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Dangerous Gardens!

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.  –Michelangelo

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. –Helen Keller

As Halloween draws near and front yards and porches fill up with grinning jack o’lanterns, ghouls, and oversized spiders, it seems an appropriate time to muse on Dangerous Gardens. What makes a garden dangerous, and is that a good quality or something to be avoided? As always, expect a fascinating range of interpretations, from the practical (garden safety tips) to the physical (spiny plants like cactus and agave) to the philosophical (be bold!).

Guest blogger Loree Bohl of the popular blog Danger Garden joins us this month. Loree gardens in Portland, Oregon, and she loves the thrill of danger. In fact, she sums up her entire gardening philosophy as a dance with danger:

Nice plants are boring – my love is for plants that can hurt you. Agave, yucca, anything with a spike or spur! Besides the danger the plants provide, gardening itself is just plain dangerous. The money! Who couldn’t drop a couple hundred in an afternoon at your favorite nursery or a plant sale? Dangerous! And then there is my tendency to garden with plants that are on the edge of what my climate will allow. Dangerous!

If you share a fascination with dangerous gardens too, then leave your life jacket on the boat and dive into the following posts.

Loree Bohl : Danger Garden : Portland, OR

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

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

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

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

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

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM

Focus on Details!

"Scott Hokunson" "Garden Designers Roundtable"

A simple detail, an object left in a doorway, creates this garden vignette!

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.

… John Wooden

 

God is in the details.

… Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

 

Details create the big picture.
… Sanford I. Weill

 

Success is the sum of details.

… Harvey S. Firestone

 

Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.

                … Steve Jobs

 

There’s no escaping the notion that, to get something right you have to pay attention to the simplest of details. As witnessed above, by some very successful people, the worth of the final product rests in the effort to successfully master each part of the whole, to focus on the details.

What does this mean for the garden design process, or a new landscape? A focus on the details in the design process might show in many forms; as a unified color scheme, or the perfect accoutrements in an outdoor dining area, as an abstract piece of art that anchors the design, or in the perfect groundcover choice to complement stones in a garden pathway. A focus on the details might also show in how a designer has thoughtfully tended to each of her clients needs, or how a designer has addressed every one of his client’s concerns. Orchestrating the symphony of contractors needed to complete a project on time and under budget, are details that should always capture the designers focus, thereby leaving the client simply to enjoy the newly created space.

When you pause to enjoy a beautiful garden and find yourself lost within its balance and complexity, and you feel, without at first knowing why, that everything just seems to work, look a little closer.  You’ll find that someone brought all the elements of the garden together, by focusing on the details.

Our designers are focusing on the details this month; follow the links below to see how!

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

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

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

 

Do native plants, and the wildlife that depend on them, have a place in our landscapes? More and more, professional designers are answering with a resounding “yes!” Setting aside the question of aesthetics for a moment, there’s a clear need for people to replace their resource-hogging lawns and may-as-well-be-plastic exotics with something that their local birds, butterflies and bees can use as food and habitat.

According to the US government, 41% of our land is being used for production agriculture (which is not beneficial to wildlife), and all but 5% of the remaining area of land is now a mix of urban, suburban, and industrial landscapes. We think of “nature” as existing somewhere out there, but the amount of area we leave for nature is shrinking rapidly due to our need for food and housing. If we care at all about preserving the species that share our world, we need to step up and help. Planting wildlife-supporting native plants is one of the simplest ways of doing that.

Of course, landscaping is something we do to express ourselves artistically and create a place where we enjoy spending time. Few designers like the idea of limiting their palette to only natives, and rightly so. An artist’s palette benefits from the addition of differing colors, textures, and styles of plant.

However, landscaping with natives brings a variety of benefits. Not only does it attract wildlife, which brings us a sense of awe and connection to our gardens, but planting our region’s natives is a way of celebrating the unique character of the places we each live. Have you ever visited a new location, and realized there was nothing at all to distinguish it from home? The same strip malls, chain stores, and Berberis-and-daylily planting schemes that bore us at home, followed us to our new location.

Planting natives is a way of creating a regionally-distinct identity, reminding yourself why you live where you do, and remembering what’s special about your exact place in the world. While nobody’s telling you to back away from the bulb catalogs, why not challenge yourself to learn more about your region’s plants, and start adding them to your palette as well? Let’s flip the lawn-dominated, no-character landscape paradigm on its head and begin planting landscapes with a little more meaning.

How are professional designers working with natives? Read this month’s Garden Designers Roundtable posts to get ideas and inspiration for your own landscape.

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

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

"Garden Designers Roundtable" "Robert Webber" Lesley Hegarty"

Art outside – who needs it? Surely gardens are beautiful anyway if the gardener is at all skilful? Is that not art enough? Why would you need to add sculpture to your garden?

Perhaps it is about your perception of beautiful objects, a need to have what you conceive of as sculpturally beautiful around you, the extension of a ‘household ornament’ idea out into the garden? And, why not?

