Tag Archives: design

Garden tour extraordinaire

If you didn’t go on the Over the Hedge garden tour organized by the Ottawa Botanical Garden Society this past weekend, their only fund-raiser this year, then you really missed out!   This tour was organized by the volunteers on the Board, specifically the dynamo Vice-Chair Monique Oaks.  A vast contingent of volunteers was helping out over the two days, greeting visitors to each garden, selling aprons and t-shirts, offering flavoured ice water and generally providing smiling and enthusiastic faces all along the way.

There were twelve gardens on the tour and I’m embarrassed to say we only made it to half of them.  This was because I insisted on having a leisurely Sunday brunch at mid-day (the outing was my birthday present from my good friend who just happens to be a professional gardener as well, Patti Allen) and we did so at the amazing Heirloom Cafe Bistro in Almonte.  If we had gone out on Saturday as well, it would have been a breeze to see them all (but I was busy having a pedicure and then dinner with other girlfriends!)

The first garden we visited was a small, corner property in Pakenham belonging to Judy and John McGrath.  Judy is a gardener and photographer and the garden is personal, quirky and feels very private.  With beguiling entrances and seating areas, curving beds and miniature water features, this garden reflects a relaxed and friendly sensibility.

Next we moved across the street to the property where Paddye Mann lives and works, joined by her daughter in the neighbouring home, the homes and studio linked by an Asian inspired garden.

What I liked about this garden was the way in which the paths and plantings complemented the existing topography.

River-washed stone, timbers and naturalized plantings all echo the relaxed character of this garden, where a dry stream bed meanders alongside ancient granite bedrock.

An Asian-inspired cedar boardwalk is elevated above the garden, allowing the visitor an easy stroll and accommodating the pre-existing evergreens.

Daylilies, hostas, perennial geraniums, dogwood, coral bells — all these plants have been placed under the canopy of white pines and here, a metal sculpture that mimics the effect of wind rustling grasses gives the finishing touch. 

The working studio affords a view into the peaceful garden — a beautiful still-life from outside as well as inside.

The last Pakenham property belongs to the Bean family and has a lovely view of the Mississippi River.  The garden surrounds the expansive grounds of the stone heritage home called `Glenbeancragge`, referencing the limestone outcroppings that embrace the property and provide a natural home for a vast planting of specimen hostas, or —

— creeping sedums.

Stay tuned:  more to come…

Chanticleer: a pleasure garden

The name Chanticleer to those already ‘in the know’ brings visions of exciting, quirky and multi-dimensional design where seven horticulturists (each responsible for a specific section of the grounds/gardens), as well as many seasonal gardeners, have been creating a world-class masterpiece of plant, sculpture and garden experience for over the last twenty years.  

Path with Papaver rhoeas; photo courtesy Lisa Roper

I recently contacted them by email, asking if I might use some photographs for this blog and was happily supplied with some different photos from Lisa Roper, the horticulturist responsible for the Asian Woods and resident photographer.

Terrace view with Orange Emperor tulips; photo courtesy Lisa Roper

Chanticleer was built as a country retreat on the outskirts of Philadelphia just before WWI.    The owners, Adolph and Christine Rosengarten Sr. (he, a pharmaceutical magnate) then converted the home into a year-round residence some ten years later, thereby making it their permanent address.

Red maple in the morning mist; photo courtesy Lisa Roper

The estate’s website indicates that the name ‘Chanticleer’ was taken from Thackeray’s 1855 novel called ‘The Newcomes’.   Apparently, the building of that fictional estate, ‘Chanticlere’,  almost put the lead characters in the poor-house but upon completion was, nevertheless, a shining star in the county.

Camassia leitchtlinii; photo courtesy Lisa Roper

The Rosengarten’s son passed away in 1990, his will ensuring that the home and grounds were left for the enjoyment of the public as the Chanticleer Foundation.   It is run by an active Board of Directors and the newly developed garden opened to public viewing in 1993.  There are twelve all-season gardeners and groundskeepers maintaining this world-class property.

The Asian restroom; photo courtesy Lisa Roper

If these photos have whet your appetite, then go here for more.  What makes this garden so spectacular is that it has something for everyone; some sections have a modern sensibility, others are wild and natural, still another reflects the simplicity innate in Asian gardens, and don’t get me started about the gorgeous container plantings.  The gardeners here are top-level designers, using plants for the value of their foliage and shape rather than simply their flowers.  

Enough said — plan a visit.

Meadow flower arrangement; photo courtesy Lisa Roper

Terraced garden renovation

Problem:  A south-facing hillside, terraced into four zones and over-run with ever-spreading junipers (an uninspired landscaper’s best friend), periwinkle, creeping jenny, donkey tail spurge, sedum, a collection of bearded and dwarf iris, spiraea, a rejected rose, several peonies and a motley collection of perennials.

Challenge:  This front garden belongs to a plant lover who has little time but lots of appreciation for a varied, rich and shifting display.  It is a garden that is in full view of the neighbourhood, on a busy street and well travelled by pedestrians.  It should have a planting that is enjoyed not only by passersby but by the homeowners, every morning when they leave the house and every evening when they come home. 

Solution:  This location is hot, with soil that drains freely and gets sun most of the day so plants must thrive in this tough environment.  The chosen plants should also have attractive foliage, interesting shapes, must be long blooming or have flowers that are striking while they bloom, and lastly, must be well mannered and easy to control.

Many of the plants here had to be sacrificed, many tamed and others re-claimed.



And another before, showing the extent to which the periwinkle and creeping jenny had taken over:

The peonies and lavender were rescued and now are basking in their new-found independence, sharing space with more well-mannered neighbours like lambs’ ears, various forms of upright and prostrate sedums.  The donkey-tail spurge and creeping jenny have been heavily edited.

