Guadeloupe painting on Door

Guadeloupe, Gardens, and Prie Dieu

Have you ever visited a garden that as a whole didn’t speak to you but parts of it made you smile?  That happened to me last week.  A garden I visited incorporated an extensive and lively collection of Mexican folk art.  Colorful trinkets were everywhere and way over the top.  Throughout the garden there were multiple icons and images of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, the patron saint of Mexico.  Three of these just made me smile…one, the last one you’ll see here, made me laugh out loud.

Guadeloupe painting on Door
First, she appeared on the kitchen door
Patron Saint of Mexico Guadeloupe
Next she appeared as a mosaic inset on the back of a garden wall
Gardener's shrine to Guadeloupe
Finally, complete with a gardener’s Prie Dieu, in a brick shrine in the side yard


Black shade sail Bedessono Hotel and Spa

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Details make the Design

I’m a collector of details.  Often when visiting gardens, as I did in Northern California last week, it’s the details that stick in my mind’s eye.  I muse on how I’d use them in a garden design.

Attention to the details in a design is what makes it sing.  When you add the details up and they are layered and nuanced, they make a beautiful whole.  Generally, I find places for details as well their ability to unify a design idea and to make visual relationships work are overlooked. Either there are too few details or they haven’t been edited well enough. Or, maybe I’m just cynical and jaded from visiting too many gardens (can one do that?), but in most of them the details are -in my opinion- more interesting than the whole.

Black shade sail Bedessono Hotel and Spa
Jaunty black shade sail at the Bardessono in Yountville

So, here, in no particular order (mostly because I’m jet-lagged and swamped with work) are some lovely details from the last part of my trip.  I haven’t been able to completely digest all that I saw, so enjoy my un-edited brain dump and use them for your own inspiration!

If you’d like to read my previous post on the courtyards at the Bardessono Hotel OR if you’d like to read what other designers think about the details, try these:

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI
Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT
Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA
Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA


Bernard Trainor garden

Postcard from Silicon Valley

I finally got to see two gardens that made my heart sing.  Both were what interior designers call ‘transitional’ design sitting comfortably between traditional and contemporary.  We landscape designers don’t label our work in that way.  What I will say that is probably more in our lingo is that both used hardscape and plants in a way that made them very much of their time and place.  The designer’s hand was evident but not overwrought.  Both were full of smart and useful ideas. Both had the budgets to carry out a clear view without much end evidence of compromise, but this is a postcard so I’ll mostly let the pictures speak for themselves.  Time is limited so I can only cover one!

The garden is one designed by  Bernard Trainor  in Los Altos. (He’s one of my design idols by the way…)

Bernard Trainor garden
Entrance under a canopy of trees
Bernard Trainor meadow planting
A newly planted meadow on a wedge shaped lot
Bernard Trainor pool
Pool planting
bernard trainor wall
Wall and water feature


Flora Grubb Gardens 2012

Postcard from San Francisco

We (me and 200 other APLD designers) spent the day visiting several gardens in San Francisco. There were some things I really liked, but damn my critical self, I have visited so many gardens that I need to be wowed and these gardens mostly didn’t wow me.

So here’s what I liked…

Color and texture at Flora Grubb (I first visited a couple of years ago)…

Flora Grubb Gardens 2012
Corten, agaves, black nursery pots at Flora Grubb

the use of plant names and graphics in a medicinal garden by Topher Delaney

Topher Delaney
Steel and graphic plant names at the UCSF Edible Medicinal Garden

repetition on a roof deck by Walter Hood

Walter Hood roof deck design
Repetition of elements and use of scale via Walter Hood

bold use of red in a garden by Alma Hecht, APLD,

Red garden wall
Bold use of red on a garden wall

and a mini woodland in a very, very small garden by Katey Mulligan, APLD.

Katey Mulligan APLD
A small corner turned into a woodland




An Afternoon in Berkeley

I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon with two designers who have been a huge influence on me over the last ten years.  Michelle Derviss and David Feix were kind enough to take time out of their busy days to chauffeur me around Berkeley to visit some of David’s gardens.

Subtle color combination in a hellstrip via designer David Feix

I didn’t take many photos since David’s got thousands on his Flickr page (linked above) and I wanted to focus on our wide ranging conversation.  Sometimes it’s so much more important to pay attention to people instead of plants!

Leaf’s Anniversary and Westward Ho!

Yesterday was a whirlwind of last minute edits, technical glitches and nail biting as we got the First Anniversary issue of Leaf out the virtual door.  It’s always that way.

Today it’s all about getting myself out the door to meet up with my APLD landscape designer compatriots in San Francisco. I think a day of rest would be a welcome thing, but it’s not going to happen…well maybe a few hours or so…

Here’s the latest issue of Leaf (just click to read it here).  I hope you like it.

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Tuesday’s Find(s) and Westward Bound!

It’s always hard the week before a trip, and the week after, but the trips themselves are oh, so worth it!  I’m headed west at the end of the week (after we publish Leaf) to meet up with 150 or so other APLD designers in the San Francisco Bay Area to visit gardens, drink wine and learn from each other.  So this Tuesday I’m offering some travel inspired things, not necessarily for the garden and not necessarily realistic.  With travel however fun and exotic, the luggage we use and how we get there isn’t glamorous anymore…I wish it was.

Hopefully I’ll have some time to send some  ‘postcards’ here next week, but if not I’ll have plenty to share on the flip side.  You can always follow me on Instagram, Twitter (user name in both places is SusanCohan) or on Facebook.

Images top to bottom:  Oliver Peoples O’Malley sunglasses, vintage travel poster, vintage alligator luggage, and an urban walking boot.
Susan Cohan Gardens Planting Design

Golden Light, Grasses and Gardens

I’ve been a bit neglectful here.  I’m hoping this little bit of magic will make up for it, but I will confess to wanting to break out of the garden and write about other things that interest me.  They may pop up here in the future–they will still be about design and creativity, and as I see it everything fuels my design discipline which is garden/landscape driven so it will relate! With that thought, though, I’ll share these lovely grasses.

Susan Cohan Gardens Planting Design
Backlit grasses from a design project

There is no better season to enjoy the beauty of ornamental grasses than fall when the light is golden and makes them an other worldly radiance.


Happy Birthday Leaf Magazine!

It’s hard for me to believe that Leaf Magazine is going to be a year old.  Actually it’s way older if you count the planning stages, but our Autumn 2012 issue that will publish next week will mark a full seasonal circle for us.  It’s been a journey of discovery on so many levels and I want to thank everyone who reads it and supports the magazine.  (No I’m not preparing for an awards acceptance speech!)  Some details below the cover…

Inside this issue you are going to find our usual range of things that we find interesting such as Corn Whiskey and Foraged Beauty products along with gardens, plants, books and great furniture and accessories for all types of outdoor styles.