

2. As a picture frame



Th image above is a wonderful lesson in composition. Firstly there is the geometry with the repetition of circles within squares (circular columns within a square pool) and also squares  within circles (pavers set within the boxwood perimeter).

Then we have the three columnar fountains that slowly drip water into the pool. Each is topped by grass or grass-like foliage which softens the hard appearance. The entire water feature is surrounded by a boxwood frame, adding a crisp picture frame to the  scene.



For a more naturalistic look this boulder lined pond, nestled within ferns, grasses and conifers could easily be found on a hike in the forest. Water loving foliage plants within the pond itself adds to the sense of integration between water and foliage.


How do you make a diminutive mossy birdbath into a noticeable garden moment? By setting it within a shady nook surrounded by shade loving plants in simple shades of green.

I have lots more ideas for creating a focal point using water features in my garden design course GORGEOUS GARDEN DESIGN  – Foliage and Focal Points. Click on the title to find out more and save up to 50% . Craftsy is the fastest growing site for inspirational and educational courses led by professionals and the classes can be watched whenever you want – you own the class for life!

In my next blog post I'll tell you about using foliage with garden art to create a unique focal point while adding your personality to the design.

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