House and Home – Raffia End Page

The Canadian shelter magazine, House and Home got it almost right.  On the very last page of the May 2011 issue is a feature titled ‘Raffia’.  Picking up on multiple trends from several design disciplines–handmade, natural materials, neutral beiges and tans as well as lean modern design– it features them together.  What they could have also done was add a few plants and/or outdoor specific accessories for a total living trend. Here’s the post and some additions of my own…


The sedges are particularly suited to this idea….

Carex testacea

Peeling and exfoliating bark is another way to add plants to this idea.

Heptacodium miconiodes (Seven Son Flower)

Probably this easiest match would be many of the ornamental grasses…


Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'

I didn’t think that was so hard…did you?

In my Reader…Design Seeds

Just about now, in the middle of a very snowy and grey January I need a jolt of color.  For color trends and inspiration, Design Seeds is like no other.

Fast, furious and beautifully curated, Jessica Colaluca creates ranges of hues from a single source of inspiration and there are hundreds them.   These are not random pretty pictures with some matched colors–they reflect a keen eye for current design trends.   A forecasting veteran, Jessica has been keeping inspiration notebooks for years.  Her ideas are fluid and her influences are far ranging.  There’s also a companion FB page.  Love it…and I’ll let the inspiration speak for itself…all images courtesy of  Design Seeds.

Color inspiration can come from anywhere or anything…

A full range of hues is there for the discerning eye…most would only see the radish.

Moody and neutral palettes don’t have to be just grey or tan…

Classic blue and white with a twist…

Sun washed and bleached brights.  An exciting and unexpected garden design color scheme could grow from any of these palettes…that’s why they’re seeds.

In my Reader…Inspire Me Now

This is one for anyone with a short attention span.  Inspire Me Now is a blitz of  inspiration images and ideas curated by Szymon Blaszczyk, a specialist in user experience design.  The blog consists solely of provocative images  that demand a minute’s worth of thought.  Perfect for the busy, busy new year ahead!

Here are some recent and not so recent entries–as always, click the image to be taken to the post.



Roof domain?


Public service…

Circular Swimming Pools

I’m working on a landscape design that will incorporate a round pool.  I’ve been meaning to write about circular swimming pools for a while and have been collecting inspiration images on garden visits.  Round pools can stand on their own as a traditional pool or they can be integrated into the garden and ‘read’ as a pond rather than a pool.

Here are a few I’ve seen on garden visits in the past two years.

Round pool at Bamboo Brook

Designed and built in New Jersey in the early 20th century by one of the first women landscape architects, Martha Brookes Hutcheson, this was a swimming pool and part of a larger water harvesting system.  Since her property, Merchiston Farm has become a public park it has modified and is now only 12″ deep.

Midcentury solution - round swimming pool

Tucked into a corner, this round pool designed by Dallas landscape architect Susi Thompson is perfect for this mid-century modern home.

Robert Bellamy's home pool
Robert Bellamy - round pool for a client

Two pools by Dallas based landscape architect, Robert Bellamy.  The first at his home and the second a variation on a theme for a client.

The round 'fountain' pool

Renny Reynolds and Jack Staub’s  round ‘fountain’ at Hortulus Farm in Pennsylvania.  I didn’t realize it was a pool until I saw the steps into it…

Eliptical plunge pool

An eliptical variation on the round pool theme from David Hocker, a Dallas based landscape architect.

In my Reader…The Sketchbook Project

I am going to participate in The Sketchbook Project. Artists from around the world all interpret the same small sketchbook.  Anyone can participate.  For $25 you are sent a small Moleskin sketchbook to fill according to a theme you choose and return it by the deadline. All are then cataloged and become part of a traveling exhibit.  The idea is too cool for me not to participate in.  I’ve been thinking about working on a non-garden related sketchbook and looking for a reason to start it…kismet!

On the website they show examples of previous sketchbooks.  Here are my two favorites.


My New Jersey…not Reality TV

Well I finally, by mistake, saw five minutes of the MTV hit Jersey Shore.

For much of my life, in three separate stints, I have lived in the Garden State by choice.  I am not of Italian descent, don’t call anyone by a stereotypical slur and definitely have more than two brain cells to rub together…even when drunk.

Go ahead, believe what you see on TV.  Sure the Sopranos also live here…and their ancestors in Atlantic City too. By all means believe.  There are too many people here anyway.

Let me show you a little secret though…get off  the highway and travel west, all over the state you will see this…

Protected open farmland

But don’t believe me, believe the Jersey Shore, because TV tells the truth–after all isn’t it reality?

Mobile Gardens

With the fall planting season in full swing here, I thought I’d share this uber-cool idea from Dutch based Italian industrial designer Gionata Gatto.  Called Urban Buds, the project should still be on view at Sotheby’s in London where it’s been on display and working since May.  Each movable, self contained garden unit has wheels and can be planted up in a very limited space making it perfect for courtyards, balconies or even a back alley.

