Garden Design Magazine 2016

Garden Design MagazineDetroit Garden Works has been on hiatus since January 15. Anyone who comes to our door is welcome to come inside, but most of what there is to see now are the repairs we’ve made to our old block walls and roof, the new paint throughout, and clean surfaces all around. What Rob has selected for our 2016 gardening season is beginning to arrive. It will take every bit of the next two weeks to put the shop back together for our March reopening. But there is another sure sign of spring. The early spring 2016 issue of Garden Design Magazine is set to ship the beginning of next week. If you are a gardener of a certain age, you probably recognize the name. Garden Design Magazine, in its previous life, was published between 1982 and 2013.  Jim Peterson, entrepreneur and risk taker, decided to buy the rights to the magazine from the Bonnier Corporation shortly after they ceased publication.

Garden Design Mafazine Early Spring 2016Though his primary interest was in establishing a new innovative digital presence for Garden Design, gardening aficionados all over the country spoke strongly to their appreciation for the printed page. Who knows what possessed him to commit to bringing that print publication back to life in an incredibly beautiful and signature way, but he did. I greatly admire this about him. Jim called me to ask if Detroit Garden Works would consider carrying his new magazine. I loved how he was willing to take his passion as far as making his case for his new magazine personally to people in the retail garden community.  I admire any gardener that creates magic from dirt, and Jim Peterson is no exception. Of course I said yes. I am an American landscape designer. A publication devoted to American landscape and garden design is a resource I would treasure. I take great pride that my practice was featured in their first issue.

photograph by Rob Cardillo

Garden Design Magazine is easy to like. Each of the four yearly issues are much more journal than magazine. The early spring issue which will ship the first of next week is 148 pages, none of which are devoted to ads. The paper is of such a substantive and fine quality that the photographs represent beautifully-more like a monograph than a magazine. The beauty of the photo reproductions do justice to the beauty of the photographs themselves. This highly evocative photograph by Rob Cardillo speaks volumes about composition and color in a garden. Who knows what article is in store that will feature this photograph. The quality of the photographs in every issue is matched by articles bound to be of interest to anyone and everyone who gardens – either personally or professionally.

photograph by Rob CummingsI had occasion to speak with Thad Orr, editor in chief of Garden Design, at some length last week.  I was interested to hear him talk about his approach to the work of creating a magazine that would encourage wide readership in the gardening community. He is clearly keen to represent three broadly brushed and overlapping areas of interest. The individual gardener, who designs and tends their own garden, will find articles that speak to a personal scale, scope and interest. The professional landscape and garden designer, whose practice is a life’s work, and those with an abiding interest in horticulture either as a grower or a practitioner round out the trio. This photograph by Rob Cummings speaks not only to the hard work of garden, but the artistry that can accompany every aspect of great garden making. It also speaks to other groups in the gardening world-those who design and make tools, furniture, garden gear, or ornament.

photograph by Jason IngramThe magazine is willing to celebrate any aspect of garden making. There is no stultifying narrative about what gets to be called gardening, and what doesn’t. Their tent is a big one. The benefit to readers is whatever topic they choose to cover, they address with some depth. A new gardener might fill their first containers with geraniums, as they are ubiquitous in nurseries all over the country.  I love them – they are the little black dress of the container plant world.  But this pot, photographed by Jason Ingram, features a geranium I am not familiar with. There will be those who are interested in the plants in this pot.  And those who are interested in the design of it.

photograph by Pia ClodiGrowing and arranging cut flowers appeals to everyone who has ever been enchanted by flowers. I have no idea in what context this scrumptious but simple arrangement of anemones, lisianthus and carnations was photographed by Pia Clodi, but I will be finding out next week.

photograph by Bob StefkoGarden Design does a great job of telling stories about people who garden in one form or another.  This part interests me greatly, as every person has a different point of view. And most surely a point of view worth learning about. As a landscape design professional, I am naturally interested what other people in horticulture and design are doing. Bob Stefko’s portrait of Roy Diblik, well known American plantsman, grower, author and designer tells me an interesting story is on the way. If you gardener, and are not familiar with his work, there is a golden opportunity to get acquainted.

photograph by Robert YuI do believe there is some great landscape design being done in the US.  Photographed by Robert Yu, this contemporary landscape is absolutely stunning. It is not a landscape I am familiar with. Garden Design is a forum for landscape and garden design that I appreciate having available to me. I might not otherwise see this garden. I am keenly interested to read more about it.

photograph by Ngoc Minh Ngo30 years have passed since since I last grew bearded iris. This astonishing photograph by Ngoc Minh Ngo not only makes me want to grow them again, it makes me want to grow these.

photograph by Rob CardilloAs much as I appreciate this garden and fence, as photographed by Rob Cardillo, what strikes me the most is the idea that a landscape and garden can be a gateway to a way of life that is good for people. Garden Design makes this case in many different ways.  If you do not already subscribe, I would recommend you do so. Subscribe now, and you get the early spring issue from which all of these photographs were taken, free. Check it out:  subscribe to Garden Design here Yes, I have a good bit of enthusiasm for this magazine. It is the only magazine of its kind. I would like to see them continue to cover horticulture and design for a long time to come.

