Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In The Garden With Billy

On the momentous occasion of his retirement today, after 22 years with the City of Santa Barbara, CA, here's my experience of the landscape design work of Billy Goodnick (AKA Garden Wise Guy)

I was in Southern California recently, helping my daughter move into her first apartment. A bittersweet trip, to be sure. On the way home, I treated myself to a stop in Santa Barbara, so that I could visit my friend Billy Goodnick. Billy is a landscape architect, garden educator, TV show host, musician, and west-coast blogger for Fine Gardening Magazine.

Billy kindly offered to show me three of his favorite gardens; choice residential projects from over the years. They were all different, but with several common denominators: great clients, great hardscape and plant choices, professional execution, and ongoing development to help them reach their full potential. I was enchanted. Read on.

This garden is the newest of the three, just recently completed, and also the most contemporary. The homeowners had removed their lawn (yaaay) and created a large, private courtyard. It was up to Billy to add color and magic with the plantings. His palette is not only colorful but easy to maintain and very water-wise. In the top picture (behind Billy and his famous Red Crocs) we see Phormium 'Jester' Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset' and red Anigozanthus, underplanted with Grevillea 'Coastal Gem' and dwarf sedums. Delicious.

In the second shot we see the sleek front gate; I liked the way it was set at an angle, to create a sense of entry and privacy. And see how that simple pocket planter in the flagstone separates the pedestrian walk from the driveway, and blocks the view of cars even when the gate is open? Nice touch. Vivid orange Cannas echo the silky mops of Carex testacea in the foreground.

Inside the courtyard, a lovely flagstone patio is surrounded by generous plantings of Agastache, Salvia, Euphorbia, and Leucadendron that provide year-round structure and seasonal waves of brilliant color. The tree is a Palo Verde. Before, this large space was just walked through. Now it is as natural a spot to have a morning cup of coffee as the kitchen table.

Our next garden is much more typical of the jobs Billy and I do all the time; a full renovation from the dirt up. Before Billy came along, this house sported a shabby lawn and ancient, over-pruned foundation plantings. Billy got rid of the lawn (yaaay) and not only transformed the small yard, but also made it seem much larger by extending the hardscape and plantings into the parkway. Here he points out how the generous section of paving next to the street guides visitors effortlessly to the side stairs across the sidewalk.

I particularly loved these stairs. Well-done hardscape is beyond value to me in the garden. No matter what happens to the plants over the years, a feature like this will always be there to provide beauty, functionality and visual structure. Billy could have just marched us straight up the slope, or made us walk up the driveway, but instead created an experience of entering the garden and approaching the house that is elegant without being annoyingly meandering.

So people, this is where I get to talk about the value of the designed and built landscape. These are not fancy materials; they are readily available precast concrete pavers and wall units. Anyone could make one, right? Not necessarily! I enjoy designing hardscape, and I love seeing it installed well; that's the only way a designer can REALLY know whether their designs work! Theory is fine, and a plan can look perfect as a pretty picture, but it's a rare project that isn't refined in the field, usually to align it with elements that are simply not present in 2 dimensions (like a distant borrowed view or a seasonal shade pattern). And there's nothing more discouraging than seeing a good design executed poorly, or not at all.

What I see here first is, hello, a beautiful design. The lines and proportions of this simple structure are exquisite; I want to walk up and down it all day. Structurally the grade and pitch of the whole slope is satisfying. The paver choice coordinates well with the home's existing brick siding, and the color mix was thoughtfully executed. The cuts are divine. Philosopher David Kellogg Lewis said "Truly elegant design incorporates top-notch functionality into a simple, uncluttered form." Exactly.

The stairway nicely divides the garden into upper and lower levels, which for me always makes things more interesting. I like having things to place plants around and a reason for plants to be where they are. Garden structures give your plants something to relate to, and each in turn enhances the other.

I particularly admired Billy's restrained plant palette for this garden: blues, silvers and purples. Above Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light' (oooh!) and Correa pulchella 'Ivory Bells' are underplanted with Cerastium tomentosum along the front foundation of the house. Miscanthus is the featured player here: it emerges from winter, casts out its luxuriant foliage, blooms loftily until winter, then is cut back again. The Correa and Cerastium play the all-important supporting roles, and all is harmonious.

So here is the other big differentiator between the hand-made and the design-built garden: plant palettes vs. plant collections. A collector's garden is quite a personal thing really; if my client is a collector, that will often be represented more in their back yard and other private spaces. A front landscape is, to my mind, an extension and enhancement of the house, and is therefore more 'public.'

