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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

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    As a born-and-bred do-it-yourselfer, I like to rely on Mother Nature for summertime entertaining. On a visit to my Connecticut hometown, I gathered Queen Anne's Lace from a fallow field and clipped branches of crab apples to make a festive tablescape. 

    Photography by Erin Boyle.

    A Botanical Tablescape with Crab Apple Branches and Queen Anne's Lace | Gardenista

    Above: Queen Anne's Lace is one of my favorite summer flowers. It's scrappy enough to grow in empty city lots and beneficial enough to be used as a companion crop in vegetable gardens, luring wasps and other insects away from more precious plantings. But it can also be a pest, overtaking pastures like the one above. For this forager, that only provided an abundance of raw materials.

    A Botanical Tablescape with Crab Apple Branches and Queen Anne's Lace | Gardenista

    Above: Queen Anne's Lace has one tiny red flower in the center of its lace-like blossom. That spot of red—which attracts pollinators—is said to be the spot of blood from a needle prick to Queen Anne's finger. Whether it was Anne, Queen of Britain, or her great grandmother, Anne of Denmark, whose finger stained the lace is a matter of debate. 

    A Botanical Tablescape with Crab Apple Branches and Queen Anne's Lace | Gardenista

    Above: Fruit branches make an unexpected addition to a summery table. Luckily, my parents' generous neighbors were willing to spare a few branches. I think the bright yellow spots on these leaves are pretty, but they may be a sign of cedar-apple rust. (Any experts out there?)

    A Botanical Tablescape with Crab Apple Branches and Queen Anne's Lace | Gardenista

    Above: A basket and a good pair of scissors and pruners were all the supplies I needed for this foraging expedition, along with a friendly smile to ask permission. See 10 Easy Pieces: Floral Scissors and 10 Easy Pieces: Garden Pruners for tools to get you started on your botanical table runner.

    A Botanical Tablescape with Crabapple Branches and Queen Anne's Lace | Gardenista

    Above: First, I placed five crab apple branches down the center of the table, layering them at alternating angles to achieve a uniform look.

    A Botanical Tablescape with Crabapple Branches and Queen Anne's Lace | Gardenista

    Above: I cut the stems of Queen Anne's Lace to 3 or 4 inches so I could nestle them between the branches at interesting angles. 

    A Botanical Tablescape with Crab Apple Branches and Queen Anne's Lace | Gardenista

    Above: I added glass votive candleholders, placing them between the flowers and branches in a serpentine shape. Beaker Glass Candleholders from CB2, only 95 cents each, are satisfyingly simple.

    A Botanical Tablescape with Crab Apple Branches and Queen Anne's Lace | Gardenista

    Above: The votive candles among the foliage lent a glow to the table. The Queen Anne's Lace was sturdy enough to last the evening, but I protected the flowers from the heat of the flame by putting the candles next to the crab apple branches.

    A Botanical Tablescape with Crab Apple Branches and Queen Anne's Lace | Gardenista

     Above: I like simple white dishes for the table. Here I used my parents' vintage china; at home I'm partial to the Tourne Ceramics Collection from Brook Farm General Store. 

    Above: Napkins should do more than catch crumbs—they should spruce up a table, too. I used one of my favorite wedding gifts: Grey Thin White Stripe Napkins ($14 each, from Shop Fog Linen). At each setting I placed a small green apple from a tree in my parents' yard. 
    A Botanical Tablescape with Crabapple Branches and Queen Anne's Lace | Gardenista
    Above: The etched glasses I used are another vintage find, but any of Sarah's 10 Easy Pieces: Everyday Wineglasses would be perfect low-profile options. 

    A Botanical Tablescape with Crab Apple Branches and Queen Anne's Lace | Gardenista

    Above: I'm a fan of bringing the indoors out for small gatherings. I used a motley crew of antique chairs, but Julie's 10 Easy Pieces: Dining Chairs Under $160 has lots of choices that would work well here. The Hairpin Back Bentwood Chair would be particularly nice. 

    A Botanical Tablescape with Crabapple Branches and Queen Anne's Lace | Gardenista

    Above: Sterling flatware should be used daily to avoid tarnishing, if you ask me. But if you don't have a family silver box to pull from, 10 Easy Pieces: Everyday Stainless Steel Flatware lists other options. At my house, we use Teak Cutlery from Brook Farm General Store, $55 for a five-piece set.

    Above: I kept the overall look of the tabletop low, but I like the height that a pretty glass water bottle adds. The Korken from Ikea is an inexpensive option at $3.99.

    A Botanical Tablescape with Crab Apple Branches and Queen Anne's Lace | Gardenista

    Above: Under the apple tree, the table looks set for summery meal. I'll leave the food part up to your imagination.

    For more summery tabletop ideas, see Steal This Look: A DIY Tabletop with Rustic Appeal. For fresh ideas on what to serve, see Garden-to-Table Recipes.

    This is an update of a post originally published July 31, 2013.

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    The longest day of the year is Saturday, June 21. To celebrate the solstice, the editors over at Remodelista took their cue from the Nordic countries, who know how to greet summer in style: They investigated Scandinavian design, finessed the outdoor (and indoor) feast, and apparently drank aquavit without sharing it with us.

    Tiina Laakonen's house in the Hamptons I Remodelista

    Above: In Rhapsody in Blue: A Finnish Stylist at Home in the Hamptons, Margot visits shop owner Tiina Laakonen. You'll feel as if you've been airlifted to Finland: The living room opens up to the glorious outdoors, couches are upholstered in Marimekko prints, and the prevailing shade is indigo. 

    Glass teardrop drink dispenser, World Market, Remodelista

    Above: Planning an outdoor meal? First things first. 10 Easy Pieces: Summer Drinks Dispensers shows you how to stay hydrated in style. 

    Dining table Tiina Laakonen house in the Hamptons; Remodelista

    Above: Remodelista goes back to Tiina's place in the Hamptons to see how she sets a Midsummer Table. The answer: playfully, mixing and matching all things Finnish. 

    Eve Ashcraft painted rocks; Remodelista

    Above: Calling all rock collectors! Are you one of those people who can't leave a beach without full pockets? Here's a good use for them in Five Quick Fixes: Solutions for Anchoring the Outdoor Tablecloth. (Paint is optional.) 

      Summer house by Förstberg Arkitektur of Malmo, Sweden; Remodelista

    Above: Christine found this austerely handsome summerhouse in Sweden, made up of two adjoining structures wrapped in raw corrugated aluminum. A mini cabin around back serves as a garden shed. 

    Jielde brass lamp; Remodelista

    Above: Just as Gardenista kicks off its Considered Design Awards this week, Remodelista does the same. Copycats. Go here to find out how to enter, and here to read about the prize for winning entries: a limited-edition Jieldé Desk Lamp.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    Really, summer just got here? We've been celebrating for weeks now, but this is the first official day. And here are a few summery things that caught our eye this week: 

    Beth Kirby/Local Milk | Gardenista

    • Above: Inspired tabletops with a Portuguese flair, from Local Milk. Photograph by Beth Kirby
    • Starting to harvest your early vegetables? For fresh ideas, revisit a landmark vegetarian cookbook, newly reissued. 
    • 10 natural ways to ward off summer's peskiest pest—the mosquito (rosemary and garlic are on the list). 

    Modular Chicken Coop | Gardenista

    • Above: For city farmers and sophisticated chicks, an upscale coop partners with a planter, compost bin, and more. Photograph courtesy of Design Milk. 
    • Speaking of sophisticated chickens, doesn't this belong in that coop?
    • A tropical makeover for your backyard. 
    • On our wish list: the most delicate Japanese maple ever. 

    Glass Ice Bucket from Provisions | Gardenista

    Vegan Coconut Ice Cream by Joy the Baker | Gardenista

    If you missed this week on Gardenista, you can catch up in our archives. And check out Remodelista's week of Scandi-inspired design and interiors

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    In the forest highlands of southern Sweden's Smaland province, you'll find the garden and manor house of renowned Danish florist and artist Tage Andersen. Andersen is a polymath: sculptor, chef, designer, author, and the proprietor of a "floral boutique and museum" in Copenhagen. Gunillaberg is his ultimate vision. In a landscape of pastures, ravines, streams, ponds, and fields, it's home to farm animals, topiary courtyards, an orangery, and sculptures made by the floral artist himself. 

