Monday 50 & 51 | A Year of Mondays

There has been so much snow here that there is no access to the garden beyond climbing through four foot piles of snow or jumping out of one of the windows on the house side.  Either seems just too hard, to cold or just plain stupid so this week I am looking back visually. Next week I will wrap everything up regardless of the weather.  Here’s an idiosyncratic portrait of the garden over the last year…week by week…backwards.

In my Reader…Design Seeds

Just about now, in the middle of a very snowy and grey January I need a jolt of color.  For color trends and inspiration, Design Seeds is like no other.

Fast, furious and beautifully curated, Jessica Colaluca creates ranges of hues from a single source of inspiration and there are hundreds them.   These are not random pretty pictures with some matched colors–they reflect a keen eye for current design trends.   A forecasting veteran, Jessica has been keeping inspiration notebooks for years.  Her ideas are fluid and her influences are far ranging.  There’s also a companion FB page.  Love it…and I’ll let the inspiration speak for itself…all images courtesy of  Design Seeds.

Color inspiration can come from anywhere or anything…

A full range of hues is there for the discerning eye…most would only see the radish.

Moody and neutral palettes don’t have to be just grey or tan…

Classic blue and white with a twist…

Sun washed and bleached brights.  An exciting and unexpected garden design color scheme could grow from any of these palettes…that’s why they’re seeds.

Patrick Dougherty at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

I ducked out of  Plant-o-Rama yesterday after hearing Tony Advent’s presentation on worthy garden plants.  I couldn’t stay inside in the dark auditorium watching slides and listening.  I schmoozed with the exhibitors for a while, had a bite to eat and then OUTSIDE!  There was a Dougherty stick construction to see and it was warm enough–35F degrees.

Constructed last summer, Dougherty’s work takes on a different and, in my mind, more soulful quality in the snow.  The subtlety of color and the contrast of texture were very beautiful.

Sticks and snow
Lyrical forms
A dancing trio

Design Challenge: Garden Designers Rountable

All of us are working on the same real life design problem this month–a landscape renovation for a young couple’s New England country home.  Tuesday’s Find will return next week.

For my part, I’m going to attempt to explain my process–or how I arrive at the conceptual design idea.   I actually cultivate a  lack of continuity in my initial thoughts because that scatter-shot method serves my creative purpose–ideas flow fast and freely…so here goes.

Even with pictures and descriptions, I have to walk a property–to experience it in three dimensions to be able to understand its nuances and its land speak.  What I found at Amy’s  (abcddesigns) country house was a property in need of cohesion.  The clean sophisticated simplicity of  the architecture and materials of the existing home and the out buildings needed an overall concept to tie them together visually and functionally.

The entry courtyard

Each structure was beautiful unto itself, but none really related to another by anything other than proximity.  There was no real arrival experience.

Path to the front door

In the back there had been some attempt to place these structures in logical places, but what the property lacked was flow.  Each space seemed separate–they needed the landscape to unify them.

The main house and 4 of 5 outbuildings

The first step in my process, after finding out the homeowner’s dreams for their property  is to plot everything–measurements are taken and located on a drawing to scale.  Below you’ll see is my notes scribbled on a copy of that basemap. I don’t do ‘bubble diagrams’ because I am visualizing the space as I make notes.  This works for me and doesn’t lock me into an idea.  My notes address client requests, ideas of  my own and whatever else seems appropriate in the flow of the creative process.  I work quickly–changing and editing as I go along letting some ideas become more fully realized and letting others fall away.

Ideas and notes

On the property there is already a mashup of  materials in play.   When I visited in the fall, Amy had already replaced the turf in front of the barn with a bluestone courtyard.  There were granite slab steps, bluestone walks, wood fences and stone walls.   I chose bluestone as the unifying material.  It’s plentiful locally and classic.

Wood, gravel. bluestone and granite

One of the things that interests me most about landscape design is how to get people from one point to another and how they will interact with each other as well the three dimensional space.  Sometimes plants form that underlying structure, some times its paths and hard surfaces.

The Conceptual Plan

Amy’s style is eclectic yet contemporary.  To create a unified design that complemented the architecture and without moving any of the major features, I developed a geometric scheme based on the existing relationships.   On her wish list was a patio by the screen porch and an herb garden.  On her husband’s was a spa and a lap pool.  They are not avid gardeners and do not want to be.

