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
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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Garden Photo of the Day - Cracked Log Lamp


Cracked Log Lamp  


Duncan Meerding designs some great stuff...

I especially like his Cracked Log Lamp. I like it so much I chose it as the Garden Photo of the Day - although I do not think this photo is accurate. I do not think you can use them outside...



Why not make your own with outdoor rated electrical fixtures?













Monday, May 25, 2015

A Powerpoint talk on Fragrance in the Garden ....


I have a great Powerpoint talk about Designing with Fragrance in the Garden...
if anyone is interested in having me present this talk at a symposium, conference or to a group please contact me.

jan@johnsenlandscapes.com









Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cottage Garden Flowers



The traditional cottage gardens of Great Britain contain both vegetables and flowers - the flowers attract the bees to pollinate the crops. 

cottage garden, design - Jan Johnsen


Thus cottage gardens are filled with colorful, scented blossoms and herbs. The tallest plants are at the back and shortest ones in front.




The flowers border the gravel paths and make quite a show. A confluence of shapes, color and texture make the garden an exuberant display of nature's finest. You can't make a mistake with this so have fun!

Sunny Border Blue veronica - from Bluestone Perennials










Monday, May 18, 2015

Its All About the (annual) Flowers


( Profusion zinnias, marigolds,salvia, plectranthus - Jan Johnsen)
Annual flowers - those that bloom all summer into late fall (then give it up for good) - are the secret to a joyful and colorful garden. 

I know some people might think that colorful flowers are too bright, too eye-catching or overstated but I say, 'embrace the color!'

Nature communicates through color. Color is its catalyst and its signal. Birds and insects navigate by color, among other things, and besides, annual flowers' color makes us happy.

(Jan Johnsen - coleus, plectranthus,angelonia, and more)
It does require extra work in the spring.

You must prepare the flower beds and plant seeds or small plants during the cool days of spring. But boy, does it pay off during the summer and fall. The display enriches our everyday life and greets us every morning with a colorful 'pop'.

(Mohonk Mountain House, incredible place)

I know all about annual flowers because after graduating college (landscape architecture focus) decades ago, I went to work in the display gardens at MOHONK MT. HOUSE in New Paltz, NY. I was not very happy about the situation,  thinking flowers 'beneath' me...

At that time, I had drunk the 'koolaid' that said landscape architects need not be concerned with such superfluous things as flowers...this was decades ago when marigolds ruled the flower world. (smile).

But, as always happens, the very thing you think is not good is actually the best thing you could ever hope for! Life works that way....

(Versailles Gardens in France)
I worked for Alain Grumberg, who had emigrated from France. He had been trained by his country as a Master Gardener in the truest sense of the word.  He had worked in the Versailles gardens before coming to this country and was the head of the grounds at Mohonk. He had won the "Best Resort Grounds in America' the year before I arrived.

I worked for him, seeding annuals, transplanting every annual seedling into 6 paks and and planting out every plant (thousands!) with him. It was tedious but what a learning experience.

(Part of the display gardens at Mohonk Mt. House - )

I learned from Alain how to plant annual plants like a professional  - fast and perfect. And we used no chemicals - aged horse manure compost was our soil amendment. Fish Emulsion was our liquid fertilizer. Then I took care of the garden shown above. Edging, weeding ( no mulch here), and watering....

So here I am today, drawing detailed site plans (grades, drainage, construction specs) and then planting the annuals as well! Kind of a double whammy....

(Jan Johnsen - Verbena bonariensis and 'Senorita Rosalita' Cleome, a fun, tall combo)

I do this because, as I always say, when people see one of my landscapes, they don't say , "what lovely drain grates!" but rather, "What incredible flowers!" In the end, its all about the flowers.

(Jan Johnsen - Angelonia 'Wedgwood Blue')











Blue and Red in your Garden - Henri Matisse

Painting - Henri Matisse

A certain blue enters your soul.
A certain red has an effect on your blood pressure. 

- Henri Matisse

garden - Jan Johnsen














Friday, May 15, 2015

Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' - Beautiful and Deer Resistant too

White flowers in this pic are Diamond Frost  


My favorite deer resistant annual flower is
Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'.


This plant, which looks like airy Baby's Breath, made its debut in 2005 in the Proven Winners catalog of annual flowers and since then has become the Most Award Winning Plant in Proven Winners History. Why?



Well, besides having a nice mounded habit to it (about 12 to 18 inches tall),  it blooms continuously in clouds of airy white flowers through summer heat and drought.

It stays beautiful without deadheading. And it is deer resistant!

(internationl hearlad tribune - posted by erasmus)

You can fill in plant beds in the middle of a combination.

It tolerates temp down to 40°F  and you can plant it in sun or partial shade.


It blooms nonstop from spring until frost. What more could you ask?


Euphorbia is known as spurge and was named after an ancient Greek physician, Euphorbus, who gave an herbal remedy made from a spurge to treat a king's swollen belly. The common name spurge also comes from its use as an herbal purgative.

It sells out! Go grab some....









Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Design Tips for an Enchanting Garden Gate


A gate announces a new experience.

If you elongate or expand the entry area it makes the transition even more tantalizing.

The gate shown here is in a lovely property that I redesigned ...We installed a pool and renovated the old gate with new hinges, roofing and paint. I installed a bluestone threshold beneath and extended it out into the peony garden. The overhead roof makes a grand statement. The white color stands out against a green setting.

The gateway leads down existing brick steps which extends the 'entry experience'.

That is Salix integra 'Hakuro Nishiki' or Japanese Dappled Willow on both sides of the gate. It is a great plant for pool areas as its striking white-green foliage moves in the breeze and brightens up any sunny area. Cut it down to a foot or two above the ground in late fall and watch it grow back through the summer!

