Monday, November 28, 2011

Harvest to Holiday Container Garden Design

H2 Oh!  Harvest to Holiday

 I hope your Thanksgiving holiday celebration was filled with love—family and real food and sharing. 
And soon-to-be-happy memories.

Mother and I cooked up a storm with her homemade bread, fresh turkey and trimmings – and all to supplement my Thanksgiving raffle-winning, gourmet Thanksgiving dinner for six from Sickles Market, Little Silver, in the Garden State.
More on that delicious homegrown culinary elegance in my next post.
Here I will say the pumpkin bisque soup and the spicy, southwest inspired cranberry corn relish were amazing and the talk of the table.

The weather in the Northeast, New York metro area was sublime. 
It felt like September – balmy in the high 60’s – and in some locales, tipping to the 70’s.  A record-breaker in many places.

It was energizing weekend to work in the garden and change out the containers from Harvest to Holiday.

While, it did feel a tad odd to press red holiday ribbons and sparkly silver balls next to the winter pansies J  
it was an ideal weekend to compost the mums and pumpkins  – (hello squash blossoms next year) 

and to visit the nurseries to select plants and accessories for the holiday compositions for the containers.

I am privileged to work for a number of spectacular, garden design clients.  I can’t do enough for them.

One client is dedicated to a white and green garden color design. 
Over time, I’ve introduced silver and steely blue plants for a cool elegance.

I figured a sparkly silver sparkle could only add to the garden glamour of the spring topiary and custom white planters from Pennoyer and Newman distinctive garden pots:

Topiary view from front door & walk towards double white marble & grass parking courts

Two smaller planter across the driveway from front door punctuates garden bed separating checkerboard parking courts 

I kept the Holiday container decorations focus on the plants at another client where the color design is a seasonal red.
The nandina plants that border the front walk turn a brilliant crimson soon after the fall. (Spring they are a light green and summer they are dark green)
Years ago I chose the garden room’s color palette to complete the serene Mediterranean stucco house and walk.

The red sparkle and bows are just fancy enough to jazz up the red pansies and dwarf Alberta spruce.

No screaming Santas, or blow up snowmen.  No abundance of lights that use up energy or make a yard look like an airport runway.  The garden art whispers Happy Holidays with nature’s plants and ornaments in a refined, elegant and glamorous way.

Keep the focus on family and friends… 

More holiday garden cheer to come.  It’s the start of a spectacular season!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sickles Market Launches Bespoke Garden & Food Tours: First Foray to Longwood Gardens

When you think about it, it’s more than serendipity that the launch of the Garden State’s
family-owned and managed Sickles Market’s new garden and food travel tour initiative was to travel to a first-class American garden family destination: Longwood Gardens.
In fact award-winning Sickles was recently named The Garden State's Family Business of the Year:  

The inaugural journey to what once was the du Pont family’s extraordinary display gardens and is now a world-class botanic garden and horticulture center, was a much-anticipated garden tour. 

Too good to miss, I took the early bird Seastreak ferry from Gotham, our weekday nest, back to the Garden state for this! 
The early morning was glowing, the city winked good day.  

It was a splendid welcome at Sickles Market in Little Silver.  A smiling Bob Sickles welcomed guests in front of the luxury bus inviting all to enjoy the gourmet breakfast in the green house.  (but really, have you ever seen Bob not happy-looking? Must be all that green plant and good food love that is part of the Sickles charm) 

Like leaving on a very special class trip, the signing in hellos and good mornings were all a part of the anticipation.
But with a breakfast buffet of Sickles baked muffins, fruit and goody food bags for the bus trip, the buzz surpasses anything that ol’ school mascot could've ever dreamed about.  

Mother enjoying the Sickles breakfast buffet

Soon enough, the bus left the early morning’s sun kissed, misty Sickles’ farmland and we headed south to Longwood Gardens.

Along the way, Bob Sickles formally welcomed the tour guests, explaining how the new garden and tour initiative is the family businesses’ new business enterprise.  He explained they are trying something new – in an effort to amplify Sickles’ as the place to turn to for food and gardens.  His vision includes trips to Sicily next year, Vermont, the Biltmore in North Carolina, New York City and Paris and Williambsburg and ….
The thrill factor rose by more than a few degrees.  Heads were nodding and faces were grinning about his description of visiting food markets, restaurants, cooking, wine and cheese tastings -- and fun!

Kirsty welcomes guests on the bus
Bob introduced Kirsty Dougherty, the recently appointed Sickle’s Director of Tours and Training.  
Kirsty is glass of champagne: effervescent and full of happy memories soon-to-be.
A veritable Christmas stocking: meaning -- the first and best part of the celebration -- and always a tidy surpise.
It turns out this Australian native came to the Garden State by way of Buenos Aires after falling in love with a Jersey boy.  Sweet.
And that accent!  I teased her that she could read the phone book and I’d be happy just listening.
But this seasoned travel expert, garden designer and plants pro is an expert professional. 

