More Garden Travel–Sort of.

In a few days I’ll be travelling for a couple of weeks.  This time, it’s not a garden/landscape related event, but one of my own invention.  My first stop will be Paris (as in France, not Texas).

I lived in France years ago and have returned since, so I plan to visit with friends, eat spectacular food that’s not on my diet, drink good wines, wander the streets and shop.  I’m also going to Maison et Objet and hope to report back on what’s exciting for outdoor there.

I expect to visit some green spaces that will be stark in their winter structure, see the Cartier retrospective at the Grand Palais, and some other events and places that will, for now be a surprise.

After that, I’m on to Fez and Marrakesh for adventure and exploration.

I’m going to try and visit three UNESCO World Heritage sites – the old city of Fez, Voubolis (a ruined Roman city, pictured below) and the Medina in Marrakesh.  There will be more shopping and of course a visit to Majorelle.  We will be traveling entirely by train in Morocco so that should be really fun.

Ruins at Volubilis, Morocco

If I have time to post while on the road, I will.  If not it will be when I return.

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LABELS: France, Gardens, Morocco 3 Comments

Garden Travel: Nebraska

I spent last week in Nebraska. I was invited there to teach a design workshop to other designers. Not one to turn down any travel opportunity, I went a few days early and visited with Marti Neely, a super talented designer and one of my APLD peeps.

As someone who grew up in the middle of what was once eastern hardwood forest, I was surpised by Nebraska’s neutral  winter landscape. Instead of feeling dull and lifeless the prairie shimmers as the unhindered winter winds whip through it.

rolling prairie in Nebraska

In Omaha, we walked through a series of sculptures that make up the Spirit and Courage of Pioneers park and celebrated those who ultimately settled and farmed there.  Created by two artists, Blair Buswell and Ed Fraughton, there are geese and bison flying through and barging through buildings as well as a full sized wagon train trudging up a hill.  It really made me think about the 19th century push west and what it meant to those who lived there and those who colonized it.  There wasn’t a Native American to be found in the series.

Omaha, NE

We then moved on to see one of Marti’s lakeside projects. Even in the 45 mile an hour winds with shallow snow cover the elegance of her design’s structure was apparent.  The sweeping curves of one section of the project echoed the shoreline uphill from the lakefront.  I never occurred to me that there might be lakes in Nebraska.

Lakeside patio

The next day we drove to Lincoln to visit with plantsman, Benjamin Vogt in his garden in which was lovely despite being winter and surprising in it’s tract home development location.

Benjamin Vogt's garden path Lincoln NE

Winter grasses

My favorite part of the day was a visit to Gretna, midway between Omaha and Lincoln, to see the Shrine of The Holy Family.  Inspired by E. Fay Jones’ Thornecrown chapel (1980) in Arkansas, the shrine’s proportions and curved lines are different.  The local architecture team at BCDM acknowledged the inspiration from the beginning and went on to make a statement that is more prairie than forest.

Entrance Holy Family Shrine NE

Its curved lines, blond wood concrete and windswept location work in context.  A limestone and turf entryway, a restored bluestem prairie, and a rill that runs from the chapel alter to the a pool and sculpture in the main building builds a powerful message.

Holy Family Shrine

Holy Family Shrine NEI was happy to be there in winter when the changing light, the tans and ochres of the wood and grasses, and the buff hue of limestone paths and boulders worked in concert with each other to create a stark and arresting beauty that I expect would be difficult to find elsewhere.

I’ll be travelling again next week and hope to blog from the road.  Where to this time?  Paris, Fez and Marrakesh. Stay tuned.

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LABELS: American Architecture, Garden Design, Gardens, Travel 1 Comment

Looking Forward by Looking Back

I spent the first grey working day of 2014 tromping through an old house and garden. Later this year, for the month of May, Blairsden, in Peapack, NJ will become a sparkling designer show house and gardens.  I was there to preview the latter. I love old houses, especially ones that have new lovers after years of neglect.  I find both the neglect and the restoration fascinating.

The place is a wreck.  Almost every aspect inside and out needs something.  Outside there are courtyards, formal terraces, sculpture, a loggia, a totally ruined cascade, a tumbled down orangerie and a grotto of sorts.  There were gardens here at one point, but all that’s left are ghosts. Very few of the landscape/garden spaces were available for re-design and I’m not at all sure that I will participate this year.  Still, it was a fantastic way to spend the morning despite a looming storm and frigid temperatures.

