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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

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    Spotted in a project by London architecture firm Gundry & Ducker, this slate facade takes a conventional material in a traditional shape and makes it look fresh by keeping the rest of the look clean and modern.

    Inspired by the hexagonal slate facades spotted on Georgian and Victorian buildings in the seaside town of Lyme Regis in West Dorset, England, the architects updated the garden facade of this house with a smattering of the same. Since first seeing this project, I've noticed the same hexagonal slate shingles on brownstone roofs around Brooklyn and I'm hopeful more neighbors will put the material to use in refreshing ways around my own neighborhood. In the meantime, here's how to recreate the look in your own backyard:

    steal this look: hexagonal slate facade | gardenista

    Above: Hexagonal slate paired with steel-framed windows and doors, a bright white brick wall, and a bluestone patio set the stage for this urban terrace. We've sleuthed options so you can replicate the look on your own, including an up-to-date take on the owners' metal garden furniture and an option for a bountiful crabapple tree of your very own. Photograph by Hufton & Crow for Gundry & Ducker.



    steal this look: slate facade | gardenista

    Above: The slates used by Gundry & Ducker for the facade are Spanish and sourced from UK slate distributor Cupa. They were cut specially to size for this project. The best option for finding similar slates in the US is to contact a local slate roofing company. Topside Roofing in Washington State has several options. To help along your research: The U.S. General Services Administration has compiled a brief on Slate Shingles with historic preservationists in mind; browse the list of U.S. slate shingle manufacturers to get started.

    steal this look: slate facade | gardenista

    Above: For the patio, the archtiects sourced gray patio pavers from UK-based Mandarin Stone. Their Mandalay Blue Riven Limestone has a riven—or cracked—texture which makes it naturally slip resistant; £25 per square meter.

    steal this look | slate house | gardenista

    Above: For everything you need to know about sourcing bluestone in the US, See Hardscaping 101: Pennsylvania Bluestone. Photograph by Ellen Jenkins.

    steal this look: slate facade | gardenista

    Above: Double glazed steel windows were chosen for their 1930s look. The architects sourced windows from Clement Windows in the UK. Sometimes critiqued for their energy inefficiency, historic-style steel windows can get a bad rap. The EB24 Range by Clement are designed to match the appearance of historic steel windows, but they're upgraded with 21st century technology.

    For US readers, Euroline offers made-to-order steel windows for a similar look. Finally, if you can get your hands on historic windows from an architectural salvage yard, you might decide to go the DIY route. For the research-obsessed, the National Parks Service has a comprehensive brief on the Repair and Thermal Upgrading of Historic Steel Windows. Photograph by Hufton & Crow for Gundry & Ducker.

    10 Best Architects' Favorite White Exterior Paints l Gardenista

    Above: On the lefthand wall, the brick wall abutting the terrace is painted in a bright white, providing a clean backdrop for the space. In Meredith's roundup of White Paint, Farrow & Ball's All White is the brightest white option and likely the best choice to replicate this look. 

    steal this look: slate facade | gardenista

    Above: The painted iron garden furniture belongs to the owner of this house. The Iron Conservatory Table is a similar option with a slightly updated profile; $1,998 from Terrain.

    steal this look: slate facade | gardenista

    Above: The matching Iron Conservatory Chair is $348 each from Terrain.

    Above: If you ask us, the crabapple tree leaning heavy with fruit over the patio table and chairs completes the look. The Malus 'Evereste' is frequently cited as the prettiest of the crabapple trees. In spring it's covered with fragrant flowers and in the summer it's ripe with edible fruit, known for use in apple butters and cider. Even better, it's incredibly disease-resistant. An 'Evereste' Crabapple Tree is $24.50 from Raintree Nursery. Photograph from Shutterstock.

    For more looks featuring steel windows, see 10 Glamorous Baths, Metal Factory Window Edition on Remodelista. To steal more brilliant looks, browse our Steal This Look archive. 

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    When Anna Campbell moved to Oakland, she had dreams of opening a floral shop that would help her reconnect customers to nature. Happily, she found a small triangle of undeveloped land under a busy freeway overpass to establish an urban garden. Then she opened a charming retail space in Old Oakland to sell the flowers she grew there.

    The triangle shape of Campbell’s garden plot provides the symbol for The FloraCultural Society. “The three ‘legs’ of our vision are to grow beautiful heritage flowers, sell them in a welcoming space, and invite people to classes and events that promote a connection between urban dwellers and flowers,” says Campbell. “Our motto is ‘Rewild Your Life—Go In For Floral Mutiny.’”

    Photographs by Liesa Johannssen.

    shopper's diary: flora cultural society | gardenista

    Above: The FloraCultural Society storefront.

    Growing up in a small farming community, Campbell loved working in her family's garden and helping her grandmother arrange flowers to place on family graves. She has a degree in landscape design and horticulture and worked for Martha Stewart and Anthropologie in New York and event planner Stanlee Gatti in San Francisco before moving to Oakland. 

    “Now I’m growing flowers in the midst of noise and traffic and selling them in the breezeway of a restored Victorian city block but I’m still doing what I’ve always done, which is sharing flowers with others,” says Campbell.

    shopper's diary: flora cultural society | gardenista

    Above: The shop has a chalkboard with a daily menu of the floral possibilities that are displayed in milk bottles. “Many people don’t know flower names, so listing them on the board helps clients feel more comfortable asking for something in the shop,” she says.

    shopper's diary: flora cultural society | gardenista

    Above: Rare fritillaria in vases, with red pinwheels nearby. Seasonal flowers like these fritillaria are grown in Campbell’s garden plot or procured from other flower vendors who emphasize heirloom and rare varieties. “Fritillaria add a wild look to bouquets, which I love.”

    shopper's diary: flora cultural society | gardenista

    Above: Campbell designed this reusable flower quiver of linen oilcloth to make carrying bouquets easy and eco-friendly. She explains, “It frees up your hands when you’re shopping for other things at a farmers' market or just out and about.”

    shopper's diary: flora cultural society | gardenista

    Above: Modified plastic bottle tops hold smaller bouquets and expand or contract to fit different bottle sizes. 

    shopper's diary: flora cultural society | gardenista

    Above: Campbell demonstrates how she uses the modified caps, which she says help to "create a hand-tied bouquet look.” 

    shopper's diary: flora cultural society | gardenista

    Above: The shop also offers floral-based products such as teas, skincare, and perfumes from Marble & Milkweed (N.B.: See Shopper's Diary: Marble & Milkweed's New York City Studio); soaps; essential oils; body lotions Etta + Billie, and flower remedies from Alexis Smart.

    shopper's diary: flora cultural society | gardenista

    Above: Campbell makes elegant linens like these lap throws of hand-loomed fabric from Oakland’s A Verb for Keeping Warm. “We look for plant-based goods that come out of the slow design movement in order to encourage customers to slow down and enjoy their own lives,” she says. The outdoor furniture is from nearby Sobu.

    shopper's diary: flora cultural society | gardenista

    Above: Fabric sleeves dress up a simple milk bottle container and can be changed along with the seasons.  

    shopper's diary: flora cultural society | gardenista

    Above: Floral arrangements are delivered by bike delivery service Pedal Express, and plans are afoot to offer weekly CSF (Community Supported Flowers) deliveries.

    shopper's diary: flora cultural society | gardenista

    Above: Daffodils in the front window. “At The FloraCultural Society we empower customers to make thoughtful choices while filling their homes with beautiful flowers,” Campbell says.

