Monday 42 | A Year of Mondays

I went out into the garden this morning with clear intent.  I found what I was looking for, but it was not the most interesting to me.  Last night was cold.  Frost was still on the remaining leaves of plants I’ve come to know very well over the past months.  I shot some images of that…they were pretty but weren’t what really piqued my interest.  This was…frost on the arm of my old Adirondack chair.

No. 42

In my Reader…Sparkling Ink

In America this week, it’s all about the thankful feast.  A feast of family, a feast of travel, and a feast of food.  In honor of that, I’ve decided to digress from my usual garden and design oriented entries and include my new favorite food/living blog…Sparkling Ink.  I found the blog while trying to track down a photograph credit for this past Wednesday’s Dining al Fresco post.   I never did find the picture, but got lost in this blog’s recipes and beautiful images for over an hour. That’s a long time in this busy season…


The photography (some the author’s, some not) emphasizes simply prepared food, home and travel presented in an uncomplicated format.  All photos here are from Sparkling Ink–click through to the blog post and/or recipe they illustrate.  The blog design is elegant and understated.  Each post is written in a conversational style and the recipes are accessible–with ingredients that are often on hand in most well stocked pantries or are easy to find.

Recipes, Food
Panna Cotta

Having just gone to see Alberto Alessi speak this week, I was particularly enamored with this tray…

Harri Kosinen tray/container for Alessi

Even though it’s a bit early for scenes of snow here, I thought this was stunning in its simplicity.

Snow, garden
Snowy Garden

I hope you enjoy Sparkling Ink as much as I do…

Garden Designers Roundtable: Romantic Garden Dining

It seems curious, as it gets cold here in late November,  that I would be thinking about dining outdoors, but  I have a secret.  I collect images of ultra-romantic outdoor furniture suitable for dining and tabletop accessories in hopes of styling one of  my client’s country gardens  for a photograph one day.  Since most of these are so over the top, I never do it, always opting for simpler props and photo styling.

As part of my design process – including the outdoor kitchens that are a mainstay of my design studio’s business, I think about the dining experience.  I like that there is something inherently decadent and luxurious about dining outside with china, crystal, beautiful fabrics and fabulous food.  So as the long northeast winter begins, dream with me about dining al fresco…click image to enlarge or visit the original at Olioboards.   Stop here if ‘eye candy’ isn’t on your menu…

Here’s the overall look I’m after…and a recipe.

Luxurious and romantic garden settings

And for the table–an old recipe from Gourmet (which I miss a lot!)  There’s nothing like fresh fruit from the garden in season…it’s what I miss most in the winter.

Prosecco and Summer Fruit Terrine

4 cups mixed fruit such as berries; peeled and thinly sliced peaches; and halved seedless grapes
2 3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (from two 1/4-oz envelopes)
2 cups Prosecco (Italian sparkling white wine)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Arrange fruit in a 1 1/2-quart glass, ceramic, or nonstick terrine or loaf pan.

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup Prosecco in a small bowl and let stand 1 minute to soften. Bring 1 cup Prosecco to a boil with sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture, stirring until dissolved. Stir in remaining 3/4 cup Prosecco and lemon juice, then transfer to a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water. Cool mixture, stirring occasionally, just to room temperature.

Slowly pour mixture over fruit, then chill, covered, until firm, at least 6 hours.

To unmold, dip pan in a larger pan of hot water 3 to 5 seconds to loosen. Invert a serving plate over terrine and invert terrine onto plate.

Photo: Romulo Yanes for Gourmet

This time, I’ll leave the garden and the cooking up to you…

Links to the rest of the Garden Designers Roundtable posts today:

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA
Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA
Susan Schlenger : Landscape Design Advice : Hampton, NJ

Monday 41 | A Year of Mondays

I have a new contender for the last blast of color for the year.  One of the new plants I added to the garden this year was a Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’.  I used the one I planted for a client a few weeks ago as a post about color inspiration, but mine was never that subtle.  It rivals the Fothergilla gardenii in another part of the garden for fall drama.  I am delighted that after 41 weeks there’s still something wonderful in this small garden space…

No. 41

In my Reader…Brent Comber

I have to admit that I’m a serial saver to Delicious.  If I’m short on time, ‘Save a new Bookmark’ gets clicked.  Since I’m busy, it gets clicked often.  Sometimes I forget I’ve bookmarked something that I really, really meant to get back to.  Vancouver based artist,  Brent Comber is one of those.  Anyone who names a piece Fred and Ginger is okay in my book, but beyond that, I think his work for the outdoor spaces  is phenomenal–both the large scale work and the objects and furniture.

