Garden themes

Be prepared for any occasion

ROWS OF HERBS Themed gardens can simplify plant selection.

Avoid compacting your wet clay soil by staying indoors and planning a themed garden.

Traditional garden themes include floral cottage gardens, manicured Renaissance gardens and classic kitchen gardens, with their successive plantings of vegetables, fruits and herbs. Garden themes can be based on flower color, leaf shape or a particular shade of green. There are also rain gardens, rock gardens and native plant gardens.

Butterfly or pollinator gardens attract butterflies, honeybees and other beneficial insects with borage, salvia and butterfly bush. Allowing garden plants to go to seed also provides nectar and pollen for these beneficial insects and hummingbirds. The changing shape, colors and sizes of these plants keeps your landscape interesting.

Children’s gardens encourage kids to be active and eat healthier foods. Feathery yarrow, creeping chocolate mint, sweet cherry tomatoes and towering fronds of fennel are all edible and easy to grow. A children’s garden nearly always features fast-growing radishes and beans, a sunflower fort or a pole bean teepee.

Gift gardens are spaces dedicated to growing gift plants. Flowers, herbs and succulents all make lovely presents. Maintaining a gift garden ensures you will always be prepared for those occasions.

Herb gardens are attractive, tenacious and rewarding. Except for basil, most herbs will continue to grow for many years, providing fragrance, flavor and beauty. Oregano, chives, cilantro, lemon balm, summer savory, marjoram, sage and tarragon can also be grown in containers.

Holiday dinner gardens allow you to create traditional holiday meals from your backyard. Nothing says gardener like fresh Brussels sprouts at Christmas, baby beets at Easter, and a juicy watermelon on July 4. Whatever your traditions, this garden patch can save you a trip to the store, with full bragging rights.

Pizza gardens are fun. A round garden space, cut into wedge-shaped sections, planted with tomatoes, oregano, thyme, bell peppers and summer squash, surrounded with garlic and onions are all you need (except for the cheese and pepperoni, of course).

Salad gardens can be made continuous with successive plantings of salad greens and other ingredients. Swiss chard, kale, and mustard greens are especially productive in our area.

Storybook gardens are a delightful way to add art to a landscape. Designing, installing and caring for a storybook garden is an excellent children’s activity. Peter Rabbit and The Secret Garden are favorites, but you can use any book with edible plant references.

Tea gardens do not have to be manicured Japanese varieties. You can grow tea plants (Camellia sinensis) outdoors in zones 8-12, or indoors year-round. If you love tea, you might want to consider chamomile, elderberries, ginger and mint for your tea garden.

Themes pull a garden together and make plant selection easy. Pick a patch of ground today and cover it with arborist chips or aged compost so the soil will be ready for you at planting time.

Kate Russell is a UCCE Master Gardener in Santa Clara County. For more information, visit or call 408.282.3105 between 9:30am-12:30pm, Monday through Friday.

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About Kate Russell
Kate Russell is a UCCE Master Gardener in Santa Clara county.