Stone By Stone

A long period of vacations enabled me to start writing again with more fresh ideas for you. Hope you enjoy!

Gabion wall, below, taming a slope.



Gabion wall, above/below, total environment creation.  Outside the wall, intersection of 2 dusty roads & industrial views.


We ate at this restaurant just outside Progresso, Yucatan, above, after visiting the Mayan ruins at Dzibilchaltun last week.  Aside from known Mexican beers, they made, on site, 9 IPA’s.  I had their Belgian Blonde Ale.  The food?  Terrible having such a good meal, and IPA, knowing nothing like it back home.

The restroom zone had a wall of windows, with views into more gabion walls.  Wildly effective, using what’s at hand, limestone.  As if the restaurant merely arose from the ground.  A mentor, Mary Kistner, said it best, It’s what we do with what we have.


Classic Button Top

Lush, easy, pretty all year.  The classic button top, below.


No words for such lovely picture below….


It also works out perfectly fine in winter.


All, good choices, none the tired, shag carpet, avocado green, stale pots I was taught to plant in college.  So bad, they shall not be represented here, yet I see them still, proudly touting an era past its prime.  Doing that style now, for me, is jet stupid.  “If stupid could fly, you’d be a jet.”  Love this little quote, great way to detach, remembering it, once I’ve done something stupid, again.  Jet stupid is difficult to eradicate.  It’s Anne of Green Gables, I may do something wrong but never the same wrong thing twice.  With age, it’s confounding what jet stupid whips up at times.

Speaking about her sister, the wildly successful Nora Ephron, “Delia Ephron sounded one cautionary note on the subject of her sister’s expertise in all matters large and small.  “Ten percent of the time, Nora’s wrong.” she said, “and you never know what the 10% is and it’s really scary — you know, ‘ Could this be it ? ‘

The Well-Placed Chair

Touring historic gardens across Europe for 2+ decades, it took only one trip to ‘see’, The Well-Placed Chair.

Most gardens had a chair, simply put, creating a still life.  Never seemingly pre-planned.  Serendipitous.



Every garden needs a pair of matching chairs, comfortable, interesting, sited as a layer of still life.

Chair, below, in my garden.  Flower petals appear photo shopped, they aren’t. Better, how many times have I sat in the chair for a phone conversation or lunch, and hummingbirds whiz overhead.  How many more times would I be upstairs, look out a window and see a cardinal or blue jay perched atop the chair?

More than creating a still life, the Well-Placed Chair creates a well lived garden.  How could I have given to myself the gifts Nature has given, in tandem, with the Well-Placed Chair?

Don’t you want it for yourself ?



By the way, and talking about flowers, you can find beautiful ones at The Bouqs for your garden and also for your Valentine.


Front Door: Well Placed Pots

Well placed pots, below.  Aaaah, the front door, and landing, have space to breath.

And a well fought battle, for simplicity.

There’s more, below.  Did you see it immediately too?  Ok, huge hint.  Goes under the heading of Cultural Anthropology.

No?  Another hint?  Subhead, under Cultural Anthropology, Socioeconomics.  Got it now?

Garden Design, below, blares its socioeconomics & cultural anthropology of this fine tuned realm within Garden Design layers.

What does this Garden Design and maintenance tell you about the socioeconomics & cultural anthropology for this tribe of people, living in the home, below?


Beautiful display, above, of the socioeconomics & cultural anthropology of hedge pruning.  Here, above, the ‘hedge’ is Vertical Lawn, and a vine.  Am using ‘hedge’ flagrantly.

Men, with ladders required, above.  Perhaps there’s more to this home, higher hedge covered walls at the back elevation, and a cherry picker is required for pruning.

In most gardens the socioeconomics & cultural anthropology of Garden Design pruning is pruning at chest height.  No ladder, no hired labor, do-it-yourself.

Yes, an exquisite delight seeing the pruning, above.  For its rarity.

Saul Zaik: Integrated Indoor & Outdoor Spaces

Zipping with speed thru pics, this deck, below, stopped me.

A hearty bravo to the brainwave.  Then, overdose-on-a-theme, the roof !

Another bravo to whoever designed the interior of this home, from my favorite vantage point, the garden.  Landscaping along the windows is a bit odd, glass rectangle edged with ferns, creating a terrarium’ish style.  What to do instead?  (First, replace sofa with a pair of similar styled chairs, that turn 360.  Why the fortification of sofa only looking in?)  Remove ferns & existing path, replace with bluestone rectangles, sized in width from outer edge of deck, fully to the house, scaled in length to each window, spaced the same distance apart as the window frames.


Color of patio chair, echoed inside with the bowl, and dark gray from chimney top to foundation.

Next.  Axis looking into the home is marvelous.  What is its opposite axis?  Double axis.  If you have a focal point in one direction you must have another in the opposite.  Has me curious.

