Tone Change: Basket

The basket, below.  Changes the tone, with intellect.  A bit light hearted, a little sassy, nice narrative, good textural contrast.

Lightweight, easy to use.  Keep plant in its nursery pot, no worries.  If the bottom rots away, who cares, basket still perfect for your needs.  Use whatever rubbish at hand to raise potted plant to correct height.  Spanish moss at the rim, if needed, to hide the pot.

Best place I’ve found these baskets?  Thrift store.  Especially the ‘laundry hamper’ round (classic) or rectangular (modern) baskets.

Brought one home last weekend, $5, best find ever, about 4′ tall, round & tapered toward its bottom, the style depicted in 18th century French toile fabrics/wallpapers.  Go me !!

Destined for the front porch atop a table, sourcing the perfect plant after Thanksgiving.



Front Door Garden Design

One reason, below, I must see your home interior before being able to design its garden.

Was it obvious, at first glance, below, the problem?

A dark foyer.

Many houses I’ve designed the ‘matching’ glass door.  We source the door to match the existing front door, and our carpenter cuts away the panels, replacing with glass.

Have never tabulated a list, but so much about Garden Design does not involve plants.


Have had the opportunity to walk into several big box stores this fall, always going in via the Garden Center.  Vulgarians at the gate have won.  Literally.  Greetings via shelves, rows of shelves, dedicated to chemicals, and seemingly innocuous fertilizer.  Beware, n-p-k fertilizer is toxic to ground water, kills earthworms, kills mycorrhizal fungi on roots.

Had a knowing laugh reading Schopenhauer yesterday, “When we read, another person thinks for us; we merely repeat his mental process………read themselves stupid.”  Yep.  Me.  At the front end of gardening I read myself stupid.  Realized popular garden writing wasn’t for me, went back to college for horticulture degree, more stupid.  To the core of my DNA, knew it was stupid.  Thus began decades of studying historic gardens across Europe.  No more books, foot on Earth.

Then to Machiavelli, “A wise man ought always to follow the paths beaten by great men and to imitate those who have been supreme, so that if his ability does not equal theirs, at least it will savour of it.”

On to Seneca, “Men who have made these discoveries before us are not our masters but our guides.”

Further with Farnum Street, “We need to digest, synthesize & organize the thoughts of others if we are to understand….It’s how we acquire wisdom.  How we acquire foundational knowledge…..Without this foundational knowledge we are unable to separate the signal from the noise.”

Garden Design Course: In a Photo

More a Garden Design course, below, than simply another garden.  What can you label, below, as the Garden Design ‘rules’ followed?  Decades I’ve taught at the local college and Atlanta Botanical Garden.  Never, ever, tire of this phase of Garden Design.  Name it to claim it.  If you know what you are looking at, and can name it.  YOU can do it.

Color, contrast, flow, layers, mystery, expanse, minutia, shapes.

Color, did you know green gardens are the ‘fastest’ to look like something?  Green gardens are also calm, less drama, perhaps best said, more of the right drama.  Then, within the green are myriad greens.

Contrast, big leaves next to small leaves, rounded shapes next to cone shapes, woody plants next to herbaceous.

Flow, the pathway has me, feet want to travel, finding what’s around the curve, mystery.

Layers, all checked, pocket of open sky, canopy trees, understory trees, walls of tall bushes, wainscoting of medium bushes, low bushes/groundcovers are flooring & carpet.

Space too large, 100’s of acres, a garden room similar, below, nearish your house will warm & own the expanse.  Space to small, neighbors homes jutting into your face, a garden room similar, below, around your home, creates a huge landscape, eyes drawn to the expanse of canopy trees and sky, which is infinite.

Minutia of hair like foliage, velvet like moss on the trees, chartreus with dark greens and etc.  Drama change for winter, the garden, below, holds together in all seasons.

Understanding the Garden Design ‘rules’ and principles, above, please tell me this makes you laugh, below, in the ‘knowing’ what they’ve done, below.  Well done, dramatic pairing, fun drama with Garden Design ‘rules’.


Yesterday, my harvest table was finally unloaded from the truck.  Temporary location while ‘macro’ garden construction is completed, you know, drilling a well, graveling drives, renovating sheds, adding a porch, and too much other garden infrastructure keeping me away from my beloved ‘micro’ gardening.

Laskett immediately on top of harvest table, owning it.  Behind him, the materials yard awaiting its new barn.  Yes, chaos of materials yard getting on my last nerve.  Alas, at least another full year before it’s cleared.

