Outlier–Maybe Not.

I promised I would be back here when I thought I had something new or interesting to say. There is no eye candy today–just words and thoughts. I also don’t feel the need to push my ideas on anyone else–so you don’t have to agree or disagree with what follows.

I have never been one to blindly follow a trend or an idea. My thoughts, like most people’s, spring from my own experience and individual point of view. When I was working in the fashion industry, I was always interested in designers who were doing things differently from the rest.  I admired those who translated a burst of thought into ideas that were at first strange and wonderful but would ultimately be borrowed, watered down or interpreted by others. I was also interested in those who looked back and used history as a starting point celebrating the traditional and making it contemporary. For me, there is a healthy dichotomy of design thought there with equal emphasis on the new and the old.

In my mind, gardens or landscapes are defined as spaces that are outside of nature. They cannot be truly of nature since they are conceived and made by people. These human endeavors at garden making do not include restoration of native environments or habitat although they can incorporate those elements. They can try to mimic nature, but a garden is ultimately a space made by people for human activity, introspection, observation and the appreciation of beauty within the context of what is right for its particular environment and time. The human element of a garden is important. It is also where the outlier part comes in.

The gardens being made by the New Perennialist movement that started almost thirty years ago in Germany and have been perfected by Piet Oudolf and others are in my mind are largely to look at. I have visited some of the best of them and it’s the auxiliary spaces that invite human interaction, not the plantings. The gardens themselves may have a path or two through them, they may be large or small, but they are like paintings hung on a wall. They do not invite human participation. They are broad strokes of planting design artistry that invite visual reaction, not physical interaction.

There is great value in this idea when a site’s topography or limitations don’t allow for safe passage or it is a space that will act as a visual foil something else. This concept is what makes the High Line so successful and in my mind is also its downfall. The plantings are something that are passed through while doing something else. They can be admired, but in all but a few places they cannot be entered. They are beautiful, bold, border designs. The border as a garden design concept has been around almost as long as people have been making gardens. They exist on the sidelines. True, those sidelines can be breathtaking and can be beneficial to wildlife and the planet at large, but I am talking about garden making and that, as I said before, is a human undertaking that invites interaction.

Conversely there are historic gardens (remember that dichotomy?) that make plants such background players that they become almost irrelevant. They are decoration, they could be fake. These ‘gardens’ were designed primarily for people with little regard for the natural world other than how the designer could manipulate it into abstraction. Those gardens lose the sensory, introspective and observational aspects of plantings in a garden, leaving room only for human activity.

I believe there is room in contemporary garden and landscape design to celebrate human activity combined with interactive planting design as equal partners.  I also believe that the gardens and landscapes that do that will be long term successes. There is room for structure, hard surfaces and places for people as well as plants and habitat to co-exist and intermingle. They are not static or fixed in the moment past or present. We have changed our planet too much to be able to go back to nature as it was and gardens can help define how humans appreciate and savor the outdoors. What we really need to be thinking about is what is right for a specific piece of land in a specific region that will be used regularly by a group of individuals in a meaningful and participatory way. We need to consider how we entice people outside into the garden to observe, delight, create, to spend time and do things and think about their place in the world instead of just moving through it or looking at it or worse ignoring it and paying attention to hand held technology instead?

As a landscape designer I have questions that roll around in my brain to be solved by working through my design process. How do the successful attributes of traditional gardens and the best ideals of the new perennialists combine to create something new–something that balances the being and the seeing? How do I foster understanding and appreciation of our not so natural world, the one we now live in, through the design of spaces that allow people to interact with all of its pieces? Making planting design precious unto itself relegates it to the same place as a great work of art in a museum. It’s not that, it’s a living changeable thing. What is the most valuable human experience in any garden–is it different for every individual?  I try to strike a broad balance between the traditional and the contemporary–sometimes there are no perennials or grasses at all in my gardens. If that makes me an outlier, I’m okay with that.

Edit:  I sat on this post for a month or so until a group who I had a conversation with about this feeling of being an outlier and who I would consider to be New Perennialists encouraged me to publish it. –Susan


Turf parterres at Versailles

Riding in the Backseat around a Curve

Miss R has been in the backseat all summer. Pretend you are on a roadtrip and listening to a story on the radio…the pictures will come after we reach our destination.

