Creating harmony, simplicity and peace in the landscape......

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.

Gardening is an instrument of grace. "

May Sarton

Saturday, September 13, 2014

'Sukkah' - An Ephemeral Hut with a View to the Stars

sukkahs on buildings

When I was a kid I lived for a few years in Borough Park, Brooklyn. 

Every autumn I would see little sheds attached to the residential buildings, sometimes as much as several stories above the sidewalk.

Adorned with leaves or branches, these were festive huts that my Jewish neighbors would eat their meals in for a week....

I went home to our small apartment and announced that I wanted to build a luck.

brooklyn sukkah

The Jewish 'sukkah' is Biblical in origin. It is an ephemeral, elemental shelter, erected for one week each fall, in which it is customary to share meals, entertain, sleep, and rejoice.

The sukkah's function is to commemorate the temporary structures that the Israelites dwelled in during their exodus from Egypt, but the function is also to express universal ideas of transience and permanence  in architecture. 

click here for source

The sukkah .....calls on us to acknowledge the changing of the seasons, to reconnect with an agricultural past, and to take a moment to dwell on--and dwell in--impermanence." ~

The  building is one that is both new and ancient, timely and timeless, mobile and stable, open and enclosed.   There are certain design rules for a sukkah:
  • The structure must be temporary
  •  have at least two and a half walls
  •  be big enough to contain a table
  •  and have a roof made of shade-providing organic materials through which one can see the stars. 

click here for source of this 

In Encinitas, California there was a 2014 competition that called on designers to re-imagine this ancient phenomenon and propose radical ideas for building sukkahs in a contemporary vein. 

click here for info 

Here are the 3 can help build these on October 5 at The Ranch. 

Tension Release Sukkah

Rob Quigley, AIA, judge said of this sukkah:  “There is something magical about this space. It gives a quality of depth that provokes thought and makes you want to visit over and over again. The structure is contained and disciplined, yet fluid, organic and free. 

Varone sukkah

From the designers: “The seven sides of this sukkah structure represent the seven days of the week and the seven year cycle. Once inside the Sukkah, one’s awareness of the outside world is diminished. The base of the Sukkah structure tapers inwards to harvest one’s thoughts, wishes and concerns. The top tapers outwards to release them to the sky.”

3 petals sukkah

From Jessica Lee Vences, judge: “The use of three petals is very symbolic because the number three is significant in spirituality. The lightness of the structure contributes to the temporary feeling of the Sukkah. Humbleness of the materials, waterproof cardboard tubes, goes back to the original shelter in using what they had available.”

If you would like to help build these three in Encinitas go here: Sukkah Build 2014

sukkah build california

Friday, September 12, 2014

Free, Clean Water for Plants in Hot, Dry Regions

In ancient times people collected dew water from lamb fleece. Over night the dew would collect on the fleece and this would be wringed into a container.

Lanolin, a waxy ester, came out of the fleece and mixed with the dew water. It protects skin with a thin coating so when people washed their face with that dew water they had what people called "a dewy complexion".

Tal Ya Water Collectors

The same idea can be used for plants...Collect dew water over night and give it to plants. Lets do this in California where they need water badly for the crops that feed the US.

The Tal Ya tray is an aluminum composite  tray that responds to shifts in temperature between night and day. When a change of 12 degrees C  (21 degrees F)  occurs, dew forms on the tray surfaces and this condensation is funneled straight to the plant and its roots. 

tal ya dew collector and tree 

Since water from dew is 'distilled' water this alleviates the problem of salinity in the soil caused by irrigation. The trays also protect crops from frost during late and early season in the north. Go to the Tal Ya  BLOG for more info on this great idea.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

'Sulphur Heart' Persian Ivy - A RHS Medal Award Winner

Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart' is an evergreen ivy that has received The Royal Horticultural Society prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM). 

