Garden Designers Roundtable: Design on the Diagonal

Anyone who has tried to learn the art of garden and landscape design has had the unifying principles of rhythm, and repetition branded in their brains along with texture, form and color.  I always found this to be confusing and way too much to think about in the fluid process that is my creative workflow.

What is less discussed and a too often missed is a simple tool I call ‘Love the Diagonal.’ My landscape design students get this drilled into their brains before any of the others because it can unify a design and create an emotive design experience without any of the others. The rule is simple: Use the other principles, but place the same or similar elements (plants especially) diagonally through a design.

Simple diagonal repitition Garden Designers Roundtable: Design on the Diagonal

It may seem counter intuitive, the geometry, that is, but in the design process, the act of placing and layering elements in diagonal sequences can lead to a complex solution that is both fluid and natural. Several examples below illustrate this process.

Diagonal repeition feature plants Garden Designers Roundtable: Design on the Diagonal

These elements will be visual guideposts as well as unifying features.  It really doesn’t matter what they are.

diagonal textural plant repetition Garden Designers Roundtable: Design on the Diagonal

Always imagine a human experience.  What will the eye see and how will the senses work in concert with the act of moving through a space?  How can sight beckon and be the first  of the garden’s experiential moments beyond a ‘Wow’?  Not a singular focal point, but a siren’s song of visual clues.  Changes in color and plant choices can be made without even knowing what they will be until the very end.  It’s then easy to go back and edit, identify, and apply the other design principles to the planting design.

multiple design layers diagonals Garden Designers Roundtable: Design on the Diagonal

 

Diagonal design in practice is an opportunity to create visual experiences while moving through a garden or landscape.  Gardens and landscapes, after all are about human experience.  Geranium x Rozanne repeated diagonally on the path in the example below forms visual guideposts to the patio beyond.  Color repetition between the yellow Hemerocallis spp. and the Rudebeckia spp. across the path lift the garden experience upward.  The fine textural and color repetition of the burgundy Berberis and Acer disectum pull that visual experience through the space to it’s conclusion.

simple and complex use of the diagonal Garden Designers Roundtable: Design on the DiagonalOnce mastered, every planting scheme will look good.  Try the diagonal, next time you’re planning a design and ignore the rule of odd numbers too…

To learn more about design principles today, visit other landscape designer’s posts from the Garden Designer’s Roundtable series.

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO
David Cristiani : It’s A Dry Heat : Albuquerque, NM
Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

 

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Garden Color Inspiration: Violet, Plum, and Aubergine

I’ve been collecting images for this post for a while.  I wrote about pink a while ago and people either loved it or hated it.  There’s been quite a bit of chatter about what’s going to be the color of the year this year, and there are rumblings of pink or purple being the front runners.  Shades of purple and violet can be arresting in a garden. Unlike the pink post, this one includes plants.

purple container plants Garden Color Inspiration:  Violet, Plum, and AubergineFall container planting in shades of violet designed by Bruce Bailey from Heavy Petal Nursery.

32e5509b1a8dfddb00577c4ab74f1607 Garden Color Inspiration:  Violet, Plum, and Aubergine

image via Marie Claire

An aubergine stucco wall makes a dramatic backdrop for both brown and green.  This deep red-violet is probably the most restful of the purple family.

gate Garden Color Inspiration:  Violet, Plum, and Aubergine

image via Floradora

Although I’m not a fan of dyed mulch, this violet and pink path makes a bold statement, especially combined with apricots and oranges.  Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to this color family this time of year.  Violet, plum, aubergine and just about any shade of purple is a fantastic counterpoint to the oranges and yellows of fall foliage.  They are complimentary on the color wheel so they can also be quite garish.

purple knot garden Garden Color Inspiration:  Violet, Plum, and Aubergine

image via Pinterest via John Glover

An analogous color story of violet and red-violet spins the traditional knot garden idea into something completely different.  Violet, plum, aubergine or just plain old purple can be serene or quite nutty depending on the circumstance it’s used in.  Below are three examples.  The first is transitional and calming, the second contemporary and frenetic, the third eclectic and welcoming.  Whichever, it’s a bold color choice, not for everyone, but in the right place…well all things have a place, don’t they?

