Monday 30 | A Year of Mondays

The days are getting shorter.  I’m going out into the garden later in the morning now.  The long season of decline has started, once accepted  all things become possible again.  In my garden I can say with ease, ‘I’ve made my mistakes and it’s time to accept them and move on.’

No. 30

If only the other areas of my life were so simple.

In my Reader…Dirt Simple

This is one of my favorite blogs about landscape design written by a landscape designer. Its author, Deborah Silver, is also the owner of Detroit Garden Works and The Branch Studio.  Her landscape design aesthetic is traditional as is the shop merchandise and the garden accessories she designs.  She has flawless taste, a remarkable humility, technical chops and a keenly analytical and creative mind.  In other words, she’s the real deal.  In Dirt Simple, Deborah muses on her life, her shop and her design work.  For me, this is a regular read, but it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  Her images illustrate most posts–here are a few recent ones.

The shop store front with window planters below.

In praise (mine) of humble materials used in elegant fashion for this potager’s enclosure.

Capturing the view.

A glowing border.  Deceptively simple in fact.

Just in case you thought things were too subtle…the designer’s own terrace.

Plants and Gardens as Merchandise

A couple of weeks ago I went to PANTS10 (Penn Atlantic Nursery Trade Show) which is a pretty big show regionally. About a week after that, pictures started surfacing of the IGC (Independent Garden Center) show in Chicago which is a big deal nationally.

I want these shows to be better than they are.  I want them to dazzle me.  It’s time for the green industry to realize that all consumers–wholesale or retail—want an experience, not just merchandise–even if that merchandise is plants.  It’s time to inspire us to buy merchandise to help combat economic uncertainties.

Typical Pile it High Nursery Display

Too many of the displays had no thought or merchandising pizazz–these aren’t big box stores, they’re showcases for merchandise and plants that their purveyors really want and need us to buy.   I realize that much of the audience is garden center owners, contractors and nursery growers, but I firmly believe that even the most die hard, steel toed boot wearing, big pickup truck driving, tree spade buying guy would respond to great merchandising.  Hell Cabela’s, the outdoor sportsman’s paradise, excels at it.

Since I didn’t go to IGC, I only have pictures from PANTS10…here’s some who did it well there…often on a budget.

Still primarily plants…Moon’s simple use of their name punch added to this wholesale nursery’s brand–simple and effective.

Moon Nursery display

Plug trays coupled with photographs and a simple graphic layout from North Creek Nurseries was extremely effective.

Photos and Plug Trays from North Creek

The current trend for vertical gardening was used to great effect to display their annuals by Garden State Growers.

A Wall of Annuals

How do you make bags of soil appealing?  Organic Mechanics underscored their brand’s earthy appeal and commitment to sustainability via their booth.

The Potting Shed

And lastly, a bit of sizzle doesn’t have to be exotic.  Overdevest Nurseries used aluminum trash cans and bins as planters to contrast with an incredible selection of plants.

Aluminum 'planters'

Monday 29 | A Year of Mondays

Change.  Within a single day, the mature garden that was here has been cleaned up, rethought and redone.  Within my own gardens this is a fact of life.  Almost as soon as the end of the first season a garden in planted, I want to change it.  Sometimes the change is out of my control.  The wonderful leaning American hornbeam branch that anchors one end of the garden is dead.  It’s been in decline for years but I’ve left it since I liked it–it’s in danger of falling on the house…it has to come down.

No 29

Change is what I love about gardens…they are in constant flux.  I don’t want to know that this or that will be blooming in that particular corner on in that particular month.  I don’t want static. I want to experiment and be surprised.  I’ll take the good with the bad.  The great idea with the one that fails…it’s how I train my mind and eye.

In my Reader…at the newsstand

It’s the end of August.  I have a reading tradition that goes all the way back to ancient personal history in fact.  When I was 10 my father brought me home a copy of Harpers Bazaar from his job.  Before that, my only magazine reading experience was National Geographic.   Since that time I have been a voracious reader of fashion magazines.  All design in my way of thinking is intertwined–have you heard of the slow fashion movement for example?   The same ideas that are happening in slow food are spilling over into other disciplines so as a self avowed inspiration junkie, I look outside myself and my discipline.

In August, the big September issues are published–pages and pages of articles on travel, culture, books and of course fashion.  Sure it’s not realistic for most of us, but in the dog days of summer with the fall fast approaching it’s nice to do a little dreaming. So here’s what I’m reading this week…

The BIG Bazaar
The BIG Vogue

And no, I won’t be wearing 5″ stillettos anytime now or in the future.  And if you want to watch a great and thoroughly entertaining documentary, try The September Issue.

Local History

Sometimes when I just have to get away from the design studio.  I’ll take a few hours off and just go somewhere.  No mumbo jumbo, just a little bit of spontaneity in an increasingly less spontaneous life.

Anyway last week I went to two places that are about a mile apart.  Both are historically significant and both tell a different story since their heydays.