Harvest table denotes 1st move into my shed, Beloved using my shed until his barn built.  “Where is the Gator going if you put your harvest table there?”, Beloved asks.  “No, they both won’t fit there.”, he responds to my answer.  I smile in return, thinking, “Go away, I’ve got this.”  Poof Beloved’s gone, I arrange table, Laskett & I do what we do so well together, bask in each other’s adoring presence, Laskett affirms every thought in my head.  Sitting a moment to shoot table/Laskett/setting sun, I glance at the open space for the Gator, with a smile.

With great pleasure, I walk to the gravel drive where the Gator is parked, crank it up, pull it into it’s new space, 2′ to spare, turn the Gator off, pull the brake lever up enjoying its sound, surveying the Gator’s new domain.  Beloved still working in back at the pond, Laskett & I walk to the house, gardening day done.

Best irony about my shed, it’s a century old, Beloved moved it last year, renovated it, new walls, new window, new door, new floor, added a tin roof to two sides, and it’s my shed.  We knew up front he had to use my shed for many of his things, many, until his barn is built.  Has been a great chapter getting here, I’m not in that chapter anymore.    You’ve already noticed this new chapter title, My Shed.

Thought you would appreciate a little raw reality gardening.

Why Fall Planting is Best

Fall is for planting.  A longer window too.  In my zone, 8-7B, have not lost plantings from late September through Christmas, bought from nursery.  Beware nursery bought plants after Christmas, they have residual fertilizer activity and not hardened against the cold.

Beware, too, camellias kept in covered greenhouses.  Nurseries keeping the blossoms ‘pretty’ for sale, yet weakening them to cold.  Won’t kill them, typically, to the ground, yet camellias bought in fall from a covered greenhouse, then planted ahead of a hard freeze will burn significantly.

Story line changes for fall & winter planting for plants already growing in your landscape.  Acclimated, I move them in winter.

Another fall-is-for-planting fact.  Best plant sales of the year are ahead of Thanksgiving, clearing space for Christmas trees.

Roots grow better in cool weather, better at getting established, versus roots being the workhorse for water transport to foliage during spring & summer.


I know, it’s counter intuitive, fall-is-for-planting.

Simplicity of Narrative

Last question, finishing a Garden Design, What can I take out and it holds together?

There is so little here, below.  Yet overwhelmed in layers of narrative.  I see a story/stories, below, you must, too.

Not, simple-gardens-are-the-best, it is simple gardens including narratives of classic aesthetics across the ages, tied to the life of their home’s interior, and owner, with an ease of maintenance, those are the gardens lasting centuries.


Front door, above, reminds me of a story I was told by a friend, decades ago, in Savannah, GA.  The story teller lived in the historic district.  The story told happened ca. 1950’ish.  An elderly widow lived in elegant deep decay in a large historic mansion.  Her handy-man, an African-American, took care of her, the house, garden, and it was well known he brought her food from one of the best restaurants, he waited tables there several nights a week.

More, they lived outwardly their proscribed rolls. Yet, within her home they were lovers, in a committed relationship.  Further, the city knew, yet lived the lie.  Protecting both, beloved members of their community.

The lady in the story, born 19th century, lived the story in 20th century, I’m telling you in the 21st century.  Her home still standing.

3 Gardens: What Changes Would You Make?

Three Garden Design ‘changes’, below.  Each gorgeous home/garden, snagged the attention of Muse at first glance, below.
Scroll thru, below, does your Garden Design ‘eye’ see instant changes to be made?  Never meant to bash a Garden Design, simply to make living better, or accentuate architecture with Garden Design as the tipping point.



Top pic, above, incredible quality, gate, pierced brick wall, plantings, urns.  Site urns a bit wider, their scale demands more space, once moved the gate/columns appear more generous, not so tight.

Bottom pic, above, a tightly packed neighborhood, yet the porch is mostly private.  Go team.  To add the illusion of a larger garden, stain the fence 2 tones darker than the kaki from the porch floor.  I would also espalier sasanqua next to the fence.

What did you see?  What changes did your eye want to make?

Changes mentioned were merely the basics.  Making further changes I must know the owners, and see inside their homes.  Excepting the middle pic, it would be ‘done’.  Did you notice the urns in the middle pic?  Reminds me of a recent client, her husband started pressure washing in their garden, and she caught him, and stopped him, before he removed the patina off every focal point.  Funny story now, only because everyone knows it was not funny in the moment, poor husband.

Furniture in the Garden: Choosing to Make it Recede

A trinity of furniture-in-the-garden pics, below, chosen for style, and to recede.  Beyond melding into the backdrop, these choices make each of the garden spaces feel/live larger.