His furniture and objects can all be viewed on the website, but here are a few favorites…

China Grove
Solid Sphere


Not so green…walls

True confession…I find most green walls…well…too green.  I find them to be dramatic, but my brain needs visual space and covering everything from head to toe in plants is not always my idea of  beauty.  Well, it is in the jungle–and in certain urban situations where the opposite can also be oppressive.  Even inside, green walls make me feel well… claustrophobic.  Before I take a boatload of manure for this idea, hear me out.

I love the idea of growing things vertically, up over arbors, through other plants, even up walls, but I don’t need a vertical green carpet.  I am a fan of Patrick Blanc’s work, but can’t imagine it everywhere.

Green Wall at Les Halles in Avignon via Patrick Blanc

Without skilled and thoughtful installation and proper maintenance it is easy for a green wall to end up looking like the example below.

Three year old green walls in Southern California

Now with all of that said, here are two sensible alternatives that I have seen.  Still green, still vertical, still pants on walls.  I wrote about the first over a year ago as part of a post on eco-luxuryFlora Grubb’s beautiful green walls at the Bardessono resort in Napa.  There’s space for the eye to rest and there’s plenty of green and drama.

Flora Grubb's Tilandsia wall at Bardessono
Attached via low tech alligator clips

The next, I have no experience with but they do exactly what I’m thinking about.  From the French company, Vertilignes (translation: green lines) is a green wall unit that accomodates 28 plants that use a simple planting and watering system. There is a mirrored variation. It’s simple, clean and green.  It has visual breathing space.

Vertiilignes 'Diva' Screen

Planted 'wall'

So the next time when thinking about green walls, try to envision a jungle or try to envision a place that is green but also offers a place to rest visually.  Now bring on the manure.

In my Reader…Hiroki Takada

This one will be short and sweet since I’m extraordinarily busy this week.  The Tea Ceremony chair from Japanese designer Hiroki Takada is remarkable in its simplistic beauty–like much of classical Japanese design.  I want to see this in a garden.  I realize that it may not be entirely practical, but don’t you think it’s  way too cool to only be inside?

Tea ceremony chair

A place to read...

Fall as Spring Garden Inspiration

This fall has been particularly inspiring for its color.  It’s been a while since I did a post on color and this one is going to be a little bit different.  I want to try and use the fall foliage of a single plant as inspiration for an early spring garden.  Rather than a single hue, I’m going for a mood and a range of color. I specified this plant for a client’s garden.  When I visited last week, the foliage just made me stop in my tracks.  What’s more is that I have this plant in my garden and as of today it is still green!

Rather than the deep oranges, vibrant yellows and clarets we expect from fall foliage, this smokebush – Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’ has muted tones that are just by their juxtaposition electric.

Cotinus coggygria 'Golden Spirit'

Here’s a possible palette.  It’s a little bit narrow, but very, very sophisticated.  The colors are complex and lend themselves to both plantings and accessories.  At this point there’s no clear front runner although you could make one color dominant.  So let’s go shopping via the web!  All of the images – other than three I took on site – below are linked to their source (so just click them)  if you’d like to explore the idea on your own.

Autumn Smokebush

Here’s how to translate that into a garden…for the opposite season via accessories, plants and just about anything else you could want for a lovely outdoor space.

Fermob furniture

Above the peach/salmon color dominates via garden accessories and below a pale Margarhita green.  It would be easy to do this with any of the first three hues.

Classic wicker furniture

It takes discipline to pick one narrow range and let all others be supporting players in a garden design as our tendency is to fill gardens full of color, color, color.

Some other details that would work…

An obvious first choice would be from the wide range of Heuchera colors available.   Below is ‘Key Lime Pie’, but there are abundant choices.

Heuchera 'Key Lime Pie'

Hellebores - an early spring favorite

Bulbs are a great choice for the early spring garden and there’s still time to get some and plant them before the ground freezes.