The successful plant palette in this garden includes sweeps of color, accent plants strategically placed to move your eye, satisfying year-round combinations, and thoughtful pairings with hardscape elements. Both Billy and I pride ourselves on our relatively short plant lists for projects like these: fewer varieties in greater quantity, all working together on multiple levels to create a whole new ecosystem.

Saving the best for last, Billy took me to his self-professed 'favorite place on earth.' Just look at those Cercis 'Forest Pansy' with that lush stand of a large-leafed Tibouchina between them. The foreground plant is yellow Kniphofia, underplanted with Dymondia, a great low-water combination. This home is on a busy corner, and was once quite exposed, but no longer.

Just around the corner is a raised planter in front of the fence that is closest to the street, filled with low-water plants. Here Billy points out a favorite color combination: a dusty rose Anigozanthus paired with a darker Phormium tenax. Several colorful vines spill over from the other side of the fence.

Here's the delightful surprise waiting behind those beautiful Cercis. A simple crushed rock path connecting the driveway with the side gate. Huge mounds of mature Chondropetalum tectorum do their thing underneath; I've never seen better specimens than these, and as always, took careful note of 'How Big Things Get!' A fragrant, climbing column of Trachelospermum jasminoides perfumes the air in spring. Correa 'Ivory Bells' appears here again, and the lovely purple Loropetalum chinense against the house echoes the color of the Cercis, and carries it on into winter when the trees are bare.

Here's the view from the opposite end of the path: the Chondropetalum and Miscanthus 'Morning Light" (oooh!) playing nicely together under the Cercis. This shot makes me think about plant spacing and garden layout. I'm not sure how wide the actual path is, perhaps 4'...when first built it must have looked huge in relation to the plantings. I love the way the plants alternately flow over the it; perhaps too much so for a public space, but for a private garden the effect is lush and charming.

This is the area where the path meets the front entrance walk and driveway. A tableau of Kniphofia, low blue grasses and dwarf Daylilies opens the area up and brings it down to a more human scale. I especially liked the simple boulder, set in Dymondia, that marks the entrance the path. Every garden needs a cairn or two to guide the way.

But the crowning jewel of this project was actually this tiny back garden. Here the garden collector aspect shows much more, guided by the designer's hand. The owners enjoy succulents, bromeliads and other epiphytes, so these are featured as accents and details throughout the space, like the vertical installation of Tillandsia and Spanish Moss against the house, (below). Above, a beautiful ceramic bench they found on their travels is an elegant focal point on a small patio, surrounded by flowing cascades of textural plants. Sitting there feels like being in the middle of a waterfall.

This garden is shaded by a mature California Pepper tree and a dense clump of Bambusa oldhamii. Other plants shown include Ligularia, Asparagus 'Myers', Green Phormium, Sphaeropteris cooperi, more Trachelospermum and a groundcover of Liriope 'Silver Dragon.' Billy has been developing this garden for at least five years; I think you'll agree that it combines the best of hand-made and design-built because of his careful attention over the years.

My last picture is meant to be a reminder of how fragile all of this is...ashes on the Tibouchina from the recent Jesusita fire that devasted the Santa Barbara region in May. What we create as gardeners and designers is ephemeral, even more so when care is not taken to see our visions through to their mature glory. I learned some great lessons from Billy about my role as a designer. And he has continued to inspire me as he recreates his life, post-retirement, along all new lines. His words and influence can now spread far beyond the city limits of Santa Barbara. I was glad to see such personal examples of his art, and it has been my pleasure to share them with you.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In The Garden With Laura

The first week of summer finally brought some heat to the San Francisco Bay Area, after a long cool spring with almost unheard of rain in May AND June. (Compare that to last year: no rain from mid-March to October.) It was a great time to build a new garden, and the majority of the plants in my new no-lawn front yard were planted in April.

My Rudbeckia 'Indian Summer' just started to bloom this week (seems a little early for Indian summer, but my infant garden will take what it can get!) These were planted from a six-pack in April, so they sure didn't waste any time getting down to business. Gotta love perennials. The big, clear, golden flowers glow next to the blue of the fence. They will get about 4' tall, and bloom well into fall. More about them later.

