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Naked in the Garden with Jamie Durie

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As I pushed open the door to the nail salon the phone rang. “Hi Karen? Jamie here. Jamie Durie.”

Realizing my much needed manicure was going to have to wait I hastily ducked back out and rushed to my car where I had a notepad and pen handy just in case this happened! I had been trying to set up a face to face interview with the legendary TV host, landscape designer and author Jamie Durie while he was in town but that wasn’t possible so I knew the best chance I had to pick his Australian horticultural brains was by phone.

First though I needed to see if his sense of humor was as genuine as it appeared on TV.

So when did you escape the penal colony?

After a brief pause he laughed out loud “2008. But I split my time between homes in Los Angeles and Australia.”

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At that point I could envision the twinkle in his eye and cheeky smile and knew we were going to get on just great.

I had decided to focus my questions around garden design as I love his HGTV program and accompanying book The Outdoor Room. That concept and format had been Jamie’s idea and proved so successful that it ran for five series. “I almost killed my crew though” he said. Despite that they are in fact all really good friends, gathering together just a couple of days ago to celebrate Jamie’s birthday.

“I wanted to do something I was passionate about – reconnecting people with Nature”. His new series Outback Nation on FYI Network continues that theme by helping families re-discover their gardens and each other.

As a designer I find his ideas, choice of materials and styles refreshingly different. So sit back and enjoy eavesdropping on our conversation as I asked questions with you in mind.

How do you suggest homeowners gather inspiration and ideas for their gardens?

Indoor colors and style will likely give you design cues to help you outdoors

Indoor colors and style will likely give you design cues to help you outdoors

“I tell them to look within. Within their homes that is. Grab your camera, stand in your lounge room and take pictures of everything you see. then open your wardrobe and do the same. You’ll quickly see what colors appeal to you most and get a sense of the style you have.

Pinterest boards and magazine clippings are also good for gathering ideas.

When I’m designing for a client I prefer not to see those ideas right away though. I find the best ideas come to me in the first 10-15 minutes on site; the raw material. After I’ve got the basic drawing done and am padding out the design – that’s when those clippings are helpful.”

How can homeowners create a garden that they experience rather than just look at?

Define the areas of your garden by the function you want them to fill. Photo courtesy Jamie Durie Design

Define the areas of your garden by the function you want them to fill.

“Create a functional analysis first. Plot the building within the property boundaries on graph paper then use simple bubbles to mark out the different areas of their wish list from utility space to play zones, edibles to dining.

This gorgeous outdoor dining area is accented by white Chinese lanterns, comfy bench seating, plenty of shade, a gorgeous stone walkway and a mid-rise flower bed filled with ornamental grasses. Design by Jamie Durie

This gorgeous outdoor dining area is accented by white Chinese lanterns, comfy bench seating, plenty of shade, a gorgeous stone walkway and a mid-rise flower bed filled with ornamental grasses. Design by Jamie Durie

Then use plants to compartmentalize the space and create a series of different rooms. This is always much more interesting than having one big open space. Think of each exterior room as you would an interior room with walls, windows, door, ceiling and floor then consider what plants can fill that function.

Good garden design should seduce you!”

What advice would you give a young couple with big dreams but a low budget?

Annuals and perennials are important and they give a lot of color but I recommend my clients set aside  half their budget for foundation plants; those key trees and shrubs that add character to the space, define boundaries and provide privacy.

Layers of plant material will provide privacy and seasonal interest

Layers of plant material will provide privacy and seasonal interest

Privacy is one of the most important things for us all. I’m not talking about a hedge necessarily but rather layers of trees and shrubs to create an amphitheater effect. I’d tell this young couple to spend their money so they can garden naked if they want to knowing they have complete privacy. Heck I often wander around the garden in my underwear!”

Be still my beating heart…… No photo to support that particular design tenet readers; sorry!

