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Garden Design

08 Feb Anticipation


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

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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!

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25 Sep Garden Designers Roundtable – It’s okay to sweat the small stuff, details matter!

It has been my experience, that the excitement that arises in beginning a new garden or landscape project, is often overshadows the attention to the process needed to build it and overlooks the details that make it special. Today is Garden Designers Roundtable day, and we’re discussing the focus on details. Here are few things to consider before rushing through your project, and prevent the frustrating outcome, that something about this new garden just doesn’t feel right.

Connect your new space to its location. Known as Genius Loci, or sense of place, there are myriad ways of accomplishing this. Using found items is one of my favorite. Here we have placed a stone next to a set of steps leading to a deck. It stands as a welcome to visitors, but it’s not just any old stone, it was fond onsite, three feet directly below where it stands, forever tying this landscape to the ledge that lay beneath it.

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

This “found stone” ties this landscape to it’s subterranean history!

Take care to make certain elements look as natural as possible. We have all seen garden ponds sitting in the middle of a yard with water falling from an unlikely mound, into a pond that is mysteriously surrounded by stones resembling a pearl necklace. Close your eyes for a moment and think of a real pond or stream, now open them. Does this manufactured pond look anything like the real thing? In this photo, our pond installer has created a very natural looking waterfall (on a slope), taking care to hide the liner giving the illusion that it has always been there.

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Looking as though it has it has always been there, this stream adds a pleasing visual and soothing sound to the garden!

Choose materials and craftsmen carefully. You know the old saying, anyone can paint, but not everyone can paint well. This holds true for most trades and professions. Taking the time to investigate each contractor’s attention to detail can make the difference in a project being successful or not. Here our decking contractor has done great job with this natural cedar railing. His suggestion to use this system and his attention to detail meshed very well with the natural look of the landscape.

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Expert craftsmanship complements any design!

Stay on budget by working with what your conditions. A limited budget, or restrictive (read: ugly), conditions need not ruin the feel of your new exterior space. Taking the time to research more than what your home center offers, and consulting with designers and craftsmen can lead to wonderful solutions, and beautiful elements in the design. Here, when faced with two large ugly concrete foundation walls, we went with the mason’s suggestion to cover with thin stone (real stone), that matched the wall stone used to surround the patio. The transition is seamless, and looks amazing.

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Mortared on thin stone matches the walls perfectly!

Fill in the cracks. Sounds funny, but in a garden full of plants sometimes small spaces get overlooked. Usually this omission is noticed later on when weeds take root and fill in these spaces for you. Then, as you frustratingly pull these unwanted “plants”, it dawns on you that if weeds will grow here, maybe something I want will also. Bingo! This beautiful stone work by our landscape contractor on this project, left us, what we like to call, “planting opportunities”. This sedum will, in time, fill in all around the stones, suppress weeds and look great!

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Filling in all planting opportunities, gives the garden depth!

Use pleasing combinations. Once again it’s time to look deeper than the offerings at the home store, or even the local garden center. To find plants to “paint” your new garden space, take a few mini adventures. Search out specialty nurseries, visit public gardens, or attend garden tours and lectures. Opening up your options to purchase, will make it easier to identify plants that meet your style, and help you plant contrasting or complementary combinations. Here, a simple combo of ‘All Gold’ Hakonechloa and ‘Centerglow’ Nine bark, make a pleasing contrast at the base of a set of deck steps.

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Contrasting or complementary plant combos, both add pleasing elements to a design!

Consider how and from where each element in the garden will be viewed. The most obvious detail in designing a space is perhaps the most often overlooked. We tend to concentrate so hard on what’s right in front of us, that sometimes we lose track of the greater picture. This tip may seem contrary to focusing on detail, but in fact is crucial to making the details work. Take a moment every now and then to step back and consider what you, and more importantly visitors to your garden, will see from several different angles. How the garden presents itself to, and more importantly how it welcomes visitors in, is extremely important. On this project, we took great care to nestle this shed into the garden, capitalizing on certain views.

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

Considering every view of the garden can provide wonderful reveals!