In other news, this is possibly my favorite ornamental grass, Pennisetum spathiolatum (Slender Veldt Grass). I had three one-gallon plants that I bought from grass guru John Greenlee when he came to speak at an APLD 'New Plant Introductions' meeting last spring. (This isn't a new plant, but John doesn't go anywhere without a trailer full of grassy temptation.) The poor things suffered from my neglect for a full year before they finally went in the ground; by then they were unpromising tufts of brown with maybe 3 green blades each.

I apologized profusely as I planted them above the garden wall. And they forgave, becoming the first of my plantings to get taller than the fence. It will become a perfect 3' hemisphere of fine, green blades with zillions of slender spathes (a mature specimen from my last garden can be seen on the splash screen of my website). It wants to be sheared back to a neat ball in winter, so that come spring it can cover itself with fresh growth (I can't abide thatchy grasses! Anything so inclined is cut to the BONE in January, no exceptions!) This is a nice grass to plant bulbs around, but not too close, it gets a wide, dense crown.

The main bed between the sidewalk and the wall is starting to look interesting. At first everything was SO small that it looked like confetti on a plate. People would smile politely and tell me how nice it was going to look 'when the plants get bigger' (I hate that! My garden has such great bones it would look nice with NO plants at all!) But now that the interesting colors and textures are starting to emerge, the smiles are becoming more than just polite.

The succulents are from my SF Garden Show score (I was given 2 flats of assorted 2" pots for my help creating the APLD educational booth). Seen here are Senecio madraliscae and Aeonium 'Thundercloud.' The orangey grass is Stipa arundinacea, an elegant, drought tolerant, evergreen favorite. This is a warm and sunny south-facing garden, so I used sweeps of blue/gray and blue/green plants to visually cool it down. The soft-looking perennial in the foreground is Salvia argentea (Silver Sage) which will form a huge rosette this year, and send up an airy spike of white flowers next spring. And of course, there are the Green Globe artichokes, grown as much for their fabulous looks as for eating (those leaves!)

A Tale of Two Rudbeckias
As I mentioned before, I planted a six-pack of 'Indian Summer' Rudbeckia about two months ago. But I didn't plant them all at once: I was in the middle of staining the fence at the time, so only planted two plants right away. The others suffered in the 'nursery' for a couple of weeks, drying out more than once. Finally the fence was finished, and the last four, rootbound and sulky, went in the ground.

The picture above shows how differently they grew. The plant on the left was planted right away, and has grown amazingly lush with the same soil/exposure/water as the plant on the right. And yet, the plant on the right is the one in the photograph above, blooming early! He's probably thinking he'd better get on with it; who knows what I'll do to him next! It's little 'experiments' like these that teach me about my garden.


I hoped you enjoyed this little 'sorbet' post while I'm working on a juicy one about my May visit with Billy Goodnick. We saw three of his gardens on a foggy Santa Barbara morning, and each was choice! Don't miss!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In The Garden with Alice

Last week I visited garden travel writer Alice Joyce (Bay Area Tendrils), and spent a delightful few hours in her charming garden, located just 20 minutes north of San Francisco. I knew I was meeting a kindred spirit as soon as I saw her Red Umbrella! We drank iced lemon verbena tea, and she shared the story of her garden, including the provenance of her impressive collection of plants. Alice's garden is a rich tableau (built one compact-car load of materials at a time) which will continue to evolve as the plants mature under her guidance.
Alice is an artist first, and this shows everywhere in her garden; from the clever use of applied color and found objects to the artful combination of foliage textures. It made me think about how different a hand-built garden is from a landscape that is designed and built all at once. Alice's sketchbook (above) filled with notes, lists, clippings, sketches and ideas, collected over the life of her garden, is quite different from the neat CAD plans and Excel plant lists that describe the design projects I do.
Few of my clients are serious gardeners; you will not find them pointing out the stunning combination of purple Corylus leaves and the vining tendrils of variegated Ampelopsis, as Alice does here. The gardens I design are valued and appreciated for their combined beauty and durability, and not so much for the special attributes and personalities of the plants I use.
So it is always a treat for me to visit a hand-built garden. I can appreciate the gorgeous plant combinations: some of them intentional, some happy accidents.

Here the fine purple leaves of Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace' are the perfect foil for the coarser green leaves of Lemon Verbena (the source of our tea, and easily the best lemon scented plant I know, including lemons!) Each of these plants needs some training to remain in bounds and attractive, especially in a small garden. Therefore, I might hesitate to use them front and center in a 'designed' garden, unless a skilled gardener is also on hand to guide them through the seasons.