With a business plan firmly in hand and approval by Bob, the first of a few tours were approved:  Longwood Gardens for the Mum Festival, followed up by the visit there for the Holiday Christmas display.
The new "Sickles Market on the Road Tours" business is a natural extension of Sickles as the leading authority of all things food and garden.

As the luxury bus and it’s happy driver whisked the guests south, Kirsty explained the day’s logistics and options.  There was to be docent-led group tours and lunch and lots of free time. A short Longwood video played to visually introduce the guests to the charms of the Garden. 

Kirsty introduced her associate Natale Siclare, garden guru, who it seems is more than a Longwood expert – he is a Longwood lover, having been seduced by the family garden’s charms long ago.

I share his indulgence.
I have written about this garden author Lidz  and spoke about her book authoritative and have visited the Longwood Gardens in summer.

Yet this visit was special.

The day was blessed by a glorious Indian summer warmth and sunshine. 
The garden gods were smiling.

With a relaxed, courteous, customer focused and professional style, the tour progressed throughout the day.
Sickles guests were treated to a guide-led tour of a few of Longwood Garden’s famous display gardens. 
Longwood Garden Guide: John Bertram
Magic.  John Bertram was our enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide.  He was so much fun too.  We had to tease him about his family "tree" and the possibility of being related to the famous Bertram horticulture   family.  But he dispelled any such connection.  

He guided us with anecdotes and history, especially through the Thomas Church-designed open-air Theater Garden
The fountains were working, and very dramatic accompanied by the taiko drumming.   

Mother and Longwood Garden Guide: John Bertram

Lunch was a treat especially in the Garden's restaurant with its edible food ingredients grown on premise at Longwood.  Delicious.
Mother and I had the great good fortune to dine with Kirsty and learn more about her travel and tour background and vision for Sickles tour business.

After lunch, Sickles tour guests had more than a few options to pursue: Moderated guided tours through the indoor Mum horticultural display led by Natale and Bob, Sickles staff, or Kirsty’s photography walking tips tour. 
Two passionate plant & food aficionados: Me (L) & Kirsty Dougherty, Sickles
There were the inescapable oohs and ahhs seeing the world- record holding display of mums (It’s said only the French or Japanese could torture their plants like this!)
This is a record breaker

I noted to a few fellow attendees despite the “common notation associates with mums, they remain the official flower of the Japanese royal family! 

My tip: Don’t throw out the mum display after Thanksgiving.  Hold on to them or put into the compost cabana.

Soon enough, we were exploring the garden on our own preferred tour.    ‘

Afterwards, Mother and I walked out and sat in the sun overlooking the Fountain Garden (felt so Gstaadish!) before moving to the Topiary Garden.

Mother headed to the gift shop and I headed to the Italianate garden, which was the acknowledged furthest garden room from the conservatory. 

No matter, it wasn’t far at all walking in the splendid afternoon, basking in the gardens.  Plus I got to stick my head into the place that once was the du Pont’s family home while I was seeking directions to the Italian garden.
No McMansion, the du Pont residence is still gorgeous, elegant and yet so simple.
A covered arch walkway led the du Ponts and their guests through to a garden-like indoor sitting area.  Not much has changed since the du Ponts lived there… 

Back out onto the Garden grounds, I was enchanted by the naturalistic, waving beauty of this far side of Longwood, in contrast to the sculpted, designed gardens on the other side.
Grasses, huge, architectural trees and undulating garden rooms gave way to soaring vistas made all the more splendid by the season’s crimson, gold and red fashion. 

I loved the seating here, positioned as they were, looking out beyond to that magical vista beyond.  I saw a couple canoodling – almost lost in the distant foliage.  Garden and nature are romantic.  
Onward to the Italian garden…

While the fountains had just been turned off for the season – there was no denying the mystical, secret charm of this garden.  There are lawns, pools, walks and elevated viewing bridges with looks out to the Italian garden and to the pond/lake behind it.

A not so far walk brought me back past the perennial garden beds to the theater garden with it’s soaring fountains accompanied by the throbbing, syncopated taiko drumming.

Back on the bus all were chatting up and swapping their garden experiences.
I thought, this is why people with a passion choose to join a tour – we want to share our discoveries and curiosities and love with those who do too.

We were in garden bliss.

Bob thanked everyone, recapped the day, saying this wonderful experience was just the tip of what was to come.  Food and garden tours would be carefully chose and “Sicklized” and then said the two magic words: wine and cheese!  
And then, just like that, we were transported to an on board Mediterranean café of sorts.

Kirsty & Ryan, Sickles on-board sommeliers!
With Bob as sommelier and wine guru and Kirsty and xx pouring white and red to better amplify the rich, tasty cheese and nuts, we learned about the food and wine provenance.  This was a perfect accessory accompaniment to the garden tour!  A communal café on board our bus.   
Then just when one can’t think it could get any more sublime, Kirsty announces there is a raffle. 
As I turn to Mother to lament we’d never won a thing since that atlas years ago a card party.  Before I could complete my tale of woe, I hear my name! 