    Above: FloraCultural Society is located at 461A 9th Street, Oakland, CA 94607. For more details, visit

    Care to continue window shopping in Oakland? See The New Bookstore Model: Bookshop in Oakland, California on Remodelista.

    On the hunt for other florists? Browse our Gardenista Destinations.

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    Is your spring garden blooming yet? How about your spring fire escape? We've rounded up ten of our favorite spring gardens—in the city, in the country, and in between—from our Gardenista Gallery. Let the drooling commence.

    If you're not yet greeted by real tulips outside your window, browse the spring blooms from the Gardenista Photo Gallery—a collection of nearly 4,000 inspirational images—to help pass the time. (Because, after all, does a watched tulip ever bloom?)

    Pink Phlox in Connecticut Garden, Gardenista

    Above: In late spring, Pink phlox is in full bloom in a reader's garden in Litchfield County, Connecticut. The site of a renovated farmhouse dating from the 18th century, the garden even features a cornfield (look carefully, behind the phlox). Keep exploring the garden's nooks and crannies in A Secret Garden: Spring Comes to Connecticut. Photograph courtesy of Michael Leva. 

    Fire Escape Garden by Erin Boyle ; Gardenista

    Above: Spring in the city. A Fire Escape Garden by Erin Boyle.

    Black Tulips in Neisha Crosland's Spring Garden, Gardenista

    Above: Designer Neisha Crosland's garden is planted with deciduous herbs mixed with 'Black Parrot' tulips and 'Purple Sensation' alliums for color. The dark purple tulips appear first, and the lighter alliums second. Learn about the planting scheme from Crosland's gardener, in A Purple and Green Planting Scheme: Neisha Crosland's Spring Garden. Photograph by Christine Chang Hanway.

    66 Square Feet Marie Viljoen Brooklyn balcony ; Gardenista

    Above: On her Brooklyn balcony, cookbook author Marie Viljoen grows violets...and mint, and other volunteer herbs. See her tips in 10 Secrets for Growing an Urban Balcony Garden.

    UK Spring Flowers by Clemmie Hambro, Gardenista

    Above: Gardenista contributor Clemmie Hambro worked rotted manure into her garden's dense clay soil last autumn, to great result in spring. Read more in An English Gardener's Diary: Spring at Last. Photograph by Clemmie Hambro for Gardenista.

    Wisteria on Brooklyn front stoop Sophie Gee ; Gardenista

    Above: Wisteria greets guests on the front stoop at English professor Sophie Gee's townhouse. Photograph by Nicole Franzen.

    Container Bulb Gardening, Gardenista

    Above: Harriet Rycroft of Whichford Pottery in Warwickshire, England, gives us her hard-earned tips to planting a successful container bulb garden. "A big pot needs to look good for months," says Rycroft. "It needs good foliage as well as good flowers." Read more of Rycroft's expert tips in DIY: Potting Up a Whichford Pot. Photograph by Harriet Rycroft. 

    Sissinghurst Spring Garden in Bloom, Gardenista

    Above: Gardenista contributor Kendra Wilson introduces us to the Snake's head fritillary—a bulb with a unique checkerboard pattern and a habit of growing in vast meadows. Kendra points us in the right direction for planting our own Snake's head meadow (including a mini-meadow if you don't have the land to spare). Learn more in How to Make a Meadow of Snake's Head Fritillaries. Photograph by Kendra Wilson for Gardenista.

    Daffodils and narcissus in Michigan garden by Kettelkamp and Kettelkamp ; Gardenista

    Above: Narcissus, anyone? Spring comes to Michigan in Landscape Architect Visit: A Classic Lake Michigan Summerhouse by Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp.


    Above: It's never to late to Train a Wisteria Vine Not to Eat the House.

    Find more flowers in Landscape Architect Visit: A Classic Lake Michigan Summer House by Kettelkamp & KettelkampGarden Visit: Sarah Raven's Perch Hill; and, on Remodelista, Consider the Lilac

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    Getting out in the garden for spring cleaning and planting is tough on a gardener's knees. Garden kneeling pads to the rescue. Here's a round up of three kinds—knee pads, kneelers, and foldable kneeling benches—to spare your knees this spring: 


    Garden Kneeler of Waterproof Canvas from Terrain, Remodelista  

    Above: This Garden Kneeler is handcrafted of waterproof canvas with a rot-proof foam pad and jute handles. Adorned with a pocket to carry your weeding tool or garden gloves, it is available in green and red (to keep from loosing in the greenery); $48 at Terrain.

    Royal British Legion's canvas garden kneeling pad ; Gardenista

    Above: Covered in a lightweight, water-resistant canvas cover, Garden Kneeling Pad has a canvas handle and is £6.99 from Poppy Talk. (All proceeds go to benefit the Royal British Legion's armed forces and families.)

    Woollen Garden Kneeling Pad ; Gardenista

    Above: Both the filling and top cover of this knee pad are wool; the bottom cover is made of waterproof nylon. The cover is washable (in cold water). The Woollen Kneeling Pad is 34€ from Manufactum.

    Recycled Tube Garden Kneeling Pad, Gardenista  

    Above: Made in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from recycled inner tubes of industrial tires, the Recycled Tube Kneeling Pad is smooth and flexible. The material is slip resistant, water resistant, and abrasion resistant. It features an inch-thick foam cushion slipped inside; $25 at Uncommon Goods.

    Fiskars garden kneeler ; Gardenista  

    Above: Simple foam kneeling pads are a dime a dozen. We like the durable Fiskars Ultralight Large Kneeling Cushion made from EVA foam that won't absorb moisture and is abrasion resistant; $5.49 through Fiskars.

    Waxed cotton and leather kneeling pad ; Gardenista

    Above: A Waxed Cotton and Leather Trim Kneeler is £25 from Bradleys Tannery.

      Haws leather garden kneeler ; Gardenista

    Above: From Haws, a Leather Garden Kneeler has a waxed cotton pad for comfort; £29.99 from Amazon UK.

    Foldable Kneeling Benches

    Foldable cushioned garden kneeling bench ; Gardenista

    Above: Made of steel, a cushioned foldable kneeler can be flipped over and used as a bench; the Garden Kneeler Bench is $34.99 from Target.

    Folding gardeners kneeler bench ; Gardenista

    Above: Lightweight and portable, a folding cushioned Folding Garden Kneeler Bench is £16.49 from Southend.

    Knee Pads

    Leather gardeners' knee pads ; Gardenista

    Above: Handmade by Shropshire craftsmen for Bradleys Tannery, a pair of gardener's Leather Knee Pads in chocolate (also available in pink) is £30 from Mojo London.

    Burgon and Ball Gardening Knee Pads, Gardenista
    Above: Burgon & Ball's Gardening Knee Pads are crafted with a waterproof neoprene shell. The innards are a shock-absorbing foam core wrapped with memory foam for comfort; $11.99 (in slate as shown) at Williams Sonoma. UK-based readers can purchase the Kneelo Gardening Knee Pads from Burgon and Ball directly for £16.95 (available in six colors).

    Also consider upgrading your hand protection; see 10 Easy Pieces: Garden Gloves.

    Going to work in the garden? Shop Gardenista's Collection of Favorite Garden Tools

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    Some of us at Gardenista are guilty of being a little careless with our garden tools; we've left them out to soak in the rain, scorch in the sun, and decay in buckets of weeds. We love our tools but they're ill cared for because, frankly, making a mess is more fun than cleaning one up. 

