by Connie Oswald Stofko
“I find a statue, then think, ‘What can I plant around it to accent it?'” said Jim Bardot.
The statue that was the inspiration for this garden is the Chinese head, situated in the very center.
“It sat by itself in the backyard for years,” Bardot said. “I placed it here, I placed it there, then I brought it out front and found other things to go with it.”
This Asian garden is one of the seven gardens in his front yard. He shared his landscape in 2021 during the Amherst Garden Walk.
Here are some takeaways from Bardot’s Asian garden that you can use in your own landscape.
Gardens don’t have to be flat
Build up your garden or a part of your garden so it isn’t flat. The center of this garden is higher than the rest of the garden, which gives prominence to the statue of the head. The bridge is a bit higher than the garden, giving you a different perspective of the garden when you stand on the bridge.
Full gardens with few plants
Bardot’s garden looks very full, but I was surprised to notice that there are actually few plants in it.
“My focus is the statues,” Bardot said. “The plants are used to accent them.”
Some of the space in the garden is taken up by the statues, of course. Then there are hardscapes: an arbor, a bridge and a path. There are decorative elements with boulders and stone.
But what you probably don’t notice are the areas covered in mulch. You might look at these as “blank” areas, but an artist would call them negative space. This negative space balances the statues, plants and hardscapes, giving your eye a place to rest. Without these spaces, the garden would look busy and cluttered. This is what artists mean when they say, “less is more.”
Even if you don’t want to build your garden around statues, consider using negative space.
Decorate with boulders & stone
Notice the path leading up to the bridge. It’s functional–and lovely– with large, colorful stepping stones surrounded by small stones.
You don’t have to relegate stones and rocks to paths and water features; boulders and smaller stones can be decorative elements by themselves. In one part of this garden, Bardot has created what looks like a dry creek bed. In another area, there are a few boulders surrounded by rocks.
Create many views
“Hide and reveal” is a feature of Japanese gardens. No matter where you stand in the landscape, you can’t see everything at once. That adds interest to your garden.
Bardot’s garden is an example of this technique. From the back of the garden, plants obscure the view of the statues, and from the front, the plants obscure the decorative boulders.
If you push your gardens up against a fence, you’re stuck with viewing them from only one angle. If you want to experience different views in your landscape, an island garden starts you off on the right track.
Because you can walk all the around an island garden, it forces you to have something interesting in every part of the garden, and the use of tall plants will give you different views.
Get more ideas here on creating views from various angles.