By searching for relationships between the existing outbuildings and creating new ones with paths and patios, I have been able to unify the space and create logical transitions between each area.  This is drawing would be the first of many revisions in the design process.  There are no real details in this plan.  It’s simply starting point.

For the rest of the Roundtable designer’s ideas for the same project, visit the links below

Carolyn Gail Choi : Sweet Home and Garden Chicago : Chicago, IL

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Ivette Soler, Los Angeles, CA

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

In my Reader…Myburgh Designs

It’s midwinter and I’m lusting for spring.  I yearn for a sun kissed lazy afternoon in a swing.  Steven Myburgh of Myburgh Designs makes artful, handcrafted swings for garden dreams.   They are totally original and appeal to my love of all things metal.   I can’t think of  a better way to enjoy the fruits of garden labors than in a beautiful handmade swing with a good book and a gentle breeze.

Jasmin Swing

Traditional or contemporary, these swings aren’t for the faint of heart.  They make a BIG statement.

Bubble Swing

So as it snows more and I procrastinate going out to shovel, I’ll dream of swings and warmer days ahead.

Aspirational Garden Design

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal about who is buying luxury products was good news to me.  Aspirational buyers love their gardens as well as the interiors of their homes.  They hire designers.   That, in my way of thinking, is a very good thing.

Many in the economic climate of the last several years have become DIY champions and warriors, ignoring that those of us who provide thoughtful design services that often make living in a spaces both indoors and out more efficient, sustainable and in the long run much more cost effective than doing it yourself.

Now that that mini-rant is over, on to the inspiration part of the aspiration.  As part of my landscape design practice, I specify furniture and accessories for outdoor environments.  Readers here know that I’m constantly on the lookout for pieces that will work for the transitional and neo-traditional outdoor living spaces I design.  I have taken my now 4 year old Janus beauty book to more than one client appointment.  Aspirational and inspirational, this catalog not only showcases furniture, its’ chock full of other ideas…if you look.  The furniture is extremely high quality and super expensive…hence the aspiration part.

Here’s a look at 2011’s Beauty Book and some ideas I took away from it.

Grey, washed out citrus and aubergine

An extremely sophisticated color palette of washed out grey, ivory, citrus and aubergine.  I’ve been seeing yellow and grey for interiors, and this makes sense of it outdoors.

Naturalist's collection

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the chair, but what interests me is the display of neutral ‘naturalist’ shells, bones and other anthropomorphic items behind it. ( There’s a fast emerging trend based on historic naturalists and plant hunting — see Garden Design and the New York Times.)

A celebration of neutrals

There have been hints for a while that a totally neutral color palette is coming back…look how the small green lawn pops when it doesn’t have to compete.  There’s a garden design lesson there.

Dark garden walls and wood decking

Obviously styled to show off the furniture, I really like the dramatic, dark, glossy walls and wood decking in this image.  Glossy with matte can work for structures as well as plant combinations and is worth exploring further.

Ideas can come from anywhere–it’s what we dream about and aspire to that inspires and informs the spaces we live in.

Tuesday’s Find…the patina is the thing

This deceptively simple double garden gate  from the 1940s has high impact.  The striking blue patina and subtle metal rail detail takes something that could be sooooo ho-hum and makes it special.  The original from English Country Antiques in Bridgehampton, NY could be easily interpreted or replicated.  Sometimes it’s not about the object, it’s about the idea.

In my Reader…Suzanne Cummings

I’m not a houseplant kind of girl and it’s the middle of January.  The only chance I have at bloom color at home is cut  flowers.   Enter designer Suzanne Cummings.  I ‘met’ Suzanne via Twitter and we’ve been chatting back and forth.

When I visited her website I was totally impressed by her incredible handcrafted flowers.  Suzanne carries out each piece with a keen designer’s eye and ability to edit.  Bouquets are hand held gardens.

A hand tied bouquet

If there is such a thing as artisnal flower arranging then this is it.

Texture, color, scale, rhythm and repetition

Arrangements are designed with the same attention to detail that I would put into a garden design.  Color, texture, repetition, rhythm and scale…all elements of good design are all there.

Table top simplicity

If I lived in Chicago where she works I would be a regular customer at her store.  In winter, since I always have a vase of flowers on my worktable, I would take one of the classes she offers at her studio/shop to learn how and to dream of the coming spring.

Suzanne's Chicago Atelier

All photographs courtesy of Suzanne Cummings.