    But over time, some of our tools have started to show signs of abuse, and we're not enthused about spending money on new ones. Dirty garden tools also can spread disease in the yard. We fight hard enough to keep our plants alive under the best of conditions—the last thing we need is to make them sick.

    Gardenista contributor Cynthia did a little research on garden tool cleaning and care and showed us how to get our tools gleaming again using basic household cleaners.

    Photography by Liesa Johannssen


    • Dishwashing detergent
    • Baking soda
    • 80-grit sandpaper, for especially rusty tools
    • Steel wool
    • Alcohol or another disinfectant (a 10-percent bleach and water solution works well, too)
    • Coconut oil
    • Paper towels
    • Optional: Canola or linseed oil, for storage


    Cleaning Hand-Held Garden Tools with Bounty Paper Towels, Gardenista

    Above: First, Cynthia rinsed the excess dirt off her tools and gave them a good soak in warm water with a touch of detergent. She then scrubbed them with baking soda and already, some of her tools were shining. Others needed more work.

    Cleaning Garden Tools with Steel Wool, Gardenista

    Above: Cynthia's rust-laden saw-toothed sickle required more than just baking soda: 80-grit sandpaper did the trick on the body of the sickle, and steel wool and baking soda worked well on the fine teeth.

    Cleaning Garden Tools with Bounty Paper Towels, Gardenista

    Above: Cynthia then rubbed the metal with alcohol, drying and disinfecting her tools at the same time.

    Cleaning Garden Tools with Bounty Paper Towels, Gardenista

    Above: Cynthia was especially careful to disinfect the blades of her pruners.

    Oiling Wood Handle of Garden Tools, Gardenista

    Above: The wood handles were dried out and embedded with dirt, so Cynthia knew she wouldn't be able to make them perfect. But she could extend their lives significantly by cleaning the handles well with steel wool, then rubbing with coconut oil to rejuvenate the wood and keep further drying at bay.

    Finished Product

    Newly Cleaned Garden Tools, Gardenista

    Above: Almost as good as new. Cynthia oiled the business ends of her tools with canola or linseed oil before storing them, as an extra precaution against rust.

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  • 03/26/14--11:30: DIY: Ode to Spring Bouquet
  • Even for the most hardy, hibernal enthusiasts among us, this winter in New England has gone on way too long. We're still awaiting the first buds, the emergence of tiny green shoots from the frozen ground. Fed up, I decided to take matters into my own hands. If Mother Nature was not going to bring spring to me, I was going out to get it myself.

    Thus I donned parka and hat, cranked the heat in the car, and headed to Winston Flowers to see what springtime offerings they had in store. A ranunculus, two lilacs, several sweetpeas, and sundry other fresh selects later, I had the makings of the quintessential vernal arrangement. I'm calling it my Ode to Spring.

    Photographs by Justine Hand.


    Above: My visit to Winston Flowers happened to coincide with St. Patrick's Day, so there were plenty of lively greens to chose among. To conjure the fresh, verdant and carefree feeling of spring, I mingled bud-green vibernum with informal white lisianthus, sweeping lilacs, and romantic ranunculus. To these I added breezy white sweetpeas and others in a playful shade of pink. 


    Above: All my flowers received a fresh cut before I placed them in cool water. To achieve the long diagonal cut that helps woody stems such as lilac and vibernum absorb more water, I used a sharp knife to shave the stem away.


    Above: Bright green viburnum, white and lime lisianthus, and white lilac form the base of my bouquet. 


    Above: I wanted my bouquet to reflect the airy, carefree abundance of spring, so after adding a lush, white ranunculus and spunky sweetpeas, I lifted the bouquet a bit to create a loose and informal structure.


    Above: To be honest, after I'd finished the bouquet, I felt it needed a little more warmth and a bit more spike to add and keep the arrangement from being too sweet. A couple of sunset pink tulips from the grocery store did the trick.


    Above: Dripping boughs reflect the romance of spring.


    Above: The ruffled effect of the soft sweetpeas and other petals conjures images of cloth caught by a spring breeze.


    Above: On my dining table, My Ode to Spring Bouquet is charming enough to see me through the rest of the cold weather. By the time it fades, perhaps spring will take its place.

    N.B.: Next step for conjuring spring in the midst of endless winter: Plant some Hardworking Hellebores That Bloom in the Snow. Or I might just drown my sorrows with an Early Spring Cocktail Party.

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    The idea of a house with a picket fence is iconically American. Sturdy, attractive, and ingeniously thrifty with evenly spaced vertical boards that allow daylight to peak through, picket fences originated as an inexpensive way for colonists to mark property boundaries.

    Over time, Hollywood helped the picket fence become a symbol of peace and security: "In my wildest dreams and juvenile yearnings, I wanted the house with the picket fence from June Allyson movies," the poet Maya Angelou said. Another reason the style has endured is practicality; the pickets keep animals in and out of yards while creating a sense of open space. Decorative pointed tops also divert rainwater away from the end grain of the wood, extending the fences' lifespans.

    Although often pigeonholed as a highly traditional choice, the picket fence's incarnations are many, ranging from Victorian to modern, tailored to rustic. Are you wondering if a picket fence is the right choice, or trying to decide which style would suit your house? Read on:

    Photographs by Ellen Jenkins, except where noted.

    Hardscaping 101: Picket Fences | Gardenista

    Above: A house with a modern picket fence (using 2-by-2-inch pieces of clear cedar) designed by Mill Valley architect Kelly Haegglund. "One of the interesting effects of this design is that it appears almost solid from certain angles then opens up as you look straight on,"  says Haegglund. The natural wood pickets blend seamlessly with the solid cedar backyard fence. 

    What is the history of the picket fence?

    Dating to pre-Revolutionary days, the first picket fences developed as sturdy, simple, and utilitarian boundaries to keep chickens in or out of gardens. Usually made of local wood, in some areas picket fences were required to mark property borders. A century later, during the Victorian era the style became more decorative to match the architecture. By the late 1800s, mass production techniques made pickets more affordable and people all over the country were able to order them from catalogs.  

    Hardscaping 101: Picket Fences | Gardenista

    Above:  A sophisticated version of the white picket fence, designed by SF-based architect Ken Linsteadt. To match the house's trim color, the fence is painted Navajo White by Benjamin Moore. For more picket-worthy whites, see 10 Easy Pieces: Architects' White Exterior Paint Picks.

    What are the different types of picket fences?

    The first thing to consider is the color: will it be natural, stained, or painted?  

    It's a good idea to make sure the color matches or complements either the facade or another visible architectural element, such as a backyard fence. Originally picket fences were usually white or whitewashed, because most colonial houses were white. With today's wide range of colors and architectural styles, however, there are many factors to consider when choosing a fence color. Staining is a good option—although the stain will gradually wear off, it's relatively easy to re-stain. The lowest maintenance option is to leave the fence natural, to weather to a gray that blends with nearby tree trunks.

    Heritage Fencing picket fence styles ; Gardenista

    Above: A sampling of profiles of picket designs, cap styles, and posts by Heritage Fencing

    Local mills can often produce almost any style to suit your project. When deciding on the size, shape, and design of the picket, you will want to pay attention to your home's roof slope.

    When deciding how far apart to space pickets, architect Haegglund says, "It's important to space the pickets close enough together so [the fence] doesn't look flimsy or insubstantial. I typically space the pickets no more than four inches on center."

