Camp Rosemary is a garden designed in the 1920s by Rose Standish Nichols. On a tour of the garden this summer, I took time to reflect on the formal and evocative qualities of several types of plants. Two opposing elements; the vertical and the planar, are used in this garden to generate several playful vignettes and engage the design components of the garden.

In this collection of Actaea matsumurae ‘White Pearl’, whimsical blooms float above fine leafy foliage. ‘White Pearl’ throws a veil of vertical punctuations in front of the distant border, providing a visual anchor through which to perceive the mass of planting beyond.

This same quality is illustrated on a larger scale in a loose collection of deciduous trees colonizing a ravine edge. The vertical rhythm of the trunks, against the vague backdrop of the ravine, frame and provide a moment of visual rest.

In this area, an impeccably maintained mown labyrinth provides an elegant contrast to the exuberant hydrangeas frothing at the edges. The solemnity of the lawn is amplified by the tailored lines of the labyrinth, providing a visual nudge and furthering contemplation. The subtle variation in tone of this ground plane provides a welcoming prelude to the next garden room.

Here, dense tufts of carex pensylvanica hurl themselves delightfully about, a counterpoint to the subdued nature of the labyrinth. However, in this space, the carex works in concert with the adjacent woodland border, taming its complexity and permitting a brief respite from the diversity of the understory.

These images illustrate how the architectural qualities of plants enhance the experience of the formal components of the garden. The manipulation of this relationship moves the garden beyond the merely sensory into the realm of the sensual.

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