Tell us about your personal garden

It's a dogs life....the outdoor bedroom in Jami'es LA garden. Photo courtesy Jamie Durie Design

It’s a dogs life….the outdoor bedroom in Jamie’s LA garden.

“I’d probably describe it as ‘mid-century modern’. It’s a 1950’s home. However there isn’t a straight line in the garden anywhere! Funny  but after years of studying landscape design and architecture I didn’t want anything formal.

There’s the original 1952 pool that I’ve had renovated to include an infinity edge which is just beautiful. That’s important since it gets looked at 80% of the time and used just 20%. It’s like a giant water feature so it has to look good.

The pool is also a catchment system for all the water run-off for the entire property. So when it rains all the water flows into the pool that then runs through a UV filter. I don’t use any chemicals and basically swim in rain water, which is as good as it gets. It’s heated by solar power too.

Jamie's private garden in LA. Photo courtesy Jamie Durie Design

Jamie’s private garden in LA. Great casual hangout watching the chef!

Besides that I’ve basically turned my house inside out and have outdoor rooms for a bathroom with a cool tub I designed as part of my new furnishings line, a bedroom with two big daybeds for napping or reading a book, a dining room and great kitchen and prep area.”

What would you say to the homeowner who has been nervous to get started on a garden re-design?

Break ground! Just get something planted. Start with something easy like a tomato plant maybe and build your confidence but don’t lose any more time.”

Two hundred lucky ticket holders were able to join Jamie for his talk at Molbak’s Garden & Home the next day so we did finally have a chance to connect faces with accents. His presentation was entertaining, engaging and energizing in equal measure!

Wrangling a 10′ tall Japanese maple from the stage set he showed how the canopy could become the ceiling of an outdoor room or a carpet of fragrant creeping thyme could become a rug. Jamie suggested how a hedge of blueberries could replace  boxwood to provide food as well as a traditional ornamental role and he coincidentally did a great job of selling my book Fine Foliage as he stressed the importance of great foliage plants such as small leaved wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)!

You can read  more about Jamie’s shows, blog, books and new furniture range on his website.

Note - I did eventually  get my manicure and pedicure!

Note – I did eventually get my manicure and pedicure!

 

Oh and the answer to your unspoken question? Yes he is pretty darned cute! 

Photo credits; www.jamiedurie.com  – apart from the last one!

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Favorite Flowering Annuals for Containers

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I need to be a mind reader. I’m excited to host three spring container workshops in the next ten days but I need to second-guess everyone’s tastes as I select plants for my guests to purchase and play with!

What colors might they be excited about this year? Are they tired of the tropical looking Canna or will they be disappointed if I don’t have any? Will they feel adventurous and be willing to try something completely new?

Selecting dwarf shrubs, perennials, grasses and succulents is actually pretty straightforward but the flowering annuals take more consideration. They are often the finishing touch that anchors a color scheme and certainly they are expected to give out some major flower power for the entire summer season.

As I head to the nurseries tomorrow there are a few ‘must have’s’ on my shopping list. These are often varieties that I have used for several years and know I can rely on.

Which are your favorites?

Painted New Guinea Impatiens

Painted New Guinea Impatiens and golden Creeping Jenny add sparkle under a large Begonia luxuriens

Painted Paradise Orange New Guinea Impatiens and golden Creeping Jenny add sparkle under a large Begonia luxuriens

It was a client who inadvertently introduced me to these. She insisted on having New Guinea impatiens in her pots but I was concerned that with only modest early season blooms she would be disappointed until they got into their stride. The answer was the ‘painted’ series that has wonderfully variegated leaves.

My favorite is the Painted Paradise Orange with its stunning yellow variegated foliage and red veins, Even without the flowers it adds plenty of punch. Flower color options include pink, white, red and wine

Fan Flower (Scaevola)

Pink Wonder fan flower is on my wish list for 2015

Pink Wonder fan flower is on my wish list for 2015

I have long been a fan of Whirlwind Blue fan flower in pots for the way it throws meandering branches of periwinkle fan-shaped flowers through its companions, trailing and mingling with abandon all summer long. It is one of the few flowering annuals that seems to perform equally well in full sun and part shade – especially helpful in those awkward settings where you have two pots flanking a doorway but one gets more sun than the other.

