I live in a densely populated fairly urban-suburban area. Houses, most built in the 1920s, are close together on 50′ x 100′ lots. New York City is 25 miles east. My street starts on our town’s Main Street. There used to be a gas station there whose ancient tanks sprung a leak and the site was shut down and ’cleaned up’ to the tune of millions of dollars. Now there is a Dunkin’ Donuts where the gas station used to be.
Behind and adjacent that misspelled testament to obesity in America is an abandoned, contaminated lot. Collateral damage. It used to have a house on it. Now it has wildflowers (most will call them weeds) and wildlife among the 10+ testing stations for subterranean pollution. I hope they don’t mow it and allow it to start to heal itself.
I’ve been commissioned to design an outdoor entertaining area for one of the oldest farmhouses around that will also incorporate a new barn/woodshop. We are at the very beginning of a complex project, so I thought I’d share that part of the process. After meeting with the homeowners I made an Ideabook to help them visualize the project.
My client, who is a passionate and active gardener with a talented woodworking partner, also wants a family entertaining area, easy access to her garden shed and details like stone walls and a possible meadow beyond for grandchildren to explore and play in.
The first step is to create the placement of a new 16 x 20 barn that will replace and enlarge the old one that was destroyed by a tree falling on it during Hurricane Sandy. The current garden areas are a patchwork of projects that haven’t had a master plan as you can see from the basemap above. Existing elements have been connected out of necessity without much thought to the overall scheme of things.
Concept number one creates an outdoor courtyard that has easy access to ground level doors and blocks a view of a subdivision on the street beyond. It separates the garden shed from the barn and also incorporates a bosc which is a design element I’ve always wanted to try. Both designs have fire features which will allow the new area’s use to be extended into colder weather on both ends of the season.
Concept number two requires less work and renovation and keeps the existing wonky brick walk in place. It also keeps the work areas ie. the barn and shed together creating a casual barnyard effect.
Usually, I post color plans, but this is the work that goes on way before I get to that point. These are where the designs begin–with concepts fleshed out to see if they work spatially and to think about how people will move through a space and use it before a single plant is envisioned. The concept that we decide on will be refined further after the and are budgets set, materials for hardscape are chosen and then, at the end, the planting plan will be developed.
There was an unexpected pleasure added to my visit to NYBG last week – the monumental, garden inspired sculptures of Mario Valdes. They were supposed to be gone by then and weren’t, so I was thrilled to see them. Here’s why. For me, these heads (created specifically for this exhibit) surrounded and sometimes engulfed with leaves, butterflies and garden elements perfectly symbolized exactly what goes on in mine sometimes. Whether that was the artists intent or not it was totally delightful to see them. Enjoy.
When a new garden destination opens, I always like to wait a bit and let the crowds simmer down so I can explore it in peace. I need that space to process my ideas and to really see a place. The Oehme, van Sweden designed Native Plant Garden at The New York Botanical Gardens opened in May to gushing and effusive reviews.
The hand of ‘The New American’ garden style attributed to OvS is evident throughout the 3.5 acre site that comprises more than 100,000 plants native to the Eastern Seaboard. It is contemporary and has flashes of genius. It is, to my eye, a clearly designed space that wants to also be natural. Vignettes abound that never occur so frequently in the wild. Some are painterly and others are dramatic. This is a garden after all and a teaching one at that. It covers a lot of regional and geographic botanical territory and includes mature and new plantings. Some areas are so densely planted that they have little room to grow and the maintenance will have to be intensive for garden crews or they’ll look awful in very little time. My favorite places were those in and bordering the woodlands that combined structural punctuation points with soft underplanting.
The garden’s central water feature is contemporary and at first I thought it looked too jarring. After exploring the garden and giving it some thought, I understand the design philosophy that clearly places our collective responsibility for these native and wild places in a contemporary context. Sustainable materials, storm water recycling and bio filters are all unseen yet declared parts of this feature. Other areas provide shelter and food for wildlife. Signage indicates and explains natural communities in an engaging way.
As a designer, I appreciate the subtlety of another designer’s hand, but wonder how many visitors will notice the details. In some ways the garden is too natural and I suspect some won’t get it at all. They’ll think that this is just what’s out there in the real world, when in reality it’s not. If the garden is to be a success, people have to stop and read and listen and look carefully to see the details. When viewed as a whole, it could be perceived as just another messy, unmanicured space that so many find threatening because they are so far removed from the wild.
As always, I’m primarily interested in how people move through a three dimensional outdoor garden space. I’m also interested in how to guide the experience–whether it’s an arrival sequence or just a meandering walk. Lately I’ve been experimenting with what I call wave hedges. They are short curved hedges of boxwood or other dense evergreen that from one view appear to be continuous, but from another are actually low waves of curved green ‘walls.’
Below are two examples for gardens that are being built this season or early next.
I’ll start by saying I don’t know much about this except that the image of these ceramic tiles for a garden path has stuck with me for over a week. I keep going back to it and still liking it a lot! They strike just the right amount of craft and whimsy for me.
What I do know. I first saw an image of the tiles on Pinterest. They were designed by Fresno based sculptor Stan Bitters and were included in an auction of 20th Century pieces a few years ago in Los Angeles. There’s more about that and the history of the tiles on James Soe Nyun’s wonderful blog Lost in the Landscape that I traced the image back to. Boy would I love to have this path!
My little town has an unusual collection of street trees. On my block alone there are red maples, dogwoods, redbuds, oaks, and two native beauties – Cladrastis kentukea all planted in the hell strips. 1′ to 2′ abundant clusters of fragrant white blooms on two side by side trees made me screech the tires on the way home the other day. This isn’t a common tree around here and it is a stunner in every way. I have to remember to us this beauty in more landscape designs!
Cladrastis kentukea has a loose informal shape suitable to casual settings or as a feature tree in a large landscape. Its native range is further south – hence the name. Yellowwood is hardy from zones 4-8, with brilliant yellow fall foliage. It is a large shade tree that can reach 30-50 feet, likes full sun, and has a long taproot so make sure it’s planted where it can stay.
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.
A brick wall with a bird mural painted by naturalistic street artist Roa, dominates one side of the nursery.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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…
Antonio Citterio’s ‘Poltrona Lounge’ is both classic and contemporary.
Angela Missoni’s ‘Miss Dondola’ swing echos the same color and style that are found in her clothing lines.
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
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.
The Patio Garden Assembled is a smaller version that is shipped completed and ready to plant.
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.
All photos via Scout Regalia.
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.
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.
It’s totally wacky and fantastic. I loved it.
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.
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.
Last year, one of the few things I liked at the Kips Bay Showhouse was Robert Canon’s planters.
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.
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.
All photos via Opiary.
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?
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.
There were tens of thousands of narcissus in bloom on fifteen acres of hillside deemed too rocky for farming.
The pasture was first planted in 1941 and is now supported by the Laurel Ridge Foundation. It was a lovely spring afternoon ramble!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Steel Life’s Matchstick Planter, $159.00 comes in great colors and there are other planters to choose from as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On-line shopping just got a whole lot better.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pieris japonica ‘Dorothy Wyckoff’
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’
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.
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?
They’re in London if you want them…at Christopher Jones Antiques or on 1st Dibs.
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,,,)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
It started out simply. Admiration in a late winter garden.
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’
I’ve planted them for my clients for years, but have never had one of my own.
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!
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.
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.
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Sunburst’
As I said. I want one. I really, really, want one.
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.
Some 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.