Final, personal touches complete the design. After all is said and done, and you’ve finished constructing your new space, all you want to do is to just sit back and enjoy. Not so fast mon ami! Final touches, like the seasonal décor our client used here, are the icing on the cake, so to speak. And as the seasons change, and the garden presents itself accordingly, these personal touches make the garden all your own.

"Scott Hokunson" "Blue Heron Landscape Design"

A client’s personal touches complete this vignette!

These are just some of the elements to consider while you build your new outdoor space. It takes time and patience, and sometimes the grand plan in your head can be overwhelming. But fear not; it’s a process that can be mastered, especially if you remember to focus on the details!

To see how my colleagues on the Roundtable focus on the details, follow the links below, and please feel free to leave me a comment on this post. I’d love to hear about the details you are focusing on.

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

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

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

 

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15 Aug Book Review – Garden Up!

A common mistake when designing a garden is to take a myopic view of the space to be affected, concentrate only on the surface beneath one’s feet, and not include the space around and overhead. It’s a mistake made by novice gardener and experienced designer alike, and is understandable. The novice (and we have all been one at one time) has not been trained to consider the three dimensions of a garden, and the designer begins by thinking of space in plan view (looking down from above) and will at times overlook the surroundings. Success in creating a garden that both welcomes the visitor and establishes sanctuary is achieved by developing all planes. “Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces” (by Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet, Cool Springs Press 2011) aims to correct this common oversight by providing example and inspiration for both novice and designer, and does so with great success.

Living walls, although popular for some time in Europe, are an exciting new trend here in the states, and I wondered if an entire book on the subject would keep my interest. To my delight “Garden Up!” does present a very interesting chapter on living walls, but presents them as one aspect of a greater theme, the vertical plane. Morrison and Sweet have divided vertical gardening into six different design applications, with chapters covering Arbors and Trellises, Skinny Spaces, Garden Secrets, Edibles, and Living Walls. Each discussion presents the reader with an overview, specific challenges, and a designer’s insight into solutions. As one might imagine, plants are a major part of each discussion. An additional chapter entitled Plant Picks, is cleverly divided to provide suggestions for each of the applications covered in previous chapters. The authors even give the reader their choice of a “Superstar Performer” plant for each category; a very nice touch, enabling even readers with the least knowledge of flora to succeed with their do-it-yourself projects. In the last section of “Garden Up!” we find a series of before and after shots called Design Spotlight. Here Morrison and Sweet have highlighted the transformation of five different gardens using the some of the techniques found in their book. Each example is notated so as to highlight the design solutions that have been applied. Showing before and after photos is an immeasurable way to illustrate a process, and including it “Garden Up!” is a wonderful way to summarize the information gleaned from the previous chapters.

Morrison and Sweet have included many photos of their work, and also from the many friends and contacts they have around the country, which wonderfully illustrate their thoughts. Their writing is concise and creative, and enthusiastically conveys the passion they feel for this subject. “Garden Up!” will provide beginners a wealth of inspiration, and seasoned designers new ideas and fresh perspectives on techniques that will enable them to create beautiful welcoming spaces. “Garden Up!” has earned itself a spot on the garden bookshelf, and will most assuredly influence the ongoing discussion of the vertical plane!

 

Disclaimer(s):

A digital copy of this book was supplied to me by the publisher for the purpose of review. I, however, went out and bought my own copy, so although I need not state the following, I will; All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are mine and remain my intellectual property until such a time that my home and garden are overrun by the surrounding wood, at which time the wood nymphs and gnomes may do with them what they please.

A word about book reviews on the Blue Heron Landscapes Blog:

Reviews posted here are intended for the inspiration, education, and enjoyment of the reader, and as such will not include negative reviews of any material. Reviews are not intended as critique of all published material, but rather to expose the reader to noteworthy tools that will help in the process of becoming better gardeners and designers, and to provide enjoyment on their garden journey.

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22 Feb Garden Designers Roundtable: Edibles, Have Your Landscape and Eat It Too!

Today’s post is part of Garden Designers Roundtable, and the topic this month, in honor of our friend and fellow Roundtable blogger Ivette Soler, is “Edibles”. Ivette’s book The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden has just been released from Timber Press.

