Showing posts with label Design. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Design. Show all posts

August 20, 2012

Curating Vintage Palettes - Containers Inspired by 1940's tablecloths

MUSSAENDA HYBRID 'DOUBLE RED' LOOKS VIRTUALLY HORRIFYING WITH  THESE RED VELVET-LIKE BRACTS AND PINK FLOWERS, BUT IN SOME OF MY CRAZY COMBO'S, IT ADDS AN OLD-SCHOOL 1940's MEXICAN FLARE TO MY RED, GOLD AND BLACK CONTAINERS
 I can't help myself, the designer in me loves to explore, and I am constantly looking for  interesting color combinations with plants. It takes some confidence, and guts, since a few of my experiments have been down right ugly ( as in my 'man garden' of brown foliage plants), but I've been working with many black- foliage plants this season, mixing them with silver leaved plants or variegated plants, with very good results. Now, I am adding pure golden-leaved plants to some of these mixes, which are really starting to shine, especially now that some red and gold berries are starting to show. It's bit like Christmas in August here in central Massachusetts.

TALINUM, (JEWELS OF OPAR) IN A GOLDEN BERRIED SELECTION, CARRIES THROUGH THE GOLD AND BLACK MOTIF THROUGHOUT THE CONTAINER GARDEN. THE EFFECT IS ALMOST HOLIDAY-LIKE

 This black, gold and red combination reminds me of vintage bark cloth, or screen printed tea towels from the 1940's , you know the type - the ones with flamenco dancers or Mexican hats on them. This color combination is somewhat inspired by mid-century optimism. Lake houses, camp furniture, 1940's motels and souvenir plates.  With all of the new colors available today, it's been fun to try and eliminate green foliage, which helps when one wants to create a new motif.

April 18, 2011

Shopping at Mahoney's Garden Center - the good and the bad

ONE OF A PAIR OF STUNNING TALL PLANTERS MANUFACTURED BY MAYNE, WHICH WE PURCHASED  IN THE BOSTON AREA AT MAHONEY'S NURSERY IN WINCHESTER, MA. IT WAS HARD TO DECIDE WHAT CONTAINER SET WAS BEST FROM THEIR WIDE SELECTION. THESE ARE BEAUTIFUL.

This weekend we visited some of the better nurseries in the Boston area, and purchased a few new containers and other structural pieces for the garden. At  Mahoney's Rocky Ledge, we found these very attractive, but expensive plastic containers. - UPDATE - Not to rant, but....we found out today after measuring the rest of our windows, that we needed 72" window boxes and not 60" ones for the rest of the house, that the manufacturer (MAYNE) linked us to 12 retailers who sold the same window box containers for more than a hundred dollars less! Stupidly, for the three containers, which seemed expensive, we paid more than ANY online retailer for the same product. In total, we shockingly paid more then $160.00 more at the Mahoney's Winchester nursery. The upright containers sold for $149. each, and online were $119.00, but the real shocker was the windowbox which we bought at Mahoney's for $259, but at the manufacturer's site and at other online retailers, it sells for $159.00 with free shipping. 

We called Mahoney's twice this morning to see if this was a mistake, and the people answering the phone were of no help - they told us the first time "well, that doesn't surprise me, we're expensive" and  the second time from the garden center person said "I don't set the prices, so don't blame me". When asked to speak to a manager, we were told to "just bring them back if you don't like them". The problem is, we LOVE them, and, we live over an hour away.  Niether would connect us with a manager. sigh. I know it's a busy time of year, but really? Maybe this was a mistake? I can understand a %20 mark up, but since these are ALL retail prices, it appears to be unethical. More than a $100 difference at retail is quite a profit margin! Nornally, I never post about such things, but because they were rude to my nice call to inquire, I just can't get it off of my mind!
A MATCHING WINDOWBOX IN BLACK WAS ADDED TO THE DECK. I THINK I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I WILL PLANT IN THIS - REMEMBER THAT FLAT OF TALL SINGLE -STEMMED PINK ROSEMARY'S THAT I BOUGHT IN DECEMBER? I SEE A MINI-PLEACHED ROSEMARY HEDGE IN MY FUTURE...