    Photography by Bent Rej, unless otherwise noted.

      Tage Andersen Gunillaberg ; Gardenista

    Above: A view of the Gunillaberg estate, seen from the fields across the pond. The yellow manor house (at right) was built in the second half of the 17th century by Johan Printz—who went on to become the third governor of New Sweden, the Swedish colony in what is now Delaware. 

    Tage Andersen Gunillaberg ; Gardenista

    Above: When Tage Andersen (shown here) took over the property in 2008, he renovated the manor house entirely, and started his overhaul of the gardens. 

    Tage Andersen's Gunillaberg | Gardenista

    Above: Weeping trees form a backdrop to tailored topiaries at the entrance to the manor. Photograph by Lena Frisk

    Tage Andersen Gunillaberg ; Gardenista

     Above: One of Andersen's sculptures floats in a pool outside the manor. Inside, Andersen exhibits works by a number of artists.

      Tage Andersen Gunillaberg ; Gardenista

    Above: Andersen, shown here with a pot-bellied friend, opened his first floral shop in 1967, in his childhood town of Kjellerup, Jutland. Today, he has a magical shop in Copenhagen filled with flowers, art objects and furniture that he makes himself, plants, birds, and bird cages that resemble artworks. 

    Tage Andersens Garden | Gardenista

    Above: Andersen planted more than a thousand lilies on the property. One of his topiary courtyards stands behind the stone wall. Photograph by Teija Lisefors

    Tage Andersen's Gunillaberg | Gardenista

    Above: Another topiary courtyard, this one covered in flowering passion vine. Photograph by Lena Frisk

    Tage Andersen's Gunillaberg | Gardenista

    Above: Overgrown topiarylike plants line the path to a red building that's used as a shop and gallery. Andersen trained as a pastry chef, developing a perfectionism that's evident in his floral designs, which are both tailored and lush. Photograph by Lena Frisk

    Tage Andersen's Gunillaberg | Gardenista

    Above: Pots of agapanthus outside one of the art-filled spaces. Photograph by Krystyna and Eva from Floristmastarna

      Tage Andersen Gunillaberg ; Gardenista

    Above: One more topiary courtyard, this one beside the barn.

    Tage Andersen's Garden | Gardenista

    Above: At Gunillaberg, even the cows look like artworks. 

    Tage Andersen's Garden | Gardenista  

    Above: The airy greenhouse-style building is used for lectures, concerts, and other performances. 

    Tage Andersen's Garden | Gardenista

    Above: Visitors enter by way of a wooden walkway lined with rustic railings. 

      Tage Andersen Gunillaberg ; Gardenista

    Above: Performances in the light-filled space begin at 5 pm, taking advantage of the long summer evenings. Opera, ballet, and classical music are on the schedule.

    Tage Andersen's Gunillaberg | Gardenista

    Above: A sculpted tree is one of his many whimsical artworks that adorn the property. Photograph by Lena Frisk

      Tage Andersen Gunillaberg ; Gardenista

    Above: Gunillaberg's visionary owner has much more planned for this unusual property. We can't wait to see what's next.  

     The Gunillaberg garden is open to the public 11 am–6 pm daily from May 29th to August 31, and on Saturdays and Sundays in September. The entrance fee is $18. See Andersen's website for more information, including directions from Stockholm and Copenhagen (the drive is about 3 1/2 hours from either city), hotels in the area, and a list of scheduled events. 

    For another European garden with its own quirky style, see A Magical Garden Where Clouds Grow on a Hillside in Provence.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    Is an obsession with composting a peculiarly male trait? I can't imagine a woman thinking, "I must go out and cover the compost" when it starts to rain. Nor can I imagine pulling over during the school run to fill the car trunk with nettles to add to the compost. Maybe I'm generalizing because I live with someone who admits, in relation to compost: "I am obsessed."

    Photography by Jim Powell

    DIY: Compost. Photo Jim Powell. Gardenista

    A neighbor rang the other day to say that she had a bin full of nettles. Did I want them? Of course! Every time Jim (my in-house composter and compost photographer) gathers nettles, the car smells a bid odd afterwards, so a delivery from a neighbor is always welcome. These wild plants are rich in nitrogen, so composters seek them out to add them to the compost heap. (You can also feed plants with a nettle "tea," but this way is easier.) 

    DIY: Compost. Photo Jim Powell. Gardenista

    "Let's go for a walk, children!" really means: Let's forage for nettles (shown here) or, later in the season, comfrey.

    DIY: Compost (comfrey). Photo Jim Powell. Gardenista

    Comfrey adds potassium, which aids flowering, whereas nitrogen is good for growth: This is useful green waste. Less useful green waste is tons of lawn clippings, but only because these tend to arrive in such large quantities. It's important to go 50-50 with green and brown waste.

    DIY: Compost. Photo Jim Powell. Gardenista

    If you remember to add the brown stuff, you can toss in all the grass clippings you want. Brown waste means twigs, desiccated plants, cardboard—even, for the obsessed, full vacuum cleaner bags and haircut sweepings. Bulky items keep the air circulating, and air, along with moisture, is the key to good compost. It's a good idea to break down bigger elements before you add them to the pile; an easy way to do that is to spread the garden waste on the lawn and mow over it.

    DIY: Compost. Photo Jim Powell. Gardenista

    Worms move into the compost as soon as new plant or food waste is added. As the plant material rots, it generates heat and compost is on its way. It's also imperative to stir, often but not too much. Let the compost rest. Don't let it go dead. One can't help feeling that the "do this-do that" element of gardening is part of the appeal for men. As with vegetable-growing, you find your way.

    A few rules to bear in mind, while we're on the subject: Don't add cooked food (it attracts rats). Do add eggshells, well mashed up. Add citrus and garlic and onions, sparingly. Don't add thorns.

    DIY: Compost. Photo Jim Powell. Gardenista

    Worms are not the only heroes here. Microorganisms, protozoa, and fungi ably assist. The key bacteria are mesophiles and thermophiles, which operate in moderate heat and high heat, respectively. You want your compost to reach high temperatures to keep everyone happy and to kill the weeds (which you should feel free to add to the heap).

    DIY: Compost. Photo Jim Powell. Gardenista

    Jim would argue that this sweet-smelling, rich, crumbly stuff (above), also known as "black gold," isn't quite ready yet. The trouble is, compost can be endlessly perfected. Whether you pick out the twigs and sift it to something finer is your choice. As for myself, I'm planting out pumpkins and need it now: It looks fine.

    DIY: Compost. Photo Jim Powell. Gardenista

    The book that set Jim on his composting journey was the strangely entertaining Compost, by Clare Foster, the garden editor of British House & Garden (£9.99 from Octopus Books). Jim says: Read it at least twice.

    Ready to get started? See 10 Easy Pieces: Kitchen Compost Pails and Steal This Look: Elegant French Country Compost Bins. Already composting, and a little obsessed? See Garden Riddle: What's Round, and Sifts Twigs? 

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    They say every garden should have a water feature. Ponds count. So does a beach, if it's visible from at least one window. Join us this week as we explore the benefits of the life aquatic: the crunch of seashell driveways, the 10 best perennials for a seaside garden, an upstate New York summer house with a very special pond, and the mysteries revealed by one old irrigation system in the South of France.

    Gardenista Table of Contents : Life Aquatic


      La Noria garden France ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Clive Nichols.

    In this week's Landscape Architect Visit, Kendra heads to the South of France to visit a garden where an old irrigation system called the "noria" is behind the name of the garden. It has been supplemented by modern rills and pools.


      Searoon succulents Mimi Giboin ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.

    No, we have yet to see it all when it comes to designing succulents. Jeanne discovers a new technique in this week's Shopper's Diary.


      Trio vase set clear glass labware ; Gardenista

    Above: It's no secret that Michelle, obsessed with chemistry sets since childhood, favors an interior design style best described as "Early Beaker and Flask." This week she reveals her favorite sources for labware vases in our 10 Easy Pieces.


    oyster shell path in the garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Seashell driveway? You know you want one. Janet makes it easy in this week's Hardscaping 101.


    New Dawn trellis seaside cottage ; Gardenista

    Above: Wondering which flowers will thrive in your seaside garden? Justine has some suggestions in this 10 Easy Pieces. Photograph by Justine Hand for Gardenista.