Peapack NJThe imposing oak front door with limestone steps and details.  Obviously there’s construction going on!  Turn around and you will see…

Empty reflecting pool at Blairsden Peapack NJ

The reflecting pool will be completely restored.  The driveway flanks it on either side.

Ruined courtyard Blairsden Peapack NJ

Loggia at Blairsden Peapack NJAn interior courtyard with a loggia on its south side.  The house is built high on a  hillside with  sweeping views of the Far Hills.  Terraced lawns are just below.  A cascade starts at the lowest terrace.

Fountainhead for cascade Blairsden Peapack NJ

Cascade at Blairsden Peapack NJ

The water cascade going down to the home’s original entry driveway.  That was at some point re-routed and is up the hill by the reflecting pool. Above the fountainhead is what used to be an orangerie.  It is abandoned with its arching glass windows long gone.

Orangerie Blairsden Peapack NJAt the base of the cascade is a remarkable view up to the house.

Base of the cascade's view Blairsden Peapack NJWith all of this desolate and forlorn beauty there was a Sphinx (one of four actually) who I’d like to think is wondering what all the hubbub is about and what spring will bring after such a long and lonely stretch of indifference.

Sphinx at Blairsden Peapack NJ

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LABELS: Garden Art and Antiques, Gardens, Mansion in May 3 Comments

Ice in the Garden

We had our first significant snow of the season yesterday.  It turned into rain last night and covered everything with a thin coat of ice.  I’m torn between the beauty of it and the knowledge that some of my boxwoods may not survive or will, at the very least, need a severe pruning in early spring.

For now I’ll focus on the morning’s transient beauty in my New Jersey home garden before it melts.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Tokyo Delight' icedHydrangea paniculata ‘Tokyo Delight’

Malus 'Coralburst' on ice

Malus ‘Coralburst’

Fothergilla gardenii on ice

Fothergilla gardenii

Spirea thunbergii on ice

Spirea thunbergii

Spirea thunbergii Mt. FujiSpirea thunbergii ‘Mt. Fuji’

Cornus alba 'Elegantisima'Cornus alba ‘Elegantisima’

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LABELS: Gardens, winter 3 Comments

Leaving Las Vegas

I spent almost a week in Las Vegas representing APLD at a board meeting as well as at an industry trade show. I had never been there before and it is the first place I’ve ever been where I would be happy not to go back to. There is no romance there unless you like, as one of my fellow designers dubbed it, ‘trailer park glamour’.

For the garden minded, there are pockets of innovation and interest, particularly in the Wynn Hotel.

Wynn display 2

Las Vegas

At The Shops at Crystals I saw a light installation by James Turrell, the mall combines site specific art and commerce, there was a totally original use of mums…yes, mums.

Display of mums in Las Vegas

Despite the artificial perfumed air, the bad fashion and the incredible, unsustainable environment which couldn’t exist without pumped in water, electricity and a boat (caravan?) load of other things that are not in anyway part of the natural environment in the Mojave desert, I did find two places intriguing.

The first, The Neon Museum, is uniquely Las Vegas.  The museum tells the history of the city’s upswing through its neon signs.  These ghost signs have been collected, preserved (thanks to little or no rust), cataloged and organized.  They are beautiful and also tell the history of 20th century design from quaint to futuristic.

Contrasting design styles at Neon Museum Las Vegas Mid century modern Neon Museum Neon Museum genie's lamp

For the second, after two days inside, I went with five other designers to Red Rock Canyon, which is less than an hour away from the Vegas strip by car.  My eastern eyes, used to green forested landscapes with glimpses of the sky, loved the unfiltered light – we were there at sunset, the scale of the sky, the neutral colors, and the rocks themselves.

Red Rock Canyon Nevada Grey and brown plants which would look dead in the east were thriving here, blooming yellow and salmon and red.

Red Rock canyon plants

When I returned home, I woke with a start to the bright red fall foliage outside my bedroom window.  Almost a week in the desert had made me unused to natural color…Las Vegas was either neutral or neon.

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LABELS: American Architecture, Gardens, Las Vegas 10 Comments

Garden Visit: Greenwood Gardens

Greenwood Gardens, a Garden Conservancy preservation project, is also a public garden that has recently re-opened after several years of adaptive renovations.