Last summer I had the opportunity to test Pink Wonder and was completely enamored by its clear pink flowers; I’ll be on the lookout for this in the nurseries this year. Be warned, that when you find it the little 4″ pot may not look very promising with just a couple of short branches and a flower bud or two. Give it a few weeks and trust me!

 

Samantha lantana

The variegated leaves of Samantha lantana add extra color to the Blue Whirlwind fan flower and Apricot Punch million bells

The variegated leaves of Samantha lantana add extra color to the  Whirlwind Blue fan flower and Apricot Punch million bells

I love the bold red, hot pink, gold and orange blooming lantana but Samantha offers something else; variegated leaves. These are especially appreciated early in the season when the yellow flowers are few.

Million Bells (Calibrachoa)

Lemon Slice million bells and Berry Luscious lantana - fabulous combo

Lemon Slice million bells and Luscious Berry Blend lantana – fabulous combo

I’ve never been a fan of petunias but these mini petunias are much better. No deadheading needed and they don’t turn to a sticky mess after rain. Some varieties win me over more than others, but in truth the results also depends on who has grown the plant. You get what you pay for; cheap plants may not have been grown in prime potting soil nor pinched out during the growing cycle to get nice bushy plants. Pay the extra for top quality and your containers will show the difference.

Some of my favorite varieties include Lemon Slice (yellow/white), Cherry Star (hot pink with yellow star) and Pomegranate Punch (bi-color burgundy and grape)

Bonfire Begonia

An explosion of orange fireworks! Bonfire begonia

An explosion of orange fireworks! Bonfire begonia

This has been around for a while now and is still my favorite variety of the Begonia boliviensis for its vivid orange tubular flowers that thrive in full sun. Bonfire is a top performer.

Other (flowering) favorites

Fuchsia autumnale – amazing multi-colored foliage

Torenia ‘Midnight Blue’ – fabulous for the shade

 

Time to go shopping……

If you’d like to join me there are just a few spaces left in my Spring Container Workshops. Details and registration info here.

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Top Perennials for Summer Pots

A shade loving Tiarella offers pretty foliage as well as white flowers

A shade loving Tiarella offers pretty evergreen foliage as well as white flowers

When I design container gardens nothing is safe! I explore everything from dwarf trees and slow growing shrubs to groundcovers, annuals and even houseplants (although I wait until night temperatures are stable at 55′ or above for those). I also include a lot of perennials in my designs; both evergreen and herbaceous types as they lend a sense of maturity and are also a good investment since they can be kept in the container for several years before eventually being transplanted into the garden.

I look for perennials that have great foliage to help establish a framework for summer annuals that won’t get into their stride for a few more weeks. I also seek out perennials that have a long bloom time but if I am including them for the flowers I also need to make sure that the leaves won’t overpower the container.

Here are some of my favorites.

Thunder and Lightning field scabious (Knautia macedonica ‘Thunder and Lightning’)

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Fun color, pretty flowers, drought tolerant, deer resistant, great foliage – why haven’t you used Thunder and Lightning field scabious before?

The distinctive jagged mid-green foliage has a cream margin that really make this perennial stand out from the crowd. Magenta pincushion-type flowers bloom for months and stand tall above the foliage cushion.

 

Deer be Damned

We featured this perennial in a combination called Deer Be Damned! in our book Fine Foliage (p10) and we hear it’s one of your favorites.

