Friday, February 24, 2012

Create, then Edit = Design

Once upon a time I would stand in front of a classroom of high school students and say, "You are going to write for ten minutes.  You're going to put your pen on your paper and write without stopping.  If you cannot think of what to write next, just repeat the last word you wrote until you think of the next word.  Remember, the point is to keep writing, to keep creating.  You're not going to stop and think about what you've already written, or stop and think of how you want to write the next sentence.  You're not going to edit.  For ten minutes you're going to write without stopping.  You're going to create."

There are times, when I first talk to a Design client, that I'm reminded of this writing exercise.  During our first conversation a client might say she knows she wants things in her garden that she cannot have.  She doesn't have the money, or she doesn't have the room, or she wants something that probably won't grow here.  And I hear editing interfering with creating.
The best Garden Design, just like the best writing, happens when one creates and, then, edits.

When I begin a Design collaboration with a client I encourage her to tell me everything she wants in her garden, everything she has ever wanted, everything she can imagine wanting in the future.  At the beginning of the creative process we need to be uncensored.  We need to imagine what we want--a water feature, multiple roses, a secret garden.  We can eat and entertain in our garden, we can find a quiet spot to sit and read, we can grow a climbing rose outside the dining room window, we can find space for a red-stem dogwood with winter-blooming hellebore tucked beneath the branches.

Before editing begins there is the dream garden.  And good Design will result in that dream becoming reality.
(David Olinger took the pictures in this post.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

After the Show

Thirteen years ago, the first year I did the Flower & Garden Show, I woke up sick on Monday, the day of move out, and had to stay home in bed while others took down the garden.  I was so sad at the thought of tearing out the garden I had made myself sick.  
Moving out lacks the excitement and creativity of moving in.  Everyone is tired and dreading any surprises or delays.  One year we realized all the CLEMATIS, which we had borrowed and would now have to buy, had died after eight days in steer-co.  Another year we discovered the water feature had not worked throughout the Show because it had been unplugged. (of course we felt foolish we had not thought to check that).  Last year those of us who had gardens in the lobby learned, during move out, that we had to haul the sawdust and steer-co used to build our gardens into the convention hall--luckily the Show found us a wheelbarrow.
During the Show there were lots of comments about the stone, the glider, and the screens.  People liked the black hellebore and black catkins, which look like fat black caterpillars.    
By far the most raved about and asked about plant in my garden was the almond-scented ABELIOPHYLLUM roseum, or white forsythia, although it is not in any way related to forsythia and, in this case, is pink.  Most of us enjoy scent in the garden at any time, but in the middle of the winter--to see a plant that blooms and smells good in January and February is a treat.
Another scented, winter-blooming plant is RIBES laurifolium, the evergreen currant, which shared a container with a green-flowered hellebore.
Many people had and shared an opinion of the container lying on the patio.  One of the reasons I liked it was that it extended the levels of plants in the garden:  the conifer and black-leafed HEUCHERA (coralbell) are on the patio floor, the white hellebore grow in a short container beside them, and overhead bloom pink hellebore.  
  This year move out went smoothly.  Our truck could not get on the floor until four.  We had it loaded and our area swept in probably forty-five minutes, and we left  just in time for rush hour in the middle of downtown Seattle!  So we finished unloading the truck in the dark.
I like the look of dissolution in the picture below.  The containers have been emptied and dirt spilled on the stone.  Many of the cobblestones have been removed.  The paper towels and empty black plastic container and coke can are ordinary.  
The pink-frosted cupcakes made it through the Show.  In years past people have entered the gardens and helped themselves to some of the food.  This year a little girl walked in and stuck her finger into the frosting on one of the cakes.  And then she walked back to her mother, sucking on the frosted finger.   


Monday, February 13, 2012

F & G Show, day 9

I called this "A Garden of Fragments" because I think of it--a small patio garden--as a collection of plants and plantings, of furniture, of "things" from other, or previous, gardens.    I imagined a gardener, a woman who is about to enter her garden and sit on the glider and sip tea and eat a cupcake and read some poetry.  She has put together this garden from bits and pieces, from what she already owned and from what she got new. 
So, silvery in the container beside the glider is an old Christmas tree ornament with a scratched pink surface that picks up the pink of the hellebore flower hanging above it like a tiny umbrella. 
The white pillow and the shawl draped over part of the glider are a few years old, and the green cloth and teapot on the wooden bench belonged to her grandmothers.  The bench, covered with a thick layer of peeling green paint, looks ancient and has been in her family for two or three generations.  
Above, a celadon creamer embellishes a celadon container planted with greenish-white flowers. The creamer is part of a set dating back to the thirties.  The plant combination has been used before:  there is a cluster of HELLEBORUS 'yellow lady,' more green than yellow, paired with RIBES laurifolium, an evergreen laurel currant, with sweet, pendant, greenish-white flowers.  (Also visible are the surprising leaves of ASPLENIUM scolopendrium, the hart's tongue fern.)
A white creamer, and a dusty rose sugar bowl and creamer decorate other containers.  And old white door handles nestle beside the hellebore and sweetbox in the rusted so-old-it-is-collapsing bucket. 