In Short Hills, NJ, it’s about ten minutes from my home office, so I have visited it often since its first open day about 10 years ago.  I was lucky recently to be part of a private tour for APLD’s NJ chapter led by Louis Bauer, Greenwood’s Director of Horticulture.  It has been fascinating to watch the transformation of this garden.

When I first visited, the bones were there and the plantings, particularly the boxwood and yew hedging, were overgrown and blowzy.

overgrown boxwood Greenwood Gardens

 Much of the boxwood and yew hedging has been tamed.

formal axis greenwood gardens

The areas around the Georgian Revival home have been restored and are used for lectures, fund raising events and private parties.  Peter P. Blanchard, III, a descendant of the estate’s second owner, has been instrumental in saving and preserving the property in a region that is rapidly being subdivided, with old wonderful homes replaced by newer ones.  It’s a wonderful testament to loving the land we live on.

Facade of Greenwood Garden House with planters

Formal axis and monumental water features were in disarray, some still are, others, like the fountain like the fountain below, with Rookwood ornamentation,  have been restored.  Rookwood and the locally based (now defunct) Fulper tiles and charming repetition of a rooster motif can be found throughout the gardens.

Greenwood gardens

Other areas aren’t restored yet and Bauer has used plants to allude to what was once there.  The large water feature at one end of the long formal axis has a crumbling colonnade was once topped by a pergola.

Greenwood Gardens

The garden has always appealed to the decay porn lover in me and I found it have its own  visual poetry.

Greenwood Gardens

Greenwood Gardens still has aspects of that tumbled down romance, but now parts of it are side by side with renovated details, pumped up and pruned plantings as well as new ADA required accessibility necessary for a public garden.  I miss some of what was left to my imagination but also admire the restoration.  There are many details that I have yet to photograph…this last visit was at dusk and two of the wonderful architectural features were cloaked in darkness–the folly and the summerhouse.

foundations Greenwood Gardens

The foundations of the estate’s former glasshouses are lovely in their ruined state although they will be much more useful once restored.

stone wall and steps greenwood gardens

 The lower gardens at Greenwood have an incredible cascade that once culminated into a swimming pool, a folly with sculptural dwarf chess pieces, and a beautifully proportioned summerhouse as well as a natural pond and Sycamore allee.

Cascade Greenwood Gardens sycamore allee Greenwood Gardens

Greenwood is a garden in transition and to me, as a designer, that’s the most interesting and intriguing part of visiting.  I love gardens that allow my imagination to soar, that have stories to tell and mysteries to reveal.  Plants in some cases to echo what used to be architectural features and new naturalistic plantings in the front of the house are particularly beautiful.  I look forward to following the rest of the renovation, but will miss the romance of the ruin.

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LABELS: Garden Conservancy, garden visits, Gardens, New Jersey 3 Comments

Planting Design: Late Fall Texture and Color

Now that we’ve begun the season of darkness and it looks like midnight at 5 pm, bursts of golden color during the day is important. I love the last of the riot of color and texture that is in my front home garden.  The details become very important.

Veronia and maple

Vernonia noveboracensis (New York Ironweed) seed heads and browned leaves and stems against a background of Acer rubrum ‘Autumn Blaze’ (Red maple) foliage.

I look for plants that at minimum do three seasons of heavy lifting even if it’s in a period of decay.  They have to be tough and deer resistant.  They also have to play well with others and offer opportunities for textural combinations since most of their bloom times are fairly short lived.  Here are some of the stars in my New Jersey home garden in late fall.  None are difficult to grow or find and all are suitable for a small space–some take up airspace like the narrow yet 7′ tall Veronia rather than having a big footprint others like the Amsonia need a wide birth and frequent division to keep them where they are.

Leucanthumum superbum 'Becky'

Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’ (Shasta Daisy) 

Cotinus coggygria 'Ancot'

Cotinus coggygria ‘Ancot’ (Golden Spirit Smokebush)

Amsonia and sedum

Amsonia hubrichtii (Threadleaf  bluestar) and Sedum x ‘Autum Joy’

Fothergilla gardenii and red twigged dogowood

Fothergilla gardenii foliage and Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ (Red Twigged Dogwood) twigs.

Crabapple

Malus x ‘Coralburst’ (dwarf crabapple) fruits.

Vernonia noveboracensis seed heads

 Vernonia noveboracensis (New York Ironweed) seed heads.

 

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LABELS: deer resistant, Gardens, Planting Design, plants 2 Comments

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 plant repitition

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 repetition of key plants

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

diagonal textural plant repetition

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

 

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.

Diagonal garden designOnce 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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LABELS: Gardens, Planting Design 12 Comments

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.

Ornamental cabbagesFall container planting in shades of violet designed by Bruce Bailey from Heavy Petal Nursery.

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.

Purple mulch

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

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?

image via HGTV

image via HGTV

Moroccan style purple entry

image via Marie Claire
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LABELS: Garden Design, Gardens, Landscape Design 4 Comments

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.

Twig Fence at Terrain

 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!

Red Twig Fence

 Image via Gary John/Flickr and Pinterest

Need some instructions to build one yourself?

 

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LABELS: Fences, Gardens 2 Comments

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 Miscanthus and Sanguisorba Wave Hill chairs and grasses

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.

Pond at Paxon Hill Farm

 

Paxon Hill Farm Display Garden

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

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

 

Unicorn

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 Goddess

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LABELS: Atlanta, garden visits, Gardens, Planting Design, Travel 2 Comments

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…

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

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.

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’.

Hakonechloa hedge

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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LABELS: Gardens, Planting Design 1 Comment

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.

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.

Garden Lettters and Graphics

 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.

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 Foundation

 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.

image via April and May

 

 

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LABELS: architectural salvage, Garden Design, Gardens, Landscape Design, patios, vintage 2 Comments

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.Aerial view design by Secret Gardens of Sydney

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 Secret Garden Sydney courtyard detail

 All images via Secret Gardens of Sydney

 

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LABELS: Contemporary Gardens, Garden Design, Gardens, Landscape Design 1 Comment

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.

Kingsley Bates outdoor furniture

All weather wicker and fabric

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’.

Patio Dining Area plan

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.

Pro Guide to Garden Furnishings

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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LABELS: Garden Design, Landscape Design, Outdoor Furniture and Accessories 2 Comments

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?

Concrete porch

And after.

Stenciled Front Porch

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

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..

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

Stenciled concrete patio

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

Concrete stenciled patio

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

Nespoon doily stencil

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.

stenciled rug

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.

Stenciled medallions on concrete patio

Concrete stenciled patio

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.

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

Image via Architectural Digest 

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

Image via Trouvais

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

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

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

 

 

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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.

French Bistro

photo via Flickr

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

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

Bistro Chalkboard

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.

Exterior Chalkboard Paint

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.

Classic Bistro Chair
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.

 

Bistro Bench

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.

Lace curtains and geraniums

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

Bistro Table
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.Bistro table basesNow where’s that espresso and a pain au chocolate?

Paris espresso cup

 

 

 

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LABELS: Dining al fresco, Gardens, Outdoor Furniture and Accessories 2 Comments

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

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.

narrow side yard garden

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

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

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

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

 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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LABELS: Gardens, Landscape Design, Planting Design, plants 5 Comments

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.

Atlanta Botanical Garden

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.

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.

Boxwood and terracotta at 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.

Inside display at 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

 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 WorksTopiary Forms at 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 fiddlehead garden spikes

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 EspalierThis 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 Membership BacgeI 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 Member BadgeBeing 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!

Pink in the courtyard

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

Pink stripes poolside

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

Schiaparelli's Shocking Pink

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

Pink balcony

 Or it can make a big energetic and contemporary statement.

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

Pink color swatch for outdoor stains

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

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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.

Terra cotta floor tiles

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

Balcony tiles

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.

Stoneware numbers from Pewabic Pottery, Detroit

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

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 Studios Branch Studios Fountain 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.

Branch Studio plantersPlanters on the workroom floor are above.  Below the same planters designed by Deborah and planted up in downtown Detroit.

Branch planters downtown Detroit

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.

Branch Studio box planter

Branch Studio planter boxes

Branch Studio Pergola

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Garden Travel: Planting Design and Architecture in Chicago

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

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

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

Lurie and Gehry

Chicago skyline and Lurie hedges

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

Richardson Romanesque

Roy Diblick

Roy Diblick planting design

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Garden Travel: Chicago and Detroit

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

Chicago vintage poster

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

Detroit vintage travel poster

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

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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.

Dwell Studio 'Bungalow' for Robert Allen

 

image via Robert Allen

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

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