A casual flagstone path has also been added to allow access into the bed as well as visual interest.

The junipers had to go; there were at least four.  They are an all-too-common quick fix to cover a space simply for the sake of covering that space and not as part of an overall conceptual design.  But they almost always outgrow their designated area and dwarf everything else; like all plants (especially trees and shrubs), their mature size needs to be considered carefully before they are placed.  And, worst of all, they can be physically difficult to remove since their roots are so expansive and insistent, and their prickly foliage can cause dermatitis.

All of the bearded iris were lifted and culled; many of them were infected with the iris borer, the juvenile form of a pest that feeds on the iris rhizome, making it mushy and slowly affecting it’s vigour.  After a full season readjusting to their surgery and new freedom, they begin to bloom again.

The ubiquitous spireaea that lined the base of the front porch were moved alongside the driveway and the crowded dwarf lilac was given some breathing space.  A PeeGee hydrangea cultivar (the unfortunately named ‘Pinky Winky’) was placed next to the stairs and the giant cedar was removed and replaced with a smaller evergreen (‘Witchita Blue’ pyramidal juniper).

Some ornamental onions echo the bloom colour of the dwarf lilac and the newly planted repeat blooming lilac (‘Boomerang’) is also joining in the display (top right).

Inspirational containers

This effusive display is crammed into a copper bin that has turned a beautiful verdigris colour.  Pink Gaura lindheimeri, Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight’, trailing verbena, a pink diascia and Helichrysum ‘Silver Spike’.  This planter was a feature down in Hudson, New York, while we were there visiting Margaret Roach’s garden.

Scale is one of the most important considerations when you’re designing a container garden.  Don’t shy away from monumental plants like this canna in the centre of a downtown Manhattan planter.

Similarly, a front door planter needs to have enough ‘oomph’ to make a statement at your entrance.  This one includes a purple-leafed ninebark shrub as its centrepiece.

This planter shows how important it is to match the plants with the container.  It doesn’t hurt when you have a spectacular glazed pot like this one.

Of course, anything can be a container – even this free-standing and creative  display.

Hanging baskets have to be full of cascading plants.  They should grow into eachother and intermingle in such a way that you can no longer tell one plant from another.

The best advice I can give you is don’t be timid!  And be creative.  If it doesn’t work out, take the losers out and replace them with better players.  A container should look amazing all season – even if you have to edit and re-arrange to accomplish this.

Garden designer profile: Tom Stuart-Smith

The winning garden at the 2010 edition of the Chelsea Flower Show in London was designed by the now famous and in my eyes, god-like Tom Stuart-Smith.  This garden designer has won seven gold medals since 1998 as well as three ‘Best in Show’ titles, making him the winning-est designer at that prestigious show since its inception 87 years ago.

This particular garden, as well as several of his previous winning ones at Chelsea, demonstrate seemingly effortlessly and without any awkward obvious intention, Stuart-Smith’s philosophy:

“We seek to create landscapes that offer a rich and multi-layered experience – places with an emotional depth that derives from the ideas behind their design. Juxtaposition and contrast is a theme that runs through much of our work: between simplicity and complexity; the modern and the romantic; between subtle intervention and decisive statement. Our work has a richness of form and texture which belies the economy of means by which this is achieved.” 

Photo reproduced with kind permission. Copyright Sabina Ruber; http://www.sabinaruber-photographer.com

These Chelsea gardens are perhaps most immediately statements of colour; this 2008 garden (above & below) is a study in blue and white and green, the blue being achieved through the distinctive patina of the zinc boxes, planters and rear wall.  The white is provided by the structurally important flowering perennials (i.e. Rodgersia, Peonia) and the green through the varied and elegant juxtaposition of foliage plants (both grassy and flat-leafed).

Photo reproduced with kind permission. Copyright Sabina Ruber; http://www.sabinaruber-photographer.com

In all Stuart-Smith’s gardens there is an incredibly satisfying dialogue going on between the rigid and the effusive —

You might be tempted to say that these show gardens are all well and fine but what about Stuart-Smith’s real world work?  Many of the gardens he’s designed are highly structured within expansive spaces on traditional English country estates.  These kinds of gardens are hard for us here to accept as part of the North American vernacular.  The rigid contrast between lawn and deeply planted bed, often with ancient walls behind, is traditionally English and are perhaps even ‘on the outs’ these days, even across the pond.
I think it’s in Stuart-Smith’s own garden where he is able to strut his stuff.  Elements that have been a part of his show gardens find their place here (literally) not in part, I’m sure, because he is his most amenable client. 

Spanish designer Jaime Parlade

While I was doing a bit of reading about the 14th century Moorish gardens at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain,  I stumbled upon the work of contemporary Spanish designer Jamie Parlade.  Don’t ask me how that happened!

From his website, these words give you an insight into his influence as an established designer (and made me smile…):

“…quality has no price nor should price ever be discussed with an artist … he insists that mutual trust between client and the decorator is essential.”

Image: http://www.architecturaldigest.com; photo by Derry Moore

His Andalusian home and garden was featured in this 2008 article in Architectural Digest magazine.

Image: http://www.architecturaldigest.com; photo by Derry Moore
I love the vibrant, rich colours in this kitchen as well as the rustic, dare I say, ‘humble’ details.

Image: www.nuevo-estilo.es
What a beautiful, light, airy bedroom — and gorgeous fabrics!

Image: http://www.nuevo-estilo.es

This place radiates warmth and the pleasures of summer.  What a comfortable room in which to spend time.