Wear Your Veggies! Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2012

Rarely does an example of trends trickling up from gardens and landscapes include vegetable gardens!   Florals prints and patterns are common each spring– but veggies?  Timely and current with the uptick in vegetable gardening, Dolce and Gabbana’s Spring 2012 collection does just that.  Eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, onions and zucchini are bold faced prints on fun and pretty feminine clothes with a retro mid-century vibe.  Wear what you grow! Have fun! Mangia!

Photo credits:  All fashion photos via Style.com

House, Studio and Garden Hunt…

As some of you know, for the past few months I’ve been looking for a new house.  I’ll let you know when I finally seal a deal and I’ll probably start a series of posts on the reno since a fixer-upper is what I’m looking for.

At any rate, there are very few fixer-uppers that are contemporary in my price range, so I’ve been dreaming of an outbuilding/office that I can satisfy the part of me that loves, loves, loves uber clean contemporary design.  I would also like to walk outside to go to work…even a short walk across the yard would be fine!

Here is some of what I’ve been saving as inspiration.  They’re all on my Garden Buildings Pinterest board if you want to see more ideas in a wider range of styles.  This is just what I like for me..

A DIY shed/office

I could build this…well with some help I could build it or the one below.  I’d switch out the roofing material on the 2nd one though…needs more light!

A simpler DIY shed

These are probably out of my range budget wise…but still…  The first is an L41 Compact Home and the second is from ecospace studios…they call it the Work Pod…I’m good with that!

L 41 Compact home would be an awesome studio!
Work Pod from ecospace Studios just big enough


Luxury Pizza Oven: Wood Stone Ovens

Last night I was invited to a dinner cooked entirely in a Wood Stone Oven.  A relatively new addition to the myriad of luxury products available for outdoor kitchens,  Wood Stone has adapted its commercial product–California Pizza Kitchen uses their ovens–for outdoor home use.

On the patio...

The food was delicious and the product was impressive.  These ovens can be wood fired, gas fired or a combination of both.  They heat consistently because they are a single ceramic unit–a problem I have had when trying to cook in a kit built oven.  I like to cook as well as garden and eat and I’m picky about my tools for both!

Lamb Chops

As much as I would love to have one of these, it’s not in my budget this year. I do have a client in mind who I think will absolutely flip for it.


Garden Designers Roundtable: Reality Check! Designers Save Money


This post is a bit of a rant because I find that so many people don’t really get it. Landscape renovations and installations are as big a construction project as any bathroom, kitchen or home addition. Few would attempt those without a having a detailed plan or hiring qualified contractors, yet many people with a shovel and a free weekend believe that they can build their landscapes themselves. Worse yet are those who profess to be professionals and do not have the training or skills to mitigate even the most basic of landscape related problems. (The tortured River Birch below was installed by a ‘professional’ at my local Dunkin’ Donuts)

Huh? Might be the most stupid planting mistake I have ever seen

Because I am a landscape designer this may seem like a self serving post, but it’s really not. I earn a fairly good portion of my fees because clients hire me to correct problems with their already built landscapes and gardens. Either they built it themselves or someone else just did a shoddy job via lack of experience or professionalism. Problems range from easy fixes like appropriate plant choices to major issues with stonework and drainage.

Working with a designer isn’t really out of range financially for most people. It’s not only for the well-heeled and financially overblown. The fact is that designers save their clients money at every step of the way in essence earning their own keep. In my design practice I save my clients money by helping them to avoid costly mistakes before they are made, by passing on at least part of the professional discount I receive on furniture, accessories and plants and offering choices that are ‘to the trade’ only that fit their specific budget.

