October 31, 2016

Selecting Colors and Textures for the Garden and the Home


Create a beautiful autumnal still life with russet/gold/cardinal colored foliage, berries, flowers and seed heads from your garden. Pair a basket of like-colored apples and voila! instant arrangement.

It is such a commonsense notion that we often overlook its brilliant simplicity in designing our gardens, and that is to:  


grow those colors and textures and hues in our landscapes that also enhance the decor and style and hues of our home's interior.  Put another way, what looks good growing together in the garden will also be a beautiful ensemble inside our home and match our indoor color schemes when cut for the vase.

Beautifully colored oak leaf hydrangea leaf, nandina berries, sprigs of sedum, and a late blooming apricot rose are part of the the equation.
A small bouquet of spider mums in similar colors joins the assembly of garden cuttings.

In my own gardens, this is not especially true.......until autumn. When fall arrives, the foliage of my oak leaf hydrangeas, deutzia, maples and on and on begin to take on the hues of the colors of my home:  creams and russets and burnt umbers....dusty greens and apricot.  Nandina berries are only halfway to the red they will assume in the winter.....the perfect shades of terra-cotta and orange I want in my seasonal arrangements now. Sedum flowers, poppy pods, papery dried hydrangea blooms add sumptuous textures and contrast to the boldly colored leaves.


An umber pedestal vase accentuates the beauty of the garden cuttings. A pale pumpkin sits at its side.

My kitchen turns into a happy playground, with leafy and flowery toys to entertain and delight me. I enjoy the fussing and placing and putzing. Execution is easy. A loaf of oasis is saturated and then placed in the container, secured with florist's tape and then assembled in a pleasing way....according to this artist's whims.



Layer upon layer of leaves, flowers and berries are added. Knowing when to stop is the biggest challenge in its artistry.

Flaming colors toned down by dusty creams and greens speaks the season....and the colors of my kitchen.




From the front and from the back....different views and different textures.




In my morning room with apples and plaid and ivy for company.


Then put in place where I, and visitors can enjoy them...however fleetingly.


Hopefully you enjoyed them as well. :)

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and InstagramOr missed a 4 YOUR GARDEN segment? Go here. 

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October 18, 2016

How I Use Potted Topiary in my Garden Beds

Topiaries in pots set in the front beds accentuate the vertical lines in my English Tudor home and its lamppost.

I posed the following question recently on Facebook (you can follow me here), and now  I ask you as well:

 Do you like potted topiaries 'floating' in garden beds or do you find them distracting?

There is no right or wrong answer, but it is an interesting, subjective question in garden design to ponder. I can see either side of the issue, so, while I obviously fall into the category of LIKE vs distracting, I do try to adhere to certain guidelines in using topiary in the landscape to keep such dissonance and visual interruptions to a minimum. Here are some points to consider if you too enjoy their sophistication and appeal in the garden border. (For a  p o t a g e r post on other plant materials to use for topiary, go here). 

Generally, I like things in threes, though often a third non-topiary element (like the extreme verticality of my oak) can serve as the last element in the triangle. 

1.  I wanted them to match the scale of my landscape and home.

These Eugenia topiaries are three years old and fairly large, about 4-5 feet tall and about 15" across. They are in large, real terra-cotta pots, as light weight terra-cotta alternatives don't, in this relatively unprotected area, remain upright in our strong Oklahoma winds. Even THESE heavy pots succumb on occasion (like today and yesterday and the day before that... AARRGH!!) when our proverbial winds are REALLY 'whipping down the plain'. 

I use a mix of both terra cotta and aged concrete in the beds and on the porch.
2.  I went with traditional pots to match the traditional style of my home. 

Anything aged, traditional in appearance, and in terra-cotta or concrete would have worked. While I want them to have heft for sturdiness, I don't want them to be SO prohibitively heavy that I cannot move them myself, or have issues with weight when they overwinter in the greenhouse each winter.
Because of this,  I went with terra cotta, slightly lighter in weight, but meeting my other criteria.


Eugenia in one, two and three tier forms, are distinctive and yet harmonious.
3.  I used just one type of plant for each of the three pots.

