Browsing Tag

garden design tips

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Stone Benches – Grounding does it.

February 21, 2017

In honor of my new book, The Spirit of Stone – 101 Practical and Creative Stonescaping Ideas for Your Garden (St. Lynn’s Press, 2017) that was released last week I am sharing this post about stone benches.

Stone Bench – Dallas Arboretum – photo by Jan Johnsen

In the heat of the summer when we should be pruning what we really want to do is sit in the cool shade and drink a tall glass of iced tea.


Antique sandstone Bench from English Garden Antiques

Ah, a place to sit in the cool leafy shade!
What better contrast to the soft green lushness that surrounds you than a stone seat or bench, immutable, grounded and cool to the touch…
sitting on stone outdoors grounds you and aligns you to the earth’s electromagnetic pulse…

It is like a calming sedative that you feel almost immediately.

See some great stone benches at the Stonepost website

Stone seats in the garden have a storied history. The Druids of Northern Europe fashioned stone chairs out of boulders. It is surmised that they were used for rituals and perhaps coronations of a sort. Today, in the British Isles and in France, you can find ancient stone seats in fields, woods and near sacred springs.

Sunny Wieler, an Irish stonemason / artist, follows in his ancestors’ tradition and wrote about making stone seats in his marvelous blog, Stone Art Blog (check it out!). Stone Art is his company which serves County Cork and Dublin. Here are some of his marvelous creations.

Sunny Wieler – Stone Art Blog

You might expect all stone seats to be massive and heavy but this is not the case.

In the Chinese tradition, they fashion rounded stone seats (some are carved to look like drums) which encircle a stone table. You can see a great example in the Chinese garden at Naumkeag in Stockbridge.

Traditional Chinese stone table and stone seats

Following this idea, the wonderful designer Jinny Blom created Spore seats. Although not technically pure stone (they are made of a eco friendly moldable stone) they hark back to Chinese stone seats with a more modern flavor. I love them.

They were a commissioned design for a permanent installation at London’s Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, which won a prestigious BALI Landscape Award.

Jinny Blom’s Spore Seats

Another modern take on ancient stone benches is made by Escofet. Their Bilbao benches are also not pure stone but look how great they are.

I show more stone bench ideas in my new book, The Spirit of Stone- 101 Practical and Creative Stonescaping ideas for Your Garden

Blog

‘Sparkler’ Carex – a great plant

January 5, 2017

Sparkler Carex


What is deer resistant, grows in part to full shade, has varigated leaves, likes wet soil, has no serious pests and will naturalize and spread?

Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’ – photo by Laura McKillop

Carex phyllocephala ‘Sparkler’


‘Sparkler’ Carex or sedge thrives in moist, organically rich soils so it is perfect for rain gardens or heavy soil. It is considered to be winter hardy to USDA Zone 7 (hardy to 10 degrees). It can be grown as an annual is colder regions.
‘Sparkler’ is clump-forming and has whorl-like clusters of grass-like, variegated leaves at the end of each 12″ – 24″ tall stem. This makes it look like a mini palm of narrow leaves with broad white margins. Tony Avent describes Carex Sparkler as “a grove of miniature variegated palm trees.”


photo taken by Laura McKillop in the conservatory at Longwood Gardens

In southern locations where plants are reliably winter hardy, you can grown them in a mass in a shady spot..in colder areas you can grow them in planters to light up a shady corner. It is also great for cut flower arrangements.

This Japanese import looks lovely among ferns in the woodland garden or along a border. Tell your garden center to order it now for next spring!

Blog

Make a Yoga Garden This Year

January 2, 2017

yoga garden – Johnsen Landscapes


Picture yourself being outside in a garden on a warm sunny morning. Nearby, birds are singing and flowers are blooming. This is a perfect space to unroll a yoga mat and embark on some ‘sun salutations’. So why not create a yoga garden? You can do this using some design ideas I offer in the book, ‘Heaven is a Garden – Designing Serene Outdoor Spaces for Inspiration and Reflection’ (published by St. Lynn’s Press).

Innisfree garden in NY – please visit!


Just as yoga allows us to ‘tune into’ our bodies, serene gardens help us get in touch with nature’s calming energies. Any outdoor setting, no matter the size, can become a place of quiet beauty. It should be partially sheltered, out of the wind and be bathed in gentle sunlight from east or southeast or dappled shade. I suggest you aim for ‘simplicity, sanctuary and delight’.

Bedrock Gardens – please visit!


