Life’s a birch…

There are plenty of examples of designers bringing the outside in via inspiration for wallcoverings and fabrics, pillows and furniture, and even potted plants and masses of cut flowers.   I don’t think there’s one as versatile as the paperbark birch though. Something about this tree just strikes a cord inside…

The ideas here are all design ‘cousins’ and yet another reason why exterior and interior designers should work together…

It starts here…where what’s usually dark (bark) isn’t.

Paperbark Birch Forest

was the inspiration for this…

Birch tree wallpaper

or it could go 3D…

Birch table I'd totally make myself...

or this silly pillow found on Etsy…

A cartoony log pillow

A more literal translation…

A wall of birches

I guess my point is that there are many, many points of inspiration that interior designers take from outside and I wish that door would swing more freely both ways!

Tuesday’s Find…rethinking tree guards

How many times have I walked by trees surrounded by these oh so functional guards?  They’re not used much anymore and even when they were I didn’t give them much thought.  Today, looking for a ‘find’ I saw at them with ‘new’ eyes and thought how great these could be plant supports or sculptual garden elements rather than plant protection.

Tree guards

Wall mounted or free standing these could be wonderful for any number of climbing plants–or as I would probably use them…as a vertical architectural element on their own. I’m sure you could find these in a salvage yard, but the ones shown are from The Elemental Garden in CT.

Garden Designers Roundtable: Hort Idols the Live Show!

Today I want to take a different approach (are you suprised?) to the idea of who my horticulture idols are and share how much I’ve learned from visiting the gardens I’ve seen with the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program.  Some famous, some not, the creators of these gardens shine each year when the gardens are open to the public.

Entrance to a private walled garden in New Jersey

Open Days have allowed me to see extraordinary gardens that I would not have had access to otherwise.  Each one has inspired me.

Patrick Chasse's under pool grotto at the White Garden in New York

Every design discipline has its stars…its creators, its communicators and its mavericks.

An extraordinary potager in a private New Jersey garden

Until 1989 when the conservancy first worked to preserve The Ruth Bancroft Garden in California, America’s private gardens were at risk.

The magical interior of Michael Trapp's garden house in Connecticut

Now, more than twenty years later, tens of thousands of people visit private and public gardens each and every year.

Entrance to the greenhouse gardens at a private New Jersey garden

I’ve been visiting gardens since the first directory was available.  Each spring I visit with my guidebook and camera in hand…

Bunny Williams' understated porch in Connecticut

a day planned out…alone or with a companion I set out to discover America’s garden idols…live!

The round pool at Hortulus Farm in Pennsylvania

On a side note…Leaf Magazine will be giving away ten 2012 Garden Conservancy Open Days Guides during its holiday givewaway starting December 1st.

For more reading on other designer’s Horticultural Idols visit the links below…

Thomas Rainer : Grounded Design : Arlington, Virginia
Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT
Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA
Jenny Peterson : J Peterson Garden Design : Austin, TX
Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT
Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

The not so lowly cinderblock

Part of the designer’s art is to understand the possibilities of materials.  Sometimes they can  elevate materials beyond their original intentions–a piece of wood becomes an incredible piece of furniture…some shiny chunks of minerals become a diamond brooch.

Cinder blocks or concrete masonry units (cmu) are one of the most frequently used building materials in gardens and elsewhere.  They are also usually covered up–often by veneered stone, stucco or paint.  Outside, sometimes they’re used by clever DIYers as planters–those can be quite artful as seen at the Philadelphia Flower Show several years ago.


Cut to the chase…in Chelsea Market in New York, this lowly behind the scenes player is made clean and modern and totally sophisticated.  Combined simply with other materials…brick and granite block…the lowly cmu comes into its own.

Under a counter
As a wall

Tuesday’s Find…Walter Lamb Chaise Lounge

This one hits all of my outdoor design buttons…modern, curvaceous, cleanlined and vintage.

Oh! would I love to have this in the garden that’s in my mind…not the one I currently have which is in shambles after the two punch hurricane/snowstorm we experienced this fall.

It’s time to start dreaming again…of gardens, outdoor spaces and stylish living outside.  If you want to dream about the chaise it’s available at CasaBauhaus.

Tuesday’s Find…carnival swing

Ever since I visited the local carnival this past summer I’ve been obsessed with finding ways to use all things carny in gardens from neon to vintage rides and signs.  (More on that later.)

This swing goes beyond the usual and would be a welcome addition to mine.  Of course it’s French and way outside my budget but I still love it…particularly the paint.

Love, love, love the painted surface

If you have deep pockets the swing is available from La Maisonette on line.

Out of season fun…wild pools

Funny how much students can teach you sometimes.  In my landscape design class my students had a side discussion about pools.  Many of them have little or no design experience so I showed them three images for us to discuss.

The first I originally saw on Design Milk.

The next on Trendland…a hotel in Singapore.

And that lead to a discussion of one of the oddest pools I’ve ever seen.  At Grey Towers in Milford, Pennsylvania.  Not a pool at all, but a dining table called The Finger Bowl.

Photo via Burnin’ Up the Road.
There are plenty more pools on my Pinterest board…