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

Garden Designers Roundtable – Lawn Alternatives!

A wave of change is moving through the world of horticulture, a wave that intends to wash away the great lawn culture of

An Organic Lawn

the past 60 years. Tired of boring monocultures, faced with restrictions on water use, and more sensitive to environmental impact, landowners and managers are reimagining their yards, and their views on lawns are changing. Its Garden Designers Roundtable time again on the Blue Heron Landscapes blog, and this month we’re talking ‘Lawn Alternatives’.

I’m not anti-lawn, at least in regions of the world where it’s practical and sustainable, but I would like to propose that you consider an alternative thought process when considering your existing lawn or before establishing a new one. Instead of just grading your property, spreading grass seed, and buying into the whole premise that to be an upstanding neighbor, you need to have a lush green manicured lawn, consider the following questions and approach the design of your property and the inclusion of a lawn, in a more thoughtful manner.

Ask yourself the following:

Is it appropriate?

Here in the northeastern United States, drought is not an issue, but in arid regions of the country, the lack of water makes installing a lawn not only impractical, but irresponsible as well. Each year we hear of farmers out west having to bring water in for their crops from farther and farther away. Reservoir levels are dropping, rivers and streams are reduced to unhealthy levels for migratory fish and ground water is harder to find. Honestly, is having a patch of green really more important than any of these issues?

Is it proportionate?

Ok, so you are in an area of the country where water shortages are not an issue, good for you, you can have a lawn. Does the amount of lawn you desire however, match the amount of lawn you need? How large an area do your children need to play? How much of your property actually receives enough sunlight for a lawn to grow? Are there deed restrictions as to the uses of your property? Do you simply enjoy having a small patch of grass to walk barefoot in or have a picnic on? These may seem silly, but you’d consider some of the very same questions when purchasing the house, a car, or even new suit. So why wouldn’t you subject something you will be spending many hours each year with, to the same criteria?

Does it work with the design?

This is the most overlooked consideration when designing a property. Most often the lawn is considered separate from the garden. Why? They both are living planted environments, and they usually reside within the same boundaries. Lawn is not just a part of your yard it’s an important element in the design of your landscape, and of your garden. Where appropriate, an expanse of lawn can tie a garden together providing a resting space for the eyes or pathway or border for your creation. Lawn space is defining, engaging, and accessible, as long as it’s creatively used and proportionate with the design.

Will it be worth the effort?

This is a question for the ages. One person’s relaxation is another person’s afternoon of hell behind a mower. Once you’ve decided that having a lawn is appropriate for your region, proportionate with your needs, and is in harmony with your design, you’ll need to decide if you want to take on the task of maintaining it. It’s a question that can only be answered from within.

Leaf Pile Day 2002

For the record, I love having a lawn. I love the feel when walking on it barefoot, the smell of freshly mown grass, dew in the early morning, and I even enjoy raking in the spring and cleaning up leaves in the fall (especially when their dry enough to pile up and jump in!). What I grow increasingly tired of is large patches of singularity without the beauty found in a perennial border, or the weak growth under the shade of a mature tree, or unused areas of productive space, that could be planted with veggies. The classic yards from our youth have changed dramatically but with a little thought, and after answering a few questions, maybe we can recreate come of the magic, and in the process, give this planet a well deserved break!

I would love to hear your answers to these questions and your feelings about lawns, please leave share a comment below, then follow the links below and see what thoughts our other bloggers have on ‘Lawn Alternatives’.

Susan Harris : Garden Rant : Takoma Park, MD

Susan Harris : Gardener Susan’s Blog : Takoma Park, MD

Billy Goodnick : Cool Green Gardens : Santa Barbara, CA

Evelyn Hadden : Lawn Reform.Org : Saint Paul, MN

Saxon Holt : Gardening Gone Wild : Novato, CA

Ginny Stibolt : Florida Native Plant Society : Green Cove Springs, FL

Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold: Garden, Life, Home : Atlanta, GA

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

Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

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

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

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

Laura Livengood Schaub : Interleafings : San Jose, CA

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Garden Designers Roundtable: Stone!

I’m very excited this month as Garden Designers Roundtable welcomes two very talented designers joining us as we discuss ‘Stone’ in the garden. Sunny Wieler of Stone Art from West Cork Ireland, and Deborah Silver of Deborah Silver and Co. from Detroit Michigan. You’ll find links to their posts as well as our GDRT members at the end of this post. Now, lets talk about stone!

Stone is timeless and ancient. It tells a story. It holds us up, both literally and figuratively. Its decorative and functional. It reminds us not only of our surroundings, but ties us to a history begun millions of years ago. There is nothing that establishes a sense of place, more than stone.

