James van Sweden Prairie Inspired Landscape

James van Sweden, CornerStone Gardens
Olive trees have a lot of character, but can be rather slow growing.  Mature Olive tree specimens are widely available and transplant well.  Included in the CornerStone Gardens James van Sweden landscape installation are mature Olive specimens, a Rosemary hedge Rosmarinus officinalis, a mass planting of Mexican Feather Grass Nassella tenuissima with randomly emerging albeit purposefully planted American Century Plants Agave americana and Genus Coreopsis and another flowering perennial planted as randomly but with a bit more frequency.  This is  particularly easy landscape to install and maintain, yet is quite useful, habitat-friendly and beautiful.

With the exception of the Olive, the plants are exceptionally fast growing an generally inexpensive, providing relatively quick gratification for relatively little money.  The Chinese Elm Ulmnus parvifolia would be a less cumbersome investment and is very fast growing.  If a gardener or landscaper is to care for the structure of the Chinese Elm as if pruning a bonsai, the tree's aesthetic quality may compare to the Olive.

Enhancing the elegantly simplified planting palette is a sculptural element peering up behind the rosemary hedge, which invites the visitor to travel the path to investigate.  One might find similar sculptural industrial elements that contrast nicely with this prairie type of landscape at a salvage yard or at ARTEFACT or Restoration Hardware.

Mermaid in Front of ARTEFACT

The rosemary hedge frames the planting, setting it off, which keeps the natural looking planting from appearing uncultivated.  I imagined this first as a planting for a front yard with the trees somewhat near the home though set off some distance by the broad path and potential terrace which might serve as a foyer for a home lacking such a feature meanwhile providing great curb appeal.  However, this landscape design would be equally at home in a backyard with the trees against the back fence and the grasses nearest the home.  What is appealing about the latter arrangement is when looking from the home, one has the sense of floating in a sea of grasses.  The movement of the fine grasses with the wind is delicate and calming.  Many of these plants are easily propagated and so when considering a landscape design on a larger scale, this planting is not only visually effective and habitat friendly, but also affordable and engaging for the avid gardener.


Reinventing Outdoor Dining Rooms

Bubble Room at the J Winery

You don’t always need to have a dining table to serve dinner. I recently visited the Bubble Room at J Winery in Healdsburg, California with friends for a 5 course pairing and had such a good time. We sat around a coffee table on a huge sectional with a fully set table. It was such a relaxing, fun, unique way to have dinner and facilitated lively conversation.

Behind an outdoor kitchen island is a dining terrace. Already, the space has a lot going on flanked by the kitchen, a lamp post and a fireplace. All of these will be softened as more plantings are selected and existing plantings grow in. Instead of opting for the obvious table and chairs which tends to suit only one purpose—a meal served all at once for a group and then generally is left vacant or if you do sit down at it alone, you feel like you need to be productive with so much desk height table space.

I found the perfect solution in charcoal twill cushions, a deep sofa (always check the depth measurement on outdoor "sofas" or you may end up with a well cushioned bench), coffee table and lounge chair. The pieces, selected are all from the Restoration Hardware Collection. These pieces will comfortably furnish the space while allowing for both multiple uses and a restrained uncluttered feel.

Always try to take stock when you are really comfortable and enjoying yourself in a new place or a favorite place.  Take stock of the people, the food, the wine, the environment, the furnishings.  Then, find a way to apply those perceptable good things to your lifestyle or use them to resolve an issue that has had you stalled. Summer is always just around the corner and winter is a really good time to find great deals on outdoor home furnishings.