While in the back I use all form of plants for topiary, in the front I want to prevent visual dissonance and create as much harmony as possible. Plenty of other visual variables, on my property and others, compete for the attention of the eye. Using just one plant material, albeit in various 'poodle' and topiary forms, lends itself to more continuity. In this case I use Eugenia, in the myrtle family, because of its good nature, good performance and good looks. (For a fun way to while away some time, look at the Eugenia Pinterest page here and indulge your topiary obsession.)


Keeping topiary straight and upright can be a challenge, but very handsome and satisfying when they cooperate!

4.  It is difficult, but worth the effort I think, to keep them as straight and vertical as possible.

Okay, I know this is overly fastidious... and gives great insight into my garden-control fixations, but I do think that NOT being attentive to their straight and vertical stature... can be visually distracting and uncomfortable to the eye. Ironically, I spend far more time straightening and getting these beauties to 'fly right' than I do tending the plants themselves! So if you drive by, tell me if this
is not the case...

Now I need to work on that wayward, and very heavy birdbath.
but please don't judge me if they appear tipsy!

The balls/verticality of the topiary both contrast and echo the rounded forms of the pumpkins and cushion mums.
Please do drive by if possible and tell me what you think!
The glossy foliage looks beautiful when it catches the golden light of fall.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and InstagramOr missed a 4 YOUR GARDEN segment? Go here. 

October 16, 2016

Design Inspiration for Starting a New Garden



"Disruption and mayhem in the garden often force change and encourage new and deeper roots. True for the gardener as well as the garden". 
~~ me, aka Linda Vater

It is so tiresome for me to once again kvetch about the havoc that AT&T (and now Apple) has wrought on my blog life...especially since I am always whining and complaining about it. Still, it is amazing how much disruption getting a simple new router can cause and how much downtime on the computer is a result. In the void, however, I have been trying to up my game on Instagram...providing followers with mini garden design tips each day, with photographic examples of each, mostly from my own garden. A fun learning process for me, and hopefully valuable for you. If you too would like to get a daily dose of design (I do LOVE alliteration), please follow me on Instagram by going here. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. And do please share if you feel it might be valuable to someone else.

On another note, I was working out front in the garden today and a young couple strolled by asking questions about my turf and landscape.  They had just bought a house nearby and were 'starting from scratch' so to speak. I told them I had recently written an article in SOUTHERN LIVING Magazine in June about that very topic and was about to repost the article on my blog. So, if you missed it the first time round, or are in need of some small garden inspiration, maybe you will find this re-post helpful.

JUNE 24, 2016


SOUTHERN LIVING: A GARDEN FROM SCRATCH


The potager as it looked the week of the SOUTHERN LIVING shoot.
Where Do We Start?


I found myself referring to points in the article I wrote for the June 2016 issue of SOUTHERN LIVING over and over again as it addressed this very topic.  In case you didn't see the article (it will probably remain on newsstands for a couple more days), here are some of the points I made.  Maybe it will help you put the pieces of your own garden puzzle together as you create a space that is uniquely yours. (For other tips on gardening in the South, consult SOUTHERN LIVING'S The Grumpy Gardener here, on the blog The Daily South.

Large swath of black-eyed susans in front of a dark picket fence and bordered in brick
Large masses of 'Goldsturm' Rudbeckia make a strong statement in my small garden.  Time to divide and share, me thinks!
(Excerpts from the June 2016 issue of SOUTHERN LIVING. Images my own taken week of the shoot.)

When we moved into our 1935 Tudor home twenty-five years ago, I knew nothing about gardening or garden design. The small back yard contained exactly one gnarly old tree , a nest of blackberry brambles and an abandoned sandbox. Crumbling concrete steps led to a ‘lawn’ of weedy, hardpan clay. But after MUCH trial and error, hard work, and a LOT of missteps, the pieces finally fell into place. Now it’s a beautiful and much-used extension of our home. Here are some garden design lessons I learned along the way.

Photographer Ryan Ford (see her work here) sets up shots in back yard.

ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Your landscape should reflect your personality and the way you and your family live. Before planting even one petunia, ask some questions. Do you need a space for entertaining or a kids’ jungle gym?  A sunny spot to grow vegetables or a shady spot to read?  Do you enjoy puttering in the garden or strictly low to no maintenance?  Are you traveling all summer and home in spring and fall?  Questions like these help decide what is important, where to put what, and how to get what you want from a limited amount of space. 


ESTABLISH HARMONY

Home and garden should relate to one another and be similar in style. For example: my Tudor home cried out for the quaint appeal of an English garden. Its asymmetrical architecture with rounded window and door frames inspired an informal style with soft, curved bed lines and mounded forms. I repeated its brick and stone exterior in the edging and hardscape. Traditional English cottage flowers balked at our torrid summers. After killing a lot; okay, A LOT of plants, I learned to substitute tougher look-a-likes that spoke the same language but with an Oklahoma accent.

Pink hibiscus flower with red center and rudbeckia blossoms in garden
 PW Hibiscus 'Cherry Cheesecake" and rudbeckia.


DEFINE AREAS WITH GOOD GARDEN BONES

I think of a garden as I do a house…but with ceilings, walls  and flooring made of plant material, garden structures and hardscape. Tightly clipped evergreens, carefully pruned trees, large containers and arbors make strong garden bones that help divide small backyards into functional, intimate ‘rooms’. In my outdoor entertaining areas, crushed gravel and flagstone are appropriate to my garden style and make a long lasting, 

Large grouping of concrete container plantings.
A group of container plantings creates a sense of enclosure in the dining area.
cost effective floor for outdoor furnishings. A green wall of shrubs and climbers covers the wood fence that encloses the yard. This adds texture, depth, color and softness, creating the illusion of a much larger space. Redbud trees surrounding the perimeter of the dining area have grown together, creating a ceiling of pink blooms in spring and green shade in summer. Twin arbors flank a boxwood hedged potager, enclosing a kitchen garden and providing much needed vertical growing space.

Arching branches of redbud trees create a living ceiling over the dining area.
GO WITH THE FLOW

Not only should a home relate to its garden, but each section of the garden should relate, connect, and easily flow to every other part. (I think of it as the Gardener’s Theory of Relativity). 

Border of Goldsturm rudbeckia flanks a short gate into kitchen garden.
Goldsturm Rudbeckia in huge swaths makes a dramatic statement in a small garden.

In my yard, flagstone pavers set in the lawn (and easily mown over) tell visitors where to go next. They visually connect the shady dining area with the sunnier lawn, and from there to the kitchen garden. (It is also a charming way to save wear and tear on your turf.) 



Brick, soft-set as edging, encircles the lawn with intermittent gaps for low growing ground cover and flowers. Their rhythm and repetition provides definition and helps to unify the space.


Terracotta pots march up and down the back steps creating rhythm and repetition.

DON’T FIGHT MOTHER NATURE
Gardening in Oklahoma ain’t for sissies. I learned early on to try and work WITH, not against, Mother Nature. As every Okie knows, there are but two seasons…before the heat and after the heatwith record-breaking ice, cold, wind, rain, heat, drought, hail and earthquakes thrown in to keep it interesting. Consequently, when back to back ice storms felled three river birches, I replaced them with tough,native redbuds. When my grass reliably died each summer from drought, heat stress and fungal issues, I downsized my grass carpet into a throw rug. I practice a three strikes and you’re out rule. After relocating or replanting three times, if a plant dies or underperforms, out it goes with something tougher in its place. Gardens of ANY size have no space for slackers!
The area to grow edibles in the potager is small. I try to only grow those things we will actually consume!
THINK BIG, START SMALL

Only television shows and people with deep pockets have instant gardens. True gardens require patience, experimentation, perseverance, hard work and a sense of humor. Once you have a vision of your fantasy garden in mind, be smart. Take it one area, one room at a time. Learn how to care for, nurture or maintain 
it.  THEN move on to the next area. Eat that elephant one bite at a time. DO remember that what you want from your yard will change over time, so be flexible in your design.  

Most of all, enjoy the creative process as well as the end result. After all, a dream garden is much more than just the sum of its parts.

Cheery blooms of sunflowers, zinnias, veronica and rudbeckia create a still life on the potager bench for the SOUTHERN LIVING shoot.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and InstagramOr missed a 4 YOUR GARDEN segment? Go here. 

