Search Results for: Barry Harrison

One Man’s Garden

galvanized wire bracket

We had dinner over the weekend a the home of a good friend.  Barry Harrison is a design principal with Art-Harrison, a interior design studio well known in my area.  In addition to their interior design practice, they manufacture a line of fine furniture.  Each piece is meticulously hand crafted and carved from fine hardwoods.  Interested to read more?    Barry is a highly skilled designer, cabinetmaker and wood carver, as evidenced in his own garden.  Years ago Barry spent some time at Ford Motor Company-he could draw an entire headlight assembly for a owner’s manual-free hand.  Think this part through-a freehand drawing of a headlight assembly?  His talents are extraordinary.  As much a designer as he is an artist, one part of Barry’s garden began with this simple part-a galvanized steel hook that would hold clay pots.

Barry lives in an urban neighborhood on a very small piece of property.  Every gesture he makes has to work-there is no room really for unresolved design.  This corner of his driveway is just a few feet from the garage doors, meaning he visits this spot every day, both going and coming.  The distance from the edge of his drive to the lot line at this back corner is 12 inches at best.  There was no option for screening plants in such a small space, but there was an option for a screen. 

cedar fence posts

This ingenious green screen began with four cedar posts, the tops of which he carved into a pair of guinea hens, and a pair of ravens.  There was enough space to sink the posts deep into the ground.  He engineered a series of galvanized metal plates and rods, which would hold the galvanized hooks shown the the previous picture.  

The terra cotta pots were planted with succulents, and hung on the galvanized steel rods.  The watering takes some time and attention, but the plants seem to be doing just fine.  He’ll store the pots in his garage, or bury them in leaves for the winter.  I admire this inventive and low tech screening that is also so great looking.  The plants seem to be perfectly happy-spilling out of the downside of each pot.   

His succulent wall is beautifully engineered-and beautiful to look at.  Once he waters the top row, the drain water serves to water the row below, and perhaps the row below that.  Given that the screen is only 6 feet tall, it can easily be handwatered.  The succulents are not asking for much.  


The rear yard is dominated by a gravel terrace, completely surrounded by water.  Though the width of the water is slight, the pool is 24 inches deep on 3 sides, and 36 inches deep at the far end.  This water depth, and the ability to swim in long runs, around and around, keep his koi happy.  Youy would never know that a city park was just the other side of the bamboo screening.  The structure at the far end of the pool serves a dual purpose.  From this side, the wood and copper fountain with copper jets does a great job of aerating the water for the fish.  This large, architecturally striking feature organizes every other element of the landscape.

garden sculpture

A single stone sculpture on the gravel terrace keeps a small space from looking cluttered. Easy maintenance perennials such as baltic ivy, petasites, angelina, creeping jenny and ferns makes the garden easy to look after.  The koi?  Barry has a 220 acre farm in Kentucky-the koi he raises there are cared for by his parents, and shipped to dealers and koi afficianados all over the country.

garden fountains

The fountain recirculates the water in the pool.  The placement of this feature on an angle to the corner of the property creates a small niche garden which features a series of pots, and some of Barry’s geode collection.  But the star of the show, at the end of a stone path-a cast iron cow. 

Even the smallest space in a garden can make a big impact.  An inveterate collector of vintage and antique objects, I am sure he spoke for this sculpture without hesitation.  This vignette is almost all of the way to another space-the garden shed.


Barry’s  fountain doubles as a garden shed, which holds most of his tools, pots and soil, in addition to the filtration system and fountain assembly.  This very utilitarian space is completely hidden from every vantage point in the rear yard landscape.   

screening an air conditioner

At the opposite end of the garden-the air conditioner.  The air conditioner is under this painted wood obelisk, yes.  One panel is hinged, and folds down, making service a snap. In the top of the obelisk-long handled gardening tools. 

The view out of the back yard-another view of that succulent wall.

evergreens in containers

The house and garage meet at an angle in the back, near a pair of doors.  A giant painted oak box with a steel tuteur is the only nod to the garden in a fairly large paved space.  Only Barry would think to faux shrink wrap an arborvitae in plastic, and place the steel tower over it.  Not one branch got broken when the pot was planted.  At some point, the plant will grow through the steel, and be trimmed flat.  Clearly he is fond of making a few big gestures on his small property, rather than lots of little ones.   

There are as many great ideas for a beautiful garden here as I have seen on on properties many times this size.  Unlike a property which is defined by its boundaries, it’s hard to tell where unlimited creativity and imagination of this caliber might decide to go next.     