RX DK GDN04604 bright white s3x4 lg Garden Color Inspiration:  Violet, Plum, and Aubergine

image via HGTV

RX DK GDN18001 fusion garden s3x4 lg Garden Color Inspiration:  Violet, Plum, and Aubergine

image via HGTV

1963639116 Garden Color Inspiration:  Violet, Plum, and Aubergine

image via Marie Claire
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Colorful Willow Fencing

This going to be filed under Duh. Why didn’t I think of that?  I even have the makings for it in my own Chatham, NJ home garden.  Every spring I copice my redtwig dogwood and only sometimes use the twigs.  No longer.

Stick fence 819x1024 Colorful Willow Fencing

 A plain, yet traditional and beautiful twig fence can be a thing of drama and add a pop of color.  I’ve seen dozens in person and hundreds of images of these fences and took the one above for reference. But, duh! but I never thought of using color beyond the basic grey and brown.  This would be incredible in the winter landscape!

f97f7874015dc2463c027173707f303a Colorful Willow Fencing

 Image via Gary John/Flickr and Pinterest

Need some instructions to build one yourself?

 

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Planting Design: Planting for Fall Drama

I never tire of visiting other people’s gardens. Good or bad they always have something to teach me.  This past weekend I visited two.  One in New Jersey and the other across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania.  They both showcased ornamental grasses and their power to transform an autumn garden.

James Golden writes about his garden on a wonderful blog, View from Federal Twist.  He describes himself as a ‘new American’ style gardener.  What he is really is a an engaged and talented plantsman with an eye for design.  I previously visited and wrote about his Brooklyn garden for  Leaf  but leaped at the opportunity to spend a day talking gardens and design at his country garden.  It will be open for Garden Conservancy Open Days on October 19th if you want to see it in person.

James Golden Pond at Federal Twist Planting Design:  Planting for Fall Drama Miscanthus and Sanguisorba Planting Design:  Planting for Fall Drama Wave Hill chairs and grasses Planting Design:  Planting for Fall Drama

After lunch and shopping for some hairspray (see the tale at the end of this post) we visited Paxon Hill Farm.  The display gardens there were glorious and interesting and full of fall ideas for planting.  It would be worth it to couple a visit here with the Open Days tour.

Paxon Hill Farm pond New Hope PA Planting Design:  Planting for Fall Drama

 

Paxon Hill Farm Display Garden Planting Design:  Planting for Fall Drama

Hairspray?  I suggested that James use it to keep some of the seed heads in tact that he wants to keep for winter interest without having to worry about self seeding.  Not the average garden tool, but it should work very well.  My preference is for unscented Aqua Net. Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it.

 

 

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Garden Visit: Atlanta Botanical Garden

I’m in Atlanta for the inaugural Garden Bloggers Conference and I came two days early to explore.  Yesterday, visiting the Atlanta Botanical Garden with friends and fellow landscape designers Kathy and Tom Carmichael. we were beset by monsters!

Ogre Garden Visit:  Atlanta Botanical Garden

But seriously.  The garden’s blockbuster installation of creatures was produced by the same team, the International Mosaiculture of Montreal,  who have built fantastical creatures around the world since 1998.  There is another group of them on view until September 29th at the Montreal Botanic Garden.  These are huge.  Some are 20′ tall and made of thousands of plants.

Cobra Garden Visit:  Atlanta Botanical Garden

 

Unicorn Garden Visit:  Atlanta Botanical Garden

I suspect these creatures were the reason the garden was so crowded.  There were long lines at the ticket booth as well as streams of cars entering the garden all day long. This is a very good thing for a public garden.  Often they are quiet places with few visitors. My favorite creature was the Earth Goddess.  She was beautiful and built in a way that she appeared to spring forth from the surrounding woods and water.

Earth Godess Garden Visit:  Atlanta Botanical Garden

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Garden Travel: Atlanta Bound

I’m travelling to Atlanta over the weekend.  Early next week is the Garden Bloggers Conference, but I’m going early to visit some gardens and garden shops and visit with friends.  I’ve never been to Atlanta so I’m excited to see what’s happened since Gone with the Wind which along with NeNe Leake’s hair is the only lasting image I have of the city…

GoneVuur2 Garden Travel:  Atlanta Bound

I’m excited to see the botanical gardens as well as Garden*Hood and some shops I’ve picked out as well as the city in general.

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Planting Design: Ornamental Grass Hedges

It’s the season when ornamental grasses are doing their best to be the stars of the landscape.  The current trend of naturalistic and meadow-like plantings are perfect for ornamental grasses, but so are hedges.