Accent Daffodil via Colorblends

Viridiflora Tulip via Tulip World

The garden will need other details – that’s what the darker, more neutral browns are for…

Rustic gate from a private garden in NY

Rustic twig work is best done in early spring when saplings are green…so a rusticated fence or gate is a perfect early spring garden project.  If metal is more your style…salvage yards are full of reclaimed rusty fence sections…

Rusted salvage yard fencing

The possibilities for the color in one small random photo to inspire an entire garden are endless.  All it takes is a bit of imagination and some web shopping!

Monday 39 | A Year of Mondays

Today it really feels like winter is settling in.  The wind is blowing, the last of the leaves swirling in the air and the sky above is grey.

No. 39

Color is more subtle now.  It will be another month before  it has reaches the high contrast of  midwinter.  Even though they are elegant in their neutrality, somehow the subtle tans and browns seem drab after the show of high summer and the blazing display of fall foliage.  Its another signal of change–one I would not notice if I wasn’t in the garden.

In my Reader…The Outdoor Stylist

There’s a new website dedicated to outdoor style.  The Outdoor Stylist is the brainchild of Anne Robert who has been reporting internationally on garden features, accessories and furniture via her My Urban Garden Deco Guide site for several years.  Covering the worldwide design market, the new website does what others don’t…it aggregates hundreds of outdoor design products into one easily searchable site.

Definitely geared to the high end client,  The Outdoor Stylist takes shopping for outdoor furniture and accessories a step further than everyone else and aims to be the ‘go to’ resource for designers and consumers.  I don’t mind spending money on great design, but some of what is featured is so out of reach for many people that it could be called an aspirational website–much like Vogue is for many of its readers.

A somewhat random search of the site yielded the following products, problems and observations …

From the Cook & Entertain area

This Metalaco Home kitchen island will require some ingenuity to be delivered to the States, but has distribution in 32 countries at a price of  6700 euros…a bit steep $9411 after conversion…the available link to Metalaco’s website went nowhere.

Hot color and contemporary styling

In the pots and planters area I found contemporary soft planters from Elho that I really liked.  There was no price on these, but there was an active link to the company website from the post.   It didn’t open in a new window which would be a plus…it does here.

Fire Feature

The Heat tab revealed some really well designed and cool fire options.  This one from Spark Fires was not super expensive for what it is, starting at $3300.  A built in gas fire pit would cost about the same after the cost of the permits, plumber, mason and materials.  The link worked and there were linkable PDF specification sheets available.

Smart and Green's light

On to the Budget section.  I’m always looking for a deal.    I was attracted to this light from Smart and Green.  This vessel lamp is priced at $199 – not what most would consider a bargain.  The link to their website was a dead end, but there was a link to a specification sheet PDF.

As a designer, this is a valuable tool for me and I hope the few glitches are resolved.

Circular Swimming Pools

I’m working on a landscape design that will incorporate a round pool.  I’ve been meaning to write about circular swimming pools for a while and have been collecting inspiration images on garden visits.  Round pools can stand on their own as a traditional pool or they can be integrated into the garden and ‘read’ as a pond rather than a pool.

Here are a few I’ve seen on garden visits in the past two years.

Round pool at Bamboo Brook

Designed and built in New Jersey in the early 20th century by one of the first women landscape architects, Martha Brookes Hutcheson, this was a swimming pool and part of a larger water harvesting system.  Since her property, Merchiston Farm has become a public park it has modified and is now only 12″ deep.

Midcentury solution - round swimming pool

Tucked into a corner, this round pool designed by Dallas landscape architect Susi Thompson is perfect for this mid-century modern home.

Robert Bellamy's home pool
Robert Bellamy - round pool for a client

Two pools by Dallas based landscape architect, Robert Bellamy.  The first at his home and the second a variation on a theme for a client.

The round 'fountain' pool

Renny Reynolds and Jack Staub’s  round ‘fountain’ at Hortulus Farm in Pennsylvania.  I didn’t realize it was a pool until I saw the steps into it…

Eliptical plunge pool

An eliptical variation on the round pool theme from David Hocker, a Dallas based landscape architect.