Jardin Majorelle

Garden Visit: Jardin Majorelle

I first read about Jardin Majorelle in Marrakesh, Morocco in the early 1980s in a fashion magazine story about Yves St. Laurent.

Jardin Majorelle

YSL and his partner Pierre Berge had bought the property, saved it from demolition, and set about restoring it. From the first brilliant blue photo I saw, I knew I wanted to stand in and experience this garden, not just look at it in pictures.

Noon shadows Jardin Majorelle

Originally designed and built in the 1920s by artist Jacques Majorelle who painted its walls blue and its details brilliant shades of yellow, green, orange and red off set by chalky tones of turquoise and green.

Shade house Jardin Majorelle

He collected plants in his travels and opened his garden to the public.  By the end of his life, however, he had to sell it and it deteriorated to the point that it was going to be leveled for a new Marrakesh hotel.

fountain and garden Jardin Majorelle

For me, Majorelle is about the interplay of color, water and light. It is less about its collection of 300 plants.  Their grey Mediterranean tones are counterpoints for bursts of bold, sun kissed color.

Jardin Majorelle Marrakesh

St. Laurent was born and raised in North Africa. He didn’t move to Paris until he was 18.  The light, color and texture of this place was as much a part of who he was as the rarefied world of the couture in Paris.  He often lived and worked at here until his death in 2008.  There is a simple memorial dedicated to his memory.

YSL memorial Majorelle

Having been warned, I went very early, before the tour buses arrived, and the garden got crowded.  I stayed for several hours watching the light and shadows.  I was transported by Majorelle’s joyful interplay of art, gardens, and fashion. Go if you can.

Pergola Jardin Majorelle Colored pots and reflecting pool Jardin Majorelle Jardin Majorelle


Wear Your Veggies! Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2012

Rarely does an example of trends trickling up from gardens and landscapes include vegetable gardens!   Florals prints and patterns are common each spring– but veggies?  Timely and current with the uptick in vegetable gardening, Dolce and Gabbana’s Spring 2012 collection does just that.  Eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, onions and zucchini are bold faced prints on fun and pretty feminine clothes with a retro mid-century vibe.  Wear what you grow! Have fun! Mangia!

Photo credits:  All fashion photos via Style.com

Designer Annette Von Einem’s Floral Fashion

More consistently than any other I have seen, Danish floral designer Annette Von Einem blurs the lines between flowers and fashion.  In competition and on the runway, Von Einem has a flair for the wearable.

Given the rise in popularity of ‘fascinators’ seen on Britian’s royals, I thought the small hats below were right on target. They were shown on the runway during Copenhagen Fashion Week as part of designer Nina Robenhagen‘s Spring-Summer 2012 and collection and combine scale, color and interesting plant combinations as skillfully as any garden with the wear-ability of great millinery.

Fashion in the Garden…Plaid!

The fashionista in me goes into full swing in late August.  The big fall magazines are released and I’m all in.  My work as a co-founder of Leaf magazine has made this annual ritual of mine have broader meaning, but that doesn’t mean I don’t focus on what I think is fun either.  So without delay, one of the single biggest trends for fall is Plaid…the resurgence of Red is a secondary story.  Most of the time they play well together.

Here’s how I interpret them from a garden-y perspective…

In the beginning there was the big outdoors where plaid has always been a player…

Flyfishing from a vintage issue of Life Magazine

Then there was the plaid we took to school that could easily go out in to the garden today.  Remember the ubiquitous plaid thermos?

Plaid lunch box

Now things have been slightly updated. The fall cover of Wool People magazine.

Cover of Wool People Magazine

But plaid is still plaid and can work while we work in the garden.  Pruners and plaid can play together…

Woolrich Acorn Hill Vest
Vintage Plaid Shirts from Urban Outfitters
Plaid Welllies

And just in case you have to pick up a call…

Plaid iPhone case from Abercrombie

And if you’re like me…you need your glasses to see who’s calling…

Vintage plaid eyeglass frames

So put on some plaid and head out into the cool morning and enjoy the coming fall!

In my Reader…Nowness

Just reading this uber-chic blog makes me feel cool.  Impossibly hip, Nowness is the daily blog from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.  Well written and beautifully documented, its exclusive content comes from a wide range of contributors and is definitely luxury based.  Covering fashion, food, art, film, music, design, travel and sport it is surprising in it depth. Nowness aims to be an interactive hub for all things luxury NOW.  It’s totally unlike any other blog I’ve ever read and that’s hard to do since I read a lot of them–the images alone are worth a look.

All of the images below have are from Nowness in the past month.  How’s that for being current?