    White Picket Fence by Matt Gibson ; Gardenista

    Above: The facade of a house in Australia pays homage to the Victorian cottage vernacular. Photograph via Cube Me

    A low-pitched ranch-style roof may call for a squared or blunt point. A steeper roof will look good next to a more elongated style picket. In order to avoid a "stockade" effect, architect Kahlil Bair prefers either a squared top or something at the opposite end of the spectrum, such as an elongated Victorian shape. 


    Above: If there is slope and it's steep enough, architect Kahlil Bair recommends stepping up fence sections. "The picket style is so ordered, it needs to adhere to a similar [stepped rather than slanted] order." Photograph via This Old House.

    What types of wood are used for picket fences?

    The decision on design and color will affect which type of wood you will want to use. Some types take paint better than others. 

    Hardscaping 101: Picket Fences | Gardenista

    Above: Fence of "Chatham" pickets in alternating lengths, stained green. The bottom of the pickets follow the slope, while the rails remain horizontal. 

    Clear cedar (preferably without knots) is a good choice if you wish to leave it natural. Painting is not recommended for cedar, but it can be stained or left untreated. Redwood, prized for its rot resistance, is another possibility, but its oils make it also unsuitable for painting.

    For a painted finish, you would use a soft wood, either spruce, pine, or fir. A fence of these materials will last a long time if protected with paint and primer. Keep in mind that a painted fence will need touchups every few years.

    Posts should be redwood or pressure-treated wood rated for direct ground contact. 

    How much does a picket fence cost?

    A 4-foot-high custom picket fence costs from $25 to $50 per linear foot, unpainted. Price depends on the labor costs in your area, as well as any special details, slope considerations, and site specific issues. The size of each picket also affects the cost. The smaller the picket, the more labor, for example.

    Many lumber yards carry individual pre-cut pickets in certain styles that can be attached to rails and posts. 

    To lower the cost, you have the option of purchasing pre-made sections. For instance, an 8-foot section of cedar French Gothic Spaced Picket Fence Panel is $23.97 from Home Depot. Walpole Woodworks of Maine makes all parts of a fence (as well as gates and trellises) and ships to various dealers, primarily on the East Coast (call a local dealer for pricing).

    Picket Fence Recap


    • Keeps animals in or out of yard
    • Maintains a feeling of open space
    • Relatively inexpensive compared to other fence types, such as stone
    • Can be low-maintenance if left unpainted
    • Can enhance the appearance of a house if chosen carefully 


    • Has to be maintained 
    • Danger of a style mismatch with house
    • Doesn't provide privacy

    For the quintessential picket fence paint color, see Rehab Diary: Dream Kitchen for Under $3,000 on Remodelista. Looking for more picket fence inspiration? See 10 Favorites: Summer Cottages With Picket Fences

    Are you designing an exterior or garden project? See all of our Hardscaping 101 posts.

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    On Tuesday, Erin called our attention to the beauty of the color-stained garden bed in Trend Alert: Stained Raised Beds. She noted that untreated lumber is still the gold standard for building raised garden beds, both for environmental and edible garden health. But we love color, and we love the idea of protecting the wood in your garden beds so it lasts as long as possible.

    We asked the experts for recommendations for adding color to raised garden beds, to extending the life of the beds while being sensitive to the fact that we'll be eating out of them (no toxins, please). We were reminded that naturally water-resistant wood like redwood or cedar may not need to be treated at all, though these wood species still will benefit from added protection. Second, we learned that the quality of wood treatment products varies widely; we use only stains and treatments vetted by people we trust. Here are our experts' picks:

    TimberPro Interior Wood Stabilizer, Nontoxic Stains for Raised Garden Beds, Gardenista

    Above: Berkeley, Calfornia-based Ecohome Improvement is a font of knowledge about environmentally friendly building materials. I spoke with co-owner Nina Boddeker, who suggested using a nontoxic product intended to make wood more water resistant: Internal Wood Stabilizer from the Portland, Oregon company Timber Pro Coating. The stabilizer is a clear liquid that penetrates deep into wood and hardens, but is invisible from the surface. It's free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and is specifically designed for use in sensitive outdoor environments such as edible gardens, animal shelters, and locations near water sources. This product earned a second vote of approval from Seattle Urban Farm Company, a member of our Architect/Designer Directory

    LifeTime Wood Treatment, Nontoxic Stains for Raised Garden Beds, Gardenista

    Above: Seattle Urban Farm Company co-founder Colin McCrate has had success with LifeTime Wood Treatment for extending the life of wood in garden applications. Entirely nontoxic and manufactured in Canada, LifeTime requires one application and no maintenance. LifeTime isn't ideal for adding color, however: on initial application, wood will become gray-brown depending on type and character, and over time, treated wood will take on the silvery appearance of untreated aged wood. For sourcing information, visit LifeTime.

    TimberPro UV Stains, Nontoxic Stains for Raised Garden Beds, Gardenista

    Above: Boddeker suggested using a Timber Pro Coatings stain following application of the Internal Wood Stabilizer if you want a colored finish. The stains are low-VOC, non-flammable, and are made from plant-based oils mixed with a small amount of acrylic for increased durability. Stains are available in 70 colors and a variety of formulas; see an example of the semi-transparent stain in Ebony in Palette & Paints: 8 Colorful Exterior Stains. For purchasing information, contact Timber Pro Coatings or Ecohome Improvement. Photograph (L) courtesy of Timber Pro Coatings. Photograph (R) by Meredith Swinehart.

    Harley Farms Goat Milk Paint in Gray, Nontoxic Stains for Raised Garden Beds, Gardenista

    Above: I discovered goat milk paint on my last visit to Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero, California (read From Goat to Table: Harley Farms on the California Coast for the whole story). Goat milk paint is as non-toxic as it sounds: it's biodegradable, VOC-free, even edible. Note that if you desire a precise look, this might not be the right stain for you. It has a rustic character right from the start, and will continue to develop a patina over time. Goat milk paint was also a recommendation of our friends at Star Apple Edible Gardens. It's available in nine colors, and a 4-Ounce Sample Jar is $12 from Harley Farms.

    Above: Rubio Monocoat is the environmentally friendly stain that Ecohome Improvement sells more than any other. Boddeker reports that the Belgian product is true to its name—it really requires only one coat in all applications, and it has a beautiful matte finish. Monocoat is plant-based, VOC-free, and comes in 34 colors and 14 additional mixing shades for custom combinations. A 20-ml Color Sample is $8.55 at Monocoat.

    For more design that's easy on the environment, see Eco-Friendly Paving Solutions; Tap-In: Use Water More Efficiently; and on Remodelista, 10 Easy Pieces: Eco-Friendly Paints

    Looking for the perfect shade of Black, Gray, or Green exterior paint? Browse all the posts in our Paints & Palettes archives.

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    We know that growing our own cut flowers is easy, with clear benefits: thrift, bounty, show-off value. But we don't always get around to doing it, despite the encouragement of small, friendly seed companies. Maybe we've been waiting for a beautifully photographed book with sensible advice, such as The Cut Flower Patch by Louise Curly:

    Photographs by Jason Ingram.

    Book: Cut Flower Patch; photo Jason Ingram. Gardenista

    Above: What makes a good cut flower, asks Louise? Yield, for one, and vase life. Poppies usually fail on the latter, but Louise recommends the Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule) combined here with greater quaking grass (Briza maxima) and feverfew. A good cut flower should last for at least five days. There are exceptions, like sweet peas. They are big on yield because they benefit from constant cutting, so although they don't last there are plenty more.