I really need to go back an write a more detailed post on this great nursery, we buy so much there. This incident aside, if you live in the Boston area, surely you know about it - even their new rock carved sign was inspiring, they offer an amazing selection of containers and plant material of the highest quality. We went with nothing particular in mind, except to explore, and, as such things go, left with a truck full. But I am just a little ticked off, since we spent over a thousand dollars yesterday, and no one would talk to us ( we didn't even get a free pansy like the lady in front of us did!).

We found these great columns, that are also planters as well as some windowboxes all manufactured by a very impressive product company called MAYNE.  These purchases inspired us do a little design work on the one garden we have been focusing on, in front of the greenhouse. First, I had to relocate the two Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil' Japanese Holly shrubs, which had provided the perfectly vertical structural forms I had wanted at the end of the gravel walk leading to the greenhouse entrance. We simply moved them to the other end of the walk, which extends toward the street, which still needs to be completed. These containers are plastic, but they look exactly like wood. Pricey, (real wooded ones would have been cheeper!), but oh SO nice, so we splurged bought a pair of them,( and a window box, see below).

THE DAYS ARE NOT LONG ENOUGH FOR US RIGHT NOW, WITH GARDEN CLEAN UP, TWO GARDEN PARTIES AND TOURS, HOUSE GUESTS COMING ALL IN THE NEXT 3 WEEKS. JUST TRYING TO FOCUS ON ONE SMALL PART OF THE GARDEN IS ALL WE CAN DO.

As a designer myself, I really need to find a company that will allow me to design my own line of containers ( I have so many new ideas), but for now, I need to settle on what is available at retail, but these are very attractive, and look nothing like roto-molded forms available even five years ago. If I only could afford more, for the white ones were nice too. Now, I am trying to thing about what I could plant in them. At first, I tried some of the cold weather biennials like Diascia, but they didn't look quite right. A boxwood globe is what I will most likely end up with, since these containers function visually as an architectural statement too. Until then, I am going to try two topiary's that I found in the greenhouse, a white flowered rosemary, and a matching Westringia rosemarifolia. I will pot them up next weekend, since these two plants need some hardening off - it is only mid April. 


NEW JAPANESE BAMBOO FENCING ADDS A NEW FOCUS, IN THE GREENHOUSE BORDER.
I feel badly about this fence, too, since these were the last two left at Mahoney's, and even though the guys in the greenhouse were very kind and helpful, offering to order more for us, and checking for additional stock, at the register, one fell apart, because the wood was spit and quite damaged. They would not offer us a discount ( they were not expensive, at $19.00 ea.), but clearly, these last two were remaining because of the damage on the posts with the split wood and I would have been surprised if anyone else would have bought them with the rungs falling out. Of course, we did, and we repaired them the best that we could with bamboo rope and wax. Oh, Mahoney's, what are we going to do with you? Or, at least your sales help!

November 22, 2010

Preparing Outdoor Containers for Holiday Greens.

NOT ALL HOLLY IS RED, THIS PATENTED CULTIVAR OF MERSERVE HOLLY, ILEX X MESERVEAE  'MESGOLG''GOLDEN GIRL®' LOOKS AN ENGLISH HOLLY BUT WITH BRIGHT YELLOW BERRIES. DON'T YOU LOVE IT? IT WAS INTRODUCED IN 1990, AND HAS GREAT FORM. RED FOTHERGILLA FOLIAGE IN THE BACK IS ALSO CUT FOR DISPLAY, THE FOLIAGE IS BRIGHT AND  LONG LASTING. ONCE IT DROPS, THE BRANCHES ARE EQUALLY ATTRACTIVE.

Next weekend, during my Thanksgiving, as I watch neighbors drag out their plastic deer and inflatable giant snow globes between football games and turkey, I usually like to pick greens and branches, and other wild or cultivated plant material which I will use to fill outdoor garden containers that can handle the heavy winter conditions we get here in New England.

There are many containers that remain outdoors here, they may be empty stone troughs or cast concrete containers, or cast iron urns. Without spending a dollar, I can fill each of them with a unique motif appropriate for the season. 
THIS CAST IRON URN IS TYPICALLY PLANTED WITH ANNUALS FOR SUMMER DISPLAY, BUT FOR WINTER, I FILL IT WITH GREENS GATHERED FROM THE GARDEN. WITHIN A WEEK, THE SOIL INSIDE WILL BE FROZEN, SO PREPARING OUTDOOR CONTAINERS BEFORE SOIL FREEZES IS HELPFUL. 

