I recently had an opportunity to visit an amazing place in Scotland Neck, North Carolina called Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park, "...the worlds largest collection of waterfowl." They had a large deck overlooking a low wetland area pictured above. I was taken by the beauty of it and thought about what it was that so pleased me. First the wetland is a defined space as an opening in the woodland. Secondly the stream makes a distinctive sinuous line through the space. But of most interest to me was the manner in which the herbaceous plants distributed themselves. Sweeps, clumps, masses, textural contrasts, color variations all played into my fascination. I have been experimenting with naturalistic plantings in my garden, and I use these sorts of plant communities as inspiration. I have found it to be a very difficult task, so I was interested to read recently an article by George Schoellkopf who created a highly regarded garden at his home called Hollister House. He says, "The trouble is that the absence of formal structure does not automatically result in a convincingly natural garden." "A successful naturalistic garden is designed so that we are not aware of its structure because the plants themselves provide most of the structure. This sort of design demands a high degree of talent and effort." He goes on to explain his preference for formality in garden design and concludes by saying, "It's actually an aesthetic that is more attainable."
Every day that I work with what I call my "meadow garden" (see below) I come to appreciate the utility of figuratively hanging my plants (in other gardens) onto formal structural elements.