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Designing a Winter Wonderland

Designing a Winter Wonderland

It’s all very well knowing that for a garden to look good in winter it has to have “good bones“. But what do you do when a foot or more of snow turns those bones into a lumpy graveyard? Seriously – since when do white lumps look like anything other than just white lumps?

When I went to bed last night there were just a few flakes falling gently. We woke abruptly at 4.30am to the sound of our frozen sump pump singing its last grating swan song, followed shortly after by our 1 year old puppy, Molly, growling at the deep blanket of snow that had fallen overnight.

I couldn’t wait to get outside (in daylight) to take some snowy pictures of the pristine landscape. That idea was quickly abandoned as Molly tore outside with glee, snow-surfing, jumping, sliding, and running. And eating the snow. Which she then threw up – together with her breakfast – as soon as she came back inside. Clearly the serene aspect of any images I might take were lost.

One coffee later and suitably bundled up, I headed out into the moonscape. But what to take pictures of? I let my camera do the talking, drawing me to vignettes that told a story even though in that moment I didn’t really understand what that story was about. Until I got back inside and looked at the images on my computer. I then quickly realized that my best snowy scenes were those that featured color, texture and/or form – elements that stood apart from the amorphous white blanket.

Color

Turquoise containers and a colorful glass sculpture create a dramatic counterpoint to the white backdrop

I have both blue and orange containers in my garden and they look stunning in the winter landscape – far more dramatic than the charcoal grey or rustic green ones I also have. This glass sculpture by Jesse Kelly is not hollow so is weather proof in my PNW climate.

Colored dogwood twigs would be another way to add color to a snowy scene but you would need a significant grouping of these to stand out. The colored bark of trees such as coral bark maple (Acer palmatum Sango Kaku), Bihou Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Bihou’) or Pacific Fire vine maple (Acer circinatum ‘Pacific Fire’) would be sturdier and be easier to see. (Incidentally my white barked Himalayan birch trees (Betula utilis  var jacquemontii) only stand out marginally in the winter garden when they are backed by tall evergreens. They are more eye catching in summer and fall.)

Textured bark

River birch (Betula nigra ‘Heritage’) have become one of my favorite trees for year round interest. The peeling bark is outstanding. I have a clump of three multi-trunked specimens at the back of our home. In summer they mark the entrance into the meadow. In winter they stand as sculpture, perfectly framed by our back patio doors.

The warm mahogany bark of the paperbark maple (Acer griseum) is a close second favorite, seen above adjacent to our little garden cabin.  This is the scene we look out onto every day from the kitchen. The cabin porch is lit at night making it seem utterly magical. Notice how the blue cabin door stands out in the vignette also – unlike my golden conifers, blue conifers and broadleaf evergreen shrubs, which are all here but buried under snow.

The cabin itself is a wonderful focal point, a reminder that structures can also be used as scene setters in the winter garden.

Form

This triple arbor anchors our island border. As a structure it stands out, but also its vertical and arched forms contrast with the surrounding garden which is mostly comprised of mounding or vase-shaped shrubs and trees.

It clearly establishes a focal point and an invitation to explore.

If you’ve got snowy weather, grab your camera. You might be surprised at what you capture.

Gifts for Garden Lovers

Gifts for Garden Lovers

If your list is long but your time  is short, these ideas are for YOU! All these gift  recommendations are based on my own experience and use.

For the Homesteaders

We all know someone who keeps chickens, has bees, or grows vegetables – check out the many useful and fun gifts that Stumpdust has to offer. Honey pots, garden tools and chicken ornaments are just a few of these handcrafted gifts turned from salvaged wood in our very own barn here in Duvall, WA. Yes, that’s right, the Stumpdust Santa is non other than my super-talented husband Andy. He has even agreed to offer friends of Le jardinet a special discount. Type the coupon code SANTA10 at checkout to receive 10% off your order of $75 or more. Coupon expires December 4th so don’t wait too long! (P.S. The chicken set shown above would also make a great “new baby” announcement….)

For Container Gardeners

Give the gift of inspiration and education; this popular online workshop is truly the gift that will keep on giving. With clear videos, downloadable handouts, and information packed slideshows this workshop has everything your friends and family will need to get them designing Pinterest-worthy container gardens every time. Check out the details, read the reviews and purchase here.

Ideal for those friends who live overseas as there are no shipping costs!