Simplicity means clean lines such as slow curving walks or plant beds. Sanctuary refers to a a sheltered corner formed by a hedge or tree where we feel protected. And delight is anything that gladdens your heart. This can be a patch of flowers, outdoor art or a trickling water fountain.
And of course, you can utilize nature’s nurturing qualities by carefully placing a large rock or stone sculpture within your backyard. The natural ability of stone to ‘ground’ us was well known to ancient cultures and we are now rediscovering this wonderful idea.

Bedrock Gardens – please visit!


Additionally, the colors blue and green induce calm and add a feeling of restfulness to any outdoor space. You can also paint a gate deep blue or add more green textured plants to your garden. And, as I describe in my book, certain trees can add a beneficial and supportive energy to their surroundings. Lastly, we all respond to the fullness of a rounded shape such as a round finial or rounded planter.

PJM Rhodys and tulips make a Spring garden sing.


A yoga garden is a quiet place of renewal and contemplation and can be any size and in any locale. I have a small backyard where I added a curving ‘dry stream’ along one side. This stream hints at a waterway but there is no water in it. It is lined with rocks and contains decorative pebbles atop gravel. The plants that border it are the show as is the stream’s simple curved layout. I used two-thirds evergreen plants and one-third deciduous plants, which follows the ideal proportion found in Japanese gardens.
I like to use many green textures in a garden..then I add a rounded artful accent

I like to use many green textures in a garden..then I add a rounded artful accent


I firmly believe that a backyard designed to be a ‘little piece of heaven’ can remake ordinary time and space into something memorable, just as yoga does. Together, they can create some magic in your life.
P.S. Check out my upcoming book, The Spirit of Stone – and use the grounding energy of stone in your new yoga garden!

Blog

Garden tip – Obey the Request of the Stone

December 29, 2016

rocks and blue fescue – Johnsen Landscapes


My upcoming book, The Spirit of Stone (published by St Lynn’s Press) will be out in February, 2017 . It looks at many ways you can use natural stone in the garden from artful accents and stone walks to sustainable dry creeks and rock gardens.


One of the topics I address is the art of setting stones in a rock garden. I once lived in Japan (I worked in a landscape architecture office in Osaka) and so I feel a special connection to Japanese rock gardens. In my work with placing rocks (often with large machines) I always listen to what the stone says. Sometimes, after a tough time placing a rock, I say that the stone does not want to be there and remove it.

I used to think that this conversation with a rock was my unique approach. But I was wrong. I also said that the first rock to be set determined the rest of the rocks in the garden and so this was the most important. Again, this was an old rule that I thought I made up. The 11th-century guide to making Japanese gardens, the Sakuteiki, said it first.

Steinhardt rock garden in NY – photo by Jan Johnsen


The Sakuteiki was written in a time when placing stones was the most important part of gardening in Japan. Stone literally defined the art of garden making, ishi wo tateru koto (build up with stone) referred not only to stone placement but also to garden making itself.

Here is an excerpt from the wonderful book, ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’ by Tan Twan Eng. It is an interchange about setting rocks in a Japanese-inspired garden:

“How will I know where to place the stones?”
“What is the first piece of advice given in Sakuteiki?
I thought for a second. “Obey the request of the stone.”
“The opening words of the book,” he said, nodding. “This spot where you sit, this is the starting point. This is where the guest views the garden. Everything planted and created in Yuguri has its distance, scale and space calculated in relation to what you see from here.

This is the place where the first pebble breaks the surface of the water. Place the first stone properly and the others will follow its request. The effect expands through the whole garden. If you follow the stones’ wishes, they will be happy.”

boulder outcrop with plants – Johnsen Landscapes & Pools

Blog

Garden Design Magazine’s New Gorgeous Videos!

October 10, 2016
This is a great magazine.

This is a great magazine.

Have you noticed that I love the new Garden Design Magazine?

At every talk I give, I gush about it. It is a gorgeous magazine devoted to garden design and plants. Every article is fascinating. It comes every few months.

Dwarf NY Asters featured in the Fall issue of Garden Design magazine

Dwarf NY Asters featured in the Fall issue of Garden Design magazine

Now they have upped their game even more and have developed some fabulous videos that share with you a little of what is in their issue….

Jim Peterson, the publisher and driving force behind the magazine, plans to make three kinds of videos. The first supports stories in the magazine. The second is about garden features that are popular and on the fabulous Garden Design website and the third will be about garden design and will be made in collaboration with designer, Richard Hartlage.

