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

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Win a free issue of Garden Design Magazine right here!



As you may know, I love Garden Design magazine. It is gorgeous, each issue is 148 pages thick and packed with fascinating gardening info and landscaping ideas and, best of all, it has no ads!  It is published quarterly, one issue per season.

How can they make it work? Well, it is a subscriber-supported magazine. Jim Peterson is the publisher and Thad Orr is the editor. I think they have made it the best garden magazine out there....
Would you like an issue? I am giving out the current issue to 3 lucky winners...see below for my random drawing.
 And I am thrilled to say that Garden Design chose to feature my ideas on Creating a Relaxing Retreat in their current issue which features Serene Spaces. I am honored and so happy that it is being shared by such a prestigious and elevated magazine!
The 6 page article, 'Serenity and the Sweet Spot', offers my tips for creating relaxing outdoor spaces that I have refined over the years. I look to ancient sources and have used them in my landscapes. They took my photos and had a brilliant illustrator from Spain, David Despau, interpret them in colored pen an dink drawings. Wow.



Also they have a 16-page spread on David Austin roses.

And an article on hydrangeas that made me swoon. I am planting so many of the new varieties these days for clients. And then there is the article on the Thomas Jefferson garden at Monticello with Peter Hatch. It is called 'Jefferson's Legacy, at last' That is the best!  TJ is my hero and I went to see Monticello on my honeymoon. (I have been back since). 
GD_Summer2016_PeterHatch_pg36
(Photo credit: GardenDesign/Ngoc Minh Ngo — used by permission.).
And lastly, they have a great piece on Disneyland's horticultural magic. What a fascinating article! Am I gushing? Well that is because it really is a great magazine.

For a chance to win an issue of Serene Spaces issue of Garden Design (U.S. and Canada residents only) post a comment below.
I use the number generator at Random.org to select 3 winners.

Winners will be announced both here and on my Facebook page on Saturday, July 23, 2016, so check back!
If you want to buy your own subscription to Garden Design, and receive your first issue for free? Click here: Garden Design.





Sunday, July 17, 2016

Loren Eiseley's Prescriptive for Our Times

"Let it be admitted that the world’s problems are many and wearing, and that the whirlpool runs fast. 
If we are to build a stable cultural structure above that which threatens to engulf us by changing our lives more rapidly than we can adjust our habits, it will only be by flinging over the torrent a structure as taut and flexible as a spider’s web, a human society deeply self-conscious and undeceived by the waters that race beneath it, a society more literate, more appreciative of human worth than any society that has previously existed. 
That is the sole prescription, not for survival — which is meaningless — but for a society worthy to survive."
Loren Eiseley,  Firmament of Time
For more excerpts from Loren Eiseley go here: 






Saturday, July 9, 2016

Garden Design Magazine - My Tips and Interview

Garden Design Magazine interviewed me for tips for blending ancient and modern ways to create gardens that simply make you feel good.  

They also had the fabulous illustrator from Spain, David Despau, illustrate photos of some of my landscapes.

 I am honored.  It is in the summer issue of Garden Design:



It is such a great magazine. 


You can use this link to subscribe to garden Design and get your first issue free


You can also order just this one issue here








Friday, July 8, 2016

“Learning the Trees” - Howard Nemerov

I used to teach Tree Identification at a community college decades ago.

 I also wrote the book, 'Ortho's's All About Trees' which introduces trees to the reader. 

This poem reveals the beginner mind.   Watch for samaras and drupes.... 
 
Jan Johnsen



Learning the Trees

Related Poem Content Details

Before you can learn the trees, you have to learn 
The language of the trees. That’s done indoors, 
Out of a book, which now you think of it 
Is one of the transformations of a tree. 

The words themselves are a delight to learn, 
You might be in a foreign land of terms 
Like samara, capsule, drupe, legume and pome, 
Where bark is papery, plated, warty or smooth. 

But best of all are the words that shape the leaves— 
Orbicular, cordate, cleft and reniform— 
And their venation—palmate and parallel— 
And tips—acute, truncate, auriculate. 

Sufficiently provided, you may now 
Go forth to the forests and the shady streets 
To see how the chaos of experience 
Answers to catalogue and category. 

Confusedly. The leaves of a single tree 
May differ among themselves more than they do 
From other species, so you have to find, 
All blandly says the book, “an average leaf.” 

