For me, there’s nothing like seeing the real thing to learn about plants.
That’s one of the reasons I make visiting botanical gardens, parks and flower shows a high priority when it comes to travel and my free time. Aside from the enjoyment of being outdoors or seeing all the wonderful new combinations, I can see the three-dimensional version of the plants in a natural setting. I can see their real size and color. I can smell, touch and feel the plant.
When I look at the flowers and plants in magazines and catalogs all seem to run together after a while. The photographers make them all just lovely. And how can you really judge color or size in print? Forget about smell.
When I’m visiting a park or garden I will sometimes photograph a particularly striking arrangement with the plan for making a similar arrangement at home or just to add to my photographic idea book.
Here’s an example. On the left is a container arrangement I saw at the Dixon House and Gardens in Memphis last May. I was particularly taken by the holly, primroses and parsley packed into the beautiful pot. The unusual shape of the holly made a dramatic statement in the container arrangement and added some vertical interest.
On the right is a version of the same arrangement I made at home with flowers I found at the local garden center, including a sky pencil holly and some miniature petunias. I didn’t have the fabulous container they had at the Dixon gardens, so a simple terra cotta container had to do.
Could I have gotten such an arrangement idea from a book? Sure. But by actually seeing and copying an existing arrangement, I had a much better idea of the outcome to expect.
I haven’t had nearly the same success with packages of plants sold to create specific effects. White Flower Farm has some spectacular arrangement collections and photographs that make me salivate. They are drop-dead gorgeous. Still, I’m not buying them anymore though because I can never recreate the same effect in my garden. It’s frustrating to spend a lot of money on plants and then be disappointed in the outcome. I’ll save my money for seeds, fabulous pots and plants I can be confident will do well here at Bumblebee.
Of course, not all of the arrangements here at Bumblebee are copies. But I think copycat gardening is a good strategy for learning about plants until you’re ready to fly solo.