Garden Color Inspiration: Green

It might seem counterintuitive to add more green to a garden, but lately to my landscape designer’s eyes, green looks like it should, fresh and new.  (Go ahead, groan at that word use!) Two years ago, a version of green was the color of the year, but it was largely ignored by outdoor designers–perhaps we think we have the corner on green with our plant palettes.

Via Veranda

These greens aren’t the citrus based hues that have been screaming at us for several seasons as both accents and plants, but the deeper and more complex matte greens of the forest floor and canopy.

via Acanthus and Acorn

Green has been showing up in interior magazines and blogs and on the runway for a while now.

Via Apartment Therapy

Via Andrea Pompilo

Green has long been used on fence panels and trelliage, but it can also color furniture and accessories.

Green box planter

Via Jardins du Roi Soleil

It can be new looking and  surprising choice in a landscape adding a layer of complexity to the already existing organic greens that are there.

Some greens to play with… Green palette Left to right Farrow and Ball/Calke Green, Ralph Lauren/Campbell Green, Benjamin Moore/Amazon Moss and Sherwin-Williams/Shamrock.  All of these can be mixed as an exterior stain or paint.

Garden Color Inspiration: White

I’ve written about neutral gardens and those inspired by the Belgian Beige movement and right now I’m into white. Maybe I’m attracted to it for external reasons-because summer is almost at an end and knowing the bit about white only being worn between Memorial and Labor Days.  There are warm nights still and white still intrigues me…it’s also an excellent partner with green. There is a lot written about white gardens from a planting perspective, but not much about the rest. This is about the rest.

We know that white  can make a dark space seem lighter.  It can also add drama to an otherwise lackluster space.  Washable materials make this color easy to use outside, fading isn’t an issue obviously.

Image via Architectural Digest 

Simple and geometric this patio is surrounded by green and is restful and stylish.  In fashion, winter is also a time for ‘Winter Whites’, but it would be a simple thing to switch this fabric seasonally if white appears too summery outside.

Image via Trouvais

White can be simple and rustic, and is an easy partner with other neutrals.  It can work in just about any style of garden.  Beyond the classic white fence, white can be carried through in accessories of all kinds on just about any style of patio or deck.

Just like any other color, there are many variations of white.  Sample of colors as well as what will be adjacent them are important and especially before choosing a white.  White will reflect what’s around it and even the original hue can be pink or blue based yet look like a stark white unless it is  placed in context. 

I’ll be back on the flip side of Labor Day…wearing white of course!



Pink in the courtyard

Color: In the Pink

I’ve seen rumblings of an unexpected garden color trend.  We love pink flowers in our beds and borders, but not so much in other areas.  Maybe it’s just too gender charged, maybe it’s just too unexpected, but for whatever reason it we don’t use it.  For those in the know, like Steven Elton of Brown Jordan, who I heard speak in Chicago two weeks ago, pink garden accessories and furniture was an emerging trend in the European markets.  Actually, if you follow trend forecasting, pink has been bandied about for a few years.  So I decided to explore the possibilities…in the pink!

Pink in the courtyard

Pink walls in bold graphic stripes make a dreary courtyard pop with unexpected color.  The pink is picked up in the table settings.

Pink stripes poolside

The reintroduction of Schiaparelli to the market next season makes a stylish case for pink.

Schiaparelli's Shocking Pink

Her famous ‘Shocking Pink’ may seem that way in the garden, but it’s really not.  It can be dreamy and restful also.

Pink balcony

 Or it can make a big energetic and contemporary statement.

Some pinks to try painting a fence or garden wall.  Left to right:  Farrow and Ball/Cinder Rose No. 246Behr/Fuschia Kiss 100B-6, and Benjamin Moore/Hot Lips 2077-30.

Pink color swatch for outdoor stains

Here’s a corresponding Pinterest In the Pink inspiration board that just makes me happy!

Design Inspiration: Black and White Stripes

I’ve become slightly obsessed with black and white stripes.  The bold and graphic quality combined with what can be a vibrating optical illusion is energetic and brash…two things that I always like anyway.  The really interesting thing about stripey black and white is that it’s occurring simultaneously as a trend across disciplines. I’ve never used them in a design specifically, but would love to.

So here’s to stripes! (There are many more ideas here,,,)

image via Greige: Interior Design Ideas

 image via House of Hydrangeas

photo via Que Bueno es  Vivir!! 

via Traditional Home




Turquoise and Pink

Retro Vibe: Aqua and Red(s)

Sometimes I see color combos that just stick in my mind.  Lately that’s been turquoise and red(s) that I want to try in my side garden when it’s newly renovated this spring.

