Thursday, April 30, 2009

More than Me

Ok. Let me start off by saying that what I'm about to say is going to really going to make some people angry. I suspect it will be those with a holier than thou sensibility. I also suspect that it will be those with really loud bullying voices. If not then...good...maybe I'm not battling windmills.

Even with my activist background as a young adult, several years ago I became more 'enlightened'. I read Cradle to Cradle, visited and wrote about my reaction to sustainable gardens in Southern California and of course I saw An Inconvenient Truth. I have always turned out lights when I leave the room, have recycled and reused (including a long history dumpster diving) and I plant trees and other oxygenating plants as part of how I make my living. So far so good, right?

The trouble, for me, became when I started to be involved with social media. All this talk and posturing about being green, being sustainable, helping the planet. Don't get me wrong, that's a good thing--at least the conversation is happening. What get's me though is that it often all seems so selfish. I'm green, hire me! I can help you save the planet, hire me! I'm an expert in sustainability, hire me! I write a blog about sustainability, hire me! What!!! You still buy XXX's product--shame on you, I don't, I'm green, hire me! ME, ME, ME.

What about helping each other just because we all share the same planet? Does it always have to be about me and how I can profit by this or 'make good by doing good'...why not just because it's the right thing to do?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Trash or Treasure?

19th Century iron fence remnant for a project

I met a welder at a project today to show him how I wanted the reclaimed 19th century ironwork I specified installed. I bought the pieces last fall in Scranton at Olde Good Thing's incredible salvage yard specifically for this project.

They were leaning against a tree outside of the garage and the crew thought they were garbage and hauled them away. I freaked out when I couldn't find them! There's 2 more pieces beyond these and I will post some photos when the installation is done. I called the contractor and he found them--one piece is now bent and a small piece broke off but can be repaired.

The old cliche is person's junk is another person's treasure.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Showhouse Season, Volume V, Issue 13--Party Time!

Last night was the gala opening for the VNA showhouse at 99 Rumson Road in Rumson, NJ. Over 650 people wined, dined and danced after touring the house and gardens. I highly recommend that anyone who can attend this event does. I've participated in many showhouses, and this one is special. No expense has been spared and the house feels like a home instead of a series of individual spaces--it's lovely.

The Garden ready for a Party

Back to last night. The weather was perfect! Michael Deo, my lighting designer, and I donned our party duds and hosted the garden's debut. As a designer, I always try to create a space that will draw people out into it and be interesting enough for them to linger in it. Of all the gardens at the show house, people congregated and lingered in two --the way over the top poolhouse and mine. I don't think it was because of the wine either!

The two photos were taken just before the party and a few minutes after it started. Once things got going I was too busy talking to everyone to snap away! Peter Rymid is going to photograph the garden on Monday and then I should have some great shots.

A Jazz Quartet, Guests & Party Time!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Showhouse Season, Volume V, Issue 12--The Home Stretch

Things were hopping at the showhouse garden today. I'm beginning to be somewhat satisfied with the results...

My assistant, Joanne, and one of Frank's guys drove out to Steven Snyder's Cedar Maze studio in PA to pick up the bird sculpture. The geraniums (an odd choice for me, but it works) from Hamilton Farms and Ajuga from the Perennial Farm for the parterre arrived in two separate trucks. You know what happened don't you? The sod also arrived early this morning.

Everything everywhere

With all that good news, the bad news is that half of the Heliotrope for the containers has decided it's too cold and windy and gave up the ghost. We're going on a nursery run tomorrow to find replacements. At this point I want to see everything since there's absolutely no wriggle room. The gala party is on Saturday.

I concocted a center piece for the table that is almost finished and will hold postcards and business cards for people to take on their way through. I also bought some cushions for the chairs to soften up the space since it wasn't really looking too comfy.

Here's some photos. We're heading down the home stretch.

The Bird

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Showhouse Season V, Issue 10, Mud & Mayhem

Here's some photos from today. Furniture and pots arrived. Irrigation and lighting was installed. Today was complicated by too many people in too small a space and downpours.