Be Picky About Perennials

pereennial garden  I know the title of this post sounds heartless, but there is no need to plant every plant you can find in your garden unless you are young, you want to learn by doing, and you have acreage. If this is not your situation, there is nothing wrong with being choosy. The fact of the matter is that no perennial plant is without its shortcomings. Some fall over, or seed relentlessly. Some are disease prone, or beloved of bugs. Others fail to perform unless they have a full time nanny. Still others would grow in your bedroom window if you take your eyes off of them. Still others have a painfully awkward habit of growth, or an incredibly short life span. Those perennials with nondescript or poor foliage – I will not plant them. I make a point of seeing new hybrid introductions in test gardens, as I am fiercely protective of what plants I give ground to in my own yard, or my client’s gardens. I designed and planted the garden pictured above 15 years ago. This year I will redo it.  I suspect my plant palette will be different. I like plants that deliver and endure.

double bloodrootThis said, I routinely break my own rules. I would plant double bloodroot, knowing that their yearly bloom time might be a few hours, and their foliage dies back in the blink of an eye. I would attempt to grow roses, even though they come with a long list of do’s and don’t’s. I like snakeroot, even though there flower stems droop.  The joy of my garden? My choices may be thoughtful or capricious. Either is fine. No one will be stopping by this week, or any week, to grade my garden. For good or for ill, and thankfully, I am in charge of my garden decisions. No one cares or ever will care more about my garden than I do. So I do think through my decisions about what to plant. I will have no one else to blame for my bloopers. I may ignore my own advice when I am so inclined. I make mistakes, most of which make me laugh. I should have known better. Be assured that I have planted lots of perennials that languished and died. I have planted even more that I wish would die. A poorly performing perennial that struggles back year after year to no good end – nothing makes me more furious than a mediocre performance from a plant.

Walters Gardens astilbe Visions in PinkYou may find fault with my notion that plants in my garden need to perform. So let me visit the idea of performance. A garden is a terrific amount of work, much of which is not all that much fun. I like plants that reward my efforts with their beauty. A great performing plant is a plant whose habit, substance, hardiness, flowers and foliage are equally beautiful.  The Visions series of astilbe come very close to this level.  They do remarkably well in open shade, and are tolerant of full sun if they have sufficient water.  The foliage is glossy and healthy all season long. The flower stalks are sturdy. They are hardy in my zone.

blue delphiniumIt’s a rare gardener who is not besotted by the sight of a well grown stand of blue delphinium. The day they come into full bloom is the June day we will have a driving rainstorm that will take most of them down to the ground. You can see the support strings in this picture from the RHS. But there are ways to limit your exposure to disaster. Thin mature clumps, to promote good air circulation and discourage fungus. Pinch them back early, for more sturdy stems.  Plant the smaller growing species, d. belladonna or d. ballamosum, or shorter growing hybrids, as opposed to the exhibition sized varieties. If you buy seed for delphiniums bred in England or New Zealand, consider their climate before you try to grow them in Wyoming. If you must have those big delphiniums, be good natured about the aphids and the less than wonderful foliage once the bloom is finished. Don’t forget to feed and feed again.

pure peonies    Every living thing is flawed one way or another. This includes me, and my opinions about what perennial plants I would recommend. I have a point of view based on my experience, patience, and . None of the aforementioned Some flaws are charming.  Other flaws are deal breakers.  I avoid plants that are not truly hardy in my zone. I also pass by those plants that need and thrive in an environment that I cannot provide.  A flawless perennial is even rarer. It may not even exist. It would have gorgeous foliage, a long and heavy bloom time, a weatherproof habit of growth, good resistance to disease and bugs, a minimum in hands on maintenance – as in deadheading, division, staking, feeding or any other attention, perfectly hardy ands winter tolerant in my zone, adaptability to a wide range of light and soil conditions, a long life span, a healthy respect for the plants next door, vigor without aggression, a compact habit, great substance, early to show and late to go down-am I missing anything? This photograph of a hedgerow of the peony “Moonstone”, from Pure Peonies, is a good example of a perennial that is worth a second look. If you love perennial plants, pick and choose what to grow.

 

The Landscape at 3 Years

June 11, 2015 (2)The very best part of doing containers for clients at the last of a landscape installation for a new house is the chance I might be able to to come back the following year. The opportunity to come back means I can watch, and be part of how that landscape settles in and prospers. The summer container planting comes around once a year, every year. In the best of all possible worlds, the process of the landscape design and installation results in a relationship that is on going.  Planting seasonal containers is ongoing.  I was happy to be invited back.  The John Davis roses, which were part of the original landscape installation, are just about to the roof of the pergola, this June of year 3.