Here in New England, one cannot travel far without encountering stone of some kind. Our soils are rocky, our main streets are lined with building built of brick and stone made or quarried within a short distance, and forest and field are lined with miles of  aged stone walls, harkening back to this region’s agrarian beginnings.

An old stone wall deep in the woods tells a tale of change to this area.

The tools used for trade and survival during those early years, often prove extremely ornamental, as this gristmill stone shows, set here into a brick patio.

Gristmill stone at Hollandia Nursery.

With no place to remove it to, farmers would pile stones on the edge of fields as they cleared for planting. These walls would later define properties, and eventually become ornamental boundaries.

Stone wall along property frontage.

A beautiful and very old step through built into a wall.

The use of native stone as ornament can also take one to a special place, or set the mood for a business, as these granite pieces do at The Sport Shop in Avon, CT.

Granite hints at the craggy mountains patrons will soon ski and snowboard down.

Finding interesting stone onsite adds character to the garden, and provides winter interest.

Found stone on a job.

Wood stone and evergreens are a match made in heaven, and when grouped together well, such as this stone, cedar trellis and Yakushimanum Rhododendron, are simply beautiful!

Stone, Cedar, and the dark green of a dwarf Rhododendron.

This granite stoop and blue stone walk being installed, will be much more attractive than the typical precast step and concrete pavers, and will be around a lot longer.

A granite stoop and bluestone walk being installed.

Stone can be machined also, into ornate and functional objects, such as this amazing table and chairs.

How's this for a dining set for the garden?

A path through a garden is will lead visitors to explore, especially if it is as lovely as this random pattern bluestone.

A welcoming path in a woodland garden.

Stone can also be art without the sculpture’s chisel. This monolith is an interesting addition to this patio just outside a professional office.

Stone as art.

Another example of found stone, this piece of brownstone was unearthed from the very spot that it now greets visitors.

Brownstone dug from ledge beneath the porch and set as a welcome post.

Use the natural materials from your site to create the sense of place within your garden, and if you are lucky enough to have stone of any kind to use, you’ll draw on the history of your site as well as the beauty.

How do you feel about the use of stone in the garden? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions, as would my fellow bloggers this month on the Roundtable. Please visit their blogs also, and share your thoughts!

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Sunny Wieler : Stone Art Blog : West Cork, Ireland

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA

Jenny Petersen : J Petersen Garden Design : Austin TX

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold : Atlanta, GA

Garden Designers Roundtable: Top Plants!

Today is Roundtable day, and this month our designers are discussing their “Top Landscape Plants”! We’re not posting this month, but I hope you’ll head over the the GDRT Blog and see what my fellow bloggers choices are for their designs.

As a special treat, we’ve invited Nan Ondra and her popular blog Hayefield to join us. Nan has authored or co-authored many books on plants and gardens. You don’t want o miss her post!

Garden Designers Roundtable: Vertical Accents

It’s Roundtable posting day today, and this month we are celebrating the release of “Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces” written by two of our own blogger’s Rebecca Sweet and Susan Morrison. Susan and Rebecca, live in the San Francisco area, and in this their first book together, have hit on a topic that although has been around for a long time, is undergoing a renaissance, with exciting new products and techniques. Look for a review of Garden Up! very soon, right here on the Blue Heron Landscapes blog.

Gardens have long been defined by their boundaries, the most romantic for me being old worn brick walls cover with vines and flowers, a backdrop for a beautiful perennial border or a stone patio providing a cozy spot to relax or dine with close friends. There are many ways to create intimacy within your garden, and introducing a vertical element, especially one covered with plants, is a smart choice. An under story tree with a low canopy might provide a ceiling to your outdoor room, or maybe the pattern found on a trellis will ad texture to a screen as clematis climbs it’s way to the top. Here are a few ways we have been using vertical elements to the gardens we create, to soften hardscapes and creat a sense of intimacy.

When is a fence, more than a fence? In this picture you can see the picket fence as it works it’s way around the yard, but near the gate the Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris), both softens and adds depth to the plane. Planted by our client, this beautiful vine gives both privacy to the backyard and a wonderful backdrop to the Hosta and Daylilies at along the drive.

Climbing Hydrangea on picket fence

Another beautiful vine, Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), is seen here covering an ugly lattice wall. A magnet for hummingbirds, this light shade tolerant native brings the scale of the garage it’s planted against to a more comfortable presence.

Honeysuckle on lattice

The back corner of this foundation, was left exposed due to the grade change. The size of a stone wall high enough to cover the ugly concrete would simply have overpowered the backyard. The mason’s choice here to terrace the wall was smart, but it left a portion of the foundation still exposed. The custom trellis was built to fit over the wall and planted with climbing rose and clematis. Problem solved!