Apricot Sprite hyssop (Agastache aurantiaca ‘Apricot Sprite’)

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This drought tolerant perennial deserves to be used more in your designs. Apricot Sprite has soft orange tubular flowers that are a favorite of hummingbirds while the fragrant grey-green leaves are attractive and tidy. Combine with other drought tolerant plants such as lavender, grasses and succulents for an easy care design. 15″ tall

Trailing stonecrops (Sedum)

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Angelina and Blaze of Fulda sedums mingle with the glossy variegated foliage of a mirror plant (Coprosma) and a dwarf conifer

 

There are many to choose from but these are my top three. Blaze of Fulda stonecrop has  wonderful burgundy rosettes and hot pink flowers while the leaves of October Daphne (Sedum sieboldii) are grey blue,tipped with pink and the late summer flowers are a clear pink. Angelina stonecrop (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’) is a beautiful evergreen golden-yellow succulent with yellow flowers. The foliage is reminiscent in appearance  of rosemary. All are beautiful tucked at the edge of pots.

Spurge (Euphorbia)

Design by Stacie Crooks, Crooks Garden Design

Design by Stacie Crooks, Crooks Garden Design

Donkey spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) works well as a trailer in sunny pots. In the rustic teal container above it is elegantly paired with black mondo grass. The pink ‘flowers’ are usually trimmed away but this image shows just how beautiful they can be as they age.

The brightly variegated Ascot Rainbow spurge works well with purple and magenat

The brightly variegated Ascot Rainbow spurge works well with purple and magenta

Taller varieties of spurge work well as fillers in mixed designs. My top three are Ascot Rainbow which has variegated leaves of yellow, green and rose, Ruby Glow in deep purple and Silver Swan which has a pretty teal and white variegation.

Note; The sap is a significant skin irritant so always wear gloves when handling. Some varieties of spurge are invasive in some areas so check with your local County extension office before planting.

Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri)

Love the gauzy effect of so many flowers

Love the gauzy effect of so many flowers

You can base your selection on flower color ( pink or white), foliage color (green, burgundy, striped or speckled), height (from 2′ to 5′) or hardiness but all will reward you with dancing flowers all summer long. The leaves are dainty enough to be a design element themselves while the prolific flowers make this a reliable thriller for your container or basket.

A hummingbird buffet! Pink spikes of Gaura explode from the top of this basket

A hummingbird buffet! Pink spikes of Gaura explode from the top of this basket

Named varieties include Passionate Blush (compact plants, pink flowers), Passionate Rainbow (mid-size plant, pink flowers, variegated leaves) So White (pure white flowers on a compact plant) and Whirling Butterflies (taller plants for large pots, white flowers suffused with pink).

Arkansas Blue Star (Amsonia hubrichtii)

 

Dare to be different!

Dare to be different!

Use this where a soft fern-like foliage is needed in a sunny pot. Elegant and tall you can rely on this as a thriller and the interest begins with blue flowers in spring and continues until a hard freeze when the leaves turn burnt orange.

Fall color begins in late September

Fall color begins in late September

 

This is deer resistant and drought tolerant too!

Tip; if adding this to your landscape be sure to plant it in well drained soil and full sun. Mine never gets watered unless it rains and is thriving! Plant in broad sweeps for the best effect

Trailing Heucherella

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Redstone Falls heucherella tumbles down the side of a tall pot

 

Heuchera, Tiarella and Heucherella are mainstays in my designs, with varieties available for sun or shade and in many different colors and patterns. Look out for the trailing heucherella though. They can be hard to spot in a display so look for named varieties such as Redstone Falls and Yellowstone Falls. These will spill over the edges of containers for up to 2′ and look stunning!

 

Yellowstone Falls Heucherella - such lovely foliage

Yellowstone Falls Heucherella – such lovely foliage

 

They are also evergreen making these a great choice for year round interest

More ideas?

Karen Chapman container gardening instructor

If you live in the Seattle area come and join one of my Spring Container Workshops this month. Thee are a few spaces left and we have LOTS of fun. Find out more and register here.

