Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Holiday Exterior Garden Design: Container Compositions Kissed with Winter Greens & Edibles

What do white pine, Lady Apples, cranberries, rosemary and cut holly greens say about the holidays?  

A Happy, Homegrown, Seasonal Celebration.

The combination of garden edibles and clippings from conifers and hollies captured in the yard contribute to a robust, holiday welcome decor.

Anyone can create a unique holiday composition with ingredients from the garden.  

Mother Nature directs the exterior design and ignites the imagination.  

Conifers and hollies benefit from cuttings at this time of year when the plants are in a dormant stage.  
String the cranberries and Lady Apples.  
Cut rosemary or other herbs from the garden add to the edible container compositions.

Add a few glittery, gold or colored balls and lights and well - the sigh-inducing, magical, seasonal spirit of the holidays is captured in home garden design. 

The water garden's urn boasts gold balls and garden elements.  Fish approved!

Fountain-sitting for a garden design client couple who are still not back in their Superstorm-Sandy ravaged home.  Their fountain sprite called out to me; she needed a colorful scarf!

Add a holiday bow to a childhood sled and happy memories greet guests before they hit the front door!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Holiday & Hostess Garden Gift Guide

Gardeners are easy to buy gifts for. 
No matter the Zone.

Garden lovers are like a prism – there so many facets to a true garden aficionado.
There is the garden artist – whether a designer or a garden art patron – who divines rapture from the beauty found in the garden at home, at a botanic garden or arboreta, in paintings, poems or literature. 

Of course there is the plant lover – those of us who blush at the sight of a rose’s ruby red color and the come-hither gaze of a Lady’s Slipper orchid or swoon at a blue Delphinium or…
The sensual attraction of a plant’s look, along with its fragrance, touch and taste that waits to be discovered within the plant kingdom is insatiable.

Then there are the “Plant Geeks” – those who are nuts for the latest tools, electronics, and gadgets that make gardening easier and well, fun. 

Not to be overlooked is the world of garden accessories, including furniture in the garden, lighting, and statuary and containers.  Containers along come in such variety and charm – from teeny, tiny thimble-sized to estate-large antiques or too-good-to-be-true reproductions.

Garden miscellaneous includes stationary and postcards, jewelry and fragrances, and fashion that are garden-inspired.

The Holiday week ahead is sure to be filled with visits to family and friends and the chance to give a Hostess gift.
For all the gardeners and garden lovers on your list, consider gifts from the following garden favorites here below.

In no particular order here are some of my favorite garden gift and hostess gift suggestions:

1.  EunYoung Sebazco is a garden wonder.  Over the years, I’ve had the honor and privilege to have worked with EunYoung – her name means Silver Flower – and thus the name of her landscape design and digital imaging services. 
You will adore her calendars. 
She designs them similar to postcards with appropriate, seasonal flowers and plants that grace every card. (And in fact I keep the cards from previous years and sometimes mail them to people who I really, really like – as I hate to part with them) There are two months on a card and the entire deck in inserted into a Lucite stand. 
It’s a happy desktop or counter top garden calendar.

2.  You have to go pretty far to find more beautiful distinctive garden pots, seating, statuary, and hand-crafted from Pennoyer Newman.  Cast from estate originals, the lightweight resin pots and garden art installations both punctuate a garden composition and
With more than 20 years experience the company has created planters for prestigious parks and gardens including the New York Public Library, NYBG – and my clients! 
The containers are indeed classics. 
They cast the most exclusive garden pots from historical designs.
Pennoyer Newman pots

3. Darlene Flood’s gardenscape stationary, including note cards, note pads and announcements, are custom-made, one-of-a-kind watercolors.  I first encountered them from the Neiman Marcus catalog. When they stopped featuring the custom cards, I hunted her down!  Now I can order unique cards for me and my Duchess Designs' business correspondence, as well as special gifts.  Now you can too!

4. Munder-Skiles garden furniture is the best.  For more than 20 years the firm has been making hand-crafted garden furniture.  All the best landscape architects source their garden furniture from here. 
Designed by award-winning exterior decorator, John Danzer, the Munder-Skiles collections features “customizable wood and metal designs in styles that range from historical to contemporary. 
Hailed by notable interior decorating icon, Albert Hadley, who wrote: “John Danzer has done more to integrate exterior and interior designs than anyone working today. His obsessive fascination with the subject makes him the change agent we all need.”

