The Ubiquitous Adirondack

Average Adirondack chairs on an urban patio.
Average Adirondack chairs on an urban patio.

For those of you expecting a gushing love affair with the Adirondack chair, this is a rant about the excessively-used and overly-beloved garden seat.

People use Adirondack chairs in nearly every style of garden imaginable. While a few locations are well-suited to this chair, many are not. Thomas Lee designed this chair in 1903 when he needed some chairs outdoors at his summer home in the Adirondack Mountains. I’m not saying that the only place that this chair should be used is in the mountains, but frankly that’s where it is best suited. Woodsy settings by a lake next to a rustic cabin are most appropriate where you can lay back a bit and daydream.

 This brings me to the ergonomic application of the Adirondack chair. Too often people use multiple Adirondack chairs around a campfire or an area clearly intended for conversation. Have you ever sat in this chair? If you haven’t, give it a try and just try looking at the person across from you who will (also) be straining their eyes to look back at you. The angle of this seat and back isn’t suited for conversation, reading, or much else except for staring out across a view. While its arms are handy for setting a drink, heaven help you if you actually try drinking, because you’ll end up wearing a glassful with your head leaning against the back of the chair.

There are more knockoffs of this chair than anyone could count, with square backed versions for modern gardens, heart cut-outs for cottage gardens, plastic versions for the budget-squeezed garden, ad infinitum. Many children have made one at school for unsuspecting parents because they are relatively simple to cut out and assemble. They are available in a rainbow of colors, too, but that doesn’t mean they are the best design for most gardens.

There is a very well-known garden in the USA with a large French mansion on the grounds where Adirondack chairs seem to multiply like rabbits out away from the house. The chair and the French house are about as disparate as you could imagine. Think Victorian chair with Japanese garden incongruence. The primary rub here is that gardeners, horticulturists, and many designers too, ignore the architectural detailing of the house and pretend as though it doesn’t matter. In fact it does, and substantially.

French chateau and Adirondack chair are a stylistic disconnect.
French chateau and Adirondack chair are a stylistic disconnect.

If I’ve sent you into a dither over outdoor seating styles or you are furious about the attack on your favorite chair, you are in luck. My newest book can help you remedy your garden furnishing dilemmas and mistakes. The Professional Designer’s Guide to Garden Furnishings serves up a history of furniture as seen through the evolution of a chair, a vast array of alternative seating styles, and a resource index at the back to contact vendors. Even though the title has the word ‘professional’ in it, the book will help any garden owner select appropriate furnishings for their own garden, too.

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Looking Back at the 2013 Northwest Flower & Garden Show

I’m in the throes of substantial anticipation of the 2014 Northwest Flower and Garden Show. Since that is two weeks away my best option is to look back at the 2013 show and what were my highlights.

As a member of the APLD’s international board, I must recognize my fellow members’ efforts in the following gardens:

This delightful, ‘Tuscanesque’ garden:

Audrey’s Roman Holiday (Gold Medal) Created by APLD WA chapter Designed by: Susie Thompson, APLD, Leanne Goulding, and Shelley Retchless
Audrey’s Roman Holiday (Gold Medal)
Created by APLD WA chapter
Designed by: Susie Thompson, APLD, Leanne Goulding, and Shelley Retchless

An irresistible Hobbit garden:

A Hobbit’s New Zealand Garden (Gold Medal) Created by Washington Park Arboretum; designed by Bob Lilly, Phil Wood, Roger Williams, & Rhonda Bush
A Hobbit’s New Zealand Garden (Gold Medal)
Created by Washington Park Arboretum; designed by Bob Lilly, Phil Wood, Roger Williams, & Rhonda Bush

A delightful black and white-themed garden:

Jardin Noir-Film Noir Style in a Modern Garden (Gold Medal) Created and Designed by: Barbara Lycett, APLD
Jardin Noir-Film Noir Style in a Modern Garden (Gold Medal)
Created and Designed by: Barbara Lycett, APLD

The best of show garden was designed by Riz Reyes, up and coming garden personality and all-around wonderful person:

The Lost Gardener-A Journey from the Wild to the Cultivated (Gold) Created by RHR Horticulture-Landwave Gardens, Orion Rockscapes, CEM Design, Inc. & Greencliff Landscape Co.
The Lost Gardener-A Journey from the Wild to the Cultivated (Gold)
Created by RHR Horticulture-Landwave Gardens, Orion Rockscapes, CEM Design, Inc. & Greencliff Landscape Co.

