(Photos © Cate West Zahl / Lonny)
When I was 12, my parents moved our family from the city to the suburbs—a decision they had previously avoided, believing that sophistication and charm existed only in an urban environment. “But really, that’s a lie. You can make anything lovely,” my mom, designer Ann West
, explained to me. And she proved that this was the case, transforming what could only be described as a "normal" house into something that feels like it could comfortably exist in the English countryside. Especially when it comes to the backyard garden, a peaceful oasis where most of their summer entertaining takes place.
Let’s face it: landscape architecture is an entirely different beast from decorating your interior. The manifold choices within the horticulture world make the act of choosing paint seem simple. Here are four lessons I’ve learned from my mom’s garden that help narrow down the process and make any garden—large or small, urban or country—sophisticated and calming in its aesthetic.
1. STICK TO A LIMITED COLOR PALETTE
There's nothing like the rainbow of colors found in a field of wildflowers. But when it comes to your backyard oasis, one of the easiest ways to create a statement is to stick to two colors in the plants you choose. In this case, the entire garden is white and green, interspersed with pops of lavender.2. HOSTAS AND PERENNIALS ARE FRIENDS
One of the first things my mom did when she moved in was to plant an abundant amount of hostas, ferns, and green groundcovers that show up every summer like good friends. The amount of volume they create are astounding, and using several different varieties will add interest.3. POTS, POTS, STATUES, AND POTS!
Whether you have a traditional wooden deck, a tiny brick patio, or even a balcony off an apartment, pots are your friends. And don’t listen to what the people at the nursery say about what can go into a pot: put anything in there, including boxwood and hydrangea shrubs in the summer. Group them in vignettes and vary in height and scale. Adding garden statuary throughout only ramps up the charm.4. BRING THE INSIDE OUT
Just because you're outdoors doesn’t mean you shouldn't think of your space as a room. In fact, some of my favorite tablescapes can be found on the outdoor marble tables in my parent’s backyard. Think cool lanterns, vintage french tôle vessels, and baby's tears plants grouped together in pleasing symmetry.