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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

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    Baylor Chapman is a master at creating living plant arrangements. She professes that mini-container gardens rival cut arrangements not only in beauty, but also in their longevity and ability to be repurposed. And, her creations prove it. Now, she share the secrets and the ingredients of her captivating container gardens in The Plant Recipe Book. 

    A feast of information and images, The Plant Recipe Book offers 100 of Chapman's recipes for creating living arrangements at home. Each recipe contains a plant and material ingredient list and easy to follow step-by-step assembly instructions illustrated with stunning images. Accessible to the brown and green thumb alike, the recipes range from a single plant ("on its own") to special occasion arrangements that require a bit more time and several ingredients.

    Don't dismiss the simple recipes. Chapman has a way of making the simple sublime and shows you how (the Tulip Recipe 1: On its Own is a perfect example—Mom, this is a Mother's Day spoiler alert). The recipe collection is fronted by an incredibly useful Getting Started section, that includes essentials for the container garden toolbox and information on soil and amendments.

    For garden tourists and Bay area residents, Chapman's work can be seen at her San Francisco Studio, Lila B. Design.

    Photographs by Paige Green, excerpted from The Plant Recipe Book.

    Plant Recipe Book Succulents, Gardenista

    Above: A stunning succulent container garden demystified in Aloe Recipe 2: With Company.  

    In all of Chapman's recipes, a key ingredient is the container. A short chapter devoted to choosing your container dispels the notion that plants belong in traditional pots, and offers creative ideas for sourcing vessels like picture frames and kitchenware. 

    Plant Recipe Book Tulips, Gardenista

    Above: Accessible herbs team up in Thyme Recipe 2: With Company that might just be the best gift for the cook in your life. Thyme, mint, rosemary, nasturtiums, oregano, lemon basil, and two types of sage create an aromatic and textured garden set in a rustic wooden box.  

    Plant Recipe Book Moss, Gardenista

    Above: Stunning in its simplicity, the Moss Recipe 1: On its Own is a great solution for adding greenery to a dark room, since moss doesn't love light the way most plants do. Not a plant DIYer? Chapman's Moss Tower is available to purchase seasonally at Lila B.

    Moss is the secret weapon in Chapman's garden pantry. "Moss can be used to cover up a bald spot, a patch of soil, or as a vase," says Chapman. "It can be ferny and wild or round and bulbous. It is pliable, green and gorgeous." 

    Plant Recipe Book Staghorn Fern, Gardenista  

    Above: The Staghorn fern with its antler-like leaves pairs with a begonia and a wandering jew in the Staghorn Fern Recipe 1: With Company.

    I asked Chapman for a tip for the aspiring container gardener. "Don't be afraid to make weird combinations," she says. "Living arrangements don't have to be created to last forever. Combine them for a month, a week, or even to adorn your dining table for one special night. There's nothing wrong with pulling it all apart and replanting each plant in single pots or even in your garden."

    Plant Recipe Book Sansevieria Recipe, Gardenista

    Above: Chapman's favorite recipe? The Sansevieria Recipe 3: Special Occasion. "It combines the rock-solid Sansevieria with some of my favorites: begonias and fluffy garden roses," says Chapman. "The copper bowl was a true find as it had been turned in for scrap metal." 

    Plant Recipe Book Zebra Plant, Gardenista

    Above: The last plant featured in the book (the recipes are organized alphabetically by plant name), the zebra plant, or Haworthia, is Chapman's recommendation for a full-proof gift plant. It is easy growing, easygoing, and easy to transport.

    Plant Recipe Book, Gardenista

    Above: The Plant Recipe Book by Baylor Chapman retails for $24.95. It is available through Amazon, Books Inc., and other book sellers. 

    Working with flowers? The Flower Recipe Book is a must-read. And, gather more ideas in Gardenista's archive of Container Gardening posts.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    We love when a single, giant tree takes center stage in a landscape. Such trees often predate the houses they accompany, lending them a sense of history and drama. Here, ten trees given pride of place, from members of the Remodelista + Gardenista Architect/Designer Directory:

    Alterstudio Architecture Modern Home, Gardens Designed Around a Single Tree, Gardenista

    Above: In this uncluttered Austin landscape, a single live oak tree stands behind an eco-friendly house by Alterstudio Architecture. For more from the architects, see Steal This Look: A Silvery Blue Palette in Austin, TX. Photograph courtesy of Alterstudio Architecture.  