Here are the original sketches (click to enlarge) via his studio website

And here’s two actual mobile gardens.  I think they’re great…I might even take up vegetable gardening again.

Monday 27 | A Year of Mondays

I never really know what I’m going to write about on these Mondays.  I always have the garden image first and then backtrack.  I wonder, why did that particular aspect of the garden attract me?  I try to be honest in my choice – both from an aesthetic viewpoint as well as being true to the discovery aspects of the project.

Now for the discovery part.  I’ve been foggy.  My brain full of cobwebs.  Mid-summer heat brings me a  lack of focus that lifts with the cooler weather.  So…on this foggy morning these spiderwebs were the moment.

No. 27

In my reader…Nude and blushing

This is the first in a series about what I read and how it influences my design work.  Posts will likely be link rich, so feel free to explore much of the same material and see if it inspires you too.  I post regularly on Monday and Wednesday (with sporadic bursts in between) so for the foreseeable future Friday will be in the mix.  Isn’t summer the time to catch up on your reading anyway?

Back in May the Huffington Post published an article ‘NUDE: Fashion’s Most Debated Color’.  Then about a week ago, Pantone (@pantonetrends) tweeted this color palette. (Yup, I’m connecting the dots again…)

Since then it’s been lingering in the back of my mind as possible inspiration for a garden–not one for harsh light either.  These colors would disappear in clear bright light.

Since I’m hands on, I went to two of my go to websites–Colourlovers and Image Spark–to explore the possibilities for myself.  Both are fast and intuitive–the entire process was less than an hour combined.  I’ve discussed both before, but since this is about inspiration I think they deserve a second look.

Ultimately this exercise strayed away from ‘nude’ and morphed into something I called Blush.  Here’s a color palette that I fooled around with on Colourlovers.


and an inspiration I played with board on Image Spark.


Every now and again it’s good to stretch and PLAY with something just because.

An A+ Planting Combination

I’ve become enamored for the second time with Astrantia major.  Over the years I’ve included it in more than one planting plan always hoping it will be deer resistant…it’s not.  This year more than any previous, the deer have devoured plants they have previously ignored–or at least left alone until later in the season.  I’m going to have to spray the three Astrantias I recently acquired for my shade garden.

Astrantia major and Astilbe sp.

My inspiration for a planting combo that I didn’t think up is this one of Astrantia major and one of the mid-height pink Astilbe.  As soon as the heat wave is over I’m putting these two ‘A’s in the garden for an A+ combo.

In My Reader…

For those of you have been reading Miss R for a while, you know how I am constantly on the hunt for inspiration for my garden and landscape design work. You also probably have figured out that I am a lifelong voracious reader of everything–newspapers, blogs, books, cereal boxes–even Miss R is named after a heroine in a book.  I read serious tomes not as often as I probably should, but also magazines of every sort,  trashy novels, gardening books, biographies and even The Star in the grocery aisle.  I am curious about many things except vampires.

So starting this Friday for a while,  with In My Reader I’m going to share exactly that…what I’m reading and looking at (sometimes it’s all about the pictures). New and old favorites, blogs, websites and other on-line resources along side books, articles and other printed (yes printed on paper) materials that I use and find in this process.  As a warning though…it might take a while to connect the dots…I have a busy mind and a sometimes a short attention span.  Please stop by and let me know what you think…

As a preview of things to come…today at 1 pm EST pick up links from the Garden Designers Roundtable.  I am a contributing member, but I’m not posting on this month’s topic ‘Small Spaces’.

Sunny | Solstice | Yellow

The solstice is on Sunday so  I’m celebrating with inspiration for sun colored gardens. Last year I honored it with images of the sun.

Palette created on

I find yellow to be the most difficult color to use outside of plants–there are some really great yellow blooming and yellow foliage plants btw.  Yellow never fades into the background unless it’s with other yellows or in a cacophony of brights–and that’s the challenge.

Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’
Gold Finch
Field of mustard
Echinacea x ‘Big Sky Sunrise’
Cercis canadensis ‘Hearts of Gold’
Adirondack Chair
Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’
All Stars

Enjoy the sun, it will be December before you know it!  If it rains, just grab your yellow slicker and be your own sun…

Sources and credits top to bottom:  Parasol, Bouquet (unknown found on, HakonechloaGold Finch, Mustard Field, Echinacea, Yellow Door, Cercis (unknown), Adirondack chair, Coreopsis, All Stars

Flowers for Myself

Sometime around Thanksgiving I bought two bunches of tulips for my winter work table – my other work table is in the unheated studio.  I splurge on fresh flowers for myself in the winter when none are available to cut from the garden – they help hold the grey weather at bay.  I’m not sure why, but these particular tulips held me completely in their thrall.  Their subtle changes day to day fascinated me.   They lasted for more than a week.

tulips 1

tulips 2

tulips 3

tulips 4

tulips 5

Field Trip: Atlock Farm

I’ve known Atlock Farm and its owner Ken Selody for years.  We were comrades in arms at the New Jersey Flower and Garden show for several seasons where each time I created a display garden, I gave Ken the forced plants that I knew wouldn’t overwinter in my garage when the show was over.  What I haven’t done in much of that time is visit the farm.  It’s out of my loop unless I want something that only Ken has, and then I usually send an assistant to pick it up after a phone call.

Last Thursday, I participated in a garden photography workshop run by APLDNJ at Atlock.  Eight landscape designers met with photographer Rich Pomerantz and used the gardens, hoop houses and chickens as subjects for photos.  Here are some of mine.

Still life w/disco ball
Still life w/disco ball
Coleus in a crowd
Coleus Standards
Fall Border
Fall Border
Palais de poulet
Palais de poulet
Lonley Luytens
Lonely Luytens
Nursery at the end of the season
Season's End

Field Trip: The High Line

Everyone has been extolling the virtues of New York City’s High Line since the day in opened earlier this summer.  Once again I waited for the hubbub to subside and even picked a grey and drizzly afternoon and evening for my first visit.

The idea of transforming an abandoned railway into a public promenade  is not a new one. The High Line is the second of its kind.  Leading the trend in 1996,  the Promenade Plantee was built in Paris.  A 4.5 km long elevated section of railway was converted into a park with shops, studios and a bike path built beneath it.  In 2004, it was used as a location for a long scene in one of my favorite films, ‘Before Sunset’ . Other American cities with forgotten elevated railroad sections, such as Chicago’s Bloomingdale Line (to be called the Bloomingdale Trail), have plans to revitalize them into public greenways as well.

So French!  The Promenade Plantee in Paris
So French! The Promenade Plantee in Paris

I’ve been interested in the High Line for years and had a rare opportunity to see it ‘before’.  In 2003, I also went to see the results of  ‘Designing the High Line‘ which was on display appropriately at Grand Central StationFriends of the High Line, sponsored a conceptual competition to search for ideas for the 1.5 miles of elevated track along 10th Avenue between Gansevoort Street to the south and 30th Street to the north.  The idea of the competition was to engage the public in a visual dialog of possibility.  The results that I saw (720 of them) ranged from a simple crayon drawing of flowers on grey paper to ideas encompassing everything from roller coasters to mixed residential/commercial/public use to leaving it to rot away to nothingness.

Oudolf's Plantings looking south from 20th Street
Piet Oudolf's plantings looking south from 20th Street

So with all of that in my mind, as well as knowing that Piet Oudolf (one of my design heros) had designed the plantings, I walked the first section of the High Line which is now open to the public–between Gansevoort and 20th Streets.  In the afternoon, I walked its length from 20th Street south.  That evening I walked back from Gansevoort Street north.  The High Line’s  design team has envisioned a promenade with areas for resting, viewing and activity.  It is narrow and expansive, industrial and natural, solitary and communal.  Parts of the open section aren’t totally finished, but even with the dismal weather, there were people strolling, sitting, having a cup of coffee, and experiencing New York’s newest park at a slower pace than the streets below it–so in that way it’s a huge success.

Promenade and Gathering

The plantings, more than anything evoke the railway’s abandoned history.  What I found unsettling about my walk both ways, is that there were no surprises.  It was what I expected.

Plantings and original tracks
Expanse and enclosure - industrial and natural

The details of the High Line are what make it special–benches rise up out of aggregate planks or roll on rusted rails, rusted steel (coreten?) edging is bent at 90 degrees rather than being welded, concrete planting bed edges flow both vertically and horizontally, and the lighting conceals and beckons.  It is beautifully designed.

Rolling benches
Rolling benches
Gravel and aggregate at planting edge
Gravel and aggregate at planting edge
Looking north at Frank Gehry's IAC building
Looking north at Frank Gehry's IAC building--vines not on structure yet
A similar view at night
A similar view at night
A bench and the blue tunnel
A bench and the blue tunnel

I think it’s worth visiting the High Line over an extended period of time, through the seasons to watch it mature and grow.  It’s already proved to be a destination worth exploring–even without the surprise element.

Photo credit:  Promenade Plantee via Quirky Travel all others, the author.

Field Trip: Terrain at Styer’s

Entry Sign

I don’t participate in the latest fads.  I keep current with what  the newest trends, destinations, colors or even plants are, but unless the opportunity to experience them is temporary I don’t feel the need to go in the first week, month or even year.  I  like to let things mellow a bit before jumping into the fray.  That’s why I decided it was finally time to see if all the hype about  Terrain at Styer’s was true.