June 11, 2015 (1)Any new landscape comes with troubles.  What you thought would be perfectly happy in this spot refuses to perform. What seemed like a reach takes hold like you never imagined.  Anyone who gardens knows trouble-and how that trouble can be difficult to foresee. This property fronts on a lake. The very heavy clay soil refuses to dry out. We had no end of troubles, getting this landscape to take hold. It is difficult, and takes time, to establish plants on a clay based soil. In the middle of year 2, a daunting year 2, we were making progress.  Year two was not my favorite.  It just had to be lived through. But once the plants take hold, they go for broke. Year 3 is looking good. Along this path to the side yard, each Rozanne geranium is the size of a small shrub.  The astilbes are loaded with flower spikes. The yews have settled in, and are lush and dark green.  And the roses-well, you can see for yourself.

June 11, 2015 (9)John Davis is a climbing rose which is incredibly vigorous and long lived. If pink flowers are to your liking, this rose will reward you with steady growth and lots of roses. I have a client withe John Davis roses that are better than 20 years old.  It is undeniably hardy-bear in mind these roses on planted on the lake side, and subject to terrific winds and cold in the winter. Our last two winters were fiercely cold.  I see damage to plants everywhere from those vicious winters.  These roses never skipped a beat. Planting this summer annual container next to this John Davis in glorious bloom-what a treat.

June 11, 2015 (3)This landscape has begun to come into its own. I did not know this, until the moment I got there with a truckload of flowers for the pots. The best part of spending the day here planting the containers here was the pure pleasure of experiencing a landscape and garden that has rooted in and has settled down.  Everything is breathing, regularly.  There is new growth on every plant, from the yews, to the Venus dogwoods, to the Himalayan white barked birch, to the hydrangeas-to the columnar red maples. The landscape is thriving. The heart of it is beating regularly, and strongly.

June 11, 2015 (5)The boxwood dots in the lawn have put on a lot of weight. That dark green I see everywhere is a healthy green. How is my client managing a landscape on soil that does not drain?  She manages, as she tends to the landscape. Her thoughtful work is obvious. The views from the second story deck was beautiful. That beauty is not of my doing, some three years after the original installation.  It is hers. All a garden needs is for someone to take ownership, like she has.

June 11, 2015 (4)I did plant lots of containers for her today.  She wanted orange geraniums, and nasturtiums.  I planted them wherever I could.  Next week I will plant her cutting flower boxes. We have had incredibly cold and rainy weather. I have postponed planting the zinnias and the sunflowers until next week.

June 11, 2015 (10)The wet meadow is loaded with amsonia Blue Ice-it is in bloom now. The shadier portions are planted with species monarda, and northern sea oats-Chasmanthium latifolium.  The fact that it seeds is all to the good. That wet meadow will dry sometime soon. Cleome and sonata cosmos will provide color in this garden all the summer season long.

June 11, 2015 (8)Though my trip here was to plant containers, how the landscape has taken hold has my attention. Plants in the right place is all the work of a garden-and all of the pleasure.

June 11, 2015 (7)Willy’s garden is presided over by a big group of columnar red maples.  Their foliage is lush this year – finally.  The hostas are fanning out. In the front of the house, the peonies were full of blooms. The birch are growing. The katsura espaliers leafed out beyond all belief.

June 11, 2015 (11)All of the containers featured orange in one form or another.  I was pleased that this urn was stuffed with annual plants in a relaxed fashion.  My crews do an amazing job of arranging all the plants that are scheduled to go into a container in a lively, lovely, and unpretentious way. From the start.

June 11, 2015 (14)I cannot really convey with words what it meant to walk on to a property with a landscape wrought by a relationship with a very special client that seems happy in most every regard. I ws so pleased with everything I saw. My working life right now is busy-jammed packed and intense.  Most days I am up at 4:30 am, and drifting home at 6pm. This seasonal planting settled me right down. Thanks, Harriet. This landscape is growing  just as you would want it to.  I am sure I heard that growing going on.

