Field Trip: Jungle

Hip isn’t a description usually used for garden centers.  Jungle, in Brooklyn, is hip.  Owner and landscape designer, Amanda Mitchell has created a smart and compelling space in trendy Williamsburg that blends vintage and contemporary, urban and bucolic, rustic and sleek, cutting edge and ancient near the East River.

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A brick wall with a bird mural painted by naturalistic street artist Roa, dominates one side of the nursery.

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roa bird at Jungle Design Brooklyn 1024x768 Field Trip:  Jungle

The  opposite side has a bluish theme. A baby blue pergola hung with vintage style railroad lamps, a blue structure of unknown use, and in the rear behind a beautifully built pergola that spans the space and next to the diminutive design studio, a patio continued the baby blue theme.

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patio 768x1024 Field Trip:  Jungle

I visited Jungle for a party thrown by Dutch Tub.  There were several of them as well as their portable and very clever multipurpose wood stove/pizza oven Outdooroven which was being put to good use making pizzas for the guests.

oven in use1 768x1024 Field Trip:  Jungle

Jungle party at night 1024x768 Field Trip:  Jungle


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LABELS: Design, Gardens, Outdoor Furniture and Accessories 2 Comments

Garden Designers Roundtable | My Cathedral

Spiritual journeys often reveal themselves over time.  I am not one for those that are organized.  For many years I have found mine  in the company of trees. They are a cathedral that moves me to tears each and every time with their beauty and bounty.  They give back to the earth like no other; a perfect life cycle.

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This spring as I drive all over my Garden State chasing after work, clients, and plants the devastation of our hardwood forests and my most sacred places again brings me to tears.  My eyes fill up as I write this. Upended roots and downed trees are everywhere.  Broken limbs torn from the hearts of their trunks are wounds that won’t easily mend.  Our forests may take hundreds of years (if ever) to recover from two autumns of extreme weather.  Yet Mother Nature has a way of fixing herself and providing solutions where there are seemingly none.  The dead and dying become part of the perfect circle as hosts and nesting places.  So I stop whenever I can and offer whatever constitutes as prayer that the cathedrals will rise again and offer some other soul solace and joy.

Salmon River redwoods 768x1024 Garden Designers Roundtable | My CathedralHeron nests 768x1024 Garden Designers Roundtable | My Cathedral

Some other landscape and garden designers are celebrating trees in their own way today as part of the Garden Designers Roundtable monthly thematic posts:

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT
David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM
Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA
Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ
Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN




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LABELS: Gardens, Trees 10 Comments

Barrique’s Recycled Barrel Stave Furniture

As part of my design crawl in New York the past two weeks, I visited ABC Home and Carpet for some inspiration.  The store never disappoints in its merchandise selections or displays.  A designer I know says ‘This is where the awesome happens’.  As usual I took a ton of photos (with permission) and some of those are on my Instagram feed.

On the second floor, as part of a storewide ‘Slow Design’ story,  I saw this chaise designed by Marc Sadler that was constructed from recycled wine barrel staves.

Barrel Stave lounge chair 1024x768 Barriques Recycled Barrel Stave Furniture

It’s part of a larger group of furniture and accessories being fabricated by Barrique as part of their ‘Third Life of Wood’ program that supports recovering addicts in an Italian rehab facility.  They make the furniture and the profits go back to the center.  Wow.  Here’s some more…

foto grande Barriques Recycled Barrel Stave Furniture

Antonio Citterio’s ‘Poltrona Lounge’ is both classic and contemporary.

foto grande Barriques Recycled Barrel Stave Furniture

Angela Missoni’s ‘Miss Dondola’ swing echos the same color and style that are found in her clothing lines.

foto grande Barriques Recycled Barrel Stave Furniture

Aldo Spinelli’s ‘Sardinia’ chair riffs on early twentieth century furniture design while being completely modern.

The furniture and its message are currently touring the U.S.  Here’s a schedule.

Top photo by the author, bottom three photos via Barrique


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LABELS: Gardens, Outdoor Furniture and Accessories Leave a comment

Scout Regalia’s Contemporary Outdoor Style

I’m a fan of contemporary design.  Because I work in a very traditional market, I don’t get to use it much in my landscape and garden design work.  San Francisco based Scout Regalia has created two sleek products that would be at home on many patios and in many gardens–even traditional ones.

The first is really two products, both raised garden beds. One is available as a kit, the other pre-assembled.  Both have a simple, elegant design that would be at home in a traditional or a contemporary garden.  I’d love to see other colors added beyond the green used for the braces.

The Raised Garden Kit is essentially brackets and braces and comes with everything except the wood, soil and plants.

