Friday, July 24, 2020

Gardentopia: A Garden Design Book Shows How to Create an Outdoor Space Brimming with Joy & Serenity

 Gardentopia: Design Basics for Creating Beautiful Outdoor Spaces by [Jan Johnsen] 
For those who’ve been following me, you’ve “heard” me say often that “good garden design tells a story.” The book, Gardentopia, tells many a good garden story. The garden design guide is brimming with successful designs. Perhaps more poignantly, or perhaps more to the point, is that today, more than ever, we have come to recognize the importance of being in nature, nesting at home in our gardens…

If there is any silver lining to this coronavirus for those lucky and blessed enough to have a yard and property to shelter-in-place at, is that most everyone wants to create a garden retreat; to create their own arcadian hideaway.

But how to go about it is the speed bump.

Jan Johnsen’s book, Gardentopia was released last year and I think it is even more salient now. And I’m not just saying that to assuage my guilt about not writing the book review until now. It’s true I was sent a review copy of the book when it was first published and for no good reason (or for many working reasons!) I am just now sharing the good garden design news found in Gardentopia…

Seriously, the hard cover, large-format book is a tome (283 pages) chock-a-block with colorful photos - some with thumbnail captions that describe the story or detail about the image (not just the usual lusty garden display) - that showcase the plants -- there’s an entire chapter; more than 40 pages devoted to the “Plants and Planting” that Jan characterizes as “everyone’s favorite part of the garden. There are four other chapters showcasing the elements of Jan’s good garden design:

  • Garden Design and Artful Accents ~ this is the garden’s framework, according to Jan

  • Walls, Patios, Walks, and Steps ~ these are the bones of the outdoor space

  • Theme Gardens ~ here’s where creativity and whimsy make a garden special
  • Color in the Garden ~ Jan cites the impact of color and celebrates its potency and how to use it

Be assured that the sheer breadth of Gardentopia’s contents is well, breath-taking. If you never purchased another garden design book, you’d be just fine. This book is that comprehensive.

While It’s often said the devil's in the details; the original phrase was "God is in the details,” meaning that you needed to ensure that everything you did was done truthfully. Here, Jan’s masterful garden stories are abundant in their authenticity because they are based on her true to life experience and client examples and deliver on the finer elements without getting ahem, “into the weeds” or losing focus. Like her garden design guidelines or principles she advocates, it’s all about the balance...

As you know, I too, am a professional garden designer as well as a writer and author. I review many garden and plant-related books and in the days BC (before corona), I attended a plethora of garden design and horticulture lectures in New York City: most of them produced by the New York Botanical Garden and Metrohort. This is my wheelhouse to say the least. So trust me when I say what sets Jan’s book apart especially, is the way she talks to us in the book. This is no crunchy, esoteric guide for the garden elite. Although they too will delight in the sage advice found on every page of Gardentopia. While Jan quotes the venerable landscape designers including Isamu Noguchi, Frederick Law Olmstead, Geoffrey Jellico, among others, she leaves no doubt she is talking to us - the garden and flower lover. The homeowner. The novitiate.

Reading the book feels like you’re sharing a cup of tea or a glass of wine with Jan, while talking about your garden dreams and goals and she is gently, expertly, guiding you.

Jan surely knows her way around gardens and writing. If you are not familiar already with her and her garden design pedigree, she is “one of the most popular writers on” according to its publisher, Jim Peterson. Jan has successfully managed her own Westchester, New York based firm, Johnsen Landscape & Pool for nearly 35 years. Her work has been featured in numerous publications including This Old House and Horticulture Magazine. She was awarded the 2019 Award of Distinction by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD).

Gardentopia is published by Countryman Press and joins her other books, Heaven is a Garden (St Lynn's Press, 2014) and The Spirit of Stone (St Lynn's Press, 2017).