In this garden, designed by Mien Ruys who considered to be the mother of the current naturalistic planting movement, a Miscanthus hedge sits next to one that is traditional, clipped and evergreen. The possibilities are evident.

Mien Ruys Planting Design:  Ornamental Grass Hedges

Many grasses can be planted as hedging both tall and short.  They can stand independently or be used as low edging. Below, two types of grasses, a Pennisetum and a Miscanthus, are used by Belgian design firm Archi-Verde as free-standing hedges.  It would be refreshing to use grasses as the ‘outline’ in a parterre instead of the traditional evergreen edging much in the same way the Victorians used annuals to create highly patterned effects.

 Planting Design:  Ornamental Grass Hedges

Grass hedges can add color or be designed to be a textural through-line in a garden much like any other linear element.  At his own property in New York state, photographer Larry Lederman, has created a bright yellow hedge of Hakonechloa macra ‘Aurea’.

 DSC 7lr Planting Design:  Ornamental Grass Hedges

Image via New York Social Diary

The best part about these hedges is that they need very, very little in the way of maintenance.  Cut them down once a year and divide them every few years.  A low maintenance hedge?  Now that’s something to consider.

 

 

 

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Garden Design Details: Letterforms and Words

Letters and words have been a long term design and decorating trend.  Think ‘Dream’ above a bed, or ‘Eat’ in the kitchen, or ‘Grow’  in gardens. What happens when letter forms and words step outside of those cliches and become something else? Not the kind of words that are carved into something, but words and letters that are freestanding graphic elements that are interesting on their own or have a deeper meaning.

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Image via Vintage Marquee Lights

There are so many possibilities that I’ve only begun to crack the surface and there’s not a single ‘grow’ or ‘I’m in the garden’ among them. These letters can be personal or just cool design elements. They can be vintage marquee lights or old bits of signage. They’re not hard to find.

growsgreen blue garden 2 Garden Design Details: Letterforms and Words

 Image via Gardenista

I’m going to Las Vegas in November for the first time (and probably the last) and have carved out time to visit the Neon Boneyard which has fascinated me for years. I’d love to use one of the ghosts of the past in a landscape design.

Stock5 650 Garden Design Details: Letterforms and Words

Image via Vegas Groom

Another way to use letterforms is for messages. Not the cliched ‘I’m in the Garden’ kind of thing, but something of substance and meaning. Below at the new garden at The Barnes Foundation designed by OLIN, the graphics are taken from Dr. Barnes’ notes on hanging his art collection.

Barnes signage2 Garden Design Details: Letterforms and Words

 Image courtesy of Pentagram

A simpler version of the same design concept can be an easy DIY project. These are formed with galvanized wire and pliers with loops for screws.  Not difficult at all.

Love+is+all+you+need... Garden Design Details: Letterforms and Words

image via April and May

 

 

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Garden Visit: Secret City Hideaway in Australia

I often find arresting images of gardens from Australia.  Many times they’re from Secret Gardens of Sydney.  The pure graphic quality of this interior courtyard is strong and fun and full of ideas-despite its diminutive size and simplicity.Secret Garden Sydney courtyard aerial view Garden Visit:  Secret City Hideaway in Australia

The strength of this design is in its firm editing.  Nothing is here that doesn’t add to the overall space.  Materials and color are limited, yet the courtyard has a playful feeling mostly due to the graphic wall that anchors it.  It’s not cold, it’s welcoming. This type of restraint is very hard to achieve in any garden where most would add rather than subtract.  It’s a good lesson.

Secret Garden Sydney courtyard design Garden Visit:  Secret City Hideaway in Australia Secret Garden Sydney courtyard detail Garden Visit:  Secret City Hideaway in Australia

 All images via Secret Gardens of Sydney

 

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Furnishing a New Patio

Too many landscape designers ignore an obvious service they can provide to their clients. Once the structural and planting work on a patio, deck, or even front entry has been completed they believe they’re done and leave furniture and accessory choices up to the homeowner or their interior designers.

I shop for and with my clients since until the project is totally completed, I’m the one with the vision for how the space will be used.  Why would I hand that off to someone else?

