Studio Days: A Peek at the Process … Designing Gardens & Landscapes

June 22nd, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

My Studio Desk —With Freshly Cut Sarah Bernhardt Peonies— Overlooking the Steel Balcony and Entry Garden (that’s Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’ viewed from atop the wall/balcony)

Currently working on three large landscape designs and several smaller garden projects, I’m taking full advantage of today’s inclement weather to play catch up on work —drawings and planting plans— in my studio. June is always a busy month for garden designers, and this year is especially so. With many design projects happening all at once —and at various stages; from preliminary drawings to primary installation, to finishing touches— I thought it might be fun to share a few things on my desk. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of these exciting projects throughout the summer…

Scanned sketch of a current, large landscape design project: terraced gardens with low-maintenance, relaxed plantings for a new home in Vermont

Scan of my design sketch for a tiered, corner planter and water bowl feature in a courtyard nook at a Brattleboro, VT restaurant. The planters are now installed and the core plantings have been installed (awaiting custom stone water bowl and finishing touches)

Sketch of my design for new, custom-built, raised planter boxes & container gardens filled with softening shrubs, grasses and vines to screen this same restaurant’s seating area & create a sense of privacy and enclosure for this intimate outdoor dining area (interior view)

Alley side view of the custom, raised planter boxes I designed for this intimate dining space

The custom-built cedar boxes with copper-finish, ready for installation of water bowl feature, and plantings

Copy of the initial, roughed out planting plan for the BMAC Sculpture Garden (with architectural details by Chip Greenberg). The final planting plan was twice modified to suit permanent pieces by artists Dan Snow (installed) and Jim Cole (awaiting installation)

And below, a large project nearing completion. My landscape design for the Brattleboro Museum and Arts Center Sculpture Garden, with primary hardscape and major plantings installed. ‘Rock Rest’ is by Vermont artist Dan Snow. The stone walkway, garden hardscaping, tree and lawn installation is by Turner & Renaud Landscaping. The installation of shrubs and perennials is by your’s truly …

BMAC Sculpture Garden (installation-in-progress) with Dan Snow’s piece, ‘Rock Rest’ in the foreground. Stepping stone walkway, garden hardscaping, lawn and tree installation is all by Turner & Renaud Landscaping. Garden design and plantings (ongoing) by Michaela.

BMAC Sculpture Garden with installation-in-progress. Stone walkway and garden hardscape, lawn and tree installation is by Turner & Renaud Landscaping. Garden design and plantings (ongoing) by Michaela

I know there’s a bit of sunshine out there somewhere, not far behind those dark grey clouds!

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Seduced by the Charms of Old Fashioned Flowering Weigela…

June 6th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’ tumbles over the wall at Ferncliff, spilling blossoms into the Secret Garden below. Stonework by Vermont artist Dan Snow

To look at the voluminous cascade of crimson blossoms spilling over my Secret Garden wall this week, you’d never guess that this Red Prince (Weigela florida) is positioned in the toughest, most exposed corner of my blustery, ledgy site. Bearing the full force of the northwest wind as it blasts across the ridge straight from the Green Mountains, I fully expected my Weigela to perish in its first winter. Five years later, in spite of sub-zero temperatures, snow drifts, thick sheets of ice, and the doubts of a rather pessimistic mistress, the prince of my garden is once again greeting June cloaked in the most glorious red robe I have ever seen. As you can see, there he sits; sprawled out in the sun, high atop the Secret Garden wall, where his funnel-shaped flowers attract legions of hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and countless sighs.

Old-fashioned in both form and habit, Weigela florida has gone in and out of garden style for years. Because of its sturdy nature -rarely troubled by pests and disease- certain Weigela cultivars have become somewhat over-used in municipal landscapes. Once again a victim of its own success, many designers now consider this shrub a bit common – perhaps even a garden cliché. As for this hortimaniac? Please… Give me a break! I find the whole notion of garden fads more than a little ridiculous. Every plant has its place. And as they say – a thing of beauty is a joy forever. A knock-out in bloom and a fine green presence throughout the growing year, Weigela’s flower-show lasts three weeks in my garden, with sporadic repeats later in the season. And as if this generous floral display weren’t enough, newer Weigela cultivars, including maroon-leaved and dwarf selections, have expanded this shrub’s three-season design potential with stunning foliage. My collection of ‘cardinal bushes’ -as they are sometimes called- now includes ‘Java Red’, (see photograph below), ‘Variegata’, ‘Alexandra’, ‘My Monet’, and of course the ‘Red Prince’, among others…

Weigela florida planted in a woodland-edge setting for one of my garden design clients 3 years ago…

Weigela florida on the far side of my client’s garden, forming a cascading, flowering boundary between hillside garden and the shaded forest beyond…

Hardy at least through zones 4-9, (certain selections offer a greater hot/cold hardiness range), and tolerant of many soil types, (Weigela prefers slightly acidic, moist, but not wet soil), this is a perfect shrub for gardeners in cold, moderate and mild climates. When positioned in full sun to partial shade, Weigela rewards the gardener with a cascade of flowers from late spring through early summer. Spectacular spilling over walls or embankments, larger cultivars are also perfect for the center or back of sunny borders and for creating informal hedges. Dwarf selections, such as ‘Minuet’ are ideal for smaller gardens and tight garden situations, including containers. With dozens of handsome cultivars to choose from, including many with spectacular, variegated and mottled foliage, (such as the knock-out introduction, ‘My Monet’), there is a Weigela suitable for almost any temperate garden climate. Yes, my ‘Red Prince’ Weigela may be old-fashioned, but he sure knows how to charm…

The ‘Red Prince’ Weigela florida Atop the Secret Garden Wall in June. Stonework by Vermont artist Dan Snow

Weigela florida ‘Java Red’s  bright fuchsia colored blossoms are a  favorite of hummingbirds, butterflies and bees…

Weigela florida ‘Java Red’ takes center stage after Syringa vulgaris ‘Mme. Lemoine’s’ blooms have faded…

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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