Monday, March 30, 2009

Play Ground

This may be old news, but I thought it was interesting enough to call attention to. Here’s something to chew on. Sculptor Tom Otterness was commissioned to design a private playground. In bronze. Tin Man playground.

Photos from the Tom Otterness Website

This is what I would call “functional” art in the landscape!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour: Tonight’s the Night!

At 8:30 pm local time on Saturday, March 28, 2009 Earth Hour will commence. People all over the world will band together in unity by turning off their lights for one hour. The purpose is to “make a global statement of concern about climate change and to demonstrate commitment to finding solutions.”

Spread the word! Email your friends, family and associates and ask them to participate in this world-wide event. Ask your federal, state and local officials to do the same.

Lets stand together for one hour. Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm. Turn out. Take action.

My friend Ross in South Africa will participate. So will Christine in Kentucky. I will turn out my lights tonight at 8:30 pm. How about you? Will you join us?

To learn more about this important event, visit the Earth Hour website. To join the movement of global solidarity against global warming, go Here. Be the voice for our planet!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Outdoor Rooms for Living

Are you making the most of your living environment? Outdoor living is becoming more in vogue these days. Outdoor spaces, like indoor ones, should be designed for how we live. If you live in a climate that is conducive to outdoor living, why not consider a courtyard space or outdoor room?

Why do something like this …

when you can have something like these:

Photo by Wayne Strydom Garden Design

The outdoor room or courtyard is enclosed by at least two or three walls. These walls can be man-made or they can be living, green walls.

Secret Gardens of Sydney

The outdoor room or courtyard is considered a “concave” space. This is the kind of space that is the most comfortable space for people to experience. Psychologically, we feel protected and safe in this type of space.


Bohannan Courtyard

These spaces can be small and intimate.

Photo by amaryllis landscapes

Or they can be large and open spaces.

Photo by amaryllis landscapes

Often, outdoor rooms will overlook or connect to other larger spaces.

June2005 050


Suzman & Cole Design Associates

Always, outdoor rooms and courtyards are connected to the sky above.


These spaces can be achieved quite easily with a little foresight and planning. Why is it that so often we spend so much time planning the design of our homes, and fail to consider the design of our outdoor spaces?


Is it a courtyard or an outdoor room? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that these spaces, like indoor spaces, are well thought out and planned for how we live. What makes them so special is that they are designed for outdoor living and/or entertaining!

Photo and Design by Philip Nixon Design

How do you live outdoors? Is your outdoor space an afterthought or your favorite place to be?

To see what others are into this week, stop by Hooked on Houses, Fifi Flowers Design Decor or The Inspired Room.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Here is some work by my friend and classmate Richard Hartlage who works with AHBL in Seattle. Richard is a very talented plantsman and designer! Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!




… and some more views of the same property.

To see more of Richard’s work, visit ahbl.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Green Roofs + more

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m hooked on GREEN this week!

Green roofs such as these have been around for decades.

Sod or turf roofs have been very common in Scandinavia since the days of the Vikings.
There are many urban applications in our modern world.

Chicago City Hall

ACROS Fukouka Building in Japan

Germany is considered to be at the forefront of Green roof technology. 10 per cent of it’s flat roofs are planted with some sort of vegetation.

Europe leads the world in the construction of green roofs.

Art and Exhibition Hall, Bonn, Germany


Perhaps, the rural or residential applications are even more numerous than the urban ones.

The design of green roofs is not all that complicated. Many layers must be applied to the surface of a building before the plants can be planted. These layers include waterproof membranes, drainage layers, root barriers, soil medium and so forth.

It is my understanding that here in the US, most of the plants used in green roof construction are succulents, or those that can withstand extreme conditions such as intense heat, drought, wind and so forth. In other words, they need to be “super” plants!

To learn the basics of Green Roof installation and design, watch this video from You Tube.

Watch the Video to learn how green roofs work.