    And check out the Life Aquatic over on Remodelista, where the editors are slathering on sunscreen and heading to the beach this week.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    The creativity of French landscape designers Arnaud Maurières and Eric Ossart is almost overwhelming. They were already ahead of the game when they gave us the style called le nouveau fleurissement (the new flowering) 30 years ago. Then they headed south to the Riviera before relocating to Morocco. Now, at their most recent garden project in France, La Noria, they're telling us what they know about heat and water:

    Photography by Clive Nichols.

    Jardin de la Noria, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: This watery place is in the Langedoc-Roussillon region, in the South of France. It was named after an old irrigation system on the property called the "noria." The La Noria Garden and its sculptures are open to the general public a few days a year, and for prearranged group tours from April to September.

    Jardin de la Noria, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: Though the garden's ancient irrigation system still works, it has been supplemented with a series of pools and rills. Pots of agapanthus line the edges of this pool, and the beds are planted with iris.

    Jardin de la Noria, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: A fountain's old stone is combined with new concrete, washed in just the right color.

    Since moving their offices from France to Morocco, Maurières and Ossart have added Islamic influences to their approach to garden style. Today their work is mainly concentrated in North Africa and Mexico, and they're also inspired by the work of Mexican architect Luis Barragán.

    Jardin de la Noria, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: A manmade stream at La Noria flows from the stone fountain and down the Allée des Cypres, a shady, cypress-lined enclosure in the Water Garden.

    Jardin de la Noria, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: These pools follow the path in another area, the Sculpture Garden. Sculptor Henri Olivier calls them "Miroirs de l'ombre" and "Miroirs de l'eau" (mirrors of shadow and mirrors of water).

    Jardin de la Noria, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: A wooden deck called the kiosque provides some shade by the pool. 

    Thirty years ago, Maurières and Ossart conceived le nouveau fleurissement as an alternative to the mainstream formalism of the day. The idea behind their planting combinations—grasses with vegetables, annuals with herbs—was to mix whatever they could find that would grow happily within the given conditions. They went on to found a gardening school for Mediterranean planting, run a specialist nursery, and become pioneers in the first plant fair at Courson, which now is world-renowned.

    Jardin de la Noria, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: This French garden was designed after the pair moved to Morocco. That influence shows in the clean-cut geometry that has been added to the ancient water system.

    Jardin de la Noria, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: These days, Maurières and Ossart still design gardens, but they're designing buildings as well. Their experience in Tunisia and Morocco has led to an appreciation of spaces as a whole, with rammed-earth houses closely linked by pools and trickling water. During their travels they find plants that favor hot, dry conditions—cacti, grasses, and succulents. As is the way with warm, enclosed spaces, scent is required as well: La Noria also has a rose garden.

    Escape to another part of the south of France with Landscape Architect Visit: Jacqueline Morabito on the French Riviera. See more of our favorite water features in In Praise of the Water Fountain.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    There are two full weeks left to submit your projects to the second annual Remodelista + Gardenista Considered Design Awards.

    Be sure to get your entries in by Monday, July 7, for a chance to win a special edition Jieldé Desk Lamp. We can't wait to see your spaces!

    On Gardenista, we have two categories for amateurs, two categories for professionals, and three categories open to everyone: 

    • Best Overall Garden (Amateur)
    • Best Small Garden (Amateur)
    • Best Professional Landscape (Professional)
    • Best Garden Shed or Outbuilding (Professional)
    • Best Outdoor Living Space (Everyone)
    • Best Edible Garden (Everyone)
    • Best Hardscape Project (Everyone)

    On Remodelista, we're running a separate contest for amateur and professional designers in each of these categories:

    • Best Kitchen Space
    • Best Living/Dining Space
    • Best Bedroom Space
    • Best Bath Space
    • Best Office Space

    Enter here for Gardenista and Remodelista, and browse the entries already submitted. See the roster of esteemed Gardenista Guest Judges, and don't forget to submit by July 7 before midnight PDT. 

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  • 06/23/14--11:30: Field Guide: Nettles
  • Nettles, Urtica dioica: "The Generous Gardener"

    A traditional nickname for the stinging nettle is "devil's plaything." It's easy to demonize this wild plant as the scourge of country walks, since it causes a painful rash when it comes in contact with bare skin. But if you look beyond that, you'll find this garden interloper has a generous side, feeding plants, insects, birds, and people.

    Field Guide: Nettles ; Gardenista

    Above: For more photos of Nettles, see our Gardenista Gallery.

    When the ground warms and nettles begin to appear, use them to make a spring tonic, full of Vitamin C and iron. Simply snip off the tops of the plants and infuse in a teapot. Nettle tea tastes good; honest. (Nettles lose their sting once cooked. But you'll need to wear rubber gloves when picking them to avoid a rash.)

    Along with members of the dandelion family, nettles have found favor with both high-end chefs and people living in extreme circumstances. Anna Del Conte, the renowned Italian food writer, put nettles into a wartime context in her memoir Risotto with Nettles (add cream, if possible). And Locanda Locatelli, an Italian restaurant in London's West End, celebrates late spring with a dish of "Risotto, ortiche e lumache" (nettle and snail risotto), a double challenge for some.

    Field Guide: Nettles ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Jim Powell.

    The common, or stinging, nettle is a perennial weed, characterized by stinging hairs on its stems and leaves. These contain histamine juices; ironically, nettles are used in anti-histamine treatments for hay fever sufferers. Besides that medicinal use, nettles are loaded with nitrogen, which can help your garden flourish. Simply feed young plants with a nettle tea, made by gathering nettles and steeping them in water. (For more on the uses of nettle nutrition in the garden, see: Composting: Are You Obsessed?)

    Field Guide: Nettles ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Jim Powell.

    Cheat Sheet

    • Nettles can be found everywhere; they're just as comfortable around the periphery of things as they are popping up right in the middle. This hardy plant grows wild in every US state except Hawaii.
    • Foraged nettles make a delicious dinner. 
    • Older nettles are fibrous and should be avoided, especially once they set seed.

    Nettles by Aran Goyoaga ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Aran Goyoaga.

    One of our favorite ways to eat foraged nettles in springtime is Aran Goyoaga's dish of Fiddlehead Ferns, Nettles, and Ricotta Gnudi (gnudi are a type of dumpling), posted on her blog Cannelle et Vanille.

    Keep It Alive

    • This shouldn't pose any problems; most people want to kill nettles, and yet they survive. The plants prefer soil rich in phosphates, and they gravitate towards human habitats, as our effluvia provide ideal growing conditions.
    • It is thought that nettles are spreading because of the increased use of artificial fertilizers.
    • When you cut back nettles, young edible shoots will appear throughout the growing season.

    Field-Guide-Nettles. Gardenista

    Photograph by Kendra Wilson.

    Above: If you have plenty of room and like to allow your garden to go a little wild, consider designating space for a nettle patch. It will provide a breeding habitat for butterflies and moths, and also a home for the early nettle aphid, good news to ladybugs. It will also attract birds, which like to eat nettle seeds.

    Nettles often grow near dock, which happens to be an instant cure for nettle rash (just rub the leaves over the skin). Cleavers (shown above), also known as stickyweed, are another common neighbor, and also edible. They can be gathered in spring with nettles and infused for a health boost. 

    Field Guide: Nettles ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Jim Powell.

    Move quickly when an unwanted nettle in your garden begins to flower; seeds aren't far behind. After the summer solstice, the whole plant will begin to look old and tired, its side shoots dripping menacingly with flowery seeds.

    While foraging, you might see nettle-like plants with attractive nectar-filled white flowers, but don't be fooled: It's Archangel, which is from a completely different family. And you'll be pleasantly surprised if you happen to grab one: commonly known as dead nettle, the Archangel is stingfree. 

    Read More

    Nettles read more DIY gardensita

    Above: For more on the medicinal use of nettles, see Miracle Cure for Allergies: Gentle Nettle Tea.

    For more untamed gardening, see Can We Please Be Less Fanatically Tidy? And browse our Field Guide archives for the lowdown on less-wild edibles such as Chives, Tomatoes, and Carrots.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    The space around this modest cottage in Dungeness, Kent, the former home of the multitalented filmmaker Derek Jarman (1942-1994), could be considered one of England's best-loved gardens. The property is not open to the public, nor is it closed; visitors are free to wander. "The garden is the landscape," says Jarman's friend, the photographer Howard Sooley. "It ends at the horizon."