    San Francisco Residence with Pool by Charlie Barnett, Gardens Designed Around a Single Tree, Gardenista

    Above: Charlie Barnett Associates renovated this Marin County, California brown shingle house in conjunction with Todd R. Cole Landscape Architecture. For more from Barnett, see Let Twilight Linger: 10 Early Evening Gardens from the Gardenista Gallery. Photograph courtesy of Charlie Barnett Associates.

    Bernard Trainor Landscape with Oak Tree, Gardens Designed Around a Single Tree, Gardenista

    Above: An ancient coast live oak tree is the centerpiece of both the interior and exterior of this Sunset magazine "Idea House" near Monterey, California, with landscapes by Bernard Trainor + Associates. For more from the firm, see Landscape Architect Visit: Bernard Trainor's Most Beautiful Swimming Pool. Photograph courtesy of Bernard Trainor + Associates.

    Nick Noyes Architecture Modern Home Near San Francisco, Gardens Designed Around a Single Tree, Gardenista

    Above: Through walls of glass, residents can admire the tree at the center of this San Francisco-area modern house by Nick Noyes Architecture. For more from the architect, see Architect Visit: Nick Noyes on Remodelista. Photograph by César Rubio.

    Orange Street Studio in LA Minimal Landscape, Gardens Designed Around a Single Tree, Gardenista

    Above: Los Angeles-based landscape designers Orange Street Studio created this sparse landscape to match a minimalist home in Culver City, California. Photograph courtesy of Orange Street Studio.

    Steven Harris Architects Modern Home at Nighttime, Gardens Designed Around a Single Tree, Gardenista

    Above: A single large tree abuts this Napa Valley modern/rustic house by NYC-based Steven Harris Architects. For more from Harris, find his favorite white house paint in 10 Easy Pieces: Architects' White Exterior Paint Picks. Photograph courtesy of Steven Harris Architects.

    RMA Architects House Designed Around a Tree, Gardens Designed Around a Single Tree, Gardenista

    Above: Rarely is a house designed around a tree, but it's an effective way to bring the outdoors into every single room. This house by RMA Architects, based in Mumbai, India and Brookline, Massachusetts, does just that. For more from RMA, see Architect Visit: In India, Housing for Elephants and Their People. Photograph courtesy of RMA Architects.

    Deborah Nevins Grand Garden in New Jersey, Gardens Designed Around a Single Tree, Gardenista

    Above: Deborah Nevins designed the grounds of this new Georgian-style house in New Jersey, with a sprawling lawn and single tree. For another grand garden from Nevins, see The Grandes Dames: 10 Stately Gardens from the Gardenista Gallery. Photograph by Durston Saylor courtesy of Architectural Digest.

    Olive Tree in Andrea Cochran Landscape, Gardens Designed Around a Single Tree, Gardenista

    Above: Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture designed the landscape of this Geyserville, CA mixed-use art and vineyard complex. Olive trees like this one serve as focal points throughout the grounds. For more from the designer, see Garden Visit: Andrea Cochran's Courtyard Vignettes. Photograph by Marion Brenner.

    Orange Street Studio Landscape in LA, Gardens Designed Around a Single Tree, Gardenista

    Above: A single large tree in a Palos Verdes, California cliffside estate with landscapes by Orange Street Studio.

    For even more trees, see Leaf Peeping in New York: Take a Tree Identification Class; The Medlar, A Strange But Charming Tree; and on Remodelista, Camp Wandawega Tree House in Wisconsin

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    Last weekend I wrested my window box from its perch and brought it into the apartment for a spring-inspired overhaul. My seedlings are progressing heroically, but it will be weeks before they'll be ready to brave the outdoors—especially considering the snow that's currently falling. In the meantime, I decided to pot some spring bulbs. But first I had to answer a basic container gardening question: Can I re-use last year's potting soil? Or should I start fresh?

