Garden Trends in the Mall

Mall stores like Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel have made major investments in outdoor furniture and accessories, so I went to the mall to see what was new. Catalogs just don’t do it for me, I can’t see and touch the quality.

The only one of the three that had anything interesting was Crate & Barrel.  On trend as far as lifestyle and color, their selection made the neutrals at Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn seem dreary and tired. The pieces are very fairly priced for the level of quality. Here’s what I liked.

Vertical Pots Crate and Barrel

Colorful ceramic pots with iron hangers. Brightly hued ceramic bird houses.

Ceramic Birdhouses

From more of a merchandising perspective, bold pops of color combined with black and white.

Pops of colorAn entire gardening section with well designed tools and accessories.   I was disturbed though to find plant labels very similar to ones I had seen on Etsy. Not sure if the knock-off was intentional or not as it was a simple graphic idea.

Garden Tools and Potting Bench

My favorite piece of furniture this season is the classically inspired cast aluminum Union dining chair that comes in a matte charcoal finish or red!

Neutral color palette

union-red-dining-arm-chair-with-sunbrella-red-ribbon-cushionI can’t wait for things to warm up and get some pops of color outside!

Trendspotting: Honeycomb

Bees are in the news, so it’s totally understandable that bees and bee things should emerge as a garden trend. Recently I saw a wonderful hose pot in a garden I was visiting and have tried to no avail to find it.

Beehive hose pot

Image via  Miss Trixies Favorite Things

So that leads to honeycomb.  Artist Laura Kramer’s crystal encrusted wasp combs were on display when I was last at ABC Carpet and Home. Once I saw them, I started seeing honeycomb patterns everywhere.  I don’t think it’s just the power of suggestion…

Image via ABC Carpet and Home

Honeycomb patterns have been happening in fashion and interior design for a while so why not gardens?

Gucci Beehive dress

Top image via Gucci , bottom image  via CamPierce

It’s a small idea that can add nature’s geometry to traditional or contemporary garden styles. The pattern can apply to tiles, trellises, fabric and rugs, and even furniture.  A few ideas…

Honeycomb chair

Honeycomb wire chair above via Terrain.  Honeycomb modular wall trellis via Flora below. (These are available at  Jungle, BTW)

Honeycomb wall trellis

Old is new, and honeycomb hexagonal terracotta tiles are right on trend.  The yellow outdoor fabric sports a variation on the theme.  And the turf tiles in the very bottom image of a small Paris garden via (translated)  The Yellow House on the Beach are an original take on honeycomb.

Terra cotta honeycomb

Turf honecomb tiles

If you want more ideas, I’ve assembled a Pinterest board just for honeycomb inspiration.

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,,,)

image via Greige: Interior Design Ideas

 image via House of Hydrangeas

photo via Que Bueno es  Vivir!! 

via Traditional Home




Paint Can planter

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 Can planter
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.

Tin Can shingles
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.

Dumpster Style Garden
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?

Dumpster planter Oliver-Bishop Young
Planted Dumpster Style
Dumpster Planter from artist Oliver Bishop-Young
 images via Oliver Bishop-Young

Click for more Dumpster Style on Pinterest.





Outdoor Fabrics: New Neutrals

I attended the second iteration of Blog Fest.  It is sponsored by Kravat and one of the many fabulous programs they put together was in their showroom at the D & D Building.

Couple that with the fact that I believe that we are at a tipping point for the design and development of outdoor furniture and accessories that can rival those available for inside and there’s a story to tell. I’m going to start with neutral fabric. How many times have you seen a piece of outdoor furniture accessorized with boring plain beige upholstery and pillows? Too often for me, including the terraces at the Kips Bay Showhouse (more about that in my next post).

There is a tendancy towards a lack of color outside except in plantings and this doesn’t have to be the case, but if it is neutral doesn’t have to be dull as dishwater. In the Kravat showroom, I found some neutrals (if that’s your thing) that were full of texture and surface interest and when combined, they were visually compelling.

Tropical patterns, stripes and texture
Woven, pattern and chenile and texture

The fabrics were from the Soliel and Echo collections and had interesting texture and pattern possibilities. There were also some brights, but you’ll have to wait for the full story I’m doing for Leaf to see those…

On a side note…we’d love to design a collection of outdoor fabrics…who better than those of us who actually design outside?

Leaf Magazine…Design Outside

I have a HUGE announcement!  Rochelle Greayer of StudioG, Lynn Felici-Gallant of Indigo Gardens and I have been hard at work getting ready to launch a new digital magazine this fall!

LEAF will cover everything related to design outside and how we live our lives beyond our back (and front) doors.  Subscriptions are free and easy…just click the logo above and complete the two line subscription form on our homepage.

You’ll get an announcement in your emailbox with a link every time we publish…no spam–you have our promise on that!

