Design ideas, May 2018

Making the most of a small space

A small space doesn’t have to hold you back from getting what you want out of your garden. A small space just means that decisions count more than they might in a larger area where you have room to put everything that you want.

I think that the best way to illustrate what works in a small garden is to show a few pictures and discuss what works (or doesn’t.) First of all, I will say that all the pictures that you are about to see are interesting and successful because they don’t consist of an expanse of lawn in the middle with flowerbeds bordering it on all sides. Although you might think that being able to see the whole garden at once allows you to get the most out of the space available and make it seem bigger, the reverse is actually true, except for under certain circumstances, like if the garden is seen primarily from above.

So let’s go…

Example #1:

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This garden is successful for a number of reasons.

  1. Good fencing choices. While it is enclosed, the choice of a lattice fence allows it to “breathe”, and the little glimpses that you get of the gardens beyond make it feel more open. Imagine if the fence were solid instead of “see-through”. You would lose that light feeling and just feel like you were in a box.
  2. Change of heights. By having the gate at the top of the steps, it adds interest to the space and makes you wonder what is on the other side, and how it relates to the sunken garden.
  3. Open space vs. plant space. The designer of this garden was wise to keep them separate. If there had been plants on the left hand side as well as the right, it would have made the garden feel more closed in. The little patch of lawn keeps the garden from being busy, and nicely compliments the exuberance of the plant bed on the right.
  4. There is a place to enjoy it! Even a small garden should have room for a seat of some sort. In this case, the patio has room for enough furniture for two people to have a meal, or just to sit and enjoy the space around them.

 

Example #2:

small garden 2

This garden is much more plant-centric than the first one, but it shows how a relaxing area can be made out of the smallest space, or even a corner of a larger space. Noteworthy characteristics include:

  1. Coziness. While feeling much more enclosed than the first garden, this nook looks like it was made so on purpose. Colorful, shade loving plants surround but do not encroach on the lounge chair’s space. And the blanket on the chair adds to the cozy effect.
  2. Water. What could be more relaxing than the sound of water? The small fountain in the corner (at least, I think that’s what it is – if not, let’s pretend it is) fits the space well, and delivers a soothing sound.
  3. Well chosen colors. The relaxing palette plus the occasional pop of red keeps this space calm, but interesting. The cushions on the chair echo the color of the foliage, and the natural wood keeps the whole scene looking natural. Picture it with bright red cushions. Not necessarily bad, but a very different feel.

Example #3:

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This small garden has a more modern feel, but is still a good example of how simplicity can be very successful in a small garden.  In my opinion, things that make this garden work are:

  1. A limited number of textures. One common mistake in small gardens is to try to have too many textures – patio, walkway, plants, etc. This garden has four basic “visual” textures; the metal chairs, the decking, the pea stone, and the grass. Other things in the garden echo these choices – the larger round rocks by the fountain echo the pea stone, the metal fountain echoes the chairs, the edging echoes the deck, and the plants echo the grass. This creates a visual continuity, instead of being cluttered.
  2. A repetition of shapes. The designer of this garden didn’t try to integrate curves and straight lines as that could be visually over-stimulating. Instead, there are squares and rectangles of various sizes that move the eye through the space.
  3. A limited color palette. Warm browns and greens make up this garden, and tie the separate elements together. Imagine if the pea stone had been grey and the plants a riot of color. It might have worked, although more likely, I think, the garden would have looked much too busy. In any case, it would have had a totally different look.

There are so many ways to design a small space. If you have one of you own, take time to look online at pictures of other small gardens and think of what looks good to you. If you do that, you will be halfway there. Awareness is everything.

2018, March 2018, Uncategorized

The Show must go on!

As we have done for the last two years, we participated in the Seacoast Home and Garden Show this past weekend, and had a great time! It’s is always so much fun to talk to people and hear what they are looking for in their landscapes, and to feel like spring really is on its way. (Even though there usually is a snow storm around the time of the show!)

Below is a slideshow of our display, from concept to completion. Enjoy!

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March 2018, What to do in the garden

How to Prune Roses

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I often get asked how and when to prune roses. Roses can be a little daunting, that is true, but once you know the general principles of how to prune them, you should be able to tackle almost anything. And many of the principles of rose pruning apply to pruning other plants, too, although you should read up on what it is you want to prune before diving in. Anyway, the most important thing to know about pruning roses is that it will be fine. Most roses are very forgiving. We all do a butcher job at one time or another, and seldom does it result in death.

The main reasons to prune roses are as follows:

  1. To cut out diseased, crossing and damaged growth
  2. To maintain a pleasing shape
  3. To allow for a healthy amount of air to circulate within the plant.

