Sphinx at Hillwood Washington DC

A Tale of Two Garden Sphinxes

Imagine my surprise, while visiting Hillwood Museum and Gardens, when I saw this sphinx at the entrance to the formal gardens.  There are four of them.  I’ve seen them before, in bronze at Blairsden–the house that is also the location for a garden I’ve designed for APLDNJ for this year’s Mansion in May.

The sphinx at Hillwood…

Sphinx at Hillwood Washington DC

The slightly different but not all that much sphinx at Blairsden.

Sphinx at Blairsden

I don’t know a lot about these types of sphinxes, but the similarities are remarkable don’t you think?

Garden Antiques Shopping…next winter!

Anyone who has hung around here for a while knows that I love antique and vintage garden ornament and furniture.  I buy things for my landscape design clients and often, what I’m buying has been found in Europe.  Since this never ending winter has been excellent for real and armchair travel, I’m planning an introductory buying trip for a small group of landscape designers next winter.  Not the most glamourous of seasons, but that’s when we have the time to go.

The trip will be short, between seven and ten days, and will take us to the antiques and vintage markets in Brussels, Antwerp and Paris. We will be working with local specialists and shipping will be coordinated for all purchases.  It will be less expensive to ship as a group than individually and we will be able to make shipping container minimums. There will be some garden related side events and free time to explore the cities with each other or solo.

Paris Flea Market vignette

I did a simple day scouting expedition (on Friday when the markets were mostly closed since that’s when I had the time) while I was in Paris to see what I could find easily. Even  partially open, there were treasures to be found.

There were plenty of mid-century pieces to be had also but they weren’t my focus that day.  I saw Willy Guhl planters and chairs, wire furnitur, signage and ornaments as well as all sorts of cool small items that could be re-used in a garden such as the boules Lyonnaise balls that I bought to use as container ornaments.

So if you think you might be interested in a trip like this, let me know via email susan at susancohangardens dot com and I’ll keep you in the loop as the plans progress.



Boxwood and terracotta at Detroit Garden Works

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!

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.

Garden Folk Art Sculpture

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)

Tuesday’s Find…A Dovecote

Dovecotes fascinate me.  The ancient Romans had immense pigeon housing/raising structures.  They brought that idea with them on their march through Europe.  In the Middle Ages pigeons were a common part of the menu used for both eggs and meat, so the need to house them was functional as well as aesthetic.  Even those living in cities raised (some still do) rooftop pigeons.

Jump forward to the 21st century and dovecotes are among the most romantic of garden structures.

Vintage dovecote

This one is from Mary Ann Jones Antiques in Los Angeles.  Dovecotes can be small additons to an existing building or stand alone structures.  Often abandoned now, I think they deserve a second look, particularly with the upswing interest in backyard chickens…can pigeons be far behind?

The dovecote at Quatre Vents
Scottish 'beehive' dovecote
Classic round dovecote



Tuesday’s Find…a boot scrape

I need one of these.  Gardens are muddy and those wimpy little boot brush things to put outside the door don’t do the job.  This boot scrape is elegant in its simplicity and utilitarian design.  It  would fantastic outside my cottage door.

19th c Boot Scraper
Wrougt iron boot scrape

This spring has been especially wet in the gardens I work in.  My mud shoes and boots are always full of other people’s muck–sometimes up to the ankles and my kitchen floor (I don’t have a mud room) is always dirty.  I’m tired of sweeping and mopping the floor (I don’t have help either) and if I take my boots off outside they never dry out and they’r oh, so cold, in the morning! It’s available from M. Finkel and Daughter in Philadelphia.

A Re-emerging Trend…Tuesday’s Find

Things are in flux.  The economy looks a little bit brighter and that is creating some impetus for collecting again.  Art Deco looks exciting again.  Funny that it was the high style of the Great Depression, but many of my interior design and architecture friends are looking to the clean lines of this pre-cursor to Mid-century Modern so let’s explore some outdoor finds…click on each photo to be taken to the dealer’s site.