Here is an interview with the editor of Garden Design magazine, Thad Orr, talking about the magazine and what is covered. It is a gem of a magazine and I urge you to subscribe to it!

Here is Thad Orr talking about the article about Desert Native Plants – wow!

Get your first issue free when you subscribe, use www.gardendesign.com/jan

Blog

October Glory in the Garden

October 5, 2016

In my part of the world – New York State – October is when Mother Nature shines. The days are shorter, the sun is low in the sky, but the weather stays warm enough for the flowering plants to hang on.

I design and install gardens with October in mind because it is now when people have time to appreciate their grounds – it is too cold for the beach and graduations and summer parties are a memory. This is when people can stop and savor a garden.

The design of Fall gardens is something I urge my students to master because these gardens prolong our enjoyment of Nature’s gracious gifts.

And, more importantly, they quietly trumpet the siren call of the garden muse who is about to take her leave…but not just yet…..she sticks around to give it one last show….

So in that vein, I am describing a little of what goes into making a autumn flower border… I know most readers simply enjoy the photos but maybe a few are interested in the ‘gory details’.

the holly backdrop here hides a deer fence

the holly backdrop here hides a deer fence

The flower border shown above is at the bottom of a long, gradual hill – thus, water collected here in great pools after a rain. It was wet and soggy a good deal of the time. Many plants would not have lived in this wetness so I had large amounts of soil brought in to create a high mounded bed to lift them above the damp conditions.

Additionally, we had a ‘field’ of subsurface pipes (set in gravel) installed in front of the border to catch and carry away the runoff. We then graded and laid sod to create a lawn atop the pipes.

Please know it is always about the grading and the drainage..the plants come later….

Farther uphill I planted shrub roses – ‘Sunny’ Knock Out Roses and beyond is another flower border featuring Nepeta, Japanese wind anemones, garden phlox, goldenrod..

'Sunny' Knock Out Roses are three shades of light yellow / white...luscious.

‘Sunny’ Knock Out Roses are three shades of light yellow / white…luscious.

One of my ‘fave rave’ perennial flowers for October (in my part of the world) is Japanese Wind Anemone…gently waving in the cool breeze. Its dainty flowers are the jewels of the flower world.

anemone-honorine-jobert-by-jan-johnsen

And of course some flowers of summer persist into fall and are actually more glorious now than ever…Lantana is a strong October performer.

White Lantana in October next to Blue Spruce globosum

White Lantana in October next to Blue Spruce globosum

also don’t forget the berries! Winterberry likes it moist.. feeds the birds and is a native.

Love that winterberry...

Love that winterberry…

and now that October is coming to a close…on to November!

 Steinhardt garden bridge in NY in October -   photo by Jan Johnsen


Steinhardt garden bridge in NY in October – photo by Jan Johnsen

I am speaking with Kerry Ann Mendez and Karen Bussolini at the Fall Garden Symposium in Stockbridge, Mass on Oct 20, 2016..
Go here for more info.

Blog, Books

Win a free issue of Garden Design Magazine right here!

July 18, 2016

As you may know, I love Garden Design magazine. It is gorgeous, each issue is 148 pages thick and packed with fascinating gardening info and landscaping ideas and, best of all, it has no ads! It is published quarterly, one issue per season.

How can they make it work? Well, it is a subscriber-supported magazine. Jim Peterson is the publisher and Thad Orr is the editor. I think they have made it the best garden magazine out there….

Would you like an issue? I am giving out the current issue to 3 lucky winners…see below for my random drawing.

And I am thrilled to say that Garden Design chose to feature my ideas on Creating a Relaxing Retreat in their current issue which features Serene Spaces. I am honored and so happy that it is being shared by such a prestigious and elevated magazine!

jan johnsen - despau illustration

The 6 page article, ‘Serenity and the Sweet Spot’, offers my tips for creating relaxing outdoor spaces that I have refined over the years. I look to ancient sources and have used them in my landscapes. They took my photos and had a brilliant illustrator from Spain, David Despau, interpret them in colored pen an dink drawings. Wow.

SERENITY AND THE SWEET SPOT 2

Also they have a 16-page spread on David Austin roses.

roses

And an article on hydrangeas that made me swoon. I am planting so many of the new varieties these days for clients. And then there is the article on the Thomas Jefferson garden at Monticello with Peter Hatch. It is called ‘Jefferson’s Legacy, at last’ That is the best! TJ is my hero and I went to see Monticello on my honeymoon. (I have been back since).

(Photo credit: GardenDesign/Ngoc Minh Ngo — used by permission.).

