Showing posts with label Style. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Style. Show all posts

August 20, 2012

Curating Vintage Palettes - Containers Inspired by 1940's tablecloths

 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.


 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.

December 28, 2011

Growing like it's 1855 - Inspiration from the past for a new gardening year


At the end of each year, I treat myself to a small selection of rare gardening books. Like many gardeners, I prefer to choose my own books, as many of you would understand, I am not the easiest person to buy a plant book for!.   This year, I've found 5 very nice vintage gardening books, all printed between 1802 and 1908. , and most focus on the subject of growing potted plants indoors, either under glass in some of the country's first greenhouses, or in conservatories. I find the subject of 18th century greenhouses appealing for many obvious reasons, but mainly, as a New Englander with a glass house, living just outside of Boston ( where many of these books were published), I can relate to this desire  people had for 'keeping a glass house'  in the middle of winter where one can grow tender plants, trees and shrubs collected from around the world. 

September 24, 2011

Under-Designed Air Plants

 Bromelliads, or "Air Plants"( specifically, those Tillandsia species which are so commonly used as ornamental, yet disposable plants by many designers, installation artists). They have many interesting forms, and thus, they appeal to the hipster in all of us, but they are also nice when treated in a less ornamental way - like these in my my collection. Treat these mini bromeliads like real plants, and they can be long-lived, as well as blooming plants.
First, start with your container. They may be called "air plants" but don't be mislead into believing that they live off of the air - they require moisture, almost constantly.  A Brooklyn apartment is not quite the same as forest in Florida, with 100% humidity, so find the most humid spot in your home, which will most likely be over your kitchen sink, or in the bathroom. 

Second, they do need light. In the wild, these species grow on tree branches in live trees, so although you may think that they like shade, the truth is that they require light, even sunshine, especially in the winter. 

Third, don 't think they they will live in a terrarium, for here is where the name "air plant" has some truth to it - Tillandsia require fresh air, think - tropical, moist breezes. The atmosphere in a glass dome may be humid, but it is also a stagnant air mass, a breeding zone for fungus. Air plants like things simple, but precise - tropical downpours, brisk trade winds to dry off their leaves, and a bird dropping or a dead ant every now and then. 
Here is how I achieve the greatest success with these beautiful  and unusual plants. I have many extra orchid baskets, wooden lath baskets that are inexpensive and always hanging around the greenhouse. Sometimes, we tend to over-design things, and although Tillandsia or "Air Plants" might look awesome when arranged in a grid pattern on a wall in a sleek, hip boutique hotel in New York City, the truth is, they will soon perish without the moist air and buoyant breezes they requires to survive.
 Spanish moss ( a Tilandsia species too) helps to create a moist atmosphere around these rootless plants. I wrap moist sphagnum moss around the stumpy end of each plant, and then set it into a wooden basket. The potted baskets are then  hung in the greenhouse, and most essentially, brought outdoors for the summer, where they spend a vacation on the shady side of the deck enjoying summer downpours, thundershowers and yes, even a nutritious bird poop or two ( never three, and always canary sized).

July 12, 2010

Black Calla Lilies and Green Zinnia's

This weekend I picked some of the black and green flowers in the garden, in an effort to make an arrangement for a dinner that felt more stylish, yet botanically interesting. Playing with color, and being more aware about color, this year I have been trying more dark, black and green flowers, but things never really work out the way we plan, for my 'black and purple' vegetable garden bed has yet to materialize. These calla bulbs were intended for the black garden, but I ran out of room this spring, so I planted them along the greenhouse bed, where they are now lost under a jungle of growth from the Amaranth which now towers 6 feet over them.

July 8, 2010

Garden Folly

I have so many plant show ribbons, that fill my closets and potting shed, which I just adore because of their wierd, innocent, naive color combinations, but which I can't decide what to do with. Thanks t Danny at Dailydanny, I have found the solution : wreaths. Anyone who exhibits in plant society exhibitions has boxes and drawers of rosettes, gathering dust and lint- why not display them? Best of all, this seems less like an ego blast, since let's face it, hang a blue ribbon anywhere, and the it's hard to avoid the obvious statement.  
With a rosette wreath, like this assembleage, the statement is, well, understated, or better yet - over-stated, or overwhelmed by the art statement alone. Brilliant. If you don't have any ribbons, just order your own from a horse ribbon company. You can order any color combo you want, and have them say anything you want. Try this one. Norogala Show Ribbons, it's where we order our plant society ribbons. The cost is inexpensive, around $4.50 per rosette. Cheaper than roses.

A concrete Chesterfield Sofa? Oh yes, not leather, but a real chesterfield cast in concrete, created by Steve Jones for a British concrete company, Gray Concrete. I am reminded of Rachel Whiteread, the UK contemporary artist who casts the negative space of objects, but this if far more useful ( and probably more affordable). It even has a coin cast behind a pillow for authenticity. This is a piece of garden furniture any man would appreciate. Next? A cast big screen tv anyone?

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.