    Photographs by Howard Sooley.

      Derek Jarman's Garden by Howard Sooley. Gardenista

    Above: In 1991 Howard Sooley was assigned by a magazine to photograph Jarman, and the two struck up a close friendship. They went on to produce a seminal book together, Derek Jarman's Gardendescribing a whole new kind of garden. The book was published just after Jarman's death 20 years ago.

    Jarman's reputation as an artist is so tied in with his remarkable garden these days that it's worth recalling that he was also a hugely influential film director, stage designer, author, and diarist. His early film work was closely allied with that of Tilda Swinton, who appeared in his best-known film, Caravaggio, released in 1986. He lived in a flat over the Phoenix Theater on London's Charing Cross Road but increasingly, in later years, he sought out the otherworldly coastal headland of Dungeness.

    Derek Jarman garden by Howard Sooley; Gardenista

    Above: "It's not often that you find a garden on such a small scale that is so at ease with the world," says Sooley. "It's not an artist's garden that's trying to be clever." Posts like these are markers for plants that die down in winter. They also provide height—and perches for migratory birds. 

    Derek Jarman garden by Howard Sooley; Prospect Cottage; Gardenista

    Above: Sooley says that visitors are "ecstatic" upon seeing the garden, especially when they come under an English blue sky. And they do visit, particularly on holidays. Even without the garden's reputation, the lines from a poem ("The Sun Rising," by John Donne) embossed on the side of the house guarantee that passersby will always stop.

    Derek Jarman garden by Howard Sooley; Gardenista

    Above: The garden is full of wildflowers introduced by Jarman. Shown here: wild poppy, pale blue Devil's-bit Scabious, dark red Valerian.

    Derek Jarman garden by Howard Sooley; Gardenista

    Above: The coastal plants that thrive in the garden are those that naturally migrate toward shingle (a British term for a pebbled shore). They'd flop in a well-tended border, but here they're stronger and tighter; "the more perfect version," as Sooley puts it.

    Derek Jarman garden by Howard Sooley; Prospect Cottage; Gardenista

    Above: You want structure? Here it is, but you won't find a garden gate or perimeter fence. "There's something special about the fact that this is a small cottage," says Sooley. "It's a small-scale domestic garden that's about wanting to garden."

    Derek Jarman garden by Howard Sooley; poppy; Gardenista

    Above: Opium poppy in a more interesting shade than the usual sugary pink. "The plants carry the meaning of the garden," says Sooley. "The way they sit in the shingle tells the story."

    Above: A Sooley portrait of Jarman, in gardening mode. The garden has moved on since Jarman's death, but not in a big way. Sooley still comes for a few days to tend it, and Jarman's partner Keith, who lives there, pulls out any unwanted grasses. Unlike so many British gardens, it's not about preserving what once was.

    For more Sooley collaborations, see Bounty From a North London Allotment. And on Remodelista, see House Call: A Ceramic Artist's Enviable Life on the Scottish Coast.

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    Located 34 miles southwest of Amsterdam is Katwijk aan Zee, a beach town on the North Sea where Dutch firm Kust Architects has placed 10 stylishly simple beach cabanas on the white sand. The cabanas are available for rent; each can accommodate from four to five people and comes equipped with a kitchen and wi-fi. 

    While we feverishly try to dream up an excuse to host a Gardenista retreat in one, we've sleuthed the elements to create the look. 

    Kust Beach House on Dutch Coast | Gardenista

    Above: Each cabana, designed and outfitted by Kust Architects, has a color palette that ranges from blue to blue (make that from periwinkle to aqua). Photograph courtesy of Vtwonen. 

    Periwinkle blue beach towel ; Gardenista

    Above: An oversized Microcotton Luxury Towel (bath sheet size) comes in periwinkle and is $71 from Scandia Down.

    Ay Illuminate Hanging Light Cotton Z1 | Gardenista

    Above: The hanging light fixture on the veranda is the Z1 Cotton Lamp, designed by Nelson Sepulveda and manufactured by Ay Illuminate. It's $510 from Bodie and Fou.

    Fermob Monceau Stacking Lounge Chair in Turquoise | Gardenista

    Above: Each cabana is furnished with Fermob Stacking Armchairs. A set of two can be purchased from French Bistro Furniture for $594. Photograph courtesy of Style Park.

    Bamboo Block Stool | Gardenista

    Above: A bamboo block like the one on the porch can be used as a stool or a side table. We like this square Wooden Table, which has a clear lacquer finish; from Deens, $135.

    Blue Hammock | Gardenista

    Above: Can a beach hut be complete without a hammock? The Classic Single Hammock is on sale for $69 from One King's Lane


    Steel Crate Wagon | Gardenista

    Above: Perfect for hauling beach supplies and little ones, a sturdy Steel Crate Wagon can be found on Amazon for $239.

    Benjamin Moore Buxton Blue | Gardenista

    Above: To turn your wagon the right shade of sea blue, give it a coat or two of exterior paint. Benjamin Moore's Buxton Blue is $68 per gallon. For more of our favorite seaside hues, take a look at Palette & Paints: Coastline-Inspired Blues.  

    Dune Grass Marram Grass on the Beach | Gardenista

    Above: Complete the look with a few tufts of beach grass. For more information about purchasing American Beach Grass, see Vans Pines Nursery. Photograph by Royal Broil. And if you're planting a seashore garden, see more of our favorite coastal plants at 10 Easy Perennials for the Seaside Garden.

    For more coastal inspiration, check out our slew of Beach Style posts, and take a look at another waterfront oasis in Just Open: A Hidden Beach Hotel in Oaxaca.

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    Tamar Sahakian, the owner of Searoon Succulents (a site launching this week), was a crafty child, always making things or gardening with her dad. But when it came to choosing a career she went in another direction, becoming a special education teacher for young children. Things changed on a trip to the rugged woods at Salt Point, on the Northern California coast. Sahakian found herself marveling at the succulents that thrived on the rocky cliffs. When she spotted a big log with a natural crevice in it, she got the idea of pairing the two. 

    Photography by Mimi Giboin.

    Searoon florist succulents ; Gardenista

    Above: Back home in Santa Barbara, Sahakian began creating signature botanical art objects: chunks of tree trunks that appear to have burst open to reveal hidden troves of succulents such as echevaria, crassula, and sempervivum. Eventually she converted her landlord's old treehouse into a studio.


    Above: What started as a hobby quickly attracted the attention of friends and colleagues, who began ordering the unusual pieces. Two years ago Sahakian started selling her work through word of mouth and in a local nursery. Now she's leaving full-time teaching and has just moved to San Francisco to establish an online business she's named Searoon Succulents. "I never thought this could be a career," she says of the changes going on in her life.

    Searoon florist succulents ; Gardenista

    Above: Although Sahakian claims not to have a green thumb, she propagates many of the plants she uses. Others she buys from a local supplier. 

    Searoon-log-byMimiGiboin; gardenista

    Above: Sahakian regularly makes foraging trips into the woods, looking for logs that are in some state of decomposition. She also combs the streets for the remains of trees the city has cut down. 

    Searoon florist succulents ; Gardenista

    Above: The charm of Sahakian's work is that the succulents seem to have grown where they are. She gets that natural look by using the existing indentations in the wood, but occasionally she has to enlarge a hole or change its shape. 

    Searoon florist succulents ; Gardenista  

    Above: Sahakian says she's still getting used to the idea that people are willing to pay her for work she loves to do. This piece of framed succulents recently sold for $450.

    Searoon florist succulents ; Gardenista

    Above: Her new website will show pre-made items, but Sahakian hopes most of the business will come from custom pieces, commissioned by clients who want something green and living that requires only minimal care.

    Searoon florist succulents ; Gardenista

    Above: Sahakian considers working closely with people to be one of the most rewarding parts of her art. So far, many of her clients have been older couples and businesses, such as restaurants, looking for unusual decor. She has also designed for weddings. 

    Searoon florist succulents ; Gardenista

    Above: A new direction for Sahakian is combining succulents with animal skulls found on trips to the desert.  

    Searoon florist succulents ; Gardenista

    Above: What's up next? Succulents bursting out of books (watch her website for pictures). This idea is sure to be as startling and attractive as its predecessors. After all, the name of her business, Searoon, is a version of the Armenian word "sirun," which means "beautiful." 

