Design Inspiration

08 Feb Anticipation

We need the sweet pain of anticipation to tell us we are really alive. 
Albert Camus


Every year about this time I begin to think ahead to spring. My mind imagines those warm morning breezes with a faint a scent of earthiness that come as each day reveals new surprises in the garden. But alas, February, a brief month with short days, is long with anticipation. Snowy, cold, and devoid of vegetation, it’s beauty lies in a crisp, stark, landscape covered in snow and ice, a contrast of light and dark, of snow and structure.

It’s easy to overlook the beauty of winter in the garden, but it’s just as easy to overlook the insight winter provides. A walk in the garden in winter, reveals useful information as we look ahead to and begin planning the coming garden season. Our friend Christine Darnell touched on this nicely in a recent article she wrote for The Shoreline Times. You can read Christine’s article here, and after you do, make sure to come back and tell us what plans you have for your landscape this year, and how the winter landscape inspired you.

Yes, February is filled with the sweet pain of anticipation, as Mr. Camus states. But, remember to thank February for the gifts it brings to those of us that will venture out into the drifts and gain insight. Spring will come, but today is full of opportunity.

And on that note, I will leave you with these lyrics from Carly Simon, who gave us some very memorable thoughts on Anticipation.

I’m no prophet, I don’t know nature’s way
So I’ll try to see into your eyes right now
And stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.

All the best my friends, stay warm!


Read More

27 Aug Garden Designers Roundtable: Designing with Native Plants!

Ask a dozen homeowners, or 20 or even 50, if they would like a garden of native plants, and you get a vast array of answers; “Yes I love having pollinators visit!” “Oh, I don’t have the right setting for that…” “My neighbors would never approve.” “What do you mean, like weeds?” It seems that when talking native, plants are automatically relegated to certain predispositions, too bad, because there’s more to native plants than meets the stereotype!

Here to shatter the myth that native plants are just a bunch of weeds loved only by tree huggers and liberal fruitcakes, are some beautiful stars of the garden. Plants that work well in many settings, doing the double duty of feeding the native pollinators, and winning over even the primmest of taste buds.

You may recognize many of these, but did you know they are native plants?

Very few trees can rival the amazing bark of Heritage River Birch. Able to tolerate wet soils, but widely adaptable, this moderate tree will garner many stares when placed near a walk or patio. Fall brings a wonderful yellow glow to the foliage, and the winter silhouette it very striking.

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Heritage River Birch (Betula nigra ‘Cully’)

Does anybody not like the cheery aura of Black-eyed Susan. One of the most recognizable flowers of late summer, this native works well in both formal and informal settings, and is a long bloomer!

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Black-eyed Susan (Rubeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’)

Another very recognizable native, is White Flowering Dogwood. It’s clean white bracts will brighten up a shadowy woodland edge, or star in the frame created by window pane. Later in the season bright red berries appear, enticing robins to bring their rhythmic call to the garden.

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

White Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Can you imagine a lovelier face staring at you from the middle of the perennial border? Rose Mallow, standing near five feet tall, does just that. At five inches across, the blossoms are visible from great distances in the garden, and are often filled with pollinators.

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos)

There isn’t much color in the garden as autumn turns to winter, unless of course you have a plant that berries like Winterberry Holly. As leaves fall from tree and shrub, it’s just beginning it colorful display. Prized by both birds and floral arrangers alike, Winterberry Holly will put a smile on your face, when the rest of the garden has turned brown.

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata)

The next three photos, are from the parking lot of Cabella’s Outfitters in East Hartford, Connecticut. Outdoor stores, have long been the place to find native plants. Seems natural to use native plants to recreate the atmosphere their customers prize most, the wild back country.  I wonder how many explorers see the great beauty in these plants and include them in their gardens.

Little Bluestem is a grass found throughout the country. It’s upright habit and bluish-green blades add a wonderful architectural element to the garden. In fall the foliage turns red-orange, echoing the color high in the canopy.

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Little Bluestem Grass (Schyizachyrium sscoparium cv.)

You might recognize Eastern Redcedar, from the highway median, or from a hike through a meadow transitioning to forest, but have you ever considered it as a specimen in the garden. These cultivars rival the most handsome specimens of Hinoki Cypress, but will tolerate a wider range of conditions. Not bad for a plant whose berries are used to make Gin!

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana cv.)

Here you can see three of our plants in the same shot.