The Landscape At Lee Hill Farm

Lee Hill FarmI have a very good friend, Susan Cohan, who also happens to be an extraordinarily talented landscape designer. Her firm, Susan Cohan Gardens, is based in Chatham, New Jersey. She is well educated in the arts and design. Her history is varied, and rich. Mind you, this previous bit does not in any way address the length and the breath of her experience and expertise. She has a keen eye, a well developed point of view, and a huge passion for the landscape. In my opinion, her passion for every aspect of the landscape is awesome. We met during her 2014 tenure as President of the APLD. The APLD is a national association of landscape designers that has members in almost every state. They work tirelessly to improve the quality of landscape design among their members, and they work to inform the public about landscape designers with experience and talent who would be worth consulting on a landscape project. From the beginning we were professionals and associates, with a relationship that grew to regularly debate the issues regarding landscape design.  Now we are friends. The result of that friendship – she got on a plane, and came out to visit me for 4 days this past February. Those days flew by.  She is delightfully interesting, serious, and genuine, not to mention fresh, direct, and personal.  How I love all these things about her!  I was so pleased to hear that she had won a Gold Medal award in the 2015 APLD competition for planting design. I want to share that award winning design and installation. I  greatly respect how she approached the work, and brought a project to bear fruit, from the ground up.

Susan Cohan DesignHer clients had purchased a beautiful old house and property.  Many of the structural elements of the garden – walls, and walkways – were in a considerable state of disrepair. In Susan’s estimation, a renovation of the property would have to begin with repairs. A good designer lays out the issues, and details the journey. Her client committed to this aspect of the restoration. Any successful project is a result of a rapport between a designer and a client. It was agreed that the old walkways, steps, and some walls would have to come out, and be redone. Another wall was slated to be built.

Lee Hill Farm
Repairs are not that much fun. Fixing what is broken does not necessarily result in something new and exciting. Just what was, before it was broken. But an old property with beautiful walls and walks may not need something new.  A repair and renovation that goes on to become a landscape better than her client thought she could have it-that’s very new and exciting! Repairs can be lengthy and tedious. These before pictures of Lee Farm which Susan sent me do not tell the tale of the days and weeks of work that would be involved to make the hard structures of this garden whole again.

vintage stairsEvery place has its own aura. A feeling. An atmosphere.  Recreating and restoring a sense of place relies on a sure hand. How Susan approached this project tells me she has a gift for the concept of the genius of the place. This property had a long history that deserved respect.  I am sure she steeped herself in the ruination, before she put a drawing, a hand, or a shovel, to the ground.

old gardenThe heaved and crumbling brickwork and the grass challenged stonework did not faze her.

Susan Cohan GardensThis view of a landscape long neglected makes clear that a lot of work needed to be done. Landscape projects that are really good address the land, the history, the client, the structures, the furnishings, and the plants. Like a play having six acts, this project would build on itself.

redoing the stoneworkThe restoration of the hard structures took lots of time.  Lots of hard work. Lots of supervision, and even more discussion. The pace of this work took so much more time than these pictures would indicate. This picture of a degraded walk, some hand tools, and a person tells a story. A beautiful project takes a vision, and work to follow that is skilled.

Lee HillOnce the hard structures were restored, the replanting of the landscape would involve an arrangement and plant list that would convince.  A beautifully planted garden is a joy.  But this garden had to be true to the history, the aura, and the meaning of this property of great age.  I think Susan did a great job of thinking through a plant list that was not limited to what perennials were available at the time the garden was built.  It was a plant list that served and recalled the original spirit of the garden.

the stoneworkThe fountain needed repair. The stone terrace was relaid, on level ground. The brick walks were redone. The millstone was level in the center of two brick walks, intersecting at right angles. The planting had begun.

Lee Hill Farm small fileYears later, this landscape evokes the spirit of the past, courtesy of lots of skilled design help from the present.  These pictures, which Susan submitted to the APLD competition, tell a certain story.

Lee Hill Farm Photo #4Her hand is a subtle one. It takes great experience, confidence and skill to plant a landscape that gives the land, the history and the plants center stage. I can see she is interested here in a landscape that seems natural and appropriate. Genuinely believable. Flowing.

Lee Hill Farm Photo #2On one level, the planting design for this project was meant to evoke the spirit of the original garden. But that design goes on to other levels. More interesting and thoughtful placement. More variety, or better performing cultivars. Designed spaces. The plant choices and the colors echo the original garden, but have relevance in the present.

Lee Hill Farm Photo #5The original iris still have a place.

Lee Hill Farm Photo #8the sweep

Lee Hill Farm Photo #9a long line

Lee Hill Farm Photo #10the layered view

Lee Hill Farm Photo #7The matching hedges of the same cultivar of peony is a way of illustrating how the design is as important as the plant choices.

Lee Hill Farm Photo #6The peonies, arbor and fountain are the strong and simple organizing feature for a constellation of perennial borders.  In May, the peonies hold forth much more strongly than they would have, had they been planted singly in a number of different places. At this moment, this view is drenched in the history of the original landscape in a visually compelling way.  It is also a very strongly designed space.

Lee Hill Farm Photo #2This is an award winning project-as well it should be. This picture tells the tale-everything seems right and rings true to the setting.  As for Susan Cohan, should you have a great passion for the landscape, and live within 100 miles of her, contact her.  She is a landscape designer I greatly admire. Interested in reading further about her?

Susan Cohan Gardens