Where does the Blue River Nursery style come from?

Saturday, December 31, 2011

In 1996 my Father and I started hanging around a guy named Al Christ who was a formally trained botanist and nurseryman. Al was into weird plants as we call them and he had some display gardens in back of his house that his wife at the time had designed that were different and better than any my untrained eye had seen in the area at the time.

These gardens were in the English Cottage Garden style. The border was constantly curving there were no straight lines on these beds. All the herbaceous plants were perennial accompanied by unusual shrubs I had never seen anywhere else like Heptacodium miconoides also known as the Seven Sons Shrub or Tree with. I felt very relaxed in these gardens looking back on the experience. One aspect of these gardens was you could not see everything from one vantage point. Al called this the “what’s around the corner” concept.

In 2003 I went out to Oregon to tour nurseries and look for weird plants for my Dad’s nursery. One of the places I visited was Porterhowse Farms in Sandy, Oregon. Essentially this was a collection of very rare conifers. However, there were all kinds of weeping plants, bright yellow evergreens such as Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’, striking blue evergreens, round ones pointy ones etc. I loved the color contrast I had never seen anything like it before. The textural and contrast in shape were intriguing as well. Once again I was relaxed and felt good.

I never consciously set out to combine the Northwest Coast look with Al and Cathy Christ’s gardens it just kind of happened over time. People would come to our nursery and bring pictures of their houses, buildings, and businesses and ask me to put designs together for them.

In the past few years I have been getting a lot out of going to Madison, Wisconsin. The University has an arboretum and a garden called the Allen Centenial gardens that have inspired me. I love the Hyper Tufa trough gardens they do there.

There is also some cool stuff going on up in Michigan around Lake Michigan in St Joe, Saugatuck, and South Haven that has a real cottage garden aspect to it. These gardens are using a lot of plants mass planted together to compete with the weeds better. Coming out of the 90s people thought this was a cluttered look. However with less time in every ones schedule the mass planting of perennials is coming back in style. Few of us have much time to pull weeds anymore so why not just plant things a little tighter to compete with those pesky weeds is my outlook at this time.

This is just a brief overview of some of my experiences that contribute to my unique design style. I am always looking and trying figure out how to make my designs more dynamic. In the past few years I have added ceramic pottery and natural stone benches to our inventory and design pallet as well.

My Father was an artist, he painted oils and acrylics when time would allow. I can not paint to save my hide. However, I do one of a kind landscape designs. This is my artistic outlet. I did not set out to do this in life, it just kind of happened to me and my clients. If you live in the Indiana area or even Michigan and Ohio and you are looking for a designer that can provide you with a design using hardy landscape plants that do work in our area with staggered bloom times and visual interest during the winter please contact Shawn at 260-414-6213 or e-mail at shawnlocker@gmail.com and let me know how I can help you create the landscape you have always wanted. 

We couldn't be happier with the landscaping they designed and installed!

» Kevin from Warsaw