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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

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    Presiding over a corner lot in the historic neighborhood of Travis Heights in Austin, Texas, a grand landmark Victorian house looks down with bemused pride at a new 500-square-foot structure, a combined art studio and garden shed designed by Clayton & Little Architects (members of the Remodelista Architect and Designer Directory). Gently hovering over a younger, more sassy and feisty version of herself, a southern matriarch presents her granddaughter, the belle of the block. 

    Photography by Casey Dunn.

    Clayton & Little, Travis Heights Art Studio, Austin, Texas | Remodellista

    Above: In its geometry, proportions, and materials, the new art studio and garden shed recalls the southern historic precedents of its Victorian neighbor while looking modern at the same time. 

    Clayton & Little, Travis Heights Art Studio, Austin, Texas | Remodellista

    Above:  A small porch outside the entry references the porch of the main house while the columns of stacked windows mimic narrow Victorian windows.

    Clayton & Little, Travis Heights Art Studio, Austin, Texas | Remodellista

    Above: Wood shingles and siding with modern detailing take their cue from materials used in the main house. The siding has been painted with November Rain from Benjamin Moore and Aqua from One Shot.

    Clayton & Little, Travis Heights Art Studio, Austin, Texas | Remodellista

    Above: An outdoor shower was installed between the doors to the garden shed. Gutters under the standing seam metal roof collect rainwater for reuse. In our recent survey of Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory members for their favorite roof materials, standing seam metal came out as the winner. See Remodeling 101: Standing Seam Metal Roofs to learn why.  

    Clayton & Little, Travis Heights Art Studio, Austin, Texas | Remodellista

    Above: Large-scale artwork moves in and out of the art studio through a glazed garage door at the rear. 

    Clayton & Little, Travis Heights Art Studio, Austin, Texas | Remodellista

    Above: When the glazed garage door is raised, the studio becomes an indoor/outdoor room. 

    Clayton & Little, Travis Heights Art Studio, Austin, Texas | Remodellista

    Above: At night the matriarch and the southern belle are both busy with activity. 

    Who doesn't love a good outbuilding? See more in our catalog of Outbuildings, including a Retro '60s Camper: Outdoor Bathhouse Included and a Sauna Box by Castor Design Studio. And on Remodelista, the outbuilding has wheels in On the Road: A Makeover for a Maine Bus.

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    On the Aegean island of Paros, off the coast of Greece, garden designer Carolyn Chadwick created a coastal garden with waves of plantings to emulate the blue waves below.

    To capitalize on sea views from the house, Netherlands-based Chadwick created a series of undulating garden beds filled with plants such as lavender, cacti, and ornamental grasses that require little water even in a sunny, hot climate. With an emphasis on blue and white plants, the garden's colors echo the colors of the water on the horizon.

    Photographs via Carolyn Chadwick.

    Above: Overlooking the garden, the house has typical Greek whitewashed walls to reflect midday sun. To create the same look, see "DIY: Whitewashed Greek Walls."

    Above: The unobstructed sea view, from the house.

    Above: Agapanthus, a native of South Africa, is drought resistant.

    Above: A stone terrace surrounded by blue, white, and purple flowers also has views of the sea.

    Above: Smooth local rock creates a seating arrangement on the terrace.

    Above: Paths of crushed stone edged with irregularly shaped rocks meander through the garden, where plantings are kept low to avoid blocking sea views.

    Above: A rose under a hot sun.

    Above: Agapanthus buds, daisies, lavender, and ornamental grasses.

    Above: The front of the house, and garage, face inland, with a pergola-shaded terrace to provide shade.

    For another of our favorite seaside gardens, see Rustic Living on the Beach in Uruguay. For more Greek garden secrets see 10 Garden Ideas to Steal from Greece.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published August 12, 2012.

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    Along with sunshine and warmth, summer offers spare time (or at least the illusion of it). Beach days mean toes in the sand and a good book in hand. 

    If you love plants and gardening as much as we do, your dream volume is probably a beautiful book of tantalizing photos of the garden you wish you had, the flowers you'd like to grow, the places you'd like to visit, and the dinners you'd like to make from the vegetables you're hoping to grow.

    We spent the past few months reviewing spring's new books, and here are our favorites:

    Elizabeth David Vegetables-pie-KristinPerers-gardenista  

    Above: British cook book writer Elizabeth David was known for her brilliant writing of extremely complicated and difficult-to-duplicate recipes. Fortunately for those of us who love deliciously prepared vegetables, Jill Norman has interpreted Elizabeth David for the modern reader and cook. Get the full details in Required Reading: Elizabeth David on Vegetables. Photo by Kristin Perers.


    Above: Landscape designer Judy Kameon's specialty is the indoor/outdoor room. This one—a perfect example of her colorful, casual style—happens to be located at the headquarters of her company Elysian Landscapes in Los Angeles. Learn more about Kameon's techniques for creating comfortable, user-friendly outside rooms in her book Gardens Are For Living: Design Inspiration for Outdoor Spaces. Head to Required Reading: Gardens Are for Living for more details. Photo courtesy of Rizzoli.

    Close Cambo garden by Allan Pollock-Morris via gardenista

    Above: In his book, Close: Landscape Design and Land Art in Scotland, photographer Allan Pollock-Morris invites readers to explore the beauty of the Scottish Isles—everything from castles to labyrinths to sculpture gardens to cairns in fields—from the comfort of home. For more Scottish eye candy, see Required Reading: Close: Landscape Design and Land Art in Scotland. Photo by Allan Pollock-Morris.


    Above: If you've ever thought you'd like to have your own flower garden, get your hands on a copy of The Cut Flower Patch by Louise Curley. Curley, aka Wellywoman, is a gardener, blogger, freelance writer, and stylist. Her book is filled with useful tips on how to have a productive, constant-bloom cutting garden and which flowers to select for it. Learn more in Required Reading: The Cut Flower Patch.  Photo by Jason Ingram.


    Above: The traditional flower bouquet is lovely, but if you crave something a little longer lasting you'll want to pick up The Plant Recipe Book by Baylor Chapman. It is a collection of living plant arrangements with instructions on how to make your own. Chapman advocates found containers and offers lists of plants and other materials you will need to create a beautiful miniature landscape. Get inspired with Required Reading: The Plant Recipe Book. Photo by Paige Green.

    Striped bloody cranesbill by Rob Cardillo via gardenista

    Above: A book that is both an excellent guide for the novice gardener and a delightful read for the more experienced plant lover is Nancy J. Ondra's Five Plant Gardens: 52 Ways to Grow a Perennial Garden with Just Five Plants. Ondra says she settled on five as the perfect number of plants for a small garden because it is enough to provide variety while still being manageable and affordable. Get the full scoop in Required Reading: Five Plant Gardens. Photo by Rob Cardillo.


    Above: Just the thing for inspiring decorative touches in the beach house, Decorate With Flowers by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring is a full of fresh, no-fuss ideas for displaying flowers. See more in Required Reading: Decorate With Flowers. Photo courtesy Chronicle Books.

    Here's hoping your summer reading brings enough flowery inspiration to last you until Labor Day. For more summertime ideas, read The Screened Porch Roundup from Remodelista and learn how to make a great spot for a nap in Steal This Look: Greek Bamboo Canopy.

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    There's too much to love about Greece only to focus on the gardens. This week on Remodelista the editors have taken a look at the architecture and interiors of the Greek Isles and we've taken notes. Breezy white interiors, ample use of outdoor spaces, and accent colors chosen to match the sea make up the simple recipe for recreating the serenity of these mythic islands. 