This garden with its white garden furnishings glowed as though in moonlight:

Living Amongst the Stars Created by WSNLA, Designed by Sublime Garden Design LLC
Living Amongst the Stars
Created by WSNLA, Designed by Sublime Garden Design LLC

I especially liked the glass finial and steel rod fence in this design:

Renewal: Enchanted April in the Northwest (Gold) Created by Home & Garden Art, Designed by Jim Honold, Plant Selection and consultation: Pamela Richards Garden Design
Renewal: Enchanted April in the Northwest (Gold)
Created by Home & Garden Art, Designed by Jim Honold, Plant Selection and consultation: Pamela Richards Garden Design

And while this garden didn’t show me anything new, I liked the elements of its design and how they were arranged:

California Dreaming (Silver Medal) Created and Designed by: Kristy Ditmore, Jamie McAuliffe, and Rick Perry
California Dreaming (Silver Medal)
Created and Designed by: Kristy Ditmore, Jamie McAuliffe, and Rick Perry

The humor and consistent theme of this garden was delightful:

It’s All in The Movies (Gold Medal) Created by WALP Designed by Jefferson Landscaping and Looking Glass Designs
It’s All in The Movies (Gold Medal)
Created by WALP
Designed by Jefferson Landscaping and Looking Glass Designs

Other bits and pieces I noticed at the show (apologies for lack of credits):

Using glass with lighting in lieu of flames
Using glass with lighting in lieu of flames
Clever outdoor lighting
Clever outdoor lighting
A small garden on the Bridge had many fun elements.
A small garden on the Bridge had many fun elements.
Floral arrangements and pots were everywhere. Great place to get ideas for containers!
Floral arrangements and pots were everywhere. Great place to get ideas for containers!

If you want more:

http://www.gardenshow.com/the-gardens/garden-archives/2013-photo-album/

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Sharpen the Pruning Shears; I’m Ready for Spring.

It’s late January in case you hadn’t noticed. The days are getting a little longer and there’s a wee bit more sun. Time to prune!

It's no mystery why grasses need to be cut back this time of year. They've been hammered by wind, rain, a little snow and ice.
It’s no mystery why grasses need to be cut back this time of year. They’ve been hammered by wind, rain, a little snow and ice.

I’ve already begun with hellebores, which if I don’t clip off the old leaves, the new flowers will have a rather dismal looking skirt. Once I’ve finished with the hellebores (they are in multiple locations in my garden and I probably have at least 40 of them), I’ll begin to cut back the grasses. There are many of those, too. I’ll probably cut back the evergreen ferns…especially the sword ferns…as I cut back the grasses. Then there is always the issue of clearing all of the piles of clippings during the process. Clean up as you go if you can.

Worn leaves on hellebores detract from their flowers. So cut them off now. You'll be rewarded with a fresh flush of new growth after flowering.
Worn leaves on hellebores detract from their flowers. So cut them off now. You’ll be rewarded with a fresh flush of new growth after flowering.

I will also prune or even remove the Betula youngii that I’ve had in place for so many years. When I planted it I didn’t look up how big it would get. That would be de rigueur for me today. I recall seeing a mature specimen at the Blodel Reserve, further north in WA State. It was quite large. This is when I knew that eventually I’d be in trouble. So several years ago I planted a Viburnum which will get to around 8′ tall and have been allowing it to get larger every year at the edge and a little beneath the tree. Now it’s large enough that if I remove the tree, the Viburnum will shade the plants that the tree has shaded. It will also not shade the Puritan rose a little farther away which means it will perform better, too.

Yes, it’s mid-winter and the livin’ ain’t easy. But summer will come and there will be those magical days that I so enjoy outdoors. And maybe I’ll have a little more time to sit in the garden and enjoy it.

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Intentional Serendipity

Serendipity is one of my favorite words. According to Google, “ser·en·dip·i·ty is the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”. Due to the nature of chance as it applies to gardens, I often think of it as a design principle in landscape design. In a quote from my book,

Understanding Garden Design: “While not officially a design principle, serendipity, or good luck, cannot be ignored as a factor that has the potential to impact the design of a garden. One year I planted several highly attractive and unusually colored violas in my garden. Serendipitously, they seeded around, expanding their realm, and created quite a beautiful massed planting. Then serendipity turned sour. The adjacent gravel path offered a charmed life for the violas. A few were delightful, few more a bit cheeky, and the eventual flood became the curse of my path. Serendipity does not necessarily stand the test of time, but there is always a chance it might provide more than an ephemeral effect for which you will be grateful.”

I once tried to remove the asters from this composition until this happened in the fall.
I once tried to remove the asters from this composition until this happened in the fall.

I bring it up now because someone recently reminded me of a talk that I gave several years ago during January entitled Intentional Serendipity which has a slightly altered meaning. The presentation was specifically for a group of people learning more about creating sustainable gardens.