RAISED GARDEN KIT 01 Scout Regalias Contemporary Outdoor Style

The Patio Garden Assembled is a smaller version that is shipped completed and ready to plant.

Scout Regalia patio bed Scout Regalias Contemporary Outdoor Style

The team’s second product (and you’ll see what I mean about color in a minute) is also two.
Both take a modern twist on the classic picnic table and bench.  Both have coated aluminum parts that are available in 210 colors.  The difference is in the wood.  The White Oak Table Set (turquoise) is the pricier of the two and is constructed from white oak.  The Outdoor Table Set (orange) is constructed of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) redwood.

OUTDOOR OAK TABLE 02 Scout Regalias Contemporary Outdoor Style

OUTDOOR TABLE 02 Scout Regalias Contemporary Outdoor Style

All photos via Scout Regalia.

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LABELS: Gardens, Outdoor Furniture and Accessories Leave a comment

Field Trip: Urban Garden Center NYC

Never have I seen so much done with so little.  A garden center under the railroad tracks with no running water and no electricity?  That’s Urban Garden Center in Spanish Harlem.

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Plants, seeds and tools happily co-exist with dumpster dive finds and new merchandise that is used with aplomb, humor and an a sense of style that typifies its can-do attitude.

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 It’s totally wacky and fantastic.  I loved it.

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Spanning two blocks under the elevated railroad tracks from 116th to 118th Street, Urban Garden Center is a multi-generational family business with a big heart.  They not only serve the immediate community, they work in the retail shop and are committed to and passionate about what they are trying to achieve and against all odds.  Water is carted in several times a day in 250 gallon tanks from across the street.  Electricity is via generator.

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While I was there with my friend Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery of Shop Boxhill, I saw a young couple buying a pot of geraniums for their fire escape (a New York garden space) and a well-heeled Park Avenue type who tried to buy everything he saw…even if it wasn’t for sale!  Three of my favorite vignettes are below.

hand painted chair Urban Garden Center 768x1024 Field Trip:  Urban Garden Center NYC

wheel barrow at Urban Garden Center 768x1024 Field Trip:  Urban Garden Center NYCSticks and rivets at Urban Garden Center 768x1024 Field Trip:  Urban Garden Center NYC

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LABELS: architectural salvage, folk art, Gardens, inspiration, Outdoor Furniture and Accessories, vintage Leave a comment

Opiary: Garden Pots from Princeton

Last year, one of the few things I liked at the Kips Bay Showhouse was Robert Canon’s planters.

cityTerrace Opiary: Garden Pots from Princeton

This year I at ICFF I liked them even more.  When I saw them again this past weekend, these planters were in my mind, one of the most original and creative outdoor products at the fair.  They had a original and quirky point of view that would be at home in so many gardens.

opiaryStudio3 Opiary: Garden Pots from Princeton

 Opiary, Canon’s Princeton based studio is creating organic looking, well priced beautiful containers and garden accessories from recycled materials.  I’m going to try and arrange a studio visit.

studio3 Opiary: Garden Pots from Princeton

 All photos via Opiary.
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LABELS: Garden Design, Gardens, New Jersey, Outdoor Furniture and Accessories, sculpture 1 Comment

An Addition-al Rant

No pictures for this one…

Do you know anyone who is willing to work for a 25% of the week for free?  Many in the landscape design industry do. Here’s how: they do not charge for the initial consultation or other visits to existing clients.  During the busiest months, April-May-June, when the phone is ringing with new clients, designers often meet with new potential project key holders 3, 5, sometimes even 10  times in a week.  Let’s do the math…

Assume a 30 minute trip each way (this will also for the sake of argument include the time spent on the phone, emailing and prepping for the initial meeting and following up with a design proposal). Let’s also assume a 1 hour meeting – very few I’ve ever done have been less than 1 hour.

Here’s the math for 5  consults a week:

5 meetings = 5 hours + 5 hours travel/prep = 10 hours per week

Now consider that most of those meetings will be after hours or on a weekend which puts them into the overtime category and takes away from the designer’s family and necessary ‘off’ time.

What other professional do you know who would work for 10 hours or 25% of their standard 40 hour work week for free?  Why do we?

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LABELS: business 2 Comments

Field Trip: The Litchfield Daffodils

Last Saturday, after talking about garden design at White Flower Farm, I met up with an old friend and we spent the afternoon in Litchfield, CT touring about and catching up.  Our final stop of the day was Laurel Ridge.

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 There were tens of thousands of narcissus in bloom on fifteen acres of hillside deemed too rocky for farming.

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 The pasture was first planted in 1941 and is now supported by the Laurel Ridge Foundation.  It was a lovely spring afternoon ramble!

