Nicholasville designer's 'tuck-in gardening' allows for creativity and efficiency

Contributing Garden WriterJuly 11, 2014 

NICHOLASVILLE — When Richard Weber leaves his office, a restored old farmhouse on the grounds of his Springhouse Gardens in Nicholasville, he takes a few moments to stroll around.

That allows him to soak in the beauty of the landscape and greenery that surround him in the evening light and to let creative ideas take shape for new plans large and small in the paradise he has created. At some point on one these strolls he came up with a technique he calls "tuck-in gardening."

Simply put, just stand back and assess your garden for places where you could fit in something that will improve the garden's appeal, then give your idea a try. It's an easy way to allow experimentation, one of gardening's great joys.

The purposes could be many: to add height, fill in empty edges with low-lying ground cover, to play with color or light and dark foliage clusters, or to switch out plants when a spot has become too shady or bright. Perhaps you want to attract specific creatures, from cats to butterflies, or lean toward using more native plants.

Since it was established in 1995, Weber's work in establishing this retail garden, nursery and landscape center has transformed 61/2 acres of a traditional tobacco farm off Harrodsburg Road just south of the Jessamine County line.

With a passion for discovering and sharing interesting plants, and a talent for combining them in enduring, sustainable landscapes filled with rich color and texture, Weber has a lot to share with home gardeners wanting to keep their perennial beds fresh and vibrant.

As a landscape architect, he has won numerous awards for his designs, including two from the Perennial Plant Association; Springhouse Gardens was also named one of Today's Garden Center's Revolutionary 100 for successfully reaching out to customers to share information.

Weber's demonstration beds were established nearly 20 years ago but reworked over the ensuing years. The Kousa dogwood and willow oak trees at the center of each bed were once small, but now have grown large, creating shade, but many of the original perennials, like anemone and daylilies, still survive.

"It's a microcosm," Weber says. "First you need to have the main plants, and if you design it well, the garden will last."

He chose evergreens, like the dwarf Hinoki cypress, to provide winter interest and a dark green backdrop against which lighter perennial blooms and foliage can stand out.

A burgundy, gold and white color scheme dominates this Springhouse garden plot, not only in the flowers but also leaf colors and patterns. Shade-loving "Stained Glass" hosta (with its broad light gold and green leaves) and "Stainless Steel" Heuchera (with white-blossomed flower spikes and silvery purple leaves) are standouts.

An interesting ground cover choice to tuck in is the little purple-veined "Silver Gem" viola.

Weber says he also likes to place pots with blooming bulbs among the plants for a spring surprise, and other potted plants from the sales tables just to see how they'll fit.

"The problem with that is that people buy them," he says.

Susan Smith-Durisek is a master gardener and writer from Lexington. Email: durisek@aol.com. Blog: gardening.bloginky.com.

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