The Lurie Garden in high summer

Garden Travel: Planting Design and Architecture in Chicago

I took a walk very early this morning to The Lurie Garden and Roy Diblick’s new garden at the Chicago Art Institute.  My first observation (actually I walked them yesterday afternoon also) is how distinctly the spatial and planting design of both sits well with and plays off the surrounding architecture.  This is not easy to do.

My second observation is that I preferred the smaller Diblick designed garden to Ouldouf designed one at The Lurie.  It was more intimate, more suited to the residential scale I work in.  It was also unfinished–a second half has been prepped for planting.

The Lurie with surrounding architecture.  I know that most will cringe that I’m not talking about Piet Ouldof’s beautiful plantings.  What I observed isn’t detail, it’s a powerful context and connection to place.

Lurie and Gehry

Chicago skyline and Lurie hedges

Gehry and LurieRoy Diblick of Northwind Perennial Farm talks eloquently about creating plant communities and creating symbiotic relationships between plants.  This small garden surprisingly isn’t dominated by the Richardson Romanesque shard of the Stock Exchange, instead both sit comfortably with each other.

Richardson Romanesque

Roy Diblick

Roy Diblick planting design

Chicago vintage poster

Garden Travel: Chicago and Detroit

I’m leaving tomorrow for 11 days of travel visiting friends and attending design conferences in two midwest cities – Chicago and Detroit. I’m excited to visit both places but for different reasons. I’m visiting friends and attending a short conference about building landscapes at the Chicago Botanical Garden.  What do I want to see?  Great contemporary architecture and gardens by Roy Diblick and Piet Ouldolf.  I also want to eat some great food – Chicago has awesome food.

Chicago vintage poster

When that’s over, I’m driving to Detroit to visit more friends and attend the annual APLD Int’l Landscape Design conference.  What do I want to see?  Everything good and bad.  I’m fascinated by Detroit’s possibilities.  I’m super excited to get my retail on at  Detroit Garden Works and spend some time with Debra Silver before the conference starts.

Detroit vintage travel poster

I’ll be trying to blog from the road, but I will be more reliably posting to my Facebook page and Instagram accounts if you want to follow along.

Dwell Studio 'Bungalow' for Robert Allen

Garden Design Details: Dwell Studios new Bungalow fabric

I’m always on the lookout for cool outdoor fabrics and try to add them whenever I can to customize furniture for my garden and landscape design clients. I just discovered this new, super fun fabric story ‘Bungalow’ designed by Dwell Studios for Robert Allen.

Dwell Studio 'Bungalow' for Robert Allen

 

image via Robert Allen

Yes, it’s Sunbrella fabric so it can take the heat and sun and rain, but it’s always best to have easy storage for cushions and pillows. Make sure that cushions are constructed from outdoor foam –which is much more pourous –if you live in an area where it rains.

Niew outdoor room/courtyard

New Barn for an Old Farmhouse, Part 2

A few weeks ago I shared two garden design concepts for an updated outdoor room to be built around a new handmade barn. Those initial designs morphed and grew into a new, expanded hybrid idea that now includes a smaller barn, a built-in grilling area, a pergola, a small greenhouse and a potager–all of which were added during the design review meeting.  A fireplace was switched out for a movable firepit.  For continuity, I also added a small orchard adjacent the potager that also acts as a visual screen from the neighbors beyond. Niew outdoor room/courtyardThe overall design still fits within the parameters of the original concept and is inspired by enclosed barnyards that I’ve seen on old estates both here and abroad. All of the original client requests as well as the new ones listed here have been incorporated into a flexible, family entertaining space.  The big bonus is the clients loved it as is, with no changes!

 

Buntings

Garden Buntings

I have buntings on the brain.  Not those plastic ones that signal the opening of a new liquor store, deli or car wash.  Pretty ones.  Handmade ones.  Buntings that make any garden space feel happier and more festive than it was before they were hung.

Buntings

photo via So leb’ ich

Not everything needs to cost a fortune, and buntings are something easily made from a wide range of materials at hand.  Here’s some ideas on a Pinterest board.

 

Dutch concept gardens

Garden Portrait: Appeltern, The Netherlands

It’s hot.  It’s summer.  I’m indulging in a bit of armchair travel inside in the cool.

I am a fan of conceptual gardens.  Why?  They challenge our ideas of what constitutes a garden. There are trial gardens for plants, so it makes sense to me that there should also be trial design gardens. Last year, I visited  two, Cornerstone in Sonoma and Les Jardins des Metis in Quebec. Both made me think about what I do as a landscape designer in new ways. These concept gardens are usually built to last for a season or two, so their creators aren’t inhibited by issues of longevity and maintenance or client demands.

A relative newcomer to the scene, the Festival Gardens at Appletern Gardens in the Netherlands is in its fourth season this year.

