In my Reader…Design for Mankind

This one’s pretty eclectic.  I’ve culled some garden design related images from Erin Loechner’s Design For Mankind who culls them from everywhere.  Links back to the original source are on every post. It’s a fast and furious inspirational blog with multiple entries each day 5 days a week which is why it’s in my reader–no way can I keep up.

Most posts are a single image and a short statement.  Pulling ideas from everywhere, there can be a lack of focus and sometimes things are just plain silly.  But there is so much offered up that it is a funhouse of random inspiration that takes very little time to absorb and move on…perfect for those with a short attention span.   It’s also an incredibly popular site with more than 12,000 hits daily.

Lace Tree
New Zealand's Fox Glacier
Living Art?
Vegetarian's Purse?
Confetti Garden

In case you missed them…here’s links to a few of the previous ‘In my Reader’ posts: ArchDailyVulgare, and last week’s  The Good Garden.  Enjoy!

Grounds for Sculpture

Last Sunday I met up with a group of my peers from APLDNJ for a summer social and private tour of Grounds for Sculpture.  I hadn’t been in a few years, so enough time had passed for me to see it with ‘new’ eyes.  The day was blazing, the company was stimulating and as always the sculpture park was a mix of high and low, weird and wonderful and outside the box thinking.

Over 250 large and small scale sculptures are on the grounds, many in their own ‘garden’ spaces.  What has always fascinated me about the park is the way plants, landscape forms and elements are used.  They are an integral part of the experience.

Picea abies 'Pendula'

Two Picea abies ‘Pendula’ form a living arch that frames the view of  a highly polished steel sculpture just beyond it on a walkway.

Undulating walk

One of two walkways with Corten supported turf ‘waves’.

Gabion Wall

This gabion wall supports a suspended bridge.  It could have simply been filled with rip rap, but instead it is a sculptural wall that forms the backdrop of an amphitheater.

Red Maple Allee

Nowhere in the park are plants used in a more arresting way than this allee of red maples.  They were dug and planted as young trees in groups that had already formed.  They are pruned up so their trunks form a living fence and the effect is highly sculptural.


The stone and steel sculptural piece in the foreground is entitled Grupo and is by Pat Musick.

Water Feature

I kept on thinking about Luis Barragan in this series of courtyards.

J. Seward Johnson, the park’s visionary philanthropist is also a sculptor and his work is throughout the park.  He creates vignettes of life-sized characters doing things.  The most famous are recreations of paintings by the French impressionist painters in 3-D.  I find them hilarious…none more than this one of Monet’s Woman with a Parasol on a hill of grasses and plastic poppies…yes plastic.

Fake Poppies et al.

And because this is a sculpture park I’ll show you my favorite non-plant piece (Hearts Desire by Gloria Vanderbilt) which is new to the park since I was last there and was in the ‘Garden of the Subconscious’–a meandering space formed with weeping pines and spruces.

Kewpie dolls in Hell (not it's real name)

Go if you can, it’s worth the trip.

Garden Designers Roundtable – Underused Plant(s)

Underused plants is a totally subjective topic based only on one person’s experience.  So bear in mind that I’m the non-plant obsessed designer of the group!

I have visited many, many gardens and I’ve only seen this plant in three or four private gardens even though almost every arboretum and botanical garden I have visited has one.  So, in my experience, Heptacodium miconioides or Seven Son Flower is an underused large shrub/small tree if there ever was one.

With a climbing rose in a private garden in Pennsylvania

Hardy in USDA Zones 5-9, Seven Son Flower is a truely 4 season plant that tops out at 15-20 feet and about 10 feet wide.  It’s not terribly fussy and will grow in full sun or part shade.  It does require pruning at a young age to create a graceful tree form.  The small tree in the image above has been pruned, the one in image below has not.

In bloom

Now here’s the kicker…it may only survive due to its re-introduction into horticulture in the 1980s.  The Arnold Arboretum has had one since 1905, but it was rediscovered about 30 years ago and is very rare in its native habitat in China.