I know Jan from my days working at NYBG as well as the rather intimate clan of garden and horticulture enthusiasts based in Gotham. Jan is kind. She is generous. And those traits, along with her esteemed talent, makes this the perfect book to guide you garden designs. Even if your garden is more aspirational you will nonetheless enjoy curling up with Gardentopia

Along with all the tips - and there are nearly 140 of them - Jan’s Gardentopia, she reveals what the garden “power spot” is; the principle of the three depths; the utilization of the ancient Japanese design technique of miegakure or “hide and seek” which embraces the design of “partially screening a view or section of a garden to create the illusion of distance,” and why that’s important to good garden design - (in contrast to a rather banal exterior looks borrowed from interior design - that of the open space where all is revealed or seen in one expansive view. In good garden design, we much prefer the mystery and romance of leading you through the garden that enhances the connection to nature and it’s mysteries.

Moreover, Gardentopia provides practical, hands-on, experienced advice on how to achieve effects and results.

Honestly, this is a book to be experienced. It somewhat challenges a neat review. You, like me, will, return to it again and again. For inspiration. For instruction and guidance. For dreaming…

Thank you, Jan.

(All photos courtesy of Gardentopia/The Countryman Press)

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

KinKa Grand Opening: Art, Food, & Plants Offer Purity, Simplicity & Sensory Delights to Enrich Your Life


Since I first heard this word a few months ago, I can’t stop saying it. KinKa. KinKa. KinKa. It’s just so adorably cute. And melodic. And catchy.

And yet, at the same time, it could be a kind of plant mantra now that I ponder it; a kind of sacred utterance with magical or mystical powers…

In fact, KinKa is a new kind of shop dedicated to Art, Food, and Plants.

According to KinKa’s co-owners EunYoung and Tom Sebazco, KinKa means:禁花, forbidden flower! See what I mean about the magical and mystical? I learned from EunYoung, who is also a student who practices the formal Japanese Tea Ceremony, “that there are flowers which are considered unsuitable to use during the Japanese Tea Ceremony because they may be out of season, too bold or pungent and the like.” The formal Tea ceremony advocates a depth of the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It goes without saying that both she and her husband Tom utterly respect the exquisite philosophy behind the cultural art of the Japanese tea ceremony. They will bring this inspired depth of imperfection ~ or a kind of wabi-sabi that accepts transience - to KinKa.

The positive aesthetic this offers is to make the most of life. To embrace the purity and simplicity and the sensory delights found in our own, individual worlds. At KinKa you’ll be able to practice the art of appreciating the simple things that enrich our lives while using them to engage our senses.

This is surely to be a new kind of store.
Artful items at KinKa grace the shelves like a still life
The KinKa retail operation - online and now in the New York CIty Chelsea neighborhood - will be a curated shopping and learning experience, offering artful, unique, items that are hand-crafted in the tradition of wabi: “the elegant beauty of humble simplicity.”

KinKa’’s grand opening is Tuesday, July 7.

How did KinKa come to be, I wanted to know. It’s a good story all by itself.

The “Roots” of KinKa:
EunYoung's journey to KinKa blossomed, shall I say (wink), as part of the Michelin award-winning restaurant KOSAKA's art program she launched in 2016; heightening her awareness of the connections of art, food & plants. This fusion of her three passions ignited the concept for KinKa.

EunYoung has practiced and worked as a landscape architect and designer and a professional horticulturist for over 25 years. Full disclosure: I’ve had the ultimate honor of working alongside EunYoung many times in client’s gardens; seeing her transfer her horticultural skills to the jardinieres at the world-class Ecuadorian resort, Hacienda Cusin, teaching them to grow microgreens;
EunYoung teaching the gardeners to grow micro greens for Cusin's menu Photo: Leeann 

Harvesting in the edible garden there for our special homegrown dinner menu: 
Photo: Leeann 
Homegrown edibles for Cusin's chefs. The plant & food & art connection .... Photo: Leeann 

EunYoung contributed her kokedama plant art to a Art in Nature gallery show I curated,
EunYoung's kokodama plant art. Photo: Leeann 
she selected us to host her first Japanese tea ceremony for guests at our country house:
With Cherry Blossoms framing the tea ceremony... Photo: Leeann 

and I’ve long admired her food and drink art from the time I first met her as a star of the New York Botanical Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture.

Since then, she has enjoyed beautifying gardens and green spaces and sharing the knowledge with the local and the broader horticultural community.

EunYoung created the first rice paddy in New York City in 2010. This pioneering achievement earned her and her groundbreaking efforts much positive news coverage for her leadership and teaching, as part of the children’s garden programs.