I had never been to Historic Speedwell despite driving past it 100s of times.  Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail first demonstrated the telegraph there.  The county park site is a hodge podge of relocated buildings in various stages of disrepair or renovation, poorly laid paver walkways and NO gardens except an unplanted vegetable patch.   It’s a shame.  The biggest shame is the Moses Estey house.  It  was moved here in 1969 to save it and it  looks as if once moved it was forgotten.  It is an incredible example 18th century Georgian architecture.  The park  information says it is structurally in tact.  I have no idea why the county park service and the community has allowed this beautiful building to fall into rack and ruin for more than 40 years.

The Moses Estey house entry

No steps, boarded up windows, interior windows covered in plastic and peeling paint.  I have to ask why?

My second stop, about a mile away was McCullough Hall.  It is a museum with a collection of American decorative arts and a gallery dedicated to Thomas Nast who lived across the street.  A rich merchant’s house from the same early 19th century period, it was closed for the day, but the garden was open, both house and garden are carefully maintained.

The McCullough Hall entry

To me the entries to both houses tell their stories much better than I can.

Garden Renovation

For more than half of the past year I’ve been observing and writing about my small side yard garden.  I didn’t know when I started the project where it would lead.  Inexperienced house painters, a severe drought and weeks of  intense heat  have brought me to an impasse.  Try and make do or rework.  Since I am a landscape designer, I’ve decided to redesign and renovate my own gardens.

The front garden c. 2008

In the twelve years since I first started gardening here, times have changed.  Winters are warmer but seemingly more intense.  Water restrictions are in place in the summer.  Spring and fall are still cooler, but spring seems shorter and fall longer.

The original side yard garden
The original side yard garden design

The structure and overall layout of the gardens will not change much–the plant selection and some of the details will.  I’m adding a rain barrel to an area of the yard with no spigot and difficult access, but  is adjacent to the house and has a downspout.  I’m going to relocate some plants, trash others and add new ones.  Anything new will have to be tough to be a long term contender.  Here’s some of what I’ve been stockpiling–you’ll see the combinations aren’t for the faint hearted.  I’ve been struggling with how to use yellow foliage for a while, so I’m taking it on in the home garden.

An experimental combination

I want to combine this Rhus thphina ‘Tiger Eyes’ and grow the Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’ up through it.

Cercis canadensis 'The Rising Sun'
All three foliage colors

A new introduction.  This is going in the front yard in a newly enlarged bed.  I live on a corner.  It will stop traffic!

Supporting players

I want to beef up the late season show.  The gardens have a progressive dominant bloom color from early spring to mid summer.  It loosely ranges  from white to yellow to blue to hot pink, so I’m adding indigo and orange to the late summer show with Veronia noveborancensis (an Eastern native) and Helenium x ‘Dancing Flames’.  The Continus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’ in the background will yellow up more when it gets its new sunny home.  More to follow as the story unfolds–I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Monday 28 | A Year of Mondays

The slowest painters in the world are gone and it’s getting cooler.  There is rain in the forecast so maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to make some order out of chaos–this is what a month or more of total neglect and painters looks like.  I’ve found that I like the disorder almost as much as I like the intent and wonder how to design controlled disarray…or is that an oxymoron?

No. 28

In my Reader…Dig It!

I’m going to start off by saying that hackers suck.  Miss R has been down for a week due to malicious attacks and is now back fortified and healthy.  Thank you for your patience.  Now onward.

I’ve written about Dig It! before…when two of my gardens were profiled in it.

This cool garden zine has been around for 7 or 8 years.  Its focus is the mid-Atlantic states, but the content is interesting enough for readers everywhere. Editor Mary Jasch seeks out the sublime, the practical and the accessible for Dig It! readers.  The layout is different than most online publications–its format has been largely unchanged since the beginning.  Straightforward without the bells and whistles of  faux turning pages, copy is in the center and photos are along the right side to be enlarged at the reader’s click.  It gives Dig It! a gravity that many ‘eye candy’ journals don’t have.

Here are links to two recent articles, although all of the articles ever published are easily accessible within DigIt!  Thunder Lane:  A Magical Garden and Native Plants – A Living History.

Enjoy!  Miss R will be back on a regular schedule next week.

In my Reader…Recycle UK

Every now and again someone will email me and ask me to post something on my blog. I never have…before today. I’m usually fiercely independent and don’t want to have to return the favor.  This was originally sent to me via email.

I have recycler’s guilt.  I still throw away too  much–although considerably less than many of my neighbors if our weekly trash bags are counted.  Although the site itself is similar to the US freecycle sites, this infographic  from England is really worth the read.  Click on it,  it will be enlarged and readable.  Thanks, Claire at recycle UK.


Infographic by Recycle – Don’t bin it, recycle it

Monday 27 | A Year of Mondays

I never really know what I’m going to write about on these Mondays.  I always have the garden image first and then backtrack.  I wonder, why did that particular aspect of the garden attract me?  I try to be honest in my choice – both from an aesthetic viewpoint as well as being true to the discovery aspects of the project.

Now for the discovery part.  I’ve been foggy.  My brain full of cobwebs.  Mid-summer heat brings me a  lack of focus that lifts with the cooler weather.  So…on this foggy morning these spiderwebs were the moment.

No. 27