    Here are a few of our favorite posts from the past week:

    Trending on Remodelista

    Above: Notice anything unusual about this olive branch? No? It had us fooled, too. Discover its secret in Design Sleuth: A Low-Maintenance Olive Branch Arrangement.

    Trending on Remodelista

    Above: Can't imagine a more perfect place to enjoy an afternoon meal au soleil. See more from this indoor/outdoor wonderland in A Greek Taverna on the Beach, Breeze Included.

    Trending on Remodelista

    Above: Margot found a shop full of Soulful Souvenirs to indulge in, no passport required.

    Trending on Remodelista

    Above: We fell for the simple interior and understated accents of the villa featured in An Aegean Idyll on a Greek Island. (Good news: it's available to rent.)

    Trending on Remodelista

    Above: Meredith gathered a collection of sea-colored paints to keep in mind for your next project in Palette & Paints: Greek-Inspired Cerulean and Aegean Blues.

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    Take a look at what's been on our radar this week:

    Broccoli Rabe | Gardenista

    • Above: A straight-from-the-garden skillet meal. Photograph courtesy of Dolly and Oatmeal. 
    • Unexpected ways to bring flowers indoors.   
    • Fruit flies begone! 

    Outdoor Design | Gardenista

    Gardener and The Grill | Gardenista

    Vintage Garden Cart | Gardenista

    Pizza Oven in the Garden | Gardenista

    • Above: The backyard of our dreams includes a pizza oven. Photograph by Rob Cardillo. 
    • How to: Edible rooftop gardening.
    • A foolproof guide to drying herbs
    • We are thrilled to announce that our 2nd Annual Considered Design Awards will launch on June 1st. We've invited a panel of all-star judges and look forward to another round of submissions by both amateur gardeners and professionals. Check back soon for more details. 

    If you missed our voyage to Greece this week, you can catch up with the entire issue here. For this week's posts on Remodelista take a look at their Greek Isles issue. 

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    Since November, we've been following the adventures of bride-to-be Tara Douglass, a Brooklyn floral designer whose desire to grow her own wedding flowers was so strong that she traveled last fall to Columbia, Missouri to plant 4,325 bulbs. With a plan for a spring wedding at her grandmother's house, she planted the bulbs and ... crossed her fingers. 

    Months later the big day arrived. May 3 turned out to be exactly the kind you would order for your own wedding if you could: it was sunny, and the temperature was a balmy 72 degrees. How did Tara's home-grown wedding flowers turn out? Read on:

    Photography by Scott Patrick Myers except where noted.


    Above: Not all of Tara's bulbs bloomed on time for the wedding, so she foraged for substitutes in the woods. 

    First, a recap. Shortly after Tara planted the bulbs (for that installment of the story, see Tara Getting Married, Part I), winter arrived.  It wasn't just any winter: it was the longest, coldest, stormiest winter in recent memory. In Missouri, relatives and friends battled snow and ice and kept watch on the bulbs—and in Brooklyn Tara battled snow and ice and kept her fingers crossed.

    In early April she went back to Missouri to see the progress (see Tara Getting Married, Part II) and to hire three local "crafty" young women to assist her in making the floral arrangements.

    Bulbs were up in April, so when Tara made her final trip to Missouri five days before the wedding, she didn't immediately plunge into nuptial preparations. Instead she went off to the woods to hunt mushrooms. Rumor had it that it was an epic season for morels, so Tara grabbed a basket.  Fortunately she also took her camera.  The woods on her grandmother's property were full of wild plants in bloom: paw paw, sassafras, redbud, dogwood, and may apple.  Lilacs bloomed beside an abandoned house. Photographs of all of them came in very handy after it became obvious that not all her bulbs would be wedding worthy (alliums bloomed late, lily of the valley in her mother's garden was too early). Tara showed her helpers the photos of the flowers in the woods  and sent them out to gather as many as possible.  She also had them cut cedar for garlands.

    Tara Douglass wedding-arrangementcloseup-Scott Patrick Myers-gardenista

    Above: Tara's arrangements included foraged plants such as dogwood and may apple.

    Back at the farm, Tara's Pheasant Eye daffodils were blooming. Tulips in bloom had been moved into the old tobacco barn to keep them out of the sun and in top form. Of 500 tulips planted, only about 20 were past their peak and couldn't be used.  

    Tara Douglass wedding-tobacco barn-Scott Patrick Myers for gardenista

    Above: The tobacco barn sheltered Tara's tulips until it was time to cut them to make the wedding arrangements.

    Tara Douglass wedding-tulips in the barn-Scott Patrick Myers for gardenista

    Above: Tulips in the barn, waiting for the big day.

    Tara Douglass wedding-purple tulips-Scot Patrick Myers for gardenista

    Above: Purple Queen of the Night tulips are mixed with white 'Maureen' tulips.

    Two days before the wedding Tara's friend Kelli Galloway, also a floral designer, arrived and the two began work in earnest, setting up workspaces, gathering tools, and materials.  With 160 guests expected, 21 centerpieces had to be made as well as four bouquets and seven boutonnieres.  Oh yes, and three garlands, totaling 33 yards of greenery.  Tara used vases from her grandmother's huge collection, deciding with Kelli that clear glass and silver would best show off her purple, blue, and white flowers. 

    Tara Douglass wedding-tulips in trunk-Scot Patrick Myers for gardenista

    Above: Tulips making the trip from the barn to the house where Tara and Kelli had set up their floral design studio.

    The day before the wedding the garlands were built and hung, and work was begun on the bouquets and arrangements. The weather, which had been unseasonably cool at the beginning of the week, was now heating up.  Tara and Kelli stored their creations in a dark part of the kitchen to keep them cool and fresh overnight. 

      Tara Douglass wedding-making arrangements-Scott Patrick Myers for gardenista

    Above: Tara and Kelli arrange wedding flowers in antique containers. 

    On Tara's wedding day, the ceremony was scheduled to begin at 5 pm, giving Tara and Kelli a few hours to finish and place the arrangements. There were a few last-minute glitches (bulbs planted in urns outside the house failed to bloom and had to be replaced, for instance). But overall? The event ran smoothly. The flowers—both cultivated and foraged—held up. And Tara even received compliments for being an amazingly calm bride.

    Tara Douglass bride wedding tulips ; Gardenista

    Above: From barn to bouquet. The bride and groom stand below a cedar and redbud garland. Wedding photo by Meredith Parry. 

    Now that Tara is married and back in Brooklyn, she says she is very glad she chose to grow and arrange her own flowers. She is grateful for the time she spent planting bulbs alongside her dad and feels that the wedding was inspired by the artistic vision of her grandmother.

    Tara Douglass wedding-flower arrangement-Scott Patrick Myers for gardenista

    Above: Purple tulips stand out against a cut glass vase.

    While there were worries along the way, Tara says at some point she just "trusted Mother Nature would take care of it."  In fact her collaboration with Kelli was so enjoyable and so successful that the two plan to set up a consulting business for other brides who want to grow their own flowers. "We will plant and arrange for weddings anywhere," is their aim and might well become their slogan.

    For more wedding flower inspiration, see Ask the Expert: 10 Tips for Wedding Flowers from Kate Middleton's Florist.

    Foraged flowers are fun: take a look at Foraged Ikebana Arrangements on Remodelista and A Foraged Botanical Tablescape for Mid-Summer.

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    Welcome to the outdoors. We consider Memorial Day the official kickoff to summer in the city, and we'll be spending the week visiting some of our favorite balconies, terraces, and fire escapes (hoping for a breeze).

    Join us for an exclusive look at 66 Square Feet blogger Marie Viljoen's new terrace garden—she recently decamped from Brooklyn to head uptown to Harlem. We'll also share some foolproof tips for creating an adorable small scale garden of your own. (Start with stylish brackets to hang your window box from a railing—we've found 10 choices—and add our favorite folding furniture.)