Example, the catalpa in the book 
Sprays out its leaves in whorls of three 
Around the stem; the one in front of you 
But rarely does, or somewhat, or almost; 

Maybe it’s not catalpa? Dreadful doubt. 
It may be weeks before you see an elm 
Fanlike in form, a spruce that pyramids, 
A sweetgum spiring up in steeple shape. 

Still, pedetemtim as Lucretius says, 
Little by little, you do start to learn; 
And learn as well, maybe, what language does 
And how it does it, cutting across the world 

Not always at the joints, competing with 
Experience while cooperating with 
Experience, and keeping an obstinate 
Intransigence, uncanny, of its own. 

Think finally about the secret will 
Pretending obedience to Nature, but 
Invidiously distinguishing everywhere, 
Dividing up the world to conquer it, 

And think also how funny knowledge is: 
You may succeed in learning many trees 
And calling off their names as you go by, 
But their comprehensive silence stays the same.

Howard Nemerov, “Learning the Trees” from The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1977). Copyright © 1977 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Beautify Your Vegetable Garden with These Ideas.....


The French have long understood that vegetable gardens can be places of beauty. They located their traditional potagers, or kitchen gardens, outside their kitchen windows and included vertical structures, flowers, and artistic plant groupings designed for aesthetic appeal. 
Flowers look beautiful and attract the all important pollinators to your garden. Read the wonderful article I have linked here for learning how to include beautiful flowers and more in your veggie garden. 
Infographic - go here for more






Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Rare Honey Moon on the Summer Solstice - Tomorrow, June 20



On June 20, 2016 there will be a very rare Honey Moon at the same time of the summer solstice - the longest day of the year.  


June's full moon is  known as a "Honey Moon" because it can have a slightly golden tint, according to EarthSky.org.  


yellowish 'honey' moon

That's because it appears low in the sky, meaning we are viewing it through the lens of more of the Earth's atmosphere. This is the lowest moon of the year, the moon's path across the sky this month actually mimics the sun's low arc across the sky in December, according to EarthSky.

Pink honey moon rises over Sweden
The June Full Moon rising appears to loom impossibly large near the horizon. That effect has long been recognized as the Moon Illusion

The cause of the giant Moon illusion is poorly understood and not explained by atmospheric optical effects, such as scattering and refraction...they cannot fully explain this !

Majestic scene with honey moon 

 Btw, is this why they call the sojourn after a wedding a Honeymoon? Did everyone get married in June and so that was how the name came about? Just asking.
If you want to know all the names of the moons click here and go to the great blog, Seasonal Wisdom. Teresa O'Connor describes all the moon names - fascinating. 

Again click here for more fascinating info on this event











Monday, June 13, 2016

'Purple Smoke' - The best Baptisia

 This year I am planting Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'. 

A deer resistant, native, drought tolerant, purple, long lived perennial! Wow!


Photo - Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden - Puple Smoke Baptisia and Carolina Moonlight Baptisia

It is a hybrid of B. australis and B. alba and is a vigorous grower.  Discovered by Rob Gardener of the North Carolina Botanical Gardens, it has charcoal-gray stems and is purple.  

Baptisia is a native perennial that has a long taproot, loves sunny sites with lean or poor soil. Average to dry soil is best.  Its deep tap root allows it to survive long dry periods, making it a challenge to move once it is established. 

Purple Smoke from Bluestone Perennials

The flowers resemble lupines and are smoky violet. Numerous flowers open first at the base of the flower stalk in May and ascend upwards, topping out at 4.5' tall. It has fine textured, blue-green foliage. 

The flower spikes rise above the foliage for easy viewing. I love its unique flower color and strong vertical form.  A Niche Gardens introduction.


"is one of the best—if not the best—Baptisia on the market."












Saturday, June 4, 2016

Muhammad Ali's Peace Garden Initiative

photo courtesy of business wire

The Muhammad Ali Center of Lexington, Ky and Yum! Brands Foundation launched the global Muhammad Ali Center Peace Gardens project on September 21, 2010. 

This coincided with the United Nations International Day of Peace.



Peace gardens focus on using edible plants from different cultures to teach youth about the world through culinary delights. 