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LABELS: Gardens, spring Leave a comment

Garden Inspiration: Luciano Giubblei’s Parterre Ideas

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

luciano parteres 1024x620 Garden Inspiration:  Luciano Giubbleis Parterre Ideas

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


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LABELS: Creative Process, Design, Gardens, inspiration, Landscape Design 2 Comments

Garden Shop: Vintage Sculpture

I’m switching out Tuesday’s Find to Garden Shop.  I scout objects and products of all types for my landscape design clients from small accessories to large sculpture.  I also love the hunt.  So my inaugural post for this semi-regular theme starts where Tuesday’s Find lived…a vintage folk art sculpture found at 1st Dibs.

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How much fun would this found object piece of folk art be in a garden?  A clever DIYer  with the ability to weld (or by taking the pieces to a local welder) could create something similar–but without the patina.  This piece is available via Linda and Howard Stein on 1st Dibs or at their shop in Pennsylvania, Bridgehampton Antiques (open by appointment)

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LABELS: Antiques, folk art, Gardens, sculpture, vintage Leave a comment

Reeves-Reed Arboretum: 2013 Art in the Garden

This year they got it right.  The 2013 installment of Art in the Garden at Reeves-Reed Arboretum features the work of sculptor Tom Holmes.  The dozen or so works are placed throughout the gardens and to see them all is to also see the garden in a new way.

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An early morning walk revealed thoughtful placement of sometimes monumental work that had a direct relationship to nature. Mr. Holmes’ work and the individual placement throughout the arboretum challenges the viewer to think not only about the power of art in the landscape, but how relationships between art and nature can be formed.

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stone crescent reeves reed 1024x764 Reeves Reed Arboretum:  2013 Art in the Garden

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The Reeves-Reed Arboretum is located on Hobart Avenue in Summit, NJ and is open dawn till dusk.  A post on a previous year’s installation can be found here.

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LABELS: Art, Gardens, New Jersey 2 Comments

Field Trip: Leonard J. Buck Garden

Tens of thousands of years ago, a glacial lake drained leaving behind basalt outcroppings now known as Moggy Hollow in its wake.  Flash forward to the 1930s, when Leonard Buck planted them and established what would become a world class rock garden in a wooded glade on his estate in Far Hills.

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Inch forward a few seconds in the earth’s history and you have the sunny and cool 21st century spring afternoon when I visited what is now a county park.

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I am not a rock  or alpine garden officiando, but the Leonard J. Buck Garden does something else very well.  It seamlessly (for the most part) blends the gardeners hand within the broader context of the natural world.  Even with the contemporary interest in natural planting schemes, this garden stands out.

There are large swaths of woodland, but they are augmented with pathways, viewing ledges, plants and rustic structures. There is evidence of slope conservation and reintroduction of native plants, and there also are the eccentric plants, such as the dwarf boxwoods (Buxus ’Kingsville Dwarf’) that mound up hillsides and on rock formations here and there.

buck gardens cropped 1024x764 Field Trip:  Leonard J. Buck Garden

Other groups of spring bulbs on a slope of hardwoods seem more natural.  There are many varieties of ferns and Solomon’s Seal.  There are Trilliums (thanks to the electrified perimeter deer fence) and Aquilegia and Epimediums and flowering trees.  The thoughtful placement and planning of paths and bridges over the park’s meandering stream allows an easy ramble of  discovery.

Directions to the garden can be found here.

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LABELS: garden visits, Gardens, New Jersey 2 Comments

A Perfect Spring Week

There are about two perfect spring weeks every year and last week was one of those. Light was bright and unfiltered by the still bare deciduous canopy. Gardens burst into bloom, the sky was the bluest of blues, and the air was cool yet also warm after the winter chill.

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Windows opened and children’s laughter filled the air inside and out. Birdsong started before dawn. Yet spring is also poignant. Last week is over and petals dance and drift to the ground feeding the roots below, beginning the cycle of renewal all over again. So it goes.

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LABELS: Gardens, Seasons, spring Leave a comment

Online Garden Shop: Shop Boxhill

Shop Boxhill is a new online shopping site for all things outdoors.  I would be remiss if I didn’t note that it was created by my friend and fellow landscape designer Elizabeth Pryzgoda-Montgomery.  Shop Boxhill has a cool contemporary vibe with products in every price range from under $20 to over $3000.

I did a little virtual power shopping and here’s what I found–there are hundreds of other choices there, with more to come.

A super fun outdoor rug for $55.00.

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Steel Life’s Matchstick Planter, $159.00 comes in great colors and there are other planters to choose from as well.

Tall and Short Matchstick  03153.1364307743.1280.1280 Online Garden Shop:  Shop Boxhill

An insulated ‘cooler’ tote bag that is stylish and practical for $32.49.  Warm water on the job and in the truck will be a thing of the past with this.