    Table of Contents: City Mouse ; Gardenista


      Ikea folding table city balcony garden ; Gardenista

    Above: In this week's Steal This Look, Erin shows us how to turn a city balcony into an instant outdoor room...with a little help from Ikea.


    Window box brackets for balcony railing ; Gardenista

    Above: Erin found ten stylish brackets to hang window boxes over balcony railings; we want them all. See this week's 10 Easy Pieces for details.


    Marie Viljoen 66 Square Feet Harlem ; Gardenista

    Above: Here in Harlem, the weather's fine. Cookbook author Marie Viljoen of 66 Square Feet shows us around her new uptown balcony in this week's Garden Visit


    Colored live reindoor moss ; Gardenista

    Above: Moss is having a moment, as Margot discovers. She gives us the lowdown on colored live reindeer moss. Wondering about some of the 1,001 ways to use moss? See DIY: A Desktop Zen Garden.

    Check out what's going on over at Remodelista this week, where we have a full report on Modest Modern style.

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    Behind an unassuming stone facade and through a corridor covered in lush vines and plants, you will discover a quiet and charming courtyard in the heart of the city. The space, the brainchild of Buenos Aires-based interior designer Pablo Chiappori, is a design maven's dream—a secret garden with a tea shop, a florist, café, and a home wares store. Plus a wine bar:

    Photography by Sophia Moreno-Bunge for Gardenista.

    Paul French Gallery Interiors | Gardenista

    Above: The courtyard entrance, behind an old facade.

    The courtyard is home to a café called Decata, a flower shop called Tata, a teashop called Tealosophy, and a home decor store called Paul. The space is located in the heart of Palermo Soho, a very green neighborhood of cobblestone streets lined with shops, restaurants, and bars.

    Interior designer Pablo Chiappori has infused the space with the effortless and elegant sensibility that distinguishes Argentina's best design. Argentines have mastered the union of the old world and the rustic: combining their Spanish and French ancestry with the wonder of their varied South American landscapes: from the jungles of Iguazú, to the dramatic glaciers and mountains of Patagonia, to the Pampa's vast farmlands. At Paul, you will find linens in every neutral tone imaginable; delicate wools from the South of Argentina; wood and metal furniture, and beautiful light fixtures, among other things.

    Paul French Gallery Interiors | Gardenista

    Above: I was told that the space used to be a coal yard; the cart that was once used to transport packages of coal from the street to the studio is now decorated with plants, beckoning passersby. I can't get enough of those huge black doors.

    Taca Flower Shop Buenos Aires | Gardenista

     Above: Hanging plants from Tata Flowers line the corridor.

    Taca Flower Shop Buenos Aires | Gardenista

    Above: Potted plants from Tata

    Tata Flowers Buenos Aires | Gardenista  

    Above: The corridor gives way to the courtyard; the Decata Café stand is on the right, Tata Flowers and Tealosophy are on the left, and the entrance to Paul is at the back end of the space.

    Decata Café | Gardenista

    Above: The stand sells delicious pastries and coffee, and Tealosophy teas (I tried a lemongrass hibiscus tea that was incredible).

    Decata Café | Gardenista  

    Above: The perfect place to relax in a busy city.

      Decata Café | Gardenista

    Above: Tables fill the courtyard.

    Tealosophy | Gardenista

    Above: The structure that houses Tealosophy and Tata Flowers reminds me of a greenhouse.

    Tata Flowers Buenos Aires | Gardenista  

    Above: The flower shop, where I saw lots of orchids that seem to do well in the humid Buenos Aires climate.

    Tealosophy | Gardenista

    Above: Tealosophy's nook, lined with walls of teas; they had so many interesting flavors, including White Peony.

    Paul French Gallery | Gardenista

    Above: Paul has two stories of amazing home goods; the second floor also houses a small wine bar that lets out onto a terrace.

    Paul French Gallery | Gardenista

    Above: I love the industrial windows and doors used throughout the spaces. 

    Paul French Gallery | Gardenista

    Above: The view from the terrace.

    View Larger Map

    Above: Looking for the secret courtyard? It's at Gorriti 4864, Buenos Aires. There is a street number on the large black door at the entrance—it's hard to miss, but just in case, it's between Gurruchaga and Armenia.

    Planning a trip to Buenos Aires? For lodging, see our post about Hotel Home. And for more of Argentina's signature style, see The Coolest Flat in Buenos Aires on Remodelista.

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    Even the smallest urban garden terrace can offer a welcome spot to pot up a few favorite plants and enjoy a cool evening breeze. This eclectic terrace keeps popping up on our Pinterest feed so we decided to do some sleuthing for its components. What we found surprised us.

    steal this look | gardenista

    Above: What we imagined to be a private urban gardener's personal oasis is actually an image from the Ikea PS 2014 catalogue. The terrace features a folding Ikea table paired with a mishmash collection of pots and plants, proving that with a few pieces of basic furniture and plenty of more personal treasures any space can achieve a cozy vibe.

    steal this look | gardenista  

    Above: The new Folding Table ($129) and accompanying Folding Bench ($75) from Ikea feature a white, laminate top made to resist scratches and spills; perfect for a terrace where you need a potting table by day and a dining table by night.

    galvanized steel balcony window box with vertical grooves for stability

    Above: Hanging from the iron balcony balustrade, we spotted a classic galvanized window box. The similar Galvanized Steel Balcony Box (25.50) and accompanying Galvanized Steel Balcony Pot/Box Holder (38) are available at Manufactum. (See 10 Easy Pieces Metal Window Boxes for more of our favorite options.)

      steal this look | gardenista

    Above: Paired with the modern folding table are a set of vintage iron garden chairs. A pair of classic Fermob 1900 Stacking Chairs would make for a similar look; $718 at The Garden Gates.

      steal this look | gardenista

    Above: Found it! Hanging from a thin suspension wire, an antique birdcage. For a splurge on the real deal, the Whimsical "Pagoda" Birdcage is available for $1,750 from 1st Dibs.

      steal this look | gardenista

    Above: If you prefer a more modern (and affordable) birdcage, a Pols Potten Birdcage in orange is our choice; $176 on Amara.

    Don't have a canary that needs a home? Consider using the birdcage as a makeshift hanging planter instead.

    steal this look: urban terrace garden | gardenista

    Above: Heavy weights on balcony and rooftop gardens can be a concern for urban gardeners. Lightweight Poly Planters from Tuscan Imports look like the real thing, but don't carry such a heavy load. To purchase in the US, call 1.866.215.4232.

      steal this look: urban terrace garden | gardenista

    Above: Like the look of the glass veranda itself? Custom glass garden veranda companies are plentiful in the UK but more difficult to find in the US. For UK readers, consider contacting Verandah Living for a quote.

    Hoping to steal other bright ideas? Browse our entire Steal This Look archive. Ikea fan? See Domestic Dispatches: What We Love (and Hate) About Ikea on Remodelista.

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    Anyone who follows British gardeners on Twitter will know that they are generous and a bit of a laugh. So it is with the Chelsea Fringe festival: instead of sulking about missing out on tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show, garden appreciators host a parallel event and—quite possibly—have a better time. Some highlights of the Chelsea Fringe, now in its third year:

    Chelsea Fringe, Flower punt, Leeds Castle.. Gardenista

    Above: Leeds Castle, Kent is moated, all the way around. The perfect setting then for a floating English garden, arranged by the castle florist and punted about all day. Image via the Leeds Castle blog.