Danzer’s Munder-Skiles portfolio of artful garden furniture is enduring garden art.  See the lines and spaces and geometrics that will take your breath away. Over and over and over, again…

Munder-Skiles garden furniture
Munder-Skiles Taconic chair - nominated by the Cooper-Hewitt for 2005 national design award for Landscape Architecture

5. Membership in any of the horticulture or garden cultural institutions helps support education, science and public programs.  There are many garden culturals to choose from, including The Horticultural Society of New York http://www.hsny.org
Here is the most exciting place to celebrate plants and gardens with lectures, crafts, art work and exhibitions, tastings and more.  I love the Hort (and its team!)  

Membership in The Garden Conservancy helps “ensure that America’s treasured gardens remain intact as part of our natural heritage.”  You probably know them from their Open Days program that allows the garden lovers access to the best private gardens. I’ve enjoyed hosting my friends and family for annual garden parties before heading out for the GC garden tours.

And the American Horticultural Society is “dedicated to educate people to become successful and environmentally responsible gardeners by advancing the art and science of gardening.  Your membership helps make “America a nation of gardeners, a land of gardens!”
That works for me. 
Plus you get a magazine subscription chock-a-block with hort and plant news.

Plants are best sourced locally.  But you can always order from these trusted plant people:

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs https://store.brentandbeckysbulbs.com

The Maine Potato Lady (we get our potatoes, shallots, and garlic from here) https://www.mainepotatolady.com/productcart/pc/home.asp

Happy Holidays. 
Let me know your favorite garden sources.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Register Now for The New York Botanical Garden's 14th Annual Winter Lecture Series

Hot off the press (seriously) - and before many of you darling garden enthusiasts receive notice in the Post -- here is the The New York Botanical Garden announcement of its 14th Annual Winter Lecture Series 

Being all things spot-on, do you think the NYBG visionaries launched the Lecture series to coordinate with the calendar years?
It is uncanny how the lecture series coordinates so nicely with year: 14 in 2014...

The Lecture Series is Presented by Adult Education and the School of Professional Horticulture.  
How much do we love these two garden educators?

Before the holiday festivities and the winter solstice have you hibernated or celebrating beyond reach, get out your 2014 calendars and digital schedules for three Thursdays: 
January 30, February 20, and March 20.

Garden enthusiasts, landscape design professionals, NYBG Members, and horticulturists fill these reservations very fast, so those who may not fall into these plant-lover tribes, shouldn't wait to register for a seat at these memorable, informative NYBG lectures.

Speakers Dates:
Brian J. Huntley - Thursday, January 30
Kim Wilkie - Thursday, February 20
Thomas Rainer - Thursday, March 20

Time: 10 a.m.–12 p.m.

Ross Hall
The New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Blvd.
Bronx, NY 10458

The essence of a successful garden lies in its ability to inspire as well as to satisfy the inner souls of the creator and the visitor. This year’s lineup of exceptional speakers share their insights on both the functionality of gardens— ranging from preserving natural landscapes with indigenous flora to interpreting spaces based on physical as well as metaphysical parameters— and the emotional value of designing gardens that reflect personal passions and aspirations. Join us for a fascinating lecture series that will expand your mind and enhance your appreciation of gardens.

Kirstenbosch: The Most Beautiful Garden in Africa
Thursday, January 30 • 10 a.m.–12 p.m.
The name Kirstenbosch resonates around the gardening world as the home of a  niquely beautiful flora in a setting of unsurpassed beauty. Situated at the southern  tip of Africa, it is the flagship of South Africa’s network of nine National Botanical Gardens and has had a major influence on biodiversity science and conservation across Africa.

In this richly illustrated lecture, Kirstenbosch expert Brian J. Huntley will describe the long history of botanical exploration in southern Africa, and the remarkable personalities and plants contributing to this botanic treasure, which has received 33 gold medals in 38 years at the Chelsea Flower Show. Emeritus Professor Brian J. Huntley is a world-renowned conservation scientist and a key figure in post-Apartheid conservation across southern Africa. A former CEO of the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the National Botanical Institute, he now consults on global conservation projects for the UN and most recently authored Kirstenbosch: The Most Beautiful Garden in Africa.