    For more on succulents, check out Tabletop Garden of Succulents and the handy How to Stop Killing Your Indoor Succulents. And on Remodelista, see Tabletop Garden of Succulents.

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  • 06/25/14--03:00: DIY: Pressed Seaweed Prints
  • As a native Cape Codder, I've always been fond of seaweed. So when I ran across designer Karen Robertson's pressed seaweed DIY on Garden Design, I had to give it a try.

    Read on for a list of materials and step-by-step instructions:

    Photography by Justine Hand for Gardenista.

    DIY pressed seaweed, gathering supplies at the beach, Gardenista

    Above: Any project that starts with "Step 1: Head to the beach" is A-okay with me. Here my little helpers (Oliver and Solvi) are finding seaweed specimens, which we carried home in a bucket of seawater.


    • Seaweed
    • 140-lb Watercolor Paper (76 cents a sheet from Dick Blick)
    • Cardboard
    • Weedblock Fabric ($9.97 a roll from Home Depot), or other mesh fabric
    • An Artist's Brush (prices range from $5.50 to $16.64, depending on size and shape, at Utrecht)
    • Two pieces of wood
    • Something heavy (like a stack of books) to weigh down the prints

    DIY pressed seaweed, specimens, Gardenista

    Above: Once your specimens are home, place them in the sink or a white bucket filled with seawater.

    DIY pressed seaweed, step 3, Gardenista

    Above: Fill another bucket with 2 inches of water. (I used the other half of my double sink.) Slide a piece of watercolor paper into the water and arrange the seaweed on top, keeping both paper and seaweed submerged.

    DIY pressed seaweed, step 4, Gardenista

    Above: Carefully lift the paper out of the water, tilting it this way and that so the water drains away but you still maintain your design (more or less). Use a small brush to reposition the seaweed into the desired composition and to sweep away unwanted bits of seaweed or sand. 

    DIY pressed seaweed, mesh cover, Gardenista

    Above: Place your arrangement on a piece of corrugated cardboard and gently position a piece of mesh fabric on top. If you want, you can layer several prints this way.

    DIY pressed seaweed, Gardenista

    Above: Put all your prints between the two flat boards and weigh them down with something heavy, like a brick or your Art Through the Ages book. Let the prints dry for several days, depending on the relative dryness of your climate. A fan will speed the process.

    DIY pressed seaweed, finished prints 1, Gardenista

    Above: After several days, remove the weights and layers to reveal your prints. (If they're still damp, just put them back under the weight.) I Googled the names of my specimens and wrote them on the paper in pencil.

    DIY seaweed prints on mantel- Gardenista

    Above: Two framed prints now grace my mantel. The most delicate specimens and simplest compositions turned out to be my favorites.

    DIY seaweed prints on mantel- Gardenista

    Above: After my experience, I have one addition to Karen Robertson's directions: Choose the more translucent and delicate seaweeds; they make better (and less messy) prints. 

    We also made summer art with our collection of sea glass, shells, and driftwood. If you too brought back treasures from the beach, see DIY: How to Turn Flotsam and Jetsam into Wall Art.

    For another kid-friendly DIY project, see my DIY Leaf Prints.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published on June 14, 2013.

    Gardenista Considered Design Awards 2014; Gardenista

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    You don't have to live in a lighthouse or regularly battle stormy weather on dark nights to appreciate wharf-inspired outdoor fixtures. Here are 10 dock lights in our favorite pitch-dark color—black—that are rated for wet locations: 

    Above: This 15-inch Wall-Mounted Fishing Light is available in two colors, including charcoal; £75 from Garden Trading.

      Marine Light Pendant ; Gardenista

    Above: From Davey Lighting, a Weatherproof Ship's Well Glass Light in a weathered brass finish with a clear glass shade is £229 from Lighting Matters.

    Above: The steel and aluminum Harbor Sconce by Restoration Hardware is 12¼ inches high and includes one 60-watt incandescent Edison frost bulb, $129.

    Marine light wall sconce black ; Gardenista

    Above: A Marine Wall Light by designer E. F. Chapman comes in five finishes (including bronze, shown above) and is $378 from Circa Lighting.

    Above: The 12-inch-high Nantucket Wall Light is available in three finishes; $99 at Shades of Light.

    Barnlight electric black wharf sconce ; Gardenista

    Above: A Wire Guard Sconce comes in 18 finishes (including black, shown here) and has a heavy-duty industrial wall mount; $180 from Barnlight Electric.

    Upplid outdoor wharf light sconce Ikea ; Gardenista

    Above: An Upplid Wall Lantern in an Outdoor Black finish is £25 from Ikea.

    Fulton sconce by Ralph Lauren ; Gardenista  

    Above: Designed by Ralph Lauren, a Fulton Large Sconce with an industrial steel base and black shade is $770 from Circa Lighting.

      Belfast Wall Lantern wharf light black ; Gardenista

    Above: The Belfast Outdoor Wall Light by Garden Trading is finished in cast zinc; £80 from John Lewis.

    Kichler wharf light outdoor sconce ; Gardenista
    Above: Kichler’s 12-inch One Light Outdoor Wall Mount, part of its Seaside Collection, houses a 100-watt bulb and is Dark Skies compliant. Available at, $38.50. 

    For more outdoor fixtures, see 10 Easy Pieces: Barnhouse-Style Outdoor Lights. For romance rather than illumination, check out 10 Easy Pieces: Cafe-Style Outdoor String Lights.

      Gardenista Considered Design Awards 2014; Gardenista

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    Whether a space is grand or humble, water makes it better. And nothing lends itself more to quiet contemplation than a peaceful reflecting pool. We've found 10 gardens with Serene Pools in our Gardenista Gallery. . . . Aren't you feeling more relaxed already?

    Reflecting pool; Eva Wagnerova; Eastern Europe; Gardenista  

    Above: We love this shimmering pool created by designer Eva Wagnerová for a garden in Brno, in the Czech Republic. The bottom of the pool is black slate, and the stone slabs that extend into the water are purely ornamental. No cannonballs allowed. For more, see The Dark Mirror: A Backyard Reflecting Pool in Eastern Europe.

    Helen Dillon garden; Dublin; Gardenista

    Above: Helen Dillon, considered the queen of Irish gardening, is known for the rich colors and "organized chaos" of her Dublin garden. This space was once a lawn, which Helen dispensed with to build a pond and canal set in Irish limestone. Read more in Garden Visit: Helen Dillon's Garden in Dublin.

      Reflecting pools; French mirrors; Gardenista

    Above: Reflecting pools don't need to be huge. In Design Sleuth: French Garden Mirrors, we wrote about the small Paris garden of architect Nicolas Soulier and ceramicist Cécile Daladier, where tiny zinc mirror ponds reflect the sky and create the illusion of more space.

      Majorelle Garden, Marrakech, Morocco; reflecting pool; Gardenista

    Above: The cobalt blue in this pool is the signature color of Morocco's Majorelle Garden, once the home of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. The cacti and other exotic plants were collected by French artist Louis Majorelle on his travels around the world. For more, see Rhapsody in Blue: Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech

      Sezincote, Goucestershire, England; reflecting pool; Gardenista

    Above: England's Sezincote estate has unexpected Indian influences. Here, the view beneath what's called the Indian Bridge, where stepping stones lead to a waterfall and a pond beyond. See Garden Visit: Sezincote in Gloucestershire

      La Noria garden, France; reflecting pool; Gardenista

    Above: At La Noria, a garden in the South of France, landscape designers Arnaud Maurières and Eric Ossart have turned an ancient irrigation system into a modern water feature. Read more in Landscape Architect Visit: La Noria in the South of France.

    India; reflecting pool; Gardenista

    Above: Water is perhaps the greatest luxury of all in India, and canals and reflecting pools are a coveted feature of Indian gardens. This courtyard pool is at a country house in Awas; read more in 10 Garden Ideas to Steal from India. Photograph via RMA Architects.

    Haddon Hall; England; Arne Maynard; Gardenista

    Above: Asked to redo the garden at an old family estate in Derbyshire, England, garden designer Arne Maynard created a reflecting pool beside what he calls "an embossed lawn—a subtle watermark—which gives a new lease on life to what is essentially a very traditional space." For more, see A Modern Garden in a Medieval Setting


    Untermyer garden; Greystone; Yonkers, NY; Gardenista

    Above: Who knew that America's Greatest Forgotten Garden was in the Westchester town of Yonkers, NY? Wealthy Manhattan lawyer Samuel Untermyer bought a baronial mansion, Greystone, here in 1899. A portion of the lavish estate has been restored by the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy and is open to the public. It's worth a visit just for the splendid view of the Hudson River.