    The Chelsea Fringe has been running concurrently with the Chelsea Flower Show as well as Chelsea in Bloom, in which local retailers dress up their shops in a floral competition. Events run until June 9, some every weekend, some every day and some are one-offs. Visit Chelsea Fringe for more details.

    Chelsea Fringe, The Big Draw. Gardenista

    Above: Last year the lawyers and gardeners of the Inner Temple put on a dog show and the hound of a judge won the prize for "dog most like his owner." On 1 June this year, a lengthy scroll of paper will be unfurled in front of the Long Border for The Long Draw, in the celebrated Inner Temple gardens in central London. Head Gardener Andrea Brunsendorf likes a full border so there will be plenty to record, including the buildings or "inns" all around the parameter. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.

    Chelsea Fringe, Where the Wild Things Gow. Gardenista

    Above: Photographer Paul Debois is exhibiting his pictures of "wildlings," such as the Oxalis corniculata (Above L) and Achillea growing out of the asphalt of a disused tennis court. With commentary from Alys Fowler, Where the Wild Things Grow is on at the Oh! Gallery, Bethnal Green, for the duration of the fringe festival.

    Chelsea Fringe, Flower Peep Show at Petersham Nurseries. Gardenista

    Above: The Flower Peep Show, a blacked out shepherd's hut, reminiscent of a Victorian Auricula Theater. Lights, buttons, and some secrecy contribute to a suitably eccentric event at Petersham Nurseries. Performances last for five minutes and are ongoing until June 9. Photograph via The Teddington Gardener blog.

    Chelsea Fringe, The Gin Garden. Gardenista

    Above: Nathan Cable of The Gin Garden, will be popping up at The Chelsea Physic Garden on June 7, from 4 to 8 pm. This event is available to anybody with garden entry, but booking in advance is essential for the whole day package. This involves in-depth "botanical related activities for gin lovers," including a tour of Sipsmith's London Dry Gin distillary, just down the river in Hammersmith. Image via The Gin Garden.

    The Walled Nursery in Kent is also participating in the Fringe. Before visiting, see: The English Gardener: One of the Finest Examples of a Walled Garden in the Land

    Curious about the Chelsea Flower Show? See The Greatest Flower Show on Earth: A Chelsea Primer.

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  • 05/27/14--11:30: Field Guide: Peony
  • Peony; Paeonia: "The Mistress"

    Peonies can be shrubs or they can be trees, and one of the only sad things about living in a warm climate is it's difficult to grow either. A peony likes a nice freeze in the winter.

    With its fluff of thin ribbon petals, a peony is as frivolous as it is majestic. Add a single stem to any everyday floral arrangement and people will believe you got it from a rock-star wedding florist in Williamsburg.

    Gardenista Field Guide ; Peony

    Above: For more images, see Perfect Peonies in our Gardenista Gallery.

    Long before the peony conquered Williamsburg, it stole other hearts. In 1903, the Qing Dynasty named it China’s national flower. This was not a risky choice; for centuries the peony has symbolized prosperity and fertility in Asian art. The practice of Feng Shui affirms the peony’s erotic potency.

      Peonies from the Little Flower School ; Gardenista

    Above: For help arranging peonies, see Perfected Peonies from the Little Flower School.

    To spice up your love life, trim some pink peonies and place them in the southwest corner of your bedroom. But take heed: according to tradition, older couples with bedroom peonies  are inclined to stray toward youthful lovers.

      Peonies in the cooler at Dancing Moon Farm ; Gardenista

    Above: Peonies in the cooler, raised by organic flower grower Dancing Moon Farm in Hood River, Oregon.

    Cheat Sheet:

    • Choose well; these perennials have extremely long lives and some thrive for more than 100 years.
    • Pairs well in the garden with companions like irises and roses.
    • Some of the most fragrant varieties are old peonies: Chester Gowdy (introduced in 1913); Duchesse de Nemours (1851), and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932) are among our favorites.

    Keep It Alive:

    • Peonies are jealous of their space and can have a hard time sharing. Don't make them compete with trees or shrubs for  sunlight.
    • Perennial in growing zones 3, 7, and 8.
    • Wait to divide them until September, when temperatures start to cool.

      Frances Willard peony ; Gardenista

    Above: Antique varieties such as 'Frances Willard' deserve their reputation as heirlooms (national treasure is more like it). Photograph by Mbgna via Flickr.

    And if you are lucky enough to have a tree peony blooming in your garden, do not try to move it. It hates that and to punish you may not bloom for several years after being transplanted. Take heart: it can live to be more than a hundred years old. It will bloom for your grandchildren.

    Shop Our Favorites:

    Shop for Peonies ; Gardenista

    Shopping for peonies? One of our favorites is Coral Charm. And Polar Star, a Japanese peony introduced in the 1930s, is a favorite of bees. If you're planning your spring garden, see the rest of our Field Guide posts for plant advice.

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    Your duty, as a summer guest, is to admire your hosts' overflowing herb garden without betraying envy. Instead ask sweetly if they would like to share. Upon returning to the city, you can transplant those outdoor herbs to a happy home on your windowsill. Here's how:

    Photography by John Merkl for Gardenista except where noted.

    Instant indoor herb garden ; Gardenista  

    Above: Outdoor herbs that came in (from L to R): thyme, mint, and oregano. 


    • Perennial garden herbs with intact roots
    • Small pots, preferably porous clay
    • Potting soil
    • A spoon or small trowel


    Creeping thyme herb groundcover ; Gardenista

    Above: Creeping thyme in bloom. Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

    Step 1: Choose perennial herbs because they will last longest in pots. Water them well in the garden before gently digging up. Use a spoon or a small trowel to tease out the roots so they don't break off. It will be easier to keep the roots intact if you dig up a small plant instead of a big one.

    Gardening 101 DIY instant indoor herb garden ; Gardenista

    Step 2: If you are not going to re-pot the herbs immediately, wrap the roots in a layer of moist paper towels or newspaper and a layer of waterproof plastic to keep them hydrated during transport.

    Gardening 101 DIY instant indoor herb garden ; Gardenista

    Above: White clay pots and saucers are available in a variety of sizes and styles from Ben Wolff Pottery. We bought a set of three 4-inch One-of-a-Kind Specials for $48.

    Step 3: Choose a pot with a drainage hole; porous clay pots allow water to evaporate faster and will prevent over watering.

    Gardening 101 DIY instant indoor herb garden ; Gardenista

    Step 4: Fill the bottom one-third of the pot with potting soil and then place herb gently in the pot, making sure not to break off roots. Add spoonfuls of potting soil to cover the roots and tamp down with your fingertips.

    Gardening 101 DIY instant indoor herb garden ; Gardenista

    Step 5: Water the potted herb thoroughly (stop when the saucer fills with water).

    Gardening 101 DIY instant indoor herb garden ; Gardenista

    Step 6: Brush off excess dirt from the pot and place the potted herb in a shady spot for a week or so to allow the roots to adapt to their new home. Then transfer to a sunny windowsill (a southern exposure is best).

    Planting a windowsill garden? For more, see DIY: Shade-Tolerant Herbs to Grow in Your Apartment and on Remodelista, 5 Quick Fixes: Herbs for Your Kitchen Windowsill.

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    A triplex apartment sits atop a '60s office block in the Belgian city of Antwerp. The landscapers' brief: to create a garden on each floor, blending with the style of the building, which is mainly concrete. Step forward the delightful Bart & Pieter, who like a challenge:

    Photography by Sarah Blee.

    Bart & Pieter landscape architects, Belgium. Photo Sarah Blee. Gardenista

    Above: The top floor. The client here is an architect at the renowned B Architects in Antwerp. It was a fruitful collaboration, partly because the architect-client "has a knowledge and feeling for plants," says Pieter Croes of Bart and Pieter, also known as Haverkamp and Croes.