December 27, 2009

December Flowers

I've noticed over the past years, that there are flowers, and of course, greens available in my zone 5 garden every month of the year. And, I mean outdoors, not just in the greenhouse. I though that I might start a Friday tradition in 2010 ( if I can keep up with it!), but since there are so many tracking devices for blog traffic available, I've noticed that the most comments and views I receive come from the posts that show either floral combinations, or arranged plant material. But, since my blog is focused more toward more interesting, or rare plants, and those that are more unusual or overlooked or forgotten I thought that maybe this will indeed be an interesting and fun project to try.

So starting next week, I will try my best to post an image of plant material arranged artistically that is not just out of the ordinary, but extraordinary in some measurable way. The material may come from the yard, my garden or from the greenhouse. Or, it may come from any combination, but the one rule I must follow is that I grew it, and that nothing was purchased. Not sure what I will call the post yet, maybe something with the word inspiration in it., Or, simple Friday Flowers. But wait, I may not use flowers all of the time. OK...I need to think about this a bit!

Until then, here is a sampler....some Hellebores cut and arranged in a Tibetan wooden box, placed in the alpine garden on the late December thaw ( snow tomorrow!). Enjoy.

September 28, 2009

September Blooms Hint of a March Wedding

I find it fun to try to challenge myself to create unusual combinations of plant material, and still keep the expression, seasonal. Here, a tea cup with a carefully curated selection of flowers from my garden is inspired by a little get together we had at the house yesterday, while planning the design of my best friend daughters wedding. She is getting married in March, and since she works at Logee's Greenhouses in Connecticut, she wants a botanically diverse wedding, rustic, hints of vintage, yet totally designed.This will be a fun project over the winter, for I have only designed a couple of weddings in the past, one, a fancy high budget fete at the Blythewold Estate in Rhode Island, again, for another friend, where I crafted garlands of chestnut leaves, artichokes and citrus which payed homage to the frieze in the estate's main home, and faux topiary constructed from lemon leaves, chicken wire and dozens of gardenia's, and built centerpieces our of sheered domes of boxwood and truffle colored velvet ribbon. I become too obsessed about designed weddings, wanting each to be better than anyone could ever imagine, but they are exhausting projects, so I rarely plan to become involved with any.

For this one,to be held in Sturbridge Mass. in a barn setting , we are planning arrangements of unusual succulents which need to be started now in the greenhouse, mosses, topiary Citrus, hints of feathers with speckles, tall forced branches of shrubs lit from below, and charming vintage collections of pottery with arrangements like this. It's all about an unusual color palette. Chocolate, mustard, chartreuse, aubergine, buttermilk and truffle.

March 30, 2009

My Nerdy Plant Display Window

Yes, those are dirty dishes. And frankly, not much design fuss went into this. I just snapped these photos tonight, since I jsut noticed that these are all yellow flowers ( I know, the Halogen lights are blowing out the yellows, but with a flash, this would have looked far worse). I just thought that I would capture this honest moment, as I found it when arriving home from work tonight. You should smell these Gladiolus tristis....wow....almost too much.

OK.....This is about as bad as it gets...I will now admit, full disclosure, that I have a display window over my sink. Yeah....I installed a 90 degree bay window, and had lighting added, and a copper tray with gravel, just so I can display pots from the greenhouse that are currently in bloom.

I was inspired by three things here, first, Thalasa Crusoes early writings, where she remembers her first home in Boston, and the plant window she asked her husband to build, with a copper tray and "proper pebbles" placed in it so that she could display paperwhites. Second, the estate I worked at while in high school, that of Mr. Robert Stoddard and her famous Fletcher Steele garden, Mrs. Stoddard had a plant window in her dining room, and I had to stock it with peach colored tulips, periwinkle Hyacinths and Primula Obconica for much of the winter. I loved that window. And third.....the New England Spring Flower Show, where an annual contest was held each spring on displaying plants in a faux bay window. All of these I first experienced when I was a teen ( obviously, a nerdy one) and, now, as an adult, I can bring many of these to reality - albeit above my sink full of dishes!
Now it gets worse.

I actually theme the displays ( like this one, which really occured by accident, being themed as "Yellow-South-African-Flowering- Bulbs-that-bloom-in-March." Of course, I could go on, and say that it is 'A window of geophytic Cape Bulbs that are pollenated by sun birds" but I did that last year. ( see?).

The other plants are a rare yellow flowered Velthiemia bracteata ( the one that looks like a red-hot poker that got scared), and a beautuful new seedling that I brought back from Mr. Nakamura's farm in Japan of a yellow clivia, one of his Vico Gold offspring,(which too is fragrant), and a nice little pot of the precious little South African bulb, Lachenalia alata ssp. aurea from leaf cuttings last year started in the greenhouse.(no fragrance).

January 6, 2009

Inkadate - Rice Field Art

Rice farmers in Inkadate, Japan plant rice pictures, some are amazing.

Others are commerical, but awesome.