2008 Panaretos Spring 4-24-08 (3)
A fence is a garden structure that is easy to identify.  A fence is a vertical element in a garden that separates one space from another.  Twin fences with soil piled in between is an effective noise barrier.  How so?  Only soil absorbs and blocks sound.  Plants and single layer fences do nothing to mitigate sound.  An impossibly tall berm at the road is a fence of a green sort.  It separates a personal and quiet space from a noisy and public space by filtering out the sound.  Many communities permit the installation of what is known as a privacy fence.  No matter the material, any fence of a substantial height (in this case, 6′ tall) provides a physical separation from adjacent properties.  Those people who live in urban areas value their privacy.  A fence is a simple structure that takes up very little space-in the interest of establishing a boundary.  Your yard and my yard have a barrier in between that allows each of us to live our private lives.
April 25 2013 (15)
Those people who live on vast ranges of land in Texas value a separation that keeps their cattle from wandering off their property.  Electrical substations fence their properties to keep unsuspecting others from injuring themselves.  The Berlin wall was an elaborate fence which came to symbolize a barrier to freedom.  A firewall on my computer-a digital fence constructed to protect my computer from harm. A fence is a person who is a middleman between two parties.  The fence is a barrier, or a facilitator, depending on the circumstances. Other fences are purely decorative in how they define a space.  A low wall, should it be long enough, qualifies as a fence. This wall/fence does not provide privacy.  It does not entirely enclose a space.  It makes a beautiful and very friendly statement about the separation between the public street and the private home.

April 25 2013 (16)
Iron fences designate a separation, but permit lots of light, and a view through.  These pillars are massive, and the gate is solid and painted a dark color.  The black iron fence can barely be seen, but for the hedge of yews planted on the inside.  Why so much discussion about this particular fence?  The choice of materials, the color, and the size make a visual statement about privacy.
April 25 2013 (18)
Like the home in the previous picture, this property is a corner property.  Other homes on the block have private back yards courtesy of the house itself. This fence is solid from top to bottom, and has a very contemporary feeling.  Make sure that wood fence is installed slightly elevated from the ground plane. A garden fence made of wood needs to shed water and dry quickly.  A fence in constant contact with the soil will deteriorate much sooner than it needs to.
balcony railing

This second floor balcony terrace has a fence which is primarily about safety.  White or light colored fences usually stand out architecturally, but this fence has a landscape of water and sky behind it.  This white fence in a green landscape would make a much more emphatic architectural statement.

cedar fence

This vegetable garden is entirely enclosed by a fence of cedar, and galvanized steel mesh. The idea here is to protect herbs and vegetables from the wildlife. The height of the fence is meant to keep the deer out.  The depth of the wire fencing below ground is meant to deter ground hogs and rabbits.  Keep out.
cedar privacy fence
Fences of a clearly decorative design satisfy the need for beauty and visual interest as much as a need for privacy.  Cedar is a highly rot resistant and evenly grained wood that can make a fence as refined in appearance as a piece of furniture.  The design of this fence is especially pleasing, given the stone and grass path below.

espalier fence

Espaliered trees can provide a green fence.  In a tight space that needed screening up high, a fence of espaliered lindens was a good solution.  The property next door is vacant, and unattended-the property line is in front of the boulders.  Were it to be sold and developed, a new house could be very close by.  Anticipating the need for privacy permits the time it takes for a green fence to grow.   The major horizontal arms have numerous small branches which will eventually grow together to form a green wall.  This fence needs more care than most, in the form of yearly, or twice yearly pruning.
pool fence
Pools require fences of a certain height, and a certain density.  An iron pool fence in my area requires a picket every 4 inches.  Most communities have rules about fencing swimming pools, as they can be dangerous to a child.  These fences are not about privacy-they are about safety.  The hydrangeas on the far side of the fence will eventually grow between the pickets.  The fence itself will disappear from view, with its ability to enclose and protect unimpeded.

steel fencing
This garden/dog run has a hazel wood privacy fence along 2 lot lines.  The Bowhall maples will eventually provide a green screen for the second floor windows.  The iron fence encloses the dog run, and is meant to deter coyotes.  Coyotes run at, and leap over a barrier.  The 18″ wide shelf at the top of the fence, and the yew hedge at the bottom, is a strong deterrent.

twig fencing

I have only seen a fence such as this once.  It is beautiful and dense.  Fencing from natural materials are easy on the gardening eye while entirely functional.

vertical-garden-fence.jpgBut of any fence I have ever seen, this has to be one of the most inventive and original.  Designed and built by Barry Harrison, partner in Art-Harrison Design Studio in Royal Oak, it satisfies both a need for privacy and a need for green.  The cedar posts with integral bird finials were hand carved by Barry himself.  It’s easy to see that these pots of succulents would be tough to overwater. This is sure evidence that even the most utilitarian element in a landscape can have great visual appeal.