When you closely consider the colors of a plant, you would be amazed how many different colors or tones are in one plant.  These can be highlighted in your designs, as well as the contrasting textures.  Contrast and unity are goals of a design that is pleasing, and this is my goal in my design recommendations – or better said, plant combination recommendations.  Here’s an example of a color chart I created pertaining to this beautiful late summer to fall blooming perennial called turtlehead, or Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips.’  Upon close inspection, you can see the different shades of pinks, greens, and blues.  I really consider these aspects when designing small gardens for your home.  Your may not think they are something of great importance, but they truly are when you want to achieve a garden with impressive colors.

Hot Lips colors


Many homeowners want color for every season from spring into fall.  And this task, selecting plants blooming for every season, takes skill, patience, and plant knowledge – and when you add the color and texture considerations noted above, this is a design challenge.  As your garden designer, I work to incorporate the “seasons of bloom” if this is your desired goal of your garden bed or area.  For example, I’ll never forget when I saw stonecrop ‘Rosy Glow, or Sedum ‘Rosy Glow’ in a nursery area and a Blue beard/blue-mist shrub, or Caryopteris, near by in the same area blooming in the fall. The intense ruby color of the Sedum ‘Ruby Glow’ blooms, reaching the height of its bloom color at the same time as the vivid blue blooms of the Caryopertist was exceptional “EYE CANDY.” I remember thinking those two plants belong together in the right garden.  The right garden means the ‘right plant in the right place’ too – as they always say in the gardening world.  That is Part III of a design process, knowing the conditions of the soil and exposure.


Beginning gardeners, and some experienced ones too, attempt to stick a plant in the wrong place just out of sheer determination or they just don’t realize how poorly a plant will do in the wrong place.  If you put a Sedum in a shady, wet location, it will rot and suffer.  It likes sun, and can even take drought – as a simple example.  So when designing a small garden, the “place” is just as critical and the two elements above, which I take into my design process.  I remember I wanted to put a garden along a cement wall near my garage.  Upon digging, I discovered big time clay.  I probably should of stopped myself before I started plucking plants.  This was when I didn’t know so much about soil conditions and how they affect or contribute to the plant’s happiness or sadness.  Anyhow, it did teach me what good clay busters to use there. But bottom line, this is a facet in garden design process.  Accessing the place, and perhaps even considering a better place in your landscape is a starting point, which I can assist you with during the initial onsite evaluation process with you.


Many people want a garden to attract butterflies or hummingbirds, or they want it to be low-maintenance.  This is another big facet about planning a design.  After studying plants and observing or using them, you get to know which are troublemakers or stars.  Some troublemakers are solutions too, especially in the container gardening world (but that’s just another story and facet of gardening).  Whether you desired garden space is to be for nature’s gifts, such as bees, or for your own senses, like for smell, or even eating, as edibles can be incorporated too as an added benefits, its important to consider all of these elements in the design process.


If you are interested in hiring me, Cathy Testa, as your garden designer, please feel free to contact me at 860-977-9473 or fill out the Contact Form below.  Or just e-mail me at  I’m happy to hear from you.  Thank you for visiting my blog too!

Written by Cathy Testa

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