Sophisticated color outdoors
Winter Polo in St. Moritz
Fairy Tale Illustration by fashion designer Christian LaCroix

Tents and sky

The makings of mescal

A Chanel Inspired Garden

Rochelle from StudioG and I are having a garden inspiration throw down.  She frequently uses fashion as a muse for garden inspiration.  I am a hardcore fan of fashion, so when she posted a Hippie fashion inspired post, I challenged her to this one based in Chanel…she accepted.  It’s been a lot of fun putting this together.

Chanel, both the woman and the fashion house, have long intrigued me.  I knew I was on to something when I saw the garden inspired runway from the Spring 2011 Couture Collection shown last fall in Paris.

2011 Chanel couture collection via the New York Times

It’s ironic that Mlle. Chanel, who was a proponent of all things modern has become such an icon of classicism.  Karl Lagerfeld who has been Chanel’s designer since the 80’s has continually reinvented the look while staying within the Chanel design lexicon.   Even the logo looks would make a fabulous basis for a the oh-so-French clipped parterre.

Imagine the interlocking C's as boxwood...

There are specific motifs that have become to signify Chanel style.  I’m going to use five of  those here as inspiration for a garden.

Camellias are an easy place to start…worn first by the mademoiselle and later used as fashion details in a variety of ways.  Last summer I lusted over these flip-flops.

Chanel camellia flip flops

An easy segue…

White camelia

Chanel was influenced by the tweeds and checks found in British country clothes.  She reinterpreted the material using it in what is now considered the quintessential Chanel suit.

Tweeds interpreted by Chanel

Chanel tweeds and checks for the garden…

Dedon's Slim Line Outdoor Chair

Costume jewelry, particularly pearls and chains are another Chanel signature motif…

From the 2006 Spring collection--chains!

And in the garden…

Chanel for a rainy day in the garden...rainchains!

The quilted bag…these have come in every possible style and color…

The classic quilted bag

These ‘quilted’ cabinets would be perfect for an outdoor kitchen…

Quilted Cabinets - Perfect for an outdoor kitchen

And because it is so essentially French…I would design a boules court in my garden just so I could have a set of these.  I would invite over a group of friends, pour some excellent wine and have a party n’est pas?

Petanque (Boules) by Chanel

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.

In My Reader…The Style Saloniste

In my reader this week is The Style Saloniste by well known interior design and architecture author Diane Dorrans Saeks.  As you’ve probably figured out by now, I read a wide range of things.  This week is all about passion.  Passion for ideas.  Passion for design.  Passion for a life well lived on many levels.  My choice this week may seem from a landscape and garden designer–but it’s really not.    Saeks is a well respected author of more than 20 eclectic design books  as well a contributing editor to several magazines, her blog is  a beautiful, sumptuous feast of images and high style journalism.  There are long and in-depth pieces on personalities and places that influence lifestyle and design.  It is a as good a read as the Sunday newspaper…and demands the same amount of time!

Here’s a look at The Style Saloniste.   Click each image to link back to the original post.

If I had chickens this is what I’d look like…

From a piece on The Duchess of Devonshire

If I was twenty and in Paris, this is how I’d feel…

Suzy Parker in Paris by Richard Avedon

If I needed to escape for a bit, I’d go here…

Amangiri Resort in Arizona

If I was in San Francisco, I’d shop here…

Shopping in San Francisco

If I went to India (and who doesn’t want to go) I’d stay here…even for a night.

In my Reader…at the newsstand

It’s the end of August.  I have a reading tradition that goes all the way back to ancient personal history in fact.  When I was 10 my father brought me home a copy of Harpers Bazaar from his job.  Before that, my only magazine reading experience was National Geographic.   Since that time I have been a voracious reader of fashion magazines.  All design in my way of thinking is intertwined–have you heard of the slow fashion movement for example?   The same ideas that are happening in slow food are spilling over into other disciplines so as a self avowed inspiration junkie, I look outside myself and my discipline.

In August, the big September issues are published–pages and pages of articles on travel, culture, books and of course fashion.  Sure it’s not realistic for most of us, but in the dog days of summer with the fall fast approaching it’s nice to do a little dreaming. So here’s what I’m reading this week…

The BIG Bazaar
The BIG Vogue

And no, I won’t be wearing 5″ stillettos anytime now or in the future.  And if you want to watch a great and thoroughly entertaining documentary, try The September Issue.

Garden Glamour Puss

Yesterday images of two famous gardeners in their gardens came across my desk.  Both were remarkable in their unreality as well as their singular understanding of the importance of image.

The first image, from the blog How to be a Retronaut shows the Duke of Windsor in his sartorial gardening best in his gardens outside of Paris circa 1956.  These made me want to go out and buy some tweeds and wellies.  Perhaps these?

