Archives for April 2010

New Lime

New Lime is a paint color from Benjamin Moore. 2025-30, to be exact.  Jenny just painted 4 terra cotta pots this color for a client-I am very interested to see what she plants in them. Whatever she does, it will be exciting to the eye.  I have a long history of fascination with lime green.  I can still see my mother’s raised eyebrows when I picked out a lime green dress for my junior prom-never mind the reaction of my classmates all decked out in peach, pink and blue chiffon.  To my eye, lime green is all about watery fresh, mint, new, light, lively-everything a spring garden has to offer.  My Princeton Gold Maples are lime green all summer-but when the first leaf out-this I would call wildly lime.  Delish. 

There are few hellebores I would turn away from my garden, but I have a particular love of the green ones.  There is something about that color that says spring so strongly, I am not able to resist. 

The giant maple in my fountain garden blooms chartreuse, and leafs out new lime.  Though the leaves turn dark green as they mature, this is my favorite time for them.  Even the blue of the sky seems new. 

Many white flowers are stained green-hellebores are no exception. Ranunculus, dahlias, Japanese anemones, Sally Holmes roses-what I like best about white flowers is the green that comes with them. 

Lime green hostas so light up a shady spot.  The beds of Sum and Substance hosta on either side of my drive are veastly better than landscape lighting at dusk.  This picture was taken late in the summer-the plants still look fresh. Chartreuse green has the effect of endowing any other color with a little electricity.   

This spotted hellebore is from the Royal Heritage strain/mix.  Some seedlings grow up a dark and muddy rose/red/mauve-not my favorites. I do like the spotted flowers; that background green makes that wine red spotting read clearly.  Not that I have one thing against mud-every gardener’s spring is chock full of it.  I am not in the mood for moody in the spring.This green lace primrose is as frilly and cheery as any spring flower I have ever seen.  Everything I have read tags this plant as a zone 6-I would not expect it to be hardy in my area, unless I make special provisions, and pray a lot.   However, they do wonders for a spring container planting. 

The asparagus in my yard has been popping up for several weeks-though its color is a darker version of lime, they make my mouth water. 

To give your spring containers a big dose of luscious, lime them up.  New lettuce is a great companion plant.  Other good green choices for spring containers?  Parsley, rosemary, strawberries, creeping jenny, angelina.  But this lettuce is a one-plant brass band playing that tune, spring is in the air.

More On The Front Door

My small arts and crafts/mediterranean house features an enclosed front porch.  The front door is flanked by large pair of  matching arched windows.  It took an embarassing number of years to figure out that though I wanted to screen the portion of the garden close to the house, I needed to landscape such that the door would be visible from the street.  I like how the landscape and and pots work together to say welcome, at the same time as they provide me privacy. I am finally happy with how this looks. 

This front door seemed to ask for a little celebration; we added a roof over the porch, widened the walk considerably, and placed two large bronze urns on either side of the porch.  Wide walks permit placement of containers so they frame a view, rather than obstruct it. As you can see, the walk from the driveway to the door is short-the big idea here?  Make much in a small space.  

Rob’s house is very tall out of the ground; he literally has a staircase going to the front door. A poorly designed landscape would only intensify that gawky architecture.  The placement of multiple pots helps to set the house down visually, and features the unusual wing walls.  There is all of the intent of a garden here, in a form of his own making.  All of his plant choices are green and textural-any flowers are green. Distinctive-his choices.    

Front doors that are part of a large covered porch can be challenging.  This front door is part of a greater room.   Pots at the door-I think my client thought it would dilute the simple presentation of the house. The pots on top of these newel posts function as living finials, and make an uncluttered, but welcoming gesture.  The effect of this entrance planting is restrained-gently austere.  This vintage house gets a decidedly modern feeling from a careful editing job.

Covered porches can be dark, lacking a natural light source.  This yellow glazed French pot lights up this darker area; the Japanese maple is a light, lacy, and charmingly lanky choice for a pot. Licorice is surprisingly tolerant of low light; its pale green color looks fresh against the dark brick.   Hello, number 1201.    

Though this modern house has a wide staircase to the front door, the steps are shallow.  This makes any placement of containers on the steps difficult.  Which step, or how many would get containers?  Multiple containers would seem out of keeping with the clean lines of the architecture.  The columnar red foliaged maples “Princeton Sentry” are amazingly handsome here. Containers set in a landscaped bed-this can be a great idea.  Large limestone pots placed into the groundcover in front of those maples adds so much interest to the entry.  The reproduction Frank Lloyd pots set on pillars I always plant simply, and with lots of color-I have an instinct to warm those pots up with plants that would never make the top ten list of modernist approved species. 