In a twist of weather related events and wonder, my landscape design business and my commitment to being the national President of APLD has taken all of my time, leaving little extra for regular blog posts.  Although I feel a nagging sense of ‘it’s been too long’, I’m happy to have my priorities straight and to be able to see my garden and landscape design work come alive. I always feel that the work I do has the power to create profound changes in people’s lives so I put that work before all else.

As a designer I’ve always worked in series, exploring ideas until I feel they’ve come to some kind of satisfactory conclusion for me intellectually.  The thing is though, is that I’m not always aware that a series is developing.  I experiment with ideas and some prove to be fleeting, while others stick around for further clarification. So on to part two of the backseat story.

I had planned a blog post based on some images I had been collecting on my iPhone when POOF! all were lost in a technological glitch.  No, I didn’t back up regularly then, I do now. So in going through what’s left via downloads from Instagram and Facebook, I noticed a thread of thought that’s been percolating into a full fledged idea.  It’s one I want to explore more fully when the opportunities present themselves.  Not all ideas work for all solutions.

I extol my students with the made up commandment ‘Thou shall curve with purpose and grace, thou shall not wiggle all over the place” when explaining how best to design using arcs and curves.  I tend to design with a hard straight edge and soften that with abundant  plantings marrying the geometry with the natural. It works on suburban lots of limited size and is simpler to maintain than lots of curved edges which become obscured overtime.  I didn’t realize I was having a love affair with curves until I started looking back through my images this year.  Here is the progression…

Turf parterres at Versailles

The Orangerie at Versailles in January while I was there just charmed me with its curved geometry and ease of maintenance–other than the topiaries just mow the lawn and cut back the hedge.

Then I was in New York and this long shadow caught my eye.

Sprial ShadowWhile shopping for plants for clients in a green house I whooped with excitement when I found a whole bunch of escargot begonias.

escargot begoniaThat lead to the design for a showhouse garden…

Blairsden Brocade progress shot and completed…

Blairsden completedAnd still yet a project that is currently being built distills those curves into a much simpler form.

Landscape plan curved hedges

These are ideas I want to explore further and evolve.  I guess with all of my time dedicated to straight lines that I really I don’t have any trouble with the curve. I just a bit of trouble finding time to post!




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!


contemporary parterres

Garden Inspiration: Luciano Giubblei’s Parterre Ideas

I’ve been a member of Pinterest almost since its inception.  I use it as place to store ideas both useful and random.  I also explore other designer’s boards to see what inspires them and maybe understand a little bit about their creative process.  Garden designer, Luciano Giubblei‘s, ideas for parterres blew me away.

contemporary parterres

The possibilities for these parterres skew the traditional idea and point towards a contemporary evolution of the form.Herringbone patterns, color field painting, Bauhaus textiles, rolling hills of vineyards and traditional parterres all exist as ideas and jumping off points.  What’s more, to my eye they make perfect sense and I can visualize every last bit of it.


Print and Pattern Choices: Mansion in May

I’m trying to nail down some of the details for the show house garden and I’ve narrowed my print/pattern choices down to what I think I want to use. I’ve also experimented with some combinations. These are the details that can make a project sing or fall flat. They always make me nervous.

Initial choices...some editing will be done

Color is important, as is scale and texture just like in a garden bed. Design is design is design…it all follows the same principles. The overall look is this…

The floor will be navy blue...

I’ve been collecting outdoor fabric and trim swatches on Pinterest to make this process easier…I also have a Mansion in May board there to keep track of things.

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 blues...no 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 outside...navy 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

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.

Garden Designer’s Roundtable | How Did I Get Here?

You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”
–Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime

Indulge me please. I have enough years behind me to be able to view the paths and detours I’ve taken. Some things have been long held and constant, a love of the landscape for one, but more than that, a love of great design in all of its forms has allowed me to crisscross visual boundaries and to work in several disciplines along the way.

When connected, these visual stops on the road–and many more, create a snapshot of my design sensibilities.  It’s not the total story of how I got from here to there…but it’s a big part of it.

It started in the 60s.  Mod London, pop art, the counterculture were at the beginning of my travels.

The logo for Mary Quant...note the floral motif...

Then I discovered Art Noveau and Modernism almost simultaneously.