Fountains and Planters at the main Shop Entrance
Fountains and Planters at the main Shop Entrance

Located outside of Philadelphia, it’s been over a year since Styer’s, which was already an excellent garden center, was transformed into what should be a new garden center paradigm.  Much has been written about Terrain. Its parent company is Urban Outfitters,  the hip retailer that also owns Anthropoligie.   They are merchants who understand their retail concepts generating 1.5 billion dollars in sales in 2007.

Stick Fence and Grasses in the parking lot
Stick Fence and Grasses in the parking lot

I allowed about 45 minutes for the stop and could have used twice that.  What makes this garden center different?  Unlike most others it has a distinct  retail viewpoint beyond the seasonal selling of plants.    The Terrain concept is realized at every turn, from the way the store environment is laid out to the design of the store fixtures to the merchandise, it all supports the Terrain retail philosophy.   Plants are huge part of the  merchandise mix and are displayed  in traditional (read practical) garden center set ups on tables and nursery rows as well as in containers, as props and as interior structural elements.  Terrain’s unique point of view begins to reveal itself in the parking lot and continues throughout the entire retail experience.

Wide aisles in on of the plant merchandise areas
Wide aisles in one of the plant merchandise areas

Reclaimed siding, stick fencing, willow wattles, salvaged architectural elements  are teamed with quirky new merchandise creatively displayed throughout Terrain–the same way they do in the Anthropologie stores.  Natural is juxtaposed with artificial, new with old.  Every opportunity to create customer discovery experiences and garden vignettes is maximized.  Merchandise is richly layered and ideas abound.  I found some wonderful rosy sandstone spheres  under a plant table that not only displayed plants but containers and other garden ornaments.  This was intentional and not a space saving trick.  The merchandisers at Terrain also understand the power of negative space–and there’s plenty of it to allow eyes to rest and the imagination to re-group.

Furniture and accessories
Furniture and accessories

Within the larger environment, there are several garden shops, a cafe and a full landscape design studio at Terrain along with enough plants to satisfy any gardener.  Shops are housed in cleverly designed shed-like structures and each has its own focus.  The main shop displays garden ornaments, plants, small pots, furniture, books and an area for spa products wiht a green wall of  staghorn ferns and other epiphytic perennials..  A hot house for tropicals and house plants has a wonderful planted arch, terrariums, containers and more accessories.   The potting shed houses garden practicalities like hand tools and amendments.  The design studio is a separate building adjacent the nursery area.  There’s also a shade house and the day I was there, a sale tent.  The sales staff–all in Terrain shirts or aprons–were knowledgeable and willing to answer any and all of my questions.

Green wall
Spa Green Wall
Merchandise Mix
Chic merchandise mix
A Fountain with clear glass 'bubbles'
A Fountain with clear glass 'bubbles'
Hollow Log Planter
Hollow Log Planter

Most garden centers need to take some cues from Terrain.  Garden shoppers are sophisticated and want great design and inspiration along with their 2 gallon perennials and bags of bone meal.  I say Bravo!

Portland | Contained

While standing in the gardens at Sakura Ridge last week, Vanessa Nagel, asked me if I could Twitter one thing about my Portland experience, what would it be?  Not needing any thought, I replied, “The diversity of  ideas.”  I think she was pleased with that assessment.

There were so many ideas, in fact, that it will take me time to absorb them and even longer to write about them.  Although I am not a shutterbug, during design conferences I take hundreds of pictures for future reference.  Some will influence my work and some won’t, but it’s too soon to see how what I brought back from the 2009 APLD International Design Conference will work their way through my creative funnel.

The easiest way for me to begin to think about all of the garden elements, landscape design, and general creative gusto I found and recorded in and around Portland is to put them into broad based themes that I can reference later.  One of the conference speakers, Cairene MacDonald, from Third Hand Works, spoke eloquently about creating systems that work specifically for the individual.  So in that spirit, I’ve decided to continue my organization of groundplane and paving details as Portland  Underfoot ( a title of a previous blog post) and of pots and contained plantings as Portland Contained.

Here are some highlights of Portland Contained…

Photo credits/links:  Top row 1-3: 1- Dig Garden Shop; 2-3 Schultz-Goodman residence, Michael Schultz.  Middle Row 4-6: 4- Shultz-Goodman residence, Michael Schultz; 5-10th @ Hoyt, KLA Landscape Architecture; 6-Susan LaTourette, Creativescaping.  Bottom row 7-9: 7-Cistus Nursery; 8-Schultz-Goodman residence, Michael Schultz; 9-Center for Architecture, designer unknown.