I start with foundational greens, which might be anything, since this is random pruning, quick snips from various shrubs and evergreen trees which I either feel have nice, structural branches, or have evergreen colors that are different and unique. If I wanted to fuss, and plant some of these containers, ( and I will later on), then I would plant and design the result, but for most of these containers, which are in odd places around the property, such as this large steel urn near the door of the greenhouse, few people ever see except us and the dogs, so this is more an an exercise in hiding the soil in the pot, than it is in creating a stunning photo prop. I completed this speedy arrangement with some purple kale, and som bundles of fall foliage which will only last a week, if that, but will add that touch of autumn that the dogs will enjoy as they go out to pee. I know, we are crazy. Indulgent deco.
FOR THE THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY SEASON, I'VE LIMITED THE PALETTE TO YELLOW ILEX (HOLLY), PINES, CEDAR AND PURPLE KALE AS WELL AS SOME AUTUMN FOLIAGE FOR A TEMPORARY TOUCH OF COLOR. RED BERRIES AND BARE SILVER BRANCHES WILL BE ADDED NEXT WEEKEND. THE COLORED FOLIAGE ONLY NEEDS TO LAST A FEW DAYS.

 Now, I'm off to pick our native Winter Berry, or Ilex verticillata before the heavier frost arrives tonight. These I will keep in bundles outdoors until temperatures drop well below freezing, which will cause them to turn brown. I can keep bundles on the back porch or even in the greenhouse until I need them for Holiday decorations in a week or two.


CHRISTMAS IS COMING! ILEX VERTICILATA CUT FROM THEM GARDEN HEDGES IN PREP FOR HOLIDAY ARRANGEMENTS LATER IN THE MONTH. 

CAMELLIA ' SHIBORI EGAO'

The Japanese cultivar, 'Shibori Egao' has bicolored petals that can sometimes produce flowers which are entirely white, or completely pink. The best, however, are those which open in this bicolored pattern. While we in the west prepare for what designers tell us are iconic autumnal decorative elements such as squash, pumpkins, gourds, turkeys and such, other northern hemisphere cultures enjoy a broader celebration of nature, which yes, includes pink, rose, red and dare I say Blue Pheasants?

March 27, 2010

I Design a Botanical Wedding


This weekend we designed a wedding! Congratulations Nici and Steven!


Every extra succulent cutting in the greenhouse was harvested Saturday, and masterfully crafted into tiny table seating cards thanks to my designer friend, Jess who used sheet moss, bamboo cocktail stirrers and Adobe Illustrator to create tastefully unique name cards. Each table was named after a town that the bride and groom had personal associations with ranging from New England,(the wedding was in Connecticut ) to Hawaii.

I don't design Weddings. But occasionally you just can;t say no, and so, I found myself in a position where my best friend and colleague's daughter ( who happens to work at Logee's designing the catalog) decided to get married, I became the most logical choice for many reasons, to help design the wedding, and I could not say no. Besides, I knew that it would be fun.

Billy Buttons ( Craspedia) was the first flower that Steven and Nici had requested, so I knew that right away, this was going to be a fun wedding to design. When we found out that it was going to be held in an historic Inn in Sturbridge, MA that was almost 300 years old, and that Nici wanted the wedding to be horticulturally interesting yet pretty, the challenge was on. I recruited my designer-friend Jessica from work ( at Hasbro) and together, we put on our finest 'Wedding Planner" hat.

The arrangements followed a natural theme of white, moss, green and some gold. Containers, we're kept simple, cedar cubes and trays. We had a very tight budget, but thanks to florist friends, our greenhouse and garden as well as the generous contribution of some choice plant material from the brides employer ( Logees!), we were able to assemble a fine collection that was both interesting and pretty.

A New England wedding on a March Evening that was cold and overcast outside, made the lighting indoors perfect for hundreds of candles in vintage glass canning jars. The night was sublime, and the scent from all of the Jasmine and Pittosporum we included was probably stronger than when even in the greenhouses at Logee's! We were able to combine the nineteenth Century and the Twenty First Century with flowers and plants.


Nici's bouquet is a hand held wrapped bouquet composed of primarily white Ranunculus, Lily of the Valley, which I forced in the greenhouse, white Amaryllis, Ivory French tulips, and white Anemone.