728Insulated Cooler Tote Medium  87529.1363454926.1280.1280 Online Garden Shop:  Shop Boxhill

And just because I’m agave obsessed…this blue agave sculpture will allow me to have one that won’t wither and die in the winter.  It’s $270.

blue agave with flower stem torch1  87219.1362974752.1280.1280 Online Garden Shop:  Shop Boxhill

I probably won’t buy these, but with the damage from super storm Sandy making so many chunks of trunks available for free, these Knotty Stools have given me inspiration.  They’re $756.

knotty main  74439.1363005978.1280.1280 Online Garden Shop:  Shop Boxhill

And last but not least, because nobody in my traditional and conservative market carries these…a turqoise Concha chair for my newly renovated side garden when it’s done.  It’s $450.

3  45422.1364619864.1280.1280 Online Garden Shop:  Shop Boxhill

On-line shopping just got a whole lot better.

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LABELS: Gardens, Outdoor Furniture and Accessories Leave a comment

My Wee Spring Plant Nursery

Here I go getting all plant-y again…

In January I offered to share a snippet of  my favorite  Heuchera ‘Molly Bush’ which I’ve grown for almost 20 years back to Allen Bush who bred it to begin with.  He graciously sent me a care package in return.  I’m excited to see how these gifts fare in my home garden after its makeover this year.

I’m giving them all spots in pots before I set them out into the garden since I’ve just started a major renovation and the clean-up is yet to be finished in my holding areas.  I will also pay attention to them since they’re on a table right outside my back door.

wee nursery 768x1024 My Wee Spring Plant Nursery

 What was in both packages:

Stachys ‘Silky Fleece’ (back right) – From Jelitto where Allen works now. I know the deer won’t like that and I have just the spot for it– in the front border opposite a big and hopefully divided super easy to grow Stachys byzantium that a client gave me years ago and thrives in all kinds of neglect.

Arum ‘Tiny’ (back left) – I’m super excited about this one –a dwarf variety that originally came from Monksilver in the UK.  I’ve always wanted to grow Arums and just haven’t gotten around to it, so now I have no excuse.  Let’s hope I don’t kill it.

Chrysogonum ‘Norman Singer’- (front right)  The one you can’t see behind the tag…this is a totally new plant for me.  I’ve never grown it.  It’s a native shade lover and I have dry shade so we’ll see if it can duke it out!  I’m thrilled to have it.

Erigeron pulchellus var. pulchelus ‘Lynnhaven Carpet’–(front left) Another eastern/mid-Atlantic native.  I have a soft spot for Erigerons so I have to find a special partially shady place for it. (Why do I always think of swans and teddy bears when I type the workd Erigerons?)

Heuchera ‘Molly Bush’ -In the center of it all from the original plant I bought from Allen all those years ago.  It’s been in both of my gardens since then.  And no, the few available in the trade aren’t the same…they’re just not.

This isn’t an eye candy type of post…I have to wait for these babies to grow up a bit for their glamour shots!

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LABELS: Gardens, Heuchera 'Molly Bush', native plants, plants 1 Comment

A Facelift for a Tudor Grand Dame

Some of my favorite landscape design projects involve American Tudors.  I love the romance of these houses, their quirky details, their materials and how often they survive the wrecking ball.  Many of these homes were built in the 1920s and family needs change with the times.  I am currently working on a design for a circa 1929 home and re-imagining the landscape for a young, 21st century family.  This will be the first of several irregular posts on the project which won’t be completed until the fall.

American Tudor A Facelift for a Tudor Grand Dame

The current landscape has outgrown its space and usefulness so much of it will be replaced.  Things have been ignored for too long to be simply pruned.  Entries and exits, steps and useful areas front and back will be part of an architectural and landscape renovation that will make this grand dame young again.

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LABELS: American Architecture, Garden Design, Landscape Design 2 Comments

In Praise of Pieris

Every March I am enchanted with Pieris japonica and then I promptly forget about it as other more intriguing options catch my attention and it fades into the background. I found three varieties worth planting during a hunt for spring at The Farm, and some that had been planted for at least 40 years at an apartment complex.

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Pieris japonica ‘Browers Beauty’

Deer resistant and happy in shade, Pieris japonica can have ivory, pale yellow or pale or deep pink bell shaped blooms that hang in nodding clusters or fans.

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Pieris japonica ‘Dorothy Wyckoff’

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Pieris japonica ‘Valley Valentine’

 Some varieties have boldly colored new foliage, and still others are variegated.  All, when mature, have twisting textured trunks that can add structural interest to older, more mature plants.