      Richard Neutra house; reflecting pool; Los Angeles; Gardenista

    Above: Mid-century magic: Read how a Japanese reflecting pool designed by Richard Neutra in LA was brought back to life in Architect Visit: Neutra House Restoration by Tim Campbell.

    Trying to figure out how to incorporate a water feature in your garden? If you're thinking big, see images of Perfectly Placid Ponds in our Gardenista Gallery. Did you have something more modest in mind? See our Favorite Fountains.

    Gardenista Considered Design Awards 2014; Gardenista

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    Landscape architect's design tip: Spy on the construction crew.

    The first time Susan Wisniewski went to see the former dairy farm her clients had bought in upstate New York, a crew was at work renovating the old farmhouse. "It's great when the contractors are there, because you can see where they go to sit," she says. "They always find the best spots." The crew's favorite lunch spot is where she put the lawn.

    Another design tip: Spy on the landscape. As Wisniewski walked around the 40-acre Hudson Valley farm, she spied a low, damp area near the old barn. "There used to be a soggy paddock there, and that got me thinking," she said. The paddock became a 1,800-square-foot pond.

    And the pond? That became the center of attention. "When people see water, they walk over to it. Whenever a water feature is introduced to a landscape, your eye goes right to it," says Wisniewski, a member of the Remodelista + Gardenista Architect/Designer Directory.

    Photography courtesy of Susan Wisniewski Landscape LLC.

    Hudson Valley Farm Susan Wisniewski Landscape LLC ; Gardenista

    Above: Soggy paddock no more. 

    Before digging, Wisniewski sought the opinion of ground excavators, who agreed that the low-lying damp area was a good spot for a pond. 

    Hudson Valley Farm Susan Wisniewski Landscape LLC ; Gardenista

    Above: The "before" version.

    Wisniewski laid out the pond following the landscape's natural indentations. The topography provided a rough blueprint. "I prefer to work with what's existing," she says. 

    Hudson Valley Farm Susan Wisniewski Landscape LLC ; Gardenista

    Above: Pond in progress.

    The soil in the old paddock had a high clay content, so it held water. "We didn't have to put down an artificial barrier, so that was a huge cost savings," says Wisniewski. "And there's enough watershed around the paddock for a natural supply of water for the pond."

    Hudson Valley Farm Susan Wisniewski Landscape LLC ; Gardenista

    Above: When you drive onto the property, you see the pond right away. It sits between the barn and the house and unifies the landscape.

    Hudson Valley Farm Susan Wisniewski Landscape LLC ; Gardenista

    Above: The stepping stones are Pennsylvania bluestone.

    Hudson Valley Farm Susan Wisniewski Landscape LLC ; Gardenista

    Above: The biggest challenge to creating a unified landscape? "The property is full of black walnut trees," says Wisniewski. "They give out a toxic chemical, and it's hard to find plants that will survive around their roots. Thank goodness for ferns."

    Hudson Valley Farm Susan Wisniewski Landscape LLC ; Gardenista

    Above: The clients use the farm as a summer and weekend retreat from their New York City home, but have plans to move upstate permanently.

    Hudson Valley Farm Susan Wisniewski Landscape LLC ; Gardenista

    Above: A circular bench was built around the base of an old elm tree. Beside it is what's left of an old chicken coop.

    Hudson Valley Farm Susan Wisniewski Landscape LLC ; Gardenista

    Above: "There were remnants of a lot of old structures on the site," says Wisniewski. "We left the foundations in place and incorporated them into the landscape." 

    See more Water Features in our Gardenista Gallery of images. And for more upstate New York design tips, see Required Reading: Gardens of the Hudson Valley.

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    We think crushed seashells should be on the short list for topping paths and driveways. After all, they're natural, beautiful, functional, and remind us of the sea. Read on to find out if crushed seashell is the best hardscaping material for you. 

    Oyster Shell Garden Path, Gardenista

    Above: Seashell paths originated in Colonial times as a result of early-American recycling efforts. Oysters and other shellfish were a primary source of food, and thrifty settlers put their discarded shells to use as a paving material. Later, this practice became common in New England as a way to recycle waste from the seafood industry. A hardworking hardscape material, it's stood the test of time, as seen in this crushed-shell walkway in an herb garden at Virginia's Norfolk Botanical Garden. Image via Urban Sacred Garden.

    Why use seashells to cover paths and driveways?

    A great alternative to gravel, crushed shells can be used on paths, patios, courtyards, driveways, and even bocce ball courts (the shells don't hold water or imprints from shoes and balls). As the shells are walked on or driven over, they break into smaller pieces that disperse evenly, creating a stable surface that's not prone to the ruts and holes you get with crushed stone toppings.

    Another benefit is that, as long as they come from a sustainable harvesting operation, shells are environmentally friendly. They provide excellent drainage, since rainwater runs through them to percolate into the ground. And shells are a natural material that benefits the ground below as they decompose. 

    Jonathan Adler Garden Crushed Shell Driveway, Gardenista  

    Above: The crushed-shell driveway of Jonathan Adler and Simon Doonan's Shelter Island home. Edging the driveway are a pair of autumn olives and tufts of drought-tolerant prairie dropseed grass. Image by Vickie Cardaro.

    Crushed Shell Driveway, Gardenista

    Above: A crushed-shell ribbon driveway in Nantucket. Image via Elizabeth Boyer on Pinterest.

    How do you install a crushed-shell path or driveway?

    Coverage is key. The experts at Emerald Landscape Supply in Massachusetts recommend a 3-inch-deep application. Some installers suggest starting with a gravel base, but it must be compacted and leveled (preferably by a professional) so the surface doesn't become soft. You want to ensure that tires drive over—not through—it. The shells will compact and become more stable over time. 

    The general rule of thumb is that one cubic yard of seashell will provide a 3-inch-deep cover for a 100-square-foot space.  Another tip: Shell hardscaping is best for level surfaces. A steep drive is not a good application, as the shells are likely to collect at the bottom.

    Seashell Path, Gardenista

    Above: Livingscapes in New Zealand converted a steep walk into a series of flat grades covered with shells, putting wooden risers in between. Image via LIvingscapes.

    What are the best shells to use?

    The most common shells used for hardscaping are oyster, clam, and scallop. Their differences are subtle: mostly in color and how they break down. Oyster shells, primarily off-white and gray, break down in a way that makes them more compact and, subsequently, more stable over time. Clam shells, mostly off-white or yellow-white, are slightly more fragile and will break down faster than oyster shells. They also compact nicely for vehicle traffic. Scallop shells add brown coloration to the mix. Despite initial variations in color, all the shells bleach under the sun and become lighter over time. Your choice will most likely depend on what's readily available in your area.

    Jonathan Adler Garden Crushed Shell Path, Gardenista

    Above: Mahogany quahog clam shells from Massachusetts cover the sand in this Shelter Island garden. A band of Elijah Blue fescue near the house blends into blue dune grass in the distance. For more glimpses of this garden, see Garden Visit: Jonathan Adler and Simon Doonan on Shelter Island. Image by Vickie Cardaro.

    Don't seashells smell?

    Shells that are sold in bulk for hardscaping purposes are left over from seafood harvesting, so the shellfish have been removed. Typically, the shells have been thoroughly washed, so there should be little left to generate stink. That said, they may arrive with some natural aroma, but that should dissipate within a day or two. (To one homeowner, they smelled like the beach, not dead seafood.)

    Stelle Architects Dune Residence, Gardenista

    Above: Crushed shell hardscaping isn't limited to Cape Cod-style settings. It works well at this oceanfront house in Bridgehampton, NY, by Stelle Lomont Architects, a member of the Remodelista Design Directory. Image by Francesca Giovanelli, Kay Wettstein von Westersheimb.

    How much do crushed seashell paths and driveways cost?

