Creating harmony, simplicity and peace in the landscape......

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.

Gardening is an instrument of grace. "

May Sarton

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ideas for a Fall Garden - Garden Design

Kousa Dogwood in Fall - Jan Johnsen

Check out 'Ideas for a Fall Garden' on

Please click on the article name above for some great end-of-the-gardening-year ideas for your garden.

Their website accompanies the new magazine that I really like, Garden Design. Click on it to see more.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Garden of Oz, Los Angeles

Garden of Oz  photo by Philip Gutt

Somewhere in Beachwood Canyon in the Hollywood Hills (beneath the Hollywood Sign) in Los Angeles, way up high, is a hidden private garden that you may have heard of, once in a lullaby.

Garden of Oz - photo by Gerard Bosch

It is a treasure trove of recycled garden art - multi-color mosaics and hand painted tiles mixed with old Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels embedded in the rockwork.

Add to this vision a plethora of plants and flowers cascading over benches and walls.  The garden even contains a 'road' ( really a walk) paved with yellow 'bricks'. iron gate and sign announces the Garden of Oz. The  mailbox outside the gate reads “Letters to Oz”.

(Perhaps a flying monkey swoops down each day to pick up the mail.)

The story goes that the wonderful Gail, the garden's owner and creator, was an adviser to the Pope (which one? I don't know). She created this multi-faith garden and gave all the children who live nearby a key to get inside the gate whenever they please.

And it's also been said that the Dalai Lama once sent 15 of his monks to bless the garden which features menorahs, statues, and mandalas from all over the world.

It even has a Peace Pole.

Garden of Oz - photo by Gerard Bosch

I would love to visit this mini-paradise, located at 3106 Ledgewood Drive, Hollywood, so if anyone happens to come upon a local kid with a key, let me know.   :-)

(Update: I had the chance to visit but could not get there on the right day.  I will try again soon - .)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

An October deer resistant Plant Tour - short video

Luscious Citrus Blend Lantana - photo by Laura McKillop

Here is a short tour of some plants you can use for a great deer resistant  Fall Garden in temperate regions....

I designed this landscape, steps, fencing, etc.- Jan Johnsen


Saturday, October 25, 2014

'Fall, leaves, fall' - Emily Bronte

Leaves - photo by J. Johnsen 

 Fall, leaves, fall

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

American Burnet - One of the last native flowers to bloom

Sanguisorba candensis - photo by Jan Johnsen

Do you have a slightly wet piece of ground? American Burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis) is an under-appreciated native perennial plant that might work for you! It is a fall bloomer that is still sporting its spikes of white fuzzy flowers in mid-October. 

American Burnet by Stefan Bloodworth 

Also called Canadian Burnet, it is common in the Eastern US and it is a large, graceful plant that is native to swamps and bogs but has a high degree of drought tolerance. It begins to bloom in August and continues through the fall.  

It grows between 3 ft and 4 ft tall and is hardy from Zone 3 - 7. 

sanguisorba canadensis  by Thomas Muller

This plant is clump-forming and spreads through rhizomes. The abundant spikes of bottlebrush-like flowers attract bees and looks especially lovely on the edges of ponds and banks of streams.  It looks great next to other tall autumn performers such as Helianthus 'Lemon Queen'.  

Helianthus Lemon Queen - photo by Kathy Diemer 

For a great post on other late fall bloomers go to A Garden For All - click here. 

And if you would like to  order Sanguisorba click here: Prairie Moon Nursery

Monday, October 20, 2014

Designing in the Prairie Spirit: Darrel Morrison

I had the pleasure of teaching along with Darrel Morrison at Columbia University for these last few years. Darrell is an outstanding landscape designer, thinker and teacher. And you should know about him.

source: APLD OH 

While he was teaching he also worked on several wonderful landscape projects including the NY Botanical Garden's new Native Plant Center.

NYBG Native Plant Center - photo - Jan Johnsen

Here is a lovely video that I think anyone would thoroughly enjoy! His words are so heart felt and eloquent.

Bravo, Daryl! I hope you spread your magic around the world.

Garden Photo of the Day - The Incomparable Japanese Maple in Fall

"The fact that time is moving faster means that it is getting more and more difficult for people to take control of time, or even just to take time off and relax. 

And it is precisely this dilemma which led to the demand for gardens today to be sanctuaries of contemplation, where one feels embraced by nature.

