There are some things I come across as a landscape designer that I just love, that are tried and true, and that I always come back to. Things like this tend to be well-made, and if they are plants, they are regenerating and sustaining ones. As a person who isn't particularly fussy, I am pretty bad at maintaining a garden and worse at replacing things in it, so low-maintenance gardens that are built to last are key for me. Below are some things that fit the category of low-maintenance, lasting, and gorgeous:
Most people--and I am not saying everyone, but most, want a garden to be easy. If you are not one of these people, and like to work at it, consider yourself a part of the minority garden party. The majority party however, wants something beautiful to look, at but not a lot of work and yes, not a lot of money either...oh and preferably green and with color, please. Ok, so for both parties, here's an easy combination - a lawn that does not need work, chairs that are quite stunning, and a surface that is a classic and lasting complement to these elements, and yes all on a budget that is really reasonable and actually do-able.
Decomposed Granite (DG) is finer than gravel, and a beautiful and natural way to surface any garden. When you are walking on it, you almost don't even perceive it is a material--it fuses with any garden environment seamlessly, and it's permeable, relatively inexpensive, and prevents weeds from poking through. Cost ranges from about $40-$50 per cubic yard. View Product Website
Ok so maybe photosynthesis isn't possible right now, but you are craving just a little bit of green in your life? Here are a few creative, stylish, inexpensive and low-maintenance ways to incorporate just a little bit of green during these grey winter months:
Texture can come in all sizes, and go in all directions whether it's vertical or horizontal. It can be found in plants (shapes and forms that are spikey, soft, buttons, plumes), furniture, and surfaces. Texture adds visual interest an warmth to landscapes and gardens, which is what your eye registers and is drawn to. So whether you are thinking of purchasing a packet of seeds or something more substantial, texture is an important component to consider for your outdoor space.
Here are 9 unusually awesome materials to think of for your garden, if i do say so myself:
Mark Thomann, a contributor on Landstylist, says I like Pennisetum too much. I'll try not to read into that statement, and just say that it really is one of the most gorgeous grasses out there, period.
As a landscape designer, I can honestly say that window boxes are no small challenge. You have to think seasonality, light, water, and it's such a small space. It's like maximizing the design of very, very, very small apartment. So here is what happened: I was in the process of considering the planting of our window boxes for the upcoming season in Brooklyn, and came upon a window box composition that I thought was among the most elegant I had seen for a while.
Yahoo- Landstylist was featured on page 110 of the new comeback issue for Ladies' Home Journal this summer (Maya Rudolph graces the cover--go pick up a copy!) The theme--backyard beach--is aimed towards anyone and everyone who may not have a trip to seaside in their future, but love that seaside look and feel. Here are some quick and easy additions that can transform your outdoor space, and create that relaxing getaway feel you crave this summer right in your backyard.
"Modern garden"--a description that is often thrown around these days but is not really very descriptive at all. What is a modern garden, actually? Cool, hip, progressive, futuristic? What a modern garden is definitely varies--but ultimately people generally use this term to mean a garden that has "clean lines", or is sleek, unusual, out of the ordinary, or streamlined, and spare, stylistically speaking. Recently I designed a modern townhouse garden in Manhattan that has a very simple composition and palette, is very low maintenance and has all year round seasonal interest, critical for any garden especially if you can see if from inside--this one is literally an extension of the kitchen and dining room both visually and experientially.
Breaking it down, here are 7 ideas for a garden with clean lines:
All photos taken by Matthew Williams:
The key to outdoor design is, in a way, making the right decisions at the very beginning. Easier said than done, I know, but that is why this site has been created: to help you make the right decisions with a few key elements that are simple, elegant, and enduring when planning your garden. Some are maybe more known, but there are others that you may not have seen before but are excellent things to know about that are maybe more out-of -the-ordinary .