Jan Johnsen - Johnsen Landscapes & Pools

Here is the second entry into the same pool area (a contained space should always have at least 2 access/egress points, if physically possible..), it is a simple white gate that leads to a set of steps ascending into the pool zone.

This is not meant to be an elaborate entry, rather it is a quiet spot, off to the side.


I placed two pots of purple annuals on top of the wall...These
add a bit of color to entry.











Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hybrid Horsechestnut - Garden Photo of the Day

Hybrid Horsechestnut  

This is the flower of Aesculus pavia x flava. It was taken at the Longenecker Gardens at the UW-Arboretum in Madison, WI.

I have never seen anything like this..had to share.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Serenity in the Garden: Continuously Creating....




Life and Death, possession and loss, 

success and failure, poverty and wealth, 

virtue and vice, good and evil, 

hunger and thirst, heat and cold -- 

these are changes of things in the natural course of events. 



Day and night they follow upon one another, 

and no man can say where they spring from.

Therefore they must not be allowed to disturb the natural harmony, 

nor enter into the soul's domain.

Buddha at Green Gulch farm

One should live so that one is at ease, 

and in harmony with the world, 

without loss or happiness, 

and by day and by night, 

share the peace of spring with the created things. 


Photo by Jason Smalley

Thus continuously one creates the seasons in one's own breast. 

Such a person may be said to have perfect talents.



- Confucius










Monday, May 4, 2015

Chasmanthium 'River Mist' - WOW!

click here to get chasmanthium River Mist 
This lovely variegated cultivar of the ornamental grass - Northern Sea Oats 'River Mist' -  really brightens up a light shady spot. Chasmanthium is a native N. American clump forming grass.  I think it is good for pots. 
It likes light shade, is deer resistant and low maintenance.
Cut back in late winter or very early spring before new growth begins.

oat-like seed heads rustle in the breeze

'River Mist' looks especially graceful in a pot with Lamium 'Ghost' and small begonias. It grows from zone 4 - 9. 30" tall. 
Here is Lamium 'Ghost' - It is a ground cover and great in shady areas. 
Lamium 'Ghost' 
The bamboo-like blades of 'River Mist' are marked in white and in summer its oat-like seed heads making a shimmery silver/white display. In fall, bring the dried seed heads indoors for unique cut flower bouquets.

Have fun!





Sunday, May 3, 2015

for National Public Gardens Day - a talk in Montclair, New Jersey




Join us this coming Friday!

Montclair Garden Club

Watchung Booksellers

54 Fairfield Street, Watchung Plaza, Montclair, NJ 07042

Friday, May 8, 2105   6pm- 7pm 










Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Seeking Enchantment in the Garden


Photo by Jan Meissner 

The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.
~ George Bernard Shaw

We now no longer see the natural world as something to be tamed or conquered but, rather, as something to be revered.

HGTV photo

And we understand Chief Seattle's 1854 admonition:

“Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.”

Broomley Meadow, Seven Ponds Farm

This ecological awareness has compelled us to seek a more meaningful connection to the earth which, in turn, has led some of us inevitably to gardens and landscapes. This is the impetus behind this blog.  I have a strong desire to share my lifelong landscape design experiences in order to inspire others to ‘touch the earth’.

by Jan Johnsen

I aim to promote a reverent way of looking at the green world which sees the piece of ground outside our door as an ‘everyday conduit’ to the energy of life that flows within plants, water, trees, sunlight, rocks, birds and assorted creatures.

J. Johnsen

 Indeed, it is in a garden, as George Bernard Shaw declared, where we can touch the divine.

Photo by Hans Hansen - Millennium Allium 

Looking at the natural world in this way is nothing new. The idea of sanctified outdoor space was the genesis for the sacred groves of the Egyptians, Indians and Greeks. It birthed the medieval labyrinths and Native Americans’ 'medicine wheels'. And of course, ancient Chinese geomancy, ‘Feng Shui’, and Indian ‘Vaastu’, which see the earth and her directions as living, vibrant forces.


from the book, Heaven is a Garden - Jan Johnsen

So we look back to great thinkers such as Lao-Tzu, Pythagoras and Emerson and ancient peoples such as the Native Americans, Chinese and Hawaiians for their sage guidance. They remind us of the power of the natural world upon the human spirit.

I believe knowing the ancient ways help us touch the 'numinous dimension' of a garden. And truly, this is where we will find the enchantment that we are all seeking...

Heaven is a Garden 









Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Great Mother's Day Gift - A Knock Out Rose and Rose Pruner

I planted these Double Knock Out roses...blooming like crazy.  - Jan 

I love Knock-out Roses...I know they are becoming almost too popular but there are good reasons for this:

They are disease free, bloom extra long and are cold hardy.

They bloom the first year you plant them and are heat tolerant.

And best of all, there is no need to deadhead Knock Out -- the flowers will continue no matter what!

I normally plant the Double Knock Out Rose. The flowers have 25 petals per bloom! Flowering begins in early summer and continues til heavy frost ( it was still blooming in NY in mid November).

double knock out rose

Prune them in late winter or early spring or trim them right after the first bloom flush in early summer. Follow with some rose food. Epsom salts too!

A great rose pruner is the Corona Long Reach Pruner.  It cuts and holds so you don't have to touch thorny branches. Click on the name for more info.  It makes rose pruning and other tree and shrub pruning so much easier because it gives you extra reach.




A new Knock Out I want to try is the 'White Out' Knock Out Rose. It has almost black foliage and creamy white flowers. Grows well in heat. Compact. Its open flower would look wonderful in a cottage garden.  It was selected as one of ten top roses in 2012 at the UGA Trial Gardens.  click here for more.

white-out Rose