The advantages of green roofs are many! Here are just a few:
  • Less runoff! Runoff is the number one pollutant to our waterways! Green roofs absorb water while other roofs shed all water creating polluting runoff.
  • Improved air quality! Air quality improves in both temperature and traffic dust. Traditional black roofs absorb heat, making the interior of buildings hotter and more costly to cool.
  • Sound barrier. City noises are muffled.
  • Experiential. The way people experience the roof landscape changes – People prefer green over blacktop.
  • Solar Applications. They insulate in winter and cool in the summer, cutting energy costs.
  • More habitat. New housing for various species like plants, flowers, mosses and small life like bees and birds.
  • A reduction of city hardscape. Hardscape areas in the city are very hot as they absorb heat during the and release it throughout the night. That is why temperatures in cities are higher than their rural counterparts.
  • Reduction of glare. Traditional roofs produce high glare. Green roofs reduce it making it much easier on our eyes!
Visit this site for a more detailed timeline of green roofs. If you are interested in learning more about green roofs , visit Green Roofs for Healthy Cities is another excellent source of information.
Another interesting and green phenomenon is the Green Wall or Vertical Garden. French Botanist and Artist Patrick Blanc has written a book called Vertical Garden. He has developed a patented system of growing plants on any vertical plane indoors or out using wire, drip irrigation and a growing media. Here are some of his installations:

He only uses plants he finds in nature that grow on rock surfaces. Therefore, their natural setting is vertical.

This one is indoors at Sydney’s International Airport.

It truly is stunning! Isn’t it?

It’s very “hip” to be green these days! Hope you enjoyed your St. Patrick’s Day. To learn what others are hooked on this week, visit Hooked on Houses or Fifi Flowers Fashionable Friday.

Monday, March 16, 2009

March Plant of the Month - Daffodil

Along with the robin,

Nothing says “Spring is Here” quite like the Narcissus or daffodil!


As a garden designer, one of my foremost goals is to create a garden where plants bloom 12 months out of the year. I am also very fond of garden dynamics. This occurs when the look and feel of a garden changes from season to season. In order to achieve this effect, one must use plants that ebb and flow through different seasons of the year. Obviously, a knowledge of plant bloom times in your area is a must.

Also, the use of flowering bulbs can help you achieve this effect. Every garden design I create includes flower bulbs and they always include daffodils! These bulbs are among the toughest and most reliable plants I know.

There is nothing more beautiful to me, than to see naturalized daffodils in Spring.

There are all sorts of wonderful varieties out there. Some of my favorite sources for daffodils are Dutch Gardens and White Flower Farm.

Photo by kaycatt

When I plant daffodils in the residential landscape, I always put them in a bed of liriope such as this.

Photo by snjdavis

Or this …

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Imagine that beautiful bed of liriope transformed each Spring by the color yellow. It could be sensational!

In this way, the daffodils come up each Spring and completely change the appearance of the bed without compromising the integrity of the design. The foliage of the daffodils and the liriope is similar in size, shape, color and form. Year round, you have a lovely evergreen bed of liriope until the Spring when suddenly, the yellow daffodils transform it into a mass of yellow. Stunning!

Photo by Garry Platt

Another good reason for daffodils is the fact that deer won’t touch them. They are tried and true deer-resistant plants and require little to no maintenance. Now, that’s my kind of plant!

Daffodils should be planted in the garden in Fall. They should be planted in full sun to part shade in well drained soil. The soil should be amended with compost or another organic material and bone meal at the time of planting. Watch this P. Allen Smith Video to learn more about how to plant daffodils.


To learn more about daffodils in general, visit the American Daffodil Society.

Photo by alicemariedesigns

Happy Spring!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Make an Entrance

Your entrance says a lot about you. It is the first thing that the eye should see when viewing a property.


Visitors should not have to guess where the entrance is or how to find it! It should be obvious.

AHBL Entrance

Photo and Design by AHBL

Plants and paving should compliment the architecture of the house and be pleasing to the eye.


Photo and Design by AHBL

Entrance plantings should be bright enough or interesting enough to catch the eye. DO use bright colors to catch the eye!


If the entrance is not a front entrance, than plants and hardscape should reinforce the message “enter here” or “come this way.”

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

The journey from street to front door is experiential. There should be a nice progression of space or spaces leading to an entrance that is pleasing to experience.


Plants and paving should always work together to lead the way to the entry.

Photo by Exterior Encounters

Your entrance is often one of the first things your visitors will see of your house. What does yours say about you? Is your entrance appealing and welcoming? Or not?

This week, I’m hooked on well-designed entrances! To see what others are hooked on, visit Hooked on Houses. Have a great weekend!