Lawn & large shrub at corner are thriving, sculptural.

Almost a Garden Design course in a single pic.

Notice the gutters at the roof line?  Great example of darkish color rising up into the roof.  Too often, gutters are painted much lighter than a roof, pulling the height of the roof lower.  Another counterintuitive Garden Design layer.

How To: Break Garden Design Rules

Made me laugh, below.  Know why?

Think back to a Garden Design Rule.  Broke it here, in triplicate.  Backhand down the line winner.

Shooting this Garden Room, many angles can be shot, proving this particular Garden Design Rule reigns.  Pull the shot back, Garden Design Rule broken.

Know the Garden Design Rules into your DNA, break a Garden Design Rule when it makes your soul smile, a wicked smile.  That’s what made me laugh, below.

Garden Design is a language.  In the beginning, Garden Design was what I wanted it to be.  Rules?  Not for me.  In time, a koan arrived.  In bed last nite, zero desire to read on my phone, instead, wildly strong urge to read from a book, though the lamp would have to be turned off.  Oh my, the bother, yes?

Two books, grabbed, Daily Strength For Daily Needs, by Mary W. Tileston. Recommended by Celestine Sibley, a well known columnist for the AJC when I moved to Atlanta over 3 decades ago, and used in many of her columns thru the years.

Thomas (1795-1880) Carlyle, puts it clearly about why you must break Garden Design Rules, “Know that ‘impossible’, where truth and mercy and the everlasting voice of nature order, has no place in the brave man’s dictionary.  That when all men have said ‘Impossible’, and tumbled noisily else whither, and thou alone art left, then first thy time and possibility have come.  It is for thee now: do thou that, and ask no man’s counsel, but thy own only and G*d’s.  Brother, thou hast possibility in thee for much: the possibility of writing on the eternal skies the record of a heroic life.”

With this quote, above, Tileston chose, Matt. xvii. 20, Nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Along with,

So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low. Thou must,
The youth replies, I can.
R.W. Emerson



Garden Design Rules, now I trust them, knowing how to break them.  More, they are the tools to break them with.

Garden Design Rule broken, above?  Garden Design Rule: One Focal Point per Area.


Marital Counseling

For 3 decades I’ve had the honor of being hired to design residential gardens.  Included is the privilege of being asked into my clients homes.

Aside from noticing the transition across the years, “Do you want iced tea?”, to, “Do you want mosquito repellent?”, to, “Do you want a bottled water?”, I’ve noticed how people live their lives, their relationships, children, responses to life not in what they say but how they pattern their home.

Then there are the babies.  Many of those babies are out of college & their mom/dad have hired me as a gift to design their first home.  How can this be?  I’m already wondering ‘when’ will I design a garden for my ‘first grandchild’?

Of course there are the divorces.  One particular divorce I kept both ex-spouses, when each remarried, I designed those pair of homes.


During one Garden Design, over a decade ago, ‘mom’ & I were talking the garden while her children and their friends were playing a theatrical dress-up, swords & crowns included, performing across the backyard with whirls through the kitchen where we were talking.  The family dogs were part of the theater too. One of the funnest, enriching homes I’ve been in.

Last weekend this particular ‘mom’ called me back.  Time to enclose a front porch, change some windows into doors, turn a patch of Earth into a stone terrace, and lastly, remodel the kitchen.  We’ll be doing it all in layers.

Life is still percolating richly in their home.  In their early 20’s both children still live at home.  This time it’s mom whirling and performing.  She’s mere years away from retiring, a French teacher at the local school, and just finished licensing for being a yoga instructor.

Here’s the deal with their happy home.  All are thriving, and mom/dad are going to a marital therapist learning how to get their children to move out.  I get it.  Both sides.  Their home is a love fest.

This theatrical will end well, interesting, but well.


Mid-Century Ranch: A New ‘After’ Pic

Most mid-century USA ranch homes still wear their 1st landscape installation.  A landscape predicated by banks for builders to close their construction loan, and get the certificate of occupancy issued.

Starting from that point, for improvement, using existing plants, moving a few, getting rid of some, adding 1-5.  Copying the aesthetic, below, “With a little imagination.”, (Anne of Green Gables), a landscape suffering the uglies for over half a century, enters the new century, with beauty, simplicity, and a setting for the home instead of a detractor to the home.

Truly, this landscape design, below, is art.

Great for a non-gardener, and even better for Aging-In-Place.  Within a subdivision, if those original ranch landscapes decided to reform into, below, the entire subdivision would experience a bump up in value.  No small feat to transition from ugly to pretty.  Happy, is the result.  Home value bump, lovely, but happy is the hunt, priceless.


This garden, above, is the fine line of green meatballs/bad vs. green mounds/good.  Yes, love the piquant success of this landscape, above.

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.