Paint Can planter

Garden Trends: Dumpster Style

If you haven’t figured it out from previous posts, I’m having a visceral and negative reaction to quaint upcycling. Please do not show me something else made out of pallets.  Yuck. A good dumpster dive involves a deep understanding of Wabi-sabi and the beauty of objects just as they are, not as we would like to pretend them to be. Dumpster Style uses objects just as they are found, with minimal intervention.

Paint Can planter
Tape is the only designer additive here
 image via Thea’s Mania

Of course Dumpster Style’s found objects (treasures?) can be used for another purpose, but the difference is, is that they maintain their original integrity. There is a romanticism in the purity of  these objects.  They don’t need to be masked, they can be used with minimal ‘design’ interference from well meaning and overly industrious upcyclers.

Tin Can shingles
Can bottom shingles
image via Pinterest

Somewhat nutty, the roof garden below clearly has respect for what the objects were in a thoughtful and stylized way.  Originally from Apartment Therapy, I shared this one on Leaflets back in July and it spurred a lot of discussion.

Dumpster Style Garden
Rooftop Dumpster Style Edible Garden
Image via Apartment Therapy

As for the Wabi-sabi, a quote from the very first page of Leonard Koren’s wonderful book Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers sums it up:

Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
It is a beauty of things modest and humble.
It is a beauty of things unconventional.

And sometimes it’s just all about the dumpster.  Artist Oliver Bishop-Young hasn’t changed much about this dumpster…or has he?

Dumpster planter Oliver-Bishop Young
Planted Dumpster Style
Dumpster Planter from artist Oliver Bishop-Young
 images via Oliver Bishop-Young

Click for more Dumpster Style on Pinterest.





Winter Gardens

Garden Designers Roundtable: Winter Inspiration

I’m totally obsessed with winter gardens.  The thing is though, by spring, just like everyone else I get caught up in the sexier spring and summer seasons and completely forget to plant for winter.  This year I’m going to try and change that.

Winter Gardens
Seed Pods
Winter Gardens
Winter Grasses

Most hope that permanent structures and some evergreens will be enough in winter, but I’m more interested in other elements that are unique to the season that will be as interesting and visually satisfying as other seasons.   There are plants beyond evergreens that add to the winter garden, but they require skill and maintenance to look good throughout the season.  Evergreens create bones and a backdrop and help to make things work in March and early April when just about everything else looks really crappy.  They, along with interesting and exfoliating bark, sing when there is snow.

Winter Gardens
Heptacodium miconiodes and evergreens in snow

As a designer, what I’m really excited about is creating a neutral and textural  garden story for winter that combines plants with structural elements and shadows to create a complex and interesting space.  I don’t need a lot of color in January like I do in June.  For me, winter is fairly neutral. The flat, blue quality of our eastern winter light with its long shadows lends itself to thoughtful color and texture juxtaposed with shadow play.

Winter Gardens
Winter Grasses and Stone Wall

Although the climate and light are different there, a visit to the Denver Botantic Gardens  spurred my interest in pursuing winter garden design even further.  Above, the neutral color palette makes this swath of mixed grasses have even more drama than it would have at the height of the summer. Too many people cut grasses down too early.  Wait until the end of February for that chore and reap the rewards.  Snow can make them look a bit untidy, but white and tan is an beautiful color combination.

Winter Garden Interest
Shadow play on Stone
Winter inspiration at NYBG
Shadow ‘allee’ at New York Botanical Gardens

Two ways to consider structure in the winter garden are as a canvas for shadows created by the long low light (above) and as as structural focal points (below).

Winter Garden Inspiration
Columns providing structure

A third, more fleeting way to add cold weather structure is to actually incorporate opportunities for ice to form, or to use it in big chopped up chunks as a winter feature where there was water in warmer weather.  When I lived closer, I used to make a pilgrimage to see the huge and jewel-like ice crystals on the Delaware River in mid and late winter, but I never actually considered this idea for a garden until I saw the two examples below, both at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Water Feature with Ice
Monumental ice formations on a water feature
Winter garden inspiration
Ice ‘boulders’

Inspiration is everywhere…even in January.

For more inspiration, try these ideas from the other Garden Designers Roundtable blogging designers:

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO
Jenny Peterson : J Petersen Garden Design : Austin, TX
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN
Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI
Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Wave Hill view

Vista and View Preservation

An article yesterday in the New York Times about a proposed and (yes) sustainably built and ‘green’ corporate headquarters that will rise above the Palisades along the Hudson River galvanized my thinking about view preservation as part of the whole save the planet movement.

Wave Hill view
View of the Palisades from Wave Hill

Views and vistas need to be preserved.  They are seldom considered when giant wind turbines are erected on mountain tops or along the shoreline. They’re not considered when housing developments climb up a hillside.  They’re not considered when a swath of land is taken up for new corporate headquarters.  Yet a property with a view is worth more than one without.

Parks and public spaces aren’t enough to protect many views that are in the way of our continued sprawl as well as so-called environmental progress.  In the New York metro region, land is valuable and in increasing short supply hours and miles away from the city. Our views need to be preserved as much as the remaining open space.