As a designer, the joy of a client telling me they are thrilled with their new garden is only surpassed by them also telling of how much they enjoy interacting with it. Today’s fast paced lifestyle, and the “suburban sensibility” of what a yard should look like, has changed the way we view our yards. Once a place to play, recreate and supplement the pantry, is now seen as a sofa with a plastic cover, a space to been seen, used with caution, but preserved so as not to affect the home’s value. Worse yet, we not only strive to keep up with the Jones’ but mimic them as well, creating vast tracts of lawn and ornamentals with very little human activity. Edibles (a trendy name for growing food), give the designer another tool in the box to entice the property owner out of the house and into the landscape.

A vegetable garden and property value are not often used in the same sentence. But when approached with a designer’s eye, and mixed with ornamental plants, a wonderful space can be created. Visually stunning, a parterre would surely impress the neighbors and add value, but the maintenance would prove to be prohibitive. So what are the smaller things we can do to introduce edible into the landscape? Let’s find out!

Perennials. Herbs are useful plants, not only in the culinary sense, but aesthetically too. They add texture, form and blossom, and can be used in pots, as ground covers or even hedges. Herbs such as Thyme, Chives and Sage can be added to the perennial border, foundation planting or mixed in with pots on the deck with annuals for a stunning combination.

Garlic Chives have wonderful grass like foliage and pretty white flowers!

Shrubs. High bush Blueberry Vaccinium corybosum is the perfect plant to add both beauty and taste to the landscape. Great bark color in the winter, soft green foliage, incredible red and orange fall color, make this an extremely ornamental shrub. The berries are terrific for attracting birds, and if you get to them first, are one of the healthiest foods you can eat! You can even buy Low Bush Blueberry Vaccinium angustifolium as sod, to create a naturalized area or for use as a ground cover.

Blueberry Sod (Vaccinium angustifolium)

Photo from Fred’s Wild Sod in Blue Hill, ME

Trees. Fruit and nut trees are a great way to add edibles to the landscape. Apple, Peach, Plum and Cherry, all have beautiful and fragrant blossoms, great foliage and sweet fruit. Use dwarf varieties for small spaces. Nuts such as Walnut, Butternut, Almond and Filberts are all tasty additions to the landscape, and recent introductions have provided blight resistant Chestnut cultivars, giving hope that this stately North American native will once again populate our landscapes.

 

The delicious fruit of the American Chestnut

Photo from Bioweb

Annuals. Vegetable plants can be added to nearly every landscape, but not all veggies are ornamental enough to be included, so we must choose wisely. In her new book, The Edible Front Yard, Ivette Soler presents four criteria she uses when choosing vegetables for use in the ornamental landscape;

1. The entire plant must have a pleasing form – It cannot stand on the merits of its flowers (or vegetable or fruit) alone.

2. It has to give me at least two reasons to plant it (such as color and form, or texture and seedpods).

3. It’s leaves must hold up for the entire growing season.

4. If you must plant ornamental edible in the front yard because you have no other suitable space, pay extra attention to your hardscape.

By using Ivette’s criteria, we ensure a beautiful garden through out the season. Here are a few of her suggestions for use;

 

The vibrant colors of Swiss Chard will brighten up any garden!

Photo from Uprising Seeds

 

Eggplant adds interest as well as beauty!

Photo from Tiny Farm Blog

 

Lacinato Kale will surely blend into the perennial border!

Photo from Organic Garden Info.com

It’s time we once again look to our yards as productive spaces, instead of something unused that simply adds value. I hope you have seen here that your yard can be a place of respite, recreation and also a place to grow food, and it can be visually stunning as well. What edibles will you add to your landscape? I would love to hear about it, so why not leave a comment or head over to the Facebook page and upload some pictures.

Until next time, may you find nourishment in your garden!

Scott

 

If you’d like to learn more about Edibles see my review of Ivette Soler’s book The Edible Front Yard here, and also please visit the blogs of my fellow Roundtable designers (links below) as they also discuss this tastier side of the garden.


Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA »

Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

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

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT »

Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA


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