art

When Gardens and Glass Talk

Perfect color echoes between the glass and orange daylilies, golden conifer and dark leaf maple tree

Perfect color communication between the glass and orange daylilies, golden conifer and dark leaf maple tree

We have just hosted a really exciting and extremely successful event; Meet the Artist, Become the Artist. The idea was conceived after I realized that although it is easy to buy  garden art it is much trickier to know where to place it in the garden so that both the art and the garden are enhanced. You can read more about the event and artists here, but I  have been asked so many times in the past 24 hours to post pictures on Facebook that I thought I would do better than that and give you a glimpse into the event (and our garden) itself.

There was so much to see that in this post I’m going to focus on the glass pieces created by Seattle artist Jesse Kelly.

Color Echoes

I asked Jesse to exhibit his work in such a way that it related to the garden, especially in terms of color. I think the photograph above perfectly demonstrates this. Notice how the glass trumpets are pointing towards a plant with the same color flower or foliage. The shape even echoes that of the daylilies. The great thing about using glass art with flowers is that even when the blooms are done the color story continues.

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The photograph above shows how to create a similar look using taller, vertical glass elements. This time they remind me of tongues of fire erupting from the embers of daylilies. Taller accents like these work especially well in the middle of a border where the copper posts are partially screened. Notice the beautiful stamped detail at the base of each twisted flame; a fleur de lys.

Punctuation points

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This garden border is approx. 150′ x 50′ and the overall color scheme is ‘sunset shades’ so Jesse had the challenge of creating different vignettes that all worked with these colors yet had a unique look. We wanted to inspire our guests and give them lots of ideas.

The photograph above shows an area of the border that has an extensive planting of low mounding shrubs and perennials; black eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’) and spirea. Jesse added two exclamation points together with a lower sunburst form, showing how you can mix and match shapes while keeping to a single color. This adds vertical interest without being too ‘busy’ visually.

IMG_5729 For a softer look Jesse worked with the wispy Mexican feather grass and apricot tones of Apricot Sprite and Apricot Sunrise hyssop (Agastache sp.) These glass blades were a simpler form than the previous examples without all the twists and curves. Notice how the subtle ripples within the glass mimics the movement of the finely textured grass. Good design is always in the details.

Echoing form

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My front garden has a different color scheme which once again Jesse worked with perfectly. Not only has he captured the color of the Rozanne geranium flowers and red tints in the Shenandoah switch grass (Panicum v. ‘Shenandoah’), he has also mimicked the lower mounding habit of the perennial and that of the taller, erect grasses. These pieces are both bird baths – I love their loose form.

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There were many more pieces – metallic black bamboo in our woodland, soft purple forms emerging from grey stones at the base of a tree and long lime green trumpets that were perfectly placed to catch the light.

Jesse is more than a glass artist – he is observant, creative and conscious of all the elements that need to come together to make his art and the garden shine.

In my next post I’ll show you how sculptor Luke DeLatour used natural materials in unique ways as well as a glimpse into the workshop of my husband Andy as he demonstrated the craftsmanship behind his woodworking using salvaged wood.

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Find your Inner Artist

A stone cairn designed by local artist Luke DeLatour has special significance. Photo credit; Ashley Ross Markley

A stone cairn designed by local artist Luke DeLatour has special significance. Photo credit; Alyson Ross Markley

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m not an artist. I can’t draw a straight line let alone anything that resembles an apple and my landscape sketches are….well let’s just say that there is a reason I use the computer for my design work. However I can ‘paint’ with plants.

There have been times when I’ve looked at a section of the garden and seen that it needed something but not necessarily another plant. Often the solution is something as simple as setting an empty container into the border or a small piece of garden art. Those finishing touches both enhance the garden and are enhanced by it.

Buying fun pieces for the garden – containers, statuary and glass art for example is the easy part. Knowing where and how to place them is trickier. Let’s face it, how many times have you made an impulse buy then spent hours walking around the garden trying to decide where to put it?

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To take the mystery away – and to give you an excuse for a strategic shopping adventure I’m hosting a fun event in our garden on August 2nd called Meet the Artist – Become the Artist.

As well as having the opportunity to meet two of my favorite local artists – Jesse Kelly (glass artist) and Luke DeLatour (sculpture) you are welcome to enjoy a presentation I will be giving on how to

  • enhance your gardens,
  • add style to containers,
  • solve your design dilemmas and
  • add year round interest to your gardens using garden art.
  • I’ll also teach you the principles behind designing artistic vignettes and focal points to help you gain confidence in your own garden.

