Look! The red cubes are evergreen azaleas. We were driving along and I made Mark stop the car so I could photograph this border from the street because it was eye catching. The azaleas appear to be all the same variety. Each rhododendron in between is a different variety. We decided that what lifted this border above the usual alternating planting – which I have been known to refer as the vaudeville or circus tent look – is the fact that it utilises formality without slavishly trying to make all the plants look identical. Each red cube is actually a different size.
One of the problems of strictly formal plantings is that the symmetry is ruined if a plant fails to thrive or dies. This is a common problem because plants are living organisms and may not conform to your requirement that they obediently stay identical to their neighbours. Here is a practical solution to that conundrum, giving structure, form and unity by overall impression, rather than exact detail. When not flowering, the azaleas will just be green cubes instead. Should one die, it will not ruin the entire length of the border if it is replaced with a younger, smaller plant.
I am not so keen on the sharp contrast of the white fence at the front, but that is entirely personal taste. Notice how the dark fence behind the border makes it recede into the distance rather than drawing attention to the straight lines of the boundary with the neighbour.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.