I’ll start an Ideabook and share it with a client to get the ideas flowing.  I source new and if appropriate, re-purposed materials.  Below is a large table and chairs I spotted for a client whose home has a distinct Nantucket vibe.  We will add custom cushions and some other accessories as well as stools for the bar area.  The furniture on the two other patio levels will coordinate, but won’t match giving it a ‘purchased over time’ feeling that many new spaces lack.

table and chairs cropped 1024x768 Furnishing a New Patio

fabric and wicker color Furnishing a New Patio

I’ve heard landscape designers say ‘I’m not interested in furniture’ and I wonder why? Why let plants, stone, and woodworking be the only design details?  An interior designer wouldn’t stop at the walls and floor, why do they?  Obviously it’s a profit center for a designer, but the client benefits by having the work done for them and having a useful, wonderful space as soon as its finished.

I include space planning for patios in my initial concept plans and will be teaching a course about it and furniture, fabric and accessory selection at NYBG in the spring (it’s not listed yet) complete with a field trip to the  furniture showrooms.  Too many people don’t make their outdoor spaces big enough to be really useful.  They don’t think about the ‘how’ and ‘why'; only the ‘what’.

FORREST FINAL PATIO LAYOUT PLAN L 1 1024x768 Furnishing a New Patio

A new book,  The Professional Designer’s Guide to Garden Furnishings, by fellow APLD landscape designer, Vanessa Gardner Nagel, aims to demystify the  process of selecting furniture, fabrics and accessories.  Nagel was an interior designer before turning her sights outside to the landscape, so she has a particular affinity for the subject. Her book covers stylistic information as well as materials selection and is comprehensive in scope.

vanessas book Furnishing a New Patio

The subject is treated in depth and is a great resource for seasoned pros and those new to the subject where there wasn’t one before. The Garden Furnishings Resources section relies on a product legend which I find to be cumbersome and I wish there was a loose leaf notebook version, a customizable source book, for practical, everyday use that could be updated at will or with updates from the publisher.  From the publishing side, that could be an additional revenue stream in packet updates from suppliers but that’s another story all together.  I also wish there had been a section for trade shows which I find to be among the most valuable and inspiring trips I take each year.  All in all though, it’s a good book in a product area that has exploded in terms of what’s available in the past five years.

 

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Garden Design Details: Stenciled Concrete

I’m working with a landscape design client who has a limited budget and a concrete patio that will be re-furbished.  Although she opted for paint and a fun outdoor rug, we discussed the option of stenciling an ornamental (read not stone or brick) pattern on the pad instead.

It’s not often that there’s a technique so transformative that it can be a  simple DIY project or an elaborate professionally done detail.  To start–a Before and After from Grace Reed a professional faux painter from Dallas.  Why not set the bar high?

Gracie Reed Porch Before Garden Design Details:  Stenciled Concrete

And after.

Stencils Modello Reed after Garden Design Details:  Stenciled Concrete

The same pattern was used by artist Ray Redondo as a detail.

1012052e0c5b8c645178be3ae38cc9be Garden Design Details:  Stenciled Concrete

These patterns can be complex or simple, rustic or sophisticated. Some ideas can be easily achieved.  The concrete has to be cleaned and prepped before any stenciling is done, otherwise it won’t last.  There is a great breakdown of the process on Concrete Network and there are YouTube tutorial videos there also.

Road and parking lot symbols are stenciled.  Here’s a take on a word stencil.  A simple hello..

modern entry Garden Design Details:  Stenciled Concrete

Simple and elegant organic floral motifs that peak out from the sides of a space…

transparent house concrete art floor 3 Garden Design Details:  Stenciled Concrete

…or take the same idea and create an allover pattern.  The one below is from Royal Design Studio.

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Get inspired by street art stencils and graphic patterns.  Banksy uses stencils.  Polish street artist Nespoon uses doilies as inspiration and stencils.

DSC 9408 1024x682 Garden Design Details:  Stenciled Concrete

A further interpretation of this idea is a single color stenciled rug.  The one below found on Pinterest and the one above are stenciled on top of concrete paving.

alphonsteravest1xw0 Garden Design Details:  Stenciled Concrete

Small medallions can be used to break up a solid block of color or again, used as an all over pattern.  This is probably the simplest of all the stenciling techniques.  The two below are from Design Sponge and the Los Angeles Times Blog.

 Garden Design Details:  Stenciled Concrete

 Garden Design Details:  Stenciled Concrete

I really wish that I’d had the opportunity to explore these first hand on a project, but I will with another client on another project!

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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.

 Garden Color Inspiration:  WhiteWe 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.

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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.

 Garden Color Inspiration:  White

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.

thestylefiles14 Garden Color Inspiration:  White

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!