You can also follow LEAF on Facebook and Twitter.


Garden Trend Watch: Rough Refinement

Last Thursday I scouted the Architectural Digest Home Design Show for outdoor furniture and accessories.  I wasn’t just looking for pieces, I was shopping the market for trends and innovations as well.  I found all three–great pieces, emerging trends and technical innovations that will ultimately result in new pieces and trends.  I will post what I found in all three categories over the next week or two, but today I’ll start with a trend forecast.

The most obvious of the emerging trends is something I’m going to call Rough Refinement.  It is the juxtaposition of rough hewn elements with sophisticated design and often other more industrial materials.  These pieces would be at home in a naturalistic garden as well as one that is cool and contemporary.

Douglas Thayer makes benches and other furniture from reclaimed materials and concrete.  The two shown here use ipe reclaimed from Coney Island’s boardwalk.

Reclaimed Ipe and Concrete

Board by Design had some beautiful rocking chairs, but I liked these Japanese inspired lanterns fabricated from blocks of elm and powder coated steel the best.

Japanese Lantern

In a similar vein, architect Eugene Stoltzfus’ Hercules IV table would be at home on a patio or in a secret woodland garden.

Hercules IV table

Last in this trend is the continuation of recycled fragments and industrial parts that are turned into furniture.  Although this has been popular for several years, Arms and Barnes twisted the Rough Refinement idea adding the natural after the industrial with tables made specifically for growing moss that incorporated found pieces and new concrete.

Moss tables

The NY Times alluded to this as a fashion trend this week which I read after I wrote this piece.  Next up will be some furniture and object picks…



Aspirational Garden Design

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal about who is buying luxury products was good news to me.  Aspirational buyers love their gardens as well as the interiors of their homes.  They hire designers.   That, in my way of thinking, is a very good thing.

Many in the economic climate of the last several years have become DIY champions and warriors, ignoring that those of us who provide thoughtful design services that often make living in a spaces both indoors and out more efficient, sustainable and in the long run much more cost effective than doing it yourself.

Now that that mini-rant is over, on to the inspiration part of the aspiration.  As part of my landscape design practice, I specify furniture and accessories for outdoor environments.  Readers here know that I’m constantly on the lookout for pieces that will work for the transitional and neo-traditional outdoor living spaces I design.  I have taken my now 4 year old Janus beauty book to more than one client appointment.  Aspirational and inspirational, this catalog not only showcases furniture, its’ chock full of other ideas…if you look.  The furniture is extremely high quality and super expensive…hence the aspiration part.

Here’s a look at 2011’s Beauty Book and some ideas I took away from it.

Grey, washed out citrus and aubergine

An extremely sophisticated color palette of washed out grey, ivory, citrus and aubergine.  I’ve been seeing yellow and grey for interiors, and this makes sense of it outdoors.

Naturalist's collection

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the chair, but what interests me is the display of neutral ‘naturalist’ shells, bones and other anthropomorphic items behind it. ( There’s a fast emerging trend based on historic naturalists and plant hunting — see Garden Design and the New York Times.)

A celebration of neutrals

There have been hints for a while that a totally neutral color palette is coming back…look how the small green lawn pops when it doesn’t have to compete.  There’s a garden design lesson there.

Dark garden walls and wood decking

Obviously styled to show off the furniture, I really like the dramatic, dark, glossy walls and wood decking in this image.  Glossy with matte can work for structures as well as plant combinations and is worth exploring further.

Ideas can come from anywhere–it’s what we dream about and aspire to that inspires and informs the spaces we live in.

2010 Top 5 Posts–Yours!

I’ve never done a “top”  list before.  I was interested in what everyone was here was reading so I took a look at the numbers.  As a landscape designer I’m interested in trends–self generated as well as user generated. The list below is a nod to the best of list tradition–not mine–yours.  Click each the first few words of each description to go to that post.

An exploration of India’s potential influence on garden styles.  The Raj ruled this post.

5 things that influenced me as a landscape designer in 2010.

Ideas on color in garden design…no I wasn’t talking to myself.

Thoughts and ideas about sustainability in garden and landscape design.

A love song to the amazing architecture in Buffalo.

Modular Trellis

I’m working on a project that needs some narrow wall trellis and nothing that’s available locally fits the bill.   I regularly shop the market both–brick and mortar and virtual–as part of my job as a landscape designer.  Like a good architect or interior designer, I have to know what’s available JUST IN CASE…

This modular trellis system is a case it point–I’m glad I bookmarked it a while ago.  It’s so versatile that it would work in any style garden–except for maybe rustic… just by how the modules are hung.  Hang them in a vertical line (depending on which way you turn the squares) or in a geometric pattern.

