}

August 6, 2011

Totally Tubular

WHITE
Sinningia tubiflora, Tulbagia violacea ssp alba, and Galtonia candicans
 I thought that it was interesting that three white tubular flowers were blooming at the same time in the garden. Then, I thought, what about other colors? So, I tried to pick three of each color to see if I could to it. All tubular, but stretching it a little with some colors.
SCARLET
Gladiolus nanus, Phgellius 'Croftway Coral Princess', Crocosmia x 'Lucifer'

ORANGE
Punica granatum 'nana', Diascia 'Coral Bell', Abutilon 'Firefly'

YELLOW
Mirabilis jalapa, Torenia 'Catalina- Gilded Grape', Azalea ponticum

CORAL
Agastache 'Tutti Frutti', Echeveria, Aloe x
PINK
Pandorea jasminoides, Sinningia warmingii 'Carolyn', Fuchsia x

LAVENDER
Tulbaghia violacea variegata, Campanula rapunculoides, Agastache 'Sangria'



VIOLET
Verbena 'Superbena Royal Chambray', Agapanthus 'Storm Cloud', Gentiana septemfida ssp septemfida


August 4, 2011

I HEART TERRAIN (part 1)


I just returned from a private blog event hosted by Terrain, the gorgeous gardening lifestyle store located just outside of Philadelphia, PA owned by URBN ( the design conscious company that also owns Urban OutfittersAnthropologie and BHLDN). Terrain is Urban's gardening concept store located in Glen Mills, PA. The Terrain brand includes a cafe, a spa, the retail space in Glen Mills, PA, and its retail website shop.terrain. (stay tuned for more info on that!). Terrain is very supportive of the bloggers and design community who have supported them over the past few years, and this event was a thank you and an opportunity for them to share their vision. 

TERRAIN ENDED OUR DAY WITH A DELIGHTFUL 8 COURSE DINNER ALL FROM LOCAL GARDENS AND FARMS. BLUEBERRIES, DUCK, SEA BASS AND PEACHES REIGNED. ALL HAIL CHEF KEITH RUDOLF (LEFT) OF TERRAIN CAFE ( RESERVATIONS HERE). UPPER RIGHT - THE STUNNING FIG + SAGE GIRLS MUG FOR THE CAMERA.
After its opening in 2007, Terrain at Styers its third year of operation, it appears to be a successful work-in-progress. Located in what was Styers, which was a family nursery which began in the mid nineteenth Century.  I typically would not attend such PR events but I new that this would be different, and it was. Besides, I adore Terrain and URBN, as many creative people do, so any chance to visit the place is an opportunity for me to get excited.  Thanks to everyone at Terrain for a wonderful day and evening!
FELT POCKETS PLANTED WITH COLEUS CREATE THE ULTIMATE GREEN WALL
TERRARIUMS ARE MAKING A HUGE COMEBACK, AND TERRAIN OFFERS AN INCREDIBlE SELECTION OF PLANTS, SUPPLIES AND CONTAINERS FOR BEGINNER OR EXPERT.
We were never asked to write about anything, and every moment was filled with fun things to do.  Terrain understands who their consumer is ( it's me), so even though we all knew that we were here for other reasons, it was OK, because we all love Terrain, and I think they know that. The folks at Terrain  actually remembered me from when Joe and I, (plus Margaret and Fergus our dogs who they served water to) stopped in last October, they have read my magazine Plant Society, and even visit this blog often for inspiration, so it's a win-win.
AIR PLANTS, OR MOSTLY TILLANDSIA SPECIES ARE BROMELIAD, PLANT THAT CAN LIVE ON MOST ANY SURFACE, AS LONG AS YOU CAN SUPPLY LIGHT AND MOIST AIR ( A DAILY MIST WILL DO). IN THE WILD THEY GROW ON TREE BRANCHES, BUT A WIRE CHANDELIER WILL DO IN A PINCH! YES, SPANISH MOSS IS ALSO A TILLANDSIA SPECIES. ALL DO BEST IF TREATED TO A SUMMER OUTDOORS IN THE SHADE.

Our day started with a lunch and workshops,  like "make a terrarium" which for the dozen or so lifestyle bloggers that attended, was a hue hit (OK, not really for me, so I skipped it, and snuck in a tour with a Steve the plant buyer and Greg the Creative Director). I had things to see, questions to ask, and shopping to do! Our day ended with an amazing farm table dinner in their restaurant, before we were whisked back to our hotel in Philly. I can't think of a nicer thing to do on a hot, August day.

Think about it – I don’t care how awesome your business is, It takes more than balls to invite the devil into your home to snoop around. The devil here, being those leading lifestyle guru’s –and I mean the biggies that I follow at work in my blog roll – Fig + Sage, Apartment Therapy, Design Sponge, Ez from Creature Comforts , Joy from Oh Joy!- yeah.....I know, the TOP style bloggers - how exciting! They are more really hipsters( I know, they hate that name) rather, they are the ones essential evaluate one into hipsterdom or not. And then some new blogs that I had not heard of, but who now are my new friends like the sweetie Hannah and her blog Honey and Jam, my neighbor in Marblehead, MA, the fabulous Katy and her blog Katy Elliott,  Chelsea Fuss and Frolic,  Caitlin from Sacramento Street and more. 