We’ll have lots of examples to inspire you and of course we’ll all be happy to answer any questions you may have.

For those of you who live too far away to join us, and as a ‘teaser’ for those closer to home here are three key things I look for when choosing art for the garden as well as two test questions every piece must pass!

Scale

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Glass art by Jesse Kelly

Do I want the piece to become  a major focal point or is this more of a ‘garden moment’ – a smaller piece intended to be discovered while strolling the garden paths?

When we chose the glass sculpture for our front garden we knew it had to be a real statement piece. It is seen from multiple vantage points which therefore meant that the piece also had to look good from all angles. Since this is a 5 acre property we needed something that wouldn’t get lost when viewed from a distance yet not overwhelm our modest home. Jesse did a great job of working with our color scheme and criteria and the results speak for themselves.

Question 1. Does the art enhance the garden?

Yes it does by creating a powerful focal point

Question 2. Is the art enhanced by the garden?

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Glass art by Jesse Kelly

Definitely. The color repetition is key here with many flowers and leaves echoing the shades of blue, chartreuse and purple found in the glass. I especially love the spiky sea holly (Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’) which is the perfect counterpoint to the smooth surface of the containers while alluding to the spiky form of the glass.

Relevance

Why are you putting that piece there? “Because it fits” is not the appropriate answer!

Some of the most powerful garden art vignettes I have seen are the simplest.

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This example is one of my favorites – I only wish I could take credit for it! Notice how the shape of the glass repeats that of the foliage of the hardy impatiens (Impatiens omeiana) and how the colors tie in to those of the adjacent autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora). Perfect scale, color and shape – this definitely relates to its surroundings

Question 1. Does the art enhance the garden?

Yes because it makes us stop and appreciate the beauty of a shade perennial that we might otherwise miss

Question 2. Is the art enhanced by the garden?

Yes the colors and shapes of the surrounding foliage focuses attention on the glass

The X-Factor

Sometimes a piece just speaks to us – that’s usually why we impulse buy in the first place.

Cairns are an ancient way to denote a path or memorial site.

Cairns are an ancient way to denote a path or memorial site.

When I first saw these stone cairns by Luke they took me back to walking the footpaths of England where stone stacks are often used as trail markers. That gave me the idea to use them in a very special memorial garden I designed for a client. I placed a set of three at an intersection in the pathway, indicating the way to a quiet bench. The carved eye in the tallest stack literally and figuratively focused attention.

I suggest placing these as trail markers along a shady garden path or as an exclamation point emerging from a large hosta.

Question 1. Does the art enhance the garden?

Yes – it is seen as being part of the garden itself since the river rocks are quarried locally (I have plenty in my own garden!)

Question 2. Is the art enhanced by the garden?

Yes, if sited well the stacked rocks seem to have a purpose as well as visual appeal

But of course there is so much more to it than that so why don’t you join us in August? Read all the details and find out how to register here. Space is limited so don’t delay!

We look forward to helping you Become the Artist.

For more ways to use glass art in the garden read The Magpie Effect

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Art Imitating Life Imitating Art

Neither a snow storm nor a Superbowl championship parade could stop intrepid garden lovers making it to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show this year.

The theme for the 2014 show was Art in the Garden and each designer found a unique way to interpret this while instilling their own personal flair.  While one garden played off a theme of circles and spheres, another suggested a playful interplay between wildlife and human life. ‘Peace in Motion’ was a contemporary Asian design that combined  natural  and sculptural elements to create a memorable art enhanced experience.

As I reviewed all the photographs I took at the show I realized how often I had stopped to capture an art form that was mimicking life. This award winning designer achieved this so well that you had to wonder what in fact had come first.

Darwin’s Muse – art imitating life by Karen Stefonick Design

Designer Karen Stefonick created a show stopping display garden again this year, aptly titled Darwin's Muse - Art Imitating Life

Designer Karen Stefonick created a  truly dramatic display garden again this year

I am honored to call Karen a friend as well as a colleague and have watched in awe as her inspiring designs have won awards and international acclaim. Her structures are always impressively over-sized yet somehow still in scale, her gardens lush yet not over-planted, the plant palette interesting yet with relatively few species, the art work simple yet achingly beautiful. She did it again.

