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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

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    Nothing is more luxurious than spring flowers blooming in winter. And no one understands this better than Scandinavian gardeners, who fill their rooms with fragrant blooming bulbs—including hyacinths and paperwhites—at Christmastime. Here are 10 beautiful case studies to help you recreate the look:

    N.B.: It's the end of the season to buy spring-blooming bulbs. But if you want to force your own, we've sleuthed a few sources where hyacinth, tulip, paperwhite, and amaryllis bulbs are still in stock. See below for shops and prices.

      White muscari forced bulbs Scandinavian style ; Gardenista

    Above: White muscari bulbs in bloom. Photograph via Fröken Knopp.


    forced hyacinth bulbs ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Mariaemb.

    You can force bulbs to bloom by putting them in dirt or in water. All the nutrients they need to bloom are stored in the bulb, so all tiy really need to do is provide a sunny, warm spot to encourage them.

    forced hyacinth bulbs ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Mariaemb.

    Hyacinths are an ideal bulb to force because they're relatively diminutive in size. Short, stubby stems won't flop over.

    forced hyacinth bulbs on a window sill ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Constanḉa Cabral via Flickr.

    If you force bulbs in a vase, make sure the water level is high enough to reach the roots but lower than the base of the bulb (so the bulb doesn't rot).

    forced bulbs hyacinths ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Weekday Carnival.

    You can create a mini open-air container garden by interplanting bulbs with other low growers. Mixing textures makes the bulbs' leaves look even more velvety.

      forced hyacinth bulbs ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Weekday Carnival.

    Forced bulbs look so full of promise when the leaves shoot out from the papery brown base.

    forced bulbs Scandinavian style Christmas ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Vintage House.

    For a tabletop arrangement, put forced bulbs in a low wooden bowl and cover their bases in a carpet of green moss.

    Forced hyacinth bulbs ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Holmsunds Blommor.

    Wrapped in moss and wire, hyacinth bulbs look like tabletop pets.


    Gardening 101: How to Force Tulips Bulbs l Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

    To force tulips, push the bulbs into the surface of moist soil.

    forced bulbs hyacinths and tulips ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

    To get bulbs to bloom in winter, you have to persuade them it's spring. Put them in a paper bag in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator for eight weeks before bringing them out into a warm, sunny room to bloom.


    Forced bulbs paperwhites for winter ; Gardenista

    Above: Pots of paperwhite bulbs in a row at Garbo Interiors in Stockholm.

    winter forced bulbs paperwhites ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by John Merkl for Gardenista.


      Forced amaryllis bulbs ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Emil Evans.

    Amaryllis bulbs, a Christmastime tradition, are widely available in the US. See sources below.

    Where to buy bulbs:

    • Hyacinths. A package of 15 light blue, fragrant Delft Blue Hyacinth bulbs is $9.18 (a 60 percent discount off regular prices) at Holland Bulb Farms.
    • Tulips. Early-blooming single tulips force well indoors; a 12-bulb bag of Purple Prince tulips is $3.98 (a 50 percent discount off regular prices) at Holland Bulb Farms.
    • Paperwhites. Narcissus Paperwhite 'Nir' bulbs are $3.32 for five bulbs or $14.12 for 25 (50 percent discount off regular prices) and available until they sell out at Brent and Becky's Bulbs.
    • Amaryllis. Given a special treatment to make them bloom by Christmas, Hippeastrum bulbs that will produce white flowers with a pale green throat are $6.43 apiece or $27.37 for five (a 50 percent discount off regular prices) at Brent and Becky's Bulbs.

    For more Scandi-style blooming bulbs, see Shopper's Diary: Garbo Interiors of Stockholm.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    'Tis not the season to repaint the front door or replace the fence. But a well-placed garland over an entryway or the golden glow from a candle in the window can add instant curb appeal (and make guests feel welcome). Here are 11 ways to spruce up for the holiday season:

    Winter curb appeal hang apples from tree branches ; Gardenista

    Above: A tree adorned with apples as ornaments. Photograph via Vita Verandan.

    1. Surprise passersby with outdoor ornaments. Hang baubles on a tree or shrub near the front door.

    Winter curb appeal wreath on gate ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Little Villa Vita.

    2. Deck the halls with doubles. Twin wreaths, or any mirror-image decorations, will create a pleasing symmetry.

    Botanical ice lanterns curb appeal ; Gardenista

    Above: Botanical ice lanterns; for step-by-step instructions, see DIY: Botanical Ice Lanterns

    3. Light the way. Place candles, lanterns, or luminarias on stoops or alongside paths.

    Winter curb appeal garland porch railing ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Little Villa Vita.

    4. Add swagger with swags. Drape garland over a railing. For evergreen garlands or roping, see 10 Easy Pieces: Garlands and Boughs to Deck Halls.

    5. Welcome guests with a tiny tree. A miniature outdoor Christmas tree will create a festive mood.

      Wrought Iron Fence New Orleans, Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Brian Gille Architects.

    6. White lights, big city. If your house is painted white, light the facade with floodlights to make it look snowy (even in a warm climate).

    7. The multiplier effect. Hang identical wreaths in the windows to match the one on the front door.

    Winter holiday window boxes ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Liesa Johannssen.

    8. Dress up window boxes warmly for winter. Add evergreen boughs, small birch logs, and twinkly lights to create a woodland vignette in a window box.

    winter fire escape | gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Erin Boyle.

    9. Don't forget the fire escape. Garlands and a strand of little white lights goes a long way in the city.

    holiday wreath candle window ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Min Lilla Veranda.

    10. Got a light? Put a candle in the window—or even better, several candles in several windows—to welcome guests with golden light.

    11. Shovel a snowy walk. It makes it look like you're ready for company—and it's easier for the mail carrier to deliver holiday cards.

    For more holiday curb appeal inspiration, see:

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    Devise plan for festive holiday lights, check. Unearth box of tangled mass of string lights from closet, check. Test outdoor outlet GFCI to be sure still working. What? I didn't know I had to do that—is there anything else I forgot?

    Turns out there probably is. Here is a list of safety essentials for outdoor holiday lighting that should be on every list. 

    Outdoor Christmas holiday lights Sweden ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Donal Skehan.  

    Is there a limit to the number of strings you safely can connect? 

    San Francisco's Christmas Light Pros advise a maximum (regardless of the number of strings) of 600 incandescent mini lights plugged into a single outlet.

    Standards from the safety experts at Illinois-based Underwriters Laboratories (UL) state that a maximum of 210 watts can be connected when using 22-gauge wire, and a maximum of 420 watts can be connected when using 20-gauge wiring. On average, 100 incandescent bulb string requires 40 watts of power. "So, always check the instructions in case the fuses on your strands are built for more or less," SF Christmas Light Pros say. 

    Outdoor Twinkle Lights from Terrain, Gardenista  

    Above: A 20-foot string of Indoor/Outdoor Twinkle Lights is UL-approved for outdoor use; $32 from Terrain.

    What lights are safe to use outdoors?

    Any lighting you plan to use outside must safely stand up to the elements. Look for the UL outdoor rating on the package.

    Water and electricity do not mix. Limit your holiday lights to those that are UL-rated for the outdoors (they can also be used indoors). Don't make the mistake of thinking that any plastic-coated wire also is outdoor friendly. All the parts of the lights need to be damp- and temperature-proof.

    Outdoor Holiday Light at Michelle's House, Gardenista

    Above: Last year, for the first time in a decade, Gardenista editor in chief Michelle created a holiday light display using many, many light strings (thankfully, not all connected). Photograph by John Merkl for Gardenista.