Turquoise and Pink

image via  Cellar_Door_Films  

I’m not sure whether this will translate into plantings or some other features yet. Turquoise combined with red or red-orange or deep pink seems retro and new simultaneously to me depending on the context.

image via Obvious State

I don’t know quite how I’m going to interpret this yet, but I’m thinking about it and of course I’ve started a Pinterest board to explore the idea further!

 image via  Design Seeds



Here Comes the Sun…Yellow is Everywhere

Here comes some bright and sunny punch for gardens.  Yellow.  I started reporting seeing it on the Leaf FB page earlier in the spring, and now I see the idea developing into a full blown color trend.

So here we go…

Designer Michael Tavano used yellow in a big way in this small New York City courtyard designed for the Elle Decor Modern Life Concept House.

A yellow garden wall at the Elle Decor Showhouse

A yellow fountain makes a bold statement in a private Santa Monica courtyard.

garden courtyard
Sunny or grey, yellow punches up the color story

As part of an urban garden/art installation in France…

urban gardens
Yellow helps punctuate the Garden of Cracks…

At the Hampton Court Flower show this year…Designer Mike Harvey showed another yellow garden wall.

garden yellow
Hampton Court garden with a yellow wall

In the French design magazine Cote Maison Sud, there was an entire layout of yellow for outside…

Yellow goes outside
More yellow ideas for outside


Garden Color Inspiration: Black

A few years ago, when Paul Bonine’s book Black Plants was released everyone went gaga over the drama of black foliage and flowers, it’s taken a while for everything else to catch up.

Black Plants

Black has long been part of the garden via ironwork, but now I’m seeing, in my real and virtual travels black walls, accessories, and all other uses outside.  If navy blue was surfacing as a trend earlier this year, black certainly is now.  Here are the ideas.

Small patio wall and black chairs
image via The Guardian

Black decking and walls for a contemporary home.

Black decking and walls
Image via Design Milk.

A similar theme in a more rustic setting.

Black house wall as a patio foil
Image via femina

Black planters…the green just pops!

Black planters
Image via the author

Black cushions draw focus to the otherwise neutral space.

Black cushions
Image via la bisuiterie

Monochrome Inspiration

I’m inspired by monochrome gardens? Yes, I am.  These gardens with their washed out almost colorless spaces are really appealing to me.  Maybe it’s my current mood, or the abundance of summer color outside, or a knee jerk reaction to the cacophony of brights and layered patterns I see everywhere, but I’m totally inspired by these quiet images of gardens and patios.

via The New Victorian Ruralist
image via Pinterest


via Veranda
via Unique by Design

A pair of orange planters…

Ever since Tangerine Tango was named 2012 color of the year, orange is just everywhere.  I figure it’s okay to add to that conversation…from a retro perspective.  Aren’t these fiberglass Danish 60s planters cool?

Nana Ditzel planters from the 60s

Alas, they’re in London.  They’re at Sigmar and they’re outrageously expensive.  I think I could make something similar with a little ingenuity and some orange auto body paint.

Note:  My designer blogger friends at Garden Designers Roundtable are posting on first impressions today if you’d like to take a look–all of their posts will be up by noon ET.

Garden Color Inspiration: Navy Blue

It’s winter and so I’m thinking a lot about color.  Lately blue, specifically navy blue, looks fresh to me.  I’m thinking about how to incorporate it into a garden scheme–with paint and accessories since there are no true navy blue plants that I know about.  Not as the classic blue and white or blue and yellow but as a focal point or background in its own right.

I’ve had a tough time finding straight navy, more often there are multiple shades of blue–but no navy.

A table of navy though

Maybe my thinking is ahead of the curve…but not according to Elle Decor who sites navy as the newest interior neutral.  Notice how the green pops with navy as a background in the image below.

Navy blue as a background

A navy blue exterior house paint from Porter’s Paints.  Imagine that as a background for foundation planting.

There are navy blue mosaic sidewalks in Lisbon.  Ideas for patios, fountains and walkways…

Outside blue makes a strong statement, but it is seldom navy.  From one of my favorite fashion blogs, The Sartorialist, are blues including navy.  In an urban environment they just pop visually.

Blues looks fresh

Other than the cement color above, here are three navy blues to try as paint or stain.