One of the most challenging tasks for me as a landscape designer is choosing all the plants for a garden at once. This certainly is not the nature of a gardener, who acquires plants from a variety of sources over the years, tucking them in as they are acquired, and perhaps moving them about as they mature and their habits are discovered. Garden writers like Alice also regularly receive trial plants from growers, so many of her favorites came to her by chance. For me, that is a great way to build a garden, around a collection of plants.
Consider the beautiful combination Alice has created above...a bed of Gold Heart Ivy, through which Begonias and Lysimachia 'Outback Sunset' emerge and blend. This has taken years to achieve; my attempts to recreate would no doubt look pretty small for quite some time. The imperative to create landscapes that are lovely in infancy as well as in maturity might lead me to safer choices. But my personal preference is for these thoughtful, elegant constructions any day!

I particularly love how Alice used two accent colors, a rich Moroccan blue and a creamy yellow, consistently throughout the garden. Here sections of trellis emerge from the gold like gems, and the combination glows all year round.

Another lovely detail. Look at this beautiful piece, tucked into a shady corner. A simple wrought iron plant stand, topped with a lacy openwork sphere, both painted that rich yellow. So simple, so effective, the work of an artist. Such details cannot be contrived for a client out of thin air, unless they have the makings of them already.

An avid gardener, living in their garden day to day, year to year, knows the little touches that make their space unique. Knows the splashes of color that need to be added. My best hope is to inspire my clients to such details over time. To add these personal touches for them feels rather like presuming to name their children!

The other thing I pay attention to when choosing plants for client projects is their susceptibility to disease. Melianthus, for instance, which Alice is showing below is notorious in these parts for attracting whitefly. I might hesitate to invite an infestation into a client's yard, particularly if I'm encouraging them not to spray. But I'm willing to accept responsibility for whatever I plant for myself, and know that there will be wins and losses.
The other huge difference between a hand-built vs. a contractor built garden is, of course, the hardscape. How would I specify this gorgeous outcrop planter Alice created out of field stones and cobbles? Such a delicious little confection can only be created on the spot, really.
Containers are the other 'old friends' in a hand-built garden. I use containers all the time in my designs, and they are usually purchased all at once and coordinate beautifully. But my own courtyard is a wonderful hodge-podge of pottery purchased over the last 10 years or so, and therefore, like Alice's beautiful grouping below, much more interesting. It's nice when a client has a bit of a collection to start with. And containers don't have to have plants in them to work...One shallow vessel in Alice's garden below is filled with green glass; another year-round easy pop of color.
When I design for non-gardeners, I have to assume that the plants I choose will only receive minimal attention. They need to get along by themselves, and play nicely with their neighbors. For this reason, I pay particular attention and obey the rules regarding plant size and spacing.

But in my own garden, those rules are flexible, and I regularly bend nature to make my plants do as I wish. I think this is true for many gardeners. Alice described training her Cotinus to have the upright, graceful posture of a dancer. A gardener can decide exactly what effect they wish to create, and will deliberately choose plants that need guidance over the years to achieve their objective.
When I see a beautiful combination like this (Crocosmia, Cuphea and Teuchrium) my gardener's soul is satisfied. I realize how I have come full circle, from gardener to designer back to gardener again. Perhaps the two need not be so different after all, and that the true mark of my success as a designer will be in their synthesis.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Under the Red Umbrella

One of my favorite places in the garden did not have a promising start. It was a dry, lifeless corner, dominated by a large telephone pole, an aging wood fence, and the looming jungle of the abandoned garden next door. Maybe 15 feet square, it could simply have been a nice focal point from the patio, a colorful bit of garden to walk through to get to the side yard. It certainly wasn't going to be a lawn! Since I'm someone who would rather be in a garden than work in it, this seemed a natural spot for a peaceful meditation circle.

So that's what I made. A simple, 10' wide circle, ringed with my ubiquitous river cobble and filled with gold fines. In the center, 4 concrete pavers form a compass rose. A plastic sleeve sunk in the center holds an umbrella in the summer. In the winter, this northwest corner catches the sun. Simple concrete stepping stones connect the circle to the main patio. Look closely...what appears to be an opening in the fence is actually a mirror...it fools everyone at least once.

An overflowing pot water feature (look familiar?) and a statue of Kwan Yin are positioned as focal points from both the meditation circle and the main patio

The groundcover is Isotoma fluviatilis (or laurentia or pratia or whatever it is this week...I learned it as Isotoma, so there.) Both this and the side path were planted with one flat 2 years ago, just a couple of small clumps between each stone. It stays quite flat in the sun, a little flufflier in the shade. Peak bloom is in May, with a scattering of flowers until late fall.