The boutonniere's are most unique, since Nici wanted a woodland, natural look that was botanically interesting, we crafted Camellia leaves and Stewartia buds, along with individually wired bracts from a Euphorbia that added a lime green color. These elements were then wrapped with brown floral tape along with Billie Buttons ( Crasspediae), and a single feather from a Guinea Fowl, we just loved the speckles, and it reminds me of feathers one sees in old felt hats from the Alps.


The table arrangements are designed to feel both garden-like and loose, with green sheet moss, bulb flowers like Anemone's and Ranunculus, and many unusual tidbits that we we allowed to collect around the greenhouses at Logee's and from my greenhouse. Some arrangements had begonia leaves, others, included jasmine, Camellia buds and branches of Cornus mas.

Jessica helping craft some of the table arrangements in the greenhouse. I wanted really unusual cut flowers, so some forced tall Euphorbia along with lots of height from forced branches of Stewartia, Cornus mas, Magnolia and Fothergilla, were combined with bits of rare plants like species Begonia leaves, wild species of Camellia, and various bulb flowers from South Africa (Lachenalia) and Dutch imports like Anemone and Ranunculus. All colors, fell into a well designed palette of white, lime and ivory. Fragrant clipping of Lemon, other citrus and Pittisphorum were added to snippets of Jasmine to add even more interest. No two arrangements were the same, yet the overall branchy look with sprouting buds looked fresh and cozy in the dim, golden firelight in the barn.



While Jess and I we're scooting around Logee's on Friday looking for interesting material that Byron would let us snip, we saw this Strongylodon macrobotrys! ( No snippy, please!). Besides, the color theme would have been ruined since what color goes with this besides Tupperware! But still.......Wow! But, now that I think about it, I did have some Ixia viridiflora at home....perhaps another wedding.

February 7, 2010

Curating Annuals-Some odd, but stylish choices


There isn't much that I don't grow, but I always make room for annual flowers. I suppose it's partly because they are some of the first plants my mother let me grow, for I remember sowing seeds at a very young age, and learning quite early, well before I was 10 or 11, what a Cosmos seed looked like vs. a Zinnia. Dad would dig compost from the large compost pile out back, and I imagine that the soil was rich with all of the chicken manure from our hens. The whole process would start in late February, and by mid March our glassed in front porch was full of these large wooden flats, about 4 inches deep and about 30 inches square, I think my father brought them home from the Newspaper, where he worked the night shift as an illustrator.

Annuals can be stylish, and this is the time of year to curate your collection so that you can start your own, and not be at the mercy of your garden center.

We never sterilized soil, or fussed with much or anything other than carefully planting seeds into tiny rows. No bottom heat, for the sun would heat the porch to nearly 70 degrees during the day, and at night, temps would drop to about 40. Still, mom had flower bed everwhere, and I can remember the entire scheme, for at that age, the zinnia and scabiosa were taller than I am. I think that's one reason why I love the scent of snapdragons and marigolds, they were at nose height. Apparently, moms flowers were well known in the neighborhood, and she would pick and make arrangements all summer long, clearly, I got my love for plants partly from her.

Amaranthus 'Dreadlocks'
But annuals hold a dear place in my heart even today, and each year, although I limit myself to what I will gro. Beyond the Proven Winner's series, which I admit, really preform well, I do cycle through the classics every few years. A certain bed along the walk of the greenhouse may hold a few dozen Scabiosa one year, and another, miniature Zinnias, or China Asters, such as last year. Mom always grew tall Asters, and I remember their unique blend of violet, lavender and pink. This year, I think I may plant Four O-Clocks here, not sure yet. But I know that I will grow Marigolds, for I skipped them last year, and I missed their scent too, which particularly reminds me of the first frost of autumn, when mom would pick most every flower in the garden to save them from the frost.
Celosia Spring Green, a new crested green form.
Some new varieties this year I want to try are the many double Cosmos bipinatus, which are available from a few sources, but I will order mine from Johnnys Select seeds. Then, at Harris Seeds, there is a beautiful green Celosia called Celosia Spring Green, which will add interest in arrangements since there is nothing like apple green, magenta and orange.
Gold colored Craespedia is one of the most stylish flowers on the wedding trend sites. The gold mixes well with magenta's, violets and silver foliage, and is very stylish indeed.

Instead of showing the new annual introductions, I am sharing what I am growing. If you want to see some really stunning-but-not-for-me varieties like Zinnia Zahara Rose, go check out the other blogs. It's nice, but it just won't fit into my schemes. But Sweet peas always do, and after seeing the Sweet Peas in England last year, and at the Chelsea Flower Show, I am addicted again, as I was as a kid. I think I will limit myself to all of the violet and periwinkle shades, for together, they make ones heart skip. Check out these are a fine English blog.

