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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

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

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

    Photography by Marie Viljoen for Gardenista.

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

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

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

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

    Goodbye, Brooklyn, hello, Harlem. 

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Record snowfalls covered the Harlem terrace in winter.

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

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Waiting for spring in Harlem.

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

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

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Winter daydreaming: seeds for spring.

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

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

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: The fava beans are thriving in May.

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

    Marie Viljoen Gardenista harlem terrace winter1.jpg

    Above: Pansies and chives in May.

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

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

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: A survivor: the blueberry bush.

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

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

    Above: A black raspberry bush sets fruit.

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

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

    Above: A blueberry bush flowers.

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

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

    Above: Parsley, a tough customer.

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

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

    Marie Viljoen Harlem terrace deck garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Dinner on the terrace.

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

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

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    Creative director Sarah Samuel, who blogs at Smitten Studio, recently revamped the patio at her house in LA. We're smitten by its modern bohemian vibe. If you like it too, here's how you can recreate the look:

    Smitten Studio Built-In Patio Lounge | Gardenista

    Above: Sarah and her husband made the built-in benches, using leftover scraps from their home renovation for the frames and covering them with stained redwood.  

    Patio Lounge Built by Smitten Studio | Gardenista

    Above: Then they added the furnishings, a comfortable mix of retail and vintage finds. 

    Benjamin Moore Gravel Gray paint; Gardenista

    Above: Before they started to build the seating, Sarah applied a dark gray paint to the cinderblock walls surrounding the patio. Benjamin Moore's Gravel Gray, a similar shade, is one of our favorite choices for exterior paint. See more of our color picks at Shades of Gray: Architects Pick the 10 Best Exterior Gray Paints

    Red Enamel Vintage Fireplace | Gardenista

    Above: To cut the chill in off-season evenings, Sarah found a Red Enamel 1960s Freestanding Fireplace; $950 at Surfing Cowboy. You can also refinish a salvaged mid-century fireplace; for information, see Thrive Vintage.

    West Elm Outdoor Dhurrie | Gardenista

    Above: Sarah covered the rough cement floor and tied the space together with a Tierra Outdoor Dhurrie from West Elm (currently out of stock).  For similar outdoor rugs, see Help Me Choose an Outdoor Rug.

    Bench Pillow | Gardenista  

    Above: Rectangular Outdoor Bench Cushions are $59 apiece at Home Decorators Collection, a good source for cushions in whatever size and shape you need.

    Rectangle Kilim Pillow on Etsy | Gardenista

    Above: Sarah found most of her colorful handwoven Kilim Pillows ($50-$100) at the Pillows Store on Etsy. 

    White Wire Chair | Gardenista

    Above: The white wire chairs that Sarah bought from HD Buttercup are sold out, but you'll find a similar set of Whitworth Outdoor Dining Chairs on Amazon at $427.83 for two. 

    Tulip Table with Walnut Top | Gardenista

    Above: A Tulip Table (modeled after the Eero Saarinen original) is $270 when ordered through Home Click.

    Round Wooden Slab Table Rotsen Furniture | Gardenista

    Above: To create another seating area, Sarah added a wood-slab coffee table and surrounded it with floor pillows. The Victoria Round Wood Slab Coffee Table can be made to order at Rotsen Furniture; contact them for details.

    Large Brass Bowl | Gardenista

    Above: For serving food, the Pinch Large Bowl (about 10 inches in diameter, and made of electroplated stainless steel) is $14.95 at CB2. 

    Banana Fiber Pillow from Ikea | Gardenista

    Above: The Alseda Banana-Fiber Stool can be stacked to create additional seating; $29.99 each at Ikea. 

    Sarah Samuel isn't just designing patios. Last week, we wrote about our favorite item in her creative line of modern "picnic-ware" that looks vintage; see Trend Alert: The New Classic Picnic Basket.

    We source the ingredients for another modern outdoor space at Steal This Look: A Silvery Blue Palette in Austin, TX. For indoor spaces, see Remodelista's archive of Steal This Look posts.  

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    Red is a great house color, but only the right red will do. We searched high and low for the best exterior red paint colors, only to learn that the range of "right" reds is surprisingly wide. From traditional farmhouse reds imbued with orange to pink-inflected shades for bold front doors, the right red is sophisticated and surprisingly versatile.

    Swatch photographs by Meredith Swinehart. Photography shot with the Canon EOS 70D digital SLR camera, with Dual Pixel AF technology and built-in Wi-Fi. 

    Best Exterior Outdoor Red House Paint Colors, Gardenista

    Above: Top row, left to right: Benjamin Moore Cottage Red; Benjamin Moore Million Dollar Red; Farrow & Ball Rectory Red; and Farrow & Ball Blazer. Bottom row: Benjamin Moore Caliente; Sherwin-Williams Solid Color Stain in Cape Cod Red; Benjamin Moore Heritage Red; and Cabot Solid Stains Barn Red

    Best Exterior Outdoor Red House Paint Colors, Benjamin Moore Million Dollar Red, Gardenista

    Above: The proprietor of Seattle homewares shop Watson Kennedy used Benjamin Moore Million Dollar Red on his Vashon Island, WA home. Million Dollar Red leans orange, unlike the pink reds shown here, but is significantly brighter than the farmhouse reds like Barn Red. House photo by Jane Dagmi via ColorChats.

    Best Exterior Outdoor Red House Paint Colors, Farrow & Ball Blazer, Gardenista

    Above: Painted in Farrow & Ball's vermilion Blazer, this door was a finalist in the company's Great Outdoors Competition and belongs to Sinéad Allart of France. Blazer is the lightest of all the reds in our group.

    Best Exterior Outdoor Red House Paint Colors, Farrow & Ball Rectory Red, Gardenista

    Above: Another finalist in Farrow & Ball's front doors competition, this one from Pinky Laing of the UK, is painted in the company's Rectory Red. According to Farrow & Ball, a vermilion color (like Blazer) was historically made cheaper by the addition of red lead. The lead would blacken over time, turning vermilion paint into a shade similar to Rectory Red. This shade is the pinkest of the bunch, followed by Caliente then Heritage Red

    Best Exterior Outdoor Red House Paint Colors, Sherwin Williams Woodscapes Cape Cod Red, Gardenista

    Above: Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns Architects used Sherwin-Williams Woodscapes Solid Color Exterior House Stain in Cape Cod Red on this second home and artist's studio in Indiana. This shade is the lightest of the "farmhouse" reds shown here; Barn Red is darker, followed by Cottage Red. Find more images of the project in Architect Visit: Camp Charlie by Wheeler Kearns. Photo by Tom Rossiter.

    Best Exterior Outdoor Red House Paint Colors, Cabot Stains Barn Red, Gardenista

    Above: This home from the portfolio of Portland, ME-based architects Kaplan Thompson is painted in Cabot Stains Barn Red, a true orange-toned farmhouse red. Photo by Trent Bell.

    Best Exterior Outdoor Red House Paint Colors, Benjamin Moore Cottage Red, Gardenista

    Above: This home from the blog Jay's House is painted in Benjamin Moore's Cottage Red, a brick color that is the darkest shade of our group.

    Best Exterior Outdoor Red House Paint Colors, Benjamin Moore Heritage Red, Gardenista

    Above: Designer Ken Fulk updated this San Francisco Victorian with a front door in Benjamin Moore's Heritage Red. Photo by Francesco Lagnese via House Beautiful

    Best Exterior Outdoor Red House Paint Colors, Benjamin Moore Caliente, Gardenista

    Above: LA-based P2 Design used Benjamin Moore Caliente on this Brentwood home; spotted on Delorme Designs

    Not ready for red? Browse our recommended exterior paint picks in White; GrayBlack; and Green.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    Detroit Garden Works' motto is "Where passionate gardeners come to shop." Step through the door, and you immediately understand why shoppers from as far away as Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Iowa make pilgrimages to this mecca. Founded in 1996 by landscape designer Deborah Silver, the store sells beautiful pots and planters, fountains and hardscape elements, well made tools (new, used, and antique), and special plants, from potted topiaries to giant amaryllis bulbs. We stopped by the other day to see the Christmas decorations:

    Photography by Christine Chitnis for Gardenista.