 

 

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Garden Style: A Patio Bistro

The term bistro table has been co-oped in landscape design to mean any small table with two chairs. So I thought I’d go back to the source and play with the idea of using a classic French bistro as inspiration for an outdoor space. I’m not saying that I’ll actually do this, although I love some of the details.

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photo via Flickr

Let’s break it down. There are some key elements…

A blackboard. Menus are usually posted on some variation of these.

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Image via Cafes et Bistrots de France

There is exterior chalkboard paint. Frame out an area of a wall and use it for a garden to do list or party menu. Chalk boards don’t have to be just for kids outside.

41Wzf9HspiL Garden Style:  A Patio Bistro

Then add some cool rattan chairs. I love these chairs. Ever since I lived in France in my twenties they have been personal favorites. There are so many patterns, colors and styles available it’s hard to choose.

Parisian Bistro Chair Garden Style:  A Patio Bistro
Or maybe a bench. This could be a super interesting garden bench on its own. There are also highchairs for toddlers, bar stoools and side tables in this traditional rattan style.

 

tkcollection bistro bench Garden Style:  A Patio Bistro

Absolutely add some pots of geraniums and lace curtains. The curtains could be hung from a pergola or as a shade element of some kind instead of being in the window. I have a garage window that could use some of these actually.

6aae1900c80908a977bc5cdc5a1a2851 Garden Style:  A Patio Bistro

And then there’s the Bistro table. Typically these have cast iron bottoms with smallish easy to clean round tops.

bistro table Garden Style:  A Patio Bistro
I might personalize it with color…these are from TK Collections. Combine the blue base with the blue rattan chairs above for a strong color statement.tkcollections bistro table bases Garden Style:  A Patio BistroNow where’s that espresso and a pain au chocolate?

espresso cup Garden Style:  A Patio Bistro

 

 

 

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Planting Bambi’s Buffet

Twelve years ago I built a garden on what was a deer path in my narrow side yard.  Why? To experiment with plants primarily for deer resistance, but also to know and grow new plants for my landscape designs.  I don’t generally plant things for clients that I haven’t grown.  That means this garden as well as my others are in a constant state of upheaval and change.  The side yard gets almost totally replanted every three to five years; the others which are more public get things tucked in or dug up.

Side yard unplanted Planting Bambis Buffet

This is a replanting year for the side yard.  Many of the previous plant experiments have been removed.  Some of the structural plants or things that I’m attached to for whatever emotional tug they have on me remain.  The space was better designed and built out of entirely found materials when I started it (below), now it’s somewhat of a hodgepodge with a nod to design.

side yard with path 768x1024 Planting Bambis Buffet

The garden faces south and has hot sun in the middle of the day with shade on each end as well damp areas and those that are dry so it suits a wide range of situations.  The soil has been amended in the same way I would have a garden prepared anywhere–with rich organic matter and not much else.

Here are the 5 I’m most excited about from a much more extensive planting list.

Aesculus parvivlora var. serotina ‘Rogers’ – I’ve wanted to grow this for years.  It’s a tough sell to a client though since they usually look like they’re defective in containers in the nursery.  This is a plant for someone with patience…I have that!

Aesculus parviflora var 768x1024 Planting Bambis Buffet

Bouteloua gracillis ‘Blonde Ambition’ -I don’t have a good image from the plants I bought because it looks crappy in the container right now, but I have high hopes for this one.  I love it’s airy qualtiy and that’s hard to find in a small ornamental grass.  Here’s a link.

Helenium x ‘Ruby Tuesday’ – I’ve killed more Heleniums than I have previously admitted to, but I keep trying…

Helenium x Ruby Tuesday Planting Bambis Buffet

Hypericum x ‘Blue Velvet’ – much finer foliage than its cousins.  Grey blue too.  I’ve had great success with every Hypericum I’ve grown and use the groundcover Hypericum calycinum often.  It’s a fantastic and showy semi-evergreen groundcover for a south facing slope which in my mind is akin to planting Hell.

Hypericum Planting Bambis Buffet

Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ (also known as Stachys alpina ‘Hummelo’) – I’m finally getting around to a plant that everyone raves about–it’s not blooming right now but has very beautiful foliage.  We’ll see if it makes the appetizer tray in Bambi’s buffet!

Stachys monieri Hummelo foliage Planting Bambis Buffet

 So in a couple of seasons I’ll let you know what’s been eaten at this buffet since you’ll see them in future designs if they hold up.  In the meantime I’m going to try some in client’s gardens that have sturdy deer fences!