Sculpting the Land
Thursday, February 20 • 10 a.m.–12 p.m.
In his own words, Kim Wilkie is a landscape architect who loves mud. He works in  he ancient British tradition of sculpting huge landforms out of clay and chalk and clothing them in grass. Drawing on history, insights, and experience, Wilkie will talk about these traditions and show examples of his renowned work from  Heveningham Hall in Suffolk to Boughton in Northamptonshire. He will also show
how the ideas can be translated into small urban spaces. Kim Wilkie studied history at Oxford and landscape architecture at the University of California, Berkeley,
before setting up his landscape studio in London in 1989.
He collaborates with architects and landscape architects on public gardens and on  private estate gardens in the U.K. and around the world such as the Victoria and
Albert Museum Garden in London and the Villa La Pietra in Florence. He combines designing with the muddy practicalities of running a small farm in Hampshire, where he is now based. His 2012 book, Led by the Land, chronicles his landscape philosophy and work.

Designing with Native Plants
Thursday, March 20 • 10 a.m.–12 p.m.
A passionate advocate for an ecologically expressive design aesthetic that interprets rather than imitates nature, Thomas Rainer will critique current approaches to designing with native plants and present a bold, alternative design aesthetic based on artful interpretations of native plant communities. Rainer will discuss his process of distilling native communities into striking, adaptable patterns—particularly in urban and suburban sites that have little in common with the native plants that once flourished there—and creating lush, dynamic plantings that can be replicated in any setting.

Thomas Rainer is an accomplished landscape architect who teaches in the George Washington University Landscape Design program and writes on gardens and landscaping at Grounded Design, his award-winning blog. He has designed more than 100 gardens as well as landscapes for the U.S. Capitol grounds, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and The New York Botanical Garden.

Register at http://www.nybg.org/adulted/ or call 800.322.NYBG (6924).
Each lecture: $31/$35 (Member /Non-Member)
The series: $84/$95 (Member /Non-Member)
Seating is limited, so please register early. Registration will be accepted at the door only if seating is available.

CEUs: Each lecture is approved for two credit hours by the: American Institute of Architects, the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, and the Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System.

Funded in part by the Barbara Cushin

Monday, December 16, 2013

Nelson Mandela: Master Gardener

Nelson Mandela from autobiography: Long Walk to Freedom

The world mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela (1918-2013): a great teacher, icon, world leader, father, Nobel Peace price honoree and well, -- the list of this great man’s accomplishments are too vast and not altogether appropriate for me to comment on.

But in the wake of Mandela’s passing on to the next life and the attending coverage of his biography, I became aware that he was a gardener.
Of course. 
I should have known that Madiba’s superior, visceral sensitivity and respect for Mother Nature and all living things would make him a signature gardener.

Researching Mandela’s connection to gardens and the earth, I followed the legacy, honorifics, and his book, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela and its many references to the role of the garden throughout Mandela’s life.

In Mandela’s memoir there exists more than a few references to Mandela’s garden experiences, beginning with Madiba’s childhood and early life garden impressions, supporting the principle horticulture and environment educators promote: that children who are exposed to gardens early on develop an enduring romance and devotion to plants and ecology.

Here I will share some of his more important and touching references to gardens…

Mandela Starts a Garden

Gardeners and growers the world over cannot help but love Mandela even more to learn that in his autobiography chapter Robben Island: Beginning to Hope, gardens play a key role.
It’s best shared in Mandela’s words:

“A garden was one of the few things in prison that one could control.
To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it and then harvest it, offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being the custodian of this small patch of earth offered a small taste of freedom”

He writes that he saw the garden as a metaphor for certain aspects of his life. 
“A leader must also tend his garden; he, too, plants seeds, and then watches, cultivates, and harvests the results. Like the gardener, a leader must take responsibility for what he cultivates; he must mind his work, try to repel enemies, preserve what can be preserved, and eliminate what cannot succeed.”

With regard to starting his first real garden at the prison, he chronicles: “Almost from the beginning of my sentence on Robben Island, I asked the authorities for permission to start a garden in the courtyard. For years, they refused without offering a reason.  But eventually they relented, and we were able to cut out a small garden on a narrow patch of earth against the far wall.”

South African Horticulture

At this point, gardens and gardening are detailed in Mandela’s passage. 
In many ways, his garden memoirs are not unlike you, me, and home gardeners the world over.

Please know that South Africa is renowned for its horticulture and extraordinary plant diversity. 
The country’s botanical diversity and heritage informs and influences every major botanical garden and as a result, our own home gardens.
I was privileged to work at both The New York Botanic Garden and Brooklyn’s  - where our beloved president and director emeritus of oh-so-many years is Elizabeth Scholtz, the 90+ horticulturist and a South African national.  Scholtz immigrated to the United States for what was intended as a brief interlude after World War II and turned into a lifelong stay, as she often jokes.

