Seeking Inspiration

A Garden’s Best Font Size

Really a question of appropriate scale of plants and plantings, if you can’t read it without straining your eyes, then the font is too small.  A dizzyingly detailed landscape that is busy with a million colors and textures and fine leaves and so on cannot possibly be quickly rationalized.  Details are fine if there is an opportunity to be close to the landscape and if there is time to explore the landscape.  However, if it is being passed by at any pace or viewed from any distance, then a certain bold font, that is, plantings which are in some context massed together, is helpful if the garden or landscape is to be understood by those from certain distance or at a certain pace.
The size of font symbolizes the size of particular swath of species planting.  The size, at which reading or seeing the text or planting accommodates the most common and/or the most important readers or viewers, is the most appropriate.  Within a planting en masse, the gardener may plant more details on the interior, a more leisurely pedestrian level, to satisfy his or her need for finer points.  Or, a planting that appears en masse for its similar hue may reveal itself upon closer inspection to be a quite detailed undulation of multiple species without overwhelming the passer by.           

So...  is this font too small?

Allowing History to Erode without Erasing It

Layering design
Without destroying previous intent.
Having compassion for the past
While greeting the dynamic present.
Creating something new
That cradles the old.
Uninhibited creativity
Contentedly discovering restraint.
Embracing the native
And the visitor.


Old California Lantern Company

Old California Lantern Company does amazing work and they have excellent customer service.  Their fixtures are a bit pricey, but they are also art pieces and add a lot of character to the garden and to new construction.  Check them out. 

California & Palm Trees

California & Palm Trees go hand in hand.  For those who hesitate, thinking palms cannot survive the winter chill, there are options.  The Windmill Palm Trachycarpus fortunei is hardy to Sunset Zone 4.  If you want the instant architecture a palm provides or a plant to punctuate your ever-expanding botanical garden, this
is a great option.

A Windmill Palm planted next to a barn with en masse plantings of white flowering Japanese Anemone Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'  and Blue Fescue Festuca glauca 'Siskiyou Blue' is reminiscent of a Burle Marx modernist planting.

A small grove of Trachycarpus is to be underplanted with Lamb's Ear Stachys byzantina which performs hardily in the groves clay ladden soil.  The bees love it.

Urban Tree Farm Nursery

Urban Tree Farm Nursery is a great source for quality plants.  It provides excellent service, has an informative website regarding its inventory (with lots of plant info.), has excellent prices--order on-line and they have your order prepared for pick up or delivery (if you are close enough) in no time.  I highly recommend them.  They are located near Santa Rosa, CA.

Container Gardening

The sweetness of the white Snapdragon above is balanced by the patina of the terrecotta pot and the black granite.

A columnar planter of gopher wire and sphagnum moss below hold a small amount of soil and a nearly indestructible Asparagus Fern Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri'.  Laid on its side or upright, this container has an edgy look.

Choose plants that you see doing well in neglected landscapes or containers to ensure survival of your container plantings.  Use a hardy palette, a restrained using few plants and strong contrastin your design, a planter full of well amended, well draining soil and you will find yourself a successful container gardener in no time.  Don't forget to water once in awhile!

In the muted green ceramic planter below is a native Sword Fern Polystichum munitum rising from a prostrate, woolly, vigorous en petite masse planting of Licorice Plant Helichrysum petiolare.

In the terracotta urn-like planter under the cover of a porch is a Sempervivium succulent paired with year round blooming Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost', which did not survive unusually cold winter.  The sweetness of the flowering Euphorbia is balanced by the uncomplicated Sempervivium.

These planters generally thrive with little care.  Plant for neglect, that is use tough, drought tolerant plants.

Below Blue Fescue Festuca glauca consumes Wormwood Artemesia 'Powis Castle' in a planting reminiscent of a prairie.


Blur of Green

Too much greenery about this section of the planting bed seems to be the trouble.  With the burgundy Loropetalum chinense Chinese Fringe Flower planted en masse, somewhat, on the opposite side of the lawn, a burgundy foliage inspired bed seems to be the solution.  Planting multiple species in the same hue will add interest and contrast without looking too busy all the while creating a balanced look from one side of the lawn to the other.  Putting together the shopping list for this partly shady bed will have me seeing all red.

An Impromptu Terrace

A Forest Pansey Eastern Redbud allée with 4-9’ deep planting beds of ornamental grasses, perennials and specimen shrubs is troubled at present by unplanted areas giving way to weeds.  A quick solution in one large unplanted area was to utilize some slate left over from another project to create an impromptu terrace, whose placement along the allée and next to the future vineyard lends the passerby a place to pause and reflect back on a barn home and take in the gardens about the allée.  The area was quickly prepared by leveling and tamping existing topsoil and adding where necessary builder’s sand to keep stones level.  Green grout of Thymus pseudolanuginosus Wooly Thyme was planted in the between the stones to smooth and soften the transition between stones.  The unplanted areas were mulched with builder’s sand to discourage the growth of weeds.

Tazmanian Tree Fern--Understory Design

The area to be revised is a 2’ wide landscape planter running the length of the home divided only by a set of steps descending from a small porch.  The area is primarily viewed from the pathway running parallel to the planter and from the outdoor kitchen area.  An overabundance of unique species and forms and insufficient repetition cause this bed to look unremarkable.  By removing just one species, Nandina domestica, and then multiplying the usage of a couple of the others, the bed will appear more unified and flowing, allowing the handsome Dicksonia antartica to be highlighted as a specimen planting.  By expanding the plantings of Loropetalum chinense and Dietes iriodes, the exposed lava rock mulch will recede and the bed will appear tidier and will become easier to maintain as the plantings require minimal care relative to keeping lava rock looking neat.