A semi circular garden bench circa 1930
Industrial styling in steel and leather circa 1930
A limestone sundial circa 1930


A copper architectural fragment
A concrete and steel planter/water basin circa 1930s
A pair of Deco doors..how cool would these be in a courtyard?


Antique Cart Wheels

Last week I was scouring Michaelian and Kohlberg’s warehouse for pieces to use in the Mansion in May show house terrace  and I fell totally in love with a group of cart wheels.  They had amazing iron detail which I love on just about anything and a graphic quality that made them very contemporary even though they were very old.

Incredible detail and handmade craftsmanship

These wheels can stand on their own as sculpture, can be hung on a wall or be suspended from a pergola as a candelabra with led pillars lighting the way.

I’ve always liked millstones and thought they were fine additions to gardens in paths, as fountains or even as free standing sculpture.  I never considered cart wheels as being just as useful and beautiful though.  (I think it might be the folksy wagon wheel thing that I don’t like that kept that door closed.)

So many ideas, so little time.

Tuesday’s Find…turquoise planters

This garden find is more about the color than the actual pieces.  I’ve written about this shade of Robin’s Egg Blue before.  It can be contemporary or vintage looking depending on the context.  It plays well with other colors without being secondary.  So these pots aren’t really the thing this week…their color is.

The blue's the thing...

The pots themselves are available from Inner Gardens in Los Angeles.

Tuesday’s Find…a rustic wheel table

For my first garden find of 2012 I’m going to revert to an old theme.  We know how much I love faux bois, but this is a bit different.  The table top is an old cart wheel from Guatemala and the table base is handmade iron.  Together they are rustic and lovely and remind me of faux bois.  So now we’ve come full circle much like the cart wheel!  Happy New Year!

Rustic Table

It’s available from dos gallos in Los Angeles.

Tuesday’s Find…a rustic glider

When I was a child, my grandmother and I would shell peas while gently rocking back and forth on her garden glider.  She would do the shelling, I would do the day dreaming.  This glider isn’t at all like that one…it’s got oh so much more character and a British pedigree.

Oak Glider

It also has really beautiful mechanics.  Functional and fun…what could be better?  Maybe the price.

Glider Detail

The glider is available from The Elemental Garden in Connecticut.

Tuesday’s Find…rethinking tree guards

How many times have I walked by trees surrounded by these oh so functional guards?  They’re not used much anymore and even when they were I didn’t give them much thought.  Today, looking for a ‘find’ I saw at them with ‘new’ eyes and thought how great these could be plant supports or sculptual garden elements rather than plant protection.

Tree guards

Wall mounted or free standing these could be wonderful for any number of climbing plants–or as I would probably use them…as a vertical architectural element on their own. I’m sure you could find these in a salvage yard, but the ones shown are from The Elemental Garden in CT.

Tuesday’s Find…Walter Lamb Chaise Lounge

This one hits all of my outdoor design buttons…modern, curvaceous, cleanlined and vintage.

Oh! would I love to have this in the garden that’s in my mind…not the one I currently have which is in shambles after the two punch hurricane/snowstorm we experienced this fall.

It’s time to start dreaming again…of gardens, outdoor spaces and stylish living outside.  If you want to dream about the chaise it’s available at CasaBauhaus.

Tuesday’s Find…carnival swing

Ever since I visited the local carnival this past summer I’ve been obsessed with finding ways to use all things carny in gardens from neon to vintage rides and signs.  (More on that later.)

This swing goes beyond the usual and would be a welcome addition to mine.  Of course it’s French and way outside my budget but I still love it…particularly the paint.

Love, love, love the painted surface

If you have deep pockets the swing is available from La Maisonette on line.

Tuesday’s Find…a fantasy folly

Architectural models are one of my things…so are garden follies.  Years ago when I visited the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, his collection of architectural models stuck in my memory.  So it’s fitting that my ‘find’ this week is a model of  fantasy folly.  I can imagine this in a meadow or a clearing in a woodland garden.  It would be totally delightful.