Pieris japonica Mountain Fire foliage In Praise of Pieris

Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’


image via Mahoney’s

This year I’m going to plant some for both my clients and myself.  This evergreen shrub (commonly called Andromeda) is old fashioned and about 50 years ago was overused as an  foundation plant, but now there aren’t so many around and the big ‘ole mature ones are super awesome when not much else is happening.  They also make a great winter or early spring container plant that can  be transplanted into the garden.  For cultivation info…click here.

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LABELS: Gardens, Pieris japonica 2 Comments

Tuesday’s Find: A set of 10 blue chairs

It’s spring and I’m scouting furniture and accessories for clients’ gardens and patios so I’m reviving Tuesday’s Find.  These blue steel Pascal Mourgue chairs from the mid-80s stopped my virtual browsing.  I love the color and the styling.  They can work as contemporary or in a 1930s Art Deco environment that I’m actually thinking about.  Do you like them too?

blue chairs Tuesdays Find:  A set of 10 blue chairs

blue chair single Tuesdays Find:  A set of 10 blue chairs

They’re in London if you want them…at Christopher Jones Antiques  or on 1st Dibs.

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LABELS: American Architecture, Gardens, Outdoor Furniture and Accessories, patios Leave a comment

Design Inspiration: Black and White Stripes

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

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

black+door Design Inspiration: Black and White Stripes

image via Greige: Interior Design Ideas

Tavern+Outside Design Inspiration: Black and White Stripes

 image via House of Hydrangeas

tumblr m6poi5QvmC1rumwgdo1 400 Design Inspiration: Black and White Stripes

photo via Que Bueno es  Vivir!! 

img outdoorlivingroom ss5 Design Inspiration: Black and White Stripes

via Traditional Home

58dbfc373580f25b98607dd572324417 Design Inspiration: Black and White Stripes




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LABELS: color, Gardens, Landscape Design 2 Comments

Retro Vibe: Aqua and Red(s)

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

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image via  Cellar_Door_Films  

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

DSC7640 720x720 Retro Vibe:  Aqua and Red(s)

image via Obvious State

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

BerryBrights 1 Retro Vibe:  Aqua and Red(s)

 image via  Design Seeds


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LABELS: color, Gardens Leave a comment

Spring is Sprung with Leaf Magazine

I hope you’re not tired of hearing about the new issues of Leaf and my involvement with them.  I think the latest issue–out today– Spring 2013–is as good, if not better, than those that have come before it.

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It’s a great source of professional pride for me that we–Rochelle Greayer and I– continue to publish it and to push the envelope of what we believe a great American magazine focusing on design outside can be.

Our audience continues to grow–our last issue was seen by more than 1 million people.  We are actively seeking publishing partnerships (however that becomes defined) and exploring new ways to deliver content to even more readers. So please  enjoy this issue and let me know what you think in the comments or email me at scohan @ leafmag dot com.

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LABELS: Garden Centers, gardeners, Gardens, Hamamelis x intermedia, Landscape Design Leave a comment

Witch Hazels…I’m bewitched.

It started out simply.  Admiration in a late winter garden.

diana 1024x768 Witch Hazels...Im bewitched.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’

I’ve planted them for my clients for years, but have never had one of my own.

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Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Spring Promise’

Then I wrote a piece for the upcoming issue of Leaf.  Then I became obsessed.  I have to have one–I am bewitched!

Diane 768x1024 Witch Hazels...Im bewitched.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’

Hardy in zones 5-8, Hamamelis hybrids have a rich range of color, fantastic fall foliage, and are generally a medium to large, broadly vase shaped shrub.

witch hazel sc 1024x768 Witch Hazels...Im bewitched.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

The bonuses are the super early bloom time…late January to mid-March in my zone 6 part of New Jersey as well as their deer resistance.

sunburst 768x1024 Witch Hazels...Im bewitched.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Sunburst’

As I said.  I want one.  I really, really, want one.


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LABELS: Gardens, Hamamelis x intermedia, plants 2 Comments

Wake Up! American Garden Design Enthusiasts

Many of you know that Garden Design magazine has sadly folded.  That in itself isn’t surprising given the economic climate for print publications.  Print magazines have huge overhead, cumbersome lead times and ever increasing competition from the marketplace.  What I found shocking was how small its circulation was- 189,741.

GDCover0211crop Wake Up! American Garden Design EnthusiastsSome will moan about its elitist slant.  What is it about our exterior design community that it can’t find inspiration in, celebrate and aspire to the very top levels of design?  I doubt if all of Architectural Digest’s 800k regular readers can afford or even want what is in that publication yet they obviously see enough value in it to buy a copy.