    Bart & Pieter landscape architects, Belgium. Photo Sarah Blee. Gardenista

    Above: The roof garden has "rather wild growing shrubs," says Pieter, "and a 'lawn.'" It's unexpected, this lumpiness next to the clean lines of steel and glass.

    Bart & Pieter landscape architects, Belgium. Photo Sarah Blee. Gardenista

    Above: As we travel down to the next level the planting is more ordered.

    Bart & Pieter landscape architects, Belgium. Photo Sarah Blee. Gardenista

    Above: The desert plant Agave overlooks the stairwell. The architect-client is Brazilian and divides his time between the southern hemisphere and northern Europe. "There is certainly a Brazilian inspiration," says Pieter.

    Bart & Pieter landscape architects, Belgium. Photo Sarah Blee. Gardenista

    Above: A balcony above, the kitchen below and everywhere, greenery next to concrete.

    Bart & Pieter landscape architects, Belgium. Photo Sarah Blee. Gardenista

    Above: A Rhus typhina dominates the patio outside the kitchen, accompanied by ferns and grasses.

    Bart & Pieter landscape architects, Belgium. Photo Sarah Blee. Gardenista

    Above: Enormous windows on every floor help to keep these living quarters light where possible. On the lowest level the bedroom, bathroom, and living room are situated. Within an internal space the jungly Monstera climbs up toward the next floor.

    Bart & Pieter landscape architects, Belgium. Photo Sarah Blee. Gardenista

    Above: The bonsai-style growth of this Rhus works brilliantly against its very stark surroundings.

    For more Bart and Pieter, see Radical Urban Gardens in Antwerp. And on Remodelista, check into Hotel Julien in Antwerp and browse all our favorite spots in our Belgium City Guide.

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    We like power drills as much as anybody, so long as they're whirring away in someone else's hand. And we'll definitely put up with the attendant screw holes, saw dust, and noise pollution if mounting a window box against a wall is our only option.  But let's say you have a balcony and can hang brackets for a window box over the railing. Such a civilized alternative. Here are our favorite hanging window boxes with brackets:

    Isabelle Palmer balcony brackets ; Gardenista

     Above: British gardening writer Isabelle Palmer sells the same Black Iron Adjustable Balcony Hooks (£24.50 for a set of two) she uses to support the Zinc Window Boxes (£34 apiece) on her London balcony. Both are available at The Balcony Gardener. Photograph by Jonathan Gooch for Gardenista.

    hanging balcony window boxes | gardenista

    Above: Made of zinc, a Balcony Railing Planter fits balcony railings up to a diameter of 7 centimeters; $8.99 at Clas Ohlson.

    hanging balcony window boxes | gardenista

    Above: Suitable for both outdoor and indoor use, a corrugated steel Oscar Rectangular Rail Planter  ($21.95) can be hooked over a balcony with a Oscar Rectangular Metal Rail Frame ($6.95), both at CB2.


    hanging balcony window boxes | gardenista

    Above: A Galvanized Steel Balcony Box is 25.50€; and a matching Galvanized Steel Balcony Box/Planter Holder that has optional screw holes (if you're feeling power-drill friendly), is 38€ at Manufactum.

    hanging balcony window boxes | gardenista

    Above: The Eternit Balcony Box (30€ for the dark gray; 24.50€ for the light gray) can be customized with Galvanized Steel Balcony Box Brackets with screw holes (15.50€); available at Manufactum.

    hanging balcony window boxes | gardenista

    Above: The finish on a Zinc Oval Planter will weather naturally over time. It is 25 inches long and is $29.95; a matching Zinc Rail Hook is $19.95. Both are available from Crate and Barrel.

    hanging balcony window boxes | gardenista

    Above: A gray-washed plastic Tidore Rectangle Planter is $49.95 and an optional Tidore Rectangular Rail Planter Hook is $16.95 at Crate and Barrel.

      Hanging Window Box from Ikea ; Gardenista

    Above: A small-space solution at 10 inches in length and designed to hang on Ikea's matching Grundtal Rail (from $6.99 to $9.99 depending on length), a plastic and stainless steel Grundtal Container ($15.99) will fit over any rail with a dimension of up to 15 millimeters (approximately 1/2 inch). 

    White Metal Hanging Balcony Box ; Gardenista

    Above: A white metal Hanging Balcony Planter from Esschert Design is 15.7 inches long; $26.62 from Amazon.

    Over the railing planter brackets ; Gardenista

    Above: A three-pack of adjustable metal Deck Railing Brackets designed to fit over wooden railings is $39.99 from Exterior Beauty. The brackets are compatible with several styles of window boxes sold separately; for more information and prices, see Exterior Beauty.

    Looking for more options? See 10 Easy Pieces: Metal Window Boxes and 10 Easy Pieces: Wooden Window Boxes for more of our favorites.

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    I used to live in a basement flat near London's King's Cross, with a little courtyard. It was full of pots and was lovely really, except for two things. It was overlooked by hundreds of people (there was a hotel next door), and there was no soil.

    I could have done something about the latter problem if I'd come across Alex Mitchell, author of The Edible Balcony. Instead, I carried countless bags of compost down into the flat, due to an unfounded fear of using anything that was "tired," and got rid of said compost in the park across the street when no one was looking.

    Photography by Sarah Cuttle via The Edible Balcony, except where noted.

    Above: Herbs are easy, and don't mind the harsh conditions of a small pot. The thyme here is in easy reach of a comfortable window seat, perfect for crushing the leaves to release scent while reading.

    Above: One of the questions I would have asked Mitchell would have been: Don't I need to replace my soil constantly? "Luckily, no," she says. "Otherwise you would have a backbreaking time ahead of you... It would not be a very sustainable way of gardening and it would be pretty expensive."

    If your balcony is shady, grow woodland plants such as raspberries. "If you grow hungry crops in fresh compost you can then reuse it for less hungry crops," says Mitchell. "To reuse compost, sift it through your fingers, removing as many roots as you can since these can stop water draining through and make it difficult for new roots to spread out."

    Looking for a compact lean-to conservatory to protect plants from weather? Consider Urban Gardener: A Balcony Greenhouse.

    Above: A thriving roof garden in central London.

    Above: A rooftop in London's Bermondsey, near the River Thames. Wind is cunningly kept back with box balls at head height. Mitchell says: "Hungry crops, such as tomatoes, (growing here in rows), potatoes, sweet peppers, aubergines, zucchini, and squashes, do need fresh, fertile compost to grow really well, but others, such as carrots, peas, beans, salad and herbs, don’t require so many nutrients."

    Above: Turn a problem into an advantage. Unfriendly railings are ideal for climbing crops. Mitchell: "You can add the old roots in your used soil to your wormery or compost bin. Top this old compost with a third fresh multi-purpose compost and, if you have a wormery, a few scoops of fresh worm compost. A handful of slow-release plant food will re-vitalize old compost too."

    Above: Beans are one of those crops that just keep giving, though they do require feeding. "Most crop plants need feeding," says Mitchell. "A good all-rounder is organic, sustainably sourced liquid seaweed feed; tomato feed can be used in the same way. A bottle should be enough to see you through the whole growing season and will ensure your plants get all the nutrients they need."

    Above: The Barbican is a concrete landmark in the middle of town: once reviled but now loved. The living spaces are well-designed with generous balconies. This one is cheered immeasurably with sunflowers, tomatoes, cosmos, and an olive tree, all ideal for a sunny spot.