 

 

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Garden Design Blogs Raising the Bar

I have another trip planned for the end of September to another place I’ve never been–Atlanta.  I want to see some private gardens as well as the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the High Museum of Art and eat at some local restaurants I’ve wanted to try.  Those aren’t the only reasons I’m going though.

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image via Atlanta Botanical Gardens and Pinterest

I’ll also get to hear some amazing speakers and learn more about content sharing while I’m there.  For the past six months I’ve been a working member of the Advisory Board for the Garden Blogger’s Conference and have helped behind the scene to find and contact speakers, sponsors and define its content.

GBC 220x220 AttendingButtons Garden Design Blogs Raising the Bar

Why?  Because I believe that landscape and garden design bloggers need to up their games.  Landscape designers who blog are few and far between.  We need to play in the same arena as other design disciplines–interior design, architecture, graphic design and others.  To do that we need more beautiful and informative design blogs about what we do outside. There are very few great garden design blogs and tons of awful ones.  There I said it.

So since I am on the board and if this sounds interesting, take advantage of this discount on registration until August 30th.  Click here and use the code BDCN to get $100 off and meet up with me in Atlanta.

P.S.  I don’t get anything from the offer.  Just a chance to learn something new and useful from everyone who attends and speaks!

 
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Garden Shop: Detroit Garden Works

One of the great garden shops in the United States is in Detroit. Yes. that much maligned and blight filled city has an big upside. Part of that upside is Detroit Garden Works. I’ve wanted to visit for years, and had the chance when I was in Detroit with APLD last week.

Terra cotta and boxwood balls at Detroit Garden Works 764x1024 Garden Shop:  Detroit Garden Works

Carefully chosen new, vintage and antique products from all over the world are merchandised in a way that makes each one seem precious and necessary.

Interior Display at Detroit Garden Works 768x1024 Garden Shop:  Detroit Garden Works

Classic in its outlook, Detroit Garden Works is the brainchild of landscape designer Deborah Silver who originally started the shop eighteen years ago because she couldn’t source what she wanted locally. Map in hand, the store’s manager and buyer Rob Yedinak, drives through Europe annually to handpick new and vintage offerings.

Entry Gates and containers at Detroit Garden Works 1024x768 Garden Shop:  Detroit Garden Works

 There is a wide array of accessories and furniture to really suit any garden style even though the shop has a traditional feel. Terra cotta, steel, stone and concrete predominate and the shop is also local showcase for Branch Studios work.  There is a small area for plants, and there are espalier, planted containers, window boxes and boxwood throughout.

Furniture and Pots at Detroit Garden Works 768x1024 Garden Shop:  Detroit Garden WorksGarlic Topiary forms and Steel Planters at Detroit Garden Works 768x1024 Garden Shop:  Detroit Garden Works

With the onslaught of big box stores and garden centers with little imagination beyond piling on the plants and pots, shops like this one stand out.  Some will gripe about high prices, but you get what you pay for and if you value great design and beautifully made objects this shop is a must.

Steel fiddleheads Detroit Garden Works 768x1024 Garden Shop:  Detroit Garden Works

I bought something which is rare for me.  Handmade steel fiddleheads were totally affordable and a grouping of several in three different sizes of them are going in my new shade garden this fall.  They came beautifully packaged the day after I came home.  The high level of customer service and attention to detail isn’t lost on me either.

Heart Shaped Espalier Detroit Garden Works 768x1024 Garden Shop:  Detroit Garden WorksThis image pretty much sums up how much I liked the shop and it’s not the only reason to visit Detroit as you will see in future posts!

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LABELS: Antiques, Detroit, Gardens, Ironwork, Outdoor Furniture and Accessories, vintage 4 Comments

The Power of Showing Up

Seven years ago, I just showed up in Philadelphia one day.  I didn’t know anyone except the person I was with.  I walked into a room of 200 strangers and sat down.  By lunch time I had introduced myself to a handful of those strangers, all of whom did what I did, many of whom I admired.  I walked with them in the 100+ degree heat throughout Philadelphia chatting and visiting gardens.