If we, as a design discipline and community, want to be taken seriously, then we need to support publications at all levels of the marketplace, not just those that cater to the weekend warriors who relegate us to the DIY sector.  Landscape design and landscape architecture are serious, complex disciplines that can inspire within and without.  We need American publications that reflect our diverse economy, interests and regions and we need to embrace those that show us the best of design outside at every level.



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LABELS: Garden Design, inspiration 8 Comments

Garden Trends: Dumpster Style

If you haven’t figured it out from previous posts, I’m having a visceral and negative reaction to quaint upcycling. Please do not show me something else made out of pallets.  Yuck. A good dumpster dive involves a deep understanding of Wabi-sabi and the beauty of objects just as they are, not as we would like to pretend them to be. Dumpster Style uses objects just as they are found, with minimal intervention.

paint bucket planter Garden Trends: Dumpster Style

Tape is the only designer additive here

 image via Thea’s Mania

Of course Dumpster Style’s found objects (treasures?) can be used for another purpose, but the difference is, is that they maintain their original integrity. There is a romanticism in the purity of  these objects.  They don’t need to be masked, they can be used with minimal ‘design’ interference from well meaning and overly industrious upcyclers.

can bottom shingles copy 768x1024 Garden Trends: Dumpster Style

Can bottom shingles

image via Pinterest

Somewhat nutty, the roof garden below clearly has respect for what the objects were in a thoughtful and stylized way.  Originally from Apartment Therapy, I shared this one on Leaflets back in July and it spurred a lot of discussion.

tumblr m6swkvZFaq1r3p74ao1 500 Garden Trends: Dumpster Style

Rooftop Dumpster Style Edible Garden

Image via Apartment Therapy

As for the Wabi-sabi, a quote from the very first page of Leonard Koren’s wonderful book Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers sums it up:

Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
It is a beauty of things modest and humble.
It is a beauty of things unconventional.

And sometimes it’s just all about the dumpster.  Artist Oliver Bishop-Young hasn’t changed much about this dumpster…or has he?

Oliver Bishop Young Garden Trends: Dumpster Style

Planted Dumpster Style

recycled urban guerrilla garden Garden Trends: Dumpster Style

Dumpster Planter from artist Oliver Bishop-Young

 images via Oliver Bishop-Young

Click for more Dumpster Style on Pinterest.





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LABELS: architectural salvage, Garden Styles, Gardens, inspiration, recycling 8 Comments

Garden Designers Roundtable: Winter Inspiration

I’m totally obsessed with winter gardens.  The thing is though, by spring, just like everyone else I get caught up in the sexier spring and summer seasons and completely forget to plant for winter.  This year I’m going to try and change that.

Denver Botantic Gardens Seed pods Garden Designers Roundtable:  Winter Inspiration

Seed Pods

close up of grasses Garden Designers Roundtable:  Winter Inspiration

Winter Grasses

Most hope that permanent structures and some evergreens will be enough in winter, but I’m more interested in other elements that are unique to the season that will be as interesting and visually satisfying as other seasons.   There are plants beyond evergreens that add to the winter garden, but they require skill and maintenance to look good throughout the season.  Evergreens create bones and a backdrop and help to make things work in March and early April when just about everything else looks really crappy.  They, along with interesting and exfoliating bark, sing when there is snow.

Heptacodium and evergreens Garden Designers Roundtable:  Winter Inspiration

Heptacodium miconiodes and evergreens in snow

As a designer, what I’m really excited about is creating a neutral and textural  garden story for winter that combines plants with structural elements and shadows to create a complex and interesting space.  I don’t need a lot of color in January like I do in June.  For me, winter is fairly neutral. The flat, blue quality of our eastern winter light with its long shadows lends itself to thoughtful color and texture juxtaposed with shadow play.

Grasses Denver Botanic Garden Designers Roundtable:  Winter Inspiration

Winter Grasses and Stone Wall

Although the climate and light are different there, a visit to the Denver Botantic Gardens  spurred my interest in pursuing winter garden design even further.  Above, the neutral color palette makes this swath of mixed grasses have even more drama than it would have at the height of the summer. Too many people cut grasses down too early.  Wait until the end of February for that chore and reap the rewards.  Snow can make them look a bit untidy, but white and tan is an beautiful color combination.

Winter Shadows on Stone House Garden Designers Roundtable:  Winter Inspiration

Shadow play on Stone

shadow allee 1024x768 Garden Designers Roundtable:  Winter Inspiration

Shadow ‘allee’ at New York Botanical Gardens

Two ways to consider structure in the winter garden are as a canvas for shadows created by the long low light (above) and as as structural focal points (below).