    Above: A fig also has a faraway scent and is a reminder of warmer places. Because its roots like to be constricted, it is ideal for a tight space and its branches can be spread out against a south- or west-facing wall which will warm it up for more productivity.

    Above: A wormery is a fantastic solution for people with hard surfaces. Instead of requiring worms and other invertebrates to emerge from the ground to aid the breaking-down process, these worms are self-contained and only require feeding from your kitchen and the small amount of garden waste of a balcony or courtyard. They provide invaluable worm 'wee' to be diluted and used as plant food: it drips into a watering can under the tap which is left open. The compost produced by wormery worms is amazingly rich. Can o' Worms available from Wiggly Wigglers, from £32. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.

    Above: The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell (Kyle Cathie, (£16.99) is also available to US gardeners for $16.16 from Amazon.

    This is an update of a post originally published July 27, 2012.

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    For nine years I gardened on a sliver of terrace at the top of a townhouse in the leafy Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. That sunny space was small, and I needed so much:  flowers, herbs, fruit, a charcoal grill; my requirements for sanity.  You could not move on it without bumping into something, but I was happy.

    Then our landlord sent our Brooklyn rent into the stratosphere. We had to move. My husband and I searched for two months for the right kind of outdoor space—rare and expensive in this city. One day my husband, Vincent, spotted an ad I had overlooked on a weekly email we received from the Listings Project, a humane list of rentals, predominantly for artists who need studio space, but with some apartments thrown in. The minute I saw the picture of the deck, taken from above, I was hooked.  

    Photography by Marie Viljoen for Gardenista.

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Marie Viljoen's deck garden in Harlem (as it looks this week).

    We arrived early for the showing, with a check in hand for three months' rent. We had a spoken code—what we would say to each other if we liked it enough to produce the check. What we would say if we didn’t. One look at the sunny bedroom and its cathedral ceilings, with the deck a step up from it, and my husband uttered the code: “I really, really like it.”  After some weeks of formalities and anxiety, the place was ours.

    In early fall, at the end of the growing season, our black cat, Vince, and I piled into a sewing machine-sized Zipcar and followed the moving van that contained our belongings and all my terrace plants across the Brooklyn Bridge and north, into Manhattan.

    Goodbye, Brooklyn, hello, Harlem. 

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Record snowfalls covered the Harlem terrace in winter.

    You think I'd have been wildly happy to move to a terrace four times the size of the old space, and into an apartment where we could fit that old apartment three times.  But the transition was bumpy. Winter was long and very dark. The apartment was a lot noisier than we had expected. And New York was buried in record snow.  I didn’t see the terrace for months.

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Waiting for spring in Harlem.

    What we gained in cathedral ceilings on our parlor-level apartment, we lost in light. We went from being top floor sunny skylight people to bat cavers. The Harlem townhouse is squeezed by taller buildings to the east and west, and in the south another building—a homeless shelter, as it turned out—cut off the low winter sun.

    And wow, it was cold. The heating bills from the newly installed electric heat gave us palpitations. And somehow, we skipped April.

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Winter daydreaming: seeds for spring.

    I shivered. I nearly lost my mind. Mentally, I bonded with suicidal Norwegians. To stay sane, I shopped for seeds online, and plotted what lily bulbs to plant where. I wondered how much summer sun the terrace would receive. 

    After the snow receded, it was clear that the climbing Iceberg rose, two shrub roses, the fig that had overwintered outdoors for years, and my trusty green boxwoods had given up the ghost. I had to start over, without spending too much money (those heating bills…). 

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: The fava beans are thriving in May.

    At night while my husband slept, I ordered fragrant and statuesque flowering tobacco plant seeds—they would give me cheap height and impact. Nasturtiums: uncomplicated flowers and excellent and healthy salad greens. Fava beans, whose tender leaves I find so rewarding every spring and fall, and they can take some shade. I ordered climbers—purple runner beans, scarlet runner beans, lablab beans, Gloriosa lilies, anything that could climb up a makeshift screen to give us the sense of privacy we had lost. I ordered cat grass for the cat.

    Marie Viljoen Gardenista harlem terrace winter1.jpg

    Above: Pansies and chives in May.

    I nicknamed our new terrace The Goldfish Bowl: we went from total, top floor privacy to lights, camera, action. We are surrounded by windows. You can have no secrets. The first time I lit the charcoal fire for a barbecue, it brought people to every one of those windows, ready to dial 911 as the flames leaped. I poked the fire nonchalantly and pretended not to notice. The homeless men's shelter just south of the terrace made me deeply self-conscious. The juxtaposition of the haves and the have nots felt excrutiating.  Me sipping my evening cocktail, deadheading the pansies. 

    As soon as the soil in the built-in planters that form the sides of terrace had thawed, I ordered birch poles online to construct a screen in name only. I didn’t want a stockade, but I did want a suggestion of separation. I sank the 6-foot uprights into the planters and tied on cross pieces with strong twine. The beans and the Gloriosa lilies are planted at each post’s base, and are already reaching upwards. The white birch looks good against the faded planks of the terrace and planters. 

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: A survivor: the blueberry bush.

    And among the dead there were survivors. The blueberry bush was visited by local bumblebees, and is loaded with more berries than ever before. Either it likes the hard pruning I gave it after fruiting, or the fresh coffee grounds I use as a mulch. Or perhaps Harlem bees are better. The black raspberry has lots of green fruit. The two surviving roses are fat with buds. The narrow built-in planters are stuffed with my former terrace herbs, tough customers: chives, thyme, sage, oregano. The strawberries made it, too. 

    Garden Visit: 66 Square Feet (Plus) on a Harlem Terrace

    Above: A black raspberry bush sets fruit.

    I was the recipient of gifts. Michael Marriot, the rosarian at David Austin roses, sent me five roses, recommended for the new light conditions (I’ve gone from full sun to four hours and a bit, in the middle of the day): Abraham Darby, my longtime favorite, pink and gorgeous-flowered; Munstead Wood, a spicy red; Darcy Bussell; Boscobel, and Teasing Georgia, all new to me. They arrived bare root and stricken, but have produced healthy shoots and tiny buds, sometimes plagued by aphids, which I squash. 

    Garden Visit: 66 Square Feet (Plus) on a Harlem Terrace

    Above: A blueberry bush flowers.

    My friend Paul Westervelt, the nursery manager for Saunders Brothers Wholesale Nursery in Virginia, overnighted me three Clematis ‘Roguchi,’ to plant under the birch pole screen. They have blue nodding flowers like bells.  

    Garden Visit: 66 Square Feet (Plus) on a Harlem Terrace

    Above: Parsley, a tough customer.

    Trips to farmers' markets have yielded new edibles like New Zealand spinach and Talinum, a pretty weed I grew up with, but whose leaves are a good cooked vegetable. I have added fennel for height and parsley, basil, mint, and marjoram for the cooking to come.

    I love the birds that visit the small garden—juncos came in the snowy days and left birdprints on the icy crust.  I bought a feeder for them which now attracts a crowd of pretty red house finches who sing like canaries. There are mourning doves and robins, and at 3 am there is a demented mockingbird that wakes up 127th Street.

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Dinner on the terrace.

    I have learned about the light. The sun arrives at noon and leaves at four. No one panics anymore when I light fires. My plants are growing (May helps). There are flowers and meals to come.  And I have enough mint for a million mojitos. 

    Wondering what Marie left behind in Brooklyn? For her Cobble Hill garden, see 10 Secrets for Growing an Urban Balcony Garden. For recipes from her edible garden, see 66 Square Feet: A Delicious Life.