Mandela launches his garden memories philosophically not coincidently and then gets to the hands-on gardening pride of task.
He starts by talking about the soil, appropriately enough. 
“The soil in the courtyard was dry and rocky, the courtyard had been constructed over a landfill, and in order to start my garden, I had to excavate a great many rocks to allow the plants room to grow. At the time, some of my comrades jested that I was a miner at heart, for I spent my days at the quarry and my free time digging in the courtyard.
The authorities supplied me with seeds. I initially planted tomatoes, chilies, and onion – hardy plants that did not require rich earth or constant care.  The early harvests were poor but they soon improved.
(Wish he related how he did this…)

“The authorities did nor regret giving permission, for once the garden began to flourish, I often provided the warders with some of my best tomatoes and onions.”

It’s striking how even in a prison environment the gardener’s siren song to share their harvest is universal and transcending.

Continuing, Mandela writes, “While I have always enjoyed gardening, it was not until I was behind bars that I was able to tend my own garden. My first experience in the garden was at Fort Hare where, as part of the university’s manual labor requirement, I worked in one of my professors’ gardens and enjoyed the contact with the soil as antidote to my intellectual labors.  (My emphasis to highlight how Mandiba instinctively know the importance of soil and its myriad benefits.)

He notes that he began to order books on gardening and horticulture. (See, garden books do matter!)
Mandela says he studied different gardening techniques and types of fertilizer.
Again, like many of us – he recalled how, “I did not have many of the materials that the books discussed but I learned through trial and error.” 
Haven’t we all gone through this gardening experience, too?

Continuing, he says “I wrote Winnie two letters about a particularly beautiful tomato plant, how I coaxed it from a tender seedling to a robust plant produced deep red fruit.”

What gardener doesn’t relate to this sweet gardening triumph?

Sadly, we can also relate to the less than successful turn of events when Mother Nature just seems to have other outcomes in mind.

Mandela goes on to share how a change in circumstances “either through some mistake or lack of care, the plant began to wither and decline, and noting I did would bring it back to health. 
He writes, “When it finally died, I removed the roots from the soil, washed them, and buried them in a corner of the garden.”

Early lesson in composting for most of us!  I would like to image so too for Mandela. Yet he goes on to conclude this recollection in a more romantic vein.
He writes that he “he did not want our relationship (with Winnie) to go the way of that plant, and yet I felt that I had been unable to nourish many of the most important relationships in my life.”
Tata concludes here with great wisdom: “Sometimes there is nothing one can do to save something that must die.”

Pollsmoor Garden

Later, after Mandela was moved to Pollsmoor prison in Johannesburg, he writes of the change from the “natural splendor of Robben Island” (only Mandela could refer to his former jail thus! He does admit that he doesn’t take to change.  Also not unlike most people.

After some time in Pollsmoor Mandela recounts, “The Bible tells us that gardens preceded gardeners, but that was not the case at Pollsmoor, where I cultivated a garden that became one of my happiest diversions. It was my way of escaping from the monolithic concrete world that surrounded us. Within a few weeks of surveying all the empty space we had on the building’s roof and how it was bathed the whole day, I decided to start a garden and received permission to do so from the commanding officer.

“Each morning, I put on a straw hat and rough gloves and worked in the garden for two hours. Every Sunday, I would supply vegetables to the kitchen so that they could cook a special meal for the common-law prisoners. I also gave quite a lot of my harvest to the warders, who used to bring satchels to take away their fresh vegetables.”
Memoir Grows in the Garden

In his autobiography Mandela notes how he was able to preserve his manuscript – in the Robben Island prison garden in the chapter Beginning to Hope.

In his effort to “keep the idea of the struggle before the people,” he and his cohort determined he should write a memoir.  At the risk of their own imprisonment or their business closure, he was pressed to write his recollections.

Mandela says he was so excited, he wrote the draft in four months – the words pouring out of him like a harvest.  (Love the agriculture reference)

The garden was a sanctuary and held his secretes in safety and silence. 

Mandela writes that in order to safeguard the manuscript, “We did the only thing we could do: we buried it in the garden in the courtyard.  Surveillance in the courtyard had become careless and sporadic.    He says the warders were rather careless and could not see the southern, isolated area where there was a small garden.
“I had casually inspected this area on my early morning walks, and it was there that I decided to bury the manuscript.’
In three separate places.

You must read the book to learn the full drama of the manuscript in the garden.

The burying of the book in the garden and the role of the future leader, along with the soil is a garden adventure of a unique sort. An intrigue that alone is worth reading the book from a gardener’s perspective.