Learn the secrets of an unforgettable South Carolina garden rooted in a love of land and home.
Old tobacco fields aren't typially home to world-class gardens, but then there's nothing typical about Darla Moore. A successful business woman and philanthropist, she could live anywhere, but she chooses to return to the farmland of her youth, in northeastern South Carolina. Moore Farms Botanical Garden serves as a horticultural research laboratory for Southern home gardeners and pros alike.
With the help of Moore Farms' talented staff, we've picked out seven great ideas you can re-create at home.
Choose a signature color to repeat throughout your landscape. At Moore Farms Botanical Garden, purple is that color, complementing the golds that become prevalent in autumn. Favorite purple plants for fall include sage, verbena, and beautyberry. Magenta 'Fireworks' gomphrena stands out against 'Sapphire Skies' yucca.
Not all fences are meant to contain. This diamond lattice version does three things: It serves as a backdrop for shorter plants such as 'Homestead Purple' verbena in the foreground, visually separates voluminous maiden grass from swamp sunflowers, and adds structure to the border without requiring too much space. How you anchor a freestanding fence is important too. Here, big-leaved verbascum grounds the front corner while weeping bald cypress frames the composition in the upper right corner.
Loose borders such as these appear more dramatic when sandwiched between hedged and tree-form evergreens such as yaupon hollies and tall, coarse-textured bay laurels. Great choices for a beautiful fall border include 'Faye Chapel' sage (red), 'Blue Chiquita' long-spike sage (blue), 'Coral Nymph' Texas sage (salmon pink), 'Henna' coleus (rust and burgundy), 'Wasabi' coleus (bright chartreuse), and 'Fireworks' gomphrena (magenta).
Color is fleeting, but texture stays with you for the long haul. Consider all parts of a plant—leaves, flowers, bark, and fruit. "The key to texture is to pair opposite forms: rough with smooth, coarse with fine, and round with linear," says Jenks Farmer, the garden's former director. The swath of lawn that parts the meadow of muhly grass and sedges is a great example. To decide which plants offer the best contrast, try using this technique from Jenks: Any combo that looks good printed in black and white has enough textural interest to be beautiful all season long.
An interpretation of a stick tobacco barn, Moore Farms' springhouse is a favorite spot for visitors, who gaze through its large, wattle-woven doors and take in the beauty of the pond. Located where agriculture is an integral part of the area's past and present, the garden first embraces the land. Managed meadows and forests on the perimeter gradually give way to structured, manicured spaces. The exuberant plantings form a surprising bridge to the tranquil surrounding landscape.
Do you ever wonder how botanical gardens and professionally designed landscapes look so unified, rather than like a hodgepodge? The answer is repetition. When shapes, colors, or textures are repeated, it creates a rhythm that pulls your eye along a border or through an outdoor room. The colorful mixed border (above right) serves as proof positive. Repeated use of 'Sapphire Skies' yucca, magenta 'Fireworks' gomphrena, and orange-red 'David Verity' cigar plant transports you from one end of the planting to the other.
Large or small, grand or humble, every garden deserves to have a focal point. It gives the eye a destination, designates a key area, and helps you visualize how all the different spaces and features relate to one another. Centered in the heart of this garden is its most impressive feature, an octagonal fountain planted with horsetails and various crinum lilies. Glass globes in a multitude of vivid colors float lazily in the water. Weeping bald cypress rims the basin. Four benches with harvest reliefs anchor the corners and punctuate the surrounding manicured hedges.