 This is a hard-to-find plant that deserves wider use as ground cover, in city gardens and on walls.  Zones 6a - 9

It is a large leaved, variegated ivy with bright gold and lime green variegations (some solid gold centers can cover 60% of the leaf surface) which brightens up a dark shady wall.

'Sulphur Heart' Persian Ivy clings to walls  with its aerial roots - splash walls with water to help new plants start clinging but don't grow where the mortar is unsound or the roots may cause damage!

Plant Delights nursery notes its very vigorous growth habit: "H. Sulphur Heart makes a great groundcover, and is extremely useful in camouflaging old abandoned school buses."

Here it is climbing a wall (at right) at Chanticleer, a Pleasure Garden.

Chanticleer by Lisa Roper

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Front Door Lanterns - Choose The Right Size

Hinkley Lighting - Harbor Lights

Outdoor light illuminates and silently leads us on.

I just had a discussion with a lovely friend about the lanterns by her front door. She is replacing them and that is why I am sharing this post  I wrote a few years ago. 

People invariably choose lanterns that are too small for an outdoor site. 

This informative piece is from a great lighting company - HINKLEY LIGHTING (click here).... can help change that.


The height of an outdoor lantern should be based on the height of the door:


If you place a lantern on only one side of the door, it should measure one-third the height of the door. The center of the bulb should rest 66" above the threshold of the door.


When two lanterns are used, they should each measure approximately one-fourth the height of the door. The center of the bulb should rest 66" above the threshold of the door.

•TIP: In either case, if you choose a fixture with a long tail or top scroll, pay attention to the overall bulk of the fixture.


As a rule of thumb, your lantern should appear to be about half the size of your door from 50' away.

•TIP: When in doubt, always go larger.

BTW, the lanterns on either side of my door are too small. (We installed them 23 years ago) 

Live and learn.......

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

First Man-Made Leaf! The Future has Changed.

Silk  Leaf by Julian Melchiorri  

The future has arrived.  And it arose from Julian Melchiorri's Silk Leaf project, which came out of a Royal College of Art's Innovation Design Engineering course.
He collaborated with Tufts University silk lab to suspend  chloroplasts in a matrix made out of silk protein. And we are 'off to the races'!
Julian Melchiorri Silk Leaf Project 

What has transpired (my bad hort. pun) is astonishing...

Like real leaves, the Silk Leaf can  produce oxygen if it is given light and a small amount of water.

chloroplasts suspended in silk protein

The possibilities are tremendous! Below is a Leaf Light that gives off oxygen  :

Julian Melchiorri's Leaf Light

This is what he looks like - young!:

Julian Melchiorri

The future has now changed!  Here are what buildings will look like to our grandchildren:

A real 'Green building'

And go here to see a the video of Julian explaining it all:

Monday, September 8, 2014

The new Garden Design magazine - a big thumbs up!

I must share! The latest issue of Garden Design  magazine is out and it is fabulous! I don't often gush but this issue is outstanding...

The variety of articles is what really impresses matter where you live, you will find something to chew on here.

From Garden Design Magazine

Full disclosure: I am co-author of a piece on Kim Wilkie, landscape designer extraordinaire, in it. I love his work. There are several blog posts about him in this blog.

Kim Wilkie

And the 'Fresh' info is fascinating. They write all about Ginkgo trees, a remarkably tough tree with great fall color. And so much more.

Garden Design - Gingko trees

So if you are an avid gardener or designer take a look at the new and revived Garden Design magazineIt was definitely worth waiting for. Click here to check it out. 


Sunday, September 7, 2014

'Being There' - Garden Wisdom for the Ages

Peter Sellers in 'Being There' 

One of my favorite movies is "Being There," a 1979 film starring Peter Sellers. It was directed by Hal Ashby, adapted from a novella by Jerzy Kozinski.  Sellers plays Chance, the gardener, who tends the grounds of an estate in Washington, DC.  