    Can all extension cords be used outside? 

    No. Only extension cords UL-rated for outdoors should be used as they are made with materials that can withstand exposure to the elements. Indoor cords can short out if they get wet, potentially causing damage to your outlets and lights. Also, extension cords have power limits. Be sure to match your lights' power needs (amperage) with the amperage rating of extension cords.

    Heavy Duty Outdoor Green Extension Cord, Gardenista

    Above: A bit less obvious than my bright orange cord, the green Master Electrician Heavy Duty 25-Foot Outdoor Extension Cord is $11.58 at Amazon.

    How do I make sure my outdoor electrical outlet is safe and won't overheat or short out?

    Outdoor electrical outlets are required to have GFCIs (ground-fault circuit interrupters) to protect from electrocution. This causes an automatic turnoff if there is any change in the electrical flow. Before starting your holiday lighting installation, be sure to test your GFCIs to be sure they are working. The Electrical Safety Foundation has a simple GFCI Test Tutorial. Also don't overload your outlet (see below).

    Ice Lantern Kit, Gardenista

    Above: Avoid electricity all together by lighting the way for your holiday guests with votive filled ice lanterns. The Ice Lantern Kit is $58 at Terrain.

    How many lights can I plug into my outdoor outlet? 

    Eager to load up that one outdoor outlet with multiple plug adaptors? Think again. Outlets have their limits in terms of power, and overloading can result in overheating that can cause fire.

    Most household outlets, whether indoors or out, are rated for 15 or 20 amps, which supports a maximum of 1800 watts and 2400 watts respectively. Electricians, however, advise never going above 80 percent of capacity, bringing the recommended maximum wattage to 1440 for a 15-amp circuit and 1920 for a 20-amp circuit. And, be warned, some circuits support more than one outlet. How to find out? You can test which outlets are on each circuit by turning off circuit switches, and then turn on each, one at a time. When doing so, check to see which outlets have power running. Each outlet with power is being operated by that same circuit.

    Outdoor Holiday LIghts and Extension Cords, Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by John Merkl for Gardenista.

    Any other safety tips to keep in mind?

    • Make sure to replace any broken bulbs before starting.
    • Keep connections off the ground. 
    • Fasten outdoor lights securely to protect them, and the people around, from wind damage. San Francisco Christmas Light Pros recommend using light duty staples and gutter clips (available in many sizes and configurations).

    Holiday Lights on Roof Edge, Gardenista  

    Above: Gutter clips (and, in a pinch, document binder clips) are a good way to attach light strings. Photograph via Terrain.

    • When fastening light strings, be sure to avoid puncturing the cords, which can damage the insulation and compromise the wet-rated performance.
    • Feeding power from inside? Make sure that cords are not pinched in doors or windows, which could damage the cord’s insulation.

    Terrain Outdoor GLobe Lights, Gardenista

    Above: Outdoor Globe Lights add a festive note not limited to the holidays. Photograph via Terrain

    Michelle picked her favorite lights in 10 Easy Pieces: Outdoor Holiday String Lights.

    Need last-minute gift ideas for the gardeners in your life? See our top Gift Picks for Under $50 for the Gardener. Shop all our picks in our Holiday Gift Guide.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    If you’re not careful, the holiday season can feel like a race to the finish line. To avoid the frenzy of last-minute holiday shopping, I make homespun gifts. Here are three simple holiday gifts—a fragrant pomander, a pine cone fire starter, and a potted bulb—that use materials you can find easily at most hardware and grocery stores:

    Photography by Erin Boyle for Gardenista.

    last minute holiday gifts to make at home by erin boyle | gardenista

    Above: Gathered together, materials to make three last-minute gifts. Instructions for each are below.

    Orange and Clove Pomander:

    last minute holiday gifts to make at home by erin boyle | gardenista

    Above: A fragrant hostess gift.

    An old-fashioned pomander in the form of an orange studded with cloves is a sweet-smelling ornament to present to a holiday host and takes only minutes to make. (I currently have one hanging in my bedroom, and it’s filling the whole room with a rich, spicy scent.)

    last minute holiday gifts to make at home by erin boyle | gardenista


    • An orange
    • Ribbon
    • Straight pin
    • Whole cloves (about 50)
    last minute holiday gifts to make at home by erin boyle | gardenista


    Begin by cutting your ribbon into two lengths that fit around the circumference of your orange. (Measure the ribbon using the fruit as a guide and cut accordingly.) Wrap each length of ribbon around the orange in opposite directions to create four quarters, with the ribbon ends overlapping over the orange stem. Using a straight pin, secure all four ends by sticking the pin through both ribbon and orange. 

    Using the ribbon as a guide, begin to stick the cloves into the orange rind. Whole cloves are big enough to pierce the orange rind without requiring you to use any special tools. You can arrange the cloves in whatever pattern you’d like. I started by making a straight line of cloves down the center of each quarter and then added a smaller line of cloves to either side. 

    After you have the cloves in place, take another small piece of ribbon and thread it underneath the crossed ribbon (opposite from where you pinned the ribbon ends). Tie the ends of the ribbon into a knot to create a loop, and you’re done.

    Pine Cone Fire Starter:

    last minute holiday gifts to make at home by erin boyle | gardenista

    Above: Last year I made fragrant fire starters in egg cartons, but you can make even simpler fire starters by dipping a pine cone wrapped in cotton wicking directly into melted beeswax.

    last minute holiday gifts to make at home by erin boyle | gardenista

    Above: Simple materials from the hardware store.


    • Pine cone
    • Cotton wick
    • Natural beeswax
    • Pot
    • Tin can
    • Metal wire
    last minute holiday gifts to make at home by erin boyle | gardenista


    Begin by wrapping the wick around the pine cone; tuck it between the natural layers of the cone. Snip the wick after you reach the top of the cone, leaving about ¼ inch of wick for lighting.

    Next, wrap a small bit of florist wire around the very top of the pinecone. This doesn’t need to be done artfully because it’s only meant to serve as a handle for dipping the pinecone into the hot wax.

    Next, place the beeswax into an empty tin can partially submerged into a pot of water. Heat the water until the wax in the can has completely melted. (If you’re worried about sourcing beeswax in a hurry, here’s a trick: head to your local hardware store. Natural beeswax is likely stocked among the furniture polishes.) 

    After the beeswax is melted, dip the pinecone into the melted wax, using the florist wire as a handle. If you’re only making a few pine cones and don’t want to melt a ton of wax, you can do what I did and tilt the can slightly, while spinning the pine cone, so that the whole thing gets coated. I dunked the pine cone a few times to get it nice and coated, and then set it to dry on a bit of newspaper.

    Potted Amaryllis Bulb:

    last minute holiday gifts to make at home by erin boyle | gardenista

    Above: An amaryllis bulb is a lovely thing to give at the holidays because it means a little bit of green come January after the rest of the holiday decorations have been cleared away.

    You can give an amaryllis bulb that's been potted, or you can provide the bulb and a pot so that the recipient can time the planting with holiday travel plans (no one wants to be out of town when the flowers finally emerge!).

    last minute holiday gifts to make at home by erin boyle | gardenista


    • Amarayllis bulb
    • Terra cotta pot and saucer
    • Ribbon
    • Greenery (optional)
    • Instructions for care


    When buying an amaryllis bulb, look for a large, sturdy bulb that shows no sign of rot. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the bulb, the larger the bloom. An amaryllis bulb doesn’t mind being slightly root-bound, but you’ll want to provide a large enough pot to give the roots room to grow. To be on the safe side, choose a pot that’s at least 6 inches wide (or has at least an inch or two of space between the bulb and the side of the pot). 

    To wrap the gift, tuck a few sprigs of greenery around the bulb to make it stand up straight, and finish with a ribbon tied around the pot and saucer to make a neat package. 

    Include a tag with potting instructions: Moisten potting soil before planting. Fill the bottom half of this pot with potting soil and place the bulb on top. Fill the pot around the bulb with soil, leaving the top ⅓ of the bulb exposed. Water. Place in a sunny spot. Enjoy blooms in from 6 to 8 weeks. (If you want to ensure that the bulb gets planted, include a small bag of potting soil, too.)

    last minute holiday gifts to make at home by erin boyle | gardenista

    There you have it. Three gifts, 30 minutes. 

    Still have a few folks on your list? Browse our complete archive of holiday Gift Guides. Prefer your bulbs in glass? See 10 Easy Pieces: Bulb Vases.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    Since Thoreau decamped to Walden Pond, our desire to live a solitary life has only intensified. In Cabins,  published by Taschen last month, author Philip Jodidio fuels our lust with 61 case studies of back-to-basics living. There is a futuristic tiny home from Renzo Piano, designed for off-the-grid living in the event of a disaster. There are fishermen's huts on the water in Portugal. An eco-pod that can be theoretically dropped in any location, by Barcelona architect firm In-Tenta. Shelters for writers, bird-watchers, wilderness survivalists; lightweight armchair poet-philosophers (glampers, we are talking to you).

    Whether you're building a cabin in the woods or just dreaming of one, the book offers plenty of inspiration. Get ideas for small footprints, reclaimed materials, and ways to unplug. Like a travel brochure, each chapter opens with a pastel, stylized illustration by Parisian graphic designer Marie-Laure Crushi. Jodidio then takes the reader on a tour, with architect in tow, to discuss views, vignettes, and design principles. 

    Photography via Cabins.

    Above: One of our favorites is an off-the-grid home in Vancouver Island from Scott & Scott Architects, intended for uninterrupted snowboarding. The structure is built on stilts to avoid machine excavation, after heavy snowfalls. 

    off the grid snowboard cabin on vancouver island on gardenista

    There is no running water or electricity (a wood stove provides heat). In the remote town of Port Hardy, the northern end of Vancouver Island, snow covers the gravel road five months of the year. Provisions arrive on site on toboggans. And if you're wondering, there is no WiFi.

    exterior cedar siding on cabin on gardenista

    Above: Gray cedar cladding on the exterior merges harmoniously with the surrounding woods.

    Above: The 100-square-meter interior has two levels, including a sauna on the ground floor, and two bedrooms and den upstairs. Walls are planed down, and in contrast to the rough-hewn Douglas fir trunks, taken from nearby. Furnishings are spartan, to make room for the view, visible through expansive windows. 

    cabins philip jodidio a new coffee table book by taschen on gardenista

    Above: Cabins is part of the Architecture Now! series, which includes Green Buildings, Tree Houses, and Temporary Spaces.

    For more of our favorite cabins, see:

    More Stories from Gardenista

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  • 12/08/14--00:00: Table of Contents: Snow Days


    Olson Kundig Modern Steel Cabin on Stilts in Washington, Gardenista


    Orchid care | Gardenista



    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista


    Sheep on hillside at Slide Ranch Marin California l Gardenista




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    I much prefer to make my friends and family edible gifts than to take a trip to a crowded store or mall. And I've never met a holiday gift recipient who doesn't love chocolate bark.

    Here are three variations on the recipe (including dark/white/milk chocolate, gluten-free, and vegan versions) to please everyone on your list. (Send these gifts long distances, or give them out as favors to tell people you're thinking about them this holiday season.) 

    And for packaging? I keep it simple with glassine bags or Ball jars, little bits of natural twine, and always small touches of nature, such as berries, seeded eucalyptus stems, or a sprig of rosemary or pine.   

    Read on for ingredients and step-by-step instructions for making and festively wrapping the chocolate bark:

    Photography by Lindsey Love for Gardenista. 

    Chocolate Bark 3 Ways Lindsey Love for Gardenista

    Above: Chocolate bark screams, "Happy holidays!"

    Chocolate Bark 3 Ways Lindsey Love for Gardenista

    Above: Try not to eat all the ingredients before you get started.

    Dark Chocolate Bark with Cardamom, Toasted Nuts, and Satsuma Zest

    Dark chocolate has a luscious, rich quality, so pairing it with aromatic cardamom, toasted nuts, and some zest is the perfect way to fancy it up.  Don't have some of the toppings here?  Swap cardamom for cinnamon, toasted nuts for toasted coconut; or instead of zest, try using cacao nibs or flecks of large grain sea salt.  Options are limitless.


    • 12 ounces dairy-free/vegan bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped 
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
    • 1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts (almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, etc.)
    • Zest from one large satsuma

    In a heatproof bowl over simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring every so often.  After completely melted and smooth, stir in ground cardamom and remove from heat; set aside for a few minutes.  On a rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper, pour chocolate and use the back of a spatula to spread in an even layer, about 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch thick.  Sprinkle with chopped nuts, and evenly distribute the satsuma zest.  Transfer to refrigerator to solidify; at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight. Using a sharp knife, break up bark into various shaped pieces.  

    Chocolate Bark 3 Ways Lindsey Love for Gardenista

    Above: I love eating peppermint and chocolate together during the holiday season.  There's something so festive and so right about the two flavors together. I also added a little white chocolate drizzle for extra appeal, but it's totally optional.  

    Peppermint Bark with White Chocolate Drizzle


    • 12 ounces milk chocolate, roughly chopped 
    • 1/4 cup crushed candy canes or peppermints
    • 2 ounces white chocolate

    In a heatproof bowl over simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring every so often.  After completely melted, remove from heat and set aside for a few minutes.  On a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, pour chocolate and use the back of a spatula to spread in an even layer, about 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch thick.  Sprinkle with crushed candy canes and transfer to the refrigerator while you melt the white chocolate.  You know the deal; melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water until smooth and melted. Remove the bark from the refrigerator and drizzle white chocolate with a spatula. Return to the refrigerator to solidify for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight.  Using a sharp knife, break up bark into various shaped pieces.

    Chocolate Bark 3 Ways Lindsey Love for Gardenista

    Above: While on most days I'm not a big fan of white chocolate, the combination of pomegranate seeds and pistachios here is one of my favorite and I find it actually makes the white chocolate taste even better.  Plus, I love the festive red, green, and white hues. Perfect for that white chocolate lover in your family.

    Pomegranate and Pistachio White Chocolate Bark


    • 12 ounces white chocolate, roughly chopped
    • 1/4 cup pomegranate, divided 
    • 1/3 cup chopped and toasted pistachios, divided

    In a heatproof bowl over simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring every so often. After completely melted, remove from heat and stir in half the pomegranate seeds and half the pistachios; set aside for a few minutes.  On a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, pour chocolate and use the back of a spatula to spread in an even layer, about 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch thick.  Evenly distribute leftover pomegranate seeds and pistachios and transfer to refrigerator to solidify for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight.  Using a sharp knife, break up bark into various shaped pieces.

    For packaging:

    Chocolate Bark 3 Ways Lindsey Love for Gardenista

    Above: I like to include a sprig of berries or fresh leaves on the package.

    Chocolate Bark 3 Ways Lindsey Love for Gardenista

    Above: Because chocolate bark is usually jagged, irregularly shaped pieces, I think glassine bags (shown) or a small box work best for packaging. As for tying it all together, natural twine is my go-to; most times bright, colorful ribbon overshadows what's inside. Don't forget to add a personal note to the recipient.

    Chocolate Bark 3 Ways Lindsey Love for Gardenista

    Above: If you're using the bags as a holiday party favor, write down the main ingredients noting if there was wheat, dairy, soy or nuts used. Be creative and have fun.

      Chocolate Bark 3 Ways Lindsey Love for Gardenista


    • Glassine bags (or small boxes)
    • Wax paper, for cushion 
    • Twine
    • Eucalyptus, olive greens, pine, holly, berries, etc.
    • Gift tags

    Chocolate Bark 3 Ways Lindsey Love for Gardenista

    Above: Ready to spread cheer.

    For more last-minute gift ideas, see 3 Last-Minute DIY Holiday Gifts and Gift Guide: Best Books for Garden Lovers.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    From Norway (of course), a tiny cabin designed for a solitary winter expedition has a chicken wire frame in which blocks of ice freeze into wind-buffering walls. Designed by Norwegian architects Gartnerfuglen, the portable hut folds up (in about 30 seconds).  Don't forget to bring a Thermos.

    Photographs via Gartnerfuglen except where noted.

    Gartnerfuglen winter ice hut l Gardenista

    Above: The fisherman's hut, made of Scottish pine and birch veneers, looks at home against a natural landscape.

    Gartnerfuglen winter ice hut l Gardenista

    Above: The hut, christened "Unavailability" by its designers, is meant to be a solitary refuge from the pressures of modern life—and from the otherwise constant connectivity of a technological age.

    Gartnerfuglen winter ice hut l Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Dezeen.

    Chicken wire frames the walls and a raised wooden platform made of pine slats allow an occupant to stay dry inside.

    Gartnerfuglen winter ice hut l Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Dezeen

    The wall and roof panels can be filled with water; the frozen blocks create a windscreen.

    Gartnerfuglen winter ice hut l Gardenista  

    Above: Step by step, it takes about 30 seconds to unfold (or pack up) the portable ice hut. We'd like to see this hut in action in the summertime, when the chicken wire panels are meant to serve as trellises for vines such as sweetpeas, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

    For more Norwegian architecture, see The Once and Future Boathouse and Into the Field: Dinner in an Oslo Greenhouse.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    Desperate for a gift? Run to the supermarket. Seriously. Your mission is to buy (and wrap festively!) in under 30 minutes all the items necessary to make an artisanal cheeseboard to give to a lucky gift recipient. With our tips on which aisles to shop and how to wrap your loot with store-bought materials, no one will ever suspect you stopped at the grocery store at the last minute.

    Read on for the plan (and the shopping list):

    Photography by Cheryl Locke.

    last-minute artisanal cheeseboard gift for gardenista

    Above: Ready to spread cheer.

    Here's what's inside:

    • Cheese
    • Herbs
    • Nuts
    • Fruit
    • Honey or jam
    • Nut cracker
    • Wooden cutting board

    Other supplies to buy:

    • Cheesecloth
    • Butcher's string
    • Scissors

    last-minute artisanal cheeseboard gift for gardenista

    Above: Think cheese. Brie, Petit Basque, and Humboldt Fog cheeses.

    Step 1: Get three cheeses: a hard cheese, a soft cheese, and a third that's unexpected. (Our selection above includes cheeses made from cow's, sheep's, and goat's milk). 

    herbs and fruits for last-minute artisanal cheeseboard gift for gardenista

    Above: Herbs and fruit: an essential component.

    Step 2: Head to the produce aisle. Get a bunch of woody herbs (such as rosemary, sage, or thyme) and fruits (such as grapes, pears, or figs) to add flavors and textures to the cheese spread. 

    walnuts for last-minute artisanal cheeseboard gift for gardenista

    Above: Still life with supermarket.

    Step 3: Get nuts. Pecans, almonds, or walnuts are good choices. Bonus points if you get nuts that are still in their shells.

    crackers for last-minute artisanal cheeseboard gift for gardenista

    Above: Something to serve the cheese on. 

    Step 4: Crackers next. Spring for artisanal, small-batch crackers, for a special occasion.

    jam and honey for last-minute artisanal cheeseboard gift for gardenista

    Above: Don't forget the condiments.

    Step 5: Pick up a jar of special jam or honey to drizzle on top of cheeses.

    drizzling honey on last-minute artisanal cheeseboard gift for gardenista

    Above: Presentation counts.

    Step 6: Head to the housewares aisle. Get a wooden cutting board, a nut cracker, and supplies to wrap the gift (cheesecloth, scissors, and butcher's string).

    furoshiki style wrapping for last-minute artisanal cheeseboard gift for gardenista

    Above: Wrap it up.

    Step 7: To wrap the gift, start with the cheese. Stack the cheese neatly in the center of the cheesecloth. Wrap in a furoshiki style, by tying opposite corners. See a step-by-step tutorial on Remodelista here.  

    Repeat the process, with another piece of cheesecloth, to wrap the other edible items (reserving a few sprigs of herb to adorn the outside of the packages).

    To wrap the cutting board: cut open the brown paper shopping bag, wrap it neatly around the board, and secure with butcher's twine.

    Add a sprig or herbs to decorate each wrapped package.

    furoshiki wrapped cheese for last-minute artisanal cheeseboard gift for gardenista

    Above: the eco-friendly wrap—you can reuse the cloth—takes five seconds, and no tape or cutting is required. 

    last-minute artisanal cheeseboard gift for gardenista

    Above: The luxurious spread. We bet you'll be asked to share it.

    For more of our favorite gift ideas, see:

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    Julie and team bring Scandi-style yuletide cheer this week—and tour the ultimate cook's kitchen of star London chef Skye Gyngell:

    Skye Gyngell London chef home kitchen ; Gardenista

    Above: Christine visits star London chef Skye Gyngell at home and gets a tour of The Ultimate Cook's Kitchen.

    Above: Julie sleuths 6 Stylish Christmas Tree Stands, each deserving a shot to be in the permanent collection at MOMA.

    Above: Justine is on a DIY roll. This week, she creates a Scandi-Style God's Eye Ornament and still has a time to create a Garland Of Mistletoe And Meyer Lemons.

    Loppelilla gray floor ; Gardenista

    Above: Follow Julie to a Mountain Home In Norway of blogger Irene Finne, for the ultimate Scandi-style holiday. On the tour of the snow-covered cabin, keep an eye out for a pair of antlers with their own crocheted cozies. The Norwegians have a word that sums up the cute coziness, "hygge."

    Above: "Hotels sell one product—sleep," says Janet, so it stands to reason she should look to five-star rooms for serene bedroom lighting ideas. See illuminating three, five, and seven-point plans, in this week's Remodeling 101.

    Want more design for the festivities ahead? See all of Remodelista's Holiday 101 coverage here.

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    Take a look at a few things we're loving lately:

    Flower Calendar 2015 ; Gardenista

    DIY Rose Sugar Gifts via Style Me Pretty | Gardenista

    • Above: A gift for the holiday hostess: DIY Rose Sugar. Photograph by White Loft Studio.
    • A snowy cabin on the West Coast is exactly where we want to be right now.

    Milk Carton Inspired Bird's Nest by JAM | Gardenista

    Allspice Persimmon & Cranberry Clafoutis via Anthropologie | Gardenista

    Instagram Pick of the Week

    Gardenista Instagram Pick of the Week: @saipua

    • Above: We're longtime admirers of Brooklyn florist Saipua (@saipua). 
    • For all things festive, take a look at our Holiday board on Pinterest. 

    For more from this week on Gardenista, see our Feeling Festivus issue and don't miss Remodelista's week of Holiday 101

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    For impact, a few winter trees and shrubs are the equivalent of a double border in summer. Winter gardens require more imagination than effort. A glowing group of stems, slowly stripped of leaves, followed by snowdrops: that's a third of the gardening year taken care of. We go to Cambridge in England to learn from The Winter Garden at Anglesey Abbey.

    Photography by Kendra Wilson.

    Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge. Gardenista

    Above: A trio of Mahonia, Cornus, and Acer palmatum glow against a dark backdrop of yew.

    Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge. Gardenista

    Above: Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Orange' against the "ghost bramble" Rubus cockburnianus.

    Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge. Gardenista

    Above: Choose a rose with excellent spikes and pretty yellowing leaves which do the whole genus credit, like this 'Mount Emei' rose.

    Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge. Gardenista

    Above: Banks of Cornus, a winter monoculture which can be as effective as a trio of different species.

    Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge. Gardenista

    Above: The amazing box elder (Acer negundo), with warm-hued willow (Salix alba) nearby. Almost everything is pollarded in this garden including these trees, as the young growth reacts to cold. The more frost, the more a winter garden glows. 

    Anglesey Abbey Winter Garden. Gardenista

    Above: Not convinced about Mahonia? The flowers are scented for one, and on closer inspection the flowers are rather lovely. They are a good yellow for dismal days.

    Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge. Gardenista

    Above: Eye level berries are one of the best things about autumn and winter, usually shining out from dark hedgerows. Cotoneaster lacteus is dripping with berries and would dominate the holly were it not variegated. Variegated plants are a must in dark areas. 

    Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge. Gardenista

    Above: This Tibetan cherry looks especially brilliant against a backdrop of yellow cornus. Its bark is stroked frequently by passersby, keeping it shiny and taut. Left untouched, the bark would curl up like wood shavings. A multi-stemmed Prunus serrula like this one gives you more bark to stroke and has a similar effect to a pollarded tree: you can see through it and around it.

    For more winter color see 5 Favorites: Add Color to the Winter Garden.

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  • 12/22/14--00:30: Table of Contents: Snow Days
  • This week, we're toasting our readers—thanks to you, we had a wonderful year!—so curl up with a few good holiday reads:

    Above: Hardworking Hellebores bloom in the snow. Photograph by Chris Everett.


    Olle Lundberg cabin  swimming pool Sonoma; Gardenista

    Above: San Francisco architect Olle Lundberg built a house with his own hands—and scavenged materials—in northern California.  (He and his wife slept in a tent in the living room until the roof was finished.) Read about their adventure in this week's Architect Visit.


    Above: To burn or not to burn? It's a moral dilemma in this day and age, and Michelle searches for the answer in Domestic Dispatches.

    Orchid care | Gardenista

    Above: With Amanda on her way to California to spend Christmas with Michelle, who's babysitting The Orchid That Owns Me?


    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Our favorite Brooklyn blogger moved to Harlem to garden. We're visiting Marie Viljoen's new digs—and getting design tips for planting spring edibles on a city terrace—in this week's Garden Visit.


    Sheep on hillside at Slide Ranch Marin California l Gardenista

    Above: Wishing everyone joy, peace, and a glorious ranch. We're visiting Slide Ranch at the edge of the world in today's Garden Visit.


      Caledonia Spirits, Mayflower cocktail 2 by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: The party continues. We're rounding up the 7 Best Holiday Cocktails with ingredients from the garden in this week's Holiday Recipe.

    Over at Remodelista, Julie and team are padding around the house in (stylish) pajamas and putting up fragrant garlands) to get ready for the holidays in this week's Winter's Tale

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    Back in 1996, San Francisco architect Olle Lundberg responded to a classified ad about a property in Cazadero, CA (population: 354). Little did he and his wife, Mary Breuer, realize they were embarking on a project that would consume countless hours and mountains of scavenged materials. Nor could they have dreamed that they would still be at it so many years later. As Lundberg cheerfully confirms, "It will never be done."

    The site is 16 pristine acres in Sonoma County, two hours north of San Francisco and surrounded by redwoods. The land in the vicinity lacks water and will never be developed. "We couldn't really afford it," Lundberg says, "but we fell in love with it and bought it anyway."  An uncompleted cabin provided a starting point for the house that Lundberg designed and built with his own hands, occasionally helped by friends and employees. Since his company, Lundberg Design, was thriving in the city, he only had weekends to work on the cabin. He and Breuer slept in a tent in the living room until the roof was finished. 

    Photography courtesy of Lundberg Design except where noted. 

    Olle Lundberg cabin Sonoma ; Gardenista

     Above: The cabin may be small—less than 1,000 square feet plus a 1,500-square-foot deck—but it has become the site of countless unexpected refinements. Photograph by J.D. Peterson.


    Above: One reason the work has progressed slowly is that Lundberg insists on the perfect materials—often industrial discards found in unlikely places. The swimming pool, for example, is a former livestock watering tank made of virgin-growth redwood which Lundberg says could be 80 years old. It was a major undertaking to dismantle the tank and truck it in sections from a client's ranch to the cabin. Photograph by Alan Owings.


    Above: The pool is 25 feet in diameter and 14 feet deep, not ideal for laps but great for diving. It's beloved by Lundberg's dogs, especially his black Lab. Photograph by Angkana Kurutach.


     Above: The industrial steel sash windows in the cabin were salvaged from various remodeling jobs. Photograph by J.D. Peterson.

    Lundberg cabin Sonoma ; Gardenista

    Above: Interior walls are covered in thin strips of Montana white pine; the exterior siding is reclaimed redwood. The firewood holder was custom-designed for the cabin.

    Olle Lundberg cabin kitchen Sonoma ; Gardenista

    Above: Lundberg and Breuer entertain a lot; the open-plan kitchen puts everything in easy reach.

      Olle Lundberg cabin Sonoma pizza oven ; Gardenista

    Above: There's also an outdoor kitchen, with a cement pizza oven, a tandoor, and a cooking hearth.

      Lundberg cabin garden ; Gardenista

    Above: One of the first things Lundberg installed was a garden, figuring that Breuer could grow tomatoes while he was busy building. At first a simple vegetable patch, it has since expanded to 5,000 square feet. Besides flower beds, there's an orchard where Breuer grows figs, apples, apricots, olives, lemons, grapefruit, and the weirdly shaped Buddha's Hand, a citrus fruit that Lundberg candies and uses to garnish desserts and cocktails. Photograph by J.D. Peterson.


    Above: Lundberg also built a combination greenhouse and office nearby for Breuer. A sliding door between the two spaces makes it easy for her to tend her heirloom tomato seedlings and lettuce plants while working. Photograph by Olle Lundberg.


    Above: To make the design of the greenhouse harmonize with that of the cabin, Lundberg built a shed-style roof—but reworked it with standing seam glass. Photograph by Olle Lundberg.

    Lundberg cabin office channel glass ; Gardenista

    Above: The result is a jewel-like glass box in the midst of the forest. Photograph by Olle Lundberg.

    Olle Lundberg cabin pool sonoma ; Gardenista

    Above: Using the cabin as a laboratory for new techniques, Lundberg installed a biological filter for the pool. The technology, developed in Europe, involves creating an artificial wetland with plants to clean the pool, thus eliminating the need for chemicals. Photograph by Alan Owings.


    Above: It's easy to imagine that Lundberg would revel in being able to design whatever he wants, free of clients' desires and demands. He doesn't see it that way, though. Architecture is always a collaboration, he says, and in this case it's one between him and his wife. Fortunately, their tastes are similar. Photograph by Mark Seelan.

    Olle Lundberg cabin Sonoma deck ; Gardenista

    Above: What's different about this project, he says, is that it gives him the "Zen experience" of building it himself. There's also the luxury of time. The next project will be a guest house, "but we're not in any rush." 

    To see cabins designed by members of the Remodelista Architect and Designer Directory, check out 10 Summer Cabins and The Ultimate Creekside Cabin, one of our favorites in northern California


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  • 12/22/14--09:00: DIY: Botanical Ice Lanterns
  • On these darkest nights of the year, it's important to add as many spots of light as possible. This week, while you're busy trimming your tree, add a little light to warm the night outside. A trio of ice lanterns will welcome guests (oh come, all ye wassailers). 

    Read on for materials and step-by-step instructions for making Botanical Ice Lanterns:

    Photography by Erin Boyle.

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    Above: Gather supplies. I used cylindrical containers, but you can get other shapes (so long as the smaller container is wide enough to hold a tea light or votive candle).

    Materials (per lantern):

    • 2 containers of different sizes, such as an 18 Oz. Weck Jar ($3.95 from Crate & Barrel) and a 6 Oz. Spice Jar (50 cents apiece from Gracious Home)
    • Electrical tape, such as 1/2 Inch Colored Electrical Tape ($4.27 per roll from Home Depot)
    • Water
    • Foraged finds ( orange or clementine slices, cedar branches, pine needles, juniper berries, cranberries, etc.)
    • Below freezing outdoor temperatures (or a freezer)
    • Flameless tealights or votives, such as Flameless Outdoor Tealights ($6 for four from Pottery Barn)

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    Above: Use electrical tape to center the smaller container inside the larger one. N.B. The water will keep the the container afloat, but you'll need the tape to keep it centered.

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    Above: After you have your center container in place, add botanical elements. I used cedar and juniper branches for my first lantern.

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    Above: Cedar and cranberries made a festive combination for a second lantern.

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    Above: For my last lantern, I started with a base of juniper berries on the bottom of the jar before adding water and my second container.

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    Above: The best part about working on a craft project surrounded by family? Last-minute ideas. My sister-in-law was munching on a clementine while I was filling these lanterns, so I decided to slice one up and make a citrusy lantern, too.

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    Above: All three lanterns, ready for freezing.

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    Above: If you have snow, or freezing temperatures, freeze your lanterns outside. A warning: check on your lanterns often. The first time I made an ice lantern, I let it freeze for about six hours and loosened it from the jar when the water was frozen, but not cloudy. The second time, I got a little bit distracted and left the lanterns to freeze for about eight hours...and ended with a Weck jar casualty.

    Stay on the safe side and check your lanterns every hour or so to make sure that they're not over-freezing. If you'd prefer to put the lanterns in the freezer and not worry about them, by all means, use plastic vessels instead, the process is the same.

    N.B. The more foraged materials you add to the glass, the more slowly the ice will freeze (the jar that broke was on the lantern with the least amount of greens).

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    Above: After they froze, I removed the tape and ran the jars under lukewarm water to loosen them. They slid right out. 

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    Above: Nestled in a bit of greens, they made a welcoming ensemble on the front stoop. 

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    Above: To preserve the life of the ice lanterns and to alleviate any worry of the greenery catching fire, I used Flameless Outdoor Tealights ($9.50 from Pottery Barn). The tealights technically aren't supposed to get wet, so if you notice the temperatures starting to drop, consider removing the lights.

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    Above: When I made my first trial ice lantern, I was concerned about the bits of greenery that floated to the surface of the water, but I ended up really liking the bits that stuck out of the top of each lantern.

    botanical ice lanterns | gardenista

    Above: I'll be making these festive lanterns all winter (they're just as pretty on a city windowsill as on a country stoop), and they take only a few minutes to put together.

    Looking for an ice-only look? Try these Frozen Ice Candle Holders that we spotted last year.

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  • 12/22/14--11:30: Field Guide: Rosemary
  • Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis: "The Brain Teaser"

    For a plant believed to boost memory, rosemary is hardy enough to be forgotten—that is, until there is a Mediterranean dinner to cook, or any occasion that involves roasted lamb, potatoes, or chicken. Otherwise, this low-maintenance herb plays well by itself, no surprise given that it earned its Latin name, “dew of the sea,” by surviving on nothing but water vapor carried on the breeze. 

    Field Guide: Rosemary ; Gardenista

    Above: See more images of Rosemary in our Gardenista Gallery.

    Spending time alone on a Mediterranean crag, rosemary has ample time for contemplation; from Middle Ages apothecaries to modern herbalists, centuries of healers have believed in the herb’s memory-promoting prowess. It was ground into a poultice and chewed—bitter!—and also used, as it is now, to flavor food.

    rosemary sprig l Gardenista

    Above: Rosemary has delicate blue flowers. Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

    Rosemary rituals: it was thrown into graves so mourners would remember the dead, and handed to newlywed couples so they would, er, remember they were married. Appropriately, Ophelia grips a sprig at the end of Hamlet, symbolizing the forgotten promise of marriage. 

    Rosemary edges a path ; Gardenista

    Above: Rosemary, a perennial in warm climates, can be trained as a low hedge.

    Cheat Sheet:

    • Rosemary transitions easily from indoors to out and grows as happily in containers as in the ground.
    • Marries well in a windowsill garden with lemon balm, parsley, and mint.
    • Tiny blue flowers summon bees to an herb garden.

    Keep It Alive:

    • Give rosemary full sun.
    • Drought resistant; water occasionally if you keep it potted indoors.
    • Plant seeds outdoors in early spring, two months before the last frost date.

    revive your cold frame with herbs | gardenista

    Above: Rosemary seedlings can be set in a cold frame in small pots (with 2.5- to 5-inch diameters). Photograph by Erin Boyle

    Shakespeare never answered our most salient question: what kind of rosemary was it between Ophelia’s chilly fingers? The Tuscan Blue, favored for its gentle flavor and small blue flowers, or the long-leafed Gorizia, ideal for drying and pestos? In winter, it would most likely be the Rosemary Arp, which perseveres in colder climes, but our guess is the creeping Rosemary Prostrate, the most aromatic variety and the most romantic, cascading over the edge of walls and the lip of hanging pots.

    Read More:

    Read More Herb Posts ; Gardenista


    Above: For more, see our archive of posts about Herbs

    Planting your spring edible garden? We have more tips for you in Field Guide: Chives and Field Guide: Lettuce.

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    There are many reasons I married my husband: for his salsa recipe, ability to make the modem thing work, and taste in books (if he likes an Alan Furst, so will I). But perhaps his greatest hidden talent is he can make a fire. Yes, I know your husband can make a fire too. But trust me, my husband is the son of a fireplace tool maker. His father owned a factory in the aptly named Pennsylvania town of Sinking Spring, and my husband knows his way around a fireplace tool set like a dentist knows her suction hose, sprayer, and molar probe.

    These days, however, my husband's fire-making skills are obsolete. One of the sad aspects of renovating an old house—at least if you live in my Northern California town—is not being allowed to keep a wood-burning fireplace because of the pollution and health risks associated with woodsmoke. So, goodbye to the romance of the hearth?

    Above: A modern fireplace in the Ten Broek Cottage by Messana O'Rourke Architects.

    After the architect told me the wood burning fireplace had to go, my first reaction was predictably libertarian: Keep your laws off my living room, City of Mill Valley! The rule seemed like one more pushy intrusion into everyday life by a megalomaniacal zoning department. (These are after all the same people who have mandated fluorescent kitchen lighting, inadvertently creating an underground railroad of gently used ceiling fixtures that make the rounds one step ahead of the inspector's visit.)

    What if Stone Age zoning inspectors had prevented cavemen from playing with fire? We'd still be eating raw meat and taking cold showers. 

    But then I started Googling. It turns out that woodsmoke is a pretty bad thing to breathe. Children can get asthma from it. In fact, dozens of studies link exposure to woodsmoke to a rise in both chronic and acute illnesses in all ages of humans. Citing smoke's chemical and particulate emissions as major sources of air pollution, many counties ban wood fires on days when air quality is poor. (If you're caught in my county with a fire on a no-burn day, the fine is $100.) 

    Above: A soulful space by the great Belgian design impresario Axel Vervoodt, roaring fire included.

    So, yes, goodbye to the grand chaos of a wood fire, and the crackling sound of it, and the little missiles of burning ember that go flying out from the center, and the lovely smoky smell. Goodbye to the Boy Scouts' Campfire Building Badge, and to roasted marshmallows, and to husbands' elaborate fire-starting rituals: the carefully arranged pile of twigs and bits of wedged newspaper that looks like a spooky devil catcher from True Detectives.

    When you're in the thick of a remodel, with a big chimney in the middle of the living room, you stare at it and wonder what to do with it. Leave the hearth sitting empty, a gaping black hole that's a reminder of yet another cherished ritual that has turned out to be bad for us? Board it up (how will Santa find us)? Or spend $3,000 to convert the fireplace to natural gas?

    Here are your choices:

    Option 1

    You make the fireplace inoperable. A lot of people do this. You close off the chimney, shut the damper, leave the fireplace sitting open, and fill the hearth with something decorative.

    For instance, there are glass fireplace logs formed by pouring molten glass into casts of real wood (for more information, see Jeff Benroth). These logs are not meant to be heated, but you can add a few strategically placed votive candles for a firelight effect. Or, you can stack a set of white porcelain logs (their lengths range from 12 to 14 inches) in a non-operational fireplace and admire their chalky purity. "We all have a fond memory of sitting around a campfire. This sculptural set brings that memory home," notes KleinReid.

    Above L: Signed and numbered cast glass fireplace logs from Jeff Benroth are 15 inches long and 4 inches in diameter. Above R: The porcelain StillLife Wood Set is $299 from KleinReid.

    Option 2

    Board it up. After you seal the chimney, lay a wall of brick inside the fireplace. Cover the brick—with plaster or a grill or a decorative cover. Then treat the mantel like one more piece of furniture in the room: hang a mirror over it and put a houseplant on the mantelpiece.


    Above: A sealed fireplace in the Brooklyn living room of architect Elizabeth Roberts (for a full house tour, consult Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home).

    Option 3

    Convert a woodburning fireplace to burn natural gas.

    Above: A seven-piece Berkley Oak Ceramic Fiber Log Set; for more information, see Monessen.

    In the end, this was the option we chose because I wanted more than a fond memory of fire; I wanted fire. We couldn't afford the $3,000 to convert the fireplace to gas, of course. And it's probably ridiculous to burn natural gas just for the sake of creating atmosphere. But what's one more cost overrun (or folly) when you're renovating? So we robbed another bank and ran a gas line from the furnace in the basement all the way up into the living room. We re-bricked the chimney. We installed a vent. We bought a set of ceramic logs. And ceramic embers. And got a set of airtight glass doors.

    The ceramic logs and embers are a lot of fun to play with, actually. You can stack the wood in different configurations and arrange the embers around the base. 

    So now we have a fire whenever we want—without ashes to sweep or soot buildup on the mantel or tiny carcinogenic particles of burned wood wafting around in the air. The flames leap and the embers glow and, on some nights, I even will allow myself the filthy indulgence of burning a little Red Cedar Incense ($7 for a box of 50 pieces from Paine's) to infuse the room with "real fire smell."

    There is one problem, though. To get the natural gas flowing, you must turn a giant scary lever located inconspicuously in the bottom shelf of a bookcase next to the fireplace. But first, you have to light a long match and place it in the fake embers. Then you run over to the bookcase to turn on the gas. If you crank the lever too far, gas rushes into the fireplace and causes a whoosh, and flames leap up as if unleashed from the depths of hell. There is always a fear one or more of the dogs will get singed. On the other hand, if you don't turn the lever far enough, the lighted match in the fireplace doesn't catch fire at all, and I worry that a slow steady seepage of invisible gas will claim me as surely as if I were Sylvia Plath.

    Luckily, my husband is very good at turning on the gas.

    Read more of Michelle's Domestic Dispatches, including The Worst Design Decision You Can Make and Five Strategies for Covering 500 Windows—for Under a Million Dollars.

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    We love this sophisticated small home from Remodelista + Gardenista Architect/Designer Directory members Alterstudio Architecture, based in Austin. Architects Tim Whitehill and Kevin Alter shed some light on the materials they used for the facade, along with owner and contractor Richard White of Adobe Modern Homes

    N.B. Take a look at the home's interior courtyard, featured in The Cult of the Courtyard: 10 Homes with Amazing Interior Light

    Here, the elements to recreate the look: 

    Above: The house shows a modern but private face in a dense neighborhood.

    Board-Formed Concrete Walls, Gardenista

    Above: Board-formed concrete walls have the industrial look of concrete and the organic look of wood. Learn more in Architectural Element: Board-Formed Concrete Walls.

    Greenheart Wood, Gardenista

    Above: The highly varied wood is called greenheart, or Brazilian teak. Image via Stair Supplies.

    Benjamin Moore Jade Garden, Gardenista

    Above: The painted blue door is a slim door used for ventilation in the family room. The house's front door is off to the right. Approximate the color with Benjamin Moore's Jade Garden.

    Flat White Stucco Minimalist House, Gardenista

    Above: White stucco at the top of the house features a slight reveal between the vertical face and underside, allowing water to drain off and avoid staining the underside. Image via Clean Slate Living with Johannes Norlander.

    Neutra House Numbers in Aluminum, Gardenista

    Above: Neutra House Numbers in aluminum are $24 each from Design Within Reach. Here, the house numbers were installed on a steel plate using pegs, and the plate was inset into the concrete.

    Blue Atlas Cedar, Gardenista

    Above: A potted Blue Atlas Cedar is perched in a gold glazed pot at the edge of the porch. Photo via Danger Garden.

    Glazed Chinese Planter in Gold, Gardenista

    Above: We found this glazed ceramic planter at Olde Good Things, but similar glazed pots can be found at nurseries or on eBay, where a Large Carver Planter is $70.

    For more looks to steal, see Steal This Look: Black and White Indoor/Outdoor Terrace and Steal This Look: The Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen

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    There are at least 50 million shades of gray. Which one will look best on your house? We asked members of our Architect/Designer Directory to reveal their favorites. Here are the 10 exterior gray paints that they most often turn to:

    Deciding between gray and white? See 10 Easy Pieces: Architects' White Exterior Paint Picks, also chosen by members of our Architect/Designer Directory. 

    Swatch photographs by Katie Newburn for Gardenista. 

    Best Outdoor Gray Exterior House Paint Colors, Gardenista

    Above: Top row, left to right: Benjamin Moore Sag Harbor Gray; ICI Grey Hearth; Dunn-Edwards Vulcan; Benjamin Moore Graphite; Benjamin Moore Bear Creek. Bottom row: Benjamin Moore Iron Mountain; Benjamin Moore Gravel Grey; Sherwin-Williams Peppercorn; Farrow & Ball Down Pipe; and Benjamin Moore Graystone.

    Best Exterior Gray House Paint Color, Dunn Edwards Vulcan, Gardenista

    Above: Los Angeles-based SIMO Design painted this house in Dunn-Edwards Vulcan, a cool blue-gray. It's the bluest of the shades in our top 10.

    Best Exterior Gray Outdoor House Paint Color, Benjamin Moore Iron Mountain, Gardenista

    Above: LA designers Nickey Kehoe Inc. had this house painted in Benjamin Moore Iron Mountain, a dark gray with a rich brown undertone. The same shade is also a favorite of Geremia Design and Klopf Architecture, both based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Photograph by Amy Neunsinger.

    Best Exterior Gray Outdoor House Paint Color, Benjamin Moore Sag Harbor Gray, Gardenista

    Above: Chatham, NY-based architect James Dixon chose Benjamin Moore's Sag Harbor Gray for this Hudson Valley farmhouse. A light green-gray, it's part of Benjamin Moore's Historic Color collection.

    Best Exterior Gray Outdoor House Paint Color, Benjamin Moore Graphite, Gardenista

    Above: Ana Williamson Architect, based in Menlo Park, CA, used Benjamin Moore Graphite on the siding of this modern house. The color is a true dark gray with just a hint of blue. For the trim, Williamson chose Benjamin Moore Gunmetal; the stucco was integrally colored to match Benjamin Moore Timber Wolf.

    Best Exterior Gray Outdoor House Paint Color, Benjamin Moore Bear Creek, Gardenista

    Above: SF Bay Area-based interior designer Kriste Michelini chose Benjamin Moore Bear Creek as her favorite gray. Rich in brown tones, it's lighter than Iron Mountain but darker than Grey Hearth. Photograph via Pinterest.

    Best Exterior Gray Outdoor House Paint Color, Farrow & Ball Down Pipe, Gardenista

    Above: Both LA-based DISC Interiors and SF-based Nicole Hollis picked Farrow & Ball Down Pipe as their top exterior gray. The popular color is a complex mix with hints of blue-green. Photograph via Farrow & Ball.

    Best Exterior Gray Outdoor House Paint Color, Benjamin Moore Gravel Gray, Gardenista

    Above: NYC-based architect Alex Scott Porter has used Benjamin Moore Gravel Gray on several projects, including this cabin on a Maine island. Gravel Gray is the darkest of the shades recommended here.

    Best Exterior Gray Outdoor House Paint Color, ICI Grey Hearth, Gardenista

    Above: LA's Kevin Oreck Architect painted this new house in ICI Grey Hearth

    Best Exterior Gray Outdoor House Paint Color, Sherwin Williams Peppercorn, Gardenista

    Above: Interior designer Laura Clayton Baker of LA-based The Uplifters Inc. used Sherwin-Williams Peppercorn on this Washington, D.C., house. The truest gray of those listed here, Peppercorn pairs well with the other shades Clayton Baker used on this exterior: Sherwin-Williams Pure White and Tricorn Black for the trim, and Benjamin Moore Vermilion in a high-gloss finish for the door.

    Best Exterior Gray Outdoor House Paint Color, Benjamin Moore Graystone, Gardenista

    Above: SF-based Klopf Architecture has used Benjamin Moore Graystone on several house exteriors; the shade is appealing in all kinds of light.

    Find lots more designer-approved outdoor paint picks for your house at Palette & Paints. Trying to get up the nerve to paint it black? Read 10 Modern Houses Gone to the Dark Side.

    This is an update of a post originally published September 16, 2013.

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  • 12/23/14--11:30: The Orchid That Owned Me
  • The orchid was a housewarming present from my grandmother. It came from a quaint flower shop down the street that is owned by a neighborhood family. This gave my orchid an advantage over those on sale in the impulse-buy section of the grocery store, whose roots are already dead while their disingenuous blossoms give the impression of life. Those poor orchids, in consumer friendly shades of purple and pink, lose their flowers in days. "The solution," an employee at the grocery told me, "is to buy a new one." At $10 a pop, business is booming.

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    Orchid care | Gardenista

    It was not only my orchid's superior provenance, but also its satiny white blossoms webbed with a network of delicate fuchsia veins—a characteristic of some Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis), as I quickly identified mine to be—that made it feel precious, an irreplaceable work of art. To imagine my orchid "swapped out," the way that my parents used to conceal the deaths of my goldfish, stung like an insult. I settled the Phalaenopsis on my dresser in a warm patch of sunlight and accepted the mission with which I had been entrusted: to keep it alive.

    Orchid care supplies | Gardenista

    Orchids are known to inspire obsessive behavior in their owners. In The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, orchid hunters track rare varieties of the flower all over the globe with frank disregard for law and human life. Meryl Streep in the film version infiltrated a ring of orchid smugglers stalking the mythic Ghost Orchid, an endangered variety prized for its intoxicating pollen. And so it was that I drank the orchid Kool-Aid. 

    Orchid care | Gardenista

    In consultation with several orchid-specific blogs and conversation forums, I've been using an organic brand of orchid food (Organics Rx Orchid Food, $9.95 from Planet Natural). This I mix with water, taking care with the proportions, and mist weekly over Her Highness.

    Orchid care | Gardenista

    Of those not already doomed in the checkout line, most orchids (I wince as I write this) drown to death. Though the orchid is native to the tropics, its roots need to be well drained so no water pools at the bottom of the orchid pot. For this reason, some orchid devotees un-pot the plants to water them in the shower. Un-potting seemed too risky to me. I err on the conservative side and water with ice cubes once a week.

    Orchid care | Gardenista

    Ice cubes melt slowly so the water has time to be fully absorbed by the roots. One cold day, I worried the ice wasn't melting at all, so I wrapped it in a fuzzy plant-sweater. It was then that I realized our relationship wasn't all about looks—it went deeper.

    Orchid care | Gardenista

    Months passed. The marbled pink-and-white petals had grown fuller than ever so that each flower was nearly the size of my hand. Their weight made them lean over voluptuously on their stakes. The leaves, which I sometimes polish, were thick and glossy enough to reflect the sunlight. 

    Orchid care | Gardenista

    With these auspicious signs telling me I was on the right track, I started to get complacent until one day, I woke up to a dead blossom, and then another, and then another, until all the blossoms on one of my two stalks had perished. The flowers on the other stalk were still smugly perfect. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I had two options: cut off the empty stalk completely, or cut halfway and hope it grows back. I chose the latter.

    Orchid care | Gardenista

    The orchid was mocking my efforts, I felt. But the worst part about owning a sullen orchid was seeing the robust orchids growing in my dentist's office, the lobby of a friend's apartment building, and at a restaurant where I ate lunch. It seemed they were following me all over New York to remind me of my depressed orchid at home. They must just replace their orchids week to week, I thought to myself with unusual vitriol. The alternative was too terrible. Does everyone else know something I don't, like an orchid conspiracy?

    Orchid care | Gardenista

    Luckily, it turns out that the plants go through life cycles, and blossoms naturally drop to make room for new buds. I didn't have a mutiny on my hands, only a stalemate. 

    Orchid care | Gardenista

    The past few weeks have brought a détente. There has been encouraging new leaf growth and signs of coming buds. Several luscious flowers are thriving on one of the stalks (except where there's a small bite...what on earth did that?). At present, it seems my orchid care experiment will succeed, but if there's anything Her Highness has taught me, it's not to get too comfortable.

    Looking for more orchid care advice? See Michelle's post How Not to Kill An Orchid.

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