Paris Metro Station

Paley Park in New York

I could post 1000s of visuals, but as I said, indulge me.  Flash forward through travel to other places, personal journeys and interests in Punk, Postmodernism, Grafitti, Anime, Wabi Sabi, Neo Geo, Adams architecture, fashion (always that) and too many more combined with a deeper interest in those who created the designed outdoor environment at the same time.  I written about many of them here…Halprin, Rose, and Shipman to name a few.

If I look at this partial plan of Versailles, I see elements of all of the above.

Flash forward again.  While I carry those experiences and many others with me there are too many for a simple blog post and this isn’t a memoir or autobiography.  What intrigues me now is rooted in pop culture, history and technology.  My work, I think, reflects those interests with strong lines, nods to tradition and a genuine respect for the land I’ve been working on.  Lately though, this isn’t enough to contain my diverse interests and I’ve taken on a new project.  One that I hope will help people to understand that great design extends past our doorways.  You didn’t think you’d be able to read a post without me having a shameless plug for Leaf in it did you?

For other designers’ interpretation of getting from here to there,Simply click on the links below and enjoy the journey.

Debra Prinzing  &  David Perry:  A Fresh Bouquet

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

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

Jenny Peterson : J Peterson Garden Design : Austin TX

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

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Random or Not? Garden Inspiration

As usual inspiration comes out of the blue when I least expect it.  These two images were next to each other in a collection of random outdoor images I save.  At first glance they are two seemingly unrelated ‘garden’ spaces…or are they related after all?  You decide.

First an urban intersection…


Next a contemporary garden…

Contemporary Garden via Vulgare.net

To me the juxapostion speaks visual volumes.

Monday 50 & 51 | A Year of Mondays

There has been so much snow here that there is no access to the garden beyond climbing through four foot piles of snow or jumping out of one of the windows on the house side.  Either seems just too hard, to cold or just plain stupid so this week I am looking back visually. Next week I will wrap everything up regardless of the weather.  Here’s an idiosyncratic portrait of the garden over the last year…week by week…backwards.

Design Challenge: Garden Designers Rountable

All of us are working on the same real life design problem this month–a landscape renovation for a young couple’s New England country home.  Tuesday’s Find will return next week.

For my part, I’m going to attempt to explain my process–or how I arrive at the conceptual design idea.   I actually cultivate a  lack of continuity in my initial thoughts because that scatter-shot method serves my creative purpose–ideas flow fast and freely…so here goes.

Even with pictures and descriptions, I have to walk a property–to experience it in three dimensions to be able to understand its nuances and its land speak.  What I found at Amy’s  (abcddesigns) country house was a property in need of cohesion.  The clean sophisticated simplicity of  the architecture and materials of the existing home and the out buildings needed an overall concept to tie them together visually and functionally.

The entry courtyard

Each structure was beautiful unto itself, but none really related to another by anything other than proximity.  There was no real arrival experience.

Path to the front door

In the back there had been some attempt to place these structures in logical places, but what the property lacked was flow.  Each space seemed separate–they needed the landscape to unify them.

The main house and 4 of 5 outbuildings

The first step in my process, after finding out the homeowner’s dreams for their property  is to plot everything–measurements are taken and located on a drawing to scale.  Below you’ll see is my notes scribbled on a copy of that basemap. I don’t do ‘bubble diagrams’ because I am visualizing the space as I make notes.  This works for me and doesn’t lock me into an idea.  My notes address client requests, ideas of  my own and whatever else seems appropriate in the flow of the creative process.  I work quickly–changing and editing as I go along letting some ideas become more fully realized and letting others fall away.

Ideas and notes

On the property there is already a mashup of  materials in play.   When I visited in the fall, Amy had already replaced the turf in front of the barn with a bluestone courtyard.  There were granite slab steps, bluestone walks, wood fences and stone walls.   I chose bluestone as the unifying material.  It’s plentiful locally and classic.

Wood, gravel. bluestone and granite

One of the things that interests me most about landscape design is how to get people from one point to another and how they will interact with each other as well the three dimensional space.  Sometimes plants form that underlying structure, some times its paths and hard surfaces.

The Conceptual Plan

Amy’s style is eclectic yet contemporary.  To create a unified design that complemented the architecture and without moving any of the major features, I developed a geometric scheme based on the existing relationships.   On her wish list was a patio by the screen porch and an herb garden.  On her husband’s was a spa and a lap pool.  They are not avid gardeners and do not want to be.