October 5, 2016

How To Plant and Style a Fall Window Box


A bright, early fall example of how to style a window box with greenery, seasonal flowers and fruits of the season: gourds, pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns.
A bright, early fall example of how to style a window box with greenery, seasonal flowers and fruits of the season: gourds, pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns.

In our highly fractured political climate, it is hard to get Americans to agree on anything. But I feel fairly certain, that given a vote or taken a poll, we would get close to 100% consensus that window boxes are a charming way to add greenery, softness and seasonal flair to one's home and outdoor spaces.  I wrote an article for SOUTHERN LIVING Magazine (here) not too long ago about the hows and whys and wheres for building, planting and maintaining a stylish little window box garden. You can read the article Thinking Outside the Window Box (here) and also get a glimpse of the way I had mine styled for fall a few years back. This year, I am all about traditional autumn plantings and colors, hence my 2016 version with classic mums, pumpkins and gourds. With a plugin jack-o-lantern or two for added pop and in deference to that quintessentially American holiday, Halloween.

A straight on view, clearly showing the layers of plantings...thrillers, fillers, and spillers...topped off with decorative gourds and pumpkins.
A straight on view of the window box, clearly showing the layers of plantings...thrillers, fillers, and spillers...topped off with decorative gourds and pumpkins.
(BTW, I am trying to get back in the blogging groove after ATT, Apple and Blogger all conspired against me to wreak havoc on my digital life. One happy unintended consequence however, was that I took this down time to up my game on Instagram,  (you can follow me as potagerblog here) and I have been posting lots of pics of my fall garden, past and present, with garden design tips and styling tricks you might find helpful in your own gardens.) 

But I digress, back to planting and styling the window box.

Remember that most of the time, your window box will be seen up close at an angle from either side as visitors and family enter and exit your home. This long angled view, in my opinion, is far more engaging than the straight on perspective.
Remember that most of the time, your window box will be seen up close at an angle from either side as visitors and family enter and exit your home. This long angled view, in my opinion, is far more engaging than the straight on perspective.

In terms of the contents, I employ the classic thriller, filler, spiller container formula. Aka, plants to add drama and vertical interest, plants to fill out the composition and add color, and trailers to spill out and cascade over the edge, adding texture, romance and softness to the composition. PROVEN WINNERS has a good description and example of this container design technique here.

Ideally, I like my window box thriller(s) to be evergreen, to provide year round interest and prevent planting them repeatedly year after year. But generally, in my situation anyway, they normally last a year or two max because of a change in the light and southern exposure ....as weather events are constantly messing with my trees to change my box's cultural environment and its demands from one season to the next.



Bright mums whose colors can be seen from a distance, along with shiny gourds, catch the light and add to the magic.
Bright mums whose colors can be seen from a distance, along with shiny gourds, catch the light and add to the magic.

The spillers, however, tend to me more long lasting and generally hang in there year round. That leaves the seasonal color each fall, spring, winter and summer, to comprise the majority of the filler that is tucked in with each season's transition.  Consequently the recipe for my 2016 Fall Window Box is:

Three plug in jack-o-lanterns add to the allure of this small window box garden.
Three plug in jack-o-lanterns add to the allure of this small window box garden.

2 Boxwood Cones + five 6" Mums + (about 16 total) 2" Ivy, Wire Vine and Lamium.

Sprinkle with cheery pumpkins, gourds and varied colored squashes to taste.


Generous mounds of like colored pumpkins, gourds and mums are added to from landscape.

Color palette, plants and pumpkins are then repeated in front beds and along the border.  In rather large quantities, and added over time because of said quantities.....

Large boxwood in concrete pots accompany the window box and add to the lush effect.
Large boxwood in concrete pots accompany the window box and add to the lush effect.

to create the effect of, well, a pumpkin patch. For my family and passersby to enjoy.  My, but I do love October in Oklahoma....along with



The window box and porch decor hopefully say WELCOME!

an artfully, lovingly styled window box.


Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and InstagramOr missed a 4 YOUR GARDEN segment? Go here.