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Pretty Enough To Eat

Salad-in-waiting; pretty to look at and delicious to eat. (Garden of Claudia and Jonathan Fast)

Salad-in-waiting; pretty to look at and delicious to eat. (Garden of Claudia and Jonathan Fast)

Gone are the days where ‘salad’ meant a limp lettuce leaf and a dollop of salad cream (in the UK) or ranch dressing (in the USA)! Leaf crops such as spinach, peppery arugula and crunchy kale jostle with a tantalizing blend of colorful lettuce varieties. Harvest some young beet leaves, carrot tops and herbs and you have a fabulous base to add cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, bell peppers and spring onions. The adventurous chef may even sprinkle in a few edible flowers for a garnish.

Add fresh carrot leaves to your salads; Purple Dragon has purple foliage

Add fresh carrot leaves to your salads; Purple Dragon has purple foliage

Buying all those ingredients at the store isn’t cheap, however, and how often have you had to throw out the last of the salad leaves because it went bad? The good news is that we can grow all of these in our own gardens – even if we only have a small patio. If you’re new to edible gardening start with something easy such as lettuce, especially if you grow  one of the ‘cut and come again’ or mesclun’ blends.

How to grow lettuce 

If you are planting out lettuce seedlings be sure to space them apart 6" or so

If you are planting out lettuce seedlings be sure to space them apart 6″ or so

Whether you are planting in the ground or a container be sure the soil is weed free and friable (that just means that it crumbles easily in your hand rather than a wet clod of clay or superfine and sand-like). Do not fertilize; too much nitrogen can make the flavor bitter

Select an area that receives 4-6 hours of direct sun each day, preferably in the morning. Many lettuce varieties will bolt in high summer and/or hot afternoon sun and actually prefer to get direct morning sun but afternoon shade. You may be able to shade them by planting on the eastern side of a row of tall tomatoes or beans for example

Loosely sprinkle the seed onto the soil surface as directed on the packet, cover with ~1/4″ soil and water thoroughly but gently.

If you are planting out seedlings space them approx. 6″ apart to allow room for them to grow. I use a row marker to keep the lines straight.

Keep the soil bed moist.

Harvesting

Cut what you need for now - and come back for more later

Cut what you need for now – and come back for more later

For cut and come again varieties harvest leaves with scissors, leaving the main plant in situ.

For head lettuce thin to spacing indicated on the packet (eat the thinnings!)

Sow small amounts of seed every 2-3 weeks to extend the harvest

Tips

Lettuce and Swiss chard are easy companions

Lettuce and Swiss chard are easy companions

There is no need to work lettuce into a crop rotation. Just plant them where space permits between slower growing plants.

Water in the morning to reduce the likelihood of fungal disease developing.

Problems

Squirrel damage!

Squirrel damage!

Slugs – use Sluggo Plus or set beer traps

Bolting – some varieties are more prone to this than others. Also dry soil can cause this.

Squirrels, rabbits and more! – Rabbits won’t jump into beds that are 18″ tall so a taller container or custom height raised bed may be your answer. Squirrels were an unexpected challenge when we filmed our class in San Diego but we think we have them thwarted by adding a hoop structure over a raised bed and covering it with window screen.

Favorite varieties

I grow Jericho head lettuce at the base of beans to make the most of space but also give some shading

I grow Jericho head lettuce at the base of beans to make the most of space but also give some shading

There are SO many to choose from but I always leave room for;

Jericho – a crunchy, romaine type lettuce that is very resistant to bolt.

Little Gem – a classic semi-cos variety that is crunchy but tender

Gourmet Baby Greens – a mesclun mix from Botanical Interests

 

Interested in more ideas for easy vegetable gardening? You might also enjoy The Movable Feast.

Take a unique hostess gift; skip the flowers!

Take a unique hostess gift; skip the flowers!

Resources

Building a Raised Bed Garden; our NEW video class for Craftsy teaches you everything you need to know with step-by-step instruction. Discover more and get up to a 50% discount!

