||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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
Silver foliage plants that reflect light are:
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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