Three Navy Blue colors to try

From left to right:  Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy HC-154,  Farrow and Ball’s Drawing Room Blue No. 253 and Sherwin Williams Naval SW6244.

Photo credits top to bottom:  TheTimes-Union, Pink Wallpaper, Porter’s Paints, Flickr, The Satorialist, the author

Color Inspiration: Mansion in May Designer Show House

I’ve been working on the Mansion in May designer showhouse concept.  I’ve titled the space The Voyager’s Lounge.  I have to have sketches in color done in about two weeks so in advance of that I developed the preliminary color story.

The terrace before photos...brown and in need of some love

Since the raw space is so many shades of brown I decided to keep the color dusky rather than slathering on the brights.

Bleached desert hues

I’ll be meeting with several collaborators on-site tomorrow morning so more about that as we progress!

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.


Tuesday’s Find…a bench I never thought I’d like

I usually don’t go for the cast iron benches so common in many gardens.  I find them fussy and uncomfortable–both in looks and reality.  Then I saw this and loved it.  It’s kind of like grandma gone wild–you know the ones with the bleach blond hair, lime green pants and pink lipstick?

Cast iron bench

Check out Gardenhouse for this and more vintage with a twist.

In my Reader…Design Seeds

Just about now, in the middle of a very snowy and grey January I need a jolt of color.  For color trends and inspiration, Design Seeds is like no other.

Fast, furious and beautifully curated, Jessica Colaluca creates ranges of hues from a single source of inspiration and there are hundreds them.   These are not random pretty pictures with some matched colors–they reflect a keen eye for current design trends.   A forecasting veteran, Jessica has been keeping inspiration notebooks for years.  Her ideas are fluid and her influences are far ranging.  There’s also a companion FB page.  Love it…and I’ll let the inspiration speak for itself…all images courtesy of  Design Seeds.

Color inspiration can come from anywhere or anything…

A full range of hues is there for the discerning eye…most would only see the radish.

Moody and neutral palettes don’t have to be just grey or tan…

Classic blue and white with a twist…

Sun washed and bleached brights.  An exciting and unexpected garden design color scheme could grow from any of these palettes…that’s why they’re seeds.

Aspirational Garden Design

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal about who is buying luxury products was good news to me.  Aspirational buyers love their gardens as well as the interiors of their homes.  They hire designers.   That, in my way of thinking, is a very good thing.

Many in the economic climate of the last several years have become DIY champions and warriors, ignoring that those of us who provide thoughtful design services that often make living in a spaces both indoors and out more efficient, sustainable and in the long run much more cost effective than doing it yourself.

Now that that mini-rant is over, on to the inspiration part of the aspiration.  As part of my landscape design practice, I specify furniture and accessories for outdoor environments.  Readers here know that I’m constantly on the lookout for pieces that will work for the transitional and neo-traditional outdoor living spaces I design.  I have taken my now 4 year old Janus beauty book to more than one client appointment.  Aspirational and inspirational, this catalog not only showcases furniture, its’ chock full of other ideas…if you look.  The furniture is extremely high quality and super expensive…hence the aspiration part.

Here’s a look at 2011’s Beauty Book and some ideas I took away from it.

Grey, washed out citrus and aubergine

An extremely sophisticated color palette of washed out grey, ivory, citrus and aubergine.  I’ve been seeing yellow and grey for interiors, and this makes sense of it outdoors.

Naturalist's collection

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the chair, but what interests me is the display of neutral ‘naturalist’ shells, bones and other anthropomorphic items behind it. ( There’s a fast emerging trend based on historic naturalists and plant hunting — see Garden Design and the New York Times.)

A celebration of neutrals

There have been hints for a while that a totally neutral color palette is coming back…look how the small green lawn pops when it doesn’t have to compete.  There’s a garden design lesson there.

Dark garden walls and wood decking

Obviously styled to show off the furniture, I really like the dramatic, dark, glossy walls and wood decking in this image.  Glossy with matte can work for structures as well as plant combinations and is worth exploring further.

Ideas can come from anywhere–it’s what we dream about and aspire to that inspires and informs the spaces we live in.

2010 Top 5 Posts–Yours!

I’ve never done a “top”  list before.  I was interested in what everyone was here was reading so I took a look at the numbers.  As a landscape designer I’m interested in trends–self generated as well as user generated. The list below is a nod to the best of list tradition–not mine–yours.  Click each the first few words of each description to go to that post.

An exploration of India’s potential influence on garden styles.  The Raj ruled this post.

