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Romance in the Garden

an interview of Jimmy Turner by Abby Hoeffner

With spring in full bloom, what better time to plan a romantic garden space to enjoy all year? Jimmy Turner, Director of Horticulture Research & Garden Designer at the Dallas Arboretum, shares how to create your own romantic garden retreat.

What Defines A Garden Romantic?

Jimmy Turner:  In my opinion all gardens are 'romantic' on some level.  Everyone loves to be surronded by flowers, and it's a known fact that gardens are peaceful and relaxing.   But for the true 'romantic' garden I feel there are some specific points you want when designing them.  They need to be intimate, thus either small in size or divided inot small garden rooms.   Any hidden area or protected shady bower will work.  A romantic garden needs to have the plances for strolling hand in hand, or comfortably benches with beautiful views to clam and relax.   Don't forget seating or areas for picnicking.

For the most part, romantic gardens should be of subdued pastel colors.  The idea is to relax and calm, so this is not a garden for strong hot colors.  Scented plants are a must.  Our sense of smell is the most hardwired sense to our memories.   The smell of roses, and fragrant flowers are always a way to calm.  If possible you should include water to reflect the moonlight in the evening, cool area in the summer and the sound of fountains is always soothing.  Consider adding statuary, a classic addition to any romantic garden.  Gazebo's and ornate pergola's are another way to signify places to stop and contemplate.

How much space does on need to create a romantic garden area?

JT: A 10'x10' patio garden can become a romantic garden if done right.  Because the goal is to create an intimate space, I think it is easier to design a romantic garden on a smaller scale than a large one.

What key plantings should one include?

JT: Look to classical scented flowers, such as roses and lavendar.  Things you associate with your family or friends, spring bulbs and soft-colored summer annuals.

What colors are typiclaly seen in romantic gardents?

JT:  Almost always include white folowers and silver foliage, since they will show up by moonlight (see Scott Ogden's In the Moonlit Garden).  Definitely push your patette to the pastel and light colored side.   You want a relaxing, peaceful place.

Are romantic gardnes typically high or low maintenanace?  Why?

JT:  They can be either one, depending on how they are designed and which plants are used.  As in all gardens it takes work to look beautiful.  Gardens are a lifetime endevor and passion, if your isn't then it is only a landscape.

Where can someone go to get ideas to create their own romantic garden?

JT:  My bestrecommendation to see romantic gardens would be look for your lockal home garden tours.  In general the best romantic gardens are designed and bult by passionate homewoners.  I'm always on the lookout for a great idea I can plagiarie from a garden I'm visiting.  Look for something you love and interpret it into your own home space.   Also, visit the Mercer Arboretum in Hoston for a tropical oasis-stylized romantic setting, or visit Bayou Bend for an old southern style garden.  In Dallas visit the Dallas Arboretum and see our Sunken Garden or the Women's Garden for a feel of grand romantic garden styple.  Take a trip to New Orleans Botanical Garden in that most romantic of cities to see it done in their own style.

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