APLD Member color white background 877x1024 The Power of Showing UpI asked questions, I listened, I visited gardens and I was welcomed in a way that few other groups of people had ever welcomed me. Philadelphia was my first Association of Professional Landscape Designers conference and  just by showing up I found kindred spirits who spoke my language, laughed at goofy work related jokes and actually listened to my opinions and found value in what I had to say.  All I did was show up.  I was asked at that first conference to help start a New Jersey State Chapter.

From that first experience I worked behind the scenes to help elevate my profession through the only group that represented landscape designers.  Not garden designers or landscape architects, they’re somewhat different, although some also call themselves landscape designers.  Two years later I submitted my (at the time) best built work for APLD’s peer review certification process.

APLD Certified color white background 877x1024 The Power of Showing UpBeing certified upped my game further.  Not only did the process validate my work, my clients all asked what the fancy new letters were after my name in my correspondence with them when I passed the muster.  It was also a way for me to personally and professionally elevate the profile of my profession.  I joined the national association’s Awards Committee. Another year later I was asked to serve as Membership Chair on the National Board of Directors.

In Philadelphia, I just wanted to see what it was like and to visit a few gardens.  I was curious.  I wanted a professional community. Now seven years later, crisscrossing the country, attending APLD’s annual landscape design conferences I have met and talked to hundreds of other designers…all of whom showed up too.

What I now know is how valuable this community is to me personally as well as our profession at large.  In 2014, I will be the President of APLD ushering in what I hope will be changes that will continue to elevate our profession and help it navigate the profound changes that will occur to the land we live and work on as well as how we define landscape design in the 21st century.  I never thought this would be the case–all I did was show up.

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LABELS: Gardens, Landscape Design, landscape designer, Philadelphia 3 Comments

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!

rosa pop Color: In the Pink

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

1 ideas relaxing outdoor living Calming poolside seating Color: In the Pink

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

marcel vertes shocking perfume schiaparelli 1 Color: In the Pink

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

1 ideas relaxing outdoor living Pink outdoor area Color: In the Pink

 Or it can make a big energetic and contemporary statement.

Garden with bright pink planters Color: In the Pink

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 Color: In the Pink

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

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LABELS: color, Gardens 1 Comment

Garden Inspiration: Tile Medalions

After a trip, sometimes I don’t see nuggets of ideas until I look at my images.  I chose the shots after all, so there is some vague through line.  So here goes.

When I was in Chicago two weeks ago (was it that long?) some friends and I visited the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens.  The landscape or what’s left of it, is very formal and was designed by Jens Jensen early in his career and didn’t really have his signature prairie style imprint.  What interested me more than that, if you view my images were two flooring patterns.  One inside the house on the second floor and the second on a small balcony off a bedroom.

Cuneo Second Floor Tile Pattern 768x1024 Garden Inspiration:  Tile Medalions

The second floor pattern in the house incorporated varying squares of granite, terra cotta and glazed squares.  It was worn and beautiful.

Cuneo Balcony Tiles 768x1024 Garden Inspiration:  Tile Medalions

A small balcony- in disrepair and shot through the locked screen door–off a guest room  incorporated the same patterned glazed squares and bluestone.  Getting closer to my outside design inspiration.

 A small central medallion or an entire pathway could be created using these tiles…but finding frostproof ones?  That didn’t happen until a few days later in Detroit when I visited Penwabic Pottery.  I bought two stoneware house numbers that are frostproof and meant for outside use to experiment with.

Pewabic House Numbers Garden Inspiration:  Tile Medalions

I’m going to make an address stepping stone or wall piece that combines those numbers with a previous and different trip’s inspiration – the inlayed street markers in New Orleans.  They fascinated me when I was there and have stuck with me in the inspiration memory banks.

New Orleans Street sidewalk number 768x1024 Garden Inspiration:  Tile Medalions

I’m not sure yet  if what I make will be brick (a sub for terra cotta) and bluestone or bluestone and granite–both will go with my early 20th century cottage. Somehow all of this inspiration adds up if I let myself be free enough to connect the dots.  I’m sure there will be a pathway or a medallion in a client’s future garden once I get the technique down in mine.