In essence, gardens which provide people with peace of mind, a sense of stability and a feeling of contentment. It’s no longer enough to merely provide a green zone here, or an occasional floral embellishment to a skyscraper there. 

What we need today are gardens that can reach deep into people’s hearts.” 

- Shunmyo Masuno 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

TEXTURE in the Garden - a Guest Post by Yuliya Bellinger

Lamb's Ear

 One of my assignments to my graduate students in the landscape design program at Columbia University is to take a paragraph from the book, 'The Hidden Dimension' by Edward T. Hall and share a personal experience related to the topic of the selected excerpt. 'The Hidden Dimension' is a time honored classic on the role of spatial understanding in culture.

The following is an essay that the talented designer, Yuliya Bellinger, wrote. I think it is so lovely and wanted to share it with you. Simple is beautiful.  

TEXTURE in the Garden By Yuliya Bellinger

“Texture, about which I have said very little, is appraised and appreciated almost entirely by touch, even when it is visually presented. With few exceptions …it is the memory of tactile experiences that enable us to appreciate texture. So far, only a few designers have paid much attention to the importance of texture and its use in architecture is largely haphazard and informal. In other worlds, textures on and in buildings are seldom used consciously and with psychological or social awareness.”

Edward T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension, page 62

My fellow gardeners often disapprove of my compulsion to touch plants.  Occasionally, I even tear a leaf, crush it in between my fingers and smell it (with their permission, of course). There is something about this interaction that makes my experience of their garden complete.
It might be, that it evokes my childhood experiences of exploring the world.  After spending almost every summer at my grandfather’s farm and running barefoot for those two summer months, I miss the interaction with the earth and what it sprouts. 

Walking through an overgrown patch of a lawn with stalks of grass caressing my legs immediately reminds me of the carefree summer time.  One of my most luxurious “touching” experiences is walking on moss.  The softness and coolness of moss cannot compare with any high quality carpet.
My garden guests are often pleasantly surprised and even shocked how vegetation can be so unexpectedly soft, fuzzy, silky, coarse, spiky, rough, thick or thin.  


They react as if the appearance of a plant completely belied how it feels.  Touching a sago palm is met with a shock of its almost synthetic smoothness, or lamb’s ears that are softer than any teddy bear.

Texture is an underrepresented quality of space today, and too often unexplored by visitors because of the societal constraints or visual dependency we are more likely to rely on to experience flora.  Signs like “DON’T TOUCH” and “KEEP OFF” are enough to get everyone discouraged.  And even when they are invited to explore and experience, people tend to be reserved about touching.  

I was very encouraged after visiting the Brooklyn Botanic garden’s fragrance garden, specifically “plants to touch” section.   It is elevated to accommodate people in wheelchairs and the blind to make interaction with the plant life effortless.  How I would love to see more outdoor spaces that encourage a tactile experience; an equally enjoyable, important, and too often neglected component of a garden.

Mood Moss from Moss and Stone Gardens

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Annual Reminder- Plant Drumstick Allium now

I must admit I first discovered Drumstick Allium when I could not find any other allium bulb to buy...

It was late fall and I had waited too long to buy the popular Globemaster Alliums...

What to DO? I bought the Drumstick bulbs and was thrilled at the result.
These purplish - red blooms are small - 1" -and oval shaped.  They bloom in my part of the world in June- July  atop wiry 24" - 30" tall stems and wave in the breeze...

They make a superb cut flower (which you can dry to be an 'everlasting').    

 Drumstick Allium bouquet - Martha Stewart Photo

Drumstick Alliums look fantastic tucked in the early summer flower border...You can add these small bulbs easily in the fall around clumps of established perennials such as Globe Thistle ( a great combo) Artemesia, Yarrow, Nepeta and Agastache. 

They peek out around these plants and are a delightful addition that come back every year!

Artemesia Powis Castle - Great with Drumstick Alliums - Great deer resistant Combo!

White Flower Farm sells Drumstick Allium bulbs with Paprika Achillea (Yarrow). What a colorful combination which, yes, is DEER RESISTANT...

its Apple-red blooms stands above lovely ferny foliage. 'Achillea' is named for Achilles, who supposedly learned of Yarrow's medicinal qualities from his mentor, Chiron the Centaur, and used it to treat his men's wounds on the battlefield.

