Gardens as Solace and Refuge

Stroll garden
Our stroll garden is an inspiring place for a walking meditation.

Most gardeners have an emotional attachment to their gardens. I certainly do. And who of us has not used their garden, during a difficult time, as a place to think-or maybe not think and make all thoughts disappear into weeding, raking or planting?

Rake at the ready
Rake at the ready as more plants get their annual spring chop.

The virus, COVID-19, has coincided with some dire circumstances in my immediate family, but even if it were just the virus, it’s enough for me to focus more time at home and in my garden. I’m lucky I have a garden in which to immerse myself now and a pet who enjoys meandering through it with me. Many of you reading this do, too. 

Oscar, our puppy cat
Oscar, our faithful puppy cat, loves to walk through our garden with me.

Some hospitals have ‘healing gardens’. I have never figured out why they are uniquely healing, as I believe that just about any garden can have that effect. But, on the rare occasion I’m in a hospital, I will visit them to become soothed.

The Chelsea Physic Garden
While the Chelsea Physic Garden, in London, England, is not within the confines of a hospital, it is a treasure to meander through and learn more about healing plants.

People without a garden may want to visit natural spaces, maintaining precautions as needed during this period of ‘social distancing’.

Egret and blue Heron at our local pond
The egret and the heron have not heard of ‘social distancing’ as they are clearly not practicing it. But what a delight to visitors to see them together!

However you connect with Nature, it is there for us during difficult times to make us whole, however that may be defined for each individual.

Pond Turtles
Turtles on a platform getting a good dose of sun while they can in late winter.

If you don’t have a garden, now is a good time to create one. Then you can apply the recent advice of my friend, Naomi Brooks: “Weed when you need to think, no pruning when you’re angry, and edge to recapture a sense of control.” Something tells me I have a lot of edging in my near future.

Neighbor's borrowed view
A borrowed view to our neighbor’s flowering tree is a welcome sight during a pause in edging a border..
Share

IT’S TIME TO CUT BACK

My cutting back period is typically Valentine’s Day to St. Patrick’s Day and this week I chose to cut back lavender, my bird topiary, and a bunch of grasses, so I can prepare for planting.

Before lavender is cut back

Lavender is one of those evergreen woody ‘perennials’ that needs to be cut back hard every year to regenerate the plant-right down to new growth closest to the center of the plant. Otherwise lavender turns into a twisted mess of wood in about 5 years and you have to replace it.

After being cut back-and even then maybe it could be cut back more sharply.

I trimmed the bird topiary lightly and then took a photo to study its shape. Note my red lines which are the guide for its final trim.

Red lines help guide how I’d like to improve its shape.

Even dried grasses have a wintry presence. Wait until late winter to cut back.

Big, bold grasses add structure even during the winter.
Smaller grasses add texture and increase the definition of evergreen shrubs.

When I trim grasses, I do so knowing the trimmings will be chopped and used as mulch, not taken away to become compost elsewhere.

Plenty of grasses mean plenty of mulch for plants that need protection from evaporation during hotter days.
One last thing to remember, there’s a different technique for cutting back herbaceous grasses from evergreen grasses. On the left is Japanese Blood Grass (and prefers moist soil). It turns brown in winter. Cut it back to about 3″. On the right is Sesleria autumnalis (which tolerates drier soil). It is evergreen but has some die-back which makes it unattractive. Cut it back to 6″. Don’t cut it too short or it can die from crown rot.
Share

Opening My Garden

Near the house, our fire-pit area has plenty of seats and a red umbrella for a little shade in the hottest part of the day.
Near the house, our fire-pit area has plenty of seats and a red umbrella for a little shade in the hottest part of the day.

Belonging to a gardening group such as the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon offers an opportunity to share your garden with other members. Each year the HPSO committee creates a booklet containing a list of gardeners willing to open and share their gardens from late spring to early fall for that year. Gardeners must make their decision in January, allowing the committee adequate time to create the booklet.

A swath of blue oat grass surrounds an ornamental pot with some attention getting succulents.
A swath of blue oat grass surrounds an ornamental pot with some attention getting succulents.