5 things that influenced me as a landscape designer in 2010.

Ideas on color in garden design…no I wasn’t talking to myself.

Thoughts and ideas about sustainability in garden and landscape design.

A love song to the amazing architecture in Buffalo.

Fall as Spring Garden Inspiration

This fall has been particularly inspiring for its color.  It’s been a while since I did a post on color and this one is going to be a little bit different.  I want to try and use the fall foliage of a single plant as inspiration for an early spring garden.  Rather than a single hue, I’m going for a mood and a range of color. I specified this plant for a client’s garden.  When I visited last week, the foliage just made me stop in my tracks.  What’s more is that I have this plant in my garden and as of today it is still green!

Rather than the deep oranges, vibrant yellows and clarets we expect from fall foliage, this smokebush – Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’ has muted tones that are just by their juxtaposition electric.

Cotinus coggygria 'Golden Spirit'

Here’s a possible palette.  It’s a little bit narrow, but very, very sophisticated.  The colors are complex and lend themselves to both plantings and accessories.  At this point there’s no clear front runner although you could make one color dominant.  So let’s go shopping via the web!  All of the images – other than three I took on site – below are linked to their source (so just click them)  if you’d like to explore the idea on your own.

Autumn Smokebush

Here’s how to translate that into a garden…for the opposite season via accessories, plants and just about anything else you could want for a lovely outdoor space.

Fermob furniture

Above the peach/salmon color dominates via garden accessories and below a pale Margarhita green.  It would be easy to do this with any of the first three hues.

Classic wicker furniture

It takes discipline to pick one narrow range and let all others be supporting players in a garden design as our tendency is to fill gardens full of color, color, color.

Some other details that would work…

An obvious first choice would be from the wide range of Heuchera colors available.   Below is ‘Key Lime Pie’, but there are abundant choices.

Heuchera 'Key Lime Pie'

Hellebores - an early spring favorite

Bulbs are a great choice for the early spring garden and there’s still time to get some and plant them before the ground freezes.

Accent Daffodil via Colorblends

Viridiflora Tulip via Tulip World

The garden will need other details – that’s what the darker, more neutral browns are for…

Rustic gate from a private garden in NY

Rustic twig work is best done in early spring when saplings are green…so a rusticated fence or gate is a perfect early spring garden project.  If metal is more your style…salvage yards are full of reclaimed rusty fence sections…

Rusted salvage yard fencing

The possibilities for the color in one small random photo to inspire an entire garden are endless.  All it takes is a bit of imagination and some web shopping!

In my reader…Nude and blushing

This is the first in a series about what I read and how it influences my design work.  Posts will likely be link rich, so feel free to explore much of the same material and see if it inspires you too.  I post regularly on Monday and Wednesday (with sporadic bursts in between) so for the foreseeable future Friday will be in the mix.  Isn’t summer the time to catch up on your reading anyway?

Back in May the Huffington Post published an article ‘NUDE: Fashion’s Most Debated Color’.  Then about a week ago, Pantone (@pantonetrends) tweeted this color palette. (Yup, I’m connecting the dots again…)

Since then it’s been lingering in the back of my mind as possible inspiration for a garden–not one for harsh light either.  These colors would disappear in clear bright light.

Since I’m hands on, I went to two of my go to websites–Colourlovers and Image Spark–to explore the possibilities for myself.  Both are fast and intuitive–the entire process was less than an hour combined.  I’ve discussed both before, but since this is about inspiration I think they deserve a second look.

Ultimately this exercise strayed away from ‘nude’ and morphed into something I called Blush.  Here’s a color palette that I fooled around with on Colourlovers.


and an inspiration I played with board on Image Spark.


Every now and again it’s good to stretch and PLAY with something just because.

Sunny | Solstice | Yellow

The solstice is on Sunday so  I’m celebrating with inspiration for sun colored gardens. Last year I honored it with images of the sun.

Palette created on

I find yellow to be the most difficult color to use outside of plants–there are some really great yellow blooming and yellow foliage plants btw.  Yellow never fades into the background unless it’s with other yellows or in a cacophony of brights–and that’s the challenge.

Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’
Gold Finch
Field of mustard
Echinacea x ‘Big Sky Sunrise’
Cercis canadensis ‘Hearts of Gold’
Adirondack Chair
Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’
All Stars

Enjoy the sun, it will be December before you know it!  If it rains, just grab your yellow slicker and be your own sun…

Sources and credits top to bottom:  Parasol, Bouquet (unknown found on, HakonechloaGold Finch, Mustard Field, Echinacea, Yellow Door, Cercis (unknown), Adirondack chair, Coreopsis, All Stars

Garden Designers Roundtable: Color Conversations

I love color and write about it frequently both here and at Designers on Design. I’ve explored single hues for inspiration such as grey, turquoise and even white, but color in the garden should actually be more of a complex conversation than a single statement.

In my mind there are two common mistakes when using color in gardens–first we let the bloom be the talkers and relegate other elements to the background and second we don’t consider the how the color of  an inanimate object of is going to affect the whole.  For my purposes today I’m ignoring the bloom issues.  Planting design is another topic entirely.

One of the great modern masters of color, the artist Josef Albers, spent much of his career exploring and teaching how colors ‘talk’ to each other in context. If you look at the paintings below, you will see that each carefully considered hue stands on its own yet also works as part of the whole.  These hues are like wonderful conversationalists at a dinner party–each speaks eloquently on its own but listens to the one next to it.

Atuned, 1958 - Josef Albers

This first example has no green in it so it might be difficult to imagine it as a garden.  So look at the next.

Untitled, 1969 - Josef Albers

Now visualize this painting as a simple garden design.  (Actually it could be a really cool contemporary garden design…but back to the idea of color conversations.)  Most people will think in the context of plants–perhaps hedging on the outside and other plants in each nested square.  What happens when other garden elements are added to the plants?  All too often that’s when the trouble starts and we start to loose the thread of the conversation.  It’s like being distracted in a group when a new member arrives, some side conversations start,  and when the introductions are done the subject has completely changed from what it was before.

Nested Squares

In the garden above by James Doyle Design Associates, color has been as carefully considered as the geometry and the scale.  Each element is an equal player in the whole composition.  It is formal, traditional and deceiving in its simplicity–just like Albers’ squares inside of squares.

Blue Wall

Now consider this more challenging garden by Topher Delaney.  The blue wall is the only color in a sea of neutrals.  There are almost no plants.  Even though there is a huge contrast in the colors used, there is a unified statement with each carefully chosen and placed element working together creating a single visual statement–a conversation between equals if you will.

Unless you are trying to make an exclamatory statement, the trick is to think about the whole instead of each individual part when trying to start a color conversation in the garden.  Next time you come home from the garden center with that lemon yellow or vivid orange pot –  if it screams its name then take it back or create a visual conversation around it–let it talk to its neighbors.

See what the other Roundtable designers are saying in their conversations about color by clicking on any of the links below.

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA »
Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA »
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN »
Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA »
Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA »
Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO »
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip in the Garden : Los Altos, CA »
Rochelle Greayer : Studio “G” : Boston, MA »
Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT »

Neutrality, Part 1

As the late fall of November turns into early winter, I am determined to find beauty and inspiration in the season’s neutral color palette.  Rather than trying to hold on to the lush landscapes of other seasons with evergreens I want to indulge myself and explore a different idea.  My first thought is grey.  In my exploration of this most neutral of colors I discovered its intrinsic beauty but also, as many minimalists already understand, that combined with another soft hue it can create an ethereal mood like no other.  Those subtle combinations will be part of Neutrality, Part 2.

Grey gets a bad rap–even as I write this the sky outside the studio window is  flat and colorless.  Where is the beauty in that? That’s what I set out to find out for myself.   How, as a landscape designer, can I use it as inspiration for outdoor spaces rather than as a three month long sentence of colorless monotony punctuated by an occasional sunny day or snow?   My inspiration takes the form of a virtual mood board–a juxtaposition of ideas that jump starts my imagination.

Silver Tankard
Silver Tankard
Top Hat
Top Hat
Tree Well
Tree Well

Photo credits: Agave-Judy Watts via Flickr;; Door-author;; Top; Tree Well-author; Stone-author;; Xray-Inquiry by Design

Robins Egg Blue

Robin's Egg
Robin's Egg

Every year, without fail, I find some small part of a robin’s egg.  I always pick it up and admire its unique blue-green hue.  This year, when I found a tiny piece of shell,  it got me thinking about using the color in gardens. When I was working in fashion, we would obsess over the EXACT shade of  blue-green and then we would then obsess some more over what exactly to name the color. Robin’s Egg Blue, Turquoise, Sky Blue, Teal (how 80s!), or Seafoam (how 90s!)–no matter what it’s called–in the garden it can be a happy and unexpected addition.  I have a new landscape design client who will love this color, so here’s some of the images I’ve been looking at for inspiration for her garden.