Fantasy Garden Folly

The folly is available from Piranesi Antiques.

Tuesday’s Find…a rustic wood bench

Sometimes when I’m scouting things for garden clients and Leaf Magazine I find something that is beautiful more for how it was made than for the actual object itself. More than anything I’ve seen in a long time, this bench from Scotland displays as much joy in the process as in the final piece itself.

Note the wedged mortise and tendon joints holding the seat and back to the sides.  The natural board edges have been left as have the marks left from planing the boards to their finished thickness.  These maker’s marks add to the beauty of the bench and make it more special in this era of mass production and consumable goods.

The bench is available from Bellingham and Company in New York.

Tuesday’s Find…bargain hunting

While it’s fun to dream about expensive antiques for the garden, my wallet doesn’t always agree with the result so I decided to do a specialized search 1st Dibs for garden objects that were $500 and less.  Sometimes I don’t have the time to hunt, so I’m willing to pay for something great…even if I have to save for a few months.

I did’t really think I’d find much since the antiques market is hot right now, but I was surprised at the results.  There were a few gems–all under $350 instead of my original goal of $500.  Here  are 3 of them with their prices–click on the photo to investigate further.

These were a bit pricey, but I love the patina…

Vintage French Watering cans - $150 each

These were a steal though.  I’ve seen them for much more in much worse shape.

Russell Woodward side chairs -$350

The steal of the day…1970’s vintage chairs in an awesome cobalt blue.

1970s Chairs $275 for the pair



Tuesday’s Find…Swan seating

So this isn’t a swan song…it’s a swan seat.  Sometimes I like things just because they are totally ridiculous and this is one of them.   I am so not surprised that it comes from a garden antiques dealer in Palm Beach where I expect it would probably be just another swan in the flock. Available at F.S. Henemader Antiques.

I will admit to being busy, distracted and generally running around like a madwoman trying to get everything done. I’m apologizing in advance for missed posts during the next month as I do my part to ready the launch of Leaf Magazine on October 15th.




Tuesday’s Find…a swing

I’ve written about amusement parks here before.  Before computerized light displays and back lit plastic artwork, there was simple beauty and magic in these mostly summer places.  I am still drawn to travelling carnivals because of their simplicity and straightforward delivery of fun and innocent thrills.  I look forward to them each and every summer.

Now that summer is almost over, I imagine this vintage amusement park swing used in a garden.  There are so many ways other than a swing that come to mind…an easy shelf on a porch,  a support for a container, or as a simple curiousity…


Vintage amusement park swing

It can be had at Obsolete in Venice, California.

Tuesday’s Find…a Majolica Pot

I am usually ambivalent about Majolica pottery.  Often its explosion of surface decoration and eccentric forms are just too over the top. With that said, this uber pretty planter drew me in.  Because it is a specific type of collectible Majolica, it’s outrageously expensive…but it’s still lovely, romantic and best yet…turquoise.

It’s available at Linda Horn in New York.

Cache Pot


Tuesday’s Find…a cast iron cow

Sometimes I wonder why I take a picture when I’m visiting a garden.  That doesn’t mean I shoot an image that I don’t like, it’s that I’m not always quite sure why I like it at that moment.  This was the case with the image below…

It's all about the cow...

Fast forward three weeks to the present Tuesday and look what I found!  I think I’d like a small herd.

A cast iron cow...

A bit larger, this one is in London at Christopher Edwards and is from the 1930s.

Tuesday’s Find…backyard chickens

The current craze for backyard chickens is not something I participate in, but I would love to have these garden chairs!  From the 1940s they say farm yet are simple enough to fit with many garden styles.  If they were mine, I might paint them a different color though.The chairs are from Blitheworld Home in Mt. Kisco, NY in case you’d like to bring them home to roost!

Tuesday’s Find…a cast stone bench

This is an interesting garden bench design…part faux bois, part Gothic carving and part a stone mason’s textural basket pattern.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a anything quite like it…it shouldn’t work, but it does.