The plywood & tarps are protecting one of our walks
It's the only access the adjacent garden has. Tomorrow we cut them off

The first container planted--there are 8 in total

Sod, the bird sculpture and a bazillion annuals will arrive tomorrow. After I left at lunchtime I went shopping for something to go on the table. More about that later.

Showhouse Season V, Issue 9, Simplicity

Yesterday I took a walk around the gardens, mostly because it was the only way to a port-a-potty that didn't have a mud pit in front of it.

All of the gardens are formal. Mine is formal and simple. No busy planting scheme. Just boxwood parterres and an ultra simple planting plan. I want the space to feel modern and traditional at the same time. We'll see if it works or if it looks like I phoned it in...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Showhouse Season V, Issue 8, Mud & Annuals

I will try and post short bits until we're done--hopefully on Friday. No progress pix today since nothing's really changed since the last ones.

We delivered as many annuals for the containers as my pickup would hold. The staging areas were so muddy that two volunteers had their shoes sucked right off their feet and another sunk in up to her knees.

After dropping off the plants we went to the nursery to get the remaining ones. Here's what's going in the containers...with a few pictures...

  • Deutzia gracillis--I know it's a huge shrub, but a #3 full of buds and about to burst works here
  • Heliotropium arborescens 'Atlantis'--great fragrance also fully budded and ready to bloom
  • Bellis perennis 'Strawberries & Cream'--a punch of color that will tie into the rest of the planting
  • Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'--just because it's pretty
  • Helichrysum petiolare --the grey loose structure and felted leaves create a nice contrast

Tomorrow--rain or shine--we're planting up the containers so I'll take a photo and post tomorrow evening.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Showhouse Season V, Issue 7, Rain

Here's a laundry list (with today's progress) of most of what has to be done this week and it's going to rain until Thursday. ARGH!
  • Irrigation intstallation
  • Lighting installation (outlet installed today via electrician)
  • Pick up and deliver containers (done today I think, one is in my garage so I can stage it here)
  • Choose container plants and purchase (some was done today)
  • Turf delivery and installation (delivery Wednesday)
  • Mulch garden beds
  • Plant 300 annuals and 1000 groundcover plants
  • Prune boxwoods into hedges
  • Pick up and deliver sculpture from PA
  • Install sculpture
  • Pick up and deliver table and chairs from Western NJ
  • Install stanchion for info
  • Work with graphic designer to make stanchion insert
  • Deliver business cards and postcards to site
  • Stage table & primp garden
  • Photograph garden when finished
The majority of this will have to happen Thursday and Friday. Like I've said elsewhere, my head might explode.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Showhouse Season V, Issue 6, In Real Life

Yesterday morning was dedicated to show house business. Frank Scheppe, my contractor extraordinaire, and I were at a local wholesale nursery soon after it opened to choose two Styrax japonica for the garden. After they were loaded we delivered them to the show house site.

Styrax blooms

image via Ambleside Gardens, Hillsborough, NJ

With one week to go, Sheep's Run was a flurry of activity, mud, and mayhem. There were delivery trucks stuck in the mud, people trying to get plants and accessories into spaces that are rapidly being cut off by the spaces adjacent them, and a general feeling of rapid fire problem solving.

All of the gardens are formal. A full trailer of boxwood was delivered last week and ours was included with that. The stonework for the paths & patios was finished earlier this week. We were able to use some bluestone that was leftover from the home's original terrace that is also one of the adjacent spaces.

Peagravel, granite cube edging & bluestone walkways and patio

The goal for yesterday was to layout the big plants and mark off the area that will be filled with groundcover. I also had to decide on what annuals we're using for the parterres and containers. More on that next time...

Defining the four quadrants

The arcs and angles w/space left open for containers

Friday, April 17, 2009

Newbies: Student Projects, Part 2

Below are first landscape designs from the three remaining students in my Principles of Landcape Design class at Bergen Community College in New Jersey.