    Book: Cut Flower Patch; photo Jason Ingram. Gardenista

    Above: Treat cut flowers like a vegetable crop and grow them in a dedicated area. Louise Curley's cut flower patch is on her allotment. In this world, thare are no clashing colors: just rows of good stuff to choose among. Keep your cutting beds narrow, to avoid walking over them.

    Book: Cut Flower Patch; photo Jason Ingram. Gardenista

    Above: A succession of hardy annuals, half-hardy annuals, and biennials will keep you in flower throughout the growing season. From L: Night-scented stock (annual), floss flower, statice, cosmos (all half-hardy), and sweet william (biennial). Bulbs are a good addition; spring bulbs come into flower early and do not take up much space. For later bulbs, grow different varieties of the same family, such as allium, for staggered blooms.

    Book: Cut Flower Patch; photo Jason Ingram. Gardenista

    Above: The word "fillers" does not do justice to these very important foliage plants. Mimic the garden, mixing flora with plenty of greenery in the form of grasses, herbs, and yellow-green flowers. Cosmos is extra good-value because it brings its own feathery backdrop. From left: Alchemilla mollis, squirrel tail grass (Hordeum jubatum), Ammi visnaga, dill, Panicum elegans 'Frosted Explosion.'

    Book: Cut Flower Patch; photo Jason Ingram. Gardenista

    Above: Harvest. This book uncannily leads you toward the plants which you know you already want to grow. There are planting plans, each with its own manageable shopping list: for "easy beds," "advanced beds," and a "small-space bed." The latter list suggests varieties of the following: dahlia, ammi, sweet william, sweet pea, mini narcissus, scabious, cosmos, wild carrot, and stock.

    Book: Cut Flower Patch; photo Jason Ingram. Gardenista

    Above: In flower arranging, "simplicity is key," says Louise Curley. Besides holding water, a vase can be any shape you like: "Sometimes all that is needed is trimming the stems of your flowers to fit the vase and placing them in it."

    Required Reading: The Cut Flower Patch. Gardenista

    Above: The Cut Flower Patch: Grow Your Own Cut Flowers All Year Round by Louise Curley is available from Frances Lincoln for £20. For US readers, The Cut Flower Patch is available at Amazon for $21.61. Follow Louise's tweets at @wellywomanblogPhotograph by Kendra Wilson. 

    Feeling ambitious? Why not grow flowers for a very big occasion: DIY: Secrets of Growing Your Own Wedding Flowers.

    Looking for an insider seed source? See Brit Style: Flower Farming on Wheels. 

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    When you sow seed that fails, do you blame yourself? It's a little known fact that the seeds of some of our favorite plants need to be sown fresh. On tearing open your carefully chosen seed packets in spring there is a strong possibility that they haven't a hope. In the UK we are lucky to have American-born Derry Watkins of Special Plants near Bath who's something of a fresh seed enthusiast. Here are a few tips on sowing fresh:

    Seeds are available in the UK directly from Special Plants; for US gardeners, Seedaholic has an impressive list of these unusual plants.

    Photographs by Jason Ingram.

    Seeds to sow fresh, Jason Ingram photo. Gardenista

    Above: Most members of the Umbelliferae and many of the Ranunculaceae make gardeners feel bad about themselves because they don't germinate. You haven't done it wrong, but you may have been sent seed that has gone into dormancy because it's not as fresh as it should be. The seed of biennial umbels like Molopospermum peloponnesiacum will only work for six months or so after becoming ripe; a packet of 20 seeds is £2 from Special Plants. Derry Watkins of Special Plants is issuing a "last call" for her seed range. Buy two for the price of one now, as the clock is ticking.

    Molopospermum is very similar to Angelica except in the foliage. For US readers, Angelica archangelica is available from Seedaholic for $1.98 per seed packet.

    Seeds to sow fresh, Jason Ingram photo. Gardenista

    Above: The not so-humble-umbel Selinum wallichianum; a packet of 20 seeds is available for £2 from Special Plants.

    Seeds of plants which need to be sown fresh include the very popular but maddening (for reasons stated above) Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing' ($2.98 for 25 seeds from Seedaholic), Eryngium, Astrantia and Pulsatilla (all available from Seedaholic, prices vary). Also, Hellebore, Aconitum, Anemone and Actaea. The list goes on.

    Cold is imperative for the germination of these "time-limit" seeds. Sow them without further delay and put them in a cold glasshouse or cold frame for six weeks or so. If the temperatures near you are warming rather rapidly, sow them into a jar of damp vermiculite and keep them in the refrigerator. Check for signs of life and then empty the contents into a prepared tray of seed compost.

    Seeds to sow fresh, Jason Ingram photo. Gardenista

    Above: Giant fennel (Ferula communis) and friends can also be pushed into germinating at unexpected moments. Before the seed becomes papery and desiccated it can be collected, pre-ripe, and sown straight into a tray of compost in summer, keeping it damp. The seed has had no chance of contemplating dormancy at this stage and may kick into action immediately. A packet of 20 Ferula communis seeds is available for £2 from Special Plants.

    Seeds to sow fresh, Jason Ingram photo. Gardenista

    Above: Persicaria orientalis (available for £2/packet from Special Plants). More commonly known in the US as Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate, seeds for this statuesque plant are $2.50 for 25 seeds from Baker Creek.

    All of the plants here are literally covered in seeds. Imitate nature and sow them when they are ready, instead of storing the seed and forgetting about it, or buying old, dusty seed. Needs a period of cold.

    Sowing seeds fresh, Jason Ingram photo. Gardenista

    Above: A flower arranger's favorite, Smyrnium perfoliatum flowers in the UK from April. Find a friend who grows it in the next few months and keep a covetous eye on its seed development. A packet of 20 Smyrnium perfoliatum seeds is £2 from Special Plants.                                       

    Seeds to sow fresh, Jason Ingram photo. Gardenista

    Above: Bunium bulbocastaneum, £2 for 20 seeds from Special Plants.

    If US gardeners despair of finding these unusual umbels, there are very good annuals that give the same kind of effect. Ammi majus, aka Queen Anne's Lace is available from Burpee ($3.95 for 500 seeds) and Orlaya 'White Finch' is available from Johnny's Seeds for $3.95 per packet. Added good news is that the seeds of these annuals can be left longer. However: they can still be tricky to germinate. Speaking from experience, obtain a plant and leave it to seed around your garden all by itself.

    Seeds to sow fresh, Jason Ingram photo. Gardenista

    Above: Special Plants nursery near Bath, in summer. Derry Watkins sends seeds to the UK and around the world. For a list/reminder of seeds that need to be sown fresh, join the Special Plants mailing list.

    For more plants that are a bit special, see: The Source: Where to Find the Next "It" Plants.

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    Old redwood fencing takes on a new life as a thoroughly modern shed. The designer, Joseph Sandy, transforms simple materials—corrugated metal roofing, plastic sheeting, reclaimed wood and pegboard—into a utilitarian tool and garden supply shed that is anything but mundane. 

    For the designer, now with RO Rocket Design, it is all about the siding. Designed with a rain screen application, the siding allows the building to breath. If it sounds like a Gore-tex rain jacket, the principles are similar. The waterproof membrane sits on the building's substructure, behind the visible redwood siding. The siding works as a sun and rain screen, but does not have to be sealed to waterproof the structure. This allows for the siding to weather naturally without worry of cracks and to be applied with aesthetically appealing visible seams and spacing. 

    Reclaimed Redwood Garden Shed by Joseph Sandy, Gardenista

    Above: The color variation of the reclaimed redwood scraps produced an unexpected but welcome patchwork design.  

    Reclaimed Redwood Garden Shed by Joseph Sandy, Gardenista

    Above: The clerestory window is created with framing covered in polycarbonate sheeting mounted flush with the siding to create a modern feel. 

    Reclaimed Redwood Garden Shed by Joseph Sandy, Gardenista

    Above: The white pegboard-lined interior keeps the space bright and is a storage dream. 

    Reclaimed Redwood Garden Shed by Joseph Sandy, Gardenista

    Above: An instant tool rack is created with a 4-by-6 plank affixed with tool hooks that integrates into the siding design.

    Reclaimed Redwood Garden Shed by Joseph Sandy, Gardenista  

    Above: As the shed ages, the siding is developing a silver patina that the designer expects to one day match the adjacent fence.

    N.B. This post is an update of Outdoors: Studio Shed by Joseph Sandy, which originally ran on Remodelista on June 18, 2009.

    Hoping to bring a pegboard into the kitchen? See DIY: Pegboard Kitchen Organization Inspired by Julia Child on Remodelista.

    Prefer to stay outdoors? Read our other Outbuilding posts.

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    Atlanta photographer Ashley Woodson Bailey was a full-time floral designer when a car accident two years ago put her in a back brace for months. The accident changed her life dramatically. She had two young children and needed a lot of rest and physical therapy to heal. She's back on her feet now, but as her doctors had predicted, the hectic pace of the floral world would be out of the question for her. In an effort to stay connected to the flowers she loves, she started photographing them with her iPhone to create what she calls, "everlasting bouquets." 

    (N.B. For a chance to learn Ashley's tricks of the trade, consider signing up for the upcoming The Language of Flowers Workshop.)

    Photographs by Ashley Woodson Bailey.

    ashley woodson bailey | gardenista

    Above: Dream from $90.

    In pursuing her newfound passion, Ashley has mastered the art of iPhone photography, creating images that are amazingly beautiful and ethereal. I first found Ashley's work on Instagram and wanted to find out more. Lucky for me, Ashley has just launched a new business and website, selling her images online. On her website she explains: "Every image has a meaning behind it. Every stem has a story. Just like all of us." 

    ashley woodson bailey  | gardenista

    Above: Dutch Love from $90.

    Prints are offered in four different sizes and are organized by light and dark images that start at $90.00 for an 8-inch by 10-inch print. So far the 24-inch by 30-inch prints have been her best sellers.

    ashley woodson bailey | gardenista

    Above: Neon Bash from $90.

    Recently Ashley printed one of her images to be 40 inches by 60 inches and was really happy with the results. "It was all been a bit of an experiment," she explains. "I'm really pleased with how beautifully the images print." 

    ashley woodson bailey | gardenista

    Above: Regard Rest Love Bash from $90.

    Ashley has the photos printed in LA, on a high quality cotton rag paper, called Hahnemuhle that gives the photos a dreamy luxurious quality, like a painting. Each image is sent back to Ashley so she can inspect and sign it before it goes out to her customers.

    ashley woodson bailey | gardenista

    Above: Pop from $90.

    Ashley's looking forward to offering her images seasonally, each month a new set of photos will appear. So don't wait, if you like what you see now, buy it. It won't be there next month. 

    Thinking about how you might showcase one of Ashley's prints? See 10 Easy Pieces: Gallery-Style Picture Frames on Remodelista. 

    For more floral art see Art and Photography: The Flowers of Isabel Bannerman and Exploded Flowers by Qi Wei Fong.


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    Pollinate, in the sun-drunk Fruitvale district of Oakland, is a practical place, a farm store for the urban dweller. 

    For city gardeners, the place is a godsend. At Pollinate you can get anything from bee smokers to fruit pickers—everything you need to set up your own personal farmlet. The co-owners, with 50 years of gardening and animal experience between them, can walk you through the technical intricacies of homesteading. But the thing that cheers one the most about Pollinate is the chicks for sale. 

    Photographs by Liesa Johannssen for Gardenista.

    Shopper's Diary: Pollinate in Oakland | Gardenista

    Above: A Rhode Island Red (L) and a Golden Sex Link (R). Most farm and garden stores don’t sell chicks—a distinguishing characteristic of Pollinate. A smattering of high-pitched peeps is the first thing you hear when you open the door. Rare breeds and prolific egg layers can both be found here.

    Shopper's Diary: Pollinate | Gardenista

    Above: Pollinate keeps chickens in its nursery and demonstration garden too. Here, a spangled Russian orloff gets a bird’s-eye view in the orchard, where Pollinate grows cherries, apricots, peaches, lemons, and avocados.

    Shopper's Diary: Pollinate in Oakland | Gardenista

    Above: A low wall, made of wire mesh, reclaimed wood, and fresh garden trimmings helps keep the chickens out of the store and doubles as a passive composter. As time goes on, the trimmings wilt and compact, making room for new additions. 

    Shopper's Diary: Pollinate in Oakland | Gardenista

    Above: The fertilizer bar allows customers to create their own blend of premium-grade fertilizer in small amounts suitable for city-scale farms and gardens. 

    Shopper's Diary: Pollinate in Oakland | Gardenista

    Above: Co-owner and master gardener Birgitt Evans propagates vegetable starts in the nursery.

    Shopper's Diary: Pollinate in Oakland | Gardenista

    Above: Birgitt handpicks functional, premium-quality tools, including Felco grafting knives, Japanese hori-horis, and copper garden markers. Bounty, after it's grown and harvested, needs to be stored for long keeping. The store stocks everything you need to ferment your own kraut, culture your own yogurt, and can your own tomatoes.

    Shopper's Diary: Pollinate | Gardenista

    Above: Trustworthy beekeeping supplies and its spoils: bee hats, bee frames, smokers, gloves, and hyper-local honey.

    Shopper's Diary: Pollinate in Oakland | Gardenista

    Above: The Pollinate storefront in Oakland.

    Above: Pollinate Farm & Garden is located at 2727 Fruitvale Avenue, Oakland, California 94601. For more information, head to the website:

    For more from Oakland see Shopper's Diary: The FloraCultural Society in SF's Easy Bay

    In a farmy state of mind? See Farm-to-Table Textiles from Voices of Industry on Remodelista.

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    The weather isn't exactly cooperating with the season in all corners of this country, but we're forging ahead and celebrating spring anyway. And while we're eager to have the chance to get our hands dirty in the spring garden, over on Remodelista the editors have been whipped into a spring cleaning frenzy. Trending this week, stories that showcase bright whites, cool blues, and simple solutions for springtime organization: 

    living beautifully | gardenista

    Above: Christine gives a sneak peek into Christina Strutt's new book, Living Life Beautifully. We've hardly made it past the front door—too busy admiring these entryway plants and navy wall of garden hats.

    beautiful clothes hangers | gardenista

    Above: Julie's got Michelle thinking that her pursuit of a pared down wardrobe might be helped by an investment in a set of Beautiful Clothes Hangers. And perhaps a Freestanding Wooden Rack chosen by Leigh.

    ace hotel roof lounge | gardenista

    Above: For a breath of fresh air outside of the house, Margot takes us on a tour of the new Rooftop Lounge at the Los Angeles Ace Hotel. 

    amanda pays utility room | gardenista

    Above: We think a Utility Room this pretty could inspire a bout of spring cleaning in just about anyone.