Custom Trellis against foundation

The location of this patio, left us little room to plant between the back wall of the garage and the bluestone. The addition of this trellis solves that problem. Planted later with annual and perennial vines, it also reduces the scale of the building and provides interest from the patio.


Trellis against house

A wonderful little patio near the side door of this client’s house is a great spot to sit and enjoy the garden, or wait for friends until they arrive. The trellis is placed so as to bring visitors face to face with the sunny, happy, clematis growing on it. Can you think of a more gracious welcome?


Custom trellis welcomes visitors

Our final picture is from my own back yard. Surrounded by towering oak and hickory trees, our back deck is a lovely spot to relax, and we dine here as often as possible. After experimenting a few times, we have settled on this post with six pots winding their way to the top. It gives the deck (one step above grade) a somewhat elegant and interesting accent. Don’t you agree?


Hanging pots on post

Softening hardscape, providing privacy or creating intimacy are all benefits of a well planned vertical plane, and whether your working with a grand space, or a small intimate one, I hope you’ll think to Garden Up!

Do you like our solutions? Think you might add a vertical accent to your garden? We would love to hear about it, so please leave us a comment! And after you do, please follow th links below and visit the blogs of my Garden Designers Roundtable friends (including our new authors Susan and Rebecca), and see what creative ideas they are sharing.


Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA
Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA
Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA
Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold : Atlanta, GA



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

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!



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

Garden Designers Roundtable: Inviting Nature In!

This month on the Roundtable we consider habitat gardening and inviting nature into our outdoor spaces.

Certification for a job well done!

Photo courtesy Carole Brown and the Ecosystem Gardening Blog

It would seem that we have come full circle in this country. Early settlers forced nature back into the wilds as they staked their claim to the land and forged out a homestead. Forests were clear cut, and later the grasses and vegetation that sprouted were cut low allowing predators to be spotted before getting too close. Homesteading would lead to communities, then small towns and eventually the larger cities of today.Urban sprawl has created vast deserts of “concrete jungles” where the only wild life is rodents and weekend party goers. In the suburbs, things are a bit greener, but the heavy price of maintaining tailored landscapes with chemicals and pesticides, has cost us more than we may know. Fast forward to 2010, and we find ourselves in a natural renaissance, designing gardens that not only allow the local flora and fauna in, but actually are designed to attract it. Gardening techniques that were once reserved for kooks and hippies (both terms used affectionately here), have been adopted by mainstream America, and I for one could not be happier!

Plants like Goldenrod attract many pollentors

So what does it mean to actually invite nature in? In short, it means designing and implementing habitat that will support native flora and fauna, and then (here’s the best part) go forth and be among them!

Here are five simple things you can do to invite nature in:

1  First, do no harm! Yes this great tenet from the AMA, also applies to gardening with nature. Stop using pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Insects, especially native species, are a vulnerable lot, and usage of these products is causing drops in their populations. So what, you say? Insects are near the bottom of the food chain, and when you remove a building block from such a foundation, you affect the whole food chain.

Organic products are becoming easier to find and are effective!

2 Provide food for all stages of fauna. For a long time, plant growers have been touting the pest free nature of certain plants. Such plants are pest free because our native insect populations cannot feed on them. It’s not enough to simply provide a pollen source for adult species of bees, butterflies and moths, it is also necessary to provide the plants on which they lay eggs and on which their young can feed. This alone will bring in greater numbers of pollenators, which will in turn bring in more species of birds to feast on the pollenators, and so on, and so on…

Oak trees support over 200 butterfly and moth species!

3 Provide shelter. Birds, bats, mason bees, and butterflies are all examples of species that will inhabit homes built especially for them. Alternately conifers can be planted to provide year round shelter from cold and predators.

Mason Bee House

Photo Courtesy Gardener’s Supply Company

4 Provide water. All life needs water, yet this is something often overlooked when gardening for nature. You will spend countless enjoyable hours watching your new friends come to the fountain (so to speak) to drink and bathe.

Cardinal bathing

Photo courtesy of Bird Bath

5  Get children involved!!! Kids love nature, getting our future generations involved is a great way to keep the natural movement going.

Make changes not only in the way you look at nature, but in the way you garden for it, the rewards are truly delightful. And who knows, you might one day come across a Black Racer out searching for a meal right in your own backyard. Yeah!

Northern Black Racer

Photo courtesy Animal Pictures

For more on Inviting nature in, please follow the links below and visit my fellow Roundtable bloggers, and see what they have to say on the topic.

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN
Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA
Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA