romance garden (34703 bytes) The Romance Garden

By Judy Feather, Colorado Master Gardener, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver

Of the thousands and thousands of years
Time would take to prepare
They would not suffice
To entice
That small second of eternity
When you kissed me
When I kissed you
One morning in the light of winter
In Parc Montsouris in Paris
In Paris
On earth
Earth that is a star.

Jacques Prevert, French, 1900-1977

Doesn't a romantic stroll in a Paris "parc" sound wonderful? For many of us, creating a romantic garden here in Colorado is probably more attainable.

To begin, consider the elements of a romantic space, a place that invites you to linger, a habitat that assaults the senses. Touch, smell, sight, and sound all contribute to the mood.

Plan to incorporate landscape features such as water pools or re-circulating fountains, pathways, arbors, benches or other seating, statuary, trellises, stepping stones, bird-baths, or lighting. Once these features have been defined, trees, shrubs, and plants can be selected.

Trees, fruiting and non-fruiting, are desirable because of their spring blossoms and scent. Some that grow well in Colorado are Montmorency cherry (sour cherry), Van cherry (sweet cherry), and Colorado Sand cherry (non-fruiting). Others are Green Gauge, Blue
Damson and Sapalta plum. Among the crabapples, consider Royalty (red flowers & purple foliage), Bechtel (double pink flowers, usually no fruit), and Snowdrift (white flowers and red fruit). Choose areas that are appropriate for the plantings, considering space, light and soil adaptability.

Another romantic garden element is shrubbery. Shrubs can mask traffic, create areas of privacy, and reduce wind. Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) has red, white or purple hollyhock-like flowers. Red-stem dogwood (Cornus sericea) produces white flowers and bluish fruit. Its red stems are beautiful in winter. Mockorange (Philadelphus sp.) has fragrant white flowers from May-July. Flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) produces June flowers that are red red-orange. Froebel's spirea (Spirea bumalda 'Froebel') has lavender flowers in June & bright green/yellow foliage. Once tree and shrub plantings have been selected and are in place, areas for additional plants are defined.

Add flowering vines. Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) has creamy
white flowers that are richly fragrant on trellises or arbors. Clematis Montana-rubens is a fast-growing vine with delicate-scented, two inch blossoms of rose red to pink in spring.

An important aspect of the romantic garden is roses. Roses, in the Language of Flowers by Kate Greenaway, symbolize love. Red and white roses together signify unity. 'Mr. Lincoln' is a desirable hybrid tea rose because of its deep, dark red blooms and lovely fragrance. Another dark red rose is the floribunda type, 'Europeana'. Among white roses, a hybrid tea is 'Honor' and floribunda, 'Iceberg'. If you're creating an arbor or trellis of roses, you might choose large-flowered 'Blaze', a medium-red flowered rose. There are many varieties and colors to choose from if you want something besides red or white. Garden centers have great selections.

Fragrance is another important feature of a romantic garden. The scent of plants can invites strolling. Heliotrope bears brilliant, almost violet blue flowers and a romantic, vanilla scent. Sweet alyssum, a white or purple low-growing, ground-cover, smells softly sweet and honey-like. Dianthus 'Magic Charms' wafts spicy-sweet. VIolets have fragrant, deep violet, white or bluish rose flowers and bear dark-green, heart-shaped leaves. Violets signify faithfulness and Viola odorata is the violet of song and story.

Irises are a natural component of the romantic garden. Their clean, sweet, grape-like smell and beautiful colors add to the mood. Grow them in clumps or along borders for maximum impact.

Peonies are truly heirloom plants. Leave them undisturbed, divide only occasionally, and enjoy them for years. Friends speak of their grandmothers' peonies that have been thirty years or more in the same spot and have grown to enormous sizes. Peonies range in color from white through pale cream and pink to red. Their flowers can reach 10 inches across. Many peonies have the fragrance of old-fashioned roses.

Lavender, native to the Mediterranean, is prized for its fragrant lavender and purple flowers. Its compact growth is perfect for edges and borders, and it's also attractive to bees. Lilies bring their own exotic look and scent to the garden. Asiatic lilies bloom reliably in June and July. There are stunning colors of pink, white and yellow, and some have flowers four inches across. Look for bulbs in early spring to plant for summer blooms. Moving from scents to visuals, there are plants that evoke romantic thoughts and

Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis), an old-fashioned plant, is literally, hearts on arching stems. Beautiful leafy, fern-like foliage plants are 2-3 feet high. There are white and rose pink colors to choose from. Delphinium is another old garden favorite. One hybrid, Pacific, can grow up to 8 feet tall. Colors range from light blue to dark, clear white, lavender, purple and pink. Ferns can be grown in shady areas of the garden. They don't produce flowers; they lend their distinctive beauty in partnership with other plants such as bleeding hearts, hostas, pansies, and columbines. Putting plants in the ground is one way of achieving color, scent, and texture. But consider filling pots and hanging baskets as well.

Fill pots with plants that have similar light and water needs. Create palettes of dazzling snapdragons, dianthus, marigolds, and alyssum. Fill pots on shepherd's crooks with vining geraniums, fuschias, and trailing lobelias.

Although this discussion has been limited to daylight in the garden, don't overlook moonlight for a true romantic garden.

If enough white flowers are planted together, they provide a reflective surface for moonlight. Plants with silver foliage mirror and mix well with white-flowered plants. Ironically, moon garden plants should be sun-loving types, planted out in the open, away from trees. Don't obstruct moonlight. Moon gardens can be long borders, lunar circles, crescents, squares-even a large, terra-cotta pot.

White plants that shine in the moonlight are:



Lilies (asiatics and orientals)
Shasta daisies

Silver foliage plants that reflect light are:

Dusty Miller
Russian Sage

Plan to enjoy a moon garden when you can linger. Maybe a cloud will cross the face of the moon. Perhaps a moth will linger, striking a pose with its wings.

Whether you choose to visit a romantic garden in day or evening, enjoy the mood. Pause and let the spectacle unfold. And imagine, just for a moment, that you are in Paris, on earth, earth that is a star.

Photograph courtesy of Carl Wilson.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010