Room Envy: A garden made for relaxing, even in late-summer heat

Here, heat-tolerant caladiums produce lush foliage

Room Envy

Photograph by Emily Followill

Gardens can get a bad rap in late summer—with wilting flowers and fewer blooms than in spring—but interior designer and author James Farmer added architecture and heat-tolerant plants so that his backyard excels even in August.

Structural integrity
Raised beds lined with white-painted brick provide the base of Farmer’s parterre garden in Perry. (For more details, see his latest book, Celebrating Home.) Japanese boxwoods add classic shapes.

Plant particulars
Heat-tolerant caladiums produce lush foliage. “Late-summer gardens benefit from being planted a season ahead,” says Farmer. “The caladium bulbs are planted in spring to have a season of root growth before the heat of August sets in. They’re visually cool when it’s hot outside.”

Continental style
Farmer’s toolshed—designed after French pigeon houses called pigeonniers—serves a utilitarian purpose but adds architectural charm with its cedar shake roof, painted brick, and an arched door painted teal.

Have a seat
Aluminum chairs by McKinnon and Harris look vintage but are new, with cushions upholstered in Perennials outdoor fabric.

Designer tip: You can’t go wrong with a pea-gravel garden “floor,” says Farmer. “I like the sound as you’re walking on it. Also, it allows for volunteer plants to pop up and grow.”

This article appears in our August 2022 issue.