Putting together your garden is not the flippancy of oh-I-like-that, it’s waking up, choosing to move forward, turning the page to a new chapter, accepting the historic layers of wiser minds, they’re there to work with you, their Muse waiting for your epiphany, it’s all for you too, sure, you’ll have myriad headwinds, you aren’t special in that, everyone does, some things will have to go materially/metaphorically, enjoy the light some bridges are best burned, warning you’ll lose some people in your life, but you’ll understand, in Truth, the deeper you go inward the more you outwardly connect to the people you’ve always needed in your life, perhaps deepest of all, if you are brave enough to truly create the garden in your heart the epiphany will arrive, you will understand, why G*d Almighty first created a garden.

Hidden Layer of Design in Plain View

In plain view all pics, below, the Garden Design affecting each photo.  A layer I’ve never read about in a Garden Design book nor heard spoken of in a Garden Design lecture, not mentioned in a garden show on TV.  I have written of it in past postings maybe 1-2 times.
Designing my previous garden I had no awareness I was creating this ‘unknown’ layer of Garden Design seen in all of the pics, below.
Living in my previous garden 30 years, beginning with bare Earth, this ‘unknown’ layer had to grow, perhaps 20 years worth.  Once arrived, I knew immediately it had been there much longer than my date of awareness.
Do you see this unspoken layer of Garden Design, below?  Do you have it in your home?
Enjoy the pics, below.  I’m a firm believer in epiphanies.  If you don’t know this layer of Garden Design I’m focusing upon, below, hopefully you will see it with your eyes/heart and be able to give it a name.








Rose Uniacke's home in London

Dovecote or Catcote

Dovecote, below, with a few adjustments I see something different.
Slightly larger, deeper, and sited at about 8′, with a chicken coop ladder.  Voila.  A perch for cats.


I can see my youngest, Laura, loving this.  She was conceived/born in my previous garden.  Her parents left by neighbors who moved away.
Until it’s made, a long while from today, it’s just another thing on the list, I get to decide if it goes onto the house, my conservatory or the coop.  Maybe by the time the carpenter is called, I’ll have convinced myself I ‘need’ 3 !


Simple is the Most Complicated

Centuries of story, below, in this French home/garden, wars, plagues, art, architecture, transportation, taxes, riches, poverty, gain, desire, love, grief, loss.  What remains?  Formality with agrarian.  The former, easily located, can you outline the agrarian parameters, and label them, below?
Two things, below, never mentioned in my measly USA horticulture degree.  If you’re a Garden Whisperer, they don’t whisper, below, they shout, in tears of joy or Wendell Berry poetry.
First, below, is the magic of Tara Turf.  Meadow with a mix of what the wind blows, choices that are planted, herbs, bulbs, etc.  Mowed at 1-4 heights creating formality, paths, guilds.  Just meadow, it has no name.  It’s literally biblical.  Earth as Provider.  Pastures & meadows, hallowed ground for pollinators, increasing crop yields by 80% with zero extra effort.  Tara Turf is unique to each site.  There should be myriad Tara Turf’s for sale.  Tara Turf Gulf Coast, Tara Turf Mid-Tennessee, Tara Turf North Georgia you get the idea.
Back to the agrarian parameters, below.  They are, expanse of meadow, feeding both pollinators & livestock.  Tallish meadow lapping the tightly controlled pruning of the topiaries?  Pure metaphor.  I adore this phase of maintaining a historic garden, rich in stories.  Tallish meadow lapping the topiaries cannot stay as a permanent feature, it would defoliate the base of the topiaries.
Second, the Poverty Cycle.  The landscape below is not a conceit designed in, it’s organically evolved.  A thread the worlds best historic gardens each has, eras of deep poverty, due to wars or disease.  Touring those gardens I learned to design using elements of the Poverty Cycle.  With zero Poverty Cycle, below, the garden would be entire shrub beds in various forms/shapes with intricate pruning, paths, bulbs, annuals, a morass of boredom, expensively maintained.


Before studying historic gardens across Europe, I thought the gardens, above, seen on TV or in books were a bore-bore-bore.  Amusing to look back at that ‘me’.  Those days were the 80’s and I certainly had every perennial and gee-gaw.  As Zorba the Greek so well said, The full catastrophe.
Where are you on the pendulum of the garden, above?  What do you see?  Do you like it?  Does the house intrigue you more than the grounds?  What is the metaphor of this garden, above, to you?  Why is this agrarian landscape better than HOA rules/restrictions subdivision?  Oops, a little book club question section.
Best part, and proof for this garden, above?  Looks good, above, and would look good at a 1959 3b/1b ranchburger.