The entrance to this gated community serves much the same purpose as a front door. You have to stop your car, and knock.  Nonetheless, the pots at the gateway say welcome in a very cheery way.  These green glazed French olive jars contribute as much to the visual impression as the plants.   

Simple terra cotta pots-it is amazing how these plain claypots are so iconic and symbolic of a garden-I am comfortable putting them just about anywhere. How one dresses and arranges them makes all the difference.  These lovely variegated hedera topiaries are strong and gorgeous on this front porch.  The plain pots may be simple, but they are placed at a good height.  Terra cotta squares turned up side down make great pedestals.  Terra cotta pots-I insist on the saucers.  They are an essential part of the look .  I like gestures that look finished.  

Very contemporary homes house people .  I try never to forget this.  The front door of this home is not apparent from the street.  The single pot-which last year I planted with a boxwood on standard, inky fingers coleus, and lime licorice, signals where to turn left, towards the front door.  The small scale of the topiary head to the wide dimension of the pot-this low and generous mass with a dot hovering overhead- I like. Containers at the front door is a broad topic.  I so like that every front door needs a different treatment. We may all be gardeners, but we garden individually.

Planting At The Front Door

One’s front door-it keeps out the cold, and the babble.  On one side, it sheds all the noise of the street.  On the other side-sanctuary. It welcomes friends and family. It is a visual symbol for home. Containers at the front door do a great job of reinforcing that welcome, and dressing up the public presentation of what we all call home.  Choosing the right containers has a lot to do with intersection of the architecture of your home, and what best represents your feeling about your home.  These galvanized and acid washed steel lattice boxes with medallions are stately, and in perfect concert with this period house.  Their sharply geometric shape is in contrast to, and highlights, the beautifully curved stone insets to the door.  The plain panel at the top third of the box repeats the horizontal wood frame piece on the door.  This works for me-but better yet, it worked for my client.  

This gracious tudor makes much of a summer planting-my clients so enjoy this.  The front door is set at an unusual and beautiful angle.  The simple terra cotta pots stuffed with rosemary accents, but yields the floor to the enchanting placement of the front door.  You can barely make them out in this picture-they say welcome, very very quietly.  These pots do not dilute or draw attention away from this striking architectural feature. 

This exuberant and low key home features a giant front porch and pediment.  The clients like big, easy, and relaxed.  A series of related pots make a big porch entry more intimate.  The mix of French glazed pots and contemporary concrete pots is interesting, compelling.  They invite a visitor to wend their way to the front door.  I like entrances that give a visitor time to shift away from their day, and anticipate their visit. A front door and porch is a transitional space.  Great containers provide time, space and interest to the transition.  When I open the door to welcome guests, I hope I can tell they have experienced that walk to the door. 

An offset front door might suggest an informal entrance-but this is not necessarily so.  A left spaced formal planting of boxwood, and a classically shaped limestone urn on a simple limestone pedestal balances the right spaced door space beautifully.  The urn speaks much to the taste and intention of the client.  The boxwood in the urn is a formal arrangement, making much about architecture, space, and reserve.  I so love the contrast of the asymmetrical space, and the formal and geometric elements.  This may be quiet, but it is enormously successful. 

I like a generous entrance, a big porch, a front door with width.  Multiple lead pots draw the eye to the door, in this case.   Big front doors lacking a chorus of containers-lonely and unsettling.  These lead containers and wirework plant stands-they whisper welcome, they repeat that whisper- in response to a very big space.     

This vintage modern house-the front door and its approach is part of a front of a greater front of the house terrace.  I had this to work with. These 1920’s French faux bois rectangular planters not only direct visitors to the door (not seen in this picture-but to your right)-but they distinguish the the front door from the front terrace.  How beautiful are these old containers, placed on a slate terrace from the forties.  Should you have a mind to study this picture-the view is  really good.  Good containers at a front door-they enchant, and they have the additional strength to direct traffic.

Some homes feature pillars near the front door.  Any container set on top of a pillar needs to have just the right proportion.  I like wide and low and footed.  This looks generous and appropriate.  The simple lead containers at the front door-they frame the hard surfaces that make up that front door.  In the event the gates were to be opened for company, every visitor would have visual and emotional time to focus on that visit, and be pleased to see that front door open.  

The iron lattice of these boxes refer to the ironwork attending the front door. Large steps are narrowed down, given these lattice boxes.  The plants that might brush up against a guest-so personal.  A front door and attendant container presentation needs to work from the street, and  work up close as well.  Choosing containers for a front door-look long and hard.  Consider what might not immediately come to mind-pay much attention to the architecture, and even more attention to your point of view.  Those friends that you might welcome-consider them too. 

This front door-a huge and wide swath of lawn provides the approach. In this particular instance, the approach figures more prominently than the front door.  Handmade Italian pots mark the changes of grade.  The big idea here-your front door is unlike any other front door.  Study it.  Be armed with your point of view when you go to shop.  What exactly do you want to say at your front door?  The answer to this will help you garden in containers at your front door, successfully.