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LABELS: Antiques, Gardens, inspiration, paths, paving pattern, project 2 Comments

Garden Accessories: A Visit to Branch Studio

I’m still in Detroit and processing everything I’ve seen so far.  I was lucky enough to spend a few days with landscape designer Deborah Silver and her dog and human partners before the 2013 APLD Landscape Design conference started.  One of the highlights was a side trip to Branch Studio where Buck Moffat and his crew of metal workers bend, shape, stamp, laser cut, weld, rivet, galvanize and patina steel into a variety of  extraordinarily beautiful handmade containers and garden accessories–all dreamed up by Deborah. Branch Logo1 1024x995 Garden Accessories:  A Visit to Branch Studio finishing a fountain 1024x768 Garden Accessories:  A Visit to Branch Studio Attention to detail and the care given to each piece marks them as objects of beauty unto themselves.  That we can have them in gardens when there is so much of the opposite out there is in itself a luxury for a designer.  For someone who values fine craftsmanship and classic beauty,  the containers and and architectural features created at Branch are worth their price.

Planters 768x1024 Garden Accessories:  A Visit to Branch StudioPlanters on the workroom floor are above.  Below the same planters designed by Deborah and planted up in downtown Detroit.

Branch planters downtown Detroit 768x1024 Garden Accessories:  A Visit to Branch Studio

I started out my professional life as a metalworker so the melding of landscape and metal in this particular environment was fascinating for me.  It was the best of both worlds.

Planted box planter 768x1024 Garden Accessories:  A Visit to Branch Studio

four square Branch planters 768x1024 Garden Accessories:  A Visit to Branch Studio

Branch pergola 1024x768 Garden Accessories:  A Visit to Branch Studio

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LABELS: Gardens, landscape designer 2 Comments

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 768x1024 Garden Travel:  Planting Design and Architecture in Chicago

Lurie hedges and skyline 768x1024 Garden Travel:  Planting Design and Architecture in Chicago

lurie and art institute 768x1024 Garden Travel:  Planting Design and Architecture in ChicagoRoy 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.

Diblick plantings and Richardson arch 1024x768 Garden Travel:  Planting Design and Architecture in Chicago

arch detail and planitng Diblick garden 768x1024 Garden Travel:  Planting Design and Architecture in Chicago

diblick planting scheme 768x1024 Garden Travel:  Planting Design and Architecture in Chicago

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LABELS: American Architecture, Gardens, Landscape Design Leave a comment

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.

vintage poster chicago 683x1024 Garden Travel: Chicago and Detroit

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 poster Garden Travel: Chicago and Detroit

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.

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LABELS: Chicago, Detroit, Gardens 1 Comment

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.

Robert Allen Bungalow Garden Design Details: Dwell Studios new Bungalow fabric

 

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.

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LABELS: Gardens, Landscape Design, landscape designer, Outdoor Fabric, Outdoor Furniture and Accessories Leave a comment

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. Barnyard concept 1024x819 New Barn for an Old Farmhouse, Part 2The 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!

 

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LABELS: Creative Process, Design, Garden Design, Gardens, Landscape Design Leave a comment

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.

solebich.de summer heaven Garden 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.

 

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LABELS: Gardens Leave a comment

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.

Ariel view Garden Portrait: Appeltern, The Netherlands

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.

Festival Garden 1 1024x700 Garden Portrait: Appeltern, The Netherlands

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.

Gabion Consevatory Garden at Appeltern Garden Portrait: Appeltern, The Netherlands

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 garden Appletern Garden Portrait: Appeltern, The Netherlands

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 appletern Garden Portrait: Appeltern, The Netherlands

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

 

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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.

 

 

 

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LABELS: Gardens, native plants, Planting Design, plants Leave a comment

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.

Johnsons Glass House 1024x768 Field Trip:  The 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.

Brick house glass house and pool 1024x768 Field Trip:  The Glass House

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.

Phillip johnsons Lake Pavilion cropped 768x1024 Field Trip:  The Glass House

beck house back dallas cropped 768x1024 Field Trip:  The Glass 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.

Phillip Johnson Painting Gallery 768x1024 Field Trip:  The Glass House

 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.

Phillip Johnson Sculpture Gallery 768x1024 Field Trip:  The Glass House

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.

Phillip Johnson bridge to the galleries 768x1024 Field Trip:  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 Farm Wall The Glass House 1024x768 Field Trip:  The 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.
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LABELS: Connecticut, earthworks, Gardens Leave a comment

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.

Drystream and barn 768x1024 A Mid Century Birthday

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!

glasshouse A Mid Century Birthday

 

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LABELS: American Architecture, Gardens 4 Comments

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.

month of sundays 1 1024x1024 A Month of Sundays   Cold Beet Salad

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.

beets in a bowl 1024x1024 A Month of Sundays   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!

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LABELS: Farmer's Market Leave a comment