Even a DIY weekend warrior can save money with as simple paid consultation with a designer before that shovel goes into the ground. The emphasis here is on paid. A free consultation won’t yield in much unless a signature is put on the dotted line for the totality of the work and then that consultation’s value will be hidden in some other cost. (No one works for free.) A paid consultation can be as little as $75 and as much as several hundred. A professional designer will listen to their clients and be able to assess problems and talk about possible solutions, a professional designer will be able to steer a client to choices that will serve their lifestyle and budget, and a professional designer will often offer ideas for building a project in stages with a plan for one, five or even ten years as their client’s budget allows. A designer will also insure that the outside is unified, works with the architectural style of the house and isn’t over or under built for the neighborhood. A professional designer will make sure they communicate any town or housing authority regulations that will impact a project. They will have a roster of artisans and contractors who can do the job at a high level of quality if that’s what their client’s choose. Most importantly, a professional designer will consider the ramifications of what is proposed to be built on a property’s resale value therefore protecting what is most people’s biggest investment–their home.

Don’t make this, the most common mistake in any of the building trades. Hire a designer before starting a landscape project…even if it’s just for an hour’s consultation and save headaches and money.

To hear what other professional landscape designers have to say about reality…

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : Easy Bay, CA

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

Marimekko, outdoor fabric please?

If there were ever fabric prints suited for outdoor use they would be Marimekko. When their new store opened on Fifth Avenue in NYC in October I was thrilled.

The Flatiron neighborhood shop

I finally visited in early December and my first taste of what I hoped would come was outide in the adjacent square– the umbrellas in the classic Unikko pattern over cafe tables and chairs. Out came my camera phone to snap the Fatboy brand tag to explore later.  I was in a hurry to get inside!

Fatboy Marimekko Market umbrella

On first glance, this was a treasure trove of possibilities.  Bold, happy, iconic prints.  Surely they had some for garden use!

Inside the Marimekko store

My dreams of boldly colored outdoor pillows and objects were dashed.  There was a very, very small selection of coated fabrics for use as table cloths.  That’s it.

Choices for coated tablecloths

They weren’t UV stabilized and it was suggested to me by a salesperson that these be taken inside after use.  Now, come on.  These prints are but a small sampling of what Marimekko does so well and exactly what we need for our gardens, decks and patios!  Pretty please, Marimekko…make some outdoor fabrics.

Photo credit:  Store exterior and interior overview all others, the author.




Garden Ideas from Ikea

Yesterday I took a friend heading to warmer climes to the airport.  After I dropped her off I decided have a cheap lunch at the nearly adjacent Ikea.  I wasn’t looking for garden inspiration, but that’s what I found.

Only one of these items was meant for use in a garden or on a patio, but that’s where I would use all of  them.

Right at the top of the escalator I spotted these powder coated stackable chairs.  They were in an interior display, but could easily go outside.

Red Stackable Chair

They also come in a few other colors–I really like the blue.   Under $50, they have high style at a great price.

Great variety of color!

Down to the marketplace and in the general direction out, I spied some other things that caught my interest.

Fantastic candles!  Their abstract garden patterns would be fun on a patio table next summer.


As always…the kitchen area of the marketplace is a treasure trove of ideas for planters.  The two below are cutlery containers…I’m thinking vertical wall of containers here…

For a contemporary wall garden
For a tradtional wall space

I really loved these bags woven from strapping tape.  They could be a container for a plant, or hold kindling for a firepit or tools or bags of soil bags on a potting table.

Strapping tape bags!

And last…remember that actual item meant to be out in the garden?  I’d use these door mats joined together to make a really cool outdoor rug…

Four of these would be $60...hmmmm.

I actually do use things from Ikea in my garden…not as intended.  My Rex Begonia lives on in the stainless steel colander that it was planted in here.

Tuesday’s Find…turquoise planters

This garden find is more about the color than the actual pieces.  I’ve written about this shade of Robin’s Egg Blue before.  It can be contemporary or vintage looking depending on the context.  It plays well with other colors without being secondary.  So these pots aren’t really the thing this week…their color is.

The blue's the thing...

The pots themselves are available from Inner Gardens in Los Angeles.

Garden Design Details: Painted Wood

Some inspiration to cure the January blahs.  With it so drab in the garden outside, I crave some color.  Paint is often the least expensive way to change any space and that includes those outside.  Creative and bold use of color can alter a garden’s design. It can transform a utilitary object into a focal point. It can make a background player a star.  It can lift the view up to the sky or keep it firmly focused on the ground.