The centerpiece was Darwin’s orchid crafted by Seattle glass artist Jason Gamrath.  Charles Darwin hypothesized that there had to be a moth physically capable of drinking nectar from the orchid flower. In 1907 the hypothesis was proven correct with the discovery of a subspecies of the gigantic Congo moth from Madagascar.

Elegant simplicity - one of the hallmarks of Karen's designs

Ethereal shadows dance off the walls

When Karen and Jason started collaborating on the design Jason gave an ‘approximate’ size of the finished piece. As plans progressed the orchid ‘grew’ and both the glass house and the garden footprint had to be quickly adjusted to accommodate the burgeoning specimen which ultimately reached 13′ wide x 13′ tall and 8′ deep. The leaves alone measured 5-6′ in length!

The other art pieces were incorporated so tastefully into the garden they could almost be overlooked – which was exactly the point.

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Glass pitcher plants are so life-like only their size gives the secret away. Crafted by Jason Gamrath

So are the living pitcher plants in the foreground imitating the glass forms? Or is the art imitating life? Understated and perfectly placed this is Karen’s philosophy of ‘less is more’ put into practice. Repetition of color, form and texture between the real and the surreal create a fascinating interplay and an almost ‘Alice in Wonderland’ experience.

Oversized glass pitcher plants rise out of a simple pool ready to ensnare any unsuspecting XX

Over-sized glass pitcher plants rise out of a simple pool; art imitating life yet so life-like

Notice how the glass pitcher plants are ‘growing’ out of pools and bogs, just as they would in nature – all part of the illusion.

Congratulations Karen and thank you for inspiring and challenging us once again.

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A Garden of Celebration, Reflection & Healing

 

Cairns are an ancient way to denote a path or memorial site.

Cairns are an ancient way to denote a path or memorial site. Photo credit; Alyson Ross Markley

Do you feel the need for a personal outdoor space to call your own and simply ‘be’? Are you looking for a way to carve out a quiet meditation garden where you can practice yoga or pray? Or perhaps like my client you seek an environment where you can be surrounded by a garden as you celebrate the life of a loved one while allowing yourself time and space to heal?

The circumstances may vary yet our desire for inner peace is a unifying theme. This is the story of how I set out to design a garden for a client we shall call Sarah. Sarah’s parents had both recently passed away and she asked that I create a memorial garden that would both celebrate their lives while also giving her a special place to reflect.

The journey

Short wooden posts will line the path at intervals. (Design seen at the Denver Botanic Garden)

Short wooden posts will line the path at intervals. (Design seen at the Denver Botanic Garden)

Life takes us along a series of paths, some unexpected, some carefully orchestrated yet each memorable in its own way. In this garden the main pathway of bluestone pavers  meanders at a comfortable pace, allowing time to enjoy carefully placed  ‘garden moments’ of fragrance, sculpture or form. At intervals along this section of the journey a series of round posts flank the path, set in such a way as to suggest the rolling topography of hills and valleys. A miniature landscape of sorts that reminds us that life is never straightforward yet has a plan, a form, a design.

Like many of life’s paths this  diverges and one can choose to take a narrower path to a partially obscured seating area which is only fully revealed on venturing into the unknown.

A narrow path of hazelnut shells similar to this one will connect two private seating areas

A narrow path of hazelnut shells similar to this one will connect two private seating areas

A secondary pathway leads from this seating area, down through an area of mostly native plantings to a private arbor. This path consists of hazelnut shells, crunching underfoot as one takes care to stroll at a more leisurely pace. Boulders are used to retain the mulch as well as provide steps down the slight incline.

Seating

It seems that most of us feel most at peace when we are within a garden. We may each describe it differently- a sense of being connected to God or Nature, but there is something about being surrounded by beauty, by living things and by feeling the breeze and sunshine on our weary bodies that helps us to slow down, breathe a little easier and get things back into perspective.

I created three seating areas in this garden each with a unique character, view point and feel.

This Asian style patio by Far Hills Landscape Contractors Statile & Todd  gives a sense of the paver/mondo grass grid although the other elements are not the same as in my design

 

The largest of the three is directly outside the master bedroom, accessed through sliding glass doors. I replaced a small concrete slab with a much larger grid of bluestone pavers separated by dwarf green mondo grass. This immediately gives a sense of being in the garden rather than sitting back and merely observing it.  The view from here offers glimpses of most of the garden although one has to venture out to see things more clearly.

