Showing posts from February, 2014

The Making of a Cottage Garden - Jan Johnsen

I once worked with a lovely client who wanted a cottage style flower garden. She is now my dear friend....
But 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... like this one:

Their lushness sets a standard of perfection for cottage gardens which makes me want to say to someone here in the Northeast U.S., "Wouldn't 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 redolent of roses, peonies and lilacs, makes one yearn for such a place.

What 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.  We installed a deer fence, brought in great topsoil and amended it and added irrigation. My cl…

Kim Wilkie - 'Sculpting the Land' at NY Botanical Garden

Kim Wilkie is, hands down, my favorite living landscape designer. He is a genius.

He is from England and is known for expansive land sculpting projects - sinuous waterways that meander through pastoral countrysides, stepped hillsides that sometimes double as grassed amphitheaters, and mounds with paths that spiral to the top. 

Wilkie was the speaker yesterday at the New York Botanical Garden's 14th Annual Winter Lecture Series. This thought provoking series features exceptional speakers that share their insights on "the emotional value of designing gardens that reflect personal passions and aspirations."  How could I not go to something described like that? I am a partial to the anything to do with 'the emotional value of designing gardens.'

And anyway, when I saw it was Kim Wilkie I signed up immediately. He is one-of-a-kind which was amply demonstrated in his illustrated talk, 'Sculpting the Land'.  It accompanies his fabulous and informative coffee table …

The Brief Wondrous Life of Zina Lahr

This post is not about gardens but it is about an amazing young individual who brought "art to the world in every way possible"...

Zina Lahr left us too soon. I hope you take time to watch this short video. It is her legacy and it will inspire you.  Zina was full of wonder and shared her joy in the best way she knew how.

Btw, creating a garden is another way to share that wonder. Click on the link below to see a beautiful obit by Grayson Schaffer and a joyful video that Zina made...

2014 Garden Photographer of the Year - Photo of the Day

2014 Overall Winner and first prize in the 'Beauty of Plants' category
Rosanna Castrini won the overall prize in the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition for this picture, called My Garden Prairie. 
Andrew Lawson, International Garden Photographer of the Year judge, said "We all love single plant portraits - but it is much more difficult to make a successful picture of many plants together in association. To me, this picture is as close to perfection as you can get."
Go to for more information about International Garden Photographer of the Year.

There Is Pleasure In The Pathless Woods

There Is Pleasure In The Pathless Woodsfrom Childe Harold, Canto iv, Verse 178  by Lord Byron
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,  There is a rapture on the lonely shore,  There is society, where none intrudes,  By the deep sea, and music in its roar: 
I love not man the less, but Nature more,  From these our interviews, in which I steal  From all I may be, or have been before,  To mingle with the Universe, and feel  What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

© Lord Byron. All rights reserve

musings for a snowy Sunday morning....Jan

The Poetics of Gardens - a recommended book

"Today we survey and inventory a site's assets, then speak even more aggressively of "environmental impacts." Mother Nature is to be mugged, it seems, and we cold-bloodedly analyze the old lady's chances of surviving the blows."

from 'The Poetics of Gardens' by Charles W.Moore, William J. Mitchell, William Turnbull, Jr. (1993)

Pow. Straight to the gut. Landscape designers take heed! From now on, when they say, 'inventory the site's assets' to you, flinch a little - the old lady is on the ropes and we must help her up.

'Song of the Flower' by Khalil Gibran

The wisdom of a flower - the first four lines floor me.    Heaven is a Garden for sure.            Jan Johnsen   

Song of the Flower XXIII by Khalil Gibran

I am a kind word uttered and repeated By the voice of Nature; I am a star fallen from the Blue tent upon the green carpet.
I am the daughter of the elements With whom Winter conceived; To whom Spring gave birth; I was Reared in the lap of Summer and I Slept in the bed of Autumn.

At dawn I unite with the breeze
To announce the coming of light;
At eventide I join the birds
In bidding the light farewell.

The plains are decorated with
My beautiful colors, and the air
Is scented with my fragrance.

As I embrace Slumber the eyes of
Night watch over me, and as I
Awaken I stare at the sun, which is
The only eye of the day.

I drink dew for wine, and hearken to
The voices of the birds, and dance
To the rhythmic swaying of the grass.

I am the lover's gift; I am the wedding wreath;
I am the memory of a moment of happiness;
I am the last gift of the livi…

The Railings of Leicester Park, London

Leicester Park in London has been redesigned to provide Londoners and visitors alike a lovely urban park to enjoy. 

It is known for hosting film festivals and premieres in the heart of the city. They stage over 50 film premières every year as well as a number of other large scale events and the park attracts approximately two million visitors each week! 

So this redesign was aimed to make the park a truly outstanding public gathering space.  

Along the perimeter of the square there is a curvilinear white granite ribbon bench where people stop and enjoy the setting.  Its organic shape brings ‘inside’ and 'outside’ together and this soft transition of the edge is helped by the mirrored stainless steel railings.  

The new gates and railings were manufactured by Midas Technologies Ltd.  The panel sheets were pre-polished and cut to desired specifications then were hand-polished to mirror-finish prior to installation.

The design is by Burns + Nice. 
The overall design is very exciting and th…

Vinyl Window Blinds as Plant Labels

When you’re dealing with hundreds of seedlings, you quickly realize how important it is to LABEL EVERYTHING.

Many seedlings look the same - especially if you are growing a multitude of varieties of basil or marigolds...

But why buy labels if you have some vinyl window blinds? They are sturdy, weatherproof and the right size. Just make sure to use lead free blinds!

To reuse vinyl window blinds, cut the strings that hold the slats together and cut each slat into any size label you want. Clean them well with vinegar or dish soap to remove dust and grease.

You can write on the slats with a permanent marker.  At the end of the season sand the writing off  and reuse the marker next season.

'Winter Fire' Heath - Photo of the Day

'Winter Fire' Heath 

This Hummingbird Heath™ is loaded with nectar.  It is a Cape Heath from South Africa and is only hardy to 28 degrees F! 
This is a small, heavy flowering shrub that grows tall to 3' high x 2' wide. It is spectacular in bloom with long, crimson tubular flowers appearing March-May. The new growth is golden. 
 Needs acid soil mix.  Very rare.
Available from

Buttercup Winterhazel (Corylopsis pauciflora) - An Early Spring Beauty

What blooms earlier than forsythia, has a delicate fragrance and is an easy-to-care for  compact delight ?  That is also hardy to USDA Zones 6-9 and native to Japan and Taiwan?

Buttercup winterhazel(Corylopsis pauciflora)

Toward mid April (depending where you live), the bare branches of buttercup winterhazel hang with inch-long clusters of soft yellow flowers that appear as little lanterns.  The fragrance is noticeable, making it perfect near a sitting spot.  It was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1993. 

Winterhazel is good in a small city garden or as a woodland underplanting in open shade.  It glows in front of evergreens and is a perfect pairing with purpleRhododendron mucronulatum since they flower at the exact same time. And winterhazels look wonderful with snowdrops and hellebores! 

As the flowers fade, the leaves unfurl to 3 inches long, bright green with red edges before darkening to rich green. In fall they turn a gold-bronze.

This speci…