Garden Designers Roundtable ~ Focus on Details

This month on the Garden Designers Roundtable, we’re exploring the topic of Details and their importance in a designed landscape.

In gardening, as in life in general, when it comes to design, small things can matter the most. It’s the details that can transform your garden from everyday to extraordinary.

Rather than ramble on and on about how to make sure you consider the details when designing your garden, I thought I’d highlight some notable quotes on the subject of Details from people not necessarily associated with garden design, but that illustrate the importance of focusing on details nonetheless.

Details create the big picture.  

~  Sanford I. Weill 

The steps to the house, and the house itself, both wrapped with plants, is not an accident. It’s a design detail that is best appreciated from a distance and that sets the tone for the entire garden, in this case, Hollister House Garden in Connecticut.

God may be in the details, but the goddess is in the questions. Once we begin to ask them, there’s no turning back.

Gloria Steinem

This exact paperbark maple (Acer griseum) was selected for this location (it was planted 5 months ago) because many questions were asked and answered. The client wanted a tree with year round interest that would not block the view from inside the house and would not grow so large that it would eventually out grow the house. The tree was planted slightly off-center from the three windows to accommodate a good view from both the breakfast table and a favorite easy chair.

Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right. 

Steve Jobs

The interplay of size, color and texture of foliage is one detail that can be neglected in garden design because it doesn’t happen overnight. Plan ahead and be patient, this attention to detail will be well worth the wait.

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen. 

John Wooden

This custom railing, painstakingly designed by the homeowner, sets the stage for the many design details that can be found in this simple, playful yet sophisticated garden.

The details are the very source of expression in architecture. But we are caught in a vice between art and the bottom line. 

Arthur Erickson

Right plant, right place is just part of the story. Often, simple details like making sure a specimen plant is ready to be showcased are overlooked. This Japanese maple goes from Cousin It to understated elegance with a few expert snips of the pruner.


Never neglect details. When everyone’s mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant. 

Colin Powell 

When choosing plant combinations, it’s easy to only consider flowers. But looking beyond the obvious and focusing on details like interesting seed heads can make for out-of-the-ordinary combinations like this “Chocolate’ Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’) and blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis).

The secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life, and in elevating them to art.

William Morris

Sure, a simple fence would have gotten the job done but instead, these neighbors decided to focus on the details of everyday beauty, and choose to separate their properties with a row of espaliered crabapples instead.

To read more about the importance of focusing on details in garden design, please check out the posts from my fellow members of the Garden Designers Roundtable:

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

17 thoughts on “Garden Designers Roundtable ~ Focus on Details

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    • Marguerite, The railing is quite lovely, isn’t it? The house is large and the gardens are somewhat structured so I like the way the railing adds just the right touch of whimsy.

  7. Debbie,

    What a lovely post! Coupling your design details with inspirational quotes really brings a deeper meaning to the design choices you’ve made. I think sometimes we neglect to remember that attention to the details is what enable some people in our industry to really outshine the rest. Thank you for your inspiration

  8. Pingback: Garden Designers Roundtable: Focus on the Details | Harmony in the Garden

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