Showing posts from February, 2010

Small is Beautiful

The future is almost here. In a matter of a few years we will be able to have solar cells on our existing and new roofs...why am I so sure about that?  Because thin, film solar cells that are roll printed like newspaper are now being manufactured ...see the one above by Flisom . The technology is called CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-(di)selenide) thin film cells and new solar panels made from it are much lighter than other photovoltaic panels before them. It now is possible to have roofs with solar panels built in and atop them. The Nanosolar company has a Nanosolar Utility Panel™ that can be installed easily on any kind of large flat roof using a “plug & play” method called the SunLink solution. It is an innovative mounting system that uses recycled-rubber mounting blocks and quick-connect Nanosolar Edge Connector™. Not to be left behind, Dow Chemical will be manufacturing its 'Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingle' using CIGS thin film cells in Michigan in late 2010. Dow was

People Have the Power!

who knew the revolution would start with a garden? People Have the Power We better get to work! Go to the Kitchen Gardeners International website...

The Cary Award Winner 2010 - Panicle Hydrangea

Its official! This year's Cary Award (Outstanding Plants for New England Gardens)  goes to.....Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)  and its cultivars. The cultivar that we often associate with panicle Hydrangea is''Grandiflora' or P.G. Hydrangea. It deserves the award for sturdy, reliable and magnificent performance in many situations... This is a small tree or large shrub, depending on its pruning, that features densely packed, rounded flowerheads. The Peegee hydrangea is hardy to zone 3 has green leaves that turn bronzy in the fall, and clusters of white flowers that slowly fade to a pinky bronze then to brown. It tolerates a little shade but needs at least 5-6 hours of sun for flowering. It is a wonderful plant that looks great behind a low fence, as a specimen plant in a corner of a bed or behind a low hedge of boxwood, holly or yew. It blooms from July - September and the large white flowers slowly turn pink...   They look great as a cut flower filli

The Essence of Garden Making

The Olympic Games are on! Watching the Olympics always makes me think of Aaron Copland, the great American composer, who lived in the town next to where I live now ( You can visit The Aaron Copland House  and attend some great concerts there. ) I think of Copland because a snippet of his  'Fanfare for the Common Man' is played often during the  television coverage of the games. Copland sings and plays with his friend, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein in 1945 CREDIT: “Bernstein with composer, mentor and friend, Aaron Copland at Bernardsville, NJ. 1945,” Music Division, Library of Congress.Digital ID45a029. Copland came from modest circumstances in Brooklyn and rose to become one of the preemient U.S. composers of the 20th century. When someone asked why he composed music he answered,   "You compose because you want to somehow summarize, in some permanent form, your most basic feelings about being alive, to set down... some sort of permanent statement about th

Funny - Unhappy Hipsters in the Garden

These photos and captions are from Unhappy Hipsters ....a very funny website, please check it out.... Sure she was watering a street tree during a statewide drought. But the gate was made of recycled street signs. Carbon footprint: neutral. (Photo: Randi Berez; Dwell Magazinre, Dec/Jan 2006)   My comments - you gotta love that street sign fence!       The porthole windows seemed like a good idea. But now the house appeared to be leering at them, distinctly ominous. (Photo: Philip Newton; Dwell Magazine, March 2004) My comments - such emphasis on the house design..such little emphasis on the landscape...     It became their routine. And so the evenings stretched out before him: still, gray, and gravel-strewn. (Photo: Dean Kaufman; Dwell, November 2006) my comments - OMG..must be hot as blazes in the summer   Not on the grass, Sweetie. Never. On. The. Grass. See how much fun Daddy is having? (Photo: Jack Thompson, Dwell, October 2009) My comments - Those pavers set in the

Flower Time

It's Valentine's Day...Flowers abound... Flowers, the researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey tell us, help people feel less depressed, anxious or agitated. Wow - how does that work? is it their smell? their color? My own thinking tells me it is something else:  flowers affect us positively because they are nature's siren song. Flowers are the seductive cloak of Mother Nature, her wildly sensuous creations that beguile us with their colors, petals, patterns and more.  How can you be depressed among a spray of roses? or a bowl of mums? or a vase of baby's breath and  lilies?.... They are the apex of nature's cycle - there is no higher point on the biological spiral. Flowers stop time - at its most fertile and tantalizing instant. It is this ephemeral period of time that flowers represent. They bring silent joy and love to anyone in their presence. Writing about time reminds me of Deborah Solomon's conversation with the noted and amazing sculptor,