A BLACK COTTON PLANT ( RIGHT) EVEN HAD MAGENTA FLOWERS - WHO DESIGNED THIS THING? AWESOME, INDEED.

The next time I visit Terrain, I am bringing my truck. Prepare to be inspired, inside and out, figuratively and literally. I found fragrant bars of Cedar and pine  Soap, organic Japanese charcoal towels, Fall blooming Camellia trees balled and burlaped, hand-blown glass hummingbird feeders (with no red plastic), Imported Weck Canning Jars, red and white striped bakers twine. Plus, a dozen Crocosmia varieties in full-bloom, some amazing black-leaved cotton plants, Meyer Lemon and Olive Oil Hand Cream from Italy, Black Sea Salt, 35 varieties of ornamental grass, Variegated Cymbidium Orchids, Copper Haws Watering cans- you name it, they’ll have something you desire. 

If and when Terrain expands ( I hope it does, this is the third year of good numbers for the store, so we can only hope!), there are places where it can be even more awesome. More exclusive plant material, maybe mail-order plants, growing their own material, but all of that would be frosting on the cake, as long as they keep the quality staffing at other locations ( think - Whole Foods-type knowledgable employees).


Also, Terrain is not a utilitarian store in a hardware store way. What you wont find are giant pallets of fertilizer and herbicide, nor is it the place for rakes, weed wackers or wolf pee for that matter ( deer retardant). But it is a place to visit if you are looking to treat yourself or your garden with an awesome trough, a handmade container that you can't find anywhere else, a terrarium that will make your plant geek friends squeal- it's a place to shop and to get
ideas.
THIS BLACK SUNFLOWER WAS GROWING IN THE PARKING LOT! NEARLY BLACK, IT WAS EYE CATCHING. IN THE GRASS ISLE, I COUNTED 35 VARIETIES IN ONE ISLE.

All of this is happening in a time when the American garden center is still trying to define itself. Some are struggling to compete with big box stores, others are becoming behemoths of Proven Winners and Blue Hydrangeas - nice, but with little original thought or inspiration. just a nice cliche that sits somewhere between big-red-barn-that-sells-blue-hydrangeas, Osmocote and pink-rubber-boots. The third option for gardeners is the mom and pop store, the poly hoop house type of place that focuses on annuals or starts brought -in from other commercial growers. Terrain certainly exists somewhere in between all of these, yet the plant material is thoughtfully selected, they are well cared for, watered and fertilized, the staff is very knowledgeable and can answer any question you have, and the accessories are un paralleled - seriously. This is a company that has sourcing and buying great objects mastered ( Hello, Anthropologie!). Together, it is horticultural kismet. 
SOME PLANTS WERE EVEN NEW TO ME, A MUSSAENDA FRONDOSA ILEFT) WITH ORANGE FLOWERS AND WHITE BRACTS, BECAME A MUST-HAVE FOR ME.

Most garden centers rely on the same wholesalers, it's a business where most ( if not all) of your local garden centers must rely on only a handful of distributors. Trade shows and wholesale plant sellers funnel everything in, and therefor, there is little room for variation or customization Terrain is changing this model, significantly tweaking it up. For example, most nurseries make a phone call to their wholesale distributor for everything  from their annuals or Proven Winners® plugs (young plants), to their Easter lilies and Holiday plants.  

At the dinner that ended our day at Terrain, I was speaking with the head plant buyer, Steve. he was shared a story about how two weeks ago, while on a sourcing trip for Christmas trees in Oregon, he found a field of perfectly imperfect ‘un-clipped’ Christmas trees in Oregon…(yeah, 99 percent of farm-raised Xmas trees are trimmed to a perfect, dense, cone shape).  His grower was apologizing about a certain field not being trained at all, but all Steve could see was a field of perfectly natural trees.  The perfect un-clipped specimens (to the surprise and confusion to the grower).  Trees like these are more natural with bare trunks and lichens, and look not unlike vintage German Feather Trees.  Designers and people who know about them, crave them. ( like me).

Terrain is not cheep, be prepared to pay a premium price for true vintage, but the plant material is competitive and the quality makes up for any price difference. I can't put a value on total experience, but I have no problem paying .50 more for a Weck canning jar that I can take home right now. If you are cost conscious, just visit for the ideas.  Terrain is worth the trip if only to wander the buildings.  The displays along are inspiring. They are never fussy, just thoughtfully assembled in unique ways that make you want to replicate it in your own home. Take the time to look at everything, every detail is thought out.

To sum it up, Terrain is a blend of vintage and new, furniture and kitchen goods, rare plants and beautiful performers, hand made pots and letterpress stationary,  Curated books for the connoisseur and just about anything that a real gardener would be thrilled to receive as a gift. 