Below are five distinct, cheerful and enduring elements that are standout selections for your garden that can stand on their own or used in combination:
The Blossomed Deck Chair
Gallant & Jones/$249
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We are. We are craving it big time, and guess what... it's here! So we thought we would take a moment to look at some options for you for summer that are simple, stylish and easy additions to any outdoor space. We are coupling these selections with some bright, hardy, and low-maintenance perennials that will do well in most any setting. So think about these combinations for your garden this summer...ideas that will brighten your mood, oh, and your garden!
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Gallant & Jones Deck Chair
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Knautia is a long-blooming, hardy, sun loving perennial that looks like small red pincushions. These are great in small window boxes, containers, or even in and among other grasses and perennials for an accent.
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Liatris is a striking, easy to grow prarie perennial that you can grown in planting beds, borders, or containers. They are easy to grow, require very little other than sun and can grow in very rocky terrain with little water, are deer resistant, salt resistant, and butterflies love them. They are very vertical so tend to take very little room in a planting bed. Great in combination with phlox, solidago, and rudibeckia among others.
So did you know--gardens are not just to for summer anymore? Yes it is true. Sophisticated design people like yourself can have and appreciate winter interest year round with perennials, shrubs and trees with cool branching and bark color. Browns, greys and whites can actually be quite stunning, and grasses are good for this effect because they lend structure to the appearance of a garden through the winter months with their stiffness. The drier the Fall, the more upright the grasses will be throughout the winter...so actually this season we should have more upright looking gardens in the Northeast. Seedheads on tall grasses, like Monarda, Rudbeckia, and Verbena literally can also lend interest to a winter composition.
And then there are some elements that are just simple and sculptural like the Sled lounge leaf chair, that look great all year round and complement the bones revealed of a garden in winter. A fireplace can also help to warm a garden, physically, but also function as a dramatic focal point from inside to outside.
So i know we are going into the winter months now, but it is never too late, or too early to be preparing for your outdoor design. Thought maybe it might be helpful to back up and offer something so basic but so important this week.
Here are the five most basic but critical questions you need to ask yourself when designing your own outdoor space:
ONE: How well do I know my site?
Like choosing a husband or wife, the more you actually know about the existing physical nature of your site beforehand, the better off you will be. Is it sunny maybe its partially shady? Are you in a dry climate or maybe its very wet? Maybe you have pain in the ass neighbors that require some major screening? Or maybe even a giant puddle of water in your backyard when it rains because there is a lowpoint and so you’ll need to re-grade. The more you know at the outset, the more it will help inform your design process.
TWO: What’s my Budget?
Alright, so I know this is not everyone’s favorite aspect of a project, but having a budget at the beginning is in fact a good idea. Lots of people will whine and say, “ Well I don’t know what things cost. So how can I have a budget?” What you need to do is prioritize. Price the critical things first, then if the cost seems overwhelming, either scale back, or phase the project over time. As a quick note to self, materials like natural woods and stone cost more, but they also look better and last way longer.
THREE: How am I ACTUALLY going to be using my garden?
Ok so most people get very excited thinking about all of the outdoor parties, floppy hats, sundresses and Sancerre, and the fresh veggies on the table which is all quite fabulous, but you need to ask yourself: what does is my life, really? Do I have kids? Do I have dogs? Do I have kids that act like dogs? Thinking about how messy your life actually is can make for a cleaner and more efficient design because you are considering the reality of your ways up front and designing to accommodate that messy reality.
FOUR: What style should my garden be?
As much as you possibly can, your garden should be thought of an extension of your home. Not literally an extension—but stylistically. So if you have a home that is built in a certain architectural style, maybe modern or maybe it’s more traditional, it can actually serve to inform the style of the garden. You can bring materials, like stone or wood from the inside out into your garden for a blurred transition between inside to the outside.
FIVE: is just plain old Editing.
So maybe a tree is in the wrong spot and it needs to go. Or maybe it’s a fence or even a driveway? Figuring out what existing elements are getting in the way of your intent or aesthetic can be tricky, but if you have a clear idea of what your design goals are it makes for an easier process and more successful design in the end.
What is a meadow, and how can i make one?