Why should you have it in your garden?  It rivals Stewartia pseudocamellia with its bark’s exfoliating beauty.

Exfoliating bark
Winter Interest with texture and structure

Its vase shape makes it valuable for designing a layered planting scheme and an easy companion to woodland shade lovers.

Multi-stemmed vase shape

The bold and coarse foliage is very useful when creating textural interest.

Bold foliage

Personally, I really like the buds.

Heptacodium flower buds

When most gardens are beginning to wane, Seven Son Flower puts on a show.  It has spectacular late season, fragrant blossoms when little else is in bloom.  They start out white and as the fall progresses the calyces turn rosey as if it has a second, different color bloom cycle.  They are attractive to butterflies.  Its fall foliage is golden–although pretty unremarkable.

White Bloom
Late season color

What’s not to like?

Here are the links to the rest of the roundtable posts…enjoy–it’s a plant-a-holic’s delight!

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA »
Carolyn Gail Choi : Sweet Home and Garden Chicago : Chicago, IL »
Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA »
Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN »
Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA »
Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO »
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK »
Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX »
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA »
Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT »
Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold: Garden Life Home : Atlanta, GA »

Monday 26 | A Year of Mondays

Finally a cool summer morning after weeks of oppressive heat and humidity.  The slowest painter in the world should be finished this week and the most damage will be done to the garden–he left the foundation for last.  I am at the 1/2 way mark and I’m still not sure what this exercise is about.

Six months of images.  Six months of Mondays.  Six months of commitment. Unexpected forks in a path that I thought would be somewhat straight forward.  The close observation makes me want to tear it all out and start over.  The last 26 weeks (actually only 24 since one didn’t have a photo and the other was a photo taken in Buffalo).  I am giving up control here too since I’d rather have even rows of three and the last only has two…maybe that’s the lesson.

In my Reader…The Good Garden

There’s a new garden lifestyle blog in town and it’s worth a look.  The Good Garden is Sarah Kinbar’s brand new blog.  In case you don’t know, Sarah was also the Editor in Chief of Garden Design magazine for the past several years.  She has an inquisitive mind and great taste.  Add to this honesty (she hasn’t been reading Organic Gardening) and a her own point of view and well…see for yourself.

Here’s some of what’s she’s posted in the first month…

'We Must Go'

A post about Fresno, California’s Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno…this single photograph makes me want to put it on my go to list also…


Some would consider this garden design blasphemy…but YES! I agree, gardens should be pretty again.  Apparently so do more than a few others in the Rise of Pretty Gardens.

Tool Shed Green Roof

This green roof is achievable by just about anyone…love that the shed is plum colored also!  Not sure why the post is titled Tood Shed Greenroof though…

Photograph by Richard Felber

This week Sarah not only featured Richard Felber’s incredible garden phototgraphy, but Garden & Gun magazine…and

Royal Hawaiian Hotel via Elle Decor

The pink and grey outdoor lounge at the The Royal Hawaiian hotel as shown in Elle Decor this month.  Now that’s right up my eclectic alley.

Bollywood and Vine

It’s hot, really hot and humid in New Jersey.  As a matter of fact it’s hot in most of the United States, so I went looking for some hot inspiration.

I want color, glamour and fun.  Where did I look to to escape from the heat?  Bollywood!

Bollywood film still


Aishwarya Rai - Bollywood's biggest star

I found inspiration for shade from The India Garden Company.



I found inspiration for shelter at the Raj Tents.

Maybe not exactly Bollywood, but I also found inspiration in Diwali lanterns–because it cools down after dark!

Some day I will actually get to go to India and see this for myself, but for now there’s Bollywood movies and some arm chair travel to inspire me.

A Tale of Two Fences…

One of the big benefits of having a visual memory is that I frequently connect images that have only a tenuous relationship to each other.

These urban fences are almost 3000 miles apart.  Both are extraordinary designs.  Both stand on land that was once wasted.  One has had civic support, the other community support. I saw them almost exactly a year apart.  I knew as soon as I saw the second one that I wanted to see them together, so I’m indulging my whim.