I won, I won! 

I was astounded and blurted out I was just saying I’d never won anything since that stupid atlas! That brought the bus guests’ laughing uproariously.
“But wait, What did I win?!” I asked.

I was just too excited to win anything! 
Turns out, I won a complete gourmet Sickles Thanksgiving dinner for six people – all the trimmings! 
What a dream!  And because our Garden state home is in home renovation hell – I have no kitchen – so this is a huge miracle. 
I still can’t believe it.

This was one fairy tale of a garden trip. Sickles really knows how to do an elegant, interesting garden and food tour. They made learning fun and memorable. We met fantastic and fun people on the tour.  We are looking forward to spending time together on future tours with our new mutual friends.

And I am pinching myself about the gourmet Thanksgiving dinner! Can you believe the garden sprites – er Sickles – delivered food love like this?


Next up:  Sickles Gourmet dinner review

And The Longwood Gardens Holiday tour, December 7th.  This is going to be an all-out glam tour!


Thank you to Bob, Tori, Kirsty, Karen, Ryan, and the entire Sickles team.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Garden State Home Renovation

The dreaded ivy vine is toast!  Home Renovation starts

It's not all together unreasonable that as a garden designer I should think about the garden renovation first.

Our Garden State country house is presently undergoing a home renovation.
And while this is not the "Garden Glamour" look you may be accustomed to here--not so pretty, I am going to share the process -- uglies and all.

As everyone who's lived through the experience of a home renovation knows, it's a roller coaster of a ride.

I'll refrain from too much commentary and focus on images, plans for the home design, and garden design, including my plans for a green, "designed" driveway.

I'll share the shopping frustrations, selection of kitchen and dining and bathroom fixtures and design.
The selection of marble for the kitchen counter and island is a comedy of errors unto itself.

Fingers crossed. Hope and dreams are still floating...

Before/Old entrance. Conifer was moved to garden client
The 1960's entrance worked for the former owners -- and us (for a time)  I think it was the Nor'Easter of 2011 that ripped the screen door off!

The problem here is obvious looks-wise.
The other problems included having guests walk up the driveway to the twisty-turney steps.
Decorative pots and plants were baked in the southwest exposure.
Too much paving in the driveway.

Good news: the front lawn is accessorized with a spectacular Kwanzan cherry tree.  Sakura blossoms abound in the spring!  pink snow!

I will preserve that magnificent work of art.
We will thin out in the spring in deference to our neighbors -- and the tree.

The arbor I designed with a tunnel of coral bark maple, Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku,' sided by the cultivar Lady in Red Hydrangeas, hydrangea macrophylla and Knock Out Rose, and fronted with deciduous red twigged dogwoods, cornus alba 'Elegantissima.'  The coral bark leaves are bright light green in spring, golden in fall which blends so elegantly with the deep purple foliage of the hydragea leaves.
All the red bark looks brilliant contrasting with the white snow-- like rubies glistening against ermine.

and with red cardinals accessorizing the borrowed landscape, it's a "Look Book" moment, in a season that most don't look at enough...

wheel barrow now fronts the arbor...
I designed the arbor as a romantic way to get to the back yard.
I don't think most homeowners think of an easy, dedicated, designed way to access the yard.

"Design" is usually the contractor's foundation plants and lawn...

I wanted a transition. A sense of moving from one place -- the street -- into another world.
view of marina below us and NYC skyline beyond
Plus, the drama of the heart-stopping view is enhanced by the framing of the view and stepping out onto center stage: a viewing platform for what my husband calls "24 hours of baywatch!"

Gotham's skyline twinkles at night like a tennis bracelet

And here are a few images of the start of construction:
Coral Bark, rose, hydrangea arbor in anticipation, with screen safeguarding plants. For the first phase!

before front, Kwanzan keeping watch over masons installing new porch


Front walk will be slate and brick. Access from driveway will be lower, closer to front/street area with 2-3 step elevation. Walkway will divide in front of Kwanzan with one side leading over to a new herb garden fronting the new dining room.

Driveway will be straightened. Front garden bed removed.
The shower mirror looking back on it's former home
outdoor shower not so spa-like anymore

Garden ornaments in temporary digs patiently survey the chaos
added covered porch off dining room, facing view. This is where the Japanese soaking tub and massage and yoga will be (besides just sitting). Miles of Sunbrella fabric will sumptiously drape the garden room
relocated conifers from front garden beds seem to have survived their move
The roses too, seem happy enough bedding down for the winter in the farm

Flirting with their new neighbors the rose, the pepper plants are still pushing out little gems
And I had the outdoor "comfort facility placed in a garden-like setting :)

First framing of conservatory dining room

The old roof shingles were removed yesterday, with more than a few floating down in the wind like papery birds of prey.  

Stay tuned!