(Photo credit: GardenDesign/Ngoc Minh Ngo — used by permission.).

And lastly, they have a great piece on Disneyland’s horticultural magic. What a fascinating article! Am I gushing? Well that is because it really is a great magazine.

For a chance to win an issue of Serene Spaces issue of Garden Design (U.S. and Canada residents only) post a comment below.
I use the number generator at Random.org to select 3 winners.

Winners will be announced both here and on my Facebook page on Saturday, July 23, 2016, so check back!
If you want to buy your own subscription to Garden Design, and receive your first issue for free? Click here: Garden Design.

Blog, Books, Garden Tips

Garden Design Magazine – My Tips and Interview

July 9, 2016

Garden Design Magazine interviewed me for tips for blending ancient and modern ways to create gardens that simply make you feel good.

They also had the fabulous illustrator from Spain, David Despau, illustrate photos of some of my landscapes.

I am honored. It is in the summer issue of Garden Design:
summer 2016 cover (1)

It is such a great magazine.

You can use this link to subscribe to garden Design and get your first issue free
www/gardendesign.com/janjohnsen

You can also order just this one issue here
https://subscribe.gardendesign.com/store/#

Blog, Garden Tips

Beautify Your Vegetable Garden with These Ideas…..

July 1, 2016

The French have long understood that vegetable gardens can be places of beauty. They located their traditional potagers, or kitchen gardens, outside their kitchen windows and included vertical structures, flowers, and artistic plant groupings designed for aesthetic appeal.

Flowers look beautiful and attract the all important pollinators to your garden. Read the wonderful article I have linked here for learning how to include beautiful flowers and more in your veggie garden.

Infographic - go here for more

Infographic – go here for more

Blog, Garden Tips

Add a Lively Red Accent in Your Landscape

June 1, 2016

Bold. Bright. Pop.

This is what RED adds to a garden.

RED, an eye catching hue, stands up to the summer sun’s withering glare in the afternoon.

When all pastels fade away, red, orange and yellow sing their hearts out….and RED always steals the show.

chakras-redRED has a vivid history – Check it out on the sensational color website. It is the color of the root chakra (this means ‘energy point) of the body:

“This chakra is located at the base of the spine and allows us to be grounded and connect to the universal energies. Groundedness, belonging….”

(sounds perfect for all us grounded gardeners)

p171551-nikko-shinkyo_bridge

In Japan RED is associated with certain deities. Their “Shinkyo” (Sacred Bridge) in Nikko, Japan is a wonderful example of the contrast RED makes with green in a natural setting.

You can also see how effective RED is in the modern Chinese Red Ribbon in Tanghe River Park, designed by Turenscape :

red ribbon park turen landscape

This use of RED has always been popular in Chinese gardens…Here is another example showing a red Tori or gate…what great proportions too.

bigstock_Winter_Chinese_Garden_983499

I was first introduced to the power of red by the French artist, Matisse…I loved his ‘Red Studio’ when I first saw it as a child in a NY museum:

redstudio

And of course Red furniture outdoors attracts the eye:

hotel-saint-celia

Here is a landscape I designed – the red bench definitely dominates the scene:

garden by Jan Johnsen  2011 02

(Jan Johnsen)

superbells redI often plant RED Callibrachoa in my clients’ gardens. It is a eye catcher for sure!

 

 

 

I also plant a mass of red begonias next to dark green leucothoe to make a statement. This is what I did along an entry walk:

Jan Johnsen -leucothoe and red begonia

Of course the spilling over of Superbena Royale Red Verbena in a pot is unmatched:

SUPERBENA ROYALE RED VERBENA

(courtesy of Proven Winners)

And Nemesia, a cool season annual flower, is also a knock out in red, Sunsatia Cranberry Nemesia :

SUNSATIA CRANBERRY NEMESIA

(courtesy of Proven Winners)

Did you know that Bees can’t see the color red, but they can see all other bright colors. Red flowers are usually pollinated by birds, butterflies, bats, and wind, rather than bees.

I love red tulips against a white fence so I planted these Parade tulips:

PARADE TULIPS garden and photo by jan johnsen

(Jan Johnsen)

And of course the traditional Red Geranium always signifies ‘welcome’ in so many languages:

the-color-red-800px

So please consider ‘spicing up’ your outdoor surroundings with some RED today – you won’t regret it!

Silas Mountsier garden - photo by Jan Johnsen

(Silas Mountsier Garden, photo by Jan Johnsen)