Portland 2009–Tanner Springs Park–Undulating Steel Fence

One of three city parks planned in 1999 by Peter Walker Associates, Tanner Spring Park is controversial.  It reclaimed industrial wasteland and restored the original stream and wetland environment in an otherwise urban environment.  Some residents don’t see it as very ‘parklike’.

The outside of the fence at Tanner Springs Park
Insets in the fence panels

Inside the park
Reclaiming industrial wasteland

Buffalo 2010–Urban Roots Cooperative Garden Center–Totemic Concrete Fence

This fence is on the boundary of what will be a contemporary park on 18th Street and Rhode Island Street in Buffalo, NY and is largely being built through volunteer efforts.  The fence was created with the help of a New York State Council of the Arts grant and the park will be a balm in an otherwise gritty urban neighborhood.  Urban Roots the only cooperative garden center in the country, shares the fence with the park.

Outside of the garden center
Fence Detail
Fence Gate with sculptural bench
Urban Roots Cooperative Garden Center

Monday 25 | A Year of Mondays

I went outside today expecting nothing.  The garden is in a state of profound neglect.  Heat, no appreciable rain, deer and the slowest painters on the face of the universe have had their effect.  What I found suprised me.

There are two small stands of this roadside phlox.  It was blooming  despite years of neglect when I first moved to this house 12 years ago.  When I built the garden I left it to honor the garden’s past.  It survives everything.  It made me smile.

No. 25

In my Reader…Vulgare

A quick trip to Vulgare is often all I need to get a shot of inspiration.  Written by Thomas Barbey in collaboration with Olivier Cazin, this blog is a eclectic cornucopia of images and ideas of landscapes and the natural world from everywhere.  There’s almost no text and the images and what  they post is not all new.  What they are is challenging, and there’s not enough of that on-line with regards to gardens and garden design.

From serious to silly here are some recent entries that have caught my eye.  Click the image to go to that post.

Danish Allotment gardens
Eliptical allotment gardens in Denmark c. 1952

The full post shows conceptual drawings and more photographs.  Who says allotments and community gardens have to be rectangular?

Paving Pattern in the Netherlands

Graphic examples of paving always inspire me to experiment on walkways and patios.  A simple image can jump start my process.

Burl on an Oak

Holy Quercus burl Batman!

Aerial view of Parque de Las Llamas in Spain, c. 2007

This post has multiple images of the park as built and is worth a longer look than I have room to post here.

Some silliness

Just because life’s too short to be serious all the time.

To Buffa10 with Love – Part 2

I have to learn to take more pictures.  When I travel I’m so intent on absorbing the mood and fabric of a place that I don’t look through my lens as often as I could.  Buffa10 was one of those places.  The city’s parks have an Olmstead pedigree and its streetscapes are a feast of gardens.

But oh! the architecture.  Just about every 18th, 19th and 20th century style of American vernacular architecture can be found here.  Federal mingles with Gothic Revival with Queen Anne with Victorian Italianate and American Tudor–often on the same street.  Now that the city is experiencing a renaissance that tradition of American building continues in the 21st century.  As I’ve already said…I’m often too busy storing images in my brain to take pictures, but here are some of buildings that I saw in just a few days. These don’t even begin to depict the depth and breath of what’s in Buffalo.  I’ve made absolutely no attempt a chronology either–they’re just what I saw.

Art Deco City Hall

City hall at sunset with a new building that will ultimately be covered in glass when completed.  This was the view from my hotel window.

Detail of the 19th century Lord & Burnham Glass house

The conservatory at the Buffalo and Erie Botanical Gardens was once the largest public greenhouse in the country.  It is the jewel in Olmstead’s South Park.

The Mansion on Delaware hotel

An incredible of example of Second Empire Mansard style.  (Am I getting too geeky yet?)  This was built in the late 1860s and is now a 28 room luxury hotel.  The gardens in front are traffic stopping when in bloom!