FLORA 'Grow' modular wall trellis

The trellises squares are from FLORA and are one of a series of designs that are made of powder coated zinc plated steel. There are several other patterns.

Modular Trellis Units via FLORA

They’re meant to be able to stand on their own visually while the plants take their time.  Hmm…I might not even want to plant them at all…or I just might want to design my own.

Photo credits:  FLORA

Rite of Spring

The Philadelphia Flower Show is a rite of spring.  It is a unique blend of garden high and low, an elite event with mass appeal.  Designers (both floral and landscape), schools, garden associations/clubs and individuals create gardens or vignettes or enter into many categories or plant classes ensuring that there’s something for everyone. It is always packed (making photographs difficult) and sometimes the lines waiting to see the large display gardens are long, long, long as they were on Friday when I went.

This year’s theme ‘Passport to the World’ gave garden creators a wide berth for interpretation.  Some didn’t (yawn) go much past the back yard, a few were whimsical (yawn, again) interpretations of foreign places, but the really, really interesting ones juxtaposed the idea of the natural world colliding with the industrial world and challenged the idea of what is traditionally beautiful in a garden.

Gambion screen filled w/natural materials
Flowers suspended in beakers
Calla lillies in 'ice'

Two gardens in particular took the idea of rust belt industrialism juxtaposed with naturalism and made it into something new and beautiful.

Michael Petrie, of Handmade Gardens, created a garden (one of two) for show sponsor PNC out of cast off junk that was both whimsical and a road map for recycling industrial cast offs.  The use of recycled materials defined the idea of a vertical ‘green’ wall–in every possible way.

One person's junk is another's garden
'Green' wall detail
Water Feature
Planting detail

Moda Botanica stacked rusted, graffiti covered shipping containers on top of one another to create an other worldly environment.  The garden was incredibly crowded.

Stacked containers- each with a different theme
Glamour and garbage

There are those who deride flower shows as awful fakes with plants blooming completely out of sequence with no regard to how they would be in the real world.  Get over it!  When its good, it’s experimental theater at its best and at it’s worst it’s still pretty.   For me, as someone who designs gardens for a living, it’s a place to look for ideas and inspiration–to seek possible directions that are only possible when creativity is allowed out of the bounds of design reality.

They Give Great Shop

On my recent trip  to the San Francisco Bay area I visited  a quartet of garden shops.  Having worked in the fashion industry, I understand the power of  visual merchandising and have a healthy respect for the best of it as an art form–something sorely lacking in most garden retailers.  More than one Bay Area resident I spoke to referred to these shops as being well ‘curated’. Since when did merchandising become the same thing as curating? Stuff for sale isn’t art–maybe it’s a California thing.

The Gardener – Fourth Street – Berkeley, CA

For over 26 years The Gardener has blurred the boundaries between inside and outside  in true California fashion.  Half of the store was given over to scents and other smelly things–the other to a tasteful blend of interior and exterior furniture and accessories.  They are curated merchandised side by side in a way that makes it difficult to tell what the product’s original destination was–inside or out–and that’s the point–albeit a somewhat predictable one in 2010.

Inside out and outside in
Cast concrete stool -- at home inside or out
A clearly delinated 'outside' area

Artefact – Cornerstone Gardens – Sonoma, CA

Artefact Design and Salvage is a destination shop.  Brilliantly merchandised curated and lit, it is high drama retail at its best.  Someone else’s cast offs never looked so good.  New and antique, natural and manufactured, naive and sophisticated all at the same time, this is a place to slow down and look and to be inspired. The pictures speak for themselves–yet only tell part of the story since the scale of each piece and the ones next to it are very important to the look and feel of the store.  It is also, of the four destinations here, the only one that deserves to be called ‘curated’.

White and bright
Natural and artificial
Naive and sophisticated

Flora Grubb Gardens – Jerrold Avenue – San Francisco, CA

Located in an industrial part of the city, much has been written about Flora Grubb’s unique point of view.   Yes, I did see the framed as if they were curated art succulent displays and the funky planted junk car and bike.  I also saw the free hanging two sided Wooly Pocket (although it could have been a different brand) ‘wall’ pictured below.  The rest of the gardens were, well a garden center that was really well curated presented merchandised.  Fermob cafe tables and chairs were hung on a wall and contemporary garden accessories were freely mixed in with vintage ones.  Plants were showcased in vignettes with pots and accessories.  This is sophisticated shopping at its best, different from most garden centers’ approach but not unique to high end retail.