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

    Above: Trees wrapped in burlap and tied with red ribbon make a festive holiday display in front of a living ivy wall.

    Inside, different rooms have living walls and elaborate displays, and it is then that the full beauty and uniqueness of the shop hits you.

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

    Above: Oversized twinkling wreaths frame a fountain on a living wall.

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

    Above: A bit of sparkle; simple silver ornaments nestle in a bowl.

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

    Above: Rounds of twinkly lights frame the living wall and fountain, creating a sparkling vignette.

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

    Above: Every year, the shop has a silver bell made and engraved with the year.  A strand hangs on the door of the shop, and jingles as shoppers enter.

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

    Above: Garlands of all types are strewn about the shop, including this charming, simple garland of monochrome oak leaves and acorns.

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

    Above: A wall of pots and garden accessories. Detroit Garden Works does landscaping work throughout Southern Michigan, including everything from elaborate pots in the warmer months to garlands and holiday decor during the holidays.  In fact, November and December are as busy as May and June for the landscaping business.

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

    Above: Christmas bells and garland.

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

    Above: Lighted trees in the shop's courtyard surround a simple wooden bench.

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

    Above: Birch branches and evergreen swathes in the window boxes.  The shop gets its holiday decorations after all thr clients are taken care of.  The simple palette ensures that the decorations can stay throughout the winter months, without feeling too "holiday."

    Visiting the Midwest for the holidays? Stop in at another of our favorite shops, A New Leaf in Chicago.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    As someone who until very recently made my own home in a studio apartment, I have a certain fondness for tiny spaces. And when I spotted this garage-turned-apartment designed by Sarah Trotter of Hearth Studio in Melbourne, Australia, it was love at first sight.

    The apartment is my favorite kind of small space—one that uses area efficiently and manages to look bright and airy despite the small dimensions. The clawfoot tub and views of the garden aren't bad, either.

    Photographs by Lauren Bamford.

    Hearth Studio Carlton North Apartment | Gardenista

    Above: Many of the elements inside the studio apartment were repurposed or salvaged—everything including the kitchen sink. (See 10 Easy Pieces: Leather Cabinet Hardware for lookalikes to the rustic pulls shown here.)

    Hearth Studio Carlton North Apartment | Gardenista

    Above: A vestige of the apartment's former life as a garage, the concrete floor retains the utilitarian look of the former workspace. (Got garage floors on the brain? See our post Hardscaping 101: Garage Flooring.)

    Hearth Studio Carlton North Apartment | Gardenista

    Above: Simple shelving and low-profile bulkhead lighting details in the kitchen. (See 10 Easy Pieces: Outdoor Bulkhead Lighting for similar fixture options.)

    Hearth Studio Carlton North Apartment | Gardenista

    Above: A salvaged clawfoot tub takes center stage in the bathroom area (not to be outdone by the impressive Splitleaf Philodendron). A large mirror helps brighten the apartment and give a sense of expanded space.

    Hearth Studio Carlton North Apartment | Gardenista

    Above: Built onto a raised platform of salvaged wood, a simple bed. The architects took care to reposition windows to provide premium views of the neighboring gum trees, while also maintaining privacy for the homeowners.

    Hearth Studio Carlton North Apartment | Gardenista

    Above: A wide-angle shot showing a sense of scale. 

    For more outbuilding inspiration, see all of our Outbuilding of the Week posts. 

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    If America's open space movement was born and gained its early momentum in northern California—and it was, and it did—then perhaps it should not come as a surprise to find 134 acres of the world's most glorious open space at the edge of the seashore a few miles north of San Francisco.

    And yet, Slide Ranch takes your breath away. Approach from the south along the winding two lanes of Highway 1, and suddenly it's a sharp left turn and the crunch of gravel under tires as you bump down to the beach. It's a foggy morning, as usual:  

    Photography by Katie Newburn for Gardenista.

    Organic edible garden Slide Ranch Marin California l Gardenista

    Slide Ranch is a teaching farm on the site of a former 19th century family farm, and it has 8,000 visitors a year—kids mostly, on field trips or at summer camp—who come to work in the garden, collect the chickens' eggs, feed the ducks, or milk the goats. 

    It's hard to picture, but a few decades ago Slide Ranch was a dilapidated wreck and outpost for counterculture outlaws and drifters, owned by an absentee landlord with hopes of selling it to a hotel developer.

    Instead, in 1970 a well-known environmental activist name Doug Ferguson, who also helped lead the fight against a planned development that would have destroyed the hilly southern peninsula of land known as the Marin Headlands, bought Slide Ranch and saved it.

    For the full story of how the Headlands development plan got squashed, see the documentary Rebels with a Cause (featuring Doug Ferguson).

    Rustic garden gate Slide Ranch Marin California l Gardenista

    In Slide Ranch's organic garden, under the care of garden manager Joanna Letz, ornamental and edible varieties are planted together, a feature of the French intensive gardening method to maximize productivity while minimizing irrigation.

    Slide Ranch edible garden sunflower Marin California l Gardenista

    Now a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Slide Ranch is open to the public during daylight hours. Trails crisscross the property and the view of the ocean is grand.

    Slide Ranch seedlings kitchen garden Marin California l Gardenista

    Most of the buildings, including the greenhouse, are built from scraps, including bits of driftwood washed ashore on the beach. Everything is beat up, worn down, and grayed from the salt air. "This is harsh living out here," says Marika Bergsund, the ranch's executive director.

    Slide Ranch staff house Marin California l Gardenista

    Live-in staff housing: tiny cottages built of scrap and driftwood have ocean views.

    Slide Ranch duck house edible garden Marin California/ Gardenista

    The inhabitants of the Duck Coop (Above), who usually enjoy free-range privileges, are currently on lockdown because a fox has been sighted skulking about.


    Slide Ranch chicken coop Marin California l Gardenista

    Across the road from the Duck Coop, 40 chickens produce about 16 eggs a day.

    Slide Ranch chicken Marin California l Gardenista

    The chickens get their wings clipped to keep them from literally flying the coop into fox territory.

    Slide Ranch organic eggs Marin California l Gardenista

    Fresh eggs don't need refrigeration.

    Slide Ranch outdoor kitchen Marin California l Gardenista

    The outdoor kitchen (Above) has a pizza oven; campers and visitors use what's available—local eggs and the produce from the garden— to make lunch: frittatas, wraps in nasturtium leaves, rhubarb crisps, salads.

    Slide Ranch Marin California bathtub container garden l Gardenista

    Container gardening at Slide Ranch means planting in recycled vessels—file cabinet drawers, old rubber boots, wheelbarrows, an abandoned sink.

    Slide Ranch herbs grow in a bathtub Marin California l Gardenista

    Herbs in a bathtub (Above). "We want to show kids you can grow food anywhere," says Bergsund.

    Slide Ranch goat barn Marin California l Gardenista

    In the goat barn (Above) are 10 goats, 10 sheep, and five lambs. That's Amber, at the gate to say hello.

    Sheep on hillside at Slide Ranch Marin California l Gardenista

    "The weather changes here dramatically in the course of a few hours," says Bergsund. Early morning fog gives way to sunshine by lunchtime in late summer.

    Goats at Slide Ranch Marin California l Gardenista

    Synchronized chewing (Above). 

    Slide Ranch sheep and goat farm Marin California l Gardenista

    Bye, Amber.

    Garden Gate at Slide Ranch Marin California l Gardenista

    Planning a trip to Marin County, California? Wondering what to do after you arrive? See Hike of the Week: 7 Miles to Stinson Beach and Hike of the Week: Up to West Point Inn with Sadie.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    Raise your hand if you have space to sleep all your houseguests. Thought not.

    Basically, no one has enough guest rooms. But as I learned from living in New York (where for two years I operated a de facto hotel to accommodate the sleep needs of anyone I'd ever met who was averse to spending $350 a night on a room), nearly every home has space you can transform into emergency guest quarters.