    10 ways to use vinegar | gardenista

    Above: Sarah's identified 10 Ways to Use Vinegar in the Home. We've taken notes. 

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    Not to gloat. On the West Coast we're in full spring swing. But we empathize with some of the rest of you who are still surreptitiously peeping out the window waiting for its arrival. Meanwhile, we've rounded up a few ways for you to live vicariously.

    This week to celebrate spring, Justine arranged an ode to the season, Janet suggested ten ways to be nice to your knees, and we finally got around to cleaning those forgotten garden tools

    current obsessions | gardenista

    Faceted Garden | Gardenista

    Planting a lily | Gardenista

    • Above: Lilies! But first, into the soil they go. Photograph by Alamy via The Telegraph.
    • No garden gardening. 

    Heirloom Corn | Gardenista

    Green Roofs | Gardenista

    For more things we love check the The Plant Hunter, one of our favorite garden and decor blogs. Need a comprehensive guide to all things plants and flowers? See The Plant Encyclopedia. (Need a quirkier guide? Check out our brand new Field Guide.)

    Go to Spring Forward to catch up on our recent posts and take a look at the week on Remodelista here

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    Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" may be an icon of American poetry, but it was written about a friend in England who was plagued by indecision. The path of Frost's days of walking and talking in Gloucestershire is easy to trace today, in yellow woods of wild daffodils.

    Photographs by Kendra Wilson.

    Wild daffodils, Dymock Woods, Glos. Gardenista

    "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood," Frost wrote in 1916. Referring to his spell in Gloucesterhire when he lived among English poets and was becoming a better poet himself, there is no doubt which yellow wood he is referring to: Dymock. In late March, the hedgerows and woodland in these parts are still carpeted with Narcissus pseudonarcissus.

    Wild daffodils, Dymock Woods, Glos. Gardenista

    The wild daffodils in the valleys around May Hill in Gloucestershire are smaller than the garden varieties, no higher than a hand's length. They thrive in damp, undisturbed woodland, and they are left in relative peace in pockets of preserved land with names like Betty Daw's Wood. The poets walked for hours around here—Robert Frost and his close friend Edward Thomas in particular—leaving their families and cramped quarters way behind.

    Wild narcissus is not only under threat from forestry and farming but from the domesticated daffodil. When larger, cultivated varieties are grown near the wild colonies, the pure species strain is lost.

    Wild daffodils, Dymock Woods, Glos. Gardenista

    Though Americans have their claim on him, Robert Frost is a central figure with the English group known as the Dymock Poets. None of the poets, who descended on and around the Old Nail Shop in the parish of Dymock in western Gloucestershire, came from the local area. They were tolerated by locals however, and their writings were closely intertwined with the landscape. This period of camaraderie and inspiration was brief. One of the regulars, Rupert Brooke, was killed almost immediately on enlisting for battle in 1914.

    Wild daffoldils of Dymock, Glos. Gardenista

    Robert Frost's involvement with this group was very good for British poetry. Frost formed an intense friendship with prose writer Edward Thomas over the seasons of spring and summer, 1913-14. It took the American energy of Frost to turn the angst and self-doubt of Thomas into something more fruitful. Edward Thomas, who is remembered in Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey, began to write poetry because of the friendship and encouragement of Robert Frost, having been a paid poetry critic for years.

    Wild daffodil meadow, Gloucestershire. Gardenista

    Frost and family returned to the States after war was declared, and Edward Thomas had agreed to join them, in theory. His plans were hampered by his "Shall I-Shan't I" way of thinking.

    Wild daffoldils of Dymock, Glos. Gardenista

    Robert Frost said that he wrote "The Road Not Taken" about a friend who, "whichever road he took he would be sorry he didn't go the other." It was written about Edward Thomas.

    The poem's gently mocking tone, in which it is clear that neither path is necessarily better, so riled Thomas that he rushed off to enlist and joined the Artists Rifles regiment within days.

    Wild daffodils of Dymock, Glos. Gardenista

    Robert Frost had written: "The best way out is always through." Edward Thomas told Frost that he had made the decision finally "to go through." One of our best-loved pastoral poets, Edward Thomas only began writing poetry in 1914 and by the end of the war he was dead.

    May Hil, Gloucestershire. Gardenista

    The summit of May Hill, crowned with Corsican pines. It is the physical focal point of the area and an imaginative one, inspiring reams of verse both good and bad.

    For a different kind of narcissus experience, find out about the World's Best Narcissi from the Scilly Isles. In the mood for more introspection? Recline on The Poet's Sofa at Remodelista.

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    Warm colors, cool water, chaotic patterns, symmetry—and pink as the ultimate neutral color. Jawaharlal Nehru said India is a bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads. We'll be spending this week exploring how contradictions enhance the gardens and outdoor spaces of India. Here's a sneak peek at what's ahead:

    Table of Contents: India Song ; Gardenista


      Co-housing for elephants and their humans in India ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Carlos Chen via RMA Architects.

    In this week's Architect Visit, Meredith visits a unique co-housing project where indoor and outdoor spaces blur, and where elephants and their humans live together in harmony.


    Steal This Look India fragrant balcony ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Rajee Sood.

    We deconstruct the elements of a fragrant balcony garden at the Palacio de Deao in Goa, India; create your own versions with tips from this week's Steal This Look.


    Bronze Egg Planters Detroit Garden Works ; Gardenista

    Above: Janet's sleuthing. For this week's 10 Easy Pieces, she's found a collection of gorgeous bronze planters.


    Chopped blue limestone pavers ; Hardscaping 101 / Gardenista

    Above: Ellen goes deep on limestone terraces in this week's Hardscaping 101, giving us an exclusive look at the pros and cons of installing this beautiful sedimentary rock in an outdoor project. Here's the skinny on cost, durability, colors, patterns, and cuts.


    Cocoon tree outbuilding ; Gardenista

    Above: Our Outbuilding of the Week is a cocoon that sleeps one. Climb into it with Erin, as she explains how you can get your own. Photograph via Cocoon Tree.

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    At the foot of the 16th-century Amber Palace near Jaipur, India, is hathi gaon, a village designed for 100 elephants and their caretakers. Though the concept sounds sweet, it—and its larger context—is serious business.

    Elephants have long been revered in India, but the job of an elephant caretaker—called a mahout—is low-paying and dying out. Animal-rights groups have raised concerns about elephants held in captivity, and such elephants sometimes become sick from lack of water and proper sanitation. Elephant-tending is a complicated tradition, but mahouts (and their families and elephants) still need access to clean water and stable housing.

    Near Jaipur, the local government took steps to improve the situation and hired RMA Architects, based in Mumbai and Brookline, Massachusetts (founder Rahul Mehrotra is a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design) to design a low-income housing project for the animals and their people. The architects first needed to prepare the available landscape, a former sand quarry, for habitation. They created artificial pools to harvest rain runoff, and oversaw an extensive planting of local trees for shade and soil stability.