Planted Junker
Cafe tables and chairs as wall art
Free hanging and abundant

Annie’s Annuals – Market Street – Richmond, CA

In a league of its own, Annie’s Annuals was the most fun of all of the places I visited.  Definitely not curated, this retail/wholesale/mail order nursery backs up an incredible, hand picked and horticulturally diverse selection of plants with a sense of humor and delight.  Hand written plant descriptions and creative and funky signage (some with KidRobot ancestry) make this an oasis in the middle of industrial (and crime plagued) Richmond.  Annie and Elaine–our hostesses with the mostesses,  freely shared their time and stories as well as giving me a tour of the propagation areas and as Elaine described ‘the crazy science experiment’ area.  Annie’s doesn’t pretend to be something that it’s not and because of that it was refreshing and original.  A big Bravo!

Hmmm. Adam and Eve..or maybe not?
1000's of plants
Is this a nursery or Kid Robot?


In a previous professional life, I spent many hours  forecasting  fashion trends.  For me, this is still an integral part of what I do as a designer.  This week I’ve been asked to submit my ideas for 2010 landscape design trends for use in various ways (more on that at a later date).   Trendspotting might seem paradoxical to gardening–with its self image of dirty wellies and hands in the soil, but it’s not.

An accurate and viable trend forecast is not something you just pull out of your hat.  Forecasting is research based and takes knowledge and just more than a little bit of intuition.  A wide variety of influential sources are used to make trend predictions:  business and consumer trends, pop culture, lifestyle trends, what’s happening in other design disciplines, books people are reading, movies they are watching,  etc., etc., etc.

The example below is not a trend prediction, but these photos collected over the last year in my ‘idea’ file point in a direction that shows the trajectory of a possibly emerging trend for garden furniture and accessories.  The illustrations show one small idea in what could become part of a larger trend of looking to nature to inspire garden accessories and furniture.

A bird's nest

The next photo is known as ‘The Bird’s Nest’ and was not necessarily inspired by a real nest but it is its visual cousin and was seen by billions of people as part of the 2008 Olympics.  Hmmm.  Architecture and sports influencing garden trends?

Bejing Olympic Stadium

The DeCastelli chairs, ‘bird’s nest’ fence at Terrain and a firebowl from Anna Columbo all support this trend idea.

DeCastelli Chairs
Fence at Terrain
Core ten fire bowl

And lastly, the photo below is on the back cover of the current issue of Garden Design–note the name of the furniture- New Bird’s Nest…

Often emerging trends are alien looking.   We’re not ready for that yet.   Think about all of the times you have seen someone wearing something and you think to yourself ‘I would never…’ and then a year later you’re buying it as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.  That happened because the arc of the trend (sometimes years long) reached your market.

Below is a well researched trend report on broad garden trends for 2010 from The Garden Media Group.  Take a look and use your own powers of observation to connect the garden trend dots.

Garden A Go-Go

In an odd alignment of  things, one of the emerging trends in both fashion and landscape design is based on 1960s mod, so I thought I’d explore some of the possibilities for gardens starting with a groovy magazine cover as inspiration.

Harper's Bazaar Cover c. 1966
Harper's Bazaar Cover c. 1966

This is not a retro trend, we aren’t going to recreate Mad Men in the garden–although thinking about that idea is fun…60s Pop is clean and modern and draws from both vintage and contemporary sources.  Fun yet sophisticated color, shiny surfaces, and space age shapes for garden accessories are dominant  with plants adding texture and more complex layers of color.

Bertoia chairs from Knoll
Bertoia chairs
J. Schatz birdhouse
J. Schatz birdhouse
Bauer Pot
Bauer Pot

Since this is a trend for gardens, plants are still primary players.  I first saw these plants at the 2009 APLD International Landscape Design Conference in Portland, Oregon last summer.  The exuberant colors of these 2010 perennial introductions–all from Terra Nova Nurseries— illustrate just how up-to-the-minute and trendy  A Go-Go garden can be.

Yucca 'Bright Star'
Yucca 'Bright Star'
Echinacea 'Tangerine Dream'
Echinacea 'Tangerine Dream'
Geum 'Eos'
Geum 'Eos'
Heuchera 'Shanghai'
Heuchera 'Shanghai'
Heleborus Winter Jewels 'Golden Lotus'
Heleborus Winter Jewels 'Golden Lotus'
Pulmonaria 'Silver Bouquet'
Pulmonaria 'Silver Bouquet'

In all of this, I can’t ignore the gardener…there’s always, in my mind, other fashion decisions to be made in the  60s Pop A Go-Go garden so I’ll be wearing these.

Doc Martens
Doc Martens

Have a happy and safe holiday week.  Miss R will be back after dancing the mashed potato for Thanksgiving.

Photo credits:  Top to bottom:  Harper’s Bazaar cover | Harper’s Bazaar; Bertoia Chairs | Knoll Studio; J. Schatz Egg Birdhouse |J. Schatz; Bauer Pot | Bauer Pottery; Dutchtub | Dutchtub; All plant portraits: Photos courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.; Doc Martens | Doc Martens