    "Extra bedroom" is, after all, a loose term. It can be a synonym for "basement." Or "fold-out sofa." Or even "closet," in the case of privacy-deprived urban parents desperate to put the baby's crib somewhere. In my Upper West Side apartment, the extra bedroom was an inflatable mattress that traveled from room to room, as needed. In Northern California, where I live now, the gimlet eye of the beleagured host often fixes on the garage.

    Even the tiniest one-car garage, it turns out, can become an instant cottage (with help from Ikea). We recently spent the night in this 186-square-foot guest grottage to prove the point:  

    Photography by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista.

    Garage turned cottage grottage ; Gardenista

    Above: Two pairs of vintage French doors, unearthed at Ohmega Salvage in Berkeley, CA, run the length of one wall to let in plenty of natural light.

    In the amount of space it takes to keep a car, the guest grottage has a tiny living room, library, bathroom, and kitchenette.

    Garage turned cottage grottage ; Gardenista

    Above: As a backdrop to a vintage captain's bed, a wall of closets and cubbies is covered in Wainscot Panels ($20.47 for an 8-by-4-foot panel at Home Depot) in an homage to shiplap siding.

    Garage turned cottage grottage ; Gardenista

    Above: Narrow closets with shelves and hanging space flank the bed. Above is more hidden storage, three cubbies big enough to store suitcases (and an extra inflatable mattress). The reading light is a Reed swing-arm lamp in oil-rubbed bronze ($335) from Rejuvenation.

    Garage turned cottage grottage ; Gardenista

    Above: The view from the captain's bed. On the opposite wall, behind the miniature library, lurks a bathroom offering guests full toothbrushing capabilities. The floor is cork; glue-down Black Ripple Cork Tiles are $2.49 per square foot at iCorkfloor.

    Garage turned cottage grottage ; Gardenista

    Above: Kitchenette by Ikea. The backsplash is made of stainless Perfekt Plinth, cut to fit ($15 per 88-inch length). A stainless steel Fyndig sink ($26.98) and Edsvik chrome faucet ($49.99) are set in a beechwood Numerär countertop ($195 for a 73-inch-long slab).


    Above: The entertainment center: a full bar and the Remodelista Book ($21.68 from Amazon). Lucky guests.

    Garage turned cottage grottage ; Gardenista

    Above: Yes, that's a glimpse of the toilet, visible behind the open pocket door.

    Garage turned cottage grottage ; Gardenista

    Above: Ikea's Bråviken sink ($250) and Dalskär faucet ($69.99) in the bathroom.

    Garage turned cottage grottage ; Gardenista

    Above: Enje roller blinds from Ikea ($17.99 per 23-inch-wide panel) serendipitously fit as precisely as custom window coverings.

    Garage turned cottage grottage ; Gardenista

    Above: Beyond the grottage is a small garden.

    For more garage-to-cottage transformations, see Garage Turned Studio Apartment and on Remodelista, The Studio Apartment, Garage Edition.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    Christmas came early in 1933. When the repeal of Prohibition became official 80 years ago yesterday, bartenders at the Vanderbilt Hotel in Manhattan promptly began to serve 25-cent cocktails and Bloomingdale's announced the immediate opening of its liquor department. It seems only appropriate to celebrate the anniversary with a holiday cocktail party.

    We've rounded up seven of our favorite cocktails (each with ingredients from the garden). See below for the recipes:

    Holiday cocktails from the garden l Gardenista

    Above: A spicy Mamani Gin & Tonic sports a South American kick (read: jalapeño peppers); the recipe comes from Drunken Botanist author Amy Stewart, who makes her version with high-quality tonic water (sans high-fructose corn syrup). Photograph by Erin Boyle.

    Holiday cocktails from the garden sour cherry rickey l Gardenista

    Above: Nothing says "holiday" like a fizzy cocktail. Erin's recipe for a Sour Cherry Rickey has a secret ingredient: small-batch bitters from Brooklyn. Photograph by Erin Boyle.

    Holiday cocktail Ethicurean Apple Flip l Gardenista

    Above: The Apple Flip is "a refined descendent of the egg drinks that were a staple in America up until the middle of the 19th century," according to the Ethicurean Cookbook. "Early flips were a mixture of beer, rum, egg, and sugar, poured from container to aerate them." Photograph by Jason Ingram

    Holiday cocktails mint julep l Gardenista

    Above: A Mint Julep in a silver cup strikes a festive note. Photograph by Erin Boyle.

      Holiday cocktail raspberry sparkler ; Gardenista

    Above: Who doesn't love a pink drink? If you have a punch bowl, fill it with a big batch of Raspberry Sparklers. Photograph by Olivia Rae James.

      Holiday cocktails mulled apple cider l Gardenista

    Above: Mulled Apple Cider is a boozy, citrusy take on an old favorite. Photograph by Olivia Rae James.

    Holiday cocktails Tom Collins with lime l Gardenista

    Above: Brooklyn baker Hannah Kirshner's classic recipe for a lemony Tom Collins is the cornerstone of an instant party. Photograph courtesy of Sweets and Bitters.

    Sangria soda via Luxirare l Gardenista

    Above: What kind of wine should you use for Sangria Soda? "Anything over $10 a bottle for this and you're just being excessive," says Luxirare. Photograph via Luxirare.

    (Would you like us to send you a new recipe every Friday? Subscribe to our Gardenista Daily email.)

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    Nature has wired us to feel protective of babies, with their oversized, floppy heads. The big, round leaves of a fiddle leaf fig tree make it the houseplant equivalent of a newborn. So it was probably inevitable that the fiddle leaf fig has become the latest "it" house plant—and that I fell in love with one (and that you will too, eventually) and wanted to bring it home. But can I keep it alive?

    At the plant store, I was told to keep it in indirect light. And to let the soil in its pot dry out completely before watering it. And to be careful when I transplanted it—"don't put it into a pot that feels too big or it will get freaked out," the plant store owner advised—and to sing it lullabies at night if it had trouble falling asleep. In other words, this was a finicky plant that needs a lot of, um, special attention. Great.

    As I drove home, I frowned at the 4-foot-tall native of West African lowland rain forests, sitting beside me in the passenger seat (should I have strapped it into a car seat?). It suddenly looked bigger than it had at the plant store. And yet somehow more delicate. Had I just spent $49 on a plant that was going to shrivel up and die in a week?

    There is no way I can simulate a rain forest experience in a humidity-free Northern California stucco bungalow. But there was a glimmer of hope. Indirect light? That I can do. Outside my kitchen windows, the neighbors' shrubs loom so high and thick that only watery green light seeps through the glass. 

    I pulled into the driveway and, hoping for the best, lugged the (heavier than I remembered) plant inside to sit next to the dishwasher. It looked pretty good there. Really filled the space. And maybe it would even thrive.

    But the next morning, when I went into the kitchen, the fiddle leaf tree was missing.

    Photographs by Michelle Slatalla.

    Fiddle leaf fig tree likes filtered light in kitchen via Gardenista

    "Have you seen my fiddle leaf fig tree?" I asked my husband, who was standing where I had last seen the plant.

    "Is that what that was?" my husband asked, not looking up from his iPhone. "It was in my spot, so I moved it."

    "Your spot?" I asked.

     "It was blocking the espresso machine," he said. "Plus, this is where I like to stand when I tweet."

    He tweets a lot.

    "I don't suppose you remember where you #movedit?" I asked.

    fiddle leaf fig tree care sunny growing tips via Gardenista

    I found the fiddle leaf fig tree in the living room. It looked a little forlorn standing against a wall, but at least it was shielded from the window by a curtain. I figured it would be safe there until I had time to figure out a permanent solution.

    "Isn't it cute?" I asked my husband. "Doesn't it look vulnerable and cuddly, like a baby if a baby had big round leaves instead of big round eyes?"

    "I like puppies better than babies," my husband said. 

    fiddle leaf fig leaf closeup via Gardenista

    That afternoon at 4 pm, disaster struck. Sunlight started streaming in through the window (southern exposure).  I had to move the plant.

    A fiddle leaf fig tree is not something you want to be carrying all over the house. It is unwieldy. Plus, with a skinny trunk and those floppy leaves, it looks like it could tip over at any minute if perfect balance is not maintained.

    And really? The kitchen was the best place for it. If only my husband and the plant could share #thespot.

    fiddle leaf fig tree Ikea rolling plant stand via Gardenista

    "It can be like a buddy film," I told him. "You and your pal the plant."

    We were standing in the kitchen, my husband and my plant and I. I had gone to Ikea and purchased a rolling plant stand called the Socker Plant Stand. It cost $5.99, was made of galvanized metal, and had three rubber wheels. I demonstrated how they worked.

    fiddle leaf fig tree in kitchen via Gardenista

    "See how easy it is to move the plant out of the way when you want to tweet or vacuum?" I asked.

    "Now I have to vacuum?" he said.

    fiddle leaf fig tree in family room via Gardenista

    The next morning I found the fiddle leaf fig tree in the family room.

    "It must have rolled itself over there," he suggested.

    fiddle leaf fig tree in bathroom window via Gardenista

    The next day, it was in the bathroom. It loomed large in there, hogging all the sink space.

    "It better not use my toothbrush," my husband said. 

    fiddle leaf fig tree growing tips and care via Gardenista

    Today is the fifth day we have had the fiddle leaf fig tree. I cannot tell yet if it likes it here or thinks that living in our house in Northern California feels anything at all like living in a West African lowlands rain forest.

    But I think my husband is getting attached to the plant. When I tracked it down this morning—it was back in the living room—I noticed someone had watered it. 

    It is only a matter of time before he starts telling it a story at bedtime.

    Is your fiddle leaf fig tree ailing? See 7 Secrets to Saving a Dying Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree.

    Wondering whether a fiddle leaf fig tree is the right house plant for you? See our earlier post Consider the Fiddle Leaf Fig.

    See More Houseplants posts ; Gardenista

    See more Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees in our Photo Gallery.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published August 26, 2013.

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    There was a time—and I'm not saying I'm at all proud of this—when I used to go to Ikea for the Swedish meatballs. This was when we had toddlers, and my husband and I would strap them into the backseat of the Honda Civic to drive nearly an hour to the closest store on Long Island. 

    Ikea was a new thing then, and to Americans everything about it was cool: the maze of movie-set rooms displaying flat-pack furniture; the free babysitting in the Småland supervised play area, and of course the well-priced lunch. But in retrospect I think it must have been the eating of so many meatballs that gave the Swedes the wrong impression of us. Perhaps it established us as rubes, unsophisticates, a nation willing to consume anything.

    This has to be why Ikea doesn't send us the good stuff: we must seem like credulous children to Europeans. It's the only reason I can think of to explain why Ikea doesn't sell some of the best products in its repertoire here. The US stores stock 12,000 items. But some of the best Ikea designs—the pink birch stool, the iconic rattan pendant, the copper-legged trestle table—never make it here.

    Above: For Europeans only? Ikea's pink Frosta stool. Photograph via Ikea.

    All these years later, I still love Ikea. Make that love love Ikea. And I need a pink Frosta Stool. It has lovely birch legs, a painted seat, and a design directly influenced by the iconic Alvar Aalto Stool 60. If I lived in the UK, where it is being reissued as part of the company's new Bråkig collection, I could buy it for £8. But in the US? Forget it.

    The Europeans are getting the good stuff. Why aren't we? We do after all have quite a few shoppers here who would like to buy pink stools: nearly 318 million people live in the US, versus 63.7 million people in the UK—or, for that matter, 9.6 million in Sweden. So what's up?


    Above: Not coming to America: Ikea's Brakig trestle table. Photograph via Ikea.

    Many of us 318 million Americans wonder why Ikea is withholding our Scandi basics. When Ikea took away our Enje window blinds, blogger Daniel Kanter of Manhattan Nest wrote, "I mourn for them daily." When Ikea discontinued its birch Akurum Adel cabinets in the middle of homeowner Jan Clayton Shaw's kitchen remodel, forcing her to finish the job with Home Depot lookalikes, she worried she might not be able to sell her townhouse: "I thought about going eclectic—as in non-matching—but I'm worried it would look odd to potential buyers."

    Is Ikea denying me a pink stool because they think Americans have bad taste?   You can imagine the conversation going on in some conference room in Stockholm, where they're making decisions about who gets the pink stools and who doesn't. Are they saying, "Send Americans more meatballs, they love the pork and the beef, but let's keep the good furniture here?"

    When I phoned Ikea spokeswoman Marguerite Marston, who is based in Philadelphia, she assured me this was not the case.

    "We get probably 95 percent of what other places in the world take," she said. "Of course, there are occasionally some collections that we don't take in our US stores for a variety of reasons. We may not have enough capacity. It may be hard to believe, because our stores are so big, but in Europe the stores are even larger. Or we may not think it's going to be of interest to our customers in the US."

    Above: Ikea's Leran pendant lamp; photograph by Ivy Style.

    Not of interest? How could an adorable pink stool that costs less than $14 not be of interest to every American? And what about the beautifully proportioned Leran Pendant Lamp, which we used to be able to buy in the US before it was discontinued here? If I were one of the comparatively few shoppers living in the UK, I could buy it for £70.

    And what about the Lövbacken side table ($59.99), a reissue of a classic three-legged table that Ikea started selling in 2013 in Europe? It didn't arrive here until about ten seconds ago.

    The Lövbacken side table, like the Frosta stool, is part of a limited collection, said Ms. Marston, adding that Ikea often tests those collections in Europe first.  "If we launch a collection in Europe in January, we may launch it in the rest of the world in May or June because of production cycles," she said. "Suppliers can't possibly produce enough to supply the whole world at once."

    Above: Ikea's Maskros ceiling light; photograph via Bo-laget.

    Another example of a product in a limited collection that eventually earned a permanent spot in US stores is the Maskros Pendant, a giant dandelion puff of a ceiling fixture that costs $49.99.

    "So will we Americans get the pink stool in a few months?" I asked.

    "No," she said. "It's part of a special collection we're not taking to the US."


    "Not at this time," she said.

    "Could I go online to an Ikea store in Europe, order it there, and have it shipped internationally?" I asked, a note of desperation creeping into my voice.

    "You could probably try, but you’d have to have it air freighted and I’d hate to think what it would cost," Ms. Marston said. "It would certainly be a collector’s item when it arrived."

    Ikea, I love you. You were my first bookcases. You were my daughters' first big-girl beds. You were the stainless steel cabinet pulls that made a tiny kitchen feel sleek. And if you don't let me buy the pink stool, I'll still love you. But I will feel you don't love me back quite as much.

    (What about you? Would you buy a pink stool if it were available in the US? Is there another Ikea product you wish you could get here? Tell us about it in the comments below.)

    Read more of Michelle's weekly Domestic Dispatches, including Death to the Double Sink and her adventures in Removing Stains from a Marble Backsplash.

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    While most people recycle bottles and cans, Lisbon architect Manuel Aires Mateus salvaged a pair of old fishermen's cabins to create a rustic rental escape. The architect calls the project Cabanas no Rio (which translates to Cabins On The River). The accommodations are divided into two buildings; the kitchen and small seating area in one cabana, and the bedroom and bath in the other. Together the buildings total 678 square feet, making it a very cozy stay. Maximum occupancy: two.

    Photography by Nelson Garrido

    Above: The cabin framework was constructed offsite before being transported to their new locale: a white sand beach overlooking the Sado River in Comporta, Portugal. All of the wood used for the buildings and furniture came from two old fisherman's cabins and was left untreated to further develop a weathered look. 

    Above: The front door opens to reveal the bedroom, and then opens again to uncover the shower. 

    Above: The bed, fitted in white sheets, has a mosquito net canopy. A bulb on a cloth cord is hung as a bedside light.

    Above: The seating area, furnished in all white, overlooks the jetty. The cabins come with a kayak (and they even have Wi-Fi).

    Above: A sideboard conceals storage.

    Above: The kitchen sink is concealed beneath the counter.

    Above: Mateus conceals plenty of storage.

    Above L: The seams of each wall carefully come together in a point on the ceiling. Above R: Behind the seating area, a slab of wood opens up to reveal a tiny cooking area. 

    Above: A towel hangs on the bedroom door and the front vestibule cleverly doubles as part of the shower. Bathers can shower out in the open, or close the doors for privacy.

    Above: The rustic setup has a rainfall shower head. 

    Above: Cabanas no Rio overlook the Sado River, a nature reserve that's home to flamingos, storks, and dolphins. They rent for €200 a night for two, including breakfast and daily cleaning. For more details and to make reservations, go to Cabanas no Rio

    Below: The cabanas are located in Comporta, Portugal, an hour south of Portugal.

    Peruse our other Architect Visits for more inspiration, and don't miss 10 Shops & Restaurants Made From Shipping Containers. Have a look at Landscape Architecture on Gardenista, plus a Garden Visit to the Academy of Sciences' Living Rooftop

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    This week, we're raising a toast to the year to come at Gardenista—and revisiting the best of 2014. Here are the most popular stories of the year:

    best of 2014 Gardenista favorite stories  

    Photograph by Douglas Lyle Thompson for Gardenista. 



    Above: LA-based garden designer Naomi Sanders gives a Hancock Park grande dame from the 1920s a 21st century garden that feels timeless in this week's Before & After case study.


    outbuilding of the week  artemis russell junkaholique| gardenista

    Above: London-based jewelry designer Artemis Russell turned a tiny garden shed into her work studio. We tour it in our Outbuilding of the Week post.


    Mistletoe berries ; Gardenista

    Above: Wondering why mistletoe is welcome at holiday parties? Read our Plant of the Week post.


    WrIter's Shed by  Weston, Surman, and Deane | Gardenista

    Above: We're outfitting the perfect writer's shed in this week's Steal This Look.


    Overnight stay in a 60s Shasta camper in Nashville, Tennessee; Gardenista

    Above: Stay overnight in a vintage 1980s Shasta camper next time you're in Nashville, TN. We inspected the sleeping arrangements in this week's Airbnb Visit.    

    Over at Remodelista, see the posts everyone was talking about this year, in Greatest Hits

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    Hollywood's version of the 1920s managed to be both giddy (the talkies are coming!) and gratified, because how else could you feel about life in a palm-tree paradise? Nowhere was the contrast more apparent than in Hancock Park, built as an architecturally fanciful experiment where Tudor turrets sit next door to Connecticut clapboard. Developed as a city neighborhood in central Los Angeles, Hancock Park's Craftsman cottages and Moorish manses managed to exude an exquisite suburban leafiness.

    Fast forward a few decades. When writer Whitney Friedlander and True Blood producer Alex Woo bought a 1920s house in Hancock Park a few years ago, the boxy stucco facade had simple lines, some Art Deco details—and a very fussy garden.

    Soon after, LA-based landscape designer Naomi Sanders arrived to find an ornate backyard fountain that was hemmed in by roses, and a grid of formal parterres with "a million different plants." Her challenge: to streamline without starting from scratch, to make the garden feel both elegant and warm. 

    Sanders had a two-part plan. She designed new hardscape elements (including a concrete front path) and reduced the plant palette to three colors (green, white, and red). "I was really interested in looking at the work of Mark Rothko for inspiration, for that limited use of color for effect," Sanders said.

    The Before and After photos tell the story:

    Photography by Jennifer Roper, except where noted.


    Above: Sanders kept the existing formal parterres of dwarf English boxwood in the front courtyard but simplified the planting scheme inside the hedges. "The house is two stories, and when you look down from a window, you can really see the geometry," Sanders said.



    Above: Photograph via Naomi Sanders.

    The street view. A stucco wall separates the front courtyard from the sidewalk. The first time Sanders saw the house, the street-side garden bed had a mix of low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants including: two olive trees, rosemary, and agaves. 



    Above: Sanders kept the Mediterranean plants as well as a mature Japanese privet hedge, which serves as a backdrop, and simplified the plant palette at the base of the olive trees.


    Above: A variegated agave. The green-and-white-stripe pattern repeats elsewhere in the garden; clumps of variegated Dianella flank the front door. 

    Before (Front courtyard)


    Above: Photograph via Naomi Sanders.

    Inside the fence, a path of broken flagstone pavers led to a concrete front stoop.



    Above: To match the existing concrete stoop, "we took out the flagstone pavers and replaced them with cast concrete pavers, matching the color to the stoop, which has yellowed over time and looks like limestone," Sanders said. "It makes the hardscape feel more connected to the house." 

    The elongated rectangular pavers complement the geometric lines of the house's facade.


    Above: Sanders replaced ficus trees on either side of the entryway with star magnolia trees. "It gave them a lot more light through the windows," she said.


    Above: The white, green, and red palette is accented by black planters that flank the front door.

    The garden's front courtyard is a shady, meditational space. "I wanted them to really be able to use the space and not for it to be just a walkway," said Sanders.


    Above: A pair of Sol y Luna armless armchairs designed by Dan Johnson sit in the corner of the courtyard. Outdoor furniture and architectural lighting were selected by interior designer Sarah Shetter.


    Above: Red accents in the courtyard include Japanese maple tree leaves, pomegranate fruit, and fuchsia flowers.

    Lucerne-Hancock-Park-LA-garden-Naomi-Sanders-gardenista.jpg Above:

    Above: A pomegranate.

    Before (Backyard)


    Above: Photograph via Naomi Sanders.

    An ornate fountain was surrounded by a rose garden surrounded, in turn, by English dwarf boxwood. "We opened up the space," Sanders said. "It didn't make sense to have a blockade."



    Above: The fountain is connected by new concrete pavers to both the back patio and the rest of the backyard; the mature red bougainvillea on the pergola was an existing feature.


    Above: The pergola's solid roof was opened up to let in sunlight. Beams were replaced with Plexiglass.


    Above: Echeveria succulents in the planters have a tinge of purplish red.

    To see more of Naomi Sanders' work, see LA Confidential: A Private Courtyard Goes Luxe on a Budget.

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    If you are like me, you are probably pretty good at the parlor game of identifying certain plants: the flowers your grandmother grew in her garden, the pine cones you spray painted gold in third grade, and forsythia (if blooming). Unfortunately this is not that helpful when you come across some new plant—growing on the side of the road, or over a fence, or at the edge of a trail—that you would like to have, if only you knew how to ask for it at the local nursery.

    Now they make apps for people like us. Zillions of electronic field guides such as Leafsnap, NatureGate, and iPflanzen exist to help us identify plants on the fly. Snap a plant's photo with Google Goggles, or take a picture of a tree's leaf against a white background—and submit it instantly for analysis. Or click through a list of characteristics (leaf shape, flower color, plant's height) to make the identification.

    (See our review of Plantifer, a new plant ID app for Android and iPhone users, here.)

    To see how well the apps work, two of my daughters (Zoe and Clem) and I spent yesterday morning playing CSI: Plant Detective. After we downloaded four free plant identification apps, here's what we learned:

    See 10 Best Apps for Garden Design (tested by a real gardener).

    Photographs by Zoe Quittner, except where noted.

    Above: We walked around the neighborhood collecting specimens—leaves from trees, wild herbs, flowers, and perennial vines—to put the garden apps through their paces. Our neighbors Steven and Minna, who drove by while we were snipping leaves from a tree, rolled down the car window to shout helpfully, "Try Google Goggles." Everybody's an expert.

    autumn leaves ID plants apps l gardenista

    Above: Maple tree? That's what we thought too, initially. Our neighbor Lynn walked by while we were discussing the possibility. Lynn (who it turns out studied botany in college) offered this verdict: sweetgum. We asked Google Goggles to confirm the ID, but it couldn't help us: "No close image matches found."

    japanese maple and sweetgum leaves l Gardenista

    Above: Back home, we spread an array of similarly shaped tree leaves against a background of white paper and then submitted photos to Leafsnap, which uses visual recognition software to identify tree species from photos of their leaves. (Coincidentally, Leafsnap was developed by my friend Peter Belhumeur, a researcher at Columbia University.)