BONUS: use coupon code 5off at checkout get $5.00 off (expires 12/24/2018)

For the Garden Photographer

As digital cameras  have become easier to use and less expensive, more and more gardeners have discovered the delight of taking high quality photos of their gardens to create cards, e-books, wall art, or simply to share with friends.

A tripod is an indispensable piece of camera kit, enabling you not only to avoid camera shake, but also to take superior low-light shots and frame up the scene in a more deliberate way. I LOVE my lightweight, super-portable MeFoto RoadTrip tripod. It fits easily into my carry-on or can be strapped to my camera back pack, is sturdy enough to manage my 18-135mm lens, is fully adjustable AND even converts quickly into a monopod for those scenarios when there isn’t room for a full tripod (think garden tours, narrow paths…). Lots of pretty colors too! Highly recommended and great value.

Taking all the photographs for my latest book involved traveling with two camera bodies, several lenses, remote shutter release cables, filters, SD cards, battery chargers, and more. I realized pretty quickly that I needed to keep everything with me as I was shooting – I couldn’t go back for something I had left in the car or I’d miss “the” shot. While there are many fancy camera bags out there I have found this inexpensive camera backpack from Amazon ideal, It can quickly be reconfigured to take any combination of gear using the velcro separators and the wide padded straps make it comfortable to carry even when fully loaded through the largest of airports or gardens. Check it out

And finally the perfect stocking stuffer for garden photographers – a waterproof case for all the memory cards one needs! This is the one I use. Many photographers would use it to store 12 cards. I actually use it to store 6. I store unused cards on the yellow side then transfer them to the grey side as I fill them. BONUS TIP: make some paper inserts with a grid of 6 rectangles drawn on. Then write in each grid what is on that card e.g. “Chanticleer”, “Grand Canyon”. It makes it easier to sort things out when you’re ready to download the images

 

For the Creative Gardener

Treat yourself to this fun, online course and make festive indoor containers for all your friends! Check out the video and get all the details here. And to help your budget stretch even further, the first 100 friends to use coupon code holidaypots at checkout will get 10%off

 

For Experienced & New Gardeners Alike

Perfect for every garden lover on your list, this book will teach you how to design with a foliage-first attitude. That immediately gives you a jump start to creating combinations that are lower maintenance, higher impact, longer lasting and truly beautiful. With ALL the reviews being 5 star, you know it’s going to be good. New gardeners will gain confidence as they learn how these combinations were put together, while experienced gardeners will love the unique designs and discover new ideas to try. We are justifiably proud of this book and we’d love to share it with you. Check out Gardening with Foliage First here.

That’s it – shopping complete! Time to put the kettle on and join me for a cup of tea and mince pie.

This post contains affiliate links

 

Hedgehogs, Floral Tapestries, and Design Inspiration from Harlow Carr

Hedgehogs, Floral Tapestries, and Design Inspiration from Harlow Carr

One of four public gardens run by the Royal Horticultural Society, Harlow Carr is set in the beautiful English countryside near Harrogate, Yorkshire, so of course I just had to visit while I was there a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure what to expect but found myself totally charmed and impressed by the varied displays that were both inspirational and educational. These are just a few highlights from the 200 or so photos I took!

Hedgehog Street

Openings at the base of the walls allow hedgehogs to pass from one garden to the next

The British love their hedgehogs. I have fond memories of setting out a saucer of milk for night-visiting hedgehogs when I was a child, but sadly their numbers have been in a rapid decline as hedgerows have been lost and their natural food sources destroyed. A national campaign called Hedgehog Street has called for greater awareness and pledges to make gardens more hedgehog friendly by:

  • planting nectar-rich flowers that encourage insects that the hedgehogs eat
  • leaving piles of dead wood and compost for nesting sites and foraging
  • Avoiding chemicals on lawns to protect earthworms – a major food of hedgehogs
  • Avoiding the use of molluscicides and pesticides
  • Including a 13cm (~5in) diameter hedgehog highway between gardens for greater connectivity

I loved this example of a hedgehog-friendly design, designed by Tracy Foster and installed by First Light Landscaping. Truthfully, I stopped because I thought what a great example it was for ‘small space design‘ – it was only on closer inspection that I realized it had been designed to be equally beneficial to hedgehogs!