It’s available from R.T. Facts in Kent, Connecticut.

Garden Design Details: Classic Box Planters

Sometimes it’s hard to improve on a classic.  Since a visit long ago to Versailles, I have had a secret love affair with the classic box planter.

An army of trees boxed for a king...

Also known as an Orangerie Planter or tree box planter, these containers can add drama to a garden or a patio.  The simple cubed geometric form adds structure and a tree, well I welcome the opportunity to add trees just about anywhere.  They can work in traditional and contemporary settings.

The tree greens the space

There are, in my mind a few features that make these planters different from any other square planter.  First, they have feet which improves air circulation under the planter and helps to keep it cool and second, they have corner finials.  Below are some of the many variations on a the classic.

The most classic are from Les Jardins du Roi Soleil. These planters are built to last centuries, open on one side and have the pedigree.

The real deal...

Updated with reclaimed wood and rusty iron details…from Clayton Gray Home.

Reclaimed wood and contemporary lines

A concrete and cast iron antique version found at Decorati


Great age and wonderful patina

From Restoration Hardware…the Versailles planter.  Well, not really but they did reinterpret it.

The re-interpreted classic

Gothic and Victorian variations from Horchow.

Gothic Variation
Victorian variation

So even though my garden doesn’t have the style or scale of Fountainbleu…

Fontainbleu. The Orangerie of the Queen. ca. 1670 - 90. Etching.

I have a box planter next to the garage that this year is home to a large tropical fern. It does a wonderful job of hiding my plant hospital.  It’s powder coated steel with a removable box for planting.

You can never go wrong with classic black...

For more box planters…traditional and contemporary here is my Box Planter board on Pinterest.



Tueday’s Find…a rusty jardinere

As you are about to find out…there’s a ‘contained’ theme to this week’s posts…

Rusty and wonderful, this moss lined planter is just the thing.   I’d pile it with more moss and ferns and put it in the shade.  It’s from Nantucket House Antiques on that most summery of islands…Nantucket in Massachusetts.



NYDC Outdoor Roundup

On the final day of Blogfest2011 we visited the New York Design Center (NYDC).  It is the oldest of the four major New York design showroom buildings.  Here’s a small round-up (I need to go back) of things I liked for gardens, outdoor rooms, terraces and patios.  All would look better outside than in their respective showrooms…I’ll leave how to use them up to your imagination!

Whimsical metal chair from Profiles
Rustic planter from Century Furniture
Lanterns from Global Views
Lounge Chair from Century Furniture
Albert Paley Candelabra at 1st Dibs
Steel Letters at 1st Dibs
Crocodile at 1st Dibs

Tuesday’s Find…Brimfield Antiques Show

Last Friday I headed to Massachusetts to meet up with some designer friends at the Brimfield Antiques Show.  I was also shopping for garden furniture for a client and hunting.  I could have easily spent three days there was so much to see..and buy.  Beyond the obvious ironwork fragments, furniture and containers there were some really interesting and unusual things for gardens.  Here are three of my picks.

I really loved this table, but it was beyond my budget for the day.  The galvanized steel added an interesting textural element to it’s classic style.

Galvanized Steel 'Beidermeier' Table

The rusted industrial exhaust housings would make incredible wall sconces or…flip them upside down and use the brace for a pot and make them into wall planters.

Wall planters perhaps?

This one didn’t get away…I bought a painted steel and wood bench and matching chair.  They’re not in the garden yet, but they will be by the end of the week!

Yes, there's a matching chair!





Tuesday’s Find…wood strap finial

One of the many things I like about my weekly hunt for something interesting for gardens is that I always find something.  I never expect to find anything.  It’s what keeps me hunting.  Later this week I’m going to Brimfield for the first time since I was a kid, so next week expect some firsthand finds!

This week I’m intrigued by the sculptural quality of this wood finial.


Orb detail--lovely

It’s from the Scott Estepp Gallery in Cincinatti.