Raised Bed Workshop; live in the Seattle area? Join Andy and I in our garden May 16th for a morning of instruction, demonstration, and inspiration. Limited space – get the details

 

 

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When Less is More

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The Northwest Flower and Garden Show is always a highlight of the gardening year for me. Whether you are new to gardening or an experienced designer you will leave inspired, encouraged and ready for spring.

The display gardens take center stage, their styles ranging from whimsical to naturalistic but all find a way to connect to the annual theme which for this year was ROMANCE. Every garden offers an abundance of ideas yet there is always one designer who for me stands out from the crowd; Karen Stefonick of Karen Stefonick Designs.

The title of her 2015 design featured here is KNOTTY & NICE; Here’s to WE Time.

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Here’s what Karen said about her design;

“For a couple seeking to connect, play, relax and set time aside to be with each other—“we time”—this garden caters to both the masculine and feminine senses; calling in the energy of both.

The ‘Knotty’ reference to this part of the vignette is both the trees and plantings which are various forms of pine as well as large beams of pine wood used to create the structure. Meanwhile, the ‘Nice’ traits are displayed by the more feminine attributes of lyrical water, warm fire and cozy furnishings.

A protective pergola surrounded by large bold stones–complemented by a soothing water feature–is mirrored in a reflecting pond. The final touch is a cozy fireplace and cushy furniture that you can sink into.

The majority of plantings in this garden are evergreen so you have a very textural and abundant array of visual interest year round, not just in the spring and summer. After all, romance is for all seasons!”

Why it Works

To me there are three key features that make this design so attractive and functional;

1. Use of Negative Space 

It would have been so easy to add more plants or an extravagant fountain into the pool. Or maybe a few large planted containers on the patio and baskets hanging from the pergola. Yet the essence of this design is all about restraint. Leaving open the expanse of water and allowing the naked architecture of the vaulted pergola to be seen creates uncluttered ‘negative space’. This becomes a visual break allowing focus to be on the clean lines and contrasting textures of natural materials. For the homeowner this translates to a feeling of meditative peacefulness and tranquility rather than over-stimulation.

2. Restraint in Color and Plant Palettes

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A green and white monochromatic color scheme is always elegant but Karen’s design goes beyond elegant to timeless. She achieves this by focusing primarily on foliage. There are many evergreen trees and shrubs in this vignette with contorted pines playing an important role as they drape gracefully over boulders and fallen logs as well as gracing the pergola itself.

IMG_0743 White hellebores and cyclamen  add floral interest nestled among deer ferns and salal but the planting design is not centered around them.

3. Understanding scale

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This is one of the hardest design criteria to understand and why working with a professional can be so helpful. Notice how Karen balances the hefty timbers of the pergola with bold but clean lined  furniture. How the substantial fireplace anchors the back wall yet is not imposing. How the tall conifers and specimen paper bark maple (seen in the top photo) balance the height of the structure. Every detail  feels ‘right’.

The final details

A subtle secondary water feature

A subtle  water feature adds sound and movement

In truth one could teach a full landscape design class from this garden so trying to sum it up in a few paragraphs is challenging but these are some of the other features I see as hallmarks of Karen’s work

1. Combining textures; soft pine needles brushing against rough, weathered stone. The peeling bark of the paperbark maple set against the smooth planed wood of the pergola. A swathe of round river rocks cutting through square pavers

2. Repetition; the furniture, mantel and chandelier all speak to the same design aesthetic as the pergola itself. Clusters of fat white candles have been used throughout the space for romantic lighting (Lanterns might have introduced a new and unnecessary design element)

3. The unexpected; a trickle of water from the pergola roof drips into a swale of river rocks, the droplets merging and slowly making their way across the patio and into the pool.

Karen is an exceptional designer and is no stranger to awards at the show. This year she once again received a gold medal as well as receiving the Sunset Western Living Award and the 425 Magazine Editors’ Choice Award.

Congratulations also go to colleagues Steve Spear of Complete Landscape Inc for the installation and Bill Ellsbury of Moon Shadows Landscape Lighting.

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