Embracing the Earthworm

Throughout the gardens there were fascinating willow displays including a huge stegosaurus protecting its eggs and this  wiggly worm that made me smile.

Floral Tapestries

Expansive beds were richly planted in a matrix of colorful perennials, an exciting take on the New Perennial Movement and a twist on the traditional English cottage garden style.

Mature trees added punctuation points to the intricate displays

Each block of color was clearly defined in most areas…

…yet rivers of certain perennials were allowed to flow more organically through other beds

Edible Ideas

The kitchen garden display was especially interesting.

Apples were espaliered on wide steel arches

English gardens are often small so making the use of vertical space is always a priority.

A gourd tunnel is created around a pathway using pruned branches

Rather than growing a traditional tall bean tepee where one has to get a ladder to reach the top, I thought this was a clever idea:

Growing beans at a 45′ angle makes harvesting easier and shade loving crops can be grown beneath

These twig prunings were put to good use as “pea staking”, preventing chard and nasturtiums from sprawling onto the path

Traditional “pea staking”

A thrilling moment

Harlow Carr also has a wonderful library that is open to all: students, researchers, and everyday gardeners. The collection includes practical gardening, garden design, wildlife gardening…and MY BOOK!! Yes, Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017), my second book co-authored with Christina Salwitz, was proudly displayed on their shelves. This was one of those moments that I would have loved to have been able to share with my Mum. I know she’d have been as proud as I was.

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Interested in visiting England?

Check out my travel page and join me on an adventure!

The Less is More Garden – Book Review & Giveaway.

I recently asked a group of gardening friends, if they could change anything about their garden, what would it be. The first – of many comments read ” Make it bigger, much bigger! So many plants, so little space…”

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A common lament,  yet having a modest sized garden does not mean compromising on function, style, or beauty. Designer, author and friend Susan Morrison makes this abundantly clear in her inspiring new book “The Less is More Garden – big ideas for designing your small yard” (Timber Press, 2018). She explains the less is more philosophy as one where there is

  • Less space, more enjoyment
  • Less effort, more beauty
  • Less maintenance, more relaxation
  • Less gardening-by-the-numbers, more YOU

If you are looking for doable, practical ways to make the most of your garden you need this book. With superb photography to illustrate her points, Susan begins by walking the reader through a series of important considerations to help them determine how much space – and budget to allocate for key design components, with suggestions on how to accommodate a family’s needs as children grow up, or strike a balance between creating an intimate space for two homeowners who occasionally need to host a much larger event outdoors. But that is just the start.

The Magic of Illusion

Tantalizing glimpses into the space beyond these green walls creates the illusion of greater depth while a calming, monochromatic color scheme allows the tapestry of layered textures to shine. Photo credit: Doreen Wynja

With suggestions for ways to include disappearing paths, maximizing the diagonal sight line, incorporating permeable walls (what I the call scrim effect), borrowed views, and artistic ways to use mirrors, this book offers a magicians hat worth of illusory tricks to make a small space  appear larger.

Lawn or Not?

Have you been considering what your options might be if you remove the lawn? Need to get a sense of what your garden would look like without one? Susan has you covered with ideas for strolling gardens , ecological lawn mixtures (no-mow grass alternatives) and an array of groundcovers – all beautifully photographed to help you decide.

Design Ideas To Copy

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Susan’s personal garden retreat – a curvaceous wall breaks up the corridor effect and helps to create distinct spaces.

I especially like the section on Design Templates where Susan has used a mix of photographs and sketches to show how she transformed her own narrow backyard into an intimate jewel box garden with a capped, serpentine sitting wall, a bubbling fountain, multiple sitting areas and a bounty of colorful plants that bring fragrance and texture to the patio.

geometry

A clever linear patio design brings plantings up close while also organizing the footprint. Photo credit: Saxon Holt.

Another design in this section that really appealed to me was the one above where contemporary geometric lines have been softened with a bounty of foliage and flowers. Breaking up an expanse of patio with promontories of plants is an ingenious way to create unique garden rooms separated by low hedges without enclosing the spaces fully.

Signature Style

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Artist Keeyla Meadows is known for her bold use of color both in her artwork and her garden.

If you are concerned that with so little space there won’t be room to personalize the garden to reflect YOU, the chapter “A sense of Place, Regardless of Space” should allay such fears, as Susan takes you on a tour of several very individual gardens including that of artist Keeyla Meadows shown above.