Denver Botantic Gardens Columns. 1024x768 Garden Designers Roundtable:  Winter Inspiration

Columns providing structure

A third, more fleeting way to add cold weather structure is to actually incorporate opportunities for ice to form, or to use it in big chopped up chunks as a winter feature where there was water in warmer weather.  When I lived closer, I used to make a pilgrimage to see the huge and jewel-like ice crystals on the Delaware River in mid and late winter, but I never actually considered this idea for a garden until I saw the two examples below, both at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

ice on water feature Denver Botanic Garden 768x1024 Garden Designers Roundtable:  Winter Inspiration

Monumental ice formations on a water feature

ice and empty water feature 819x1024 Garden Designers Roundtable:  Winter Inspiration

Ice ‘boulders’

Inspiration is everywhere…even in January.

For more inspiration, try these ideas from the other Garden Designers Roundtable blogging designers:

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO
Jenny Peterson : J Petersen Garden Design : Austin, TX
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN
Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI
Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

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LABELS: Gardens, Heptacodium miconiodes, inspiration, Landscape Design, winter 16 Comments

Vista and View Preservation

An article yesterday in the New York Times about a proposed and (yes) sustainably built and ‘green’ corporate headquarters that will rise above the Palisades along the Hudson River galvanized my thinking about view preservation as part of the whole save the planet movement.

Wave hill vista 768x1024 Vista and View Preservation

View of the Palisades from Wave Hill

Views and vistas need to be preserved.  They are seldom considered when giant wind turbines are erected on mountain tops or along the shoreline. They’re not considered when housing developments climb up a hillside.  They’re not considered when a swath of land is taken up for new corporate headquarters.  Yet a property with a view is worth more than one without.

Parks and public spaces aren’t enough to protect many views that are in the way of our continued sprawl as well as so-called environmental progress.  In the New York metro region, land is valuable and in increasing short supply hours and miles away from the city. Our views need to be preserved as much as the remaining open space.

Views and vistas are part of the environment and should be preserved as such.  Shouldn’t the beauty of the earth’s landscape be just as important as saving its air, waterways and soil?  Humans need beauty as much as air, water, and soil.  For me, and many others I suspect, these views and vistas move me to my deepest core.  My heart stops on a drive or hike when I get a glimpse of the beauty of a vista and world beyond.  They soothe me when little else will, and inspire me when all else fails.  They deserve respect and preservation.


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LABELS: Gardens, Landscape Preservation, sustainability, sustainable landscapes 2 Comments

Garden Materials: Chicken Wire

I’m in the process of organizing things a bit differently here. So you’ll see new titles like ‘Materials’ and ‘Garden Design Details’ used more often. There’s also a new email subscription form in the sidebar…I’ve never had one of those before. So use it if you’re so inclined. Now on the subject at hand…chicken wire.

Chris Mossart rabbit in snow Garden Materials: Chicken Wire

Ever since I posted Chris Mossart’s work on the Leaf mag Facebook page, I’ve been slightly obsessed with chicken wire. I used to be a total DIYer–now less so–but a good pair of gloves, sharp wire cutters, a strong pair of needle nose pliers can go a long way to making some of these charming and useful chicken wire garden accessories. I can’t emphasize the need for gloves too strongly though. Chicken wire is galvanized steel and sharp. It is also very inexpensive…a fifty foot roll is about thirty dollars. It can be painted with a good exterior grade metal paint. I’m sure it could be powder-coated although I’ve never done it. As with anything, the quality of craftsmanship is what will keep chicken wire projects from being too rustic and looking too ‘loving hands at home’.

So here is some inspiration for projects that would be worth trying and can be ready by next spring!

For over the table…a chandelier. I love the addition of natural and found objects to this. A complete list of materials and instructions can be found here.

Chicken Wire Chandelier Garden Materials: Chicken Wire

In the potting shed…small plant storage and display cabinet. Complete instructions are available here.

Chicken Wire Plant Shelf Garden Materials: Chicken Wire

On the table or in the garden…chicken wire cloche. These are painted black and were found on Andrea liebt herzen (Andrea Loves Hearts)

Chicken Wire Cloche Garden Materials: Chicken Wire

And last but not least…just in the garden. A small tuteur or plant support via the French style blog resonances.

Chicken Wire Tuteur Garden Materials: Chicken Wire

Chicken wire can also make great peony supports, but that’s for another day. These examples plus more inspiration can be found on my Pinterest board Chicken Wire.