This year I decided to open my garden since I hadn’t done so for the HPSO in several years. In January, all things seem possible. The reality is that it always comes down to the wire with doing the best you can manage with whatever Mother Nature and life has dealt you during the intervening period. So plans to remodel and paint both pergola and patio fence, relocate the blueberries to the crop circle to create a bocce court, and sand & paint the decks succumbed to being too busy with garden design clients. Removing two of the three overgrown (and invasive) English laurels left a large space on which to spend the limited resources of time and money. Many garden areas simply needed an infusion of a few plant replacements: either new or relocated. Some areas just needed to be ripped out and re-done. Plants needed to move to new areas to be more successful. I’m not telling gardeners anything they don’t already know. This is the life of a gardener.

 

Attending an open garden often creates expectations that the garden must be in a perfect state. In a small garden, that is more likely the possibility, as the amount of required resources isn’t as demanding. However, in a large garden, such as mine, resources required to do everything one wants to do can leave one in a pauper’s state. And with our numerous mature Douglas firs, the fir debris alone is a constant maintenance issue. I also believe that gardeners should not be intimidated by these expectations because seeing a portion or two of a garden in an unfinished state offers opportunities for learning that might not otherwise be visible. This would not be the case for a show garden or a garden where people are being charged to enter (necessarily), but for a garden club where members share their gardens, this practice should be more common. I have visited some public gardens when only the irrigation system was visible at the end of February. However, I saw volunteers pruning, preparing soil, and was able to analyze the irrigation layout. Very educational!

At our patio, a copper-finished set of steel screens with Japanese family crests keeps the mood Asian in a refreshing way.
At our patio, a copper-finished set of steel screens with Japanese family crests keeps the mood Asian in a refreshing way.

On the adjacent deck are comfortable rattan red-orange chairs with a gurgling pot nearby.
On the adjacent deck are comfortable rattan red-orange chairs with a gurgling pot nearby.

Heleniums were at their peak near our Thai spirit house...where good spirits greet garden visitors.
Heleniums were at their peak near our Thai spirit house…where good spirits greet garden visitors.

The large grass circle in the foreground generated a lot of discussion around sustainable turf grass and what is considered desirable aesthetically.
The large grass circle in the foreground generated a lot of discussion around sustainable turf grass and what is considered desirable aesthetically.

The day my garden was open (several weeks ago on a perfect August day) I had roughly 50 people visit, which kept me on my feet talking with other gardeners for the full 5 hours. Many plant questions were answered, gardening advice was shared, lemonade and gingersnaps were dispensed, and everyone had a delightful time. Enjoy the photos from the day!

No garden is complete without a little sense of humor. A few of my commonly used tools...to protect 'in case of dragons'.
No garden is complete without a little sense of humor. A few of my commonly used tools…to protect ‘in case of dragons’.

Share

My Arms Look Like Hoses

Rosa 'Paprika' loves it dry.
Rosa ‘Paprika’ loves it dry.

About this time of the summer, as wave after wave of heat descends on the Pacific Northwest, I find I spend an inordinate amount of time at the end of a hose. So much so that I begin to feel that in lieu of arms, I have hoses. This year has been worse than most because I decided to turn off the irrigation system and water by hand.

Purposely not using the irrigation system may seem foolish, but much of the system needs to be revised and repaired. Rather than waste water shooting in the wrong direction, I’ve opted into the more time consuming method until we can make repairs in early spring.

Feathery flowers of Stipa gigantea
Feathery flowers of Stipa gigantea

Epiblobum (aka Zaushneria) will bloom until Thanksgiving without a hard frost. Hummers LOVE it!
Epiblobum (aka Zaushneria) will bloom until Thanksgiving without a hard frost. Hummers LOVE it!

What I’ve discovered is many plants didn’t need the amount of irrigation I had programmed. Often I was over watering an entire zone for the sake of one plant (i.e. Astilbe or similar thirsty plants). The entire driveway garden has not had any additional water this year other than the two cloud bursts associated with infrequent thunderstorms. The only plant that has suffered so far is a daylily up near the top whose roots mingle with a Douglas fir tree. I’ve decided that I will move that daylily to an area where it is not as dry and allow more Euphorbia characias wulfenii to seed in there, with perhaps some red-orange Kniphofia. These are two plants already in the bed that are doing well. Also included in the mix are Stipa gigantea, Eryngium giganteum (although I’m considering its purge due to its slutty ways…it is also known as ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’), masses of orange lilies, carpet rose ‘Paprika’, purple asters, Blue Star junipers, Coppertina ninebark, Berberis ‘Sunjoy Gold Pillar’, Epilobum (Zauschneria), 3-Yucca ‘Color Guard’ in red-orange pots and a newly planted  Callistemon. The border is about 5’ deep at the top, tapering to 2’ deep about 75’ down the driveway. Then is widens again as it gets beyond the property line row of arborvitae that my husband planted when we first moved here 24 years ago.