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    The most basic answer is that yes, it's possible to reuse last year's soil. But first do a few things to perk it up—and replace its nutrients. Here's how:

    First, remove any plant matter (roots, twigs, leaves) from last season. I plucked from the window box the dried up winter greens I had used to decorate it in January.

    OK. ready to begin the soil remediation. Basic science tells us that plants use the nutrients in soil to grow. Over time, reusing the same potting soil in container gardening can deplete the nutrient stores in the soil and result in lackluster plants. Luckily, there's no need to do a wholesale soil dump each spring.

    To prep the box, I used a trowel to turn my soil. Turning the soil had the dual purpose of making sure that it wasn't invested with bugs—in which case a dump might be worth it-—and making sure that the soil is light and fluffy. Hard and compacted soil doesn't leave enough room for roots to grow, so this step is crucial. Use a sturdy trowel; mine is a DeWit Garden Hand Shovel ($25.90 from Kaufmann Mercantile).

    After I "tilled" my window box soil, I added a soil amendment. From a local shop, I bought a small bag of Plant-Tone Organic Plant Food (a 4-pound bag is $9.99 from Amazon). The mixture is an organic blend of bone meal, feather meal, poultry manure, and other stuff that smells a little funny but will return to the soil the nutrients that it might have lost. Alternately, you can add compost that you blend yourself at home or purchase from a farmer friend.

    I added about a cup and half of plant food to my soil and mix it well. This is definitely an occasion for breaking out the garden gloves: mine are Gardener's Goat Skin Work Gloves, $32 from Womanswork. I knew that I'd be adding potted plants with fresh soil already attached to their roots, so at this stage I scooped out some of the old soil to make room.

    Over-wintering bulbs in window boxes in New York City is tough. Window boxes get much chillier than ground soil, which usually means that bulbs don't survive the deep freeze of winter. Instead of planting bulbs in the fall, I purchased a few pots of Bridal Crown Daffodils from GRDN that had already been started. When they bloom, they'll have ruffly white flowers with deep yellow centers; you can buy 15 bulbs Bridal Crown Daffodil bulbs for $11.01 from Holland Bulb Farms (available seasonally).

    I gently separated some of the root bulbs from the mass to be able to fit them into my narrow box. Daffodil bulbs are hardy, so a little wriggling shouldn't do any lasting damage.

    I did the work on a backdrop of brown paper bags, opened up so that after I finished I could dump any leftover soil into my soil storage bag and not leave too much of a mess behind. I mounded the soilup and around my bulbs to protect them from the wintry start to spring we've been having.

    While a wide view outside of our window shows a scene that is still decidedly not spring-like, this little spot of green is a welcome reminder that spring is on its way.

    This is an update of a post that originally published in our Belgium and Beyond issue on March 27, 2013.

    Pests invading your potting soil? See Goodbye, Fungus Gnats: Pest-Free Potting Soil.

    In a spring-cleaning frame of mind? See 10 Ways to Use Vinegar at Home on Remodelista.

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    Free of fuss and filagree, square wooden planter boxes are infinitely versatile. Not only are they adaptable to a variety of spaces, the selection of wood is a great compliment to any planting. The secret, however lies in their capacity. Straight sides maximize the volume of the interior, making them great containers for trees or other plants with deep root systems.  

    Here's a round up of ten square wood planter boxes to inspire and consider. Note that we've limited our selections to planters with a natural wood finish. If you are interested in painted wood planter boxes, see our earlier post A Planter with Pedigree

    Reclaimed Wood Square Planter, Gardenista  

    Above: Made of redwood planks recovered from vintage fences in Northern California, the Reclaimed Square Planter is available in 16-inch ($129.95) or 22-inch square ($169.95) sizes at Williams Sonoma. 

    Square Spruce Wood Planter, Gardenista

    Above: The Spruce Wooden Square Planter is offered in two sizes: 16-inch and 23.5-inche priced at £80 and £140 respectively at Garden Trading Co. in the UK. For a similar look with vertical planks, consider the classic 21-inch Square Cedar Planter Box made of Western red cedar that will develop a silver patina over time; $139.99 at Blue Stone Gardens.