Subsequently, she then expanded awareness of that singular ingredient ~ rice ~ and began promoting the use of rice as an unlimited resource from food to art & lifestyle through her platform. Further, she studies pottery and creates timeless treasures of enduring beauty -- some made with rice!

I cherish my hand-made pottery from EunYoung - made with love and respect for the natural ingredients…

I’ve long admired her floral designs; often I’d stop dead in my tracks in front of the Kosaka 12th Street restaurant’s display windows, captivated by the elegant beauty; transfixed. When I snap out of my reverie, my happiness increases as I remind myself, I know the artist who created this heart-stopping beauty.
Kosaka plant art Photo: Leeann 
Now, KinKa offers an ambition for her to share these vast experiences and continue her journey to share and celebrate plants, food, and art.

And to extend her wisdom to teach about the integrity of nature, respect for the ingredients, and the care to create handicrafts that stimulate all our senses.

She said she is thrilled to offer a space: KinKa.

This will be a welcoming place where the local community can dialog, learn, and buy.
KinKa co-owner & artist, EunYoung
EunYoung has run the Kosaka art program as a curator for the last five years and has introduced many artists locally and internationally. She was looking for an outlet to add to this dynamic extension of artists. When Kosaka announced its second location in Chelsea; when the owner approached she and Tom with the desire to extend the art program to their new location: it was a match made in heaven.

Speaking of matches, her husband of 14 years, Tom Sebazco, will spearhead the KinKa operation with an eye not only on the business elements but the artful aspects, too. Tom is an artist, optimistic entrepreneur, and visionary. Combining his award-winning fine-art talent as a painter and sculptor, Tom has propelled his in-law’s invention, the Eni Puzzle, into an international success by incorporating an interactive design that uses the fundamental principles of mathematics to teach and nurture creativity as a learned skill. As CEO, Tom, has leveraged both his Pratt Institute and Goldman Sachs 10KSB experience to brand Eni Puzzle cylindrical puzzle product line as the first lifestyle brain workout that is fun and addictively challenging.

With his business DNA bona fides focused on branding and ergonomic design, Tom aims to bring unique items into the KinKa collection, to accent the in-store experiences along with curating attractive, smart objects that will enhance a lifestyle where increasingly home and “office” are the same. He is excited to build an artistic bridge between the local/Gotham plant, art, and food community and beyond - with KinKa.

EunYoung's floral, botanical and artful cultural handicraft skills and Tom's artistic acumen (and terrific compositions, I must say), are key assets that will surely make KinKa a unique place brimming with revelation and adventure. Moreover, the couple brings a soulful spirit to their endeavours so that their customers are assured of finding thoughtful pursuits and showpiece design discoveries.
KinKa co-owners: EunYoung & Tom Sebazco
The Artists
Because EunYoung has participated in ceramics and the Japanese tea ceremony and garden art for over 20 years, she has been able to better cultivate a dedication to nurturing a network of burgeoning artisans; empowering these small design makers and entrepreneurs to advance access to their crafts, so that enthusiasts can discover and buy their work. She’s a kind of focused, one-woman Etsy! Through her inspired art communities, she said she is so proud to have discovered many new artists - primarily ceramic but textile artists too; offering these craftspeople a platform or showcase for their work.

Presently, KinKa’s aim is to feature a “new” artist every three months as a solo showcase with that specific resident artist. Going forward, there will probably be multiple makers’ crafts inspiring customers at KinKa at the same time. I love this. It is clearly an artful allure to keep returning to KinKa to see what’s new, what collaboration the shop has delighted in sharing with its customers.

Shino Takeda is the first, featured artist at KinKa’s grand opening. EunYoung met her at Togei Studio where they shared the studio. Shino’s natural hand-building shape and unique color patterns stood out from all the others. No wonder. Her work has been showcased in many galleries in New York and Japan. EunYoung shared how “When I planted a small houseplant in her cup, I noticed a chemistry between her ceramics and plants. Both are shining energy to each other.” How beautifully magical is this?!

She added, “We are very lucky to exhibit Shino’s magnificent two large ceramic works and small planters and pots produced specifically for KinKa as exclusives.”

