I recently spent much of a week scouting residential gardens in the Indianapolis area for a national magazine with its editor and photographer.
We visited nearly 20, looking for beautiful plant combos, exquisite landscapes or creative ways to solve problems in the garden. The editor and photographer selected six gardens to follow up on.
This was the first time I’ve scouted gardens for a national magazine. It was a challenging exercise. Even though I subscribe to the magazine and see what kinds of gardens it features, it’s still trying to meld something I think is cool with the style of the publication.
A few weeks before the crew got here, I contacted landscape architects, designers, master gardeners and others for suggestions of gardens to preview. I also spoke with gardeners whose landscapes I already knew about. Only two people said no. One because he’s moving and didn’t plant his this year and one who said her garden was in disrepair.
A few scenes that caught the crew’s attention: walls of coleus and orchids to break up an expanse of space on a garage or home; a selection of David Austin roses; a two-year-old garden; how a vegetable garden found a home on a shady property and a classy, meticulous formal landscape.
I learned so much. For one thing, the photographer chased light from early morning into early evening. Photographers don’t like to shoot in blazing sun, something that translates as light that’s “too hot.” Early morning and early evenings are the prime times to shoot. So are cloudy days.
Some gardens are very difficult to photograph. There are the beds, which you don’t walk in or use a tripod without permission. Some you just can’t get a good angle on no matter what. That’s when ladders or even better, access to a roof would come in handy. Or maybe drones.
Seeing new plants
From my end, I wondered if I was a bit jaded in selecting the gardens, having seen hundreds over the years. Only occasionally do I find something new, exciting, creative, let alone new and different plants. If I had to declare the official perennial of Indianapolis, it would be hostas, which this year are huge from all the rain.
In one of the gardens though, a fragrance demanded my attention. I sniffed for quite a while before landing at the patch of ‘Rainbow Loveliness” fringed dianthus, which perfumed the garden.
Although new to me, ‘Rainbow Loveliness’ seeds date to the 1920s. The fringed dianthus was touted as a must-have plant by Christopher Lloyd (1921-2006), the well known British gardener and author from Great Dixter. Something old becomes new. I’m definitely going to sow seeds of this short-lived perennial in my garden. I can hardly wait.