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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

The Enchantment of a Curved Garden Walk or Wall

December 27, 2016

Curved Walk – Jan Johnsen


The line of a garden walk can be an integral part of the overall composition rather just a simple linkage. And the layout of a garden wall can be something more than a physical barrier.

For example, ancient Chinese garden designers used curving perimeter walls to enclose their revered gardens. Osvald Siren described the winding grace of a Chinese garden wall in his book, ‘Gardens of China’:


“They seldom follow straight lines, and as a rule are not broken in sharp angles; they rather sweep in wide curves, ascending and descending according to the formation of the ground and thus often have the appearance of being elastic or modeled rather than built up.”

The elasticity of a curve lends a mysterious air to Chinese gardens.

Andy Goldsworthy, the great land art artist, did this with a stone wall at Storm King Mountain Sculpture center.

You can also attract people’s interest by laying out a walkway in a strong, playful line. Here I laid out an S-shaped steppingstone walk rather than a straightforward direct walk. Of course, this is not for carrying groceries to the house but rather, is a meandering garden path.

The curved walk adds a lyrical quality to the scene and makes a garden more enticing. Why not try something like this in your garden?

Blog

Speaking with Earth Spirits

November 18, 2016

Amsonia foliage sparkles in fall

Speaking with Earth Spirits

Deep down, in the warmth of the fecund earth,
the spirits sing songs of life.
Hoping we hear, they inhale and exhale along with the seasons.

Beautyberry in November

Now, in the cool days of November,
they sing to us of rest and replenishment
and ask us to be calm.

Molinia stands tall in late fall

The time has come to listen
and of course, to rake the leaves…the leaves…

– Jan Johnsen

the deep reds of November

the deep reds of November

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

The Rolling Crabapples – smile

September 21, 2016

This is funny.

Glenn Eichler wrote an open letter to the New York Botanical Garden in 2014 in the New Yorker regarding his love of their rock garden. He felt it deserved more attention:

“…rocks—dragged by glaciers, striped and striated by, I guess, also glaciers—deserve better.

Not sexy? Compared to what, the Donald J. Bruckmann Crabapple Collection?

No disrespect to Mr. Bruckmann, but Mick Jagger and Keith Richards haven’t spent fifty years playing to sold-out crowds as the Rolling Crabapples, the world’s greatest crabapple-and-roll band.”

Glenn has a point, don’t you think?

Mick Jagger in garden

Mick Jagger in garden

Blog

Cottage Garden Primer

July 30, 2016

I once worked with a lovely client ( now a dear friend!) who wanted a cottage-style flower garden.

Now there are cottage gardens and then there are cottage gardens…know what I mean?

In Great Britain, it seems everyone has the most magnificent flower garden, each more spectacular than the next…

their lushness sets a standard of perfection for cottage gardens that makes me want to say to someone here in the Northeast U.S., ‘Would you like to consider an ornamental grass garden instead?”

Designed and installed by Johnsen Landscapes & Pools

Designed and installed by Johnsen Landscapes & Pools

But of course, the call of a cottage garden, filled with a profusion of flowers and smelling of roses, peonies and lilacs, makes one dizzy with anticipation.

All you need in my part of the world is a deer fence, deep fertile soil, constant watering and someone to tend it lovingly… a tall order indeed.

But it can be done. And that is what we did – installed a deer fence, brought in great topsoil and carefully amended it and added irrigation. My client followed through and tended it with a loving hand and added wonderful flowers whenever she saw the need.

The result? A sumptuous garden filled with a riot of colors, lurid with intoxicating scents.

a028

I planned the garden to be a 10 foot wide curved plant bed bordering a level lawn. The only problem – there was no level lawn.

The rear property sloped steeply downhill and in order to make it level I needed to bring in soil and retain it with a wall. This is a big proposition in any situation but here it was especially dicey because I didn’t want to disturb the roots of the native hemlock trees growing near where the wall was to be located.

To accomplish this, I used the stacking, concrete units that are part of a wall system called Alpenstein. This is a great solution because no footings are required and Alpenstein allows you to plant within each unit!

It is a versatile, plantable wall system. Once planted with vines and spreading groundcovers, an Alpenstein wall blends with the natural setting.

Designed and installed by Johnsen Landscapes & Pools

Designed and installed by Johnsen Landscapes & Pools

After the site was perfect, I set about planting perennial and annual flowers. Perennials come back every year and form the backbone of the cottage garden. For that I set out large drifts or groups of medium tall, durable flowers in the mid-zone of the bed to add height and variety.

These included ‘Sunny Border Blue’ Speedwell (Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’), the PPA Plant of the Year 1993, and ‘Caesar’s Brother’ Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica ‘Caesar’s Brother’), a reliable and graceful flower with pansy blue coloring….

Veronica photo from Bluestone Perennials

Veronica photo from Bluestone Perennials

Additionally, I planted the graceful Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis gracillimus) and other ‘foolproof” perennials like dwarf Gayfeather, (Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’), the tall ‘Magnus’ Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’).

Below is the list of the dependable flower varieities I used for this garden. No unusual cultivars here – just a cottage garden full of faithful staples that work together in cozy harmony..

Copy of a030


My Flower List for This Cottage Garden

Jan Johnsen

Perennials

Botanical Name Common Name
Artemesia ‘Silver King’ ‘Silver King’ Wormwood
Astilbe chinensis pumila Dwarf Chinese Astilbe
Coreopsis vert. ‘Moonbeam’ ‘Moonbeam’ Coreopsis
Dianthus ‘Bath’s Pink’ ‘Bath’s Pink’ Dianthus
Echinacea purp. ‘Magnus’ Magnus Coneflower
Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ ‘Palace Purple’ Coralbells
Iris sibirica ‘Caesar’s Brother’ ‘Caesar’s Brother’ Siberian Iris
Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’ Dwarf Gayfeather
Lilium orientale ‘Stargazer’ ‘Stargazer’ Oriental Lily
Peonies Peonies
Persicaria ‘Donald Lowndes’ Don. Lowndes Fleeceflower
Phlox pan. ‘Bright Eyes’ ‘Bright Eyes’ Garden Phlox
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ ‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum
Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ Dwarf Black eyed Susan
Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’ ‘Sunny Border Blue’ Speedwell

Annuals

Botanical Name Common Name
Senecio cineraria Dusty Miller
Cosmos sulphureus Cosmos ‘Klondyke mix’
Ageratum ‘Blue Hawaii’ Blue Hawaii Ageratum
Catharanthus roseus Annual Vinca
Heliotropium arb..Marine ‘Marine’ Heliotrope
Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’ Salvia ‘Victoria Blue’
Salvia ‘Sparkler Purple’ ‘Sparkler Purple’ annual Salvia
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

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)

Blog, Garden Tips

Beautiful Foolishness of Things – The Book of Tea

May 30, 2016

‘Too little tea’ is a Japanese expression that refers to a person too busy to stop and smell the roses.
From ‘The Book of Tea’:
The heaven of modern humanity is indeed shattered in the Cyclopean struggle for wealth and power.

The world is groping in the shadow of egotism and vulgarity. Knowledge is bought through a bad conscience, benevolence practiced for the sake of utility.

The East and the West, like two dragons tossed in a sea of ferment, in vain strive to regain the jewel of life. We need a Niuka again to repair the grand devastation; we await the great Avatar.
Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea.

The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the sighing of the pines is heard in our kettle.

Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.

Kakuzo Okakura