Park Seed Company has an interesting Amaranthus, called,'Dreadlocks'. I am thinking about growing it, since it is 3 feet tall, and that appeals to me. They also have a Zinnia called Candy Mix, which is pretty, if you can choose the odder color combinations.
The vine related to Morning glory, Mina lobata comes in a sweet yellow form, available at Summer Hill Seeds. I grew the orange to red form one year, and it was in full bud when I accidentally tore the stems from the roots while moving a large urn in front of the greenhouse, so I may try this one this year.

The Lisianthus plants from Burpee are always worth the money they cost, for I can't think of any other annual that has the long lasting quality as a cut flower, and the color palette, which rivals the Spencer varieties of English Sweet Peas.
One hot humid evening last July, Joe and I went to eat at a local seafood restaurant in the city. Planted around the parking lot in a strip of soil between the hot concrete and the sidewalk was planted Tithonia, the "Mexican Sun Flower". They were so beautiful, and bright persimmon in color with healthy thick green stems and broad floppy leaves, I noted to myself that I should grow some this year, so they are on my list. A dwarf variety is available from Johnny's.Tithonia, Fiesta del Sol, which I will grow with Redbor Kale, a purple kale that will make the Purple leaved Sweetpotato vines and omnipresent black Coleus everyone else will grow, green with envy.Redbor purple Kale, a refreshing option to all of the other purple leaved plants, and you can eat it.

July 24, 2007

About Color and Planning


OK....I admit it....I really never, ever took the time to either create color palettes or plan any garden in my life before. I'm not really a planner, more of an, well, artist, I guess. I like to believe that I act spontaneously to influences....that brilliance just will happen, as if a devine creative gift such as being a designer, allows one the freedom to create....randomly. But I was wrong. With age, I have to admit that this theory of simply spewing out stuff generally results in, well, spew. Maybe that theory worked before there was SO MUCH to influence us...maybe it worked, let's say, in another period...like victorian, or arts & crafts, or even modernism in the seventies......but today, when jsut about anything goes, and when most everything is available to most everyone, all at the same time, there is a much greater risk of chaos, visually speaking, anyway. Random influence is dangerous, we all must stop it.


So welcome to some of the beds this year, where I am excercising restraint. I'm calling it ' practicing thoughtful research' ...and yes...it's still, quite creative, and even artistic since now, I am actually following a well-thought out and well researched color palette, but experimenting with various plant materials that may or may not be combined together normally. There are fine lines between such rules, since one must follow a foundational structure that limits plant material such as exposure, hardiness, etc....but since I happen to have a greenhouse, and I am more than willing to let a tropical plant die in the garden, as well as choose to dig it up in two months and lug a tub into the greenhouse for the winter, I might as well play with what new options I really have. I also considered, or tossed aside such things as texture and provenance - (i.e. tropical plants may or may not work with temperate evergreens, for instance). This experimentation doesn't come easy, it helps, I feel, to have a horticultural knowledge as well as an artistic one....yet these rules are ment to be broken at time, it sometimes is painfully clear when one experiments without prior knowledge. (in chef-speak- the whole cilantro may or may not go with cinnamon sort of thing).

So I made some color rules. First, I wanted to go beyond what I was seeing in the trendy gardening magazines, or what was being suggested for combination at my local garden centers. SInce I am first, an artist, color, naturally comes, well, naturally to me. Now, granted, not everyone likes my style and taste. But I wanted to also avoid the BIG rules that one often see's women following simply because it's all they know....."I want blue hydrangeas at my wedding"...."I can only plant blue and silver in my english garden" or "I must have sunflowers since I saw them on a cover of martha Stewart Living". Now, chill out, believe me, I am porbobly a greater fan of Martha Stewart that any of you could dare to be, but you must also understand that most likely, Martha herself is beyond sunflowers and blue hydrangeas at this moment....instead, most likely, she is experimenting and discovering such new plant trends as Crocosmeas and Corydalis. One shoud choose a plant because of more peprsonal reasons that how your neighbors will think of you.....sure, I love blue hydrangeas, as a beach house, in front of a bungalo, they have thier place. Choose plant material for the location.

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