    When bought in bulk, seashells are on the more affordable end of the spectrum: comparable to crushed gravel; less than asphalt, concrete, or stone. Clam shells seem to be the least expensive, offered at about $40 per cubic yard, or $50 per ton. We priced crushed oyster shell at $385 per ton. The Atlantic coast is the primary source of shells; if you live elsewhere, shipping may be the most expensive part of the project. Contact your local landscape supplier for availability. Alternatively, suppliers like Myco ship crushed shell all over North America.

    Buyers tip: Buy in bulk for the lowest price. Unless you're covering a very small area, avoid purchasing small bags at a feed store or the like. 

    Seashell Driveway, Gardenista

    Above: Shells mix well with other materials, such as brick masonry, stone, and grass. 

    What about maintenance? 

    The good news: Shell paths and driveways can't crack, so repairs aren't part of the package. Cold and heat won't damage the shells, and they don't develop ruts and holes. Assuming a generous layer was applied at the outset, the material will last a long time. Because of compacting it will eventually need replenishing, but not every year (or even every other year). And unlike gravel, crushed shell hardscaping rarely encounters issues with weeds or pests: The shells' sharp edges act as a natural deterrent (but they're not so sharp as to be an issue for tires or shoes).

    Tabby Oyster Shell Concrete, Gardenista  

    Above: Like something more sure-footed? Tabby, a concrete made of oyster shells with lime and sand, is an alternative to 100 percent crushed shell. Image via Ellen George.

    Seashell Path and Driveway Recap:


    • Natural product
    • Durable
    • Affordable
    • Low maintenance
    • Light colors mean cooler surface in hot climates
    • Provides excellent drainage and prevents runoff
    • Visually appealing
    • Won't crack or break, requiring repairs


    • Rough surface that is not barefoot friendly or conducive to bikes, trikes, and other smooth-surface toys and activities
    • Not a good covering for steep drives or paths
    • Snow removal difficult
    • Not readily available in all areas, and shipping may be expensive 

      Oyster Shell Garden Path, Gardenista

    Above: Oyster shells line the paths of a kitchen garden at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Image via Figs Flower Food.

    Oyster shells are also a great boon to the garden. See Gift From the Sea: Oyster Shells in the Garden for tips on putting their nutrients to use. And for more hardscaping ideas, see all of our Hardscaping 101 Features

    In a Cape Cod state of mind? Remodelista found a great stay in Provincetown: the Salt House Inn.

      Considered Design Awards 2014; Gardenista  

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    One sure sign of summer in my family: Aunt Sheila coming in from the flats carrying a bag full of razor-clam shells. These she employs to add texture throughout her house, most famously on a living-room shelf (seen here and in Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home).

    I suppose it was inevitable, then, that the rest of the family would get into the game. Recently, I decided to try my hand at making a pendant lamp with a razor-clam shade, inspired by the porcelain sculptures I spotted at Parma Lilac. The next time Sheila headed to the beach, I tagged along.

    Read on for a list of materials and step-by-step instructions:

    Photography by Justine Hand for Gardenista.

    gathering razor clams for pendant light, Gardenista

    Above: First, go to the beach and collect many razor clams. Here, Uncle Mon holds a day's haul. This is about as many as you'll need.

    To avoid confusion, let me clarify: On the East Coast, what we call razor clams (because their elongated shape resembles that of an old-fashioned razor) are actually Atlantic jackknife clams, Ensis directus. These are to be distinguished from Pacific razor clams, which are more oval in form. Atlantic jackknife clams are found all along the East Coast. Or you can buy the clams fresh, cook a nice meal and save the shells.



    bleaching razor clams in the sun, gardensita

    Above: If the shells you find are already bleached by the sun, great. More than likely, though, they'll need some help. Luckily, all this requires is time. I laid out mine for a couple weeks on my sunny deck until the brown bits had dried up enough to be easily scraped off, leaving pristine white shells. If you don't want to wait, use bleach and a scrubbing brush.

    making a razor clam lamp, supplies, gardenista

    Above: Supplies: drill, scrap board, wire, clams.

    drilling hole in shell, gardenista

    Above: You'll need a diamond-point bit to drill through the thick shells without shattering them. I bought a Dremel 7134 Diamond Wheel Point ($5.03 at Ace Hardware). Get two, in case one wears out.

    I set my drill at Level 3, then placed the bit about 1/4 inch from the end of the shell. I didn't bother to measure, because I wanted a random look.

    drilled razor clams, Gardenista

    Above: Make sure your shells are all facing the same way when you make the holes so that the finished lamp will lie right. Drilling all the holes took no more than 10 minutes.

    threading wire, Gardenista

    Above: Cut a 2-foot section of wire and thread it through the holes one shell at a time, making sure they're all facing the same direction.

    threading the razor clam shells, by Justine Hand, Gardenista

    Above: A few shells done; many more to go.

    strung razor clam shells, by Justine hand, Gardenista

    Above: I strung two sets to make a double-layered pendant. You can also make a single layer.

    Hammer and Heel light, Gardenista

    Above: Though any old fixture will do, I chose a vintage-style bare bulb pendant with a cloth cord from Etsy seller Hammers and Heels. You could also choose a cage pendant for this project. 

    finished razor clam lamp by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Spread the shells along the wires so they're evenly spaced. Wrap the first layer around the light and twist the ends of the wire to secure them. Fasten the second layer so it sits slightly higher than the first. Trim the wire ends and hang near an outlet.

    razor clam pendant by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: My finished lamp emits a soft glow.

    finished razor clam light Justine Hand, Gardenista

    Above: Fittingly, I gave my first razor clam lamp to Aunt Sheila. Here it perfectly complements the shiplap siding in her guest room.

    razor clam lamp shade detail by Justine Hand, Gardenista

    Above: A detail of the textured clam shells.

    Want more ways to turn foraged beach finds into home decor? See my DIYs on How to Turn Flotsam and Jetsam Into Wall Art and Pressed Seaweed Prints. Over at Remodelista, Julie shares her favorite ways to use Beach Stones as Decor.

    Considered Design Awards; Gardenista

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    If you form the letter "C" with your hand, you'll be creating the shape of the delicious Hardanger Retreat. Just imagine that "C" shape as a cabin made of sleek, light-colored wood, tucked into a Norwegian forest at the edge of a spectacular fjord. The creators call it a "love shack," and indeed its isolated site and spare one-room design make it the perfect private hideaway.

    This little building was created as a calling card by architects Todd Saunders and Tommie Wilhelmsen. Several years ago, the two were just starting out and in need of clients. Instead of trying to woo customers with drawings and blueprints, they reasoned that an actual structure they had designed and built themselves (with the help of carpenter Mats Rustoy) would be the best advertisement for their talents. They emptied their savings accounts to purchase the remote piece of land and went to work. The result was Hardanger Retreat.

    Photography by Bent Rene Synnevag.

    outbuilding of the week | gardenista

    Above: Viewed from this angle, the 215-square-foot cabin is reminiscent of an Airstream trailer—but one built of oiled larch and birch plywood, materials that blend with the surrounding forest.

    outbuilding of the week | gardenista

    Above: The long thin deck is designed to float above the forest floor without harming the vegetation. Some 150 native plants grow in these woods, including delicate wild orchids.  

    outbuilding of the week | gardenista  

    Above: A handful of trees had to be cleared to make room for the cabin, but their wood was used in construction. Rather than remove trees to build the deck, the designers simply worked around them. (For more examples of woodsmen sparing trees, see 5 Favorites: Decks Built Around Trees.)

    outbuilding of the week | gardenista

    Above: The cabin is off the grid and almost out of sight. It has an genuine presence that makes it different from its surroundings but somehow germane, both contrasting and in harmony with its location.  

    Norway; Todd Saunders; Hardanger Retreat; outbuilding of the week | gardenista

    Above: At 111 miles, the Hardanger Fjord is the third longest fjord in the world. Watching it is perhaps the main diversion here.

    Norway; Todd Saunders; Hardanger Retreat; outbuilding of the week | gardenista

    Above: Floor-to-ceiling windows allow maximum light inside and reveal the full impact of the jaw-dropping view. 

      Todd Saunders Hardanger Retreat Norway; Gardenista

    Above: The cabin has no electricity: The architects reasoned that it would be used mainly in summer, when the sun shines as much as 20 hours a day.

    Todd Saunders Hardanger Retreat Norway; Gardenista

    Above: Since this modest project, Saunders, a Canadian who's based in Bergen, Norway, has gained international acclaim. See his designs for artist's studios on farflung Fogo Island, Newfoundland, and for the striking 29-room Fogo Island Inn.   