    Elephant in Stone Stall with Bright Colored Paint in India, Gardenista

    Above: The housing units—for both elephants and humans—are clustered around courtyards that function as shared community spaces. Photograph by Carlos Chen

    Stone Wall Elephant Housing Project in India, Gardenista

    Above: The elephants and their caretakers are always within sight of each other, but the elephants enter and exit their units away from the shared courtyard spaces; that way, kids can play and families can cook without being unnecessarily close. Photograph by Carlos Chen

    Elephant Housing Project in India with Stone Stalls by RMA Architects, Gardenista

    Above: Open volumes meet the desert climate's demand for natural ventilation and passive cooling. Photograph by Charles Garcia.

    Elephant in Stall in Elephant Housing Project in India by RMA Architects, Gardenista

    Above: The elephants are used for religious ceremonies and tourism: they carry tourists to local sights such as Amber Palace, and grooms ride atop them in wedding processions. The elephants are often painted with bright pigment for ceremonies and festivals, sometimes covered from head to toe. Photograph by Rajesh Vora.  

    Indian Elephant In Elephant Housing Project by RMA Architects, Gardenista

    Above: The mahouts are not the owners of their elephants, so most of the money they earn with their animals must be handed over to the owners. Photograph courtesy of RMA Architects. 

    Elephant Housing Project on Water in India, Gardenista

    Above: The goverment-funded project dedicated few resources to actual architectural design, so the habitats are structurally simple with minimal finishes. Units are made of local stone with corrugated metal roofs, atop which elephant food is meant to be stored. Photograph courtesy of RMA Architects. 

    Elephants Being Bathed in India, Gardenista

    Above: Water is critical for sustaining life in the village, but also allows for bathing the elephants—important to the elephant's health and the bonding between animal and caretaker. Photograph by Rajesh Vora.  

    Elephant Getting a Bath in India, Gardenista

    Above: The mahouts bathe the elephants at the end of every day. Prior to the hathi gaon development, lack of water and proper sanitation caused poor health in some of the animals. Photograph by Rajesh Vora.

    Development of Elephant Housing Project in India by RMA Architects, Gardenista

    Above: The units house all of the city's elephants and their keepers and families. There is enough water to meet the needs of the community twice over, in case of years of drought. Photograph by Rajesh Vora.

    Above: An example of the community floor plan. Image courtesy of RMA Architects.

    Before and After Land Development of Elephant Housing Project in India, Gardenista

    Above: At top, the land shown in March 2007, razed after years of use as a sand quarry. At bottom, the same place in September 2010. Photograph courtesy of RMA Architects.

    Elephant on Trail in India, Elephant Housing Project by RMA Architects, Gardenista

    Above: Animal rights groups have raised concerns about elephants in captivity, and local governments are taking steps to improve the lives of the animals. Mahouts now use wooden sticks to control the elephants, as the sharp hook of the traditional tool has been banned. Photograph courtesy of RMA Architects.

    Find more desert landscapes in A Garden of Eden in the DesertHaute Bohemia: Korakia Pensione in the California Desert; and on Remodelista, Mojave Sands Motel in Joshua Tree.

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  • 03/31/14--09:00: DIY: Rose Petal Honey
  • On my last day in India, I had my first taste of rose petal honey, swirled into the yogurt I ate for breakfast as I sat on a balcony watching the Taj Mahal shimmer through a haze of humidity. Back home, I couldn't forget the taste—sensual, sublime, exotic, and familiar all at once, like India. Here's my recipe:

    Photography by Marla Aufmuth.

    Above: Virtually all roses are safe to eat; just make sure they're organically grown (pesticide free). From a friend's rose garden, I picked a variety, washed and dried them, then placed petals from about six roses in a quart-size canning jar. A half-pound bag of organic Red Rose Petals is $15.95, available seasonally, from Bulk Herb Store.

    I poured 1.5 pounds of local honey over the petals.

    Above: You can experiment; vary the proportion of petals to honey, depending on how strong you want the infusion to taste.

    Above: I allowed the honey to steep for two weeks in a cupboard, turning the mixture every five days (as the petals tended to float to the top). For jars, see 5 Favorites: Canning Jars.

    Next, I strained out the petals in a colander, mashing the roses with a wooden spoon to wring out more honey.

    Above: I poured the honey back into the jar; I use it on yogurt and scones, or as a condiment for cheese plates. The flavor reminds me of my first taste on a morning that happened to be Lord Krishna's birthday, while pilgrims in saffron and magenta saris were heading into a nearby temple to sing and chant. A flock of green parrots flew by, riding on their song.

    For more about edible roses, see A Riot in Berkeley.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published May 10, 2013.

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  • 03/31/14--11:30: Field Guide: Tulsi Basil
  • Tulsi Basil, Ocimum Tenuiflorum: "Holy Basil"

    Cultivation of this wild-growing herb began in India. According to Indian legend and religious teaching, tulsi basil was bestowed on humanity as an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Tulsi. Thousands of years later, many cultures use this exalted plant in medicine, religious practices, and cuisine. In India, people grow tulsi basil in their family homes and near temple doors to invoke focused devotion and protection.

    Holy Basil Field Guide ; Gardenista  

    Above: Photographs by (Top L) Resh; (Top Center) Liane Tyrrel; (Top R) Raja Qaiser; (Bottom L) Aditya Singhvi; (Bottom Center) Thangaraj Kumaravel, and (Bottom R) Hemam Bishwajeet.

    There are three main varieties of tulsi basil: vana, rama, and krishna. Each has slightly different coloring and concentrations of beneficial nutrients, so choose according to your climate and expected use.

      Holy Basil by Hemam Bishwajeet ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Hemam Bishwajeet.

    All manner of tiny flying creatures adore the small, purple flowers of the tulsi plant. Its sweet aroma (reminiscent of anise) lingers in the yard or windowsill. 

    Cheat Sheet:

    • This perennial herb will grow in zones 6-10.
    • Add elegance to borders and backgrounds with tulsi basil's green and purple foliage.
    • Plant a few successions each summer to keep yourself in tulsi basil all season. 

    Keep It Alive:

    • Plant it in full sun.
    • Give it an inch or so of water every week.
    • Grow it indoors if you live in a cool climate.

    Holy Basil tulsi by Liane Tyrrel ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Liane Tyrrel.

    In Aruvedyic medicine, the herb is considered cooling, balancing, and detoxifying. It is used to improve digestion and respiration and also to provide soothing relief for coughs, colds, and flus. Modern scientifc studies support many of the healing properties descibed in ancient texts. Feeling okay physically but in need of a mental lift? Treat yourself to the cool, sweet flavor of tulsi tea.

    Holy Basil by Adiya Singhvi ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Aditya Singhvi.

    Herbalists label tulsi an "adaptogen," which means that it adapts to support your whole system and can be used as a mild anti-depressant or for stress relief. Tulsi also contains high levels of eugenols, antioxidants, and essential oils.

    Holy Basil Resh ; Gardenista  

    Above: Photograph by Resh.

    Convinced? Try growing your own. Tulsi grows best in warm climates, but can be grown indoors in containers, as long as you choose a protected, sunny spot. Grow from seed or cuttings in well-amended soil, taking note that the woody shrub will spread by seed if allowed to blossom. The tiny seeds will take longer to germinate than garden-variety basil, so be patient. The best flavor comes before flowering, and you can pinch off the blossoms to promote a bushy habit in your plant. 

    Read More About Basil:

    Read More About Basil on Gardenista

    Need more help growing your own basil? Meredith, our Novice Gardener, finally figured out How to Grow Enough Basil to Make Pesto

    Planning your spring garden? For plant information, browse our Field Guide archives.

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