    Accents of France Rustic Wood Square Planter, Gardenista

    Above: Made in the US of white oak, the Rustic Wood Planter is a classic orangerie-style planter box stripped down. It comes in a natural finish with a galvanized aluminum liner (sold separately for $94). Available in standard and custom sizes, starting at $636 for the 15-inch square box at Accents of France.

    Reclaimed French Oak Square Planters, Gardenista  

    Above: The Reclaimed French Oak Planters are available with galvanized liners (sold separately) to extend the life of the wood. Available in several sizes starting at 22-inches square, currently on sale for $419 at Restoration Hardware.

    Anderson Teak Square Box Planter, Gardenista  

    Above: The Anderson Teak Square Box Planter features spaced vertical wood slats; $170 for the 18-inch square box at Wayfair.

    Teak Square Planter, Gardenista

    Above: The Studio Square Teak Planter features a unique interlocked-corner construction and a plastic liner. It measures 22-inches square and is $575 at Country Casual.

    Kubus Square Teak Planter, Gardenista

    Above: The Kubus Teak Planter is made of recycled teak on stainless steel legs; $660 for the 20-inch square size (larger sizes available) through Yard Art. 

    Out Standing of Belgium Square Wood Planters, Gardenista

    Above: The Ortelius Planter from Belgian-based Out-Standing is crafted of oak. The 21.5-inch square size is $1,800 through Trelliage.

    See more of Out-Standing's work in our earlier post, World's Most Beautiful Garden Planters, by Way of Belgium

    Ewerbeck Square Wood Planter by Out-Standing, Gardenista

     Above: The Ewerbeck Planter from Out-Standing is crafted of rustic oak with a lead rim for protection and pagoda-shaped finials. It measures 27.5-inches square and is $2,200 through Treillage. 

    Tendence Wood Planter Box by Out-Standing, Gardenista  

    Above: The unexpected shape of the Tendence Planters from Out-Standing maximizes root space. Out-Standing's planters are available to order in the US through Authentic Provence. Contact for pricing and ordering information. 

    Reclaimed French Oak Staccato Square Planters, Gardenista  

    Above: The planks of the Reclaimed French Oak Staccato Planters are assembled in an overlapping design. Available in several sizes starting at 22-inches square, currently on sale for $419 at Restoration Hardware. 

    For more planter options consider Garden Urns, Galvanized Trough Planters, and Bronze Planters.

    Over on Remodelista, they are smitten with Plywood

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    Livia Cetti, a California girl at heart, has been playing with cut flowers for as long as she can remember. Her mother was a great enabler, tossing her a bundle of flowers when she was around 8 years old and telling her to play and let her imagination run wild. When Cetti finally moved to New York years later, she was delighted to find out that she could make a living as a floral stylist.

    Cetti calls her business The Green Vase and is known for her natural, wild, and beautiful arrangements, with a unique gracefulness and color palette. A few years ago, she discovered the world of artificial flowers when she was asked to create a paper flower for an event, and the new craft took a hold of her. Cetti still makes fresh flower arrangements for clients but her heart is with the world of paper flowers, where she can play with and form interpretations of nature to her liking. 

    This month, her charming book The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers, published by Abrams comes out and shares all of her secrets. It's a thorough do-it-yourself guide to making paper flowers on your own. Cetti doesn't see paper flowers replacing fresh. For her they're another creative expression and a way to decorate your home with everlasting blooms. 

    Photographs by Addie Juell, excerpted from The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers.

    Required Reading: The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers

    Above: What makes this craft intriguing for Cetti is all the ways she can manipulate the paper through bleaching and painting. Here she shows nine different versions of the same flower all created with the same salmon colored tissue paper.

      Required Reading: The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers | Gardenista

    Above: Not only is Cetti a lover of flowers, she's also a gardener, and her time spent observing nature comes through in her work. She simplifies and stylizes the forms, but they retain their essential characteristics which can only come from