They also teach children how to "nurture and care for other living things" and remind them about the importance of fruits and vegetables  in their diets.  



Through the process of growing food students learn about nature's processes and increase their access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

What better way to create awareness about hunger than to have them actively involved in growing a garden, taking food home to their families, and giving to the community?


The model for this idea came from the John F. Kennedy Montessori school.  Children participated in all aspects of the garden including planting, nurturing, harvesting, cooking and donating food to the hungry.

The model garden consisted of different vegetable beds representing the different countries and the diverse cultures of the school.

  • Squash and beans were grown in the United States/Native American garden and were used to make “3 Sisters Harvest Soup”.
  • Tomatoes, peppers and onions were grown in a Salsa Garden representing Mexico.
  • Sweet potatoes and black beans were grown in the Cuban garden bed
  • Edamame was grown in the Asian bed
  • Potatoes and cucumbers represented Russia.

“The ‘Muhammad Ali Center Peace Gardens’ program will sow the seeds of cultural respect by teaching children how to build gardens with plants from different countries,” said Greg Roberts, President of the Muhammad Ali Center.









Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Add a Lively Red Accent in Your Landscape

(Red New Guinea Impatiens,landscape and photo by Jan Johnsen)

Bold. Bright. Pop.

This is what RED adds to a garden.

RED, an eye catching hue, stands up to the summer sun's withering glare in the afternoon.

When all pastels fade away, red, orange and yellow sing their hearts out....and RED always steals the show.

RED has a vivid history - Check it out on the sensational color website. It is the color of the root chakra (this means 'energy point) of the body:

"This chakra is located at the base of the spine and allows us to be grounded and connect to the universal energies. Groundedness, belonging...."

(sounds perfect for all us grounded gardeners)



In Japan RED is associated with certain deities. Their “Shinkyo” (Sacred Bridge) in Nikko, Japan is a wonderful example of the contrast RED makes with green in a natural setting.

You can also see how effective RED is in the modern Chinese Red Ribbon in Tanghe River Park, designed by Turenscape :



This use of RED has always been popular in Chinese gardens...Here is another example showing a red Tori or gate...what great proportions too.



I was first introduced to the power of red by the French artist, Matisse...I loved his 'Red Studio' when I first saw it as a child in a NY museum:



And of course Red furniture outdoors attracts the eye:



Here is a landscape I designed - the red bench definitely dominates the scene:






I often plant RED Callibrachoa in my clients' gardens. It is a eye catcher for sure!



I also plant a mass of red begonias next to dark green leucothoe to make a statement. This is what I did along an entry walk:



Of course the spilling over of Superbena Royale Red Verbena in a pot is unmatched:

(courtesy of Proven Winners)

And Nemesia, a cool season annual flower, is also a knock out in red, Sunsatia Cranberry Nemesia :

(courtesy of Proven Winners)

Did you know that Bees can’t see the color red, but they can see all other bright colors. Red flowers are usually pollinated by birds, butterflies, bats, and wind, rather than bees.

I love red tulips against a white fence so I planted these Parade tulips:

(Jan Johnsen)

And of course the traditional Red Geranium always signifies 'welcome' in so many languages:



So please consider 'spicing up' your outdoor surroundings with some RED today - you won't regret it!


(Silas Mountsier Garden, photo by Jan Johnsen)







Monday, May 30, 2016

Beautiful Foolishness of Things - The Book of Tea


'Too little tea' is a Japanese expression that refers to a person too busy to stop and smell the roses. 

From ‘The Book of Tea’:

The heaven of modern humanity is indeed shattered in the Cyclopean struggle for wealth and power.

by Chris Madden

The world is groping in the shadow of egotism and vulgarity. Knowledge is bought through a bad conscience, benevolence practiced for the sake of utility.



The East and the West, like two dragons tossed in a sea of ferment, in vain strive to regain the jewel of life. We need a Niuka again to repair the grand devastation; we await the great Avatar.

Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea.


The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the sighing of the pines is heard in our kettle.



Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.



Kakuzo Okakura



Friday, May 27, 2016

PURSLANE - The Incredible, Edible 'Weed'

What was one of Mahatma Gandhi's favorite foods? 
What did Henry Thoreau eat while residing at Walden Pond? 