A second semi-private space is created on a small knoll with a gravel base and stone bench just large enough for one. This bench looks down onto a bubbling fountain and is sheltered by a large Japanese maple which will rustle in the breeze.

The most private space of all is an arbor set within a more naturalistic planting. An integral bench will allow Sarah to enjoy the fragrant vines  overhead while a small deck gives this a sense of being a viewing platform, looking towards the house yet with most of the garden journey hidden from view. Old, mossy tree stumps and ferns dominate this area.

The color palette

Watching ferns unfurl as the garden awakens in spring  brings a sense of renewal

Watching ferns unfurl as the garden awakens in spring brings a sense of renewal

This is not a place for overly bold and bright plant combinations in a rainbow of colors. Rather it has a restful scheme of shades of green from soft yellow-green to deep, dark shades with accents of burnished copper and burgundy.

The plant palette

Japanese maples will add color and texture throughout the garden

Japanese maples will add color and texture throughout the garden especially in fall

The backdrop to this garden is one of towering hemlocks, western red cedar and Douglas fir so this creation is essentially an understory. Many Japanese maples have been added; both upright and weeping forms with finely dissected foliage and broader more typical leaves. While summer shades are green and deep burgundy, fall will bring a blazing riot of fiery gold, orange and scarlet.

These deciduous trees have been balanced with many broadleaf evergreens including the multi hued Gulf Stream heavenly bamboo, the tall holly-like Charity Oregon grape and variegated rhododendrons transplanted from other area of Sarah’s garden.

Gulf Stream heavenly bamboo is a favorite for soft feathery texture and a blend of warm colors.

Gulf Stream heavenly bamboo is a favorite for soft feathery texture and a blend of warm colors.

Japanese black pines, a weeping blue atlas cedar  and prostrate deodar cedars bring the color and texture of conifers down to a more human scale and like the evergreen shrubs add year round color to the garden.

Swathes of Japanese forest grass line the primary path, first on one side then on the other, emphasizing the sense of meandering. Smaller clumps of variegated Japanese sedge will be planted loosely around the water feature.

This garden relies on foliage for color but I have included two varieties of winter blooming hellebores; the deep rose-burgundy Merlin and creamy white Monte Cristo, both of which I have grown and found to be hardy,  long blooming and easy care.

Winter interest is not limited to foliage and flowers, however. Several maples have colored bark most notably a coral bark maple and two clusters of Midwinter Fire dogwood shrubs.

Lions Head maple is best known for its tufty foliage reminiscent of a lions mane but the smooth olive green bark is equally beautiful

Lions Head maple is best known for its tufty foliage reminiscent of a lions mane but the smooth olive green bark is equally beautiful

Fragrance

A garden such as this would not be complete without the sensory element of fragrance. Each seating area offers something different; winter daphne, akebia, witch hazel and Oregon grape.

Water feature

Using natural elements was important  as was a simplistic style. A low basalt dish will rest on a stone slab. Water will pour from a bamboo spout onto the dish, sheeting over the slab and disappearing into a hidden reservoir . This will be seen and heard from the master bedroom as well as various points in the garden.

Artistic details

A stone cairn designed by local artist Luke DeLatour has special significance. Photo credit; Ashley Ross Markley

A stone cairn designed by local artist Luke DeLatour has special significance. Photo credit; Alyson Ross Markley

Cairns have been used for centuries to mark a trail or signify a memorial site so it seemed appropriate to include an artistic representation of  such a feature in this garden. A custom made cluster of three stacked rock sculptures, designed by local artist Luke deLatour  marks the trail leading from the main pathway to the hidden stone bench. The tallest of these will have an eye carved in the final stone. Portals such as this focus the eye and help us see things differently, an important element of meditation, reflection and healing.

My clients mother was an artist and so I wanted Sarah to have the opportunity to design and perhaps create something unique that would represent the Circle of Life. This art piece will hang on a wall and only be visible from the most secluded arbor.

Moving forward

The design is complete and my client is thrilled that I captured her vision and translated it in a respectful and thoughtful way. I hope I have incorporated elements that will make her smile as she celebrates her parents lives and heal as she reflects on special memories.

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