DIY: How to Plant Your Own Mid-century-Inspired Garden

Photo by Jonathan House
written by Melissa Dalton

To tackle a Mid-century-inspired landscape, try these tips drawn from Leslie Dunlap and Seth Cotlar’s garden project.

1. Consider Sightlines From Inside the House

In order to sync the existing architecture with the backyard, assess the views from inside the house looking out, then create attractive vignettes at the end of those sightlines. For instance, Dunlap wanted to keep an existing Smoketree that she could see from the living room, so Canfield surrounded it with low-lying plants that underscore the tree’s height and shape.

2. Think In “Drifts”

Repetition is key: Cluster the same plants together in masses to create unity and encourage the eye to move through the garden. “Not just one of this or one of that,” said Canfield, which can create a jumbled effect.

3. Highlight Architectural Plants

Architectural plants have a more pronounced silhouette, either via branch or leaf structure. In Dunlap and Cotlar’s garden, Canfield created a focal point by enveloping a New Zealand flax with bunches of grasses. Emphasizing certain plants this way gives the eye a place to rest.

4. Restrict the Color Palette

Whether it’s a shade-tolerant fern or a sun-loving succulent, the Mid-century garden can have all types of plants, but by maintaining a stricter color palette, those varieties will sing together.

5. Don’t Forget Evergreens

In order to get the garden looking good during the height of summer or the depths of winter, include evergreens. “They just provide lots of different seasons of interest,” Canfield said.

6. Accent With Containers

Containers are a fun way to incorporate a vintage vibe and punchy accent colors, as well as experiment with new plant arrangements. Dunlap has picked up kicky planters around town and played with combinations of succulents.

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