So while the rest of my garden gets pampered with additional water, this is one area that gets very little and still thrives.

Yucca 'Color Guard' sits in 3 pots that act like exclamation marks along the border. Note the orange (glass) flower...so unusual for a Yucca...wink, wink.
Yucca ‘Color Guard’ sits in 3 pots that act like exclamation marks along the border. Note the orange (glass) flower…so unusual for a Yucca…wink, wink.

Share

BEING Outdoors

Outdoor dining at winery and fabulous garden of Chateau do Val Joanis
Outdoor dining at winery and fabulous garden of Chateau do Val Joanis

Whenever I see yet another article on outdoor living, my mind wanders back to the week I spent in Provence during June 2004 with my daughter. We did everything except sleep, shower and pee outdoors. With our window wide open at night, we heard a musical spill of water from a very close canal, so even sleeping felt like we were outdoors. It was magical.

The cottage where we slept, right outside the gravel terrace where we always breakfasted in Eygalières, France.
The cottage where we slept, right outside the gravel terrace where we always breakfasted in Eygalières, France.

This experience taught me the importance of BEING outdoors to the greatest extent possible.  Connecting with nature makes us more sensitive to how we fit in on this planet plus it improves so much about who we are as individual human beings. Do I have scientific proof of this? Can we measure IT? If so, what do we measure? Do we take exit surveys when we leave a garden? How satisfying was our experience on a scale of from one to ten?

Satisfaction at seeing Jardin de l'Alchimiste was very high indeed!
Satisfaction at seeing Jardin de l’Alchimiste was very high indeed!

I have had a few clients (very few) that have aversions to being in some outdoor spaces because they have a fear of bugs, especially spiders. Fear is something to overcome, not used as an excuse to limit our experiences. Nature is a place to engage with life. I feel blessed to have a large garden in which to wander and a wild ravine to observe from inside and outside. During the summer when we can have morning tea, dinner in the evening, or even a brief lunch midday as a work break on our patio, it calms my state of being. It limits the adrenaline rush on those hectic days with a deadline to meet. (Maybe we can measure adrenaline levels?)

All I can say is use whatever space you have available to embrace nature. Create spaces to sit, lie down, dine, play, workout, and even take a shower in your yard. Create a garden that entices you to be outside…even in the winter…to investigate what’s new and pique your curiosity. It can take you back to one magical outdoor experience and also create new ones.

Our typical breakfast still brings back vivid memories. C'est magnifique!
Our typical breakfast still brings back vivid memories. C’est magnifique!

Share

Learning from Garden Shows, Part 4

The Philadelphia Flower Show (grand Poobah of American flower shows) is the first show I’ve attended where floral exhibition was integrated into the landscape rather than segregated as a separate area. This year’s theme, ‘ARTiculture’, found designs inspired by a selected piece of art, a range of paintings by a particular artist, or even a specific exhibit at a museum. 

An imaginative, enormous flight of floral imagination greeted us as we (with fellow APLD members) entered the show. Nearby was a large ‘wild’ garden that focused on native plants. We saw gardens inspired by painters, Mondrian, Matisse, Wyeth, and more, as well as one inspired by a Korean exhibit. Smaller student gardens emphasized sustainability. Here are the gardens or details that captured my attention: 

Lobby outside the entry: Spectacular paper flower creations such as this that made up a chandelier.
Lobby outside the entry: Spectacular paper flower creations such as this that made up a chandelier.

Also outside in the lobby was this sculpture that consisted of paper cut letters.
Also outside in the lobby was this sculpture that consisted of paper cut letters.