The bamboo is Bambusa oldhamii...giant CLUMPING timber bamboo. These were planted 2 years ago from 15g cans...all of this is new growth since then. Each clump puts out a number of new canes each summer...I choose the ones I want to keep (they are easy to "wiggle" out when they are under a foot tall) and cut older, thinner canes as new ones come in. This wants to be a dense clump, but I prefer to keep them open, so the discipline will continue! The tallest ones are already half as tall as the telephone pole. Right! What telephone pole?

Last year I had a plain beige umbrella in this corner. It looked very sleek, but this year I was inspired to add some color when I spotted this beauty on sale for an incredible price at my local overstock store. I had wanted a plain wood pole too. Of course, the reason it was so cheap was that it had a defect...the pole had a curve in it. Which, for me, was the perfect solution to the one problem I had with my clever umbrella holder. Since the umbrella is not in a stand, it sits lower than it would on the patio. When it's absolutely level, the corners are dangerous to anyone over 6' tall. Since my sweetheart is 6'3", and I value his eyesight, having the umbrella curve was perfect. It also gives it a more casual look AND blocks the west sun better. I love a happy accident!
But the best part isn't how pretty this little corner now looks and smells, it's how wonderful it feels. This isn't a garden I dig around in all year round...spring and fall cleanup, a little weeding, plus a mid-season haircut for the Berkeley Sedge is all I really have to do. And that's good, because what I really like to do is sit under the Red Umbrella, and I do so several times a day, for most of the year. It is a place to relax and dream as I look down the whole length of my little piece of California.

When I have visitors, we go sit there. One night my sister, our friend Ruthie and I sat out there with our laptops (the Red Umbrella has WiFi, of course!) for all the world like the 21st century version of the quilting bee...pooled feminine energy, sharing time together, swapping stories (only sometimes the stories are on youtube...same thing!)

Under the Red Umbrella is where you will get my most sympathetic ear, my most honest advice, and my most creative thoughts. My neighbor slips over to share a forbidden cigarette and escape work stress and small children for just a few moments. She looks around and can't believe it's the same place it was before. And you know? It isn't.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Gardener's Stack 1: The Grande Dames.

I was reading Daffodil Planter's blog tonight (it's about Eleanor Perenyi...what a treat!) and was tickled to read the following in one of the comments:

"I just came across this writer in another blog (wish I could remember which one) and immediately requested the title from our local library...Another book the blogger recommended was Anne Raver's Deep in the Green, which is now also on my to-read list."

Gee, I wonder who that mystery blogger could be? Wow, this means somebody is paying attention! The commenter went on to ask for other titles, and all of a sudden I felt a blog post coming on. The Red Umbrella will have to wait just a bit longer.

So I've gathered up some more of my favorite garden books, and will continue to share them with you. Tonight I'm going to start with two Grande Dames of garden writing.

'We Made a Garden'
by Margery Fish (2002)
edited by Michael Pollan for the Modern Library Gardening Series

In the late 1930's, as WWII approached, Margery Fish and her husband Walter (long-time editor of London's Daily Mail newspaper) decided to retire to the safety of the country. Their friends assumed they would buy something neat and tidy and move right in. In Margery's words: "When, instead, we chose a poor battered old house that had to be gutted to be livable, and a wilderness instead of a garden, they were really sorry for us...how would two Londoners go about the job of creating a garden from a farmyard and a rubbish heap?"

This book is the story of how they did just that; and anyone who has ever tried to build a garden with an opinionated spouse (of opposing tastes) will appreciate what poor Margery went through. After Walter's death, Margery went on to finish the garden HER way, and become one of England's leading gardeners and garden writers. She published six other books, was named a classic garden writer by the Royal Horticultural Society, and welcomed thousands of visitors a year to her garden in Somerset. But I love this first little volume of hers the best. Read it if only to learn of the horrible things Walter did to Margery's delphiniums...

'Onward and Upward in the Garden'
by Katherine S. White (1979)

Katherine S. White was an editor at the New Yorker Magazine for 34 years. After her retirement in 1958, she wrote a series of 14 garden articles that appeared in its pages over the next 12 years.

Katherine was a passionate gardener who would think of nothing of wading into her borders in Ferragamo shoes and tweed suits...as her husband said, "she refused to dress down to the garden." I think of her every time I find myself knee deep in a project, wearing my "good " jeans!

