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Vignettes in the garden can help you enjoy the flowers

Published 8:03am Sunday, February 3, 2013

Column: Serendipity Gardens, by Carol Hegel Lang

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary the word “vignette” is loosely translated to mean: any ornamental design used as an inset, a picture with no definite border. To me it is something used to accentuate or highlight an area or plant or plants in the garden.

Carol Hegel Lang

This past July when my gardens were featured as part of the Art Center’s annual Art and Garden Tour I tried to make small vignettes that would draw attention to benches with quiet places to sit and enjoy the garden; to stop and make you “smell the roses” as the saying goes. My favorite was in the shade garden in the backyard where I have a concrete bench that is flanked by two concrete planters. On either side of this bench are fuchsias hanging off the gray fence. I had a placemat in this same color of fuchsia that I laid on the top of the bench. I added a small tin container in shades of pink with scenes of Beatrix Potter’s “A Tale of Peter Rabbit,” a small yellow watering can with a butterfly and on an easel a metal tray that was in shades of yellow and green that depicted the cover of The Ladies Home Journal from 1906. To tie the whole vignette together the two concrete planters had sun impatiens in fuchsia and white and a white trailing lobelia.

My intention was for people to pause and really enjoy the flowers in this area. Under the large pergola on the very end of the island garden sits a wrought iron bench flanked on one side by an upright fern stand and behind it is one of the birdbaths that is painted a lilac shade. In the fern stand was another bright fuchsia and on the bottom shelf of this stand stood a small gazing globe in a bright red or crimson shade. On this bench I draped a small quilt in shades of pink and then sat a brightly-colored pillow with a garden scene on the other end. Also on the bench were several small gardening books to pump up the color of the quilt. On the left side of the bench the pergola is covered in clematis in shades of pink, light purple and white. Sitting on the ground in front of the bench and just to the left I have a small concrete block that has alyssum spilling over it. Another concrete basket was planted in petunias in shades of pink and purple.

Carol Hegel Lang took this photo of a vignette she created in her shade garden. It features fuschia, sun impatiens and trailing lantana.

On the patio sitting along the Victorian gazebo is another bench, I draped it with a patchwork quilt in shades of red, blue and yellow. Also on the bench was a small patchwork pillow that my mother had made using these same three primary colors. I laid an assortment of three gardening magazines on the bench looking as if I had just been sitting here reading them and then got called away. The blue cobalt pots in this garden echoed the colors in the quilt and pillow. Again it was meant to stop people and look at this garden a little more carefully to enjoy the flowers that were planted here.

The back of our house has a concrete patio in an L-shape that borders the house and garage and is quite large. To break up this expanse of concrete I have several very large pots planted with blue scaveola that falls over the sides of the containers to help soften them. Another bench sits in front of the air conditioner to hide it from sight.

One of my two fountains sits on this patio also. In between the two large containers is a round table we no longer use as part of our patio set. For the garden tour I took one of the old ’50s era tablecloths that I have in shades of blue, pink and crimson flowers and covered the table. A purple calibrachoa sat on the table along with two garden plaques and a small metal grouping of mushrooms, rabbits and gnomes. It really was very festive as the tablecloth picked up the colors of the flowers in the planters.

Another trick for making vignettes is to group several plants at different heights which can easily be done by stacking empty planters on the bottom and then putting the ones with flowers on top of it. This way you can vary the height of each planter and make the tallest one the centerpiece of the vignette. I also stack terra cotta planters and then on the top put a saucer to use as a birdbath.

These focal points can be scattered all around the garden and use the use of whimsical items really adds some charm to the gardens. This year I have added a real conversation piece with the outhouse. So far I have a rusty old cream can standing next to it but will be looking for some other farm implement to add to the collage. I plan to plant dichondra ‘silver falls’ in the top of the can so that it will cascade down the sides.

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” — Allen Ginsberg

Carol Hegel Lang is an Albert Lea resident and local green thumb. Her email is