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Little Bluestem Grass (foreground), Eastern Redcedar and Heritage River Birch (Betula nigra ‘Cully”), in the background.

The picture was taken at “The Holy Land”… Dunkin Doughnuts. Switch Grass is another species found throughout the U.S., and lately has been rising in popularity thanks to new cultivars that produce beautiful foliage. This specimen, which I think is ‘Ruby Ribbons’, is the reddest of the Panicums. It seems to pull the red right from the ordering kiosk, doesn’t it?

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Red Switchgrass (Panicum virginianum cv.)

So, there you have it. Several examples of native plants, and not a weedy sot in the whole bunch. It’s time to consider native pants in your garden, yes for their value to pollinators, yes to preserve native species as global economies bring in more and more exotics, but perhaps more importantly, because they are beautiful!

What do you think, have I convinced you to try more native plants in your garden?

After leaving a comment to tell me your thoughts on native plants, please visit my fellow Roundtable members, to see what they think of “Designing with Native Plants”.

Thomas Rainer : Grounded Design : Washington, D.C.

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Read More

14 Oct A New Source for Inspiration – Leaf Magazine!

Debut Cover Autumn 2011!

Where does one go to find find inspiration for outdoor spaces? Between television, books and magazines, the choices are many. A new entrant into the mix though, is poised to take the our senses by storm. Landscape and garden designers Susan Cohan and Rochelle Greayer have joined forces to bring us Leaf Magazine, a new digital publication about Design Outside and Outdoor Style that will debut on Monday October 17, 2011. Susan and Rochelle are talented designers who have inspired readers through their blogs Miss Rumphius’ Rules and Studio G, for many years.

The ongoing discussion in modern horticulture has moved toward new plant introductions, sustainability, and the slow-food movement (all worthy topics), but also in this discussion, design at times has found itself to be an afterthought. It may crown a champion though, in Leaf magazine and the considerable talents and design sensibilities of Susan and Rochelle. The early story lines we have seen are topical and intriguing, and the photos amazing. If like me, you love that intersection of design, style, living and the garden, you won’t want to miss Leaf Magazine

Here are some important tidbits from the Leaf Magazine press release!

  • Subscriptions are free and can be signed up for here.
  • A launch party will be held on Twitter on Monday October 17th at 6:00 pm EST, and is open to all. Just search for the hashtag #leaflaunch

The magazine’s mission:

Leaf Magazine operates at the intersection of great design and the great outdoors. Leaf is the leading online publication in a magazine format that provides design enthusiasts and professionals with inspirational and actionable editorial. Leaf connects its readers to products and ideas within the outdoor design market.

At Leaf we believe in…

  •  great design and living well outdoors 
  • the cultivation of beauty in the garden and beyond 
  • sharing ideas that can be interpreted by all who love design 
  • the celebration of creativity, originality and balance tempered with a sense of humor 
  • honoring the land we live on by elevating it through thoughtful design 
  • creating and cultivating on-line communities 
Disclaimer: Susan and Rochelle are friends and co-contributors of Garden Designers Roundtable, and that HAS influenced this post. Through many discussions, shared garden visits, and by reading their blogs, I have come to greatly appreciate their knowledge and critique of design. 
Read More

26 Sep Garden Designers Roundtable: Getting from Here to There!

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

                                             ~ Robert Frost

Our topic this month for Garden Designers Roundtable “Getting from here to there” can mean so many things, but movement is at the heart of each. The experience of a garden is movement through time, movement through space. A garden is ever revealing, changing perceptions, altering the senses, and for me, a metaphor for the journey taken and the experiences gained as each of us travels the path chosen.

When designing a garden, attention to movement is essential to offering the visitor an experience. Where the path does traverse is so very much more important than the final destination or the materials used. Consider then the following:

Is it warm?


Is it dramatic?

Slow to reveal?

Does it lead you on?

Change your course?

Remind you of the past?


Does it make you wonder?

For me the journey is one I travel everyday, and find inspiration in the simplest of vignettes. How about you? Do the images connect to something more than just a garden path or a set of stairs, or is a cigar, just a cigar? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Please visit by the rest of the Roundtable bloggers this month and see how they are “Getting from Here to There”.

Debra Prinzing & David Perry:  A Fresh Bouquet

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Jenny Peterson : J Peterson Garden Design : Austin TX

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, 

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Read More