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  • 05/29/14--06:30: Hardscaping 101: Tree Stumps
  • It happens. Your long favored or ignored tree has to be removed. Disease, blocked views, size hazard, root damage, or just old age. The question arises: what to do about the stump? It comes down to three choices: use it, lose it, or camouflage it. Here's what you need to know about the basics on the best way to handle that stump.  

    Tree Stump, Gardenista

    Above: A freshly cut eucalyptus stump shows the tree's inner personality. Image by Janet Hall.

    Why remove a tree stump?

    The first decision is whether to let the stump stand. Considerations include:

    • Aesthetics. Some find stumps unsightly, while others find them a visual feature. It depends on how well the stump blends into the landscape. Todd Lansing of San Francisco-based Creo Landscape Architecture and Design takes several items into account to make the decision: the location of the stump and whether it can be integrated into the design; the height of the stump (if it is too low, it is not useful and more of a hazard), and the type of tree and appearance as some tree stumps are better looking than others.  
    • Physical Hazard. Depending on the location of the stump, it can be a tripping hazard or get in the way of lawn mowers.
    • Suckering. Stumps can generate new growth sprouts.
    • Pests. A decaying stump can attract wood-boring insects that you don't want near your house.
    • Disease. Stumps, especially those of trees removed because of disease, can harbor fungal disease and the like that may harm neighboring trees or plants.
    • Cost. Does the price of removing or grinding the stump fit your budget? 

    What are the best methods for tree stump removal?

    Stump removal may seem straight forward, but it is not an easy task. The base and roots that have been keeping a large tree steady are not something that pop right out of the ground. There are four primary ways to remove a tree stump: mechanical, manual (digging), chemical, and natural decomposition.

    • Mechanical Removal. Gone are the days of trying to pull the stump out of the ground with a truck and a chain. And, unless your stump is less than 4 inches in diameter, cutting it out of the ground is a very difficult task. Fast and effective, stump grinding is the method of choice. A stump grinder is a machine that uses a wide blade outfitted with teeth to grind the stump well below ground level. It creates wood chips or grindings that can be removed from the site or turned into the ground as mulch, though the volume of chips may to too much for the ground to handle.

    Tree Stump Grinding, Gardenista

    Above: A stump grinder chews into a stump, reducing it to shavings. Image via Tom Kent Stump Removal.

    • Manual Removal. When does good old-fashioned digging work? If the stump is less than 4 inches in diameter or if you are dealing with a shrub stump, digging may work. Begin by digging a perimeter trench around the stump. The key is to have the right tools and to start farther out from the stump than you might expect. Use an axe, sharp spade, or even loppers to cut through the roots, working your way around the stump. Then loosen the soil and pry under the stump to try to get it out. Remember that even if you are successful, the stump may be very heavy and cumbersome to move.
    • Chemical Removal. There are several chemicals available designed to speed up the rotting of a stump. Typically, holes are drilled into the stump and the chemicals are poured into the holes. After weeks or months, the stump will be soft and can be broken apart and removed. While faster than natural decomposition, this is still a very slow process. And then there is the toxic nature of the chemicals. Since they act both as a herbicide, which is poisonous, and to break down the wood fibers, it is safe to assume the products are not good for anything living. It is advised not to use this method when pets and children are present. 

    Decaying Tree Stump with Ivy, Gardenista

    Above: A naturally decaying tree stump with ivy. Image by Janet Hall.

    • Natural Decay. Not worried about a stump hanging around for awhile? Attracted to the natural wooded-look of a slowly decaying stump? Then ignoring it is a tried and true method. It will take years. The average stump takes from three to seven years to decompose. Hardwoods, like oak, take longer to decompose than other varieties. You can speed up the process by drilling holes into the stump, covering it with soil and watering it.

    • Burning? Unless you live in a very remote location, this outdated method is not recommended due to air quality control issues and fire hazard. In fact, it is not allowed in most urban and many suburban locations.

    Are some tree stumps harder to remove than others?

    The variety of tree matters. "Some woods are fibrous. Pines and date palms fall into this category. While most people think their softness would make it easier to grind out, the opposite is true. The fibrous nature of the wood makes it more time consuming to remove. The density of hard woods actually can make it easier to grind," explains Matthew Morgenstern, owner of East and West Bay Stump Removal. "Root systems also vary. Some are more surface-oriented, while others tend to go deeper. The varieties with extensive surface roots include Monterey pines, Liquidambars, maples, and poplars. These tend to require more extensive grinding." Knowing the tree variety is also important in deciding whether to leave or remove the stump, as some varieties are more prone to producing suckers.

    Spreading Tree Roots, Gardenista

    Above: Spreading roots of a Western juniper. Image via SBCA Tree.

    Can I remove a tree stump myself or should I hire a professional?

    Complexity of stump removal depends on the size and variety of the tree, as well as challenges posed by its location. As mentioned above, DIY sump removal may be possible with small stumps and shrubs. When the stump is bigger enough to require mechanical removal, we advise seeking the help of a trained professional.

    It's not at all unusual for stumps to be located over gas lines or other utilities. These situations are best handled by an experienced equipment operator. "Renting equipment and doing it yourself is an option," says tree stump removal professional Matthew Morgenstern. "Typical rental units are rather easy to tip over if you don't know what to expect. Unexperienced operators should avoid uneven terrain at least until they have gained some confidence in how the machine responds. Lastly, stump removal equipment involves flying debris. Windows, cars, and onlookers are at risk without proper precautions." Note that urban or small space situations may require special equipment as large machines can't be used. Local professionals are likely to have the necessary expertise and equipment to handle different situations.

    How much does tree stump removal cost?

    The factors affecting cost are the size of the stump and the accessibility. For machine grinding, many stump removal professionals charge by inch of the stump diameter. Expect a general price range around $3 per inch, with an understanding that there are many variables affecting each job. One such variable is accessibility for bringing in equipment. Removing a stump in my urban yard in San Francisco would be an expensive exercise (one estimate was $500) just to get the equipment into the back yard.  

    What are the alternatives to tree stump removal?

    Scott Wheeler of San Francisco's Urban Arborist recommends thinking twice before removing a stump unless you are trying to plant something in the same spot or if it is part of a bigger landscape re-design project. "Let it stand if possible," he says. "It is expensive and intrusive to remove a stump. Think about alternative uses, like cutting the tree off at table height and using it as a table base, or carving the stump into a totem pole for your kids." 

    Repurposing Tree Stumps

    • As a Planter. Tree stumps can be effective planters for perennials, succulents, and woodland plants. Use its natural nooks and crannies or create hollows in the stump with a pickaxe or other tool to fill with dirt.

    Pansy Growing in Tree Stump, Gardenista

    Above: Pansies grow in a tree stump. Image via Pinecones and Roses.

    Tree Stump as Planter

    Above: Greenery growing in a tree stump planter. Image via Pinterest.

    • As a Decorative Element. Stumps can be sculptural in a natural garden.

    Tree Stump in Natural Landscape by Deborah Silver, Gardenista

    Above: A stump adds a woodland element to a hillside garden bed. Image via Deborah Silver's Dirt Simple Blog.

    Tree Stumps in Natural Garden, Gardenista

    Above: Tree stumps were favored in Victorian times for showing off exotic woodland plants like ferns and orchids. They called such stump-based gardens a "stumpery." Image via Outline Productions.

    • Other Inventive Uses. Stumps can be repurposed into table bases, stepping stools, seating, or even tree house foundations.

    Tree Stump House, Gardenista

    Above: A sturdy maple tree stump serves as a foundation for a modern tree house. Image by Howard Pruden.

    Camouflaging Tree Stumps

    In many locations, tree stumps can be cut close to the ground and hidden within the landscape. 

    Hidden Tree Stump, Gardensita

    Above: Clever camouflage of a large tree stump within a field of lavender.  Last year my neighbor had to remove a large Monterey pine from the corner of her property. In consultation with the arborist, she choose to leave the stump as it is not close to her house and the disruption to her landscape of full stump and root removal would have been severe. They cut the stump as low to the ground as possible; the lavender plants have fully camouflaged the 3-foot-wide stump. Image by Janet Hall.

    What to do with the scraps from your tree stump removal? They can be cut and used as stepping stones, small table tops, or as shown on Remodelista, an easy DIY Log Side Table.

    Interested in tree preservation? See Saving the World's Oldest Trees. And, wondering how to take better care of your trees? See Surviving a Storm: Expert Tips From the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

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  • 05/29/14--09:30: A Hip Hive for Urban Bees
  • Fully one third of the world's food supply depends on pollinators, especially bees. Yet, according to a recent Yale study the global bee population has been declining at an alarming rate: from 30-50 percent each year for the last decade. In response to this critical problem, student Bettina Madita Böhm designed what has to be the hippest hive ever. 

    Bettina's Apiarium (discovered via Dezeen) was designed, while she was still an undergraduate at the Free University of Bolzano in Italy, as part of an initiative in Berlin to install beehives or apiaries in public spaces and to encourage urbanites to get into the beekeeping game. The hive, which is made of light concrete, creates an optimal environment for bees, yet is compact enough for most urban balconies, rooftops, and small gardens.

    Bettina Madita Bohm Apiarium_2, Gardenista

    Above: The decline in bee population is often linked to pesticides commonly used by farmers in the countryside, so urban environments are often more suited to bees.

    Bettina Madita Bohm Apiarium_3, Gardenista

    Above: Cast in light concrete, the base of the hive was inspired by a tree trunk, one of the bees' preferred lodgings in the wild. Interior air canals insulate bees from extreme weather.

    Bettina Madita Bohm Apiarium_4, Gardenista

    Above: As the hive grows a honeycomb chamber is placed on top of the base, or nest. The wooden slates can be lifted easily to access the honey.

    Bettina Madita Bohm Apiarium_7, Gardenista

    Above: Resembling many midcentury design icons, the outside of the honey chamber also pays homage to the bee's honeycomb pattern.

    Bettina Madita Bohm Apiarium_5, Gardenista

    Above: A flower plant placed at the top not only attracts the bees, it also provides further insulation.

    Bettina Madita Bohm Apiarium_1, Gardenista

    Above: Bettina's Apiarium prototype completely assembled. Bettina, now in graduate school, has not yet found a manufacturer for her Apiarium, but she has promised to keep us posted. 

    Want to plant your own bee-friendly garden? See For the Bees: Gardens with Pollinating Plants. You can also read about the king of all urban beekeepers in The Bees of Buckingham Palace. Over at Remodelista, Michelle explores The Buzz, Bee Keeping in Napa.

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    Here's a modern edible garden that reminds us of playing with Lego bricks: take one old shipping container, snap on a vaulted greenhouse roof, and ... grow food. Has recycled architecture ever been so delicious?

    Designer Damien Chivialle, who created the concept of these 20-foot-long Urban Farm Units, envisions the next step too: snap a bunch of shipping container greenhouses together to create a working farm in the middle of a city. Inside each greenhouse is a hydroponic watering system and a metal staircase to the upper level. On the lower level, a fish pond and cleaning tank make it possible to fertilize and recycle water. Upstairs, vegetables and herbs flourish in full sun, protected by the greenhouse roof from the effects of urban air pollution. For more information about the shipping container greenhouses, see 20 Foot Urban Farm.

    We spotted the Urban Farm Units via Design Boom and decided to go along for a tour of a shipping container greenhouse in Berlin (other Urban Farm Units have been installed in Brussels and Zurich). 

    Photography via Design Boom except where noted.


    Above: A standard size shipping container houses the Urban Farm Unit's recirculating watering system. Water flows down from the plants above into a fish tank; the fish excrement decomposes in a sewage tank, the mineral-rich water then returns to the plants to be filtered through their soil and roots before returning to the fish tank.


    Above: The greenhouse level, accessible by a metal staircase, is supported by scaffolding.


    Above: Photograph via YouTube.

    On the upper level, tomatoes grow in full sun.


    Above: The greenhouse windows, roof panels, and door can be opened to increase air circulation as needed.


    Above: A greenhouse module under construction in Brussels. Photograph via YouTube.

    Would you consider turning a shipping container into guest quarters? See A Shipping Container Transformed Into the Ultimate Holiday House and, on Remodelista, 10 Houses Made from Shipping Containers. See more stylish sheds, garages, guest cottages, and outhouses (not a typo) in our Outbuildings archive.

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    Spotted making itself at home at New York's recent International Contemporary Furniture Fair: preserved, unnaturally bright reindeer moss from Finland, ready to colonize coffee tables, hang from ceilings, and climb walls as maintenance-free indoor gardens. The plant's purveyor, Polarmoss, is based on the Finnish island of Hailuuto and has been gathering moss—and selling it—for decades (the owner is a self-described "third generation entrepreneur in the moss sector.") At ICFF, the company was debuting its latest product: dried and dyed reindeer moss presented as indoor decor in the form of moss-covered rock-like "islands," hanging orbs, and wall installations in red, yellow, and green. 

    A salesperson told us that Polarmoss is the world's easiest houseplant: it looks good for years without water, especially perks up when the humidity rises (40 percent humidity is its ideal), and is a natural sound absorber. It's also fire resistant (thanks to a treatment process) and, they assured, is responsibly harvested "in boreal and arctic regions around the circumpolar north."

    We were intrigued; what do you think?

    Photographs courtesy of Polarmoss.

    Polarmoss islands | Gardenista

    Above: Islands of Polarmoss. The moss is hand picked, dried, and then colored in a solution of water, pigments, and salt (the salt is evidently what makes the otherwise very flammable moss fire retardant). Though no longer alive, it remains responsive to moisture and quickly goes from brittle to spongy after a spritz of water. The moss can dry out and soften several times without harm (but it shouldn't be sprayed too often or touched when it's brittle).

    Polarmoss islands | Gardenista

    Above: The islands are sold in three sizes (and have mounting hooks, so they can move from table to wall). Suggested prices for islands range from $220 to $355 each. Polarmoss will soon be selling its designs through US retailers; for buying information, contact the company's US rep Elit Inc

    Polarmoss spheres | Gardenista

    Above: Polarmoss spheres; prices start at $134 for the smallest.

    Polarmoss wall panels | Gardenista

    Above: Flex Elements, a series of felt-based shapes sold by Polarmoss, enable the moss to be hung on walls. These can be made to order in a range of sizes, colors, and patterns.

    Polarmoss spheres and wall panel | Gardenista

    Above: Polarmoss panels are natural sound absorbers. They can be cleaned (carefully) using a vacuum cleaner with a dust brush attachment. 

    Reindeer moss in Finland | Gardenista

    Above: Reindeer moss is a form of lichen that grows in the wild near the Arctic Circle. Polarmoss harvests its moss in Finland and Russia and writes in its catalog: "We at Polarmoss care for the environment we operate in. Reindeer moss is only hand picked; we always leave the forest cared for. We make sure the moss has enough time to rest and grow between picking periods." For more information, go to Polarmoss.

    Moss is definitely having a moment; learn how to use it to make a DIY: Desktop Zen Garden. And if you like the idea of ease, don't miss 10 Best Low-Maintenance Houseplants. On Remodelista, read wellness expert Jackie Ashton's 10 Reasons to Bring the Outdoors In

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