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society/ARTiculture Entry Garden: A spectacular use of large-scale flowered mobiles and topiary made up the centerpiece for this over-the-top entry garden. Alexander Calder was their artistic muse.
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society/ARTiculture Entry Garden: A spectacular use of large-scale flowered mobiles and topiary made up the centerpiece for this over-the-top entry garden. Alexander Calder was their artistic muse.

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society/ARTiculture Entry Garden: An immediate dose of hyacinth fragrance hit my nose the minute we entered and saw all of the color provided a multi-sensory experience.
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society/ARTiculture Entry Garden: An immediate dose of hyacinth fragrance hit my nose the minute we entered and saw all of the color provided a multi-sensory experience.

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society/ARTiculture Entry Garden: Large balls shaped with chicken wire were covered in dried vine and twig, and then ornamented with flowers.
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society/ARTiculture Entry Garden: Large balls shaped with chicken wire were covered in dried vine and twig, and then ornamented with flowers.

American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) + Philadelphia Museum of Art Painted bamboo created the structure for these floral + bamboo creations mimicking palm trees.
American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) + Philadelphia Museum of Art
Painted bamboo created the structure for these floral + bamboo creations mimicking palm trees.

American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) + Philadelphia Museum of Art An amazing chandelier made of plastic utensils and topped with plants.
American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) + Philadelphia Museum of Art
An amazing chandelier made of plastic spoons and topped with plants.

Stoney Bank Nurseries + Brandywine River Museum: This was a stunning garden of natives and not all in their green state. Intermingled were rusted signs of abandoned farm equipment. Inspired by the art of Andrew Wyeth.
Stoney Bank Nurseries + Brandywine River Museum: This was a stunning garden of natives and not all in their green state. Intermingled were rusted signs of abandoned farm equipment. Inspired by the art of Andrew Wyeth.

Stoney Bank Nurseries + Brandywine River Museum: Dried teasels create a dramatic accent among all of the spring green plants.
Stoney Bank Nurseries + Brandywine River Museum: Dried teasels create a dramatic accent among all of the spring green plants.

James Basson of Scape Design + Collection of the Prince’s Palace Monaco A shockingly different sort of garden than one usually finds at a garden show. Within the cob wall was a seat treated with shou sugi-ban, a Japanese form of flamed preservation. A large bowl offered a liquid contrast to all of the dry elements.
James Basson of Scape Design + Collection of the Prince’s Palace Monaco
A shockingly different sort of garden than one usually finds at a garden show. Within the cob wall was a seat treated with shou sugi-ban, a Japanese form of flamed wood preservation. A large bowl offered a liquid contrast to all of the dry elements.

James Basson of Scape Design + Collection of the Prince’s Palace Monaco Using all dried plants set against an arc cob wall created a strong textural contrast and celebrated the forms left for winter.
James Basson of Scape Design + Collection of the Prince’s Palace Monaco
Using all dried plants set against an arc cob wall created a strong textural contrast and celebrated the forms left for winter.

Waldor Orchids + Tyler School of Art While this display was abundantly decorated with a myriad of orchids, my eye went directly to this intriguing sculpture created with straight green twigs attached to a curvilinear form.
Waldor Orchids + Tyler School of Art
While this display was abundantly decorated with a myriad of orchids, my eye went directly to this intriguing sculpture created with straight green twigs attached to a curvilinear form.

Andy Sturgeon Landscape and Garden Design A quiet contemporary garden in Sturgeon’s typical restrained, but elegant, style.
Andy Sturgeon Landscape and Garden Design
A quiet contemporary garden in Sturgeon’s typical restrained, but elegant, style.

Andy Sturgeon Landscape and Garden Design Modern orange chairs added a color element to this otherwise naturalistically colored garden.
Andy Sturgeon Landscape and Garden Design
Modern orange chairs added a color element to this otherwise naturalistically colored garden.

Ever wondered what to do with that dead tree that has great form? Here ya go! Painted in Pantone’s color of the year: Radiant Orchid.
Ever wondered what to do with that dead tree that has great form? Here ya go! Painted in Pantone’s color of the year: Radiant Orchid.

Hunter Hayes Landscape Design + Penn Museum Adding blue glass to gabions filled with stone adds a little sparkle.
Hunter Hayes Landscape Design + Penn Museum
Adding blue glass to gabions filled with stone adds a little sparkle.

Michael Petrie’s Handmade Gardens + Barnes Foundation Inspired by Matisse, large colorfully painted shapes provide the art set against thousands of bulbs and spring blooming shrubs.
Michael Petrie’s Handmade Gardens + Barnes Foundation
Inspired by Matisse, large colorfully painted shapes provide the art set against thousands of bulbs and spring blooming shrubs.

Michael Petrie’s Handmade Gardens + Barnes Foundation Fragrant orange hyacinth were stiff competition for the colorful art forms.
Michael Petrie’s Handmade Gardens + Barnes Foundation
Fragrant orange hyacinth were stiff competition for the colorful art forms.

Schaffer Designs + Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum This was a very quirky floral display but I was fascinated by how the designer mingled all of these colorful forms. Inspired by the art of Wassily Kandinsky.
Schaffer Designs + Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
This was a very quirky floral display but I was fascinated by how the designer mingled all of these colorful forms. Inspired by the art of Wassily Kandinsky.

Robertson’s Flowers & Events + Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery Inspired by “Dancing the Dream” this floral display was hard to miss with its rectilinear forms and bright colors.
Robertson’s Flowers & Events + Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Inspired by “Dancing the Dream” this floral display was hard to miss with its rectilinear forms and bright colors.

J. Downsend Landscaping Inc. + Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Inspired by Mondrian, an art student’s garden interpretation.
J. Downsend Landscaping Inc. + Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Inspired by Mondrian, an art student’s garden interpretation.

J. Downsend Landscaping Inc. + Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts A students interpreted version of Cristo’s Central Park display.
J. Downsend Landscaping Inc. + Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
A students interpreted version of Cristo’s Central Park display.

Temple University, Ambler School of Environmental Design An interesting intersection of round forms in the logs, inside the gabion, and inset into the path.
Temple University, Ambler School of Environmental Design
An interesting intersection of round forms in the logs, inside the gabion, and inset into the path.

Temple University, Ambler School of Environmental Design This should have been better developed as art, but I appreciated the noble attempt at creating art using recycled pipes.
Temple University, Ambler School of Environmental Design
This should have been better developed as art, but I appreciated the noble attempt at creating art using recycled pipes.

Mark Cook Landscape Contracting LLC + North Carolina Museum of Art There were some beautiful elements of this design, but I found the intermingled forms to be too much at the same scale and without a solid relationship to one another.
Mark Cook Landscape Contracting LLC + North Carolina Museum of Art
There were some beautiful elements of this design, but I found the intermingled forms to be too much at the same scale and without a solid relationship to one another.

Mark Cook Landscape Contracting LLC + North Carolina Museum of Art The back side of the first photo is lovely but has little relationship to the front.
Mark Cook Landscape Contracting LLC + North Carolina Museum of Art
The back side of the first photo is lovely but has little relationship to the front.

Suburu This exhibit almost looked as though it had been picked up out of Seattle and placed in Philadelphia. I loved the use of dried grasses and the round metal forms containing logs.
Suburu
This exhibit almost looked as though it had been picked up out of Seattle and placed in Philadelphia. I loved the use of dried grasses and the round metal forms containing logs.

I am not positive who should be credited with this design. I think it is the Delaware Valley College. If so, the garden focused on Nature Deficit Disorder. Considerable use of signage encourage visitors to experience some aspect of the garden. While the signs were helpful, this could have been a very elegant way to organize the entire garden, which felt a bit disorganized with too many different materials and design ideas.
I am not positive who should be credited with this design. I think it is the Delaware Valley College. If so, the garden focused on Nature Deficit Disorder. Considerable use of signage encourage visitors to experience some aspect of the garden. While the signs were helpful, this could have been a very elegant way to organize the entire garden, which felt a bit disorganized with too many different materials and design ideas.

Delaware Valley College? The use of bamboo at the exterior to mount various self-portraits was fun. I wondered to myself if there was a more water-proof way to incorporate something like this into a garden.
Delaware Valley College? The use of bamboo at the exterior to mount various self-portraits was fun. I wondered to myself if there was a more water-proof way to incorporate something like this into a garden.

Share

Learning from Garden Shows, Part 3

Because I will be in Philadelphia during the course of Portland’s Yard, Garden, & Patio Show this year, I asked to come to the show the day before its opening. Yes, it’s a LOT hectic that day, with so much construction still going on. So I’m focusing this designer’s eye on what was in place during my visit and definitely before all gardens were complete and ready to face the public. Favorite components of these Designers’ Challenge Showcase Gardens were:

Come Alive Outside, Design and construction by Dennis’ 7 Dees
There were several features that I particularly liked in this garden: the constructed garden room with dining within, the use of metal watering troughs as raised planters, the funky water feature, and the decking pattern. The galvanized steel roof of the structure worked well with the galvanized planters.
1-7D

2-7D

3-7D

4-7D

Inside Out, A Family Portrait: Design by Elida Rivera/All Oregon Landscaping
A garden created for a family that likes to cook outdoors, as well as a fire place where they can gather are the components that define the layout of this garden. Beautiful outdoor kitchen counters and a table with colorful stools are exceptional details.5-Rivera

6-Rivera

7-Rivera

A Bountiful Feast, Design by Jenna Bauer with Showscapes
Although there was a LOT of activity within the center of this garden, components that were pretty evident are a water feature to welcome visitors, raised edible beds, a chicken coop, Belgian espaliered orchard/screen, entertainment bar, and sustainable greenhouse. When completed, this garden will also include a compost transfer station and a water collections system. I really liked the entire concept of having these all relate to one another.
8-Bayer

Abstract Reflections, Design by Matt Hammack, Autumn Leaf Landscaping
Goal to make small space look larger, elevation changes, angles, saturated soil/low spot area, reflective pond with fire elements, art backed by water screens with dripping water, covered patio structure which can double as a greenhouse; woven metal fence (from metal flashing).9-Hammack

10-Hammack

Small Lot, Big Entertainment, Design by Linda Meier with JP Stone Landscape Contractor
There were several clever highlights in this garden and they all involve circles: The repurposed metal disc used as a hanging lamp; the exceptional cut metal screens by artist, Patrick Gracewood; another round metal disc is used as a water fall. A partial circular pergola that supported the light fixture also supported hanging metal screens which could diffuse a view beyond in a real garden.11-Meier

12-Meier

13-Meier-Gracewood

The Art of Tranquility, Design by Treeline Designz with JSI Landscapes
A structural wall that encloses and divides this garden into two distinct areas defines the garden’s layout. Prayer wheels to be installed later in the day will welcome visitors into the space. While I was there they were working on the water feature area and paving. I loved the angular shade structure and guessed that the colored tubes might be what was going to go overhead to create shade or act as lighting. I’m also a sucker for those gorgeous ceramic prayer wheels which you can see in the “Learning from Garden Shows, Part 1”.14-JSI

Ifti (left) and Jeff (right) in the middle of the team near the water feature.
Ifti (left) and Jeff (right) in the middle of the team near the water feature.

16-JSI

Prayer Wheel artist, Chris Moench, busy getting the area ready for the prayer wheels.
Prayer Wheel artist, Chris Moench, busy getting the area ready for the prayer wheels.

Not part of the show gardens, but still a nice feature is an edible garden where designers have planted edibles that not only taste good, but look great together!18-EdibleGarden

The Hardy Plant Society of Oregon always has a spectacular display of winter-interest cuttings along with one of Linda Beutler’s amazing floral arrangements. This year is no different.20-HPSO

Now, off to packing for Philadelphia and the last garden show of this 4-part series.

Share

Learning from Garden Shows-Part 1

At this time of year, garden shows are in abundance. The Northwest Flower and Garden Show has already been tucked away until next year, with two Portland shows about to happen over the next two weeks. The granddaddy, The Philadelphia Flower Show, begins Feb. 28. 

Seeing something new is what I yearn to see as a landscape designer, but I also enjoy things I have seen if they are done superbly. As for the awards, I think the judges were spot on in their judgment this year. Also, I found this year’s gardens more difficult to photograph than ever before and I think it was because many designers didn’t consider backdrop (as in protecting the viewer from the marketplace beyond or ugly walls) and reflections (particularly of the overhead show lights in the adjacent marketplace); so my profuse apologies for out-of-focus photographs. Here’s what was most interesting to me at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show:

ART-itecture for Urban Wildlife, design by Susie Thompson and Lisa Bauer for APLD WA chapter Lisa Bauer’s highly creative birdhouses were the focus of this garden. The rhythm of red posts unified both the garden and the distinctly different architecture of each birdhouse. The sculpture of a bird sitting atop an egg pyramid entitled ‘Over-Achiever’, also tickled my funny bone.
ART-itecture for Urban Wildlife, design by Susie Thompson and Lisa Bauer for APLD WA chapter
Lisa Bauer’s highly creative birdhouses were the focus of this garden. The rhythm of red posts unified both the garden and the distinctly different architecture of each birdhouse. The sculpture of a bird sitting atop an egg pyramid entitled ‘Over-Achiever’, also tickled my funny bone.