'Being There' movie poster

Chance has the mind of a child (the role is a forerunner to Forrest Gumpand knows only two things:  gardening and TV.  He is reclusive and illiterate and has lived and worked on this property his entire life. When his boss, the Old Man, dies at the beginning of the film he finds himself on the street and is soon inadvertently walking the halls of power and prestige. 

His encounters with highly placed people are very funny. They are charmed by his simplicity and honesty. They think 'Chauncy Gardiner' is a wise and profound man who uses metaphors of the garden to answer deep and thorny questions, when, of course, gardening is all he knows.

Peter Sellers in 'Being There'

He quickly rises to public prominence and becomes a media sensation. The film  exposes a society deeply in need of simple truths amidst its manipulations and self-serving follies.  

He only knows gardening and so his answers are from the garden: 

'Chance the Gardener' in the Garden

President "Bobby": Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?
[Long pause]
Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
President "Bobby": In the garden.
Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President "Bobby": Spring and summer.
President "Bobby": Then fall and winter.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
President "Bobby": Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time.
[Benjamin Rand applauds]
President "Bobby": I admire your good, solid sense. That's precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

Chance the Gardener with the President

 'Being There' is an endearing film, a black comedy, that portrays a man who lives in the present moment... like the Tao that says, "happiness comes not from recognizing that we are all part of a great flow: it comes merely from flowing", Chance the Gardener is as soft and yielding as flowing water that dissolves the hard and inflexible. 

photo by Ben Wa

We all know this is true but how many of us can put it into practice?  

Gardening - as Chance would tell us - helps us do that. 

The Gardener Philosopher is something to be. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Decorating Nature with Norm Magnusson

walnut leaves by Norm Magnusson

Artist Norm Magnusson lives near Woodstock, New York.   Yes, that Woodstock...

Magnusson (see his website, Funism) is an artist that uses all media to get his ideas across.

(Zig Zag Leaves - Norm Magnusson)

In his 'Decorating Nature' series of art photos (giclee prints - they're for sale) Magnusson paints on or colors pieces of nature, like adding stripes to a fallen leaf, painting a pine cone blue or drawing concentric rings on a stone. He says,

(Blue Cone - Norm Magnusson)

"We use nature to how we see fit: we strive to bring order to it,
 we seek to explain it in a language that doesn’t belong to it, 
we try to make it prettier, 
we try to make it better, 
we try to make it more profitable. 
Some efforts succeed, some don’t."     

(amen to that - Jan)

(Tree Rock - Norm Magnusson)

But Magnusson also says that his art photos are all about beauty, saying,

"Beauty is the best friend of consideration."

(Eastern Hemlock - Norm Magnusson)

Some of you may want to replicate Magnusson's ideas in your garden which would be a lot of fun. And as Magnusson writes,

"Lastly and maybe most importantly, this body of work is meant to be fun.
I hope you feel I’ve succeeded."

Oh yes, Norm - You have definitely succeeded.

For more great pics- Go to his blog:

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Tuscan Garden - Garden Photo of the Day

Federico Forquet Garden  - click here 

Federico Forquet has spent his long life in the fashion industry and in design of all kinds. Here is his garden in the Tuscan hills in Italy. It is a serene sanctuary.

Forquet says that creative fulfillment is a personal quest, not a public endeavor. “If you create an Empire you become an Emperor. But I prefer being a private and happy citizen of the world.”

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Oakhurst Pineapple Lily - Garden Photo of the Day

Pineapple Lily - by Jan Johnsen

Oakhurst Pineapple Lily (Eucomis 'Oakhurst') has pineapple-like stalks of creamy flowers and strap like foliage.

 A summer stunner, 20" tall!

This deep-purple leafed lily loves sun and has a tropical look. It holds its color when the weather gets extremely hot. This bulbous perennial also exhibits excellent cold hardiness. 

Looks great in planters, especially with silver foliage. Lasts 21 days as a cut flower!

Give it a year after planting before you expect flowers.

USDA Zones: