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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

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    When British industrial designer Tom Lloyd of PearsonLloyd decided to build an outbuilding on his property in Hampshire on the southern coast of England to replace a dilapidated garage and an old woodshed, he told Cassion Castle Architects that all he wanted was: a studio, garden workshop, garage, and storeroom. In one building. And one other thing: "He wanted to create a simple yet beautiful building that would enhance its setting."

    The result is Long Sutton Studio, a mostly timber structure that blends so unobtrusively into the landscape you might not even notice it on the horizon. Until you get a little closer:

    Photography via Cassion Castle Architects.

    Garden studio Tom Lloyd Cassion Castle ; Gardenista

    Above: The main building on the property is a farmhouse cottage; the one-story barn sits on a red brick base that matches the original cottage, the architects told Dezeen magazine. For more details, see Dezeen.

    Long Sutton Studio Cassion Castle Architects ; Gardenista

    Above: The barn is roofed with recycled tiles.

    Garden studio Tom Lloyd Cassion Castle ; Gardenista

    Above: Six peaked timber frames support the gabled roof. Shelves, storage, and waist-high work stations are built into the building's walls.

    The unheated building is lit mostly by natural light except for a few small bulbs, resulting in what the architects describe as "a negligible carbon footprint."

    Garden studio Tom Lloyd Cassion Castle ; Gardenista

    Above: Exposed galvanized steel plates and hardware are another visual reminder of the building's skeleton. Different kinds of hardwood and softwood timbers treated differently—planed, sawn, or laminated—during the construction process.

    Garden studio Tom Lloyd Cassion Castle ; Gardenista

    Above: Firewood storage as design element.

    Garden studio Tom Lloyd Cassion Castle ; Gardenista

    Above: Skylights let in plenty of sunlight. The exterior walls are covered with green oak weatherboarding left unstained to age naturally and blend with the landscape.

    Garden studio Tom Lloyd Cassion Castle ; Gardenista

    Above: Two sets of wide oak-clad double doors open the space to the surrounding landscape.


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    Sturdy greens like chard, kale, and collards are standbys in the garden throughout their entire growing season, which extends into the cold weather, sometimes even beyond the first killing frost. Thank heavens, since they are absolutely essential in the kitchen and for good health. Oh, and delicious.

    Read on for step-by-step instructions for creamed winter greens:

    Photography by Laura Silverman for Gardenista.

    Chard kale collards recipes Laura Silverman ; Gardenista

    Above: In our garden, leafy greens are planted in several beds, and they seem to thrive in both full sun and shadier spots. Though similar in construction—wide center rib and big, ruffled leaves—kale is a member of the Brassica family and chard is an Amaranthaceae.

    Chard kale collards recipes Laura Silverman ; Gardenista

    Above: Chard resembles beet greens, becoming quite silky when cooked, but its flavor is more delicate and refined. Its leaves have a high water content and, as with all these greens, cooking reduces their mass impressively. Always start with a generous quantity, about half a pound per person minimum.

      Chard kale collards recipes Laura Silverman ; Gardenista

    Above: Because the thick ribs have such a distinct texture from the leaves, they tend to cook at a different rate, so it often makes sense to treat them separately. Resist the temptation to simply discard the stems and you can pickle them or add them to stir-fries. 

    Chard kale collards recipes Laura Silverman ; Gardenista

    Above: I like to combine sautéed chard stems with onions and cheese and wrap them in a buttery dough for a rustic galette. With a radicchio and walnut salad, this makes for a quick, delicious weeknight dinner.

    Chard kale collards recipes Laura Silverman ; Gardenista

    Above: Stately and robust collards, also a member of the Brassica family, are actually used as garden ornamentals in countries as diverse as Brazil and Croatia. Their name is a corruption of “colewort,” a wild cabbage plant. 

    Chard kale collards recipes Laura Silverman ; Gardenista

    Above: In our gluten-free household, where interesting sandwich substitutes are always welcome, we love to use tender young collard greens as wraps. Caramelized tofu, crunchy sprouts, and the house “secret sauce” add up to a wonderful—and portable—lunch.

    Chard kale collards recipes Laura Silverman ; Gardenista

    Above: Among the numerous kale cultivars, cavolo nero, also known as Tuscan or lacinato kale, is my favorite. Its bumpy leaves are susceptible to the cabbage worm, which perfectly matches the pale green ribs. Spraying with a mild soap solution early in the season helps ward off the pests.

    Chard kale collards recipes Laura Silverman ; Gardenista

    Above: Although kale chips (and kale in general) have become something of a cliché, they are nevertheless delicious and very easy to make. I coat mine with an addictive paste of garlic, cashews, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, chile powder, and smoked salt that amazingly replicates a “nachos” flavor.

    Chard kale collards recipes Laura Silverman ; Gardenista

    Above: Creamed greens are an enduring classic. Make them with any combination of kale, collards, chard, amaranth, spinach, and mustard greens for a hearty and nourishing dish. My version is baked with a layer of crunchy puffed rice on top. Who knew something so good for you could be this good?

    Creamed Winter Greens

    Serves 2-3


    • 1 pound kale, collards, and chard 
    • 1 generous cup buttermilk (the real thing)
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup minced shallots
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 2 tablespoons flour 
    • 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar or pecorino
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1 cup puffed rice
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Bring a large stockpot of water to the boil over high heat. 

    Meanwhile, remove the thick stems from the greens. Rinse greens and drop them, along with a tablespoon of salt, into the boiling water. Cook for from three to five minutes, then remove with tongs to a colander in the sink. 

    While the greens drain and cool, pour buttermilk into a small saucepan and gently heat. 

    Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, until golden, about 10 minutes. Lower heat if garlic starts to brown. 

    Slowly add warmed buttermilk, a quarter cup at a time, stirring to incorporate each addition. You may want to increase the heat a bit to help the sauce thicken. Stir in cheese, cayenne, and salt. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasoning.

    Squeeze all the water out of the drained greens, either with your hands or by wringing them in a dishtowel. Roughly chop them and stir them into the sauce. Pile greens into a small casserole. 

    Heat olive oil in a small skillet and add puffed rice, stirring to coat. Sauté until it starts to turn golden. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. 

    Sprinkle puffed rice over the top of the greens and slide the casserole into the oven. Bake until bubbly, about 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. (This dish may be reheated, covered with foil, in a 375-degree oven for 15 minutes. Uncover for the last 5 minutes.)

    For more recipes from my garden, visit Glutton for Life

    N.B.: Laura has been harvesting and cooking from her upstate garden all month. For more of her recipes, see Fried Green Tomatoes; Flower-Flavored Butter, and Basil's Last Stand.

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    Does a big garden need a big house? At Sulby Gardens in Northamptonshire there is a powerful sense of Sulby Hall, demolished in the 1950s. As well as the stable block, the walled garden survives, with a gardeners' cottage. In an unusual reversal, the garden has grown over the years.

    Photography by Jim Powell.

    Sulby kitchen garden, Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: The original wall from the 1790s, its periodic pear shelters protecting the espaliers beneath. In spring, muslin curtains are hung to protect pear blossom. When frost is forecast, the curtains are drawn shut.

    Alison Lowe and her husband bought the walled garden at Sulby in 1976. It included a gardeners' cottage, numerous glasshouses in a state of advanced disrepair, and cold rooms and store rooms. Some had to be demolished, others were carefully restored.

    Garden visit: Sulby in Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: The unusually large Catillac pear, one of a dozen types grown at Sulby. A 300-year-old variety from the Gironde in France, it is a very hard baking pear, best cooked whole, for three hours, in wine or cider. In the garden there are also plums, including gage, damson, and bullace.

    Garden visit: Sulby in Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: The top orchard at Sulby. In total, 53 varieties of apple are now grown in the garden. Alison Lowe's garden manager Bill has recently begun to bottle apple juice, having used some of the harvest for cooking, jam-making and feeding of birds and other animals that happen to be passing through. 

    Garden visit: Sulby in Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: The morning's harvest is put down in the old Carnation House. The cherry tomatoes are Gardener's Delight and the plum is Agro. The golden zucchini shown here is Jemmer and the fennel is Rondo. Alison is particularly keen on the latter, for salad, soup, roasting, and braising, the feathery foliage being perfect with salmon.

    Garden visit: Sulby in Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: Rows of Florence fennel growing nearby. Not to be confused with the perennial fennel herb more often seen in flower borders (Foeniculum vulgare) or popping up all over the Mediterranean, this has the added advantage of a tasty bulb.

    Garden visit: Sulby in Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: A smaller vegetable garden sits within the old walls, fenced off against muntjac deer. Italian kale 'Nero di Toscana' thrives here, untroubled by pests. A winter crop, its flavor improves after the frosts begin.

    At Sulby, the preferred seed merchant is King's Seeds, for germination and quantity. Tomato seeds and seed potatoes are generally collected from the garden.

    Garden visit: Sulby in Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: Eupatorium or Joe Pye Weed (though without strong weed tendencies in the UK) is a magnet for butterflies and bees and is grown in the shadier part of the garden.

    Away from the garden buildings the plot becomes wilder, bordered along one side by a very straight canalised stream. Victorian herbaceous borders once ran parallel but now there is longer grass and seven additional ponds to encourage wildlife. Arable land has been acquired and converted to meadows and what were once three acres, have grown to twelve. Sulby is a designated Local Wildlife Site.

    Garden visit: Sulby in Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: An early dessert apple, Laxton Epicure. This particular orchard has an electric fence to keep out badgers, known to climb trees to get at the apples (causing some damage to the trees). The windfall here provides a wonderful feast for birds and butterflies.

    Garden visit: Sulby in Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: An old gate separating the road from the stream and kitchen garden. Sulby Hall was designed by celebrated British architect Sir John Soane. Old photographs show a colonnaded building with more in common stylistically with The White House, than, say, Sir John Soane's Museum.

    View Larger Map

    Above: Sulby Garden is open to the public on five days of the year, in support of the National Gardens Scheme (gardens open for charity). The annual Apple Day at Sulby is on October 9, 2014.

    Love all things apple? See: A Visit to Somerset: Temperley's Cider Brandy.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    Psst, looking for a $500 kitchen? You came to the right place. Remodelista's editors spent the week exploring kitchens around the world. They tested Aga ranges, cooked in glamorous Parisian flats, and homed in on stellar Scandi spaces. After all that? Our favorite kitchen might just be the one-month makeover they found in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

    Beth Kirby Local Milk kitchen rehab ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Beth Kirby.

    We love the recipes (and photos of them) that Beth Kirby posts on her Local Milk blog so much that we bake her Salty Sweet Pear And Walnut Pie on Thanksgiving. So we're thrilled her Chattanooga, Tennessee kitchen got a One-Month Makeover (and marble counters).

      DIY Metal Herb Drying Rack; Gardenista

    Above: Alexa made a DIY Herb Drying Rack following instructions from The Merrythought. We'd like one just like it, Alexa.

    White kitchen Fort Greene Brooklyn ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Ole Sondersen.

    Is Julie thinking of remodeling to get an all-white kitchen? And if so, will she go High or Low?

    Smitten Studio kitchen remodel Ikea ; Gardenista

    Above: Need a new kitchen on a tight budget? Like, say, $500? Margot discovers how Smitten Studio blogger Sarah Sherman Samuel pulled off the best Ikea hack ever. 

    Aga range cooker ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via The Foodie Bugle.

    Aga is the undisputed winner of The Great English Range Cooker award. Why? Megan tells all, in this week's Object Lessons column.


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

    Apple picking orchard Sweet Berry Farm RI Christine Chitnis ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Christine Chitnis for Gardenista.

    • Road trip alert: Christine Chitnis is hitting the highway in New England to come up with a weekend itinerary for leaf peepers (and antiques seekers). Stay tuned for her report, coming in early October.

    DIY Water Gardens on Hometalk | Gardenista

    Fall Wreath from Provisions by Food52 | Gardenista

    Royal Botanical Garden in Sydney | Gardenista

    Baked Celeriac Gratin Thanksgiving Recipe, Gardenista

    • Above: What are your favorite fall recipes? Tell us here, and your recipe could be featured at Gardenista's next Dinner Party Project
    • In case you missed it, we're giving away $450 worth of natural beauty products from True Nature Botanicals. 
    • Now, that's a baby.

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    Every few years design gurus Jonathan Adler and Simon Doonan either move house or latch onto a new one. They call it upward mobility syndrome, but if their latest move is any indication, the potter-turned-style guru and the window dresser-turned-author just like change, and a design challenge they haven't met before.  

    After more than a decade in their Shelter Island, New York weekend house, with its ferns and potted plants and bosky seclusion, the pair decided to move from west coast to east and build a place from scratch. They wanted a more carefree garden that would allow them to paddleboard and swim on the weekends, not weed and feed and reseed. In other words, they did not want a lawn—they wanted a beach. According to their friend Vickie Cardaro of Buttercup Design Group, who devised the new landscape, "Jonathan and Simon hoped to 'restore' the beachfront land to what it may have looked like a hundred years ago. But, as Dolly Parton says, 'It takes a lot of money to look this cheap'—well, it takes some doing 'to look this natural.'"  

    Based on the island, Cardaro was familiar with local conditions and the significant challenges of waterfront gardening. Having collaborated with Adler and Doonan on their previous landscape, however, she also knew what fun they were to work with. "They definitely participate in the process, but they let you do your job—and they defer to the gardener horticulturally." Her expertise was put to the test during Hurricane Sandy, which pounded coastal Long Island with high winds and storm surge. Many of the choices she made not only withstood major damage, they also helped prevent further loss of land—and house. That was a change no one wanted to see. Unsurprisingly, the couple call their friend a "landscape visionary." 

     Photos courtesy Vickie Cardaro.

      pool at doonan adler house shelter island

    Above: Elijah Blue fescue borders the house, and a Mount Fuji ornamental cherry marks the waterfront end of the lap pool. "It was chosen for its salt and wind tolerance, and it performed admirably this year after the hurricane," Cardaro says. 


    before pic of doonan adler house shelter island

     Above: The property when Adler and Doonan bought it. Poor-quality soil, an undernourished lawn, a tired brick house: inauspicious beginning all around. 


      dunes at doonan adler house shelter island

     Above: The new house amid the dunes. "I drew out a plan with three substantial sand dunes on the waterfront side of the house, and two or three smaller ones in front, to give it a little topography," Cardaro says. "The base of the dunes is fill—crushed clam shell and local crushed gravel—then topped off with substantial amounts of sand and planted with Cape American beach grass and blue dune grass, dwarf black pine, cedar, and Hollywood juniper." 

    entrance to doonan adler house shelter island

    Above: Edging the driveway of crushed shell are a pair of autumn olives and the tufting, drought-tolerant prairie dropseed grass. Pine needle mulch, trucked in from North Carolina, lends this part of the garden an Asian character. Adler and Doonan have traveled together in the Far East and love the simplicity of Japanese gardens. 

    interior courtyard doonan adler house shelter island

    Above: In the gravel entry courtyard, a red maple shades a breakfast area and bluestone steps to the front door. The chairs are vintage.  

      low pool pots doonan adler house shelter island

    Above: Around the pool, bluestone pavers complement concrete planters filled with cactus and succulents. Aeonium is in the large container at left. On the right, the low cylinder (a favorite shape of Adler's) contains Alluaudia cactus from Madagascar and blue Senecio Kilimanjaro. 

    large rock doonan adler house shelter island

    Above: "I found the massive stone in a heap at my site engineer's work yard—it's a Shelter Island rock, says Cardaro. Adler, ever the potter, supervised a mason in making the disk-shaped stepping stones from concrete. "We used cardboard Sonotubes for the form," Cardaro says. "We'd cut them into eight-inch slices, then set them on plywood sprayed with WD40—the mason would pour the cement, and voila!"

      dunes at doonan adler house shelter island

     Above: The circular stones create a pathway to the water between landscaped dunes.

    ping pong table doonan adler shelter island house

    Above: Bamboo and Provence lavender soften the stone walls of a courtyard off the bedrooms that doubles as a ping pong arena. Provence is a favorite species of Cardaro's, though she often replaces it after about four seasons when it starts to get leggy.  

    shells fescue at doonan adler house shelter island  

    Above: A band of Elijah Blue fescue near the house blends into blue dune grass in the distance. Mahogany quahog clam shells from Massachusetts cover the sand.  

    firepit at doonan adler house shelter island

    Above: At water's edge, a Cast Iron Fire Bowl ($465 from Design Within Reach) sits atop a concrete pad. Cardaro had the pad re-enforced with rebar, which helped anchor it when Hurricane Sandy blew through. The waterfront spot is where Adler and Doonan often make s'mores with friends at night, tricking out supermarket graham crackers and marshmallows with their favorite chocolate: 70 percent dark from Green & Black's. 

    For more beachfront living, see Architect Visit: Beach Cabins from Sommarnojen and Architect Visit: Stelle Architects in Bridgehampton, New York.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published on June 17, 2013.

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    The light changes. You notice one morning that the sun is hitting the living floor in a new spot. It's a painterly time of year: moody purples look gray and grays are almost black, and we're drawn to Flemish landscapes where the horizon dissolves into a smudge.

    This week we'll experiment with painting facades black. We'll turn flowers into a still life for your tabletop. And we'll visit a fairytale Belgian farmhouse garden rescued from ruin. Join us:

      Table of Contents: Belgian Masters ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Sophia Moreno-Bunge for Gardenista.



    Above: You'd never know it now, but the fairytale farmhouse and garden in Belgium in this week's Before and After was run down and sad not so long ago. 


    Above: Kendra gets to the heart of Belgian endive and other chicories in this week's Field Guide. Join her for the salad course.


    Garden Ideas to Steal from Belgium ; tulips planted in grass ; Gardenista

    Michelle has come up with 10 Ideas to steal from gardens in Belgium (No 1: who needs flowers?) in this week's installment of Garden Ideas to Steal. Photograph by Bart Kiggen.

    Gardenista; Belgian Masters' Inspired Floral DIY; fall flowers; pomegranate; renaissance

    Above: Sophia explains the principles behind creating a painterly floral arrangement and gives step-by-step instructions for making your own still life with flowers in this week's DIY. Photograph by Sophia Moreno-Bunge for Gardenista.


    Black barns at Ulting Wick garden, Essex. Gardenista

    Above: Who said moody, dark, high-peaked garden buildings are the sole province of a Belgian landscape? Kendra tours the black barns of Britain in this week's Garden Visit.

    terra cotta pots ; gardenista

    Above: Meredith goes sleuthing for the best terra cotta pots in this week's 10 Easy Pieces.



    Belgian greenhouse Carl Verdickt ; Gardenista

    Above: Would you like to live in a minimalist greenhouse? Talk to Alexa; she's touring one in this week's Architect Visit.

    Concrete Pavers Elysian Landscapes, Gardenista

    Above: Concrete, you most versatile of materials in the garden. Last week we shopped for concrete outdoor furniture and admired 10 Genius Garden Hacks With Concrete Blocks. In this week's Hardscaping 101, Janet's on the case—she tells us everything we need to know about installing concrete pavers in a garden.


    outbuilding trailer garden shed Belgium ; Gardenista

    Above: Our Outbuilding of the Week is an abandoned trailer cleverly repurposed into a garden retreat for a family in Ghent, Belgium.

    Alpine strawberries Marie Viljoen ; Gardenista

    Above: Alpine strawberries are in season in Harlem. Cookbook author and blogger Marie Viljoen (of 66 Square Feet) has some thoughts for us on how to eat them, in this week's Garden-to-Table Recipe.

    Wondering what those industrious editors at Remodelista are up to this week? See all their posts about moody violet interiors in Belgian Masters

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    In the village of Heusden-Zolderin the Belgian province of Limburg, AID Architecten renovated a dilapidated farmhouse for owner (and interior designer) Dorien Cooreman of Moka Projects. The traditional steeply pitched facade of brick and clay plaster was saved, as were the original timber beams. The Aga stove, lime-painted walls, and fairytale garden are new.

    The restored farmhouse and an adjacent outbuilding have been transformed into a four-bedroom guesthouse with rates starting at 130€ per night. For reservations, see Moka & Vanille.

    See more of our favorite Before & After transformations.

    Read on for a before-and-after look at the renovation:

    Mika & Vanille farmhouse Belgium before and after ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Booking. 

    The farmhouse is surrounded by meadows and forest, so the palette and scale of the foundation plantings are deliberately understated—green and low-growing—to play up the building's relationship to the Belgian landscape.


    Before and After Belgian farmhouse ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via AID Architecten.

    Rundown and unloved, the roof leaked and under-size windows and doors did not take advantage of the views.


    Moka Vanille Inn Belgium Bieke Claessens ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Bieke Claessens.

    Windows and doos have been strategically placed to encourage an indoor-outdoor flow.

    See more of our Before & After transformations.


    Above: Photograph via AID Architecten.

    The steeply pitched roof and a sunny patio create a bucolic corner sheltered from wind.

    Before and After Belgian farmhouse edible garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Weekend.

    An edible garden is sited close to the kitchen.

    Mika & Vanille farmhouse Belgium before and after ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Booking.

    The garden beds are edged with mown lawn, extending the visual sweep of green.


    Above: Photograph via Moka Projects.

    When large barn doors are wide open, the outdoors becomes an extension of indoor living space.


    Moka Vanille farmhouse Belgium ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via The Travel Files.

    Oak cabinets and gray lime-painted walls in the renovated kitchen, along with original timber beams for support.

    Moka Vanille Belgian B & B AID Architecten ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via The Travel Files.

    As seen on Remodelista, "Cooreman has meticulously overhauled the interior, creating an understated, luxurious sanctuary—custom-designed linens, ceramics by Anja Meeusen of PTZE Porselein, and solid oak pieces from furniture maker Malvini."

    Mika & Vanille farmhouse Belgium before and after ; Gardenista

    Above: Photographs via Booking.

    Some of the permanent residents are a reminder of a previous life as a working farm. 

    See more of our Before & After transformations.

    For more of the interiors, see Hotels & Lodging: Moka & Vanille in Belgium on Remodelista. For another landscape with a restrained palette and topiaries, see Garden Visit: A Classical Approach to Mod Dutch Minimalism.

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  • 09/29/14--09:00: Artful Planters from Belgium
  • Planters as sculpture: handmade clay vessels from Belgian-based Atelier Vierkant function as art for the garden.

    In the US, the planters—which "explore the possibilities of organic minimalism in form and surface texture"— are available from Interieurs, the newly opened Avenue Road in New York, and at Outdoor Therapy in Coral Gables, Florida. To see the full range, go to Atelier Vierkant.

    Above: The vessels are available in a range of organic shapes.

    Above: The monumental RR80 Planter is available from Avenue Road.

    Above: A pair of Atelier Vierkant planters in situ.

    See more Planters including our favorite High/Low: Glamorous Belgian Planters.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published June 5, 2012.

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  • 09/29/14--11:30: Field Guide: Chicory
  • Chicory: "Happy to be Bitter"

    A decorative crop for the colder months, endive or chicory is easily grown, except for the pale ovals known as the Belgian endive. Grown outdoors in summer, dug up, given a haircut and placed in darkness in autumn, they send out new, sweeter shoots for spring.

    Photographs by Charlie Hicks, except where noted.

    Edible kitchen garden river cafe london ; Gardenista

    Above: Chicories in the edible garden beds at River Café in London. Photograph by Anna Wardrop.

    Endive is part of a large family of chicories. Chichorium endivia mainly refers to curly frisée while its cousin, Chichorium intybus, is a much bigger and hardier group which includes not only the red chicory (radicchio) but every kind of loose-leafed, hearted, dandelion-like, broad-leafed, stripe-y, spotty, tall and ground-hugging chicory as well. 


    Above: Chicory is treasured in Italian cooking for its wilting qualities (blanched and served with extra-virgin olive oil) and as a raw salad leaf in which the tender hearts are used, the tougher, outer leaves discarded. Chicory also grows very well in Italy as reflected in the many native varieties.


    Above: The red and white Tardivo can also be forced indoors for a dramatic effect of smooth, even stripes.  

    Cheat Sheet

    • Green frisée looks even better when growing next to a round-leafed red lettuce
    • Chicory can prettify winter brassicas and leeks
    • Because chicories are so varied in shape and color, they combine well together, when planted in blocks

    Keep It Alive

    • Usually grown as an annual though it is naturally perennial
    • Endive is a late summer crop and grows happily with summer lettuce, while chicory thrives on cold
    • Chicory germinates quickly but takes months to reach maturity, so it is generally best sown indoors in late spring, planted out in summer and harvested considerably later

      Ingredients for Radicchio and Gorgonzola Pasta Sauce from The Dinner Party Project | Gardenista

    Above: Ingredients for a 10-Minute Pasta Sauce With Radicchio And Cheese. Photograph by Meredith Swinehart.

    Chicory goes to seed in its second year, but in a very decorative way, so it's worth keeping a couple. At this stage they are tall, multi-stemmed plants, covered in morning flowers of clear blue.

    radicchio and kale by kendra wilson ; Gardenista

    Above: Red chicory or radicchio is very useful in bringing some winter color into the garden, responding particularly vibrantly to very cold weather. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.

    Italian dandelion looks like an elegant version of the garden weed. Folk lore tells us that the wild dandelion is a wonderful aide-digestif due to its bitterness and it is the same with all types of chicory. It gets things moving; it's a known diuretic.

    Endive Field Guide ; Gardenista

    Above: French chicory 'Pissenlit' shares its name with common dandelion, quaintly known as 'Pissabed' in days of yore.

    Endive at Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons by Jo Campbell. Gardenista

    Above: The mysterious character of chicory means that many of us approach them with uncertainty. Chefs who grow their own food tend to overlook the bitter leaf unless they are French or Italian, in which case its seasonality is highly prized in the depths of winter.

    For added sweetness, blanching the hearts of endive is not difficult: tie the leaves with string in the weeks before harvesting or place under a pot as they do at Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons, above. Photograph by Jo Campbell.

    Field Guide chicory endive ; Gardenista

    Above: The full Italian, Radicchio rosso di Trevise. With its strong red and white markings, Treviso comes from the northern Veneto region and requires sub-zero temperatures. With Tardivo, Palla Rossa, Catalogna Frastagliata, it has a story to tell, down bitter, cold roads, rich in shape and texture.

    There are of course degrees of sharpness and the popular variety Sugarloaf (shown growing with the forcing pot above) might just undermine the reputation of its extended family.

    Elizabeth David frisee chicory salad recipe ; Gardenista

    Above: Bound for salad. A simple dressing of oil and vinegar is a good complement to chicory, balanced with Gruyere cheese. Photograph by Kristin Perers.

    Looking for recipes? See Elizabeth David on Vegetables. And don't overlook the delicious possibilities of Chard, Kale, or Collards. For recipes, see Eat Your Greens.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    When I think of the still lifes of Flemish Renaissance masters, dramatic lighting, saturated colors, and hyper-realist flowers come to mind. In other words, the best of the autumn garden.

    To honor the season, I made my own study of light and texture by using a palette of rich colors: blue, orange, and yellow. With days getting shorter and markets brimming with vibrantly hued fruits, autumn is the perfect time to create a moody arrangement modeled after the Belgian greats. Here's how to make your own masterpiece.

    Photography by Sophia Moreno-Bunge for Gardenista.

    Gardenista; Belgian Masters' Inspired Floral DIY; fall flowers; pomegranate; delphinium; dates

    Above: A saturated palette that includes blue, orange, and yellow in complementary shades.


    • 2 bunches of blue delphinium (I chose two slightly different shades of blue)
    • 1 bunch of yellow dates
    • 1 bunch of pomegranates on the branch
    • 1 bunch of orange cyrtanthus
    • A few sprigs of witch hazel, or any other green foliage with large-ish sized leaves
    • 1 small urn shaped vase (mine was about the size of my hand)
    • A dark backdrop for drama (I chose a matte black fabric)

    Gardenista; Belgian Masters' Inspired Floral DIY; fall flowers; pomegranate; renaissance

    Above: The painterly markings of a pomegranate.

    Gardenista; Belgian Masters' Inspired Floral DIY; fall flowers; delphinium

    Above: Variegated blue delphinium.

    While many still life arrangements use many varieties of flowers, I stuck with one to highlight the variations of blue delphinium in natural light. I wanted the final composition to be rich and saturated, but still simple.

    Gardenista | Belgian Masters Inspired Floral DIY

    Above: Delphiniums are arranged at a strong diagonal to create a heart-shaped base.

    Build a base that's dense in the middle with stems that extend to both sides. To maximize drama, I cut some stems short, and kept others very long. Try grouping different colored blooms together for a stronger color contrast.

    Gardenista; Belgian Masters' Inspired Floral DIY; fall flowers; delphinium

    Above: Delphinium base.

    Next, I added a few sprigs of witch hazel on the right. I wanted the arrangement to read blue, so foliage was kept to a minimum.

    Gardenista | Belgian Masters Inspired Floral DIY

    Above: Cyrtanthus and pomegranates.

    The final step was to add fruit. The old-world paintings that I love have both an extravagance and effortlessness. To symbolize the ephemeral nature of life, I cut fruits and left them untouched. Flowers out of water are waiting to be placed. 

    Gardenista; Belgian Masters' Inspired Floral DIY; fall flowers; delphinium;

    Above: Dangling delphinium.

    A couple of stems hanging over the edge of the table show movement, an element I think is crucial to a floral still life.

    Gardenista; Belgian Masters' Inspired Floral DIY; fall flowers; pomegranate; delphinium

    Above: My witch hazel foliage had a spider web attached, which I think is a macabre detail that the Belgian masters would have loved. This detailed image is my favorite in the post. There's something really satisfying about a closeup that suggests there is more beyond the frame.

    Gardenista; Belgian Masters' Inspired Floral DIY; fall flowers; pomegranate;

    Above: I placed dates over the side of the stool, because their composition is begging to be draped.

    Gardenista | Belgian Master's Inspired Floral DIY

    Above: The final image.

    For more of Sophia's favorite seasonal DIY Floral Arrangements, see Smoke Bush and Queen Anne's Lace and DIY: A Hanging Orchid.

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    There is a painterly quality to nearly everything that comes from Belgium. It's a region that for centuries has felt the influence of its opinionated neighbors. In almost any Belgian garden there is evidence of geometrical classicism (from France); the springtime exuberance of the Italian Renaissance, and the naturalism of English cottage gardens. The result? Gardens you would not see anywhere else in the world. The lesson? Don't be afraid to experiment. 

    Sandwiched between the northern and southern climates of Europe, Belgium is home to gardeners who for centuries have tested other cultures' ideas—to create an inimitable style. Here are 10 ideas to steal from Belgium—from dark, moody paint colors to velvety green backdrops—that will give any garden a luxurious Old Masters air:

    garden ideas from Belgium ; tulips in grass ; Gardenista

    Above: Belgian-based landscape designer Ronald van der Hilst planted spring beds with historical varieties of thousands of tulips at botanical garden Arboretum Kalmthout a half hour's drive north of Antwerp.

    1. Use green as a backdrop. Mown lawns and closely clipped green shrubs have the same effect as a velvet lining in a jewelry box. Everything else you plant will pop out like a diamond displayed on rich fabric.

    tulips ; belgium ; ronald van der hilst ; gardenista

    2. Put on a show in springtime. Nothing says winter's over like a clump or two of spring bulbs—tulips, daffodils, alliums, hyacinths, and more tulips is our recommendation. Autumn is the time to plant spring bulbs, so start digging. See 10 Favorite Tulips to Plant This Fall for inspiration and Gardening 101: How to Plant a Bulb for step-by-step instructions.

    apple trees ; fence ; Belgium garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Dwarf multi-stemmed apple trees are trained along the fence line in a narrow backyard near Roeselare in West Flanders. Photograph via Studio Verde.

    3. Plant fruit trees. In the 18th and 19th century, few Flemish gardeners could afford the luxury of purely ornamental plants. Instead, they grew fruit. Large gardens had orchards. Small gardens had a dwarf fruit tree or three. In addition to the fruit, a lovely side benefit of fruit trees is that they blossom in spring and gnarled tree trunks and branches take on a dramatically sculptural look when covered in snow.

    Autumn is the best time to plant fruit tree; for step-by-step instructions see DIY: Plant a Fruit Tree to Bloom Next Spring.

    Espaliered fruit trees in Antwerp walled garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Pear trees fan-trained in a small city garden bear fruit. For more, see Steal This Look: A Walled Belgium Garden. Photograph via Archi-Verde.

    4. Train small trees as espaliers against walls. Fan-trained fruit trees take up little space in city gardens but blossom and bear fruit exuberantly.  For more ideas about how to cover a fence with something green, see Design Sleuth: Vines as Espalier.

    10 Garden Ideas to Steal from Belgium ; hedges ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Bieke Claessens.

    5. Use hedges to define space. In Belgium, where the terrain is a rolling flat expanse without natural features such as mountains or valleys, creating a relationship between a garden and the surrounding landscape can be difficult. As a solution, Belgian gardeners use hedges to create a distinct perimeter. Some of our favorite hedging shrubs are Hornbeam, Boxwood, and English laurel.

    6. Create privacy with shrubbery (instead of a fence). Planted at the edge of a garden, tall-growing shrubs—pittosporum, hornbeam, boxwood, and laurel are a few examples—will grow together to create a dense privacy screen that also absorbs and blocks noise from traffic and neighbors. A hedge of green shrubs always looks better than a fence.

    cloud pruned boxwood ; Maria Nation ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Maria Nation.

    7. Embrace a lack of flowers. Flemish gardens often have austere, simple palettes of green on green with an emphasis on texture, shape, and size instead of bright colors. Evergreen shrubs have year-round appeal and can create a sense of symmetry and balance that makes seasonal flowering plants feel chaotic in comparison.

    Garden ideas to steal from Belgium black entryway facade curb appeal ; Gardenista

    Above: Everything in proportion; the front door of a house located about an hour's drive northeast of Brussels is flanked by symmetrical topiaries. Photograph via Oscar V.

    8. Create symmetry. Impose a sense of balance with planters that flank an entryway, identical topiaries, or closely pruned shrubs that echo each other.

    10 Best Exterior Shades of Gray Paint ; Gardenista

    Above: Our favorite shades of gray paint. For more, see Architects' Top 10 Gray Paint Picks. Photograph by Meredith Swinehart.

    9. Use dark paint colors as a backdrop. Black or gray fences, facades, and other architectural details black or gray will emphasize how very green the greenery is.

    flanders poppy ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Laura Kaplan-Nieto.

    10. Plant poppies. "In Flanders fields the poppies blow," the poet John McCrae wrote after seeing the resilient flowers swaying on their skinny stalks in the battlefields of World War I just months after fighting had turned the landscapes to mud and blood.

    Poppies want to please. Self-sowing, they are wildflowers that will spread widely and provide sanctuary to pollinators.

    See our other recent posts on Garden Ideas to Steal:

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    Everybody knows that the absolute best use for fallen leaves is to rake them into a high, crunchy pile in the middle of the lawn and then jump in. Second best? Use fallen leaves as mulch. Here's how:

    Photographs by John Merkl for Gardenista.

    Gardening 101: How to Use Fallen Leaves l Gardenista

    Need to know: Deciduous leaves are packed with the same minerals as fertilizer you buy. Use leaves as mulch in garden beds: it prevents weeds, encourages worms, and makes heavy soil fluffier.

    Gardening 101: How to Use Fallen Leaves l Gardenista

    Keep it simple: You can mulch two ways, with shredded leaves (if you have, say, a lawn mower) or whole leaves.

    If you don't have a mower or shredder, mulch with whole leaves. Spread a thin layer of leaves in garden beds so water still can penetrate to plants' roots.

    Gardening 101: How to Use Fallen Leaves l Gardenista

    Step 1: Rake leaves into a pile.

    Step 2: To mulch with whole leaves, use a pitchfork to spread a 1-inch layer evenly around the roots of plants.

    Gardening 101: How to Use Fallen Leaves l Gardenista

    Step 3: To make shredded mulch, rake leaves into a long row about a foot wide. Then run a lawn mower over the leaves, back and forth, a few times. Spread a 1-inch layer of shredded leaves around the roots of plants.

    gardening 101 compost fallen leaves

     Need a sturdy rake? See two of our favorites at High/Low: Steel Rake.

    Working through your list of autumn chores? See our Gardening 101 archives for How to Draw a Garden Plan and How to Plant a Bulb.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published October 24, 2013.

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    Last week, I threw a dinner party using recipes from Gardenista's library of Garden-to-Table Recipes, and we profiled the finished product in The Dinner Party Project: Easy Weeknight Recipes

    But we didn't mention the incredibly easy and affordable tablescape, which required no planning whatsoever. In fact, I mapped it out only after I spotted potted succulents at the grocery store. Read on for the easy-to-recreate details. 

    And don't forget—enter our fall recipe contest and send us your favorite fall recipes by Friday, October 3. If we choose your recipe, we'll feature it at our next dinner party. Enter Here.

    Photography by Meredith Swinehart.

    Purple and Green Succulents | The Dinner Party Project | Gardenista

    Above: I grabbed seven little succulents at my local Whole Foods. I was drawn to the red-inflected plants, so I bought all five on offer, plus two light-green versions. Each succulent was $2.50. 

    Seeded Eucalyptus and Amaranth | The Dinner Party Project | Gardenista

    Above: I used amaranth—a sometimes edible seed and my new favorite flower—and seeded eucalyptus to complement the shades of the succulents. 

    Pewter Goblets and Vases | The Dinner Party Project | Gardenista

    Above: Next, I chose vessels from my overflowing closet. I wanted a "fancy" look, so I grabbed all the silver and pewter (and faux versions of both) I could find. Note that only one of these is a family piece—the little silver-plated candy dish on the right—and the rest I've sourced over the years at my local San Francisco Goodwill store, for an average price of $3 each. 

    Goblets Stuffed with Newspaper for Succulents | The Dinner Party Project | Gardenista

    Above: I readied the goblets and julep cups for the succulents by stuffing them with crumpled newspaper; the plants weren't going to stay in the vessels for long, and I needed to give them some height. 

    Succulents Planted in Vintage Goblets and Vases | The Dinner Party Project | Gardenista

    Above: I used potting soil to fill in around the edges of each container. In no time, I had six of my little succulents "planted."

    Early Fall Arrangement with Succulents | The Dinner Party Project | Gardenista

    Above: Anyone who designs with flowers can probably tell I'm no expert. But I assembled this simple arrangement by soaking a block of floral foam, tucking it into a low bowl, and making a bed of seeded eucalyptus. I tucked the amaranth in the middle, then added my last succulent—which looked like a little flower—into the center of the arrangement.

    Amaranth in Mason Jar | The Dinner Party Project | Gardenista

    Above: The extra amaranth required no arranging and looked beautiful in a Mason jar. (Note the succulent competing for attention in the background: it's a deep purple aeonium.)

    Fall Dinner Party with Succulents Planted in Goblets and Antique Vases | The Dinner Party Project | Gardenista

    Above: I set half the vessels on the buffet table, to keep the dining table from looking cluttered.

    Early Fall Dinner Party with Succulents and Candles | The Dinner Party Project | Gardenista

    Above: The final—but critical—touch: candles. I bought a handful of 2.5-inch clear glass votives at my local hardware store for $2 each. (A set of twelve 2.5-inch Votive Candle Cups is $12.99 on Amazon.)

    Early Fall Dinner Party with Succulents in Antique Goblets and Vases | The Dinner Party Project | Gardenista

    Above: A little succulent looks downright regal in a pewter goblet.

    Salt Bowl and Salt Spoon at Succulents Dinner Party | The Dinner Party Project | Gardenista

    Above: For the tablecloth, I bought a 4-by-12-foot canvas painter's drop cloth, washed it, and cut it in half. This made for two perfectly sized tablecloths for my six-person dining table. (A Paint Essentials Drop Cloth is $16.69 on Amazon.) 

    For a runner, I draped a piece of white linen across the width of the table. I served Maldon flaked sea salt in my 2-inch Blanda stainless steel serving bowls from Ikea. My salt spoon is more upscale: it's a Grand Prix Polished Steel Salt Spoon from Danish designer Kay Bojesen; $25 at Fjørn Scandinavian.

    Early Fall Tablescape with Succulents | The Dinner Party Project | Gardenista

    Above: The overall effect was perfect for early autumn: still bright, but suggestive of the warmth of holidays to come.

    Don't forget to send us your favorite fall recipe in Recipe Contest: We'll Feature Winner at Our Next Dinner Party.

    Keep reading our entertaining tips: Start with Gardenista's trove of Garden-to-Table Recipes; style the best flowers in DIY Floral Arrangement: Smoke Bush and Queen Anne's Lace, and find the right advice in A Guide to Intimate Gatherings from the CAMP Workshops

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    When Philippa Burrough and her family moved into the farmhouse at Ulting Wick almost 20 years ago, they found an old farmyard full of rusting machinery as well as a handful of glorious black barns. What better place to build a garden? The property's black barns, a common feature dotting the eastern edges of the rural English landscape from Norfolk to Sussex, proved to be the perfect backdrop. Against a soothing and quiet background, the effect produced fields of flowers put into relief and vines transformed into sculptures.  

    Photography by Jim Powell for Gardenista.

    Black barns at Ulting Wick garden, Essex. Gardenista

    Above: The former threshing barn looms over a lawn punctuated with zinnia 'Dahlia Mix' and white cosmos 'Purity'.

    Ulting Wick Garden ; cosmos ; Essex ; Gardenista

    Above: The barns at Ulting Wick are so big and lumbering, they offer a free and almost ubiquitous backdrop against which to grow delicate things. Shown here: Gaura lindheimeri planted en masse.

    Black barns at Ulting Wick garden ; anemones ; fence ; Essex ; Gardenista

    Above: The accommodating anemone 'Honorine Jobert' was made for black backdrops. Bare branches of a climbing rose take on sculptural qualities.

    Black barns at Ulting Wick garden ; Essex ; Gardenista

    Above: One side of the barn is almost covered with the large-leafed crimson glory vine, or Vitis coignetiae. As the season progresses, the vine takes on color from the border below. This includes dahlia 'Autumn Lustre'; helianthus 'Valentine'; tithonia 'Torch'; dahlia 'Bishop of Auckland', and helianthus 'Claret'. Behind the border are waving fronds of feather reed grass, or Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'.

    Ulting Wick Garden ; Essex ; Gardenista ; pink cosmos

    Above: Pink cosmos 'Dazzler' with the fuzzy-headed grass Pennisetum villosum.

    Black barns at Ulting Wick garden, Essex. Gardenista

    Above: Verbena bonariensis congregate around the side door with an old concrete ramp.

    Black barns at Ulting Wick garden ; Essex ; Gardenista ; fence

    Above: The final flush from rosa 'Phyllis Bide' wraps around the corner of an old stable.

    Ulting Wick Garden ;  Essex ; Gardenista ; trumpet vines

    Above: Angel's trumpet (brugmansia) lives in oversized pots in the shelter of a former barn. With its fresh colors and distinguished shapes, this South American shrub really responds to a stark backdrop.

    Black barns at Ulting Wick garden, Essex. Gardenista

    Above: Ulting Wick's gardens are open to visitors for charity six times a year, and the importance of tea and cake is never overlooked.

    For more color from Ulting Wick, see Garden Visit: At Home With Philippa Burrough at Ulting Wick

    Considering black in your own landscape? See examples of how it can transform outdoors in our Roundup of Black Fences. If you're ready to dive in, find the perfect shade among these 8 Black Paint Picks from Architects in the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory. 

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    Small terra cotta garden pots are as basic and as cheap as they come; breaking one is no big deal. But larger planters are serious business: they're expensive, they're heavy, and after you invest in one you won't want to break it. 

    We'll deal with that issue—caring for your terra cotta planters—in another post coming later today. But first, here are 10 handmade terra cotta planters we like in colors that range from traditional red to gray. For when you're ready to invest. 


    Large, handmade terra cotta planters | Gardenista

    Above: The Cassetta Liscia terra cotta window box is made by Benocci Maurizio Terracotta Studio, a 250-year-old family business based just outside of Florence, Italy. The box is 90 centimeters long and available for AU $295 from The Terrace Gardener. (In the US, select Benocci Maurizio planters are available from Detroit Garden Works.)

    Large, handmade terra cotta planters | Gardenista

    Above: Connecticut potter Guy Wolff designed the Hartford Pot for terra cotta importer Seibert & Rice. Made by hand in Impruneta, Italy, the pot is 16 inches tall and $585—including shipping, handling, and insurance—from Goods for the Garden.

    Large, handmade terra cotta planters | Gardenista

    Above: London-based Clifton Nurseries offers the Round Pot in three sizes starting at £12.95. It is handmade by Goicoechea Poterie in France using Basque clay from Navarre.

    Large, handmade terra cotta planters | Gardenista

    Above: We like the traditional shape of the Lemon Pot from Whichford Pottery in Warwickshire, England. The family business produces the pot in six sizes, ranging in price from £26.50 to £560. 

    Large, handmade terra cotta planters | Gardenista

    Above: Connecticut-based Frances Palmer is one of our favorite ceramists; her No. Two Tom Pots are 6 inches wide and 7 inches tall and available for $95 each from Frances Palmer Pottery. (A larger version, the No. Five Tom Pot, is $135.)