By searching for relationships between the existing outbuildings and creating new ones with paths and patios, I have been able to unify the space and create logical transitions between each area.  This is drawing would be the first of many revisions in the design process.  There are no real details in this plan.  It’s simply starting point.

For the rest of the Roundtable designer’s ideas for the same project, visit the links below

Carolyn Gail Choi : Sweet Home and Garden Chicago : Chicago, IL

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Ivette Soler, Los Angeles, CA

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

In my Reader…Inspire Me Now

This is one for anyone with a short attention span.  Inspire Me Now is a blitz of  inspiration images and ideas curated by Szymon Blaszczyk, a specialist in user experience design.  The blog consists solely of provocative images  that demand a minute’s worth of thought.  Perfect for the busy, busy new year ahead!

Here are some recent and not so recent entries–as always, click the image to be taken to the post.



Roof domain?


Public service…

Monday 45 | A Year of Mondays

It was bound to happen.  A new member of a carefully adamantly warned lawn and clean-up crew went nuts with his string trimmer.  I didn’t catch him totally on time.  I abhor string trimmers and gas powered garden tools in general.  I really dislike when my instructions aren’t followed.  I like the mess.  I don’t want my gardens to look like a nuclear winter in winter.  DAMN.  At least I didn’t take it out on the foreman who apologized and reconfirmed that I didn’t want anything cut back–I can do that myself thank you very much.

No. 45

Monday 39 | A Year of Mondays

Today it really feels like winter is settling in.  The wind is blowing, the last of the leaves swirling in the air and the sky above is grey.

No. 39

Color is more subtle now.  It will be another month before  it has reaches the high contrast of  midwinter.  Even though they are elegant in their neutrality, somehow the subtle tans and browns seem drab after the show of high summer and the blazing display of fall foliage.  Its another signal of change–one I would not notice if I wasn’t in the garden.

In my Reader…The Sketchbook Project

I am going to participate in The Sketchbook Project. Artists from around the world all interpret the same small sketchbook.  Anyone can participate.  For $25 you are sent a small Moleskin sketchbook to fill according to a theme you choose and return it by the deadline. All are then cataloged and become part of a traveling exhibit.  The idea is too cool for me not to participate in.  I’ve been thinking about working on a non-garden related sketchbook and looking for a reason to start it…kismet!

On the website they show examples of previous sketchbooks.  Here are my two favorites.


On the job…a garden renovation project

I have been working on a garden renovation with a wonderful client who lives part-time in London and part-time here for the past year.  Her home here was finished more than 12 years ago and the gardens laid out, but never planted.  What was planted didn’t survive the herd of deer that lives in her woods.

There are some quirky aspects to the mostly formal layout of the front courtyard scheme that I had to solve.  I knew from the beginning of the project that I wanted to use a mix of plants–some formal and others very informal.  New bedlines were created that would tie the adjacent areas together as a cohesive whole.

The Conceptual Plan

I wanted to use some native plants within the overall very simple and rigid structure.  A deer resistant plant palette for a home that is uninhabited for much of the year is a challenge–these plants have to be tried and true.  My client is very traditional and her British partner is an avid gardener so they had definate ideas about what they wanted.  The established (and poorly pruned) boxwood against the front of the house had to stay.  We will prune them properly and take about 6″ off their height. Others, as you’ll see, were removed.

The  progress photos from the first day of laying out the gardens are below.

These boxwoods had to go.  They were just too big for the space.  A low hedge of ‘Suffruticosa’ will replace them and will be pruned to ‘extend’ the  lower wall made by the brick cheekwall that borders the lower steps.


The new entry will be formal.  The Dwarf Alberta Spruce (reliably deer resistant) will be in a sea of Hypericum calycinum that will create a transition into larger and more complex and informal plantings on either side whose central feature are the two large  Amelanchier lamarckii in the second photo below.  The large boxwood have already met their demise.

Formal entry for a formal home

The Amelanchier will put on a show in June that will stop traffic coming up the long driveway.

Front entry from driveway side

This phase of the project also includes a white garden and an enclosed courtyard.  Those are going to be laid out tomorrow morning.  I’ll post again when these a finished.

Monday 34 | A Year of Mondays

I’ve been out of town for more than a week.  I skipped last week since, obviously, I was elsewhere.  I was in other people’s gardens in fact.  Having observed one of my own so closely for more than half the year has taught me to be decisive and critical in my viewing.  As a designer, I need more than pure observation.  I need to gauge the mood of a place, its nuances.  What looks right to me?  What looks forced?  What simply is–like rain held in the concave leaves of a young Cotinus.