Blue doof
A Tiffany Box
Designer's Guild Shop in London
Bauer Olive Jar
Olive Jar
Indigo Bunting
Indigo Bunting
Lap Pool
Lap Pool

Photo credits top to bottom: Robin’s Egg/; Door/; Box/Tiffany & Co; Wall/KarinErisson; Violas/; Courtyard/Josh Massey, Olive Jar/Bauer Pottery; Indigo Bunting/AllHart via Flickr; Lap Pool/S. Cohan


I started thinking about this when all of my white shrubs bloomed at once this spring. They are supposed to bloom in a kind of sequence. The absence of color was just as, if not more powerful, than a garden full of color.

Just the spireas–lilacs & fothergilla were blooming too

I know the idea is not new, but white has a symbolic power beyond the absence of color and I think it’s appropriate for our times.

The staircase at Chanel for the 2009 Haute Couture collection
photo via Chanel

A puff of dandelion seeds (plenty of those around here)

A lace table cloth


Nautical ropes

Weathered Picket Fence

Dodecatheon meadia–native and beautiful
Photo via
White wicker

The White Garden at Sissinghurst
photo via Meade/

It’s right there in Black & White…

I have the opportunity to design a small black and white pocket garden. Tucked into a corner with between a screen porch and the house, the area is also home to multi-utility boxes including a low voltage transformer smack dab in the middle of one wall that has no wriggle room.

My client’s request other than a fountain which is a blue glazed olive jar, is that I put Colicassia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ somewhere in the garden.

A quick color study for the garden

I still render presentation drawings for clients by hand but I use a color add on for my CAD program because it’s fast for down and dirty color studies. At the point I’m using it I don’t pay much (read some) attention to texture because the choices the program offers are limited–hence the Heuchera x ‘Obsidian’ in the drawing really looks more like stone than a plant! These quick visual thoughts are working drawings and I know what the plants look like, so the color studies are more for the ratio of one color/texture to the adjacent ones and the rhythmic flow of the planting design. I change my mind often when designing planting plans–it’s not always intuitive for me. Spatial relationships and human interation with and through space are much easier.

The very simple plant list includes:

Buxus sempervirens ‘Elegantisima’
Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracillis’
Hydrangea arborecens ‘Annabelle’
Heuchera x ‘Obsidian’
Iberis sempervirens
Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’
Odhiopogon planiscapus ‘Ebony Knight’

Inspiration and Influence -TV & Technicolor

A few weeks ago in a post titled Inspiration and Experience I wrote about my viewpoint as a designer as a unique culmination of life’s experiences. Writing that post has made me–probably temporarily–more acutely aware of what I look for my daily inspirational ‘feed’. In other words, I have become more self-aware of what I look at, talk about, read, experience and absorb for future reference. I know this will fade into the background again, but it’s winter, I’m inside a lot and have the time to reflect.

I am first and foremost a designer. My current design discipline is landscape design. I have in the past worked in others. I didn’t come to landscape design from a desire to create gardens, but from a desire to design three dimensional living spaces that compelled human interaction and enhanced and respected the environment. Sure, I’ve been a lifelong gardener and find incredible beauty in plants, but that has never been the departure point for my inspiration.

So, what do I look and where do I go to fuel the creative fire? It’s a daily feast of input that swings wildly between subjects–some of which I’m going to explore here and in future posts. I try not to question the process too much and always try and stay open and observant. I am a voracious reader and looker. Even a few seconds spent looking is absorbed in some way. Years ago as a fashion jewelry designer, I found visual inspiration while driving to my studio in Brooklyn in a pattern of diagonal wires on a construction site–those patterns became the basis of a series of pieces while the time spent looking at the original wires was as fast as I was driving by them.

Some of the constant influences have been images from television and old movies – black and white and technicolor. Not just those with fabulous fantasy landscape images in them-like the Wizard of Oz, but others that jog my visual sensibility in some way. Just yesterday I watched an old (and awful) Doris Day move – ‘Move Over Darling’. In one scene Day was wearing an acid green ensemble and running up the stairs against a grey background. Add that to Michelle Obama’s choice of an acid green Isabel Toledo outfit for the inaugural, and the choice of Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ as the 2009 Perennial Plant of the year and pop goes the inspiration weasel.

Wow! Would I like to use that combo in a garden. In the movies it’s retro, in a garden- modern, provocative and fresh.