PURSLANE.
Purslane, long considered an obnoxious weed in the U.S., is, in fact, full of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids!  And now this overlooked gem,

'one of the most nutritious greens in the world',

is receiving the attention it is due.

Usha Palaniswamy of the Department of Plant Science, University of Connecticut, reports that,

"Purslane is receiving much attention for cultivation by the United States Department of Agriculture as part of their effort to bring about a modification in the western diet with increased intake of fresh fruits and vegetables."

Purslane contains a high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one of the highly sought-after Omega-3 fatty acids. It has several times the concentration of ALA than is found in spinach.  So throw away those fish oil capsules and grow your own Omega-3 fatty acids! It literally grows like a weed.

from Family Food  - click here

Addiitonally, Purslane stems are high in vitamins A and C.  And it provides all of this wellness with only 15 calories in a 100-gram portion (as compared with 76 in a boiled potato).

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a member of the Portulacaceae Family and is also known as wild portulaca and verdolaga. It grows all over the world, often in disturbed soil in sunny areas.

This low growing, fleshy leaved plant is native to Persia and India and was said to have been introduced into Europe by Arabs in the 15th century as a salad herb. But it was actually widely used in ancient Greece where Theophrastus (in the 4th century BC) named purslane, (called andrákhne) as one of the several summer pot herbs that must be sown in April.

 In traditional Chinese Medicine, it is used to treat infections or bleeding of the genito-urinary tract as well as dysentery.

And the Japanese use Purslane as one of the seven herbs in their symbolic New Year's ritual dish called nanakusa-no-sekku (七草の節句).

 Purslane has been eaten for generations as a treatment for arthritis, inflammation and heart disease and to promote general good health.



WOW! and you always pull it up and toss it away, yes?


Purslane is a tender annual and a perennial in USDA zones Zone 9 -11. It has prostrate reddish stems and succulent leaves that are smooth, paddle shaped and about a half inch long.  It has tiny yellow flowers about 3/16 of an inch open when the sun shines, followed by small dark colored seeds. When foraging for purslane, watch out for spurge, a poisonous plant that grows in similar conditions to purslane. Snap a stem to confirm your identification. If there’s white, milky sap inside the stem, you might have picked spurge – discard it.
Purslane stems are filled with clear water. Purslane stems are also thick, while spurge has a wiry stem.

Always check with someone who knows before you pull weeds and eat them.
Waterconscious gardeners will love its drought and salt tolerant qualities. Purslane has little to no disease problems in well-drained soil. You can pinch it back as it grows to maintain a bushy low plant.


Purslane provides cover to create a humid microclimate for nearby plants. Its deep roots bring up ground moisture that other plants can use, and some, including corn, will "follow" purslane roots down through the hard soil. Deep rooted 'weeds' like Purslane are extremely beneficial because they bring up needed minerals and nutrients from the depths of the ground.

This edible plant has a refreshing tart taste and grows from late spring to fall. I just pulled some up yesterday. You can eat Purslane raw in salads (it has a crispy texture and a peppery taste). It can also be sauteed as a side dish or boiled  - boiling will remove the tartness.

Bake it with breadcrumbs as a casserole. Use it in place of okra in recipes. Add it to omelets. Purslane is eaten extensively in soups and salads throughout the Mediterranean area. The Russians dry it and can it for the winter. In Mexico it is called VERDOLAGA.

 Star chef Steve Johnson has a Purslane cooking recipe for cucumber-yogurt salad (you can view his recipe for purslane at the Star Chefs Web site).


The wild Purslane is best for eating as the new cultivars are bred for flowers rather than taste and nutrition. But if you want to use the snazzy flowers of cultivated Purslane in your edible landscape try the new flowering series from Israel - Purlsane Pazazz. 



 Pazazz Purslane makes a great long lived spiller in combination planters for hot sunny spots. It is very forgiving, tough and needs little water. It comes in a variety of fabulous bright colors - Red Flare, Salmon Glow, Pink Glow and Ultra Pink. They all glow in an iridescent manner.

 But I wouldn't eat them.....

Thoreau wrote of Purslane:

 "I have made a satisfactory dinner off a dish of purslane which I gathered and boiled. Yet men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not from want of necessaries, but for want of luxuries."
 (so eat that Purslane!) - Jan

Here is a great video about Purslane from Green Deane (Eattheweeds -click here)