White Flower Farm Photo - deer resistant Drumstick Allium and Paprika Achillea

And here is  Echinops or Globe Thistle with Drumstick Allium:

from vanengelen nursery click  here for source

 'Cotton Candy' Agastache - or Hummingbird Mint  - with Drumstick Allium. The website Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel recommends this combination with this fantastic photo:

HYSSOP 'COTTON CANDY' with Drumstick Allium - deer resistant

Cotton Candy Hyssop (Agastache) is a vigorous, compact grower that  blooms non-stop from midsummer through fall. The dense flower spikes have light pink flowers. It grows to about 24" tall. Agastache attract hummingbirds.

close up of 'Cotton Candy' Agastache

So do not overlook the Drumstick Allium - just make sure you plant in a sunny, well drained location...

and don't worry about the deer and rabbits...YAY!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Garden Photo of the Day - A Flowering Labyrinth

Labyrinth - Regner Park 

Walking a labyrinth helps relax the mind and engage the body.  It provides a venue for a moving meditation and appeals to people of all ages and cultures

The West Bend Labyrinth Gardens in West Bend, Wisconsin provides a beautiful setting for meditative walking. Retired schoolteacher Barb Robertson first saw a labyrinth garden in Montana and decided to build a labyrinth garden in her town. 

After gathering a few grants to get started, permission from the city and a core of dedicated volunteers, the West Bend Labyrinth Garden Earth Sculpture became a reality.

Designated a Daylily Display Garden in 2009 by the American Hemerocallis Society, the garden has become a showplace each summer.  The garden is located within Regner Park, 800 N. Main Street, West Bend. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

'Heaven is a Garden' - Landscape Design Ideas For You

We all head to the light    #heavenisagarden

The aim of my book, 'Heaven is a Garden', is to have people to see their garden in a new light.  I share landscape design ideas that resonate with the earth and the heavens and I show how these can be used to create outdoor spaces that enhance wellbeing. 

Timeless stone at Innisfree   #heavenisagarden

My intention is to re-awaken interest in ancient wisdom and its connection to the natural world. Plants, trees, stone, water and more are highlighted and the book includes ways you can use these natural elements to create a calming atmosphere.  

Golden Full Moon Maple (Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum')

I talk about the effect of simple, defined forms and how they affect us in a garden layout. Circles are powerful. Ellipses encourage movement and are inviting. Rectilinear forms are familiar and comforting. 

repetition intrigues us

I also address color and show how gardens can use color in all its manifestations. Flowers, trees, water and artful objects inject color in wonderful ways that attract the eye and calm the mind. In 'Heaven is a Garden' I show how colors can affect our state of our being outdoors. 

 photo and garden, Jan Johnsen   #heavenisagarden
A garden that  incorporates 'simplicity, sanctuary and delight' can help us reconnect, relax, renew and, most of all, remember.  It encourages flow and breathing and the 'stop time' moment we all love.
 I hope my book inspires you to go out in the garden.

Heaven is a Garden 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Momiji-gari - 'Hunting Red Leaves' in October

 "I can see clearly now, that the rain is gone

...its gonna be a bright sunshiney day"

~ Johnny Nash

Sugar Maple Leaves - The New York State Tree

There is no more glorious time than a sunshiney day in Autumn in deciduous woodlands. 

Native Dogwood (Cornus florida) against a native Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

The native trees in these forests put on their cloaks of color and literally take your breath away... I walk along public trails near my house and exult in Nature's show.

Sleepy Hollow Maple Tree

Sometimes I want to literally stop and applaud, crying 'BRAVO!' to a particular tree or scene.
Wouldn't that be wonderful if we had crowds of people standing in front of a particular colorful sugar maple on a street applauding?   That would be outstanding.

In Japan, there is something like that in their Autumn tradition of viewing the changing color of maples. 

Called  "momijigari", which literally means 'hunting red leaves',  the Japanese people flock to places of natural beauty to see the short lived show of colorful leaves.

 Everyday the media announces a Momiji-gari forecast called the 'autumn tint front' and people follow this to see places of 'peak color'.

The ephemeral nature of this magnificent show is at the heart of its eternal allure - miss it and you must wait a year to catch Nature's glory.

 So if you live anywhere near an Autumn wonderland please grab the moment...

 NOW GO OUTSIDE AND THANK THAT TREE....or at least clap.

Sugar Maple