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LABELS: Gardens, Materials, Wire and Wire Structures 5 Comments

Hubert de Givenchy and Gardens

Hubert de Givenchy is better known his couture creations for Audrey Hepurn than he is as a champion of gardens.  But champion he is. Upon retirement in 1995, he was a key player in the restoration of the Potager du Roi (the King’s Vegetable Garden) at Versailles.  Since then Givenchy has created a very French yet very modern parterre at his chateau in the Loire Valley, Le Jonchet.

givenchy parterre 2 Hubert de Givenchy and Gardens

In the 16th century, parterres (which don’t have to have any flowers at all) were called referred to as gardens a la francaise. Low clipped boxwood in patterns so ornate they resembled embroidery we’re actually called parterre de broderie and reached their peak at Versailles and were, as a style, appropriated by the upper classes across Europe.  Large parterres required skilled maintenance and were labor intensive and exist today in more contemporary forms.

parterre versailles Hubert de Givenchy and Gardens

Image above via Pinterest 

Back to Monsieur du Givenchy.  The simple circular pattern of the parterre at Le Jonchet is what makes it able to exist today.  Instead of broderie the pattern looks like embroidery hoops–fitting for a retired couturier.  I don’t know if that was the intent.  Although it still requires precise clipping and care, it is totally contemporary and utterly French.  It is a garden I can enjoy, but not necessarily want.

givenchy le jonchet Hubert de Givenchy and Gardens

givenchy parterre 3 Hubert de Givenchy and Gardens

The images of Givenchy’s Le Jonchet are from the December 2012 issue of World of Interiors…one of my favorite magazines.

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LABELS: France, Gardens, Planting Design 2 Comments

A Quick Start to the New Year

The calendar year has changed again, so there’s news to report- for the next two months anyway. Change is good in my world, as is a good adventure! Beginning yesterday, I became the President Elect of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD). Yikes!

I’m travelling and speaking for the next two months. Want to meet up? Tweet me @susancohan to let me know you’re there…

calendar 1024x768 A Quick Start to the New Year

Here’s where:

Baltimore, Maryland – January 10 I’ll be walking MANTS that day…finding inspiration and new ideas.

Denver, Colorado – January 15-17 I’ll be speaking at ProGreen about creativity and all things viaual and digital including Leaf and Pinterest. Here are the links to my workshops: Jan. 16/11:30, Jan. 16/2:45

Dallas, Texas – January 26-27 This is an APLD leadership event…I’ll be in the bar.

Brooklyn, New York – January 27 I’ll be attending Plant-O-Rama at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and catching up with everyone – come and say Hi!

New York, New York – January 28 I’ll be walking the NYIGF scouting stories for my clients and stories for Leaf

Bronx, New York – January 29 I’ll be attending Tom Stuart-Smith’s talk at the New York Botantical Gardens come and say Hi!

Seattle, Washington – February 17-22 I’m a NWFGS judge (that’s scary!) and speaker – I’ll be going to a bunch of events within the BIG event

Secaucus, NJ – February 27 I’ll be in the APLDNJ booth at the NJLCA trade show talking, talking, talking!

And if all of that’s not exhausting enough…I’ll be working on some on-going design projects and getting the Spring edition of Leaf ready with the team…phew!


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LABELS: Gardens, Travel Leave a comment

Trend Watch: The Gilded Garden

Opulence isn’t a dirty word.  After years of frugal garden and DIY design options ie. the pallet craze and other recycled madness, many (including me) are ready for a sense of luxury.  Small and large, these indulgences give hope to dreams and aspirations inside and out.  An emerging trend points in that direction for outdoor details and can be realized by those who prefer  DIY options as well as those who don’t.

Architecture and fashion triptich1 Trend Watch:  The Gilded Garden

The Gilded Garden is about gold surface treatments.  Aged with the patina of use and slightly rustic, its roots are in other design disciplines, notably architecture, fashion and furniture.

Gilded Garden Inspiration 2 1024x408 Trend Watch:  The Gilded GardenNatural elements take on a completely different look when gilding is applied.  They are jewelry for the table or garden.  This can be done with paint, gold leaf, or other products such as Rub and Buff which are readily available online and in craft stores with easy to follow instructions.Gilded Garden Pots 1024x348 Trend Watch:  The Gilded Garden

Pots and other vessels are the easiest thing to give the Midas touch.  Fences, statuary and other garden accessories become more than supporting players when given a bit of gilding. The difference in this look is its restraint.  Even when a large element is a glittering focal point, the Gilded Garden has accents of gold that delight, rather than taking it over the top.

Gilded Garden Inspiration 3 1024x289 Trend Watch:  The Gilded Garden

If you are looking for some more inspiration, try my Pinterest board, Gilt Complex.  I’ll see you after the holidays. Enjoy them with friends and family!

Image Credits (top to bottom/left to right) Givenchy -Trek Earth
Neiman Marcus -
Martha Stewart Weddings-
Abbey & Morton/
Ellen Johnston, APLD-
Design Sponge/
VXLA via Flickr-Red Online-Ethnically Chic



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LABELS: Gardens, inspiration 4 Comments