    Leafsnap correctly identified both a leaf from a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and the similar-but-different leaf of the sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua). Lynn was right.

    red maple leaves in autumn l Gardenista

    Above: Leafsnap matches a photo to images in its library of several hundred species of trees common to the Northeastern United States or Washington D.C.

    salvia and rosemary leaves l Gardenista

    Above: Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha) grows in my front garden. To test NatureGate, a gardening app that has a database of more than 700 flowering plants, we offered the app several data points about the flower (color, shape of corolla, number of petals, etc.); the leaf (shape, margin characteristics, etc.); the plant's habitat and seasonality, and its other characteristics (height, hairiness, thorniness). But none of the six results NatureGate suggested was accurate. Photograph by Clementine Quittner.

    speedwell plant in garden bed l gardenista

    Above: Long-leaved speedwell was NatureGate's best guess. Photograph by Tico via Flickr.

    iphone apps to ID plants and leaf leaves l Gardenista

    Above: Taking photos against a white background.

    rosemary sprig l Gardenista

    Above: We snipped a bit of another neighbor's creeping rosemary (thanks, Susan) to test iPflanzen's powers of recognition. We entered data points about the plant's characteristics (pinnate, evergreen, purple flower) but were not able to elicit a match from the app's database of 702 plants.

    Above: Everyone thinks Google Goggles can identify anything if you simply snap a photo and upload it. This is not true, Goggle Goggles cannot identify plants or, it turns out, pets: it suggested our dog Larry is a cat. Please don't tell him. (Google Goggles is better at identifying landmarks and famous artwork.) Photograph by Clementine Quittner.

    pink lantana via Gardenista

    Above: This is lantana, a common ground cover in my neighborhood. It's one of those plants whose name I am always forgetting. None of the garden apps helped remind me; when I uploaded this photo to Google Images, however, up popped the correct plant identification.

    vines and climbers morning glory l gardenista

    Above: I'll keep Leafsnap on my iPhone to help me identify trees. And I'll keep searching for an electronic field guide to help me identify other sorts of plants on the fly. Have you had different luck? If there's a terrific app we overlooked, please let us know in the comments below.

    Garden Tech Apps ; Gardenista

    We all sifted through the iTunes store to find the 10 Best Garden Design Apps. Wondering about Plantifier? Read our review here.



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  • 12/29/14--11:30: Field Guide: Fiddle Leaf Fig
  • Fiddle Leaf Fig, Ficus lyrata: "Fiddler Under the Roof"

    Fiddle leaf fig plants have little to do with fiddles—or figs, for that matter. Unlike their cousins in the fig, or ficus, family, fiddle leaf figs do not produce fruit. And you will not hear them playing Mendelssohn’s concerto in E minor on the violin. However, fiddle leaf fig plants speak to a refined aesthetic palate and are a testament to good taste on the part of their owners. Interior design bloggers are enamored with the fiddle leaf fig; in the background of many a stylish photo shoot, you will spot its rounded, dinner-plate leaves flopping in many directions.

    Field Guide Fiddle Leaf Fig ; Gardenista

    Above: For more images, see Fiddle Leaf Figs in our Gardenista Gallery.

    In the U.S., the fiddle leaf fig usually grows indoors, in living rooms, bedrooms, and dining rooms where filtered sunlight is available. It looks dashing in an all-white space, where it provides a focal point for visual interest. The fiddle leaf fig is equally at home in a Persian-carpeted den of antiquities as in the spare pad of an Ikea lover. With its blunt-edged, guitar-pick shaped leaves lilting at all angles, the fiddle leaf fig resembles the blue plants in a collage by Matisse, or else a wonkily off-balance Calder mobile sculpture. (Be careful: the fiddle leaf fig has been known to induce name-dropping.)

    Fiddle leaf fig on Michelle's porch; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by John Merkl for Gardenista.

    Cheat Sheet:

    • If you have humid summers, bring a fiddle leaf fig outdoors in warm weather to remind it of its native jungle climate.
    • Evergreen; hardy in growing zones 9-11.
    • Good companion to: your furniture.

    Keep It Alive:

    • When its soil feels dry, give a fiddle leaf fig tepid water and make sure it drains well.
    • Prefers bright, indirect sunlight.
    • The best time to re-pot is in the spring, when a fiddle leaf fig naturally enjoys a growth spurt.

      Fiddle leaf fig in Manhattan ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Daniel Kanter of Manhattan Nest.

    Though of course they are not actually fiddlers, fiddle leaf fig plants have an artistic temperament. They require just the right amount of filtered sunlight: not too much or the leaves will burn, and not too little, or they will shrivel up and leave you in a costly lurch, as the plants are often priced around $50. At such an exorbitant rate, your fiddle leaf fig deserves a beautiful planter—not too large though, or your plant is liable to get stage fright and die. As far as water, the fiddle leaf fig is closer to a starving artist. It is able to subsist on watering only once a week when the soil feels dry. If you can put up with the diva behavior, you'll have screen-worthy results.

    The world's most famous fiddle leaf figs? You've seen them on Pinterest; here's Where They Live.

    Read More:

    Fiddle leaf fig stories ; Gardenista

    For more, see 10 Tips for Caring for a Fiddle Leaf Fig. Looking for the right houseplant? See 250 images of our favorite Houseplants in our Gardenista Gallery. Browse the rest of our favorite plants in our Field Guide archive.

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    Ah, le jardin à la française. No need to add the word formal to that phrase, because when it comes to French gardens, formal is a given. We've all seen Versailles (in photos, if not in person), and we know that its grand sense of ceremony—all those espaliered fruit trees, symmetrical flower beds, and razor-edged paths radiating outward from fountains—reflects 17th-century taste. A king's taste, that is. Whatever Louis XIV liked in a garden, landscape architect André Le Nôtre made sure he got.

    And 400 years later? We like knot gardens, tortured topiary, and obsessively pruned boxwood as much as anybody. But when it comes to France, what interests us is its modern gardens. How do you translate such old-fashioned ideas as parterres, marble fountains, and fussily trimmed hedges into something you can live with in the 21st century?

    For the answer, we visited some of our favorite contemporary French gardens—and discovered 10 essential tips for adding a certain je ne sais quoi to your outdoor living space:

    Cecile Daladier Paris garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Ceramicist Cécile Daladier's garden in Paris has zinc window boxes and mirrors against the wall to reflect the garden and enlarge the space visually. Photograph by Natalie Weiss for Gardenista.

    1. Make outdoor features visible from indoors. If you have a chateau or two, by all means lay out formal beds best viewed from the sweeping vantage of your oversized arched windows. As for the rest of us? If you live in an apartment, install a window box at eye level to accomplish a similar goal. If you have a yard, plant a flowering tree in a spot where you'll see it every day from your favorite room.

    2. Orient your garden around architecture instead of landscape. Your house is the heart of your garden. Grow vines and climbers on trellises against a wall. Or plant a low hedge against the facade to anchor the house in the garden. But don't let shrubs grow up over the windows: You're the boss, not the bushes.

    Jardins de Palais Royal ; Gardenista

     Above: Strict rows of lime trees still line the Jardin du Palais Royal in Paris. Photograph by Alexa Hotz.

    3. Embrace symmetry. Balance is soothing. This is why an allée of lime trees lining a path at the Jardin du Palais Royal is visually pleasing rather than intimidating. In your garden, repeat shrubs and planting schemes on opposite sides to make an outdoor space feel deliberate and restful.

    Louis Benech garden ideas to steal from france ; Gardenista

    Above: French garden designer Louis Benech created a symmetrical backdrop with stripes and bookended doors. Then he softened it with naturalistic planting—irises, climbing roses, lady's mantle—to achieve a romantic look for a garden in Normandy. For more, see A Garden at the Edge of the Sea.

    4. Use geometric patterns to define spaces. The gardens at Versailles were laid out in a series of geometric shapes: squares, polygons, and circles. If you don't have 2,000 acres of your own to divide with such strict precision, you can add grids, trellises, and arbors to create structure.

    Jardin du Palais Royal Alexa Hotz ; Gardenista

    Above: Another view of the Jardin du Palais Royal in Paris. Photograph by Alexa Hotz.

    5. Impose control over nature. Add a tailored element to an otherwise messy outdoor space. A tightly clipped ball of boxwood, say, or a path that turns at a right angle will convey the deliberateness of your intentions even if you let a few plants go shaggy.