The Art of Upcycling, design by Vanca Lumsden and Judith Jones Vanca Lumsden’s handcrafted prayer flags were the most notable element in this garden because of their strong repetition of form and color. It’s too bad the backdrop did not show them to better advantage.
The Art of Upcycling, design by Vanca Lumsden and Judith Jones
Vanca Lumsden’s handcrafted prayer flags were the most notable element in this garden because of their strong repetition of form and color. It’s too bad the backdrop did not show them to better advantage.

Peace in Motion – Sanctuary of Peace, design by Iftikar Ahmed Because of the repetition of form, this garden’s most notable elements were the prayer wheels, designed and fabricated by Axis of Hope, that marched us towards the key focal point, a large Buddha sculpture.
Peace in Motion – Sanctuary of Peace, design by Iftikar Ahmed
Because of the repetition of form, this garden’s most notable elements were the prayer wheels, designed and fabricated by Axis of Hope, that marched us towards the key focal point, a large Buddha sculpture.

In Our Hands, design by Anthony Fajarillo Very clever idea: fingerprints represented with recycled plastic bag-wrapped wire.
In Our Hands, design by Anthony Fajarillo
Very clever idea: fingerprints represented with recycled plastic bag-wrapped wire.

In Our Hands, design by Anthony Fajarillo Also in this garden two pieces of noteworthy art that I think went well together, even if other components in the garden was a bit dissonant (particularly the gates): PNW Native American sculpture and an intriguing trompe-l’oeil on the floor.
In Our Hands, design by Anthony Fajarillo
Also in this garden two pieces of noteworthy art that I think went well together, even if other components in the garden was a bit dissonant (particularly the gates): PNW Native American sculpture and an intriguing trompe-l’oeil on the floor.

Terra Cadence, design by Susan Calhoun Photographing this garden as a whole was ridiculously difficult so here are two components: The rill that lead down to the small water fall through an all-white flower garden which kept the garden calm and simple and allowed us to appreciate the spectacular focal point centered above the rill at the back of the garden: an original glass chandelier.
Terra Cadence, design by Susan Calhoun
Photographing this garden as a whole was ridiculously difficult so here is the best overall shot I could get. The rill that lead down to the small water fall through an all-white flower garden which kept the garden calm and simple and allowed us to appreciate the spectacular focal point centered above the rill at the back of the garden: an original glass chandelier.

Closeup of the glass chandelier.
Closeup of the glass chandelier.

Darwin’s Muse - Art Imitating Life, design by Karen Stefonick Wisely simple in concept, with strong repetition of color and form kept this garden very cohesive. The gorgeous glass pitcher ‘plants’ echoed Sarracenia plants incorporated into the garden.
Darwin’s Muse – Art Imitating Life, design by Karen Stefonick
Wisely simple in concept, with strong repetition of color and form kept this garden very cohesive. The gorgeous glass pitcher ‘plants’ echoed Sarracenia plants incorporated into the garden. One note: In a real garden, these would need to be put under cover in some fashion.

Darwin’s Muse - Art Imitating Life, design by Karen Stefonick A glass greenhouse provided a focal point orchid above.
Darwin’s Muse – Art Imitating Life, design by Karen Stefonick
A glass greenhouse provided a focal point orchid above.

Bridge Garden, design by Pot Incorporated One of the tiny gardens on the bridge, this designer featured creative pots and dynamite-looking succulents surrounding a simple ‘deck’ chair.
Bridge Garden, design by Pot Incorporated
One of the tiny gardens on the bridge, this designer featured creative pots and dynamite-looking succulents surrounding a simple ‘deck’ chair.

Stay tuned for part 2 of 4 garden shows.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share