Archive for July 31, 2015

Trending in San Francisco

Recently, I was fortunate to receive a Smithsonian Gardens Travel Grant to visit gardens and natural spaces in the San Francisco area. This grant gives Smithsonian Gardens staff the opportunity to expand their knowledge about public garden functions and industry trends by funding visits to other public gardens or conferences throughout the nation.

Until my visit, I did not realize how much acreage Golden Gate Park (GGP) encompasses or know about the history of its creation. GGP is one of the largest man-made parks in the world. Host to the 1894 Midwinter International Exposition, it was created on 1,017 acres consisting mostly of sand dunes. Many at that time were skeptical the park would come to fruition especially considering its location. The monumental undertaking was extremely successful, however. It is hard not to be impressed when you see how lush the current landscape is and think back on how brutal the winds and drifting sands in the area must have been before its creation. Today, the park is enjoyed by millions of visitors each year and is a great place to exercise, connect with nature, and rejuvenate the soul.

A Redwood Trail, in the San Francisco Botanical Garden located in Golden Gate Park.

A Redwood Trail, in the San Francisco Botanical Garden located in Golden Gate Park. Photo by Stan Shebs.

One trend I came across repeatedly during my travels through the San Francisco area was the use of foliage, form, and texture. My stop at Flora Grubb Gardens turned up some excellent examples of how color echoes can give a harmonious feeling to any number of design principles. The image below illustrates how flowers alone don’t necessarily create a beautiful landscape.


Try toning things down in your garden with a monochromatic color scheme. Select plants of one color but with differing tints, shades, and hues. The focus is then on the juxtaposition of textures and shapes.

I was truly inspired by the innovative plant combinations, great color harmonies, and textures I observed on this trip, and have no doubt that learning more about these design elements will improve my annual plant displays at the Smithsonian. I look forward to incorporating some new ideas into the landscapes surrounding the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, Freer Gallery, and the Smithsonian Castle. Hopefully you are inspired to create a new vignette in your own garden too.

– Rick Shilling, Smithsonian Gardens Horticulturist 

July 31, 2015 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

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