Maybe you are a collector and have amassed a hoard of objets trouves which your partner has had enough of indoors!

Or perhaps, and we are hopeful here, you are beginning to perceive its strategic potential in garden design terms.

There are however, millions of choices out there into which it is possible to sink even more millions, truly! And, having bought the wretched thing, where do you put it anyway? Or shouldn’t the thought process have been the other way around?!

Often clients see the addition of art and sculpture as their way of personalising a garden design. But while it can certainly be a matter of personal choice just how sure are you about your own taste? Do you like it enough? Will you outgrow it? What will it say about you?

You’d not buy a Van Gogh without taking a little advice. And we think that here as much as anywhere else in their garden the client most definitely needs the guiding hand of the garden designer.

So why not reach out your hand and tap into the ideas of our designers!

Enjoy,

Lesley and Robert

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

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

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

Jenny Peterson : J Petersen Garden Design : Austin, TX

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

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

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Texture!

Texture is a very small and compact word that refers to a very dynamic and fluid element of design.  Strictly speaking, texture refers to the nature and quality of a surface.  In a garden, this might refer to bold leaves, as in Gunnera, Rodgersia, Ligularia or Butterbur, as opposed to the tiny leaves of boxwood, or thyme.  It refers to the hairy leaves of Tibouchina, and the open surface of great soil.   It might refer to that puffy and fleeting natural circumstance we know as cumulus clouds.  It might refer to a thinly woven fabric of a garden umbrella.  It might refer to that fluid and sparkling surface we know as water.  It may refer to the craggy surface of stone.  It may refer to wood planed smooth, as in garden furniture.  Texture refers to a surface, a surface you can feel, a surface you can see, a surface you can touch, and a surface you can taste.

Texture engages virtually all of the senses.  The qualities of the surface we recognize as stone are vastly different that the soft texture of a field of grass. You either like raw oysters, okra, or beef-or not.  How does your garden taste?  How do your garden surfaces engage the eye?  Natural surfaces are infinite in their variety.  The choices are infinite.  Make sure your design sense includes an appreciation and consideration of the quality of the surface, the texture.

Texture engages, and holds, the eye.  Texture gives a set of fingers a reason to be.   Texture leaves a strong taste. Read on to see how every designer associated with the Roundtable in this June post interprets texture.

Enjoy,

Deborah Silver

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

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

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

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

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

Curiosity about other people is part of the human psyche. We want to work other people out. Find out what makes them tick.

So other people’s personal spaces are always intriguing. You look for signs of character, taste and, let’s be honest, the little foibles which make life interesting.

But you are also often able to pick up ideas as to what you could do with your own spaces, either inside or outside. We are natural copiers.

So a glimpse into the home gardens of garden designers is indeed a precious opportunity. These people get design, so their gardens will be perfect!

Or will they?

I mean there is the old proverb that ‘the builder’s home is never finished’. Basically you are so busy doing other people’s gardens that your own takes second or even last place.

Perhaps at the end of a hectic day you are more tempted to chill out in the simplest of restorative spaces.

Maybe manicuring the spaces of others you go for ‘au naturelle’ in your own. The chair, the barbie and the glass of wine being the key elements as you ‘dream up’ the next ‘dream landscape’ for your clients.

Alternatively, your garden might be the showpiece to which you cannily invite new clients to reveal your gracious lifestyle and sell what you could do for them.

Or maybe it is that most exciting of all gardens: the ideal trial ground, away from prying eyes, where you experiment with bold new ideas and unusual plant combinations to see what really works. So showing this is brave indeed, and by viewing it maybe we are stealing a march on the garden design trends of the future.

So join us as we peek into the Home Gardens of our fellow Roundtable members!

Best,

Lesley and Robert

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.

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

Have you ever thumbed through a gardening magazine, and planned your travels aroundthe gardens you found within the pages? Ever Googled a favorite movie to find out where it was filmed, just so you could see the gardens in the film in person? Well, my friend, you have a problem… you’re a gardener! Don’t fret, we understand, and we’re here to help. This month on Garden Designers Roundtable, our designers are taking you on a trip to their favorite gardens.

Fern Richardson

We are very excited to have as a guest poster for this garden tour, Fern Richardsonfrom her excellent blog Life on the Balcony! Life on the Balcony is an award winning blog about container gardening tips and tricks, for growing plants on tiny balconies and patios and creating container gardens. You’ll also find great recipes, best enjoyed or made outdoors and other outdoor living ideas for balconies, patios and small decks.

Fern is also an author, with her first book Small Space Container Gardens, just released from Timber Press. You can find more info and join with her in discussing the book on her Facebook Page

Now let’s get to it, let’s explore the wonderful gardens through the eye of our guest Fern and our designers. Just click on the links below to start your tour!

Fern Richardson : Life on the Balcony : Orange County CA

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

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

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

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

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque NM

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