Dutch concept gardens

It’s part of a much larger 22 acre garden park that includes many different types of gardens.  My favorite of the 2013 concept gardens called Balans (Balance) and was designed by Babako.  It is a linear installation reminiscent of Patrick Dougherty’s stickwork.

appletern gardens 2013

In addition to the annual concept gardens there are 17 other types of gardens loosely organized around a theme or type of outdoor space.  I’m putting it on my ever increasing list of ‘must visit’ gardens.

Appeltern Gardens

In interior design, this garden would be called ‘transitional’ as a mix between traditional and contemporary styles.  I’m loving the single pale blue, beach glass tones in the gabions.  Imagine them lit at dusk.  Dreamy.

Modern DIY Garden

This garden appeals to the DIYer in me.  I could probably put most of this together in a weekend from stuff I hoard  have in the garage, use it all summer and then switch it up the next.  Why does everything need to be so permanent?

Herb garden at Appletern

I was a little disturbed by an image of purple loostrife in full bloom in the Appletern Herb garden and I’m not sure about kidney shaped beds EVER, but I loved the trees and the color story.

All images via Appletern Gardens

 

Planting Design: A Wet Shady Meadow

I will admit to having to take some time to wrap my head around an addition to a garden that we installed last year.  Although we have improved the overall drainage on the expansive site, there is one pesky area that is still a little bit damp.  It’s walk-able and mow-able, but my client has come around to what I had originally suggested for the spot – a wet, shady meadow.

Meadow style plantings and damp shade don’t have to be mutually exclusive and here are three plants I’m considering to give it multi-season color, drama and texture.  They are all in my experience reasonably deer resistant also.

Rogersia pinnata – a plant I haven’t used in a couple of years since most of the shady spots I’ve been working in have been dry woodlands.  I’m going to try two varieties for their rough texture and difference in foliage and bloom color.  The one I’m most excited about is ‘Chocolate Wings’

Lobelia silphatica – one of my favorite self seeders.  My current client LOVES blue.  It may be the perfect plant for this area.

Juncus inflexus ‘Blue Arrows’ – another choice for color and fine threadlike foliage with a stiff vertical habit

I’m excited about this part of the project because it allows me to flex and stretch in ways that I don’t always have the opportunity to do.

 

 

 

Phillip Johnson's Glass House

Field Trip: The Glass House

Last week, I went to New Canaan, Connecticut to visit the most iconic modernist residential building in America–Phillip Johnson’s Glass House.  Since I first saw an image of it in a survey of American architecture, I’ve wanted to see it firsthand.

Phillip Johnson's Glass House

What surprised me was how much more was there than just the house.  Johnson experimented with buildings, follies, and land forms on 47 acres from 1945 until his death in 2005.  Some, like the Glass House (1945) transcend time and space; others like the Library/Study (1980) and the Lake Pavilion (1962) appear rooted in their time; while still another, the Painting Gallery (1965) foretells the future and conjures up the past.  He borrowed ideas from his travels, history, art and other architects and played with them on his own property.

Philllip Johnson New Canaan property

That is not to say that this is not serious architecture, it is, but without anyone but himself to please, these structures are less ponderous and weighty than much of Johnson’s other work.  Sometimes, as in the case of the Lake Pavilion (top image below) whose arches echo those on the Beck House (1964) (bottom image below) which I visited with APLD in Dallas, they are life size scale models of ideas in action.

The Lake Pavillion Phillilp Johnson

Phillip Johnson's Beck House

It was thrilling to see the juxtaposition of these experiments with existing farm walls, art and pathways.  It gave me insight into Johnson’s creative patterns and ideas.  Close to the original structure, proportions and geometric shapes repeat and reflect themselves, further away they are less relational but no less geometric.

Throughout his life, Johnson collected art and two buildings are galleries for his sculpture and painting collections. Each offer a distinct experience.  The Painting Gallery is a bunker like structure housed under a grass covered mound.  Inside the gallery itself has a series of circular rotating tracks that allow the six pieces of his 42 piece collection to be viewed at a time.

Painting Gallery Philllip Johnson

 The Sculpture Gallery (1970) is a tour de force of light and shadow that eclipses the art inside.  I was mesmerized by it and the way the patterns shifted and changed as the clouds overhead filtered the available light or not.  It gave the building a living, breathing feeling.

Sculpture Gallery Phillip Johnson

The property when viewed as a whole life statement is a masterful celebration of textural interplay, light and shadow, and mass and void that I’ve seen few other places.

Bridge detail The Glass House

Phillip Johnson had a profound respect for the land he built on and few of the buildings/follies feel forced.  The land he built on is honored as are the existing field walls that came before him.  Nowhere was this more evident than at the view from a site specific Donald Judd sculpture over a farm wall to the glass house.

Donald Judd at Phillip Johnson's Glass House

His lifelong experiments sit easily on the land even though they are the antithesis of natural.  More than half a century later they still belong.

All images taken and shared by the Susan Cohan, please credit appropriately.
Traditional landscape design

A Mid-Century Birthday

I have a benchmark birthday tomorrow. You know, one of those decade defining ones.  One I never expected or could even envision–back in the youth driven 1960s and 70s.  I am part of what is still the largest generation in the Western Hemisphere and we are not aging gently or easily.  Sixty is not the new forty.  It is the new sixty. Fifty isn’t the new thirty.  It’s the new fifty. And forty seems to be more angst ridden than the other two for those I know who are reaching it this year.

I strive to be current and  informed, to keep up with trends and ideas.  It is inherent in my curiosity driven personality–I’m still drawn to new ideas, yet in my own work I lean towards the classic.  I’m still evolving as a designer although I feel that I have a defined stylistic lexicon that works for me and my clients.  For the past 10 years I have  been creating landscapes that I hope will last beyond me. I plant trees and build with stone to try to insure their  longevity.

Traditional landscape design

I try and honor the land, the architecture and my client’s dreams.  I know that my work’s stylistic tendencies lean toward the traditional as a reflection of the market that I work in and as much as I love crisp, contemporary style,  I’m okay with that.

It’s ironic that the iconic style in current vogue was in its first heyday when I was in kindergarten.  Modernism screamed ‘This is the Future!”  Today,  Modernist and mid-century designs are sought after as vintage styles and are considered timeless and classic.  So I’m celebrating my benchmark by visiting what I consider to be the most iconic of them all, Phillip Johnson’s Glass House.  Come back next week for the details.  Happy Birthday to me!

Phillip Johnson's Glass House, New Canaan, CT

 

Beautiful vegetables

A Month of Sundays – Cold Beet Salad

A few months back I stated that I would be adding other content to Miss R–exploring things outside of gardens and landscapes. I love food, so this may turn into a once a month seasonal series.  For those of you who follow my Instagram feed, you know that I go to a local Farmer’s Market almost every Sunday morning from May to November.  The image below is a collage of what I bought in June.

Beautiful vegetables

I’m a huge supporter of these local, weekly markets and have been going regularly, in season, since they started almost 20 years ago.  I don’t grow my own.  What you may not know is that I also love to cook.  I’m not a recipe follower beyond the first time for something completely new and foreign.  After that I riff and local, organic, fresh ingredients add to that spontaneity.  I started cooking this way when I lived in France where local markets were plentiful and had ingredients that weren’t at that time available in American grocery stores. Here’s what I made from the beets pictured…

Cold Lemony Beet Salad

This is my interpretation of a classic cold beet salad that won out over the cold borscht I was channeling from my great Aunt Julie. This salad is super easy and would make a great addition of ‘red’ to a Fourth of July red, white and blue buffet.

Ingredients

4 medium fresh beets – yellow, red or Chiogga (these are the heirloom ones that are candy striped when you slice them–they are super pretty!)

1 large shallot 2 cloves of garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp of balsamic glaze

1 T lemon zest

1 T best quality extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Boil the beets in about 3″ of water until easily pierced with a fork–about 15 minutes.   (Save the tops to saute later if you want–they’re delicious). Drain and set aside to cool and peel. Slice shallots very thinly. Cut cooled and peeled beets into 3/8″ x 2″ logs (don’t be fussy about this, but this is the best size–trust me). Combine lemon zest, beet logs and shallots in a large bowl. Mince and smash garlic and whisk with lemon juice, balsamic glaze and oil to make the salad dressing–adjust to taste if too tart, but remember the beets are super sweet.  Toss with beet salad and chill.  Makes 4 large servings.

Cold Beet Salad

I also post what I make to Instagram, so in a way the series has already started–without the recipes.  This what the beet salad looked like…now you can riff on your own.  Enjoy!

New Providence Meadow

A Garden Unexpected…Field of Dreams Redeux

Foxgloves were blooming everywhere when I last visited what I call A Garden Unexpected in New Providence. I wasn’t just driving by this time, but deliberately went to see what was blooming in early summer.  What I found was no less delightful than the first time I stumbled across this field.  I expected coreopsis (there was some mixed in), but the big show was daisies.  Hundreds of thousands of them spread over the five to six acre meadow tucked behind soccer fields and in between corporate headquarters winding around the woodland edge.

New Providence Meadow daisies and coreopsis Meadow with daisies, New Providence NJ

The walk through the meadow is an abandoned fitness trail that was probably built in the 90s by Lucent who is the biggest of the corporate neighbors to this space.  It was a totally enjoyable stop that made my day slow down and much, much better than it had been.  The field near the corner of off Mountain Avenue and Diamond Hill Road in New Providence if you’re local and want to visit.