Shino Takeda is a ceramic artist living and working in Brooklyn. Influenced by her upbringing in Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, all of her works are unique to represent a personal diary to reflect her inner reaction to the change of seasons, both emotional and physical. All work is handmade one of a kind representational passage of a particular moment in time.


And further, EunYoung explained, “We will also be showcasing other artists and have the work from local and international ceramic artists at the opening. We will continue to feature newly-discovered artists, and exhibit their artisanal crafts throughout the store on an ongoing basis.”

KinKa will be open for retail business, 7 days 12pm - 9pm (Mon-Sun)

Prices will run from the very affordable to signature item, in accordance with the art’s value. Plants, potting soil, and those incredible vases and containers.

More specifically, there is a range from $10 items all the way up to the $1000s. According to Tom and EunYoung, the price scale is not the focus, rather the uniqueness of discovery and beauty the piece presents that determines if it will become part of the KinKa collection.

“We are holding the idea that we will bring the best price forward and offer quality over quantity. We are a relatively small store and need to thrive in Manhattan,” explained EunYoung, “So our goal is not about the price, rather it is about the uniqueness of hand-made, often one-of-a-kind, smart design.

Workshops and Classes
In addition to the plants and objets d’art, KinKa is dedicated to building a bridge to connect and share through various cultural venues. KinKa will offer botanical programs year-round that mark the seasons and holidays as well as the joy of everyday style; scheduling workshops that feature a myriad of home decor and entertaining at home designs, including tablescaping and table styling, floral decor, and outdoor garden design accessories. just how to pot-up .

Also KinKa will host workshops/classes with special florists, artists, chefs, and other expert visionaries.

Initially, there will be only private classes offered. You’ll be able to buy a live or in some cases a faux plant, learn how to pot it up in one of the one-on-one lessons they offer to KinKa customers.

Soon, there will be a calendar posted at the KinKa website. Understandably, at this time they are still navigating the logistics of how and what type of events will be permitted and accepted during the COVID19 pandemic that accommodates safety and social distancing guidelines.

To avoid confusion, they are compiling an extensive list to notify interested fans and customers of upcoming events. You can go ahead and sign on with your email address now.

Tom described their customers as “Someone looking to discover new and unique items and who has a passion for being a ‘plant sitter.’” He continued, “Rather than the rather soulless practice of clicking items from a picture on a website, we are bringing items to accent the potted plants that are best viewed live! It’s key to the artful, sensual experience,” he added. Tom explained, “We will, of course, eventually have the ability to shop and ship from our KinKa website with an eCommerce platform. At this time, we are inviting everyone to stop in for a visit and discover our special, curated collection in our store.”

The timing is ideal, I think, as folks who’ve been sheltering in place are looking for an easily accessible, artul experience outside of their apartments and homes. Plus, taking home a gorgeous plant to nurture is hort therapy at its finest. Not to mention the beauty a striking plant and container art composition will do to brighten a home’s decor and lift your mood.

The couple acknowledged that while their competition, at first blush, is smaller plant stores, they distinguish KinKa in terms of having other items that feature local, ceramic, floral, and textile talents. EunYoung’s track record and her eye for curating and working with an ever-changing pedigree of domestic artisans is unparalleled. In addition, because they are co-opting their space with a Michelin Star-rated restaurant, EunYoung and Tom explained, “We will also possess that dynamic energy from the culinary excellence offered by the restaurant connecting us. Because we aspire to accent lifestyle through art, food & plants, we are confident that we will be able to provide a unique shopping experience for those passing through to dine and a unique dining experience for those looking to shop.”

Works for me! This combination of creating a cultural direction, discovering new artists, hands-on personal service (hello! And thank you!) along with the plants, food, and workshops breeds an atmosphere that is decidedly more entertaining and in-the-moment. Mindful.

I’m ready to KinKa. Are you?

My new KinKa bag Photo: Leeann

For its Grand Opening, KinKa is offering a few items to give to their loyal VIP guests who have supported them over the years, helping them to build their dream… They will also offer “new” VIP guests gifts on a first come, first served basis. So get to KinKa early. Oh, did I mention that they are offering curbside pickup too? Easy. And this will coordinate just swell when the restaurant opens so that you can do take-out and plant pick-up at the same time. They thought of everything...

55 W 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Instagram: KinKa_nyc

* All photos not attributed are courtesy of KinKa