The screens, rusted and even bleached by exposure to the weather, have been used in other gardens.  The camellia is new, but the same one grew in another garden and brightened many gray winters.
And so the garden comes together.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

F & G Show, day 8

A Garden of Fragments
Aged furniture.  Fabric from a grandmother's trousseau.  Another grandmother's tea cup.  The order of black and white.  Romancing pink.  A delicate conifer, black coralbell and unusual fern tumbling from a container, re-creating a fondly remembered combination from another garden.  An outdoor room.  Afternoon tea.  Bit and pieces.  The leisure to enjoy the history creating the garden's story.

Friday, February 10, 2012

F & G Show, day 7

The hellebore and SARCOCOCCA above are planted in an old rusted bucket my sister has owned for years.  Because the screens running across the back of the Show Garden are a rusted metal I felt there needed to be something rusted elsewhere in the garden.  My sister's garden offered this bucket.
Clearly the bucket is quite old.  Above is a spring planting:  pansy and a lime HEUCHERA and a brown CAREX--I think it might be 'cappuccino.'  Part of the side has rotted away, so any planting has to be seasonal.  
Because the SARCOCOCCA, or sweetbox, is scented--it smells of vanilla--I wanted it at the front of the Show Garden, so I knew that would go into the bucket.
 I always have liked white hellebore and sweetbox planted together.  The tapering leaves of the sweetbox are a good contrast with the larger, wider hellebore leaves.  And the anemone-like hellebore flower is nicely substantial next to the white wisps of sweetbox flower.
The moss covering the surface of the soil in the bucket is a lighter green than the leaves of the two plants, and the old white doorknobs I placed around them lighten the dark green and the rusted bucket.
The HELLEBORUS is 'winter song, a niger, that started blooming in December.  The flower is quite upright, unlike the usual drooping hellebore flower.
A number of people have commented on the sweetbox scent, and a few have asked for the name of the hellebore.  No one has mentioned the connection between the rusted bucket and the rusted screens.  Yet I think that link is part of what allows people to enjoy the garden.


F & G Show, day 6

Thursday, the second day of the Show.  I've done it for thirteen years and for some reason Thursday is always the day I feel tired.  There are moments when I want nothing more than to be curled up at home with my cat, under a warm blanket, falling asleep watching Food Network on tv.
Yesterday and today the Display Garden area has been crowded.  Lots of people taking pictures, asking questions:  where does the stone come from, is this plant hardy, will the container break during the winter.
Above is a picture of the glider in my garden seen through the twiggy branches and pink flowers of an ABELIOPHYLLUM roseum.  Everyone walking by wants to know what this plant is.  
Abeliophyllum blooms in January and February.  When we brought it into the Center on Saturday each branch sported minute pink buds.  By Wednesday morning, the first day of the Show, every bud had opened and become a small, sweetly scented flower.  It looks delicate, almost wispy, but this is a winter blooming shrub, standing up very well to our winter rains and wind and gloom.
At the Show the plant shares a pot with some mondo grass and AJUGA 'black scallop,' which looks like miniature black cabbage.  In the garden, black-leaved HEUCHERA (coralbells) and black flowered hellebore planted beneath the shrub would create the drama of black and pink together, and some green and white variegated foliage--in an ornamental grass or shrub--would lighten the vignette.
I like to plant a small summer-blooming CLEMATIS to climb on the shrub.  In that way, Abeliophyllum becomes a plant with two seasons of bloom. 


Thursday, February 9, 2012

F & G Show, day 5

The bench--actually a glider--in my garden at this year's F&G Show.  Jim Honold of Home & Garden Art in Seattle made it.  This is substantial seating, metal that looks like wood until you try moving it.  Surprisingly comfortable, with an easy glide.  We have chenille and flannel pillows and books and a green apple sitting on it.
The first garden I did at the Show included a child's chair with a picture book lying on the seat.  One little girl ran into the garden and had to be retrieved by her mother.  "I wanted to sit down and read the book," she explained as her mother carried her away.
Since then her dash into the garden and her desire to sit and read are both the impetus for and the explanation of the best gardens I have designed.  We begin outside the garden and then are drawn in.  It is seating--a comfortable chair or bench and the setting--that tugs at us.


On Sunday, during move-in, once the patio was finished, we set the glider in place.  That and the containers on either side of the entrance determined where everything else in the garden would be placed.

The small, old bench in front of the glider holds a teapot, and teacup and saucer and two miniature cupcakes.  The pitcher of tulips crowded the bench so we set it on the floor.  Beside the glider are small containers with one pink hellebore in each, and the tiny, scented pink flowers of the ABELIOPHYLLUM in the container on the left reach out to the glider.
On a patio this size everything is--and needs to be--visible from the seating.  The beauty of each plant, the scent of the ABELIOPHYLLUM,  the sheltering height of the screens draw one to the bench to sip tea, to read a poem and to enjoy being part of the garden.