Less Maintenance

Susan and I are in total sync with this, which is interesting considering that we design in different states using different plants. Just goes to show you that the principles we use to design your low maintenance gardens are solid. Her book provides tips on selecting plants that are lower maintenance, tips for redefining what a four season garden means in a smaller space, and oodles of photos to get you thinking about your own garden plants in a new way. (And if you’re interested in knowing more about selecting lower maintenance plants be sure you sign up to receive my newsletter as I’ll be inviting subscribers to enjoy my new mini online course on that very subject – at a special introductory price!).

Enter to win your copy!

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This is so good I’d recommend it to professional designers as well as homeowners – we all need fresh inspiration and this book has that in abundance. In fact I’d put “The Less is More Garden” right up there with Julie Moir Messervey’s classic “Outside the Not So Big House” (Taunton Press, 2006), a book I constantly reach for.

If you can’t wait any longer you can order your copy of The Less is More Garden here.

If you’d like to be entered to win a copy just leave a comment below telling me why you need this book! The winner will be drawn using a random number generator at 9pm PST, Tuesday January 30th

The boring small print.

The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email notifying them that they are the winner. After that I will draw another winner.

Comments left on social media posts will not count.

Comments must appear in the comment thread (not on images) to be included in the drawing.

Entries limited to USA and Canada 

GOOD LUCK!

BONUS! Meet Susan at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show next month! Details here.

Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links

The winning name has now been drawn and the person notified – thank you to everyone who took part!

Your 2018 Gardener’s Gift Guide

Carefully curated gifts for the garden lovers in your life.

For the Book Lover

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You can’t possibly go wrong with this; five star reviews, recommended by the Royal Horticulture Society, sold in all the best bookstores and botanical gardens:  Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, 2017) is suitable for beginners or experienced gardeners alike. I can even send you signed bookplates to include if you order soon! Just email me with your mailing address and tell me how many you need.

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This may be called a magazine, but I can tell you Garden Design most definitely comes into the ‘book’ category in terms of quality, stunning photography, in depth articles and lack of advertisements. Order a subscription as a gift and you’ll get FIVE issues for the cost of FOUR when you use this link or call (855) 624-5110 Monday – Friday, 8 – 5 PST and mention this offer.

 

For the Container Gardener

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My brand new online course  Container Gardening to Suit Your Style launches on December 4th and can be purchased as a gift  for yourself or a friend! With over two hours of ‘watch when you like’ instruction, plant lists, resources and interaction with other students and myself in a private group, this is a fun way to gain confidence and improve your skills as a designer. Suitable for all levels of experience from beginner to professional.

Full details of this Garden Gate magazine course plus a video trailer can be found  HERE. (Once you enter the basic email information you’ll be taken to the purchase page where you have the option to purchase this as a gift).

And as a special gift to MY readers and subscribers, I’m giving you a $50 discount!! Just enter KCHAPMAN as a coupon code.

 

For the Urban Homesteader

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We all know someone who keeps chickens, has bees, or grows vegetables – check out the many useful and fun gifts that Stumpdust has to offer. Honey pots, garden tools and chicken ornaments are just a few of these handcrafted gifts turned from salvaged wood in our very own barn here in Duvall, WA. Yes, that’s right, the Stumpdust Santa is non other than my super-talented husband Andy. He has even agreed to offer friends of Le jardinet a special discount. Type the coupon code SANTA10 at checkout to receive 10% off your order of $75 or more. Coupon expires December 7th so don’t wait too long!

For the Garden Photographer

tripod

As digital cameras  have become easier to use and less expensive, more and more gardeners have discovered the delight of taking high quality photos of their gardens to create cards, e-books, wall art, or simply to share with friends.

A tripod is an indispensable piece of camera kit, enabling you not only to avoid camera shake, but also to take superior low-light shots and frame up the scene in a more deliberate way. I LOVE my lightweight, super-portable MeFoto RoadTrip tripod. It fits easily into my carry-on or can be strapped to my camera back pack, is sturdy enough to manage my 18-135mm lens, is fully adjustable AND even converts quickly into a monopod for those scenarios when there isn’t room for a full tripod (think garden tours, narrow paths…). Lots of pretty colors too! Highly recommended and great value.

 

Congratulations – shopping complete! Time for a cup of tea and a warm mince pie.

Disclaimer: this post contains some affiliate links