There are many opportunities to add color with paint and wood is the easiest.  More often it is stained white or green or left to weather it fades into the background.  When painted it becomes something else entirely.

Mint green shutters

A fantastic combination of house color, mint green shutters and plantings.  Test colors out by painting samples first.

Tangerine bench with light blue pots

Tangerine Tango is the 2012 color of the year…combine it with the palest blue and it becomes a sophisticated garden statement.

Potting Bench (easy DIY too!)

A really easy DIY potting bench from Anna White Homemaker, a blogger from Alaska is painted a clear bright red.  It certainly doesn’t look like a $40. project does it?

Black Garden Fence and Trellis

What might be just another garden fence becomes a dramatic feature when painted black.

Doors and windows

Fearless, bold and bright color on a garden shed.

Two shades of violet

Two tuteurs in a garden that is chock-a-block full of perennials give it structure, visual flow and height.   Their violet hues adds to the mix and contrast of color already in the garden.

Bright yellow trellis

When painted a bright, clear yellow.  Even the most humble trellis can become an equal companion to the plants it supports.

Lime green chairs with painted detail at Chanticleer

A citrus green twist on the classic Adirondack chair at Chanticleer.

Raised garden beds

Blue raised beds in a large kitchen garden project I completed two years ago.

As soon as the weather is warmer, grab a can of paint and color it up!

Photo credits:  Potting Bench, Black Fence, all others via the author.


Mid-Winter Garden Design Project

I started blogging soon after I started creating conceptual gardens.  I wanted a way to describe the process as it was happening.  That grew into something else entirely and now Miss R has a life of her own…

With that said, this winter I’m planning another conceptual garden, my first in a few years. I took a break and have said ‘no’ to two previous invitations during that time.  I wasn’t going to do this project at either and shouldn’t have even gone to see it because old houses have a pull on me like no other.  Glynallyn is a special place and part of local history.  It’s also currently owned by the bank and the show house is one huge staging effort.  Got a few spare millions?

Glynallyn, built 1913-17 with arrow pointing to balcony

So now I’m going to create a very eccentric Raj inspired lounge with a greenwall and lots of color in an otherwise very drab space.  I want it to look like the original owner of the house just got back from a trip to India yet still be contemporary, young and fun.  Anyone interested in following along?

The balcony at Glynallyn

The balcony is in a sad state.  We plan to liven that up though!

The inspiration for an outdoor lounge...

The Bad Tempered Gardener…she’s not really

A few years ago as these things go, I met Anne Wareham via Twitter.  I don’t have a specific memory of who was saying what in 140 characters or less, but we both quickly found out that we share a similar view on the state of garden design.

Anne was just starting to write her book then.  It’s finished now and available in the U.S., so I asked for a copy to read.  I’m not a good reviewer since I only finish books that I like so you pretty much know that I liked her book already.

The title is a funny play on another of my favorite garden books–the late Christopher Lloyd’s The Well-Tempered Garden.  The two are fundamentally alike–essays written by extremely talented and opinionated garden makers.   Anne’s book is full of  ideas about gardens that will seem contrary to most.

Early on in Anne’s book, her main ideas are established through a memoir like introduction of the making of Veddw, her challenging garden in Wales.  After admiting (like me) that she is not ‘endlessly fascinated by plants’ Anne wondersMany people look with private horror at houses full of knickknacks.  A garden full of the equivalent leads to lecture tours and media admiration.  No wonder the world fails to take gardens seriously.’

I have often lamented here and elsewhere–to anyone who will listen–that garden and landscape design must stop being considered offshoots of gardening and be respected as a design discipline if is to be taken seriously.  Sure there’s a large horticultural aspect of it, but that’s really the icing on the cake, not the be-all-end-all.

Anne does describe and extol (as well as the contrary) various plants and how she’s seen them used or used them herself.  She has some favorites…Alchemilla mollis, and some not… Helebores.  There’s no plant porn here, just a sprinkling of photos by her photographer partner, Charles Hawes.  This is a book about thought and ideas.