Views and vistas are part of the environment and should be preserved as such.  Shouldn’t the beauty of the earth’s landscape be just as important as saving its air, waterways and soil?  Humans need beauty as much as air, water, and soil.  For me, and many others I suspect, these views and vistas move me to my deepest core.  My heart stops on a drive or hike when I get a glimpse of the beauty of a vista and world beyond.  They soothe me when little else will, and inspire me when all else fails.  They deserve respect and preservation.


Chicken Wire Rabbit by Chris Mossart

Garden Materials: Chicken Wire

I’m in the process of organizing things a bit differently here. So you’ll see new titles like ‘Materials’ and ‘Garden Design Details’ used more often. There’s also a new email subscription form in the sidebar…I’ve never had one of those before. So use it if you’re so inclined. Now on the subject at hand…chicken wire.

Chicken Wire Rabbit by Chris Mossart

Ever since I posted Chris Mossart’s work on the Leaf mag Facebook page, I’ve been slightly obsessed with chicken wire. I used to be a total DIYer–now less so–but a good pair of gloves, sharp wire cutters, a strong pair of needle nose pliers can go a long way to making some of these charming and useful chicken wire garden accessories. I can’t emphasize the need for gloves too strongly though. Chicken wire is galvanized steel and sharp. It is also very inexpensive…a fifty foot roll is about thirty dollars. It can be painted with a good exterior grade metal paint. I’m sure it could be powder-coated although I’ve never done it. As with anything, the quality of craftsmanship is what will keep chicken wire projects from being too rustic and looking too ‘loving hands at home’.

So here is some inspiration for projects that would be worth trying and can be ready by next spring!

For over the table…a chandelier. I love the addition of natural and found objects to this. A complete list of materials and instructions can be found here.

Garden Chandelier

In the potting shed…small plant storage and display cabinet. Complete instructions are available here.

DIY plant display shelf

On the table or in the garden…chicken wire cloche. These are painted black and were found on Andrea liebt herzen (Andrea Loves Hearts)

Chicken Wire Garden Cloche

And last but not least…just in the garden. A small tuteur or plant support via the French style blog resonances.

Chicken Wire Tuteur

Chicken wire can also make great peony supports, but that’s for another day. These examples plus more inspiration can be found on my Pinterest board Chicken Wire.

Hubert de Givenchy and Gardens

Hubert de Givenchy is better known his couture creations for Audrey Hepurn than he is as a champion of gardens.  But champion he is. Upon retirement in 1995, he was a key player in the restoration of the Potager du Roi (the King’s Vegetable Garden) at Versailles.  Since then Givenchy has created a very French yet very modern parterre at his chateau in the Loire Valley, Le Jonchet.

Givenchy, Le Jonchet Parterre

In the 16th century, parterres (which don’t have to have any flowers at all) were called referred to as gardens a la francaise. Low clipped boxwood in patterns so ornate they resembled embroidery we’re actually called parterre de broderie and reached their peak at Versailles and were, as a style, appropriated by the upper classes across Europe.  Large parterres required skilled maintenance and were labor intensive and exist today in more contemporary forms.

Parterre at Versailles

Image above via Pinterest 

Back to Monsieur du Givenchy.  The simple circular pattern of the parterre at Le Jonchet is what makes it able to exist today.  Instead of broderie the pattern looks like embroidery hoops–fitting for a retired couturier.  I don’t know if that was the intent.  Although it still requires precise clipping and care, it is totally contemporary and utterly French.  It is a garden I can enjoy, but not necessarily want.

Givenchy, Le Jonchet Parterre

Givenchy, Le Jonchet

The images of Givenchy’s Le Jonchet are from the December 2012 issue of World of Interiors…one of my favorite magazines.

A Quick Start to the New Year

The calendar year has changed again, so there’s news to report- for the next two months anyway. Change is good in my world, as is a good adventure! Beginning yesterday, I became the President Elect of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD). Yikes!

I’m travelling and speaking for the next two months. Want to meet up? Tweet me @susancohan to let me know you’re there…


Here’s where:

Baltimore, Maryland – January 10 I’ll be walking MANTS that day…finding inspiration and new ideas.

Denver, Colorado – January 15-17 I’ll be speaking at ProGreen about creativity and all things viaual and digital including Leaf and Pinterest. Here are the links to my workshops: Jan. 16/11:30, Jan. 16/2:45

Dallas, Texas – January 26-27 This is an APLD leadership event…I’ll be in the bar.

Brooklyn, New York – January 27 I’ll be attending Plant-O-Rama at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and catching up with everyone – come and say Hi!

New York, New York – January 28 I’ll be walking the NYIGF scouting stories for my clients and stories for Leaf

Bronx, New York – January 29 I’ll be attending Tom Stuart-Smith’s talk at the New York Botantical Gardens come and say Hi!

Seattle, Washington – February 17-22 I’m a NWFGS judge (that’s scary!) and speaker – I’ll be going to a bunch of events within the BIG event

Secaucus, NJ – February 27 I’ll be in the APLDNJ booth at the NJLCA trade show talking, talking, talking!

And if all of that’s not exhausting enough…I’ll be working on some on-going design projects and getting the Spring edition of Leaf ready with the team…phew!