Principles is their first real design class. One student believes he can't draw--not true, another was so 'tight' that he struggled to get beyond a beautifully drafted base map to create a loose and lovely concept plan. The third student has a great taste level and brings in books and magazines setting up her table like a mini design studio each week.

Decide for yourself who is who, I hope you enjoy their drawings as much as I have enjoyed teaching them. I am thrilled that they have been able to achieve so much in such a short time.

Won Ja Choi--Concept Plan with brick patio & pergola

Conceptual Plan w/formal and secret gardens by Luke Eisenstein

Jason Cina's diagonal plan w/checkerboard patio

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


For the women gardeners in my family, their gardens have been sources of food and beauty, obligation and beauty and peace and beauty. There were once three generations of women who gardened--now only one with a son instead of a daughter.

My mother taught me to find peace and beauty in gardens. She hated to garden but loved the beauty more. I will always thank her for giving me her appreciation of all things beautiful.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Newbies: Student Projects, Part 1

I've always worked at giving back to whatever design discipline I've worked in by teaching. My philosophy is that I've received so much from others that I need to also pay it forward. I was a resident artist with interns as a jewelry designer, a design school instructor and academic officer (not a good fit btw), and now I teach a small (6 students) landscape design class at a community college near here. I believe in sharing knowledge.

Below are three of my student's first projects. I'll publish the other three next week. None of them had designed a garden or a landscape before this class. Only one has had a graphics class. As first attempts by students, I think their projects are pretty great.

Backyard concept plan by Daniel Siniscalchi

Partial Layout Plan by Alex Kozar with pergola and fountain

Concept Plan by Gleb Denisov

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's right there in Black & White...

I have the opportunity to design a small black and white pocket garden. Tucked into a corner with between a screen porch and the house, the area is also home to multi-utility boxes including a low voltage transformer smack dab in the middle of one wall that has no wriggle room.

My client's request other than a fountain which is a blue glazed olive jar, is that I put Colicassia esculenta 'Black Magic' somewhere in the garden.

A quick color study for the garden

I still render presentation drawings for clients by hand but I use a color add on for my CAD program because it's fast for down and dirty color studies. At the point I'm using it I don't pay much (read some) attention to texture because the choices the program offers are limited--hence the Heuchera x 'Obsidian' in the drawing really looks more like stone than a plant! These quick visual thoughts are working drawings and I know what the plants look like, so the color studies are more for the ratio of one color/texture to the adjacent ones and the rhythmic flow of the planting design. I change my mind often when designing planting plans--it's not always intuitive for me. Spatial relationships and human interation with and through space are much easier.

The very simple plant list includes:

Buxus sempervirens 'Elegantisima'
Colocasia esculenta 'Black Magic'
Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracillis'
Hydrangea arborecens 'Annabelle'
Heuchera x 'Obsidian'
Iberis sempervirens
Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy'
Odhiopogon planiscapus 'Ebony Knight'

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I always know it's really spring when the hussies of spring bloom. Hawking their wares from curbside, stoop, border, and garden these brightly colored plants can't help their garish adornment--they want us to notice them and come hither.

Screaming yellow forsythia and daffodils...fuchsia, shocking pink and cerise azaleas...tulips and hyacinths of every hue...redbuds all call out and strut their stuff

Friday, April 3, 2009

Was it the Disco Ball?

via stock.xchg

A short while back, I was looking for a spherical ornament for a garden I was designing for a client. It probably has to do with my long past nights of dancing under a disco ball till dawn, but I have an affinity for spheres--a perfect shape that echos the earth's own.

Alliums in bloom (via stock.exchg)

I often use Alliums as part of a planting plan for because of the spherical blooms. I have also used gazing balls, carved stone orbs and lit night orbs. Below are just a few of the spheres that I like.

A rusted wire orb in Bunny William's garden in Connecticut

An armillary from David Harber in the UK

'Soap Bubble' gazing balls in my first flower show garden

Limestone spheres from Garden Artisans

Aluminum garden sphere from Ore