Her articles were detailed reviews (often critiques, not all of them favorable) of the catalogs, published by seed companies and nurseries, that she poured over each winter. They were one of the only sources of information about plants and seeds for gardeners of her generation. After her death, the articles were compiled into a book, with a charming introduction by her husband, children's author E.B. White, quoted here:
"The thing that started her off was her discovery that the catalog makers--the men and women of her dreams--were, in fact writers. Expression was the need of their souls. To an editor of Katherine's stature, a writer is a special being, as fascinating as a bright beetle...'Reading this literature,' she wrote, 'is unlike any other reading experience. Too much goes on all at once. I read for news, for driblets of knowledge, for aesthetic pleasure, and at the same time I am planning the future, and so I read in a dream.'"
These books are like old friends, and I feel honored to introduce them. Please enjoy! Next up? Elizabeth Lawrence, I think...

Friday, June 5, 2009

How Did I Get Here?

In my first post I made the bold statement that my apprenticeship is over, but you know, that just isn't true. To mark the end of something, you kind of have to mark the beginning, and when I trace back through all my previous lives, I can't find a time when I didn't have an affinity for nature and a compulsion to make spaces beautiful and interesting. If my whole life has been my apprenticeship, then I think that any discussion of it ending is premature!

It's true: everything I've ever done has prepared me for what I'm doing now. From haphazard childhood vegetable and flower gardens, through my houseplant and macrame teens, to young mom needing a hobby to frustrated marketing exec needing to express her creative side. Eight years ago this week, I combined all of the above (and more) to become a garden designer, and have never looked back. Until now.

I can see that there were other, subtler influences. My toddlerhood in the Philippines...vague memories of exotic flowers, fruits and smells...geckos and tarantulas fighting on the screen door. Young childhood in Sunnyvale California, surrounded by cherry, apricot, plum and walnut orchards. My mother's casual and flowery gardens that hosted so many wonderful creatures, some of which you just don't see any more. (I was a total insect geek as a kid...other kids played tetherball, I looked for ladybugs.) Summer visits to Illinois, and the thrill of new midwestern flora and fauna to explore.

When I was 9 we moved to a house on a creek. Insect geek was thrilled...now there were fish and frogs and toads and snakes and lizards to find, catch, observe, release. That creek was a constant source of fun and entertainment for years (with various agendas as we got older, of course!)

My parents were also wonderful about showing us the best that nature had to offer: long, rambling RV trips to many national parks (today's picture, of my younger sister Lisa and me, was taken in Yosemite in the early 70s. It has always been a favorite because of...you guessed it...the Lupines!)

I did a year abroad in college, studying Art History at the University of Sussex, and it was there that I really came to appreciate gardens and the art of gardening. There is nothing so magical as an English spring (and nothing so welcome to this California girl after an English winter!) During spring holidays I did a solo walking tour all over Sussex, and fell in love with the cottage gardens in the villages through which I wandered. My friend Robin and I especially loved nature walks; our favorite one took us through mile after mile of bluebell covered woods. It was heaven.

So, when I first said my apprenticeship was over, I was thinking of the eight years since leaving my last "real" job, and all the work I've done since then to build my practice, support my profession, and leave a lasting legacy. But, what about the 15 years in marketing and advertising before that? Think I might have picked up a trick or two along the way? And those endless hours of Powerpoint... think they might have prepared me for learning CAD? You bet.

It is a great blessing to look back on your life and really see how every part of it has conspired to bring you where you are now. And if you are able to gather all those threads together and weave them into something warm, strong and beautiful? Priceless.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Water in the Garden

The other day, while working on my new garden gate, we needed to unplug the overflowing pot fountain that has been cheerfully bubbling away in the center of my front garden for a couple of months now. The difference in the space was immediate and palpable, like a desert when the oasis dries up. This got me to thinking about how much I cherish the sight and sound of water in the garden.

Whether it is simply filling a glazed pot with water and placing a small pump at the bottom, to gently burble away in a leafy courtyard, or building a more ambitious overflowing pot or rocky cascade, adding a bit of water to your garden can make a big difference. One caveat: as lovely as an overflowing pot fountain looks tucked into your flower beds, you must be careful not to let anything touch the sides...water can wick away surprisingly quickly, leaving your fountain gasping, not burbling. Another plus...wildlife of all kinds will find it almost immediately!

Do you have a corner that seems a little dry and lifeless? Just add water!