Terrain is living example of how many modern businesses can successfully grow and create a new niche simply by hiring the most talented people to work together - a true collective intelligence  all working toward the same goal, that of living a quality life. All of this, created by an assemblage of the finest of plantsman, antique hunters, artists, craftsman, chefs, stylists and stylemakers.  It is a more than mere store, it is a living toolkit for enhancing your life and style.

This just in....There are rumors about a second location in Westport, CT according to of all places, an automobile dealer site PSFK, but there is much work ahead. Regardless, it is promising.


August 1, 2011

My 5 favorite Design Tips for August



TIP # 1  GREEN IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST CHOICE-

As I depart for a secret event in Philadelphia today ( more on that later!), I thought that I might share some of my fav design tips for the garden.

We are so lucky today, with modern plant selections offering a plethora of choices far beyond green foliaged plants. Above, I tried using more interesting tints, and look how well it works. Black mondo grass, mustard-tinted leaves of a hybrid Heuchera (Hechera 'Caramel) from White Flower Farm, lime greed coleus (Big Blond), coffee colored Oxalis vulcanicola 'Zinfandel' from Proven Winners, and Canna 'Pink Sunburst' from Plant Delights.
TIP #2  EXPERIMENT WITH COLOR -

I know, it's so hard to break old habits, but the way I do it is by upgrading my garden floral palette as other fashion and styles change. This means, keep your eyes open. See a room color your like? Try using it as an inspiration for an outdoor room. Have a favorite dish cloth with just the perfect color palette? Why not use it as inspiration? A sweet dress, a perfect old table cloth that needs to be reinvented, even  magazine cover. Color today outdoors can be different. more than at any other time in history. Just remember these fact: 
------ Green is still generally your background palette ( your canvas), but there are options to green, but only a few. Silver leaved plants, brown, burgundy, reddish tones. Foliage will always be there, so resist picking flowers just by viewing the image on a seed packet. Unless you are picking them, you must consider foliage color since the plant will be 90% that color.

TIP #3  LIGHTING IS KEY, CONSIDER TEXTURE, FUZZYNESS AND REFLECTION

Don't laugh,but it's true:lighting is just as important outdoors as it is indoors, but you must think of 'light' in very much the same way as lighting designers do - forget harsh bare lightbulbs, and instead, focus on reflected light.The sun is your worst enemy.

 Take a hint from garden photographers, gardens look best not when the sun is out in mid day, but rather in the early morning and in the evening, just after the sun sets. The sky acts as a big reflection screen, and plants are designed to reflect or absorb light. The great landscape architects understood this, that's why Fletcher Steel would create a border of just yellow leaved shrubs, or why he would plant a red leaved tree in the distance, to create depth. 

I suggest that you try mixing grey-foliage plants like the above Agastache with golden-lime colored foliage plants like the Erica in the image above. Remember to plant in drifts, with at least 9 plants of each genus to create a significant brush-stroke of color and texture, otherwise, I single plant will only deliver a tiny peep - not very effective if you are looking for a big pop. Want to stop traffic? Use texture and light effectively.


TIP # 4  SHORT ON TIME? CREATE A COLLECTION OF SUCCULENTS, CACTI OR AGAVE.

Believe me, I have very little spare time, in fact I am always asked "How do you do it all?", but the truth is, I am a very lazy gardener ( and housekeeper, but more on that later! Clearly Joe and I never got THAT gene...WTF?). Anyway, the easiest way to create a display that requires hardly any care at all is to plant a collection of succulents. These may include cacti, Echiveria, Agave, even some Bromeliads. You don't need to know what you are doing even, you can even go to Ikea and buy a few $1.00 pots of succulents and pot them up for a sunny, summer display ( be sure your containers have drainage!).


But why not take an extra step, and order some long-lived high-style agave or succulents that you can keep over in the house in the winter? They require no more care than the cheaper type, but the colors and textures are much more interesting, and, they are more authentic, since yes, they ARE collectible by many plant geeks. Add an extra step and create beautiful tags for the amazing hand thrown pots that you are going to display them in. Any designer knows, 'it's all in the details' so go ALL THE WAY.


For interesting succulents try Mesa Gardens ( no pictures, but it's where the pro's go - just google the names).For Agave try Plant Delights ( above ) or Yucca Do.


TIP # 5  REDISCOVER ANNUAL VINES


last year I rediscovered annual vines, but they were so impressive and easy to grow, that I now have a use for all of those trellis' that we receive as Christmas gifts. One of the best combinations was a rather fearless  pairing of a South African vine, the Sea Onion (Bowiea volubillis) and the annual Cardinal Vine. Cardinal vine or Cypress Vine is a rarely seed annual that is in the Morning Glory family, easy as pie to grow, and only not seen because one must plant seeds in the spring, you won't find this as a six pack (or you shouldn't). This pairing seemed natural, if only because of the foliage texture that both of these plants have. The Sea Onion looks just like coral, and the Cypress vine has foliage that can be very fern-like ( last year, I grew another leaf form - be sure you buy the one you like best).