Waterproof boots from Dubarry (not in the budget)

Or one of these from Ralph Lauren’s 2010 Fall collection? (via style.com)…I’ll have to interpret that from the local vintage shop with a big belt already in my closet.

Ralph Lauren Tweed Jacket

The fashionista in me has to believe that there is a way to marry a genuine love of  fashion with the practical.  How to say ‘I’m a designer’ and also say ‘I’m a gardener’ within the boundaries of fashion?  I can’t believe the two are mutually exclusive.

The second image was of Michelle Obama in her White House veggie garden via the Huffington Post.  This is probably closer to reality and I can throw the tweed over it.

First Lady in the Garden

I wonder if those awfully clean jeans and brand spanking new Chuck Taylors ever got dirty…

Garden Design Lessons from Vogue?

In the September issue of Vogue, beyond the luscious, fantasy filled fashion photos,  an article about the business of fashion design piqued my interest.  Entitled  ‘What Price Fashion?’, it points in a direction that is also useful for garden and landscape designers–yet I haven’t seen anyone in the traditional garden press writing about it. In the garden glossies there is a bubble of fair economic weather surrounding flowers that bloom in impossible perfection in gardens that cost more than most people make in a year–much like what is pictured in fashion magazines.

Illustration by Alex Holt-Cohan
Illustration by Alex Holt-Cohan

The article’s author, Teri Agins, describes a revised design business philosophy surfacing among fashion designers.  Even before the current recession drove shoppers away from buying anything but the essential, the author asserts that ‘…overpriced fashion no longer made any sense. Amid a declining demand for clothes and accessories, the biggest challenge for fashion houses is to better justify why things cost what they do.’ Don’t we as landscape designers have the same challenge?  In the good old days, before the recession hit, we could often propose  big ticket gardens for our clients  based solely on their own need to possess the glamorous garden  images they had seen in magazines and coffee table books.

With signs of  an emerging economic upswing, the New York Times reported this week that even the super rich aren’t getting richer for the first time in thirty years.    These are the clients for luxury products like designer dresses and designer gardens and they will, in the future, spend less–although less, in the upper income brackets is relative.  Some fashion designers are providing ‘more’ for less by reinventing old business models, finding creative ways to provide interesting and novel details not found in more expensive clothes, and keeping close track of what their customers want–without sacrificing quality and growing their businesses at the same time.  Can’t we as landscape designers benefit from the same thinking?

Consumers are questioning the inherent value in what they are buying from well known designers in all disciplines.  Of course I know that custom built gardens aren’t the same as couture, but how many of us are still lamenting the loss of  ‘the good old days’ without exploring new and real ways of upping the value of our work? Not perceived value…real value. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know–gardens enhance people’s lives in so many tangible ways and clothing doesn’t…STOP!!!  Great, thoughtful and innovative design offered at a fair price enhances people’s lives no matter what the product.

Right now, there is an opportunity to change direction that doesn’t come along often.  I think it’s time for landscape designers (myself included) and garden designers to look for new ways to give their customers more for less without sacrificing sound garden practices or bleeding their bottom lines.   Offering the same isn’t working for many now and isn’t likely to work in the future.

Read the article in the September issue of Vogue,  it’s on page 394. Oh, and tell me what you think, I’d love to hear your comments on this one for sure!


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 Vanderbilt.edu
White wicker

The White Garden at Sissinghurst
photo via Meade/flickr.com

Gardens & Couture..Kindred Spirits?

This week’s couture shows in Paris reminded me how much I love fashion. Specifically, I have long been an admirer of the creative tour de force that is the Paris haute couture. Experimental, hand made by highly skilled artisans, and fitted specifically to each client, these one-off creations are not dissimilar to fine garden design.

Like custom-made Parisian garments, a well designed landscape is created specifically for one client, space and time. A haute couture garment is made from the best materials available in the world and is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. With the same underlying philosophy, a well designed and constructed garden depends on what the onlooker can’t see -thoughtful use of the highest quality plants and materials, healthy soil, and skilled planting and hand crafted construction.

Each made-to-order couture garment is fitted specifically to its owner just as a custom garden is designed in response to specific site conditions and is unique to that piece of land and its owner.

With the right client, as with those who buy couture, a designed garden is celebrated for its intrinsic seasonal beauty, creative use of materials and artisinal craftsmanship.

Since it is the middle of winter and the couture has just shown in Paris, these images celebrate the couture’s creativity and craftsmanship–hopefully couture designers’ unyielding dedication to quality and craftsmanship will inspire new gardens for spring!