(A version of this story was originally published September/October 2004.)
Lynette Jensen's fall garden—and her life's vocation—depend on color. The season's last golden black-eyed Susans and gold, pink and maroon coleuses blend with patches of dusty-pink 'Matrona' sedums and mounds of rusty-orange chrysanthemums. 'Victoria Blue' salvia provides an occasional touch of indigo, while pumpkins draw the eye with a bit of seasonality and whimsy. Set about the garden and stacked atop each other are a few white ones, some a ghostly green, here and there your basic orange, and squat reddish types.
The harmonious colors, plus compelling patterns, contrasting textures and thoughtful design, reflect Lynette's unmistakable touch. Quilters eagerly seek out her Thimbleberries fabrics, patterns and books from more than 2,000 shops around the world. In designing both her gardens and her quilts, Lynette follows a similar pattern: She comes up with a color palette and a central theme. "Then, through trial and error, I piece things together," she says. "I choose colors that will either play off each other or merely stay subdued in the background."
Lynette's artful plantings cover nearly an acre in Hutchinson, Minnesota (60 miles west of Minneapolis). Lynette wanted a plant palette that would look good year-round, yet peak in fall. To complement the gray color of her home's shake-shingle siding, she chose flowers in toned-down hues, including burgundy, dusty rose, rust, brown, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, cream and silver. This type of color scheme also is a hallmark of many of the fabrics she designs. By repeating colors, patterns and plants, Lynette creates a sense of continuity without making the garden look too tightly regimented.
Lynette fills her yard with as many decorating ideas as the inside of her house. "Fall is definitely my favorite time for 'fussing out' in the garden," she says, "because you have so many things at your disposal to fill in and enhance and layer, such as pumpkins and cornstalks, mums and dried hydrangeas."
Pumpkins tuck into any bare spots. One of her favorites is the 'Rouge Vif D'Etampes', a squat, reddish type sometimes called a Cinderella pumpkin for its resemblance to the coach in the fairy tale. They easily stack two or three tall.
Birdhouses that resemble country buildings combine with willow furniture made by Minnesota artisans to provide focal points in the flowerbeds. The potting shed, filled with antiques and tools, charmingly echoes Lynette's traditional-style two-story house.
Her two loves merge seamlessly. "As gardeners," Lynette says, "we're interested in a lot of plants. We take on more than we can handle. We always dig up another place, another bed." Quilters, who share a similar urge to keep collecting more fabric, can relate. Both groups claim a practical basis for their fixations. "Whether it's plants or fabric," she says, "we can create something out of all this."
After years of accumulating plants, Lynette has created a garden that reminds her of a scrap quilt, patched together with bits and pieces gleaned from friends' gardens and built up from purchases over time with an iris here, a sedum there.
"I think it's a combination of a cottage feel in that it isn't a formal garden, but I do more mass plantings than a cottage garden would," she says. "It's much like my quilts again; it looks random, but it's been planned."
Lynette Jensen's autumn garden plants belong to these basic color categories. Though this isn't Lynette's entire plant list, these basics can get you started with a palette similar to what she uses in designing her quilts and gardens.
BURGUNDY Diabolo ninebark foliage, plus many varieties of coleus.
DUSTY ROSE Varieties of joe-pye weed, plus sedums such as 'Matrona', 'Autumn Joy', 'Brilliant', 'Dragon's Blood' and 'Frosty Morn'.
RUST Many types of chrysanthemums.
BROWN Corn shocks and cattails in arrangements scattered in the garden.
YELLOW Rudbeckia, melampodium and numerous varieties of goldenrod, especially 'Fireworks'.
WHITE/CREAM/SILVER Alyssum, hydrangeas with shades of pink and tan on the edges, and artemisia.
GREEN Plectranthus, spears of daylily and iris foliage, plus the many shades of green from the foliage of perennials out of bloom.
BLUE/PURPLE New England asters and 'Victoria Blue' salvia.