Visitor's Center at the Martin Complex

This photo is not by me, it’s from the Darwin D. Martin Complex website, but I did visit the building.  The Eleanor and Wilson Greatbatch Pavilion was designed by architect Toshiko Mori and completed in 2009.  The use of glass and aluminum echos Wright’s use of brick and stone in the adjacent complex.   It is not at all out of place within the context of Wright’s buildings on the property.

Wright's Martin House
Dwight D. Martin house

The only compound designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Dwight D. Martin (1904-1905) house is currently an asbestos clean-up site.  Tours of the property are on the outside–you can see Mori’s pavilion in the upper left corner.  The second view shows a re-constructed pergola and the ‘Martin’ bird houses…they never were actually home to any birds.

Albright Knox Gallery

To understand just how modern Wright was, all you have to do is go across Delaware Park (another Olmstead) to the Albright Knox Gallery.  The Neo-Classical style was typical in 1905 and was designed by architect E.B. Green.  Green was a Buffalo based architect whose work is visible throughout the city.  It is a world class modern art museum.

American Four Square

Two American Four Square houses with fantastic paint color.  This style of early 20th century residential architecture can be found all over the United States.  My grandparents lived in one–many years later I lived in a duplex on the top of another.

Charles Rohlfs Arts and Crafts Style House

Up the street from the Four Squares is the Arts and Crafts style former home of Charles Rohlfs – a fine furniture maker and contemporary of Gustav Stickley.  There’s going to be a retrospective of his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this fall.  The building is way more austere than his over the top furniture.  Click here for the photo credit for this one.

The Buffalo Design Collaborative

I walked by this amazing Art Deco building on Delaware Avenue on my way home from dinner.  I went back to find photos by the resident photographer, Katie Schnieder.

The Cottage District

The cottages in this distinct residential district were built between the mid 19th and early 20th centuries.  Small cottages just like the one I live in now.  The difference is that there are several blocks of these so they don’t seem like the smallest home in town–and mine’s painted a conservative grey.  The doors will soon be purple though–and that’s because I loved what I saw in Buffalo–I could even picture myself living there.

I saw so much more that I might have to have a Part 3…

Monday 24 Away | A Year of Mondays

No garden for me today…just a long drive back to New Jersey.  Last night, before I left Buffa10 I went to one last  garden.  It was behind a small brick Victorian house–the type that is very common here.   ‘Hope Blooms’  is a garden for those living with HIV/AIDS as well as a living memorial.  I wanted to go there alone, to be silent, and in the long, low light of late afternoon–to remember.

Hope Blooms

On the Road Again…

Today I’m driving 6.5 hours northwest to Buffa10 to meet up with a group of people–garden bloggers in fact–who are largely unknown to me outside of their blogs or Twitter or Facebook.   I’m wondering why, in the past three years that’s been a pretty regular experience–going to meet people for real who I know virtually.  If I stop long enough to think about it I’ll probably figure it out, but for now I’ll just have some fun.

Ikea Hack or what to do with leftovers…

My goal at the end of each container planting season is to end up with no leftovers.  This year I was left with one plant.  A beautiful Rex begonia.  It has been sitting in my container garden (I did buy some for myself earlier) on my back porch in its sad little green plastic pot for a bit.  This souped up version of many a grandma’s favorite deserved a 21st century home. So on a very hot afternoon, in my kitchen (appropriate for leftovers) with a little Ikea hacking,  here’s what I did with my leftover.

Here’s what was used:


stainless steel ORDNING colander ($9.99)

Moss liner to plug side holes, bottom ones left open

sheet moss (mine was leftover) to line and prevent soil from seeping out when watered

Espoma organic potting mix (a great NJ company with a whole line of fab organic amendments)

Finished planter

Rex begonia

Spanish moss (also left over)

Monday 23 | A Year of Mondays

It hasn’t rained here in a month–this is not usual and not unusual in high summer.  The house painters painters have made a huge mess.  Everything is covered in dust and old chipping paint–despite a rinse with the hose.  I’m choosing to view it as part of the flux of a garden instead of lamenting the damage.  I will be away while the the painting is done–my next Monday post will be in two weeks and I hope there will be a happier tale to tell.

No. 23