Immerse Yourself

I lived for over a year in Japan while I was in college.  I didn't have much money ( I was on scholarship) so I could not afford to pay for Japanese language lessons. Now if you have ever been to Japan you know that the people there are 'English challenged' - everyone studies it for years and years and still has a hard time conversing... So I had to learn Japanese quickly and therefore involved myself in the old fashioned way of language mastery - immersion. I stayed away from our small college center and lived and worked where Japanese was the only idiom spoken. The funny thing was that since I worked in an architecture office dominated by men I ended up, unknowingly, speaking in the men's dialect!  I must have sounded like a longshoreman when I answered anyone's questions. No wonder they always looked at me a little funny when I spoke... Why on earth do I bring this up in a blog dedicated to garden design and landscapes? Because mastery of Japanese - no easy

A Beguiling Cottage Garden and then some

I once worked with a great client who wanted a cottage style flower garden. Now there are cottage gardens and then there are cottage gardens...know what I mean? When I see photos of gardens in Great Britain, it seems everyone there has the most magnificent flower garden, each more spectacular than the next...their lushness sets a standard of perfection for cottage gardens and makes me want to say to someone here in the Northeast U.S., 'would you like to consider an ornamental grass garden instead?" But of course, the call of a cottage garden, filled with a profusion of  flowers and smelling of roses, peonies and lilacs, makes one dizzy with anticipation. cottage garden and flower beds by  Johnsen Landscapes & Pools All you need in my part of the world is a deer fence, deep fertile soil, constant watering and someone to tend it lovingly... a tall order indeed.  But it can be done.   And that is what we did - installed a deer fence, brought in great t

Serenity Gardens 101 : 'The Lure of a Sheltered Corner'

When you walk into a restaurant where do you want to sit? This is what I ask my college classes in my intro to 'Working with Outdoor Space'.  The answer is always something like, "in a corner, away from the kitchen, not in the middle of the room, with a nice view of the surroundings or outside'.... The preferred seat in a restaurant is similar to a desirable sitting spot outdoors - it should be a partially sheltered location with a view of the surroundings, not in the middle of an open lawn or terrace but in a defined corner. This corner can be created by the rear of a building or by a low wall or hedge in the lawn and that is where the design of the space becomes important. Such a layout is discussed at length in the 'bible' of environmental design called, 'A Pattern Language', by Christopher Alexander, et al. This enlightening guide gives illuminating answers to design issues of all kinds, from the proper windowsill height to the optimal arrang

if a Meadow could sing...

how can you not like a singing duo named Mamuse whose slogan is - "MaMuse is what a meadow would sound like if it could sing." At that point, you just have to say, 'O.K. I'll listen to one song...."   and since it is gray and snowy in my part of the globe and we all need cheering, I am going to take off the gardener's hat and put on a musicians cap and share with you a wonderful song by MaMuse...   and if you don't feel 'lifted' by this song, then you don't know what meadows sound like ...( read the lyrics too, they're great)  Hallelujah

Some Great - and Little Known - Seed Catalogs

“In Hindi, seed is bija or ‘containment of life." Vandana Shiva Ah, so true....So where should we buy our little 'containments of life' these days? Here is a list of seed companies that are worthy of a look: Renee’s Garden Check out their Basil collection of seeds and their new "Rainbow Kitchen Garden",  5 packets of colorful vegetable varieties that are easy to grow and great for anyone starting a garden from seed. Includes: Farmer's Market Lettuce Mix : rainbow of colors and textures Garden Candy Cherry Tomatoes : red, orange, yellow and sweet as sugar Tasty Duo Scallions : red and green skinned, savory and crisp Tricolor Bush Beans : purple, yellow and green pods Tricolor Zucchini: gold, light and dark green, with buttery flavor Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds  - This group offers heirloom and open pollinated seeds. This will be so important in the years to come. Start now growing the plants as nature intended them...Become a 'heritage garden

3 Secrets for a Great Kids' Vegie Garden

I just had a conversation with a dear friend who works in the local elementary school and the subject of kids' gardens came up.  She asked me for input. Here it is: Kids Gardening is high up in the pantheon of domestic arts....master this, and you will certainly qualify to be in Martha Stewart's top tier... The 3 secrets for success are: it should not be too demanding, it should offer fairly quick results and require a minimum of maintenance.... So how to achieve this in a garden in the short few months before school is out? Go to and then, as they say for Carnegie Hall, practice, practice, practice, or rather, plan, plan, plan. 1. First, the site has to have full sun for over 6 hours a day, be relatively level and have soil deep enough to sustain plant roots and facilitate adequate drainage (about 16  inches deep at least). No 6" to bedrock or placed atop asphalt... 2. Second, the soil has to be thoroughly prepared beforehand -