Anne is also one of the founding members of Thinkinggardens a website devoted to the  serious discussion of gardens.  It is full of opinions, criticism and ideas.

I am an infrequent American contributor to that site and am grateful to be a part of a community of designers, authors and devoted amateurs who are willing to think about the design of gardens as a design discipline rather than as an act of gardening.

If you want a good read that will make you think about what makes a garden great from a gardener who has made one, read this book.

Note: Yes, I’ve been active this week giving Miss R a well needed jumpstart after a long hiatus.  Next week (with some luck and perseverance)  I’ll go back to a couple of  posts each week, but this week I felt everyone who has stuck with me deserved some extras…there will be one more tomorrow and then back to normal…whatever that is!–S


Designer Annette Von Einem’s Floral Fashion

More consistently than any other I have seen, Danish floral designer Annette Von Einem blurs the lines between flowers and fashion.  In competition and on the runway, Von Einem has a flair for the wearable.

Given the rise in popularity of ‘fascinators’ seen on Britian’s royals, I thought the small hats below were right on target. They were shown on the runway during Copenhagen Fashion Week as part of designer Nina Robenhagen‘s Spring-Summer 2012 and collection and combine scale, color and interesting plant combinations as skillfully as any garden with the wear-ability of great millinery.

Macato Murayama’s Technical Flower Drawings

I usually don’t get excited by flower art, but these digital works called ‘Inorganic Flora’  by Japanese artist,  Macato Murayama,  just blew me away.

Murayama combines several types of digital technology and has been experimenting with flowers for a few years.  He uses Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator with 3D modeling and who knows what else to create these ethereal and magical images.  If you’re in Singapore this week they will be on view at Art Stage Singapore at the Frantic Gallery’s booth D1-06.

Landscape Design Project in Progress

I like working as part of a large team when I am brought in at the beginning, rather than the end of a project as so often happens.  Collaboration with architects, other designers and clients can be fun and rewarding creatively. What I don’t like is the turf wars that can happen when the project is being built.  Uncommunicated changes that seem insignificant to one contractor can be an essential piece of the puzzle to another and are easily lost.

The most important thing that is lost is time.  That is the case on the project pictured in progress below.  We had hoped to finish this before the holidays but since landscape installs last…well we’re now slogging in deep, deep mud.  This is a large project that includes a pool, new pool house, spa, pergola, garden areas as well as new steps up the steep hill to the house and an extensive dry stream and subterranean drainage system.   I was involved in the design and placement of all of the landscape elements except the pool.

The Garden and Woodland Concept

The overall concept for the garden and woodland areas.  This board was created using the online mood board generator Olioboard.

The original patio plan

The original design for the pergola had planter bases.  Those were eliminated to trim costs and the patio was made smaller.  Hence the design of the pergola had to be modified.

The modified pergola with completed pool house and spa

This is an expansive entertaining space for an active family.  We did not lay the patio or build the pergola–that was the domain of the building contractor.  A separate pool contractor was responsible for the pool.

View through the pergola to new steps on hill and boulder wall in progress

The mud is clearly visible and ankle deep.  The drainage system hasn’t been connected yet and will eventually solve that problem.

Recycled granite curb steps now make the hill easier to traverse

The boulder wall will be completed this week and we will start on a low dry stacked garden wall that will help to satisfy the town’s setback rules for the poolhouse.  Once that’s done we’ll begin the drystream and in early spring connect all of the drainage systems to culminate there when there is overflow which is typical on this very wet property.  More as the progress happens!

Tuesday’s Find…a rustic wheel table

For my first garden find of 2012 I’m going to revert to an old theme.  We know how much I love faux bois, but this is a bit different.  The table top is an old cart wheel from Guatemala and the table base is handmade iron.  Together they are rustic and lovely and remind me of faux bois.  So now we’ve come full circle much like the cart wheel!  Happy New Year!

Rustic Table

It’s available from dos gallos in Los Angeles.