    Louis Benech ideas to steal from French gardens ; Gardenista

    Above: In Lorraine, another design by Benech: A line of Japanese cherry trees at Chateau de Pange reminds us that the wildflowers aren't out of control, after all. Photograph by Eric Sander.

    Marche aux Fleurs flower market Paris ; Gardenista

    Above: Roses allowed to riot at the flower market in Paris. Photograph by Alexa Hotz.

    6. Undercut the fussiness. The difference between 21st-century French gardens and Versailles? Modern gardeners have the confidence to relax. So let your squash plants run wild across the lawn; they'll look like necklaces against velvet.

    Steel pergola garden ideas to steal from France ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Detroit Garden Works.

    7. Add metal elements as a foil. The cold, unyielding discipline of an iron bench or pergola will make the surrounding greenery feel all the more lush. Zinc tabletops, corrugated planters, or a rusty watering can draws attention to the texture and softness of leaves and flowers.

    Topiary ideas to steal from gardens in france ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Anna Williams.

    8. Grow topiaries. It's easy to make the lollipop look feel modern with juxtaposition: Plant your fussy little rosemary tree in a mossy old pot. Then plant more at the base and let it spill over, breaching the rim of the pot.

    Espaliered fruit trees in Antwerp walled garden ; Gardenista

    Above: A row of espaliered fruit trees grows against a brick fence in an Antwerp garden. For more, see Steal This Look: A Walled Garden That Invokes the Spirit of Provence. Photograph via Archi-Verde

    9. Espalier a fruit tree. Or three. Treat fruit trees as if they were vines and train them to cover an ugly fence. They'll take up barely any space and drop far less fruit to rot on the driveway. 

    Ceramic bowl reflects sky in Cecile Daladier Paris garden ; Gardenista

    Above: A bowl of water in ceramicist Cécile Deladier's Paris garden"It's magic," says Cécile: "You don't need mirrored glass; it's too strong. The light is the only mirror you need." Photograph by Natalie Weiss for Gardenista.

    10. Reflect the sky. Versailles has its Hall of Mirrors, 240 feet long and 34 feet high. In your garden, you can create a similar effect with a fountain, pool, or bowl of water. In the right light, the surface of the water will connect the sky to the landscape and create a sense of limitless space.

    See more Garden Design stories ; Gardenista

    For more Paris gardens, see The Tuileries at Sunset, With Alice Gao. And read about the day that Alexa spent Getting Lost in the Jardin du Palais Royal in Paris.

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    Until I convince my landlord to let me to install a tiny workshop on the roof of my building in Brooklyn, I'm satisfied to ogle photographs of other people's garden work spaces and cultivate a perfect vision for my someday space. 

    Artemis Russell is the collector behind the blog and online shop Junkaholique and the designer at Rust, the London-based jewelry company she runs with her husband, Nao. Her tiny garden shed is one of the best I've seen. The endlessly talented Artemis not only designs jewelry, she also keeps busy sewing and knitting in her workshop, which she's furnished with a sewing table, chair, and shelves to store her tools and treasures. 

    The modest 4-by-6-foot wooden shed has been rebuilt three times (you can see an earlier iteration of the shed here). That's because it has moved from one rental home garden to the next, to finally land behind the house Artemis and Nao recently purchased on the Isle of Wight as a home for them and their young daughter, Pehr.

    Photography by Artemis Russell.

    outbuilding of the week | gardenista

    Above: In the new garden, Artemis and her husband, Nao, have matching sheds. See photos of Nao's shed here.

    artemis russell's tiny garden shed | gardenista  

    Above: A garden bench outside Artemis's shed, and planters waiting to be filled.

    outbuilding of the week  artemis russell junkaholique| gardenista

    Above: The shed's interior is painted a bright white, and filled with tools and equipment for Artemis's sewing and craft projects. 

    outbuilding of the week | gardenista

    Above: A shelf stocked with tools and vintage finds.

    outbuilding of the week | gardenista

    Above: Hanging from the door is a pint-sized ironing board that Artemis devised so she can give fabrics a quick press without having to traipse back to the house.

    outbuilding of the week | gardenista

    Above: A self-proclaimed neat freak, Artemis keeps cleaning supplies close at hand.

    outbuilding of the week | gardenista

    Above: Artemis at work in her shed.

    outbuilding of the week | gardenista

    Above: A selection of sewing supplies. 

    outbuilding of the week | gardenista

    Above: Artemis installed this rim lock to secure the shed when she's not inside.

    For another garden workshop we've been eying, see Outbuilding of the Week: A Backyard Writer's Shed by Weston Surman & Deane. For more from the Isle of Wight, see Pottery With a Sense of Place on Remodelista.

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    My neighbor Bill Stock has an amazing garden—30-year-old roses and towering hollyhocks grown from seed he brought from Monet's garden after a visit to Giverny. But the other night at a dinner party Bill leaned over his plate of grilled halibut, locked eyes, and confessed a terrible secret: His indoor citrus trees keep dying. "It's a mystery," he said. "Can you solve it?" Here are five strategies to help indoor citrus trees thrive:

    From Bill's description it was clear something was very, very wrong. This is Northern California, after all, where citrus trees grow like weeds. So the next morning I walked over to Bill's house to gather clues. There, I was greeted by two desperate looking potted mandarin orange trees, both two-feet tall and neither looking like it was ever going to see three. There was no denying both looked sick: their leaves were mottled with yellow spots and curled under like a witch's fingernails.

    At first glance, Bill seemed to be doing everything right—his potted dwarf mandarin orange trees live in an actual solarium, a light-filled sunroom with three walls of windows. He waters them every three days and fertilizes them regularly.

    I poked at one sickly specimen. A brittle leaf fell and fluttered to the ground at my feet. "Hold on, little guy," I urged it. "Help is coming."

    There was only one thing to do: consult a citrus-tree specialist.

    Above: A potted Meyer lemon tree. Photograph by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista.

    I reached Mario Vega, a nursery specialist at the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, while he was driving.

    "It's an emergency," I said.

    "Hang on, I'm pulling over onto the shoulder," Mr. Vega said.

    I detailed the symptoms of Bill Stock's ailing trees. "All he wants is for his trees to look as good as the ones you grow indoors at the Conservatory," I concluded.

    "Actually," Mr. Vega said, clearing his throat, "we don't grow them indoors. We grow them outdoors and then bring them in when they're show-worthy."

    The truth about indoor citrus trees, it turns out, is they really would rather be outdoors. There are several reasons why, Mr. Vega explained.

    Above: Photograph via Seventeen Doors.

    Secret No. 1: Humidity.

    "Indoors, there is a lack of humidity," said Mr. Vega. "Most indoor environments have like 10 percent humidity, whereas most plants including citrus trees that thrive in the outdoors need closer to 50 percent humidity and above."

    "So Bill needs to increase the humidity in his solarium?" I asked. "Like, with a humidifier?"

    But the answer wasn't that easy. "There are lots of ways to increase indoor humidity, but the question is, would you want to?" Mr. Vega said. "You could bring on a whole host of things you don't want to encourage in an indoor environment: mold, mildew, paint peeling," he said.

    One way to increase the humidity level without damaging an indoor environment is with a humidity tray.

    Above: A Polished Marble Humidity Tray is $128 from Terrain.

    "You know those little saucers you put under potted plants to catch the runoff water?" Mr. Vega said. "Fill a little tray with pebbles and leave the runoff water in there. As the water slowly evaporates, it will raise the humidity enough to improve conditions for the plant."

    An even better solution, though, would be for Bill to move his trees outdoors in warm weather because the air indoors gets stale. To make it easier to move large potted plants, put them on wheels with one of our favorite Rolling Plant Stands.

    Secret No. 2: Air Movement.

    "Buildings tend to be airtight, particularly newer buildings. In them, the air becomes quite stagnant," said Mr. Vega. "You have plenty of air movement outdoors, which is good for plants. So move your citrus trees outdoors when you can."

    Best careful, though, not to overdo it on the first day of spring. "A plant that has been indoors all winter is like a fair-skinned person. Too much sun exposure too fast and it will get sunburn," said Mr. Vega. "Move it to sunnier locations gradually and for shorter periods at first, as it puts out new leaves."