No. 34

Monday 30 | A Year of Mondays

The days are getting shorter.  I’m going out into the garden later in the morning now.  The long season of decline has started, once accepted  all things become possible again.  In my garden I can say with ease, ‘I’ve made my mistakes and it’s time to accept them and move on.’

No. 30

If only the other areas of my life were so simple.

Monday 27 | A Year of Mondays

I never really know what I’m going to write about on these Mondays.  I always have the garden image first and then backtrack.  I wonder, why did that particular aspect of the garden attract me?  I try to be honest in my choice – both from an aesthetic viewpoint as well as being true to the discovery aspects of the project.

Now for the discovery part.  I’ve been foggy.  My brain full of cobwebs.  Mid-summer heat brings me a  lack of focus that lifts with the cooler weather.  So…on this foggy morning these spiderwebs were the moment.

No. 27

Monday 26 | A Year of Mondays

Finally a cool summer morning after weeks of oppressive heat and humidity.  The slowest painter in the world should be finished this week and the most damage will be done to the garden–he left the foundation for last.  I am at the 1/2 way mark and I’m still not sure what this exercise is about.

Six months of images.  Six months of Mondays.  Six months of commitment. Unexpected forks in a path that I thought would be somewhat straight forward.  The close observation makes me want to tear it all out and start over.  The last 26 weeks (actually only 24 since one didn’t have a photo and the other was a photo taken in Buffalo).  I am giving up control here too since I’d rather have even rows of three and the last only has two…maybe that’s the lesson.

Fieldtrip: James Rose Center

Last Saturday morning I headed north to Ridgewood, NJ to help with the annual spring clean up at the quirky and impossibly creative James Rose Center.

The Guest House

This modernist bastion of free thinking and improvisation is located in a community of entitled suburbanites surrounded by traditional homes and manicured yards.  It is, as you would suspect, an anomaly.

A covered section of the roof garden

Rose, mad genius that he was, experimented with so many convergent ideas here that it is impossible to convey them all through photographs in a blog…one visit would not even be enough to absorb them all.

One view of the roof deck
Turn around and this is the view of the roof deck

Rose built the home/studio/garden in 1953 and lived there for almost 40 years until his death in 1991.  As I understand it, the building and surrounding garden were in a constant state of experimental flux for almost all of that time.

Light and shadow

Its still evolving history makes it  a vital emblem of  a changing world from a fertile and busy mind who fundamentally understood that change was constant and necessary.

A tree is given room to grow between exterior rafters
The same tree reveals itself again in the second story

Combinations of materials high and low, new and recycled, permanent and temporary are freely juxtaposed throughout the building and garden.

Stairway to the roof

In Rose’s own words– “to reveal what is always there is the trick. The metamorphosis is seen minute by minute, season by season, year by year. Through this looking glass, ‘finish’ is another word for death.”

View out from in

Over 60 years ago Rose wrote the closest definition I have ever found of a garden.

Man and nature, nature and man

From his 1958 book Creative Gardens— “A garden is an experience…If it were possible to distill the essence of a garden, I think it would be the sense of being within something while still out of doors.  That is the substance of it: for until you have that, you do not have a garden at all.”

Fence detail

To  visit the James Rose Center is to experience a garden where then is now, now is then, the inside is out, the outside is in and the top is bottom and the bottom is the top.  It is also an opportunity to take a glimpse into the mind of one of American landscape architecture’s most original thinkers.

The Drawing Board

I miss hand drawing.  If I didn’t feel like I had to keep up and work faster (and I’m pretty quick with a pencil), I would go back.  But that’s not the case for at least three months a year in the spring when I’m at my virtual ‘drawing board’ for many hours each day creating landscape design plans for clients.  During this time, time is truly money.  It’s when a large percentage of my projects are conceptualized, drawn and sent out into the world to become reality.  I know that many people, some of my designer friends among them, still prefer to ‘think’ with a pencil.  I do too, often sketching conceptual ideas for details and preliminary plan layouts on paper with a proper pencil,  but with computer drafting programs I can change my mind, import collaborator’s drawings and never have to redraw an entire section of  drawing over and over and over again.  If I need it–I just click and paste.  It is a time saver, but I still miss hand drawing.