Horticulture: Design Perspectives

Just in case you didn’t hear me crowing last week, my first contribution to Horticulture as half of an east/west landscape designer team is on the newsstands!  West coast designer, Rebecca Sweet and I will be writing Design Perspectives for each issue this year.   Like Garden Design, Horticulture is in the process of reinventing itself for the 21st century.  These are challenging times for magazines…and I’m a die hard magazine reader.  I don’t subscribe to any, rather I like to go to the newsstand and choose my reading material from the banquet of choices and topics.

Pages 61-63!

Our first topic was ‘Terroir’ or a sense of place..all of our topics are chosen by us…some are serious and some are fun.  They will be varied and are intended to give our readers a peek into the mind (albeit mad) and process of a landscape designer–hence the perspectives part.  So pick up a copy and let us know what you think!

Tuesday’s Find…an iron arbor

Anyone who has been on my FB page or has followed this blog for any length of time knows that I love faux bois and ironwork –equally.  This Tuesday’s Find combines the best of both!  A cast iron arch with distinct faux bois roots in its oak tree and leaf motif.  From Barbara Israel Garden Antiques (see below).  Circa 1890, the piece was originally part of a larger fence/gate combination…boy would I love to have see that!

I have long been a fan of Barbara Israel Garden Antiques.  They are beautifully edited and mostly very traditional.  There is also a line of reproductions at much (but still pricey) lower prices.

Monday 47 | A Year of Mondays

This should be No. 48, but last week I was so busy that I didn’t even think about going out to the garden until it was dark…

This week is much the same, but I’ve made time since I haven’t been out there since the snow two weeks ago.  Shadow play, animal tracks and skeletons of summer shrubs are the norm now.  What delighted me today were the icicles on the bulkhead.  I didn’t expect that.  I refused to have the doors painted when the house was done this past summer since the patina is so beautiful.  I was right.

No. 47

In my Reader…Inspire Me Now

This is one for anyone with a short attention span.  Inspire Me Now is a blitz of  inspiration images and ideas curated by Szymon Blaszczyk, a specialist in user experience design.  The blog consists solely of provocative images  that demand a minute’s worth of thought.  Perfect for the busy, busy new year ahead!

Here are some recent and not so recent entries–as always, click the image to be taken to the post.



Roof domain?


Public service…

Plants to try in 2011

In my landscape design practice, my primary focus isn’t plants, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in them.  In fact, in a garden, plants are the workhorses that hold a design together in a specific season.  I have to know hundreds and hundreds of plants in order to make the best possible choice in any one client’s landscape design.

Just like every other person who is serious about gardens, I spend much of winter pouring over plant and seed catalogs.  That’s where the similarity ends however.  I look for plants that will add to my designer’s tool box that I can use in other people’s gardens rather than developing serious plant lust for my own.   Here are three of the plants I’ve been looking at–some are new introductions, others just new to me.  All are more or less native…some more, some less.

Helianthus x multiflorus 'Sunshine Daydream'

I like this tall and mildew free Helianthus from North Creek Nurseries for its late summer button-like blooms.  So many late flowering yellow perennials have large blooms and this will allow a different scale and will create a show in the back of a late season border.  Massed they’ll be absolutely spectacular.

Panicum virgatum 'Ruby Ribbons'

I use grasses frequently in areas where deer are prevalent and Panicums are a favorite.  This native is a cross between two of my favorites:  ‘Haense Hermes’ and ‘Heavy Metal’ .  Love the red foliage!  Maybe I won’t have to plant so many red fountain grasses in containers to get this rich color–they’re not hardy or native, this is.

Heucherella 'Solar Eclipse'

I’ve been in lust with the variegated foliaged geraniums for a few years now.  I use them in containers for a punch of all season color and textural interest.   Heucherella ‘Solar Eclipse’ from Terra Nova gives me the same warm and tingly all over feeling…but for shade.  I just love Tiarellas and their spawns Heucherellas…don’t you?

What plants are you going to try in the new year?

Tuesday’s Find…for the garden

I love the hunt for unique items for the gardens I design.  For the past year I have been posting ‘Tuesday’s Find’ exclusively on my FB page.  This year it will be here.  Each Tuesday one item–usually vintage–will be featured.  Sometimes they will be garden specific, other times pieces to repurpose and adapt for garden use.  I love furniture, so there will be much of that.   Feel free to join in and comment on how you would use or not use the item in a garden.

This week’s find is a ceramic birdhouse from the 1970s by California potter Victoria Littlejohn.  It’s available from Noho Modern in Los Angeles.

70s Ceramic Birdhouse