    Large, handmade terra cotta planters | Gardenista

    Above: The Impruneta Manor House Pot is on sale for from $275 to $955 (down from $535 to $1,195) in three sizes from Restoration Hardware. It's made in Impruneta, Italy, using gray clay.

    Large, handmade terra cotta planters | Gardenista

    Above: The Handmade Anduze Pot by potter Peter Wakefield Jackson comes in gray-glazed terra cotta and is made in Honduras. Available in three sizes, at prices ranging from $28 to $58, at Detroit Garden Works.

    Large, handmade terra cotta planters | Gardenista

    Above: The Brown Terracotta Rim Pot is available in two sizes for £46.95 and £77.95 from Clifton Nurseries in London. 

    Large, handmade terra cotta planters | Gardenista

    Above: The Vaso Alto Liscio by Benocci Maurizio is AU $325 at The Terrace Gardener. Shown here in grigio, the planter is also available in natural terra cotta.

    Large, handmade terra cotta planters | Gardenista

    Above: Part of terra cotta importer Seibert & Rice's boutique collection, the Large Grey Rectangle planter box is 32 inches long. Contact Seibert & Rice to purchase.

    For more terra cotta, visit Design Sleuth: Terra Cotta Window Boxes. Or continue browsing Gardenista's 10 Easy Pieces: see our favorite Hanging Votive LanternsOutdoor Folding Chairs, and Wooden Elevated Planters.

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    Earlier today, we shared our favorite clay pots in 10 Easy Pieces: Terra Cotta Planters. The best ones aren't little machine-made pots that run a dime a dozen. We like the big guns: giant, heavy, handmade terra cotta planters meant to last a lifetime. 

    But can they? Clay cracks. It expands and contracts as temperatures changes. As winter approaches, here's everything you need to know about why terra cotta planters fall apart—and how to prevent yours from cracking.

    Photography by Meredith Swinehart.

    How to Keep Your Terra Cotta Planters from Cracking | Gardenista

    Above: Potted lemon trees in the garden of the Villa Farnesina in the Trastevere district of Rome. 

    The Problem:

    The main risk to terra cotta planters is that water trapped inside freezes come wintertime and causes the pot to crack. Small cracks might go unnoticed during the winter, but try to move the pot come spring and it may fall apart.

    How to Keep Your Terra Cotta Planters from Cracking | Gardenista

    Above: Terra cotta window boxes in a small balcony garden on the island of Ischia, Italy. See more in Design Sleuth: Terra Cotta Window Boxes

    We sought advice from terra cotta purveyors Seibert & Rice, Wakefield, and Ritchfield Farms, and this is what we learned:

    Strategy 1: 

    When the weather cools, empty any planters whose residents won't survive the winter. Compost the plants and move the planters inside. We read some debate about whether or not to empty the pot of soil; some said leave it, some said remove half, some all. Store the planters upside down and away from the elements (in a garage or shed is fine). It's critical to keep rain or snow from accumulating inside your planter; one freeze and it could cause a major crack.

    How to Keep Your Terra Cotta Planters from Cracking | Gardenista

    Above: Three terra cotta planters—one cracked—in a terrace garden in Bonassola, Italy. See the rest of the garden in Garden Visit: An Italian Terrace.

    Strategy 2:

    For those plants needing to stay outside all winter long, lift the pot off the ground. According to Seibert & Rice, water will freeze the planter to the ground during winter. If you try to move the pot later, it will crack or start to fall off in sheets.

    At a minimum, elevate planters during winter using decorative terra cotta planter feet or bricks (but don't block drainage holes). The easiest solution is to keep large terra cotta planters elevated year-round.

    How to Keep Your Terra Cotta Planters from Cracking | Gardenista

    Above: At a small garden shop in Switzerland, a giant terra cotta pot serves as a table base while supporting another pot on top. For more, see Shopper's Diary: Blumen Flowers in Switzerland.

    Strategy 3:

    Drainage is critical. The more water stored in the soil of your planter, the more likely that a freeze will cause a crack. Be sure to leave ample drainage material at the bottom of the pot before filling with soil, and avoid covering drainage holes with whatever you use to elevate your planter.

    Looking for ideas for those cheap terra cotta pots? Try DIY: Transform Terra Cotta Pots Into Instant AntiquesDesign Sleuth: Vertical Garden of Terra Cotta Pots, and on Remodelista, DIY: The Flowerpot Pendant Light.

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    We first spotted Carl Verdickt's Greenhouse back in 2009, and the project has been a favorite ever since. Antwerp-based Verdickt & Verdickt Architecten's super-reflective glass serves as a mirror to the forested setting in Asse, Belgium. To increase the reflection of the windows, glass was coated with a translucent polycarbonate layer. For more information on this treatment, visit Verdickt & Verdickt Architecten.

    Above: The exterior of the barn-style house on a sunny day.

    Above: Replacing walls with windows brings the outdoors inside in all seasons.

    Above: The house was built with a reverse layout where the private quarters are mostly located below the main floor's open floor plan; above sits a small section of private quarters as a lofted area.

    Above: A Vola faucet and the NO Fruit Pendant (see Design Sleuth: NO Fruit Pendant Light from Dark).

    Above: A revolving fireplace hangs in the center of the main living quarters.

    Above: Warm neon lighting is installed throughout the main floor.

    For another barn structure that glows, see Carver + Schickertanz's Energy-Efficient Guesthouse in New Hampshire. For greenhouses around the world, take an excursion to South AfricaNorway, and Sweden

    N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on April 10, 2009.

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    Whether they're the standard-issue variety from a home improvement store or an architect's custom creation, concrete pavers offer instant gratification. A patio? A path? An outdoor entertaining space? Concrete pavers make it (almost) instantly possible. 

    JGS Landscape Architecture Concrete Pavers, Gardenista

    Above: Humble concrete pavers are anything but when mixed with ground cover and grasses in this dramatic coastal garden by Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture.

    What is a concrete paver?

    Pavers are created from molded concrete formed into tiles to either resemble stone or brick, or proudly look like what they are: concrete. Concrete pavers generally fall into two types. The first is the thick durable interlocking paver. Resembling bricks in density, interlocking pavers are often used for driveways as they can handle the weight of a vehicle. The other variety is the thinner, and more visually pleasing, architectural paver.  Architectural pavers are commonly used for paths or patios where aesthetics are more important.  

    Concrete Pavers by Concreteworks, Gardenista

    Above: The exterior of an Oakland Hills home features light colored custom concrete pavers with high fly ash content, which contributed to its LEED certification. Photograph via Concreteworks.

    Why use pavers instead of poured concrete?

    Pavers trump poured concrete in a number of ways. Specifically they:

    • Are less susceptible to cracking. Tree roots, shifting soil, freezing, and thawing can cause cracks to form in large slabs of poured concrete. Because pavers are smaller, and move independently, the same conditions won't cause cracking (but may cause the pavers to shift position).
    • Help eliminate runoff. The spacing between pavers enables water to permeate the area rather than run off a larger field of concrete. And, no puddles will form.
    • Offer better traction. The joints between pavers provide a built-in device for better footing.
    • Can be more visually pleasing. Pavers can offer a geometry that poured concrete can't. And, that's not even taking into account the myriad options for the plants or other organic materials that fill the spaces between pavers.

    Russ Cletta Design Concrete Pavers, Gardenista  

    Above: Concrete pavers support a small space garden Marina Del Rey Landscape by Russ Cletta Design Studio, a member of the Remodelista Architect/Design Directory.

    Walker Workshop Manhattan Beach House, Gardenista

    Above: Los Angeles-based design firm Walker Workshop tied together the front and back of a Manhattan beach house with concrete pavers. Photographs by Nicholas Alan Cope.

    What are the best uses for concrete pavers?

    Concrete pavers can be used anywhere that demands outdoor flooring. Patios, garden paths, driveways, stepping stones, and even rooftop flooring. Heat absorbing dark pavers are not recommended in hot climates where they may come into contact with bare feet. 

    Robin Key Landscape Architect NYC Penthouse Concrete Pavers, Gardenista  

    Above: Concrete pavers (supplied by Hanover Pavers) are used as flooring on an Upper East Side rooftop terrace by New York City-based Robin Key Landscape Architecture, a member of the Remodelista Architect/Design Directory. Photograph by Francine Fleischer.

    Arterra Landscape Architects Menlo Park Project, Gardenista

    Above: Like a large area rug, concrete pavers define the gathering space in the lower garden of this Menlo Park project by Arterra Landscape Architects. Photograph by Michele Lee Wilson Photography.

    Arterra Landscape San Francisco Garden, Gardenista

    Above: Concrete pavers lead to the island deck of this urban garden set in the heart of San Francisco's Mission District. Created by Arterra Landscape Architects, this project includes underground rainwater collecting cisterns that supply the water for the fountain. Photograph by Thomas J. Story via Sunset Publishing. 

    What colors and textures of concrete pavers are available?

    The blessing and curse of concrete pavers is the range of options. While color variations stick to natural earth tones, the shapes and textures are virtually unlimited. Pre-cast pavers available through home improvement stores range from simple modern square tiles to stones that look like they have been plucked from a Roman street to travertine look-alikes. Custom made tiles can be colored to complement your home siding or another garden feature. The options are practically limitless, if not overwhelming.

    Concrete Pavers Atherton by Concreteworks, Gardenista

    Above: In an Atherton, California project, custom designed pavers are acid etched, making them slip resistant. Monterey sand was added as an aggregate to create a non-shimmery appearance. Photograph via Concreteworks.

    Pre-Cast Concrete Pavers, Gardenista

    Above, L: The Cobblestone Tumbled Concrete Paver in charcoal measures 7 by 9 inches; $1.31. Above, R: A modern Pewter Concrete Step Stone measures 16 inches square and has a beveled edge; $4.62. Both at Home Depot.

    Wood Molded Concrete Pavers, Gardenista

    Above: Wet cast concrete Barn Plank Pavers by Silver Creek Stoneworks are molded to look like, you guessed it, barn planks. 

    How do you install concrete pavers?

    Installation is somewhat dependent on the use. A driveway differs from a simple garden path. Accordingly, we recommend consulting with a professional, especially for installations with structural imperatives, such as holding a vehicle upright or flanking a swimming pool. In general, installations of pavers require a sub-base which can range from concrete to crushed stone. There are requirements that most installations have in common. The ground beneath pavers needs to be compacted as much as possible. Then a base layer, usually of crushed rock, is covered with a top layer of sand onto which the pavers are placed. Gaps are left between pavers, the size of which depends on aesthetics, structure, and what is being placed in the joints. Is it grass? Plantings? Gravel? 

    JGS Landscape Architecture Concrete Pavers, Gardenista

    Above: Pavers set in gravel (see our earlier feature on the Merits of Pea Gravel) in a garden path by Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture.

    Elysian Landscapes Concrete Pavers, Remodelista  

    Above: Large, cast-in-place concrete pavers set in the lawn make a graphic composition and lead to a built-in bench that faces a favorite view in a project by Elysian Landscapes

    How much do concrete pavers cost?

    Concrete pavers vary in price depending on whether they are off-the-shelf or custom-made architects' designs. A good rule of thumb is from $5 to $10 per square foot. One thing is certain: concrete pavers are a much more affordable option than stone.

    Russ Cletta Design Studio Concrete Pavers, Gardenista  

    Above: With a goal to create high style on a limited budget, landscape architect Russ Cletta included poured-in-place concrete stepping stones set in affordable gravel in this Venice Beach, CA bungalow garden. 

    Concrete Paver Recap


    • Affordable
    • More durable than poured concrete
    • Easy to install (and replace)
    • Can be custom made to fit size, style, and color requirements
    • Pre-cast pavers available in a wide variety of textures and colors


    • Porous and will stain
    • Despite best attempts, doesn't quite match the look of natural stone
    • Can crack in extreme temperature fluctuations (freezing and thawing) 

    Walker Workshop Hollywood Bungalow, Gardenista  

    Above: Concrete pavers lead to the entry of a Hollywood bungalow by Los Angeles-based design firm Walker Workshop. Photograph by Nicholas Alan Cope.

    We could be accused of being concrete obsessed. Michelle rounded up Indestructible Concrete Furniture; Meredith is coveting an Open Air Outdoor Concrete Bath; Dalilah made $30 Mini Concrete Planters; and, I fantasize about a polished Concrete Garage Floor

    See all of our Hardscaping 101 Features

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    Let's say that you are the potentate of a small European nation. You are a benevolent ruler but somewhat impatient. You gaze out a palace window and notice the royal grounds are barren and extremely uninteresting. You wish instead to see beautiful big trees and a large number of shrubs pruned into interesting shapes. You do not want to wait around for years while trees grow and gardeners prune.

    Fortunately, there is a place that can accommodate your every royal whim.  Since 1986, the Solitair Nursery in Loenhout, Belgium has been providing wholesale customers (i.e. professional garden designers, landscape contractors, and municipalities) with just the things they want for a big property: specimen trees, distinctive standards, and shrubs in many shapes.  On Solitair's more than 200 acres, trees are given plenty of space, time, and expert care to develop. The nursery even has a fleet of vehicles for delivery in Belgium and abroad.  For really large trees, Solitair will provide an escort. 

    Photography via Solitair Nursery.


    Above: Quercus cerris, Turkey oak, surrounded by some of Solitair's inventory of shaped shrubs.

    This tree, which is native to southern Europe and western Asia, is seldom offered for sale commercially in the U.S.  Solitair specializes in hard-to-find trees. Although it is a wholesale nursery, Solitair welcomes visits from individual gardeners who come looking for inspiration. 


     Above: Buxus sempervirens, boxwood, pruned into flat balls.  Solitair also offers this plant shaped into round balls, mounds, and tall domes.


    Above: Taxus baccata, English yew, shaped into balls at Solitair. This plant is also offered in other shapes as are Osmanthus, laurel, and English holly.

    Solitair-Standard-Taxus baccata bloc-viaGardenista

    Above: These unusual standards are yews, Taxus baccata, shaped into rectangles. Solitair also offers it in standards of other, looser shapes in a variety of heights.


    Above: Taxus baccata grown as a hedging plant at Solitair. 


    Above: The huge Solitair greenhouse was built in 2013 and can hold trees as tall as 45 feet.


    Above: Salix alba, white willow, is native to Europe, central Asia, and northern Africa and is seldom offered for sale. It is available at Solitair, which has the space to accommodate a tree that can quickly grow to from 50 to 80 feet high and 30 feet wide.


    Above: Carpinus betulus, hornbeam, trees are commonly used as specimen and street trees.  They also can be hard pruned into hedges. To see hornbeam hedges in a garden, see Hornbeam: A Hedge for All Seasons.



    Above: Prunus lusitanica augustifolia, Portuguese laurel, in a tree form. This small leafed-cultivar also can be hard clipped into a hedge.  It is easy to grow in all kinds of soil and growing conditions.  

    View Larger Map

    For inspiration on how to design gardens on large properties, see Required Reading: Louis Benech: Twelve French Gardens and Required Reading: Close: Landscape Design and Land Art in Scotland.

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