Sunday Opinion: A Way Of Life

In the best sense, a way of life could be defined as a life steeped in family, culture, tradition, and history.  My gardening life is very much a product of my scientist/gardener Mom, my vintage (a polite version of my age-nearing 60), my early and practical early experience as a gardener- long before I gardened professionally. I am a designer who has a history of digging the holes and dragging the hoses. That history-a big part of this.  My way of life-put your hands and your back to the work. I have an instinctive distrust of landscape architects, as I suspect architecture is a lot more about resolved drawings than a flesh and blood phlox going on. I like single flowers, structured landscapes, a dressy presentation in front of the house- in respect of the neighborhood;- and straightforward design.  I was raised never to make someone work too hard to understand my point of view-that would be rude.  As a designer, my idea has to be there-be clearly there-in the leaves and the bark, or I need to start over. 

Sometimes I go to galleries, or museums, wanting, needing to read about what I am looking at. Some art I see I would not view as art if it did not have a home in a museum.  The streets do what the streets do best, as they have no pressure to be art. Look, and be convinced, or not.  In truth, I believe that any art which requires verbal explanation is a visual failure. This is my way of life talking.

My way of life is but an alternate phrase for my point of view.  All of my history and culture wells up around me-whether I am shopping for a gift for a dear friend, writing a thank you note, choosing a doctor, handling a problem, deciding on the right perennial for a spot.  Everything I bring to bear on any issue is directly related to something from my way of life.

I am older, and my kids are cardigan corgis.  Any and every dog gets my interest, and my time.  My way of life has much to do with dogs.  If you knew how much they occupied the front 10 percent of my attention-I might be embarrassed.  I could go on to include MCat, and my resident toads, and clients dogs, stray dogs, the hummingbirds that visit my pots-my way of life is much about the sanctity of nature’s creatures.  Please do not ask for details on this; I am sure all of you have your own stories not so different than mine.  Howard sleeping, draped over my feet right now-a solidly comforting way of life.

My garden does not always act how I wish it would. Plants languish, shrubs get overgrown and threaten my sense of balance and place.  The helleborus argutifolius of my dreams-some six years into growing them on-I have piffle to show for my effort.  I am tossing them out this year; my way of life would suggest that when you finally figure out what does not work, cry over the spilt milk as long as you need, and move on.   

As much as my history and culture enriches my gardening life, some things are not at all about a way of life-they are about habit.  A habit is vastly different than a way of life.  I have a routine-God help anyone who stands in the way of how I have always done things.    That said, I do make an effort to sort out what truly comes from the way of life it has taken almost 60 years to develop, and what blind habit I inflict on myself. 

Should you hear the word habit, the hair on the back of your neck will no doubt stand up.  What I do habitually-it might be great, but it might be a stale and useless excuse. Though I might vigorously defend my eye to the future, habit weighs heavily on me. I dread trying new plant varieties-my habit is to trust what I have known to work over the course of my gardening lifetime. I spend plenty of time investigating what is new-in defense of my habits-but the truth be told, I am happy to let other people try the new things. I can be convinced to try something new-should I make the effort.  As I have no problem encouraging clients to discard their habit, and think fresh-I should do better, too. 

My way of life- naturally I treasure this.  But an interest in those things that do not seem to immediately fit can provide balance. My Carefree Beauty roses are very pink.  I like that silliness going on in that somberly evergreen room.  They relieve a certain stuffiness.  All of those pink petals on a June day make me smile.  The space is balanced.  Balance is very important element in a landscape.  What you put great weight to may need some counterbalance. A formal allee of trees could be all the more exquisite given a casually placed chaise, and a pot of flowers. The single orange tilip in an ocean of yellow ones-this makes the planting personal,-better than perfect.   Distinguishing a way of life from a habit-a worthwhile expenditure of time and effort.  When I find myself saying I do not have time for this or that, I sometimes suspect it is my relationship with habit that is talking.       

 What in your garden stands pat, from habit?  What in your garden reflects your way of life? This opinion post might be all over the map, with bits and insights not so beautifully arranged.  Sorry.  On my mind, in a not neatly thought out way-a question.  What should I stand behind, given my gardening history? What should I entertain in the most serious way and welcome, in spite of my habit? 

If you are a serious gardener, you understand all and everything about gardening angst. Plans and plants in concert-a very volatile combintion.  Regularly I wonder if I should tear out this or that and start over.  We gardeners fly low. By this I mean, we notice every little plant, or combination, or weed.  Should you be flying low over your garden, I am quite sure you could see what beautifully represents your point of view.  The tough part of what I do habitually-I have stopped seeing it.