Gardens are by definition a contrived space in which man bends Nature to his will. But Nature has a good deal more perspicacity than man. Don’t we gardeners often unconsciously concoct situations in our gardens where Nature says, “Aha! Opportunity!”? Perhaps as we go about gardening, we should consider living with less expectation and more anticipation.

I thought this Tetrapanax had disappeared with a hard winter, but voila! It's back and perhaps in a slightly better location. We'll see.
I thought this Tetrapanax had disappeared with a hard winter, but voila! It’s back and perhaps in a slightly better location. We’ll see.

I’ve begun interspersing some plants with not just the notion that I will like them together, but also with the inkling that I am setting up a contest to see which will plant will become the ‘dominatrix’ and which will become the ‘submissives’. What better time to plan a Fifty Shades of Grey approach to planting design than in January? This year I anticipate some results from some intentional intermingling of the many newly planted areas of last year. So stay tuned.

Persicaria 'Painter's Palette' originally planted itself beneath my Forest Pansy Redbud. It's been such a nice marriage that I have allowed it to spread beneath the tree - only. I pull it from another location.
Persicaria ‘Painter’s Palette’ originally planted itself beneath my Forest Pansy Redbud. It’s been such a nice marriage that I have allowed it to spread beneath the tree – only. I pull it from another location.
Originally conceived to scramble around as a skirt, Geranium 'Ann Folkard, is vine-like in its ability to also scramble into adjacent shrubs. It gives the appearance of a shrub blooming all summer, though. Serendipitous.
Originally conceived to scramble around as a skirt, Geranium ‘Ann Folkard, is vine-like in its ability to also scramble into adjacent shrubs. It gives the appearance of a shrub blooming all summer, though. Serendipitous.

For 2014, however, I know there are a number of things that I should do to improve my intentions. I intend to:

  • irrigate plants adequately
  • create healthy soil with plenty of proper drainage and mycorrhizae
  • assure that plants have the correct amount of light,
  • use organic methods of maintenance
  • select healthy plants based on their ability to thrive in my climate without being invasive

These are must-have intentions that enhance serendipity. While there are a few more things I might do, I have to acknowledge that the rest is up to Mother Nature.

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Taking Stock of My 2013 Garden

Following the example of some fellow bloggers, I decided that looking through one’s garden experiences from the past year is a great way to begin 2014. So here is a look at my garden through the year. Click on each photo for a larger view.

1-Yucca-Glass-Flower
Glass flowers in the Yucca at a little color in mid-winter.
2-Agapanthus-Seedheads
Seedheads left on an Agapanthus in January.
Viburnum bodnantense 'Charles Lamont' in bloom
February finds Viburnum bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’ in bloom

 

11-Trillium-kurabayashi
Trillium kurabayashi in March.
12-Euphorbia-Tasmanian-Tiger
March: Euphorbia ‘Tasmanian Tiger’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painted red, the Chinese bell hanger near the rock garden and parking area.
July: Painted red, the Chinese bell hanger near the rock garden and parking area.
14.1-tadpoles-in-pot
July: Tadpoles in our water pot kept us intrigued for weeks!
14-Rooster-Sunflower-Garden-Art
July: Garden art in our herb garden.
15-Dark-Foliage
July: Dark foliage accents.
16-Garden-Pot-Banana
July: An exhuberant terra cotta pot with red banana.
17-Red-stained-wicker-chairs
May through August: Sprayed with red-orange stain, these IKEA rattan chairs will last much longer.
18-Lutyens-Bench-View
July: Stained with the same color as the rattan chairs, this Lutyens bench at the back of the garden gets a grand view, especially of lavender.
18-Patio-View
August: A large banana anchors a corner of the patio.
19-Blue-Oat-Grass-Pot
August: A succulent pot sits amidst a sea of blue oat grass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The glorious Gunnera's last year. It's too thirsty and too vigorous, so it must leave.
August: The glorious Gunnera’s last year. It’s too thirsty and too vigorous, so it must leave.

 

 

 

 

 

Fall leaves cover the now vacant deck.
October leaves cover the now vacant deck.
Temple bells and other fun elements dangle from a copper pipe at the entry to my zen garden.
Temple bells and other fun elements dangle from a copper pipe at the entry to my zen garden.
The tiki sculpture along the driveway in fall glory.
The tiki sculpture along the driveway in fall glory.

 

 

 

 

 
 

A Little and Lewis raven overlooks the fall "It's for the birds" garden.
A Little and Lewis raven overlooks the fall “It’s For the Birds” garden.

            

A view of the garden in fall.
A view of the garden in fall.
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