Garden Designers Roundtable: Inspiration!

As I write this, it’s snowing and we’ve got at least eight more weeks of winter before getting back outside and doing what we love best. Yet inspiration is not far off, for these are the months that imagination captivates the mind with thoughts of new plants and new schemes for the garden. They come at us from all angles, born of longing, and the promise of spring’s warmth. But where does one find the seed from which inspiration grows? I find inspiration in landscapes big and small, in nature’s perfect randomness, and in simple vignettes. There is a story and beauty in every scene.

Here are some photos of what has inspired me recently.

Readers of this blog will remember that I love grasses. I am captivated by the look of a meadow, and this view of the grass farm at Sunny Border Nursery always stops me in my tracks. As I look upon this field I dream of the meadow I might be designing soon for that discerning client.

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Stone is another element that gets the blood pumping. This pile of field stone slabs caught my eye at the local supplier and  stayed with me until we used them to create the stairs in the picture below. I can’t imagine a garden without stone.

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Another great use of old stone is this gristmill stone, used in a patio at Hollandia Nurseries in Bethel, CT. The pattern is mesmerizing!

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This vignette is from Hollister House in Washington, CT. It could be a doorway anywhere in the world, which is why I caught myself coming back to it several times. I’m not sure what the stone item is, but its story (which I do not know) still intrigues me. I wonder if I will ever create something so simple and engaging?

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A sense of invitation is nearly irresistible, as set up by these next shots. This Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar at Elizabeth Park in Hartford, CT. feels like a cave entrance as you move from the sunlight into the cool of the shade garden.

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Weeping Cherries partially obscure the view to the tomb at the top of the hill in a cemetery in Simsbury, CT. The juxtaposition of new life blossoming against the backdrop of life eternal creates an interesting vitality, and opens the imagination to transitions in the garden.

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The endless patterns found in nature are truly inspirational. The stump of this very old yew, also in Elizabeth Park in Hartford, CT., was awaiting the backhoe when I came upon it. The spiraling nature of its growth and the energy it projects had me thinking sculpture, fountain, or a contemporary trellis to grow vines on. Intriguing, no?

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One of the great joys in life is to meet local artisans whose talents extend into the garden. These next two inspiring pieces are by local craftsman, and friend Bill Salazar. I pass by this lamp post and arbor many times a week, and never fail to slow down and peek at how they look as the garden changes around them. Beautiful!

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These are just a few of the things that inspire me to create more interest in the garden. What inspires you? Leave me a comment, I would love to hear about it!

Please visit my colleagues also, and see what inspires them. There links are below.

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

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

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Jenny Peterson : J Petersen Garden Design : Austin, TX

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

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

 

Inspirations – Quote worthy!

A Garden is more than  an artfully arranged collection of plants and other elements, more than a simple evocation of nature. It is a wellspring of human memory and emotion. It has its own sense of narrative, its own meaning, for those who live or work there as well as those who simply visit.

W. Gary Smith From Art to Landscape: Unleashing creativity in Garden Design

 

A wonderful sentiment on one’s connection with the garden, don’t you think? This past weekend, I started reading Smith’s book on garden design, and this quote lept off the page. In my travels, I have passed by some very curiously arranged landscapes, and after reading this quote I can’t help but wonder if any time was taken for discovery, or if simply “getting it done” was the ultimate goal.

A garden is a relationship with place. Have you taken the time for discovery in your projects? Have you a relationship with your place? I’d love to hear about it!

 

See you in the garden!

Scott

 

 

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?

Inviting?

Is it dramatic?

Slow to reveal?

Does it lead you on?

Change your course?

Remind you of the past?

Transforming?

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: 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 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


Five New Year’s Resolutions for your Landscape!

This is the time of year when we promise ourselves that we’ll make a change and start being better at something. For all the garden lovers and homeowners out there, I would like to suggest five New Year’s resolutions to consider implementing for 2011. It may seem a bit tacky or rude, but making recommendation to clients for their gardens is part of my daily routine, so in that spirit I present five New Year’s resolutions for the home landscape.

Repeat after me, I resolve to:

1   Severely limit or completely eliminate chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides! Seems like a no-brainer right? Not so fast. A quick stop at any garden center or big box nursery section reveals a plethora of chemical “solutions” (read: problems) for just about any problem (read: symptom). We have come a long way in the last few years my friends, but we still have a ways to go.

Start a compost bin! This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to lower your trash output and provide you with material to build soil health. Enough said!

Come to terms with my lawn! This one should have dozen exclamation points after it. As homeowners, Americans have developed an overactive adolescent crush on large expanses of lawn (read any symbolism you like into that one!). Lawns are boring, vast, resource sucking spaces, not meant to be tucked into every corner and under every tree. Now before you banish me to the Arctic Circle, I am not anti-lawn. When sculpted into the landscape, with enough room allowed for personal use and cared for organically, lawns are a beautiful functional part of any well designed landscape.

Not be afraid to stretch my garden’s legs! A quick drive through any suburban neighborhood reveals a major aesthetic problem with today’s landscapes, “The Foundation Planting”. UGH! Your yards are bigger than you think people and there is no need to shove all the plants in your garden up against the house in a bed that’s six feet deep. Expand the planting beds, and for this you’ll need to eliminate some lawn (see previous suggestion), but by doing so you will achieve a better balance in your landscape and the house will not look like it’s holding its breath trying to fit into a small space.

Experiment with foliage! (not what you’re thinking) There is a vast array of foliage color, size and texture in the plant world and it is here that good planting design begins. Mixing and matching plants with interesting foliage will provide year round interest, and any blossoms will just be icing on the cake!

Well there you have it, five simple resolutions that will make your landscape environmentally friendly, sustainable, and the envy of the neighborhood. Please consider any or all of them for your garden for 2011. Now, I’m off to build a worm bin!

Happy New Year, and please share your gardening resolutions for 2011, love to hear them!

Scott