    If you have no outdoor space, open doors or at least a window in warm weather to improve air circulation for citrus trees.

    Above: Bill's dwarf mandarin trees had brittle, curling leaves. Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

    Secret No. 3: Plenty of Water.

    "The leaves are curling under to try to conserve moisture, to try to recapture moisture they've lost," said Mr. Vega. " A dry root causes a plant to be stressed."

    If plants get too dry, salts will accumulate in the soil (when the soil is wet, the salts are soluble and won't harm plants). So keep plants moist, but don't waterlog them or the root will rot. Allow the surface of the soil get dry, but water the plant while there is still some moisture around the root.

    Above: Yellow spots on Bill's dwarf mandarin trees. Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

    Secret No. 4: Fertilize to Replace Soil Nutrients.

    "Those yellow spots are most likely the result of chlorosis, a lack of chlorophyll," said Mr. Vega. "That plant is telling you it's very stressed and not getting the nutrients it needs.

    Feed citrus trees with a good balanced 18-18-18 fertilizer, he said. You can use that pretty much throughout the year, or else use compost," he said.

    Above: A kishu mandarin tree thrives outdoors. Photograph via White on Rice.

    Secret No. 5: Sunlight, Sunlight, Sunlight.

    Citrus trees require a minimum of eight hours a day of sunlight to thrive, and they'd really prefer 12 hours, said Mr. Vega. In Bill's solarium, the light is probably adequate (with western, northern, and southern exposures). But don't think you can get away with putting citrus trees in a location with filtered or limited light.

    "They need really strong sunlight to be induced to bloom and to have the strength to produce fruit," Mr. Vega said.

    Still not scared off?If you want to try your luck growing citrus inside, see Indoor Lemon Trees (I'll Take Two).

    Above: A Eureka lemon tree likes a pot fine, so long as it's outdoors. Photograph via White on Rice.

    It's not hopeless, of course, to try to grow citrus indoors. But choose a dwarf variety that won't be prone to outgrowing its pot and be prepared to baby your tree. Give it the conditions it needs to grow and don't try to make it bend to your will. As for all those photos you see of beautiful, thriving indoor citrus trees? I suspect they may have been grown outdoors and brought inside, briefly, when they were show-worthy.

    "Tell your friend I wish him good luck with his trees," Mr. Vega said. "And remember: more sun, more water, more nutrients."

    See More Houseplants posts ; Gardenista

    See more of Michelle's Domestic Dispatches columns and our tips for Growing Citrus Trees Indoors.

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    Mistletoe has a pagan mystique which has made it unwelcome in churches but popular at parties. Long considered an aphrodisiac (though the berries are toxic), the kissing bunch pre-dates by millennia the Victorians and their rituals.

    The appeal of bringing mistletoe indoors during the winter solstice lies in its evergreen nature. Like spruce and holly, its living greenery reminds us that spring will come. During the colder months outdoors, its parasitic growing habit gives the impression of blithe green globes decorating dark, dormant trees. The Druids and Vikings considered mistletoe to be sacred.

    Photographs by Kendra Wilson and Jim Powell, for Gardenista.

    Above: The name "mistletoe" is a Celt translation meaning "dung twig." Seeds are passed from birds and will germinate on the branches of a host tree come spring: They are very sticky.

    Above: At Burghley House near Stamford, Lincolnshire, the ancient beeches in the deer park are host to happy colonies of parasitic mistletoe. The spheres, scores of feet in the air, have a decorative effect around the imposing Elizabethan palace. Burghley House was built by William Cecil, chief adviser to Elizabeth I.

    Above: The evergreen baubles around the park in winter are complemented by hundreds of deer.

    Above: The vibrant green colonies are a far cry from the tiny bunches of mistletoe we often see indoors.

    Above: Four years pass between germination and the first berries, and each shoot puts out two new leaves a year. It is a slow business, making these Dr. Seuss-like specimens all the more impressive.

    Above: The park around Burghley is one of more than 170 designed by 18th century landscape architect Capability Brown. The ha-ha in the distance is a ditch that provides a seamless barrier between the house and the park, keeping animals and children at bay without obstructing the view.

    N.B. This is an update of a post that originally published on December 22, 2012.

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    You know that house with the beautiful garden you always walk past and admire (or, in my case, covet)? In my neighborhood, it belongs to architect Barbara Chambers, who had the future garden in mind before she ever started drawing plans for her newly built house in San Francisco's North Bay. The result: a garden that comes indoors, to every room.

    We wheedled our way in for a sneak peak at Chambers' Mill Valley garden last week before the backhoes left (a patio is still under construction). Chambers also shared her top tips for bringing the outdoors in, to every room of any home:

    Photographs by Liesa Johannssen for Gardenista.

    Barbara Chambers Architect home and garden Mill Valley ; Gardenista

    Above: Behind the front gate, the bluestone path leads to a patio and the front door, which is technically a side door. Chambers sited the house "sideways" on the lot so the windows in the main rooms would have southern exposures and the garden would enjoy full sun all day.

    "All houses should be oriented this way if possible because it gives you the best light," says Chambers. "With western exposures, you can't control the light. With east, you get light only in the morning."

    Barbara Chambers Architect home garden Mill Valley ; Gardenista  

    Above: A patio built for two sits at the edge of the entryway.

    The architecture of both the house and the garden celebrates symmetry: two lounge chairs, twin topiaries, and identical doorways at opposite ends of a room are echoes of each other. The repetition reminds visitors that the outdoor and indoor elements are connected.

    The palette of the garden is mostly green, relying on the shape, texture, and height of plants to create structure and interest. "Everything that blooms is white, except for a few little things," says Chambers. "White makes the green pop."

    Barbara Chambers Architect home and garden Mill Valley ;

    Above: The front door is a dutch door; at dinner time Chambers and husband Guy, an architect who is the other half of Chambers and Chambers, can close the bottom half to frame a view of the garden.

    Barbara Chambers Architect home and garden Mill Valley ;

    Above: Coco the poodle guards the door, commanding a doormat made from a square of artificial grass.

    Barbara Chambers Architect home and garden Mill Valley ; Gardenista

    Above: The view of the front garden, from Chambers' kitchen.

    "Every window in a house should have a view," says Chambers. 

    Barbara Chambers Kitchen window view of garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Chambers' outdoor space is designed as "gardens within gardens," she says, so that each window in the house has a view of "its own special garden." 

    Architect Barbara Chambers office ; Gardenista

    Above: Chambers says the gardens she designs for clients (as well as for herself) are inspired by the "very structured" landscapes of classic English gardens. "But then you let the plants get a little crazy within the structure you've created," she says. 

    Barbara Chambers Architect home and garden Mill Valley ;

    Above: The living room windows overlook a "lawn" of artificial grass that looks remarkably real (even when you're standing on it).

    "I like things to look perfect," says Chambers. "It's hard to control everything, especially outdoors, but I try."

    Barbara Chambers Architect home and garden Mill Valley ;

    Above: The view from the second floor: the artificial grass is DuPont Forever Lawn. For more information and pricing, see DuPont.

    White clematis vine trained on string ; Gardenista

    Above: A clematis vine is being trained on twine to frame the front door.

    If like us you are becoming more and more intrigued by the possibilities of modern artificial turf, you will enjoy our recent post Hardscaping 101: Artificial Grass.

    Barbara Chambers Architect home and garden Mill Valley ;

    Above: A simple but elegant decorative element: Chambers capped fence posts in copper. A similar 4-by-4 inch Ornamental Copper High Point Treated Post Cap is $9.68 from Lowe's.

    Barbara Chambers Architect home and garden Mill Valley ;

    Above: Rosemary trained as a hedge grows under Chambers' office window.

    Barbara Chambers Architect home and garden Mill Valley ;

    Above: Chambers' garden plan includes a backyard patio—currently under construction—and a planted backyard slope. Check back in a few weeks for a tour of the next phase of her garden.

    To see another of my favorite neighborhood gardens, see Roof Garden: Cottages in the Mill Valley Woods. Or browse our archive to see 104 other Architect Visits. On Remodelista, see our Rehab Diaries: A Loft Style Kitchen in Mill Valley.

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