Meadows are grasslands that have predominantly perennial plants that require only seed renewal every couple of years. Originally used to make hay, meadow sites were usually shut off from use to let the grass grow tall until it was ready to be cut in June, July, or August. Meadows tend to have various grasses or wildflowers, giving them a 'natural' look that seems effortless--which is their grand and far reaching appeal. However, man-made meadows do require some work, mainly in the soil preparation and weeding. After a few years and once established, a meadow can be a very amazing landscape to have because they look different at different times of the year, regenerate naturally, and do not require water. You can plan to plant a meadow in either the Fall or the Spring--if Fall, do it well in advance of first frost to give seeds a chance to germinate and do their thing.
Top 5 things you need to know about making a meadow are:
1. a meadow needs Sun
2. Calculate the area to know how much seed to buy:
3. PREPARE YOUR SOIL
4. SOWING THE SEEDS
5.weed, weed, weed
Very fortunately, down the street from our house on Shelter Island is the home of the talented garden designer Martha Baker. Martha is a force of style in nature. She is funny, chic, glamorous, beautiful, creative, humble and TALL all at the same time. Martha does all kinds of residential projects, but generally her work has been focused on creating outdoor environments for large -scale residential estates in the US and abroad, with many high profile clients and books to her name. Her home and garden is a work of art, with each corner casually, yet artfully composed and seemingly magazine -ready. Her landscape has so much dimension to it that you really need days to absorb it all. Martha was kind enough to spend some time with me, which I have been dying to do for the longest time, both to learn from an expert in the field and also to try to document some of the highlights. With my 'island brain' and her impeccable standards as a respected designer in the field, I can only hope I am doing her justice here. You can see more here at Martha Baker Landscape Design.
Texture can be brought into a garden in very unexpected ways. This week, we pulled a few examples that just go together so well, not only because of their cool grey hues, but their textures are complementary and balanced. But then I expanded our selection to include more to choose from, including some unusual planters, and more plants to consider in the plants gone wild direction.
This site is essentially all "insider" information about the best ideas and elements that landscape design has to offer. So in a way, this weeks' post should be called 'inside' the insider's information. Because I am always learning, and so many things are happening in the field, it's a process. This week is basically a grab bag of new information and happenings: I took a walk with a fellow designer and she dowloaded some very cool ideas about new plants. I also visited the BBG, and ICFF May 16-19 (more on those visits next week). Additionally, I discovered some new companies making beautiful things that hopefully can help you assemble your garden quickly if you are in need of inspiration.
Julia Miller, a fellow landscape designer and very knowledgeable plant person of Four Gardens Design, based in Carroll Gardens, kindly introduced me to Dwarf Korean lilac (Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’). This is a fantastic plant to know about because unlike the Common Lilac, which forgive me but despite its gorgeous fragrance is also tall, gangly and scrubby-looking. This variety, however, has a dense, compact, rounded shape and resistant to powdery mildew, which are two characteristics that set it apart from other lilacs. Dwarf Korean lilac fits small gardens, tight spaces and can be used as a deciduous hedge. It's a deciduous shrub with a rounded shape. growing 4 to 5 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide, making it much smaller and denser than other lilac bushes, such as the common lilac, which can grow over 15 feet tall and become gangly. Dwarf Korean lilac can also be purchased grafted to a tree trunk, in which case it tops out at about 8 feet tall with a rounded head of foliage and spring flowers. Dwarf Korean lilac flowers heavily in mid- to late spring, with dense clusters of tiny tubular pink flowers. The flowers buds are a handsome purple, making this lilac bush attractive just before it blooms, too. Lilac is very fragrant. Grow dwarf Korean lilac in full sun or part shade and average soil. It likes regular watering but will tolerate drought once established. Prune gently and during flowering season and it will bloom longer.
There is an extraordinary display of Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica 'Excelsior') happening as we speak at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by Ruiyan Xu. See Brooklyn Botanic Garden Website for details.
Terrain is a garden resource that carries many styles of stone and fiberglass planters, as well as trellises, structures for grow vines, and unusual finds like terrariums and seed kits: View Product Website