That’s it, really. You want to get rid of any dead bits or bits that are black or distorted from disease. You also want to get rid of branches that cross so close that they rub against each other. When they rub each other’s bark away, they leave openings for disease to get in. You also want a rose bush that has a pleasing shape. So you might end up cutting off a perfectly healthy branch because it messes up the symmetry. That’s ok. And finally, roses are prone to diseases, so if you can cut out stalks that clog the interior of the plant, you will allow more air to circulate in the middle and that will help keep those diseases away.

That’s WHAT to cut. Now, WHERE to cut.

Remember that every time you make a cut, the plant will react to that cut by sending growth hormones to that spot. So if you cut your rose above a bud that is facing outward, that bud, being the last bud on the stem, will now be told to grow, and it will grow the way it is facing. So it stands to reason that, if you don’t want the branches to grow inward, (see reason to prune #3) you should cut just above an outward facing bud. Are you with me so far?

Next, HOW to cut. For this, it’s easiest to show pictures. It all has to do with the angle of the cut in relation to the bud. Here goes:

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WRONG. This cut points toward the bud, so rain etc will roll right down the cut and onto the bud, making it vulnerable to disease.
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WRONG. This cut slants the right way, but it is too close to the bud, and so doesn’t give it enough support. Thus, it will always be a weak place on the plant.
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WRONG. There isn’t anything horrendously wrong with this cut, but it’s a little too far from the bud and cut straight across. An entire rose bush pruned like this will have a stumpy appearance.
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This cut is just right. It is angled away from the bud, and not too close, yet far enough away to give the new branch support.

And finally, WHEN?

I usually prune my roses in late winter, while they are still dormant. At least, I do the main prune then. I will sometimes shape them in the summer, or cut off a branch here and there. The main thing is not to prune when winter is coming and there is about to be a long period of cold. Since pruning tells the plant to react, you don’t want it to send out a lot of new growth, only to have it killed by a frost.

Hopefully this has demystified things a bit. If you are confused about anything, please post a comment on this blog post and I will try to help make things more clear.

Happy Pruning!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 2018

What will you grow?

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Believe it or not, it’s time to start thinking about ordering seeds for the garden. It will soon be time to start things like tomatoes and pansies indoors, and you can put peas and Nasturtiums in  as soon as the frost is out of the ground. So while the time to plant outside is still a little way off, it pays to do a little thinking in advance so that you have the seeds when you need them.

The seed companies may have already filled your mailbox with their catalogues, but in case they haven’t, here are some of my favorites. Your local garden center or Agway will probably have them, too. Have fun choosing!!

Territorial Seeds

Seed Savers Exchange

Harris Seeds

Renee’s Garden Seeds

Johnny’s Seeds

Park Seed

 

If you just can’t wait to have plants in your life, then I recommend an Aerogarden. This is a small hydroponic system, and you will be amazed by what you can grow in just water! I have grown herbs and lettuce, and even started perennials like Lavender. Right now I have Petunias in it, because I have been dying for some color in my studio. They sell a wide range of kits, but if you want to try things on your own, you can also buy seedless starters and use the seeds of your choice. While the Aerogarden system is a bit of an investment, you can use it over and over again, and the mental and physical health benefits are priceless!

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P.S. Neither Aerogarden nor any of the previously mentioned seed companies pay me anything to recommend them; I have just had positive experiences so I want to share their names.

 

P.P.S. You’ll notice that none of the companies that I recommended are represented in the seed photo. That’s because I haven’t ordered my seeds yet and so all I have are some packets left over from a vacation to Alaska, some freebie Cosmos, and a couple of packets left over from last year that I kept because I liked the artwork.

To check out Aerogarden, click here.

What are your favorite things to grow in winter?

Uncategorized

An Unexpected Guest

This winter I experimented by planting some plug plants, the idea being to grow them to maturity by planting time, and save money. In January the box of plugs arrived from Florida with much fanfare. I opened the box and was greeted by the optimistic foliage of some diminutive perennial geraniums, a ray of hope that pierced the heavy grey skies of a very long winter.

I set about planting them into larger pots right away. I was working in my studio, as the greenhouse was much too cold for the tender new arrivals, and had settled on the floor with everything that I needed to complete the job. Suddenly, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and when I looked around, there was a tiny frog, about the size of a quarter. A stowaway! What to do… I wasn’t sure how to overwinter him, and so put a pot over him so he wouldn’t escape and started to build him a house out of an old terra cotta pot in a sheltered place outside. Once the frog condo was complete, I brought him out and showed him his new home.

Sometime later, I crossed paths with a representative of the company which had sent the plugs. I thanked him for the bonus frog, and without missing a beat, he said, “Oh! You found Leroy!” I then had to tell him the rest of the story.

About five minutes after I had put the frog in his new home, I thought better of it, and decided that he would probably have a better chance of survival if I put his new house in the greenhouse, where it was marginally warmer. But by the time I got outside, it had been ransacked. Looking around, I saw one of our dogs licking her lips…

Poor Leroy.

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