    Todd Saunders Hardanger Retreat Norway; Gardenista

    Above: A respect for nature is a hallmark of Saunders' work, most of which is based in Norway and Canada. His book Architecture in Northern Landscapes is available from Amazon; $62.95.

    For more ingenious outbuildings in Norway, see Norwegian Wood: Sheds, Retractable Roof Included and A Folding Ice Cabin. Can't get enough of these small structures? See all our posts on Outbuildings.

      Considered Design Awards 2014; Gardenista

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    When I bought my Cape Cod cottage by the bay, I dreamed of an English country-style garden, all lush and wild. And so for years I fertilized and watered, and replanted, and fertilized and watered some more, only to wind up with a few scraggly scraps of green. Which is why one day, I found myself at my local garden center for a presentation on "How to Plant a Native Garden."

    I remember the expert saying, as he recommended beach plum, "This plant loves neglect. The more salt spray and sandy soil the better. Don't water it. Do not fertilize it. In fact, swear at it if you can." I knew I'd come to the right place.

    Three years later, I have the lush and wild garden I always wanted. In fact, I spent this past weekend hacking it all back (ahem, I mean delicately pruning). Yes, I now have to thin my garden. No matter, that's a problem I can live with.

    And so here are my own tried-and-true recommendations for the most drought-and-pest-resistant, sandy-soil-loving, wind-tolerant, easy-peasy perennials for the successful seaside garden. 

    Photography by Justine Hand, except where noted.

    Lathyrus japonicus beach sea pea ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Jouko Lehmuskalio via Luonto Portti.

    If you live right on the beach, don't despair. There are a few plants for you, like Beach Peas. With a cheery purple or pink face, the beach pea, or Lathyrus japonicus, is one of the few plants that can actually survive on a dune.

    Plant them along your beach path for a rambling border, or in your sandiest garden soil. (Note, these are not the same as annual sweet peas. I tried those one year, only to find that bunnies think they are very yummy.) You can collect dried beach pea seeds following this handy how-to by Sea Bean Guide, or buy Beach Pea Seeds from Smart Seeds via Etsy; $2.99 for a packet of 25. 

    bay berry border, Gardenista

    Above: In my own garden, I planted a mix of Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) and Rosa rugosa. The lush, vibrant green leaves of bayberry not only look lovely against my gray siding, they also provide a substantial backdrop for smaller, more colorful plantings. The fast-growing bayberry is also excellent as a quick hedge, as long as you like the informal look. (Too much trimming otherwise.) I just give my bushes a good pruning in the late fall; throughout the summer, I snip any unruly bits and take them inside as a fragrant accent in the bedroom or bath.

    Note: If you want berries to make bayberry candles, you'll need a male pollinator and a female plant. Northern Bayberry is readily available at most garden centers or at Home Depot, where a 3-gallon pot is $35.49.

    globe thistle, Prairie Hill Farm, Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Prairie Hill Farm.

    I've had great luck with Globe Thistle (Echinops bannaticus). It may not be an instant hit like some of my other plants, but last year my globe thistle finally reached dramatic proportions. All it took was a little fertilizer a couple of times per season and water during the worst droughts. Available online at Digging Dog Nursery; $7.25 per plant. 


    Rosa Rugosa by Bruce Christopher, Gardenista

    Above: Photograph of Kalmus Beach, Cape Cod, by Bruce Christopher

    I mix Rosa rugosa with bayberry as my garden backdrop. Though it's actually native to Japan, it does quite well in most northern coastal climes. (Sometimes too well; Rosa rugosa is considered invasive in parts of Europe.)

    With suckers that are prone to spreading, Rosa rugosa is good for covering a large area. It's especially beautiful in early and late summer, when it's blanketed in fragrant blooms. The white or magenta flowers against lime-colored leaves make it perfect for both colorful and more neutral gardens. And in fall, of course, you have wonderfully bright persimmon-colored rose hips. One further note: If you're picking the aromatic blooms for a bouquet, wear gloves, as they are extremely thorny. You can buy varieties of Rosa rugosa at most nurseries and at Nature Hill Gardens, where a Rosa Rugosa F. J. Grootendorst Hybrid is $44.95. 

    cao perrot, gardenista

    Above: Grass provides wonderful texture and subtle tones to the garden. It's beautiful when planted in meadows or in large swaths as borders, such as in this garden in Brittany by Cao Perrot. Undulating grasses mimic the rolling sea. My favorite varieties: Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), spiky blue grass, switch grasses, fountain grass, and simple beach grass, which can be found at Plant Delights Nursery, along with a long list of salt-tolerant plants. For a complete guide to grass gardening, you can't do better than Dutch designer Piet Oudolf's Planting, a New Perspective at Amazon; $26.45.

    new dawn at salt timber, gardenista

    Above: Traditional roses by the sea are hard. My neighbor has struggled with hers for as long as I've owned my seaside house. She's constantly drenching them with toxic chemicals, and finally resorted to putting chicken wire around each plant. But there are pest-resistant roses that love bad soil and almost no water: Dorothy Perkins, Memorial Rose, or my favorite, New Dawn. I wanted a rose-covered cottage, and I got one. All I do to achieve the profusion shown here is to fertilize my New Dawn once in the spring, and water only in the worst droughts. (Note: I inherited this old rose when I purchased the house. But still, they do grow fast.) New Dawn is available from Antique Rose Emporium; $18.95.

    lavender, by Boise Dialt Garden, Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Boise Daily Garden Shot.

    As well as it works in arid climates, English lavender also thrives by the coast, particularly when tucked into a warm, sunny, southern-facing nook. But lavender dislikes being crowded by other plants, so give it plenty of room to grow. Munstead English Lavender is available at Home Depot; $17.99. 

    King Edward Yarrow

    Above: Photograph via Wild Ginger Farm.

    For color in the front of my garden, I planted a couple of yarrow (achillea) plants. It's drought-resistant, but it doesn't thrive on neglect like Rosa rugosa or bayberry (i.e., some water is necessary). My one frustration is that most places on Cape Cod only stock the really bright hues, which are too garish for my soft garden palette. Instead, I look for the pale yellow petals and silver leaves of King Edward Yarrow, or the soft pinks of Appleblossom or Apricot Delight. You can buy King Edward Yarrow at Bluestone Perennials; $9.95. 

    beach plums

    Above: Photograph by Bob Cunningham.

    Every year, my grandmother and I used to harvest Beach Plum (Prunus maritima) for her special jelly, so this coastal fruit tree has a special place in my heart. From its lovely little white flowers that bloom in the early spring to the edible fruit in fall, this native gives all year round. Since it grows to about chest height, beach plum also makes an effective privacy screen. Beach Plum is available at Stark Bros; $12.99 per tree. 

    winterberry, gardenista

    Above: Don't forget some winter color. Tall silver branches festooned with jolly red Winter Berries (Ilex verticillata) are one of my favorite holiday traditions. (I took this shot from the marsh walk at Coast Guard Beach on Thanksgiving.) As with bayberry, you'll need to buy the male pollinator in order to get berries. Ilex Berry Nice Winterberry and Jim Dandy are available together at Greenwood Nursery; $44.95.

    Buttered Popcorn Daylily by Justine Hand, Gardenista

    Above: I've also had a lot of success in my sunny seaside garden with the following plants: sweet Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), $5.95 from the Grower's Exchange (pictured above with popcorn daylilies); Buttered Popcorn Daylilies, which bloom all summer and are $14.95 from Oakes Daylilies; and feathery Russian Sage Perovskia atriplicifolia ($12.45 from White Flower Farm), which is disease- and pest-resistant. I do love cone flower (echineachia) and rudbeckia, but before they can flower, mine are always eaten by the bunnies that I choose not to battle. You may note the conspicuous absence of hydrangeas. That's because this ubiquitous blue flower doesn't fit my concept of a wild, windswept coastal garden, so I don't have a lot of experience with them. I'll leave it to Michelle to write that post.

    Do you have any other favorite foolproof plants for the seaside garden? Please share. It's a harsh world out there, and we coastal gardeners have to stick together.

    For gardening ideas on a more exotic coast, take a tour of Carol Chadwick's inspired Aegean garden.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published June 19, 2013.

    Considered Design Awards 2014; Gardenista

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