WIshing everyone a wonderfull great New Year.
I'm busy working on my gardening book ( more on that later), and back to work this week, so I've been behind ( or I took a tiny leave) from the Blog posting. To hold you all over, here are some interesting photos from Flickr of inkadate, a rather new trend in Japan of planting rice varieties which grow in different colors, in rice fields. Farmers either rent their fields out as advertising, or they hire artists to make an installation. Rather nice, but so typically Japanese-ly strange.

Here are what some have written about the trend in Japan.

In the Japanese village of Inakadate in the Aomori prefecgture,villagers plant ancient varieties of rice. The green areas are tsugaru-roman, the local variety while the purple yellow and red areas consist of kodaimai, or ancient strains of rice.

Inkadate Rice Fields is rather new, trend-wise. Not unlike corn paintings and crop circles, the ingenious farmers from Inakadate started planting artistic rice fields in 1993 after one farmer started and gained much publicity. While the INKADATE has earned the title of the most popular town when it comes to decorating rice paddies, the small Japanese town is not alone. Farmers in Yonezawa, from the Yamagata Prefecture, as well as farmers from Nishio, in the Aichi Prefecture, plant artistic crops as well. Their works are incredible, but still pale in comparison next to the portraits painstakingly planted by the Inakadate farmers.

Most Rice fields in Japan, and throughout much of Asia, are much more than a simple place to grow food. In some cultures, whether or not a farmer owns land on which to cultivate rice is symbolic of his stature in the class system and overall social hierarchy. They spend hours of time not only in the fields, but also blessing and decorating the granaries within which they’ll store the rice once it has been harvested.

Today, modern technology has replaced some of the older traditions. Farmers aren’t as likely to conduct religious rituals in the fields or harvest their crops by hand. They instead embrace their culture by spending countless hours planning the layouts for rice fields that, in some cases, challenge the dedication of some of today’s finest modern artists.
In the case of Inakadate, however, the project originally simply came about as part of a revitalization effort designed to help enhance the beauty of their small village- checking in with only 8,700 residents. They started with simple designs, such as a picture of Mount Iwaki, but later began challenging themselves as their skills grew and they became more confident in their work.
In 2007, they attempted to recreate some of the famous woodblock prints created by Katsushika Hokusai in his series known as “Fugaku Sanjurokke,” which translates to “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.” There are not enough words to describe the results of their marvelous efforts.
So how do they do it? Japanese farmers commonly grow a variety of rice, called tsugaru-roman, which buds with green leaves. In order to design their crop art, they include kodaimai rice, which grows with purple and yellow leaves and provides the contrast needed to create lines and depth within the work of art. Some farmers incorporate brown and yellow rice into their field art as well.

July 31, 2008

Summer display

I inherited these stairs that my friend had designed for her dog, so he could jump up onto the radiators to look out of the window and bark at the mailman. After realizing that they we're too monsterous, I relieved her of them, thinking that I could use them for either my dogs, or for the greenhouse.
Since they are constructed so well, I decided to use them first on the porch, as seen in an earlier post, to display potted Japanese Orchis graminifolia, or Pone Orchis ( and yes, I work on the design team for My Little Pony too, for those of you who did not get that pun!). Anyway, I later moved them onto the deck, where I needed to display the Begonia collection that was getting too baked in the hot greenhouse this summer. This has proven to be a poor location, even though it is on the eastern side of the house, it still gets strong sun until noon. As you can see, these Begonia's are burning, so....

...I switched to Pelargoniums, or 'Geraniums', with various Zonal's, fringed blossomed antique varieties, Fancy-leaved forms and Scented Pelargoniums; all of which can handle the stronger sun of July. Now that it is nearly August, I may switch this display to Tuberous Begonias, as they are starting to bloom. Stay tuned for that post.

Not your average Jack!

For those of you who don't know, there are many species of Arisaema, or Jack In The Pulpit. Here in New England, we find our common species of Arisaema tryphyllum in many woods and streams beds where it is damp or moist. But world-wide, this genus has become extremely collectable, and there are nearly 250 known species, each quite unique in foliage, floral form or overall characteristic. Some are only 2 inches high, others nearly 6 feet. Some tropical, some not. This one species, A. consanguineum is from eastern Asia, a is marginally hardy here in Zone 5 unless one gets a very deep snow cover. I grow it in a container because I still haven't decided where to plant it. It spends the winter in a dry corner of the greenhouse. I grow many Arisaema in containers, they work quite well, and one see's characteristics one often misses in the garden, and they make interesting displays when grouped together with other bulbous Aroids like the much larger Amorphophallus species.

Arisaema consanguineum ' The Perfect Wave'

This named selection from the Oswego, New York rare plant nursery Seneca Hills Perennials, is such a late bloomer ( it emerges nearly after the Fourth of July here) that I keep it in a container in the greenhouse, so that it does not get lost. Of course, it must affect it's size, since the catalog states that it can reach 4 or 5 feet tall when in the ground. I just can't find a place where I would remember where I planted it! Still, the foliage is lovely, and this form has awesome characteristics which one may miss in the garden, such as a slight silver variegation in the leaf, and a wavy edge.