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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Home and garden

In the Garden: Artist’s colorful landscape designed to age gracefully

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 17, 2018

When passers-by slow down time and again to look at a garden, you know it’s special. But what makes this one extra special is that it’s an artist’s garden.

That artist is Anne Moore Knapp. She lives in Gig Harbor, Washington, and she just happens to be my sister.

Anne and her husband, Bob Knapp, built their new home just two years ago, and the transformation of their formerly blank lot in that short time frame is remarkable.

As an artist who works primarily in pastels and oils, Anne has a good eye for color and composition, and she took her time mulling over the garden’s design.

“On winter evenings while the house was being built, I drew out multiple landscape plans,” she said. “It was good to think it through, but that doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s 98 percent good.”

In their garden on an irregularly shaped city lot, Anne has created appealing vignettes with several different plantings.

“For my hot garden in front, I knew the color of the house would be rust and blue,” she said. “I wanted bold, rusty colors which I balanced with complementary colors of blues and blue-violets. Then I added enough hot colors like yellows, oranges and reds.”

Her choices include red coneflowers, orange Crocosmia, Black and Blue salvia, black-eyed Susans, May Night salvia, orange torch lilies and Salmon Star Oriental lilies. Anne chose plants with eye-catching foliage such as Royal Purple smokebush, Purple Fountains beech, Orange Rocket barberry, a Japanese maple and bronze-colored Shiraz flax.

At the back edge of the hot garden, a tall retaining wall is painted in a rust color, with nearby blue pots to provide continuity to the color scheme.

On the other side of the driveway, there are tall galvanized stock tanks converted to planters, painted to match the house and retaining wall, and filled with a mix of vegetables and flowers.

“This house is an age-in-place house, so I wanted the garden to be the same. The containers are easier to tend, require less bending and look very cool,” Anne said. “Gardening in them is more controlled and the containers have kept the bunnies from nibbling my plants.”

The eye-catching gate that leads into her studio garden has been created from a panel of garden tools that have been welded together and provides a peek at what’s to come.

The centerpiece is a pond that has been edged with an 18-inch-tall retaining wall to make it easier to maintain. Colorful fish, water lilies, a prehistoric-looking Gunnera with huge leaves and a container of carnivorous plants provide plenty of interest.

Along the edges of the studio garden are plantings of ferns, astilbes, hellebores, Indian Summer coleus with its bronzy leaves, a passionflower vine and four pots of golden-stemmed bamboo.

A pathway on the side of the house leads to more vegetables growing in galvanized water troughs and blue containers filled with Oriental lilies, Alstroemeria, Lily of the Nile, and gold dahlias. Three tiered foundation planters are edged with landscape blocks – again, tall enough for sitting while tending – and planted with lavender Liatris, bright pink coneflowers, lilies and edible crops.

This area flows into the backyard where berries, fruit trees and ornamental plants are growing. Anne has been making cast concrete leaves and painting them in red-orange, purple or turquoise to accent the plantings.

As I explored the garden, it became clear that every part of it had been carefully considered. When asked if she had suggestions for others wanting to design an eye-appealing garden, Anne shared three great tips:

Take time to observe the space so you know how many hours of sun you’ll get; that way you can plant appropriately.

Don’t forget the color of the foliage on your plants. Anne said it took her decades to understand that foliage is more important than colors because you see it the whole time. Her hot garden is full of greens, blue-violet and red-orange.

If you want the cottage-garden look (with many different colors), limit your palette for a more striking landscape. If you’re a non-artist, go to an art supply store and buy a color wheel. Think of your favorite plants and the colors you like. Plant three or four of them, which will set the tone for your garden. Then look at the color wheel. Find that color and either go with complementary colors (directly opposite on the wheel) or analogous colors which are next to the main color on the wheel.

For a video tour of Anne Moore Knapp’s garden, watch this week’s “Everyone Can Grow A Garden” video on thegarden.

Susan Mulvihill is co-author, with Pat Munts, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Contact her at Susan@susansinthe

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