Archived entries for garden design

Borage is Beautiful

I love pairing edible plants with ornamentals! Here I think the herb borage plays very well with the dark purple tulips.

The Edible Front Yard

Upon seeing this book on the shelf, my hands went toward it as if drawn magnetically. Once I had a few moments to read through its pages, I found it to be colorful, unpretentious, well thought out, and useful.

There’s a good blend of plant descriptions, garden design ideas, practical advice on building soil, and using hardscaping materials. Personally, after seeing some photos in this book I’m dreaming of a concrete paver installation in my backyard.

My only slight criticism of the book is that for the gardener outside the year-round gardening bliss of southern California, there was a notable lack of maintaining an edible garden through the winter, and how to actually make it attractive through the long winter months. A few things I’d advise would be evergreen herbs (like rosemary) or plants with bright red berries or fruits (rose hips!) to make the front lawn gorgeous through the colder months.

There’s also a point in the book (“dreams vs. reality”) where the author states that tomatoes aren’t the best used in edible front yards, yet in the photo on the next page (and many other photos, upon closer examination) definitely have tomatoes featured. Ms. Soler even sports a cute bunch of tomatoes behind her ear in her bio photo! She does state that cherry tomatoes are the best bet, so I’ll have to agree with here there. Sure if you’re going to have to blanket a tomato with insulation in order to get fruit it’s not easy on the eyes, but personally I think the bold yellow blossoms, glossy fruit, and the distinct, amazing smell of tomato plants make it a perfect addition to an edible garden.

The Edible Front Yard by Ivette Soler.

Interview with Kate Turney, Landscape Designer

This post is the first in a series of interviews with people passionate about gardens or food. Or both! There are so many overlaps with design and the creative process when it comes to those two subjects.

As a little background, about 4 years ago I took an intensive, almost 2-month-long course on Landscape Design at the New York Botanical Garden. Kate Turney was one of my classmates, a talented woman with a down to earth vibe, warm smile, and amazing knowledge of plants and design. Here I ask her about what she’s up to, design trends in New York City, her personal relationship with design and her sources of inspiration. Hope you enjoy!

Hi Kate! I’d like to know in general what you’ve been up to since our Summer Intensive class at NYBG. Are you still working in NYC?

I’ve been working on a bunch of fun projects here in Manhattan. Everyone I work with brings great talents, energy, and knowledge to the work that we do. We try out new materials and innovative ideas.

Is there a favorite project that you’ve worked on recently?

Currently I’m doing my first mountain home garden for a client in the Catskills. It is a fun project because we are taking time to look at sun patterns, sit with ideas for months, etc.—rather than instantly create a garden, as we often do in the city, where people want the projects completed yesterday. It’s satisfying to see a client revise her ideas over time, to really sit with the possibilities and limitations of a site, a budget, where sun falls and where it doesn’t, where water collects and where water runs off—all of reality’s stipulations for that particular project. That’s the magic of gardens: reality. Time, the life cycle, how plants and animals and bugs interact, too much water, too little water, lots of heat, lots of cold. . . .

Continue reading…

Creating a Forest Garden

This book is fantastic.

For example, in the shrub species section of the book, I discovered some information that still amazes me: fuchsias actually bear fruit! The only reason we don’t know this is because most fuchsias outside of South America have been bred for their flowers rather than their fruit. The fruit is described as “reminiscent of plum with a peppery aftertaste”. Imagine a jam made with this fruit!

So if that isn’t enough to make you at least pick up the book, let me list these bonuses. There are plant photos along with the names and descriptions. The introductory chapters clearly define what exactly a forest garden is, and how maintaining it is a delicate balance. Too many trees and shade, your edible “crops” will suffer. But without the canopy growth, you won’t have the proper variables for growing certain plants.

Clearly written by someone that has a comfortable working knowledge of gardening, forestry, ecology, and farming, I also found out via Greenbooks Online that the author Martin Crawford

“has spent over 20 years in organic agriculture and horticulture and is director of The Agroforestry Research Trust, a non-profit-making charity that researches into temperate agroforestry and all aspects of plant cropping and uses, with a focus on tree, shrub and perennial crops.”

Buy Creating a Forest Garden: Working with Nature to Grow Edible Crops

Urban Jungle

Urban Jungle: The Simple Way to Tame Your Town Garden

I don’t really want to have to have to cross-reference while reading a gardening book. Most of the time, these design-oriented books are marketed towards amateur to moderately competent gardeners. Without a doubt, most books have a broad section with a heading like “Dry”, “Good foliage for Shade”, “Wet”, etc. This is followed by a glamor shot of a tree or floral close-up, and then the list. The list is anywhere from 5 to even 50 names, often in latin. Who are you guys writing for? Not someone in the trade. Come on. List the common name with the latin, and give at least a thumbnail of what it is that I’m looking at.

Book pros and cons -
Great: Figuring out what plants like facing a certain direction. Great notes on how to observe your garden’s conditions.
Good: Good Flowers by Month
OK: The wide list of topics
Not So Good: Organization and progression of the topics. Kind of felt overwhelmed, while at the same time only lightly touching on a specific subject.

Urban Jungle: The Simple Way to Tame Your Town Garden by Monty Don, $65(new) at Amazon.

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