If I didn’t have to collaborate and work with architects, engineers and interior designers, I would still be working by hand.  It bothers me somehow that something so tactile, rhythmic and intuitive as drawing has been flung aside in favor of yet a another thing I compute.  I miss hand drawing.


In a previous professional life, I spent many hours  forecasting  fashion trends.  For me, this is still an integral part of what I do as a designer.  This week I’ve been asked to submit my ideas for 2010 landscape design trends for use in various ways (more on that at a later date).   Trendspotting might seem paradoxical to gardening–with its self image of dirty wellies and hands in the soil, but it’s not.

An accurate and viable trend forecast is not something you just pull out of your hat.  Forecasting is research based and takes knowledge and just more than a little bit of intuition.  A wide variety of influential sources are used to make trend predictions:  business and consumer trends, pop culture, lifestyle trends, what’s happening in other design disciplines, books people are reading, movies they are watching,  etc., etc., etc.

The example below is not a trend prediction, but these photos collected over the last year in my ‘idea’ file point in a direction that shows the trajectory of a possibly emerging trend for garden furniture and accessories.  The illustrations show one small idea in what could become part of a larger trend of looking to nature to inspire garden accessories and furniture.

A bird's nest

The next photo is known as ‘The Bird’s Nest’ and was not necessarily inspired by a real nest but it is its visual cousin and was seen by billions of people as part of the 2008 Olympics.  Hmmm.  Architecture and sports influencing garden trends?

Bejing Olympic Stadium

The DeCastelli chairs, ‘bird’s nest’ fence at Terrain and a firebowl from Anna Columbo all support this trend idea.

DeCastelli Chairs
Fence at Terrain
Core ten fire bowl

And lastly, the photo below is on the back cover of the current issue of Garden Design–note the name of the furniture- New Bird’s Nest…

Often emerging trends are alien looking.   We’re not ready for that yet.   Think about all of the times you have seen someone wearing something and you think to yourself ‘I would never…’ and then a year later you’re buying it as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.  That happened because the arc of the trend (sometimes years long) reached your market.

Below is a well researched trend report on broad garden trends for 2010 from The Garden Media Group.  Take a look and use your own powers of observation to connect the garden trend dots.

Wet path in January

Monday 1 | A Year of Mondays Project

I have to put aside my gardener’s eye  to see beyond the tasks yet to be done.  I also have to keep in mind that this is going to end up being about the sum of all the parts as well as each individual image.  This morning was cold, wet and slippery on the narrow path through the garden.

Wet path in January
Monday 1

A description of my year long project is here.

A Year of Mondays

The power of a single view and a creative meditation on that view isn’t new, but that idea has been tossing around in my head for months.   I thought I wanted to explore gardens and the possibility of  design influence using  Ando Hiroshige’s 100 views of Edo.  Several of  my favorites are included here.

View 57
View 57

I have long known that gardening intensifies the power of observation–just as learning how to draw does.  So what could a sustained observation and the recording of one finite area yield creatively?   If I just observed what’s right outside my window–a place that I have gardened in for more than 10 years–what would I learn?

View 75
View 75

For me, it’s an intriguing idea, that a small garden area that I believe I know intimately still has something more to teach me–not so much about gardening, but about creativity and how to see.


So next Monday and every Monday for the next year after that that I am able (I do travel a bit)  I will record and post an observation (view) of  my side garden which is much less expansive or exotic than Edo–or is it?

View 10
View 10

My garden is only 11 feet wide  an approximately 45 feet long–and it is my favorite and often most neglected of my outdoor spaces.  It is south facing and is bordered by my house on one side and my neighbor’s unruly and unkempt yard on the other.  At each narrow end is a vaguely Moorish iron arbor–both left over from a flower show garden and there is a central path of slate recycled from a neighbor.  It is, as all of  my gardens seem to be, a hodge podge of  leftovers and survivors.

View 47
View 47

I realize that this might be extremely uninteresting to anyone else, but the posting of the observations will insure that I follow through for a year and that I don’t get distracted by the next shiny thing as is often the case.  Since this is the 21st century, I will include some images made by looking through a screen, but the observations will also include words and drawings or maybe even something else I haven’t even thought about yet–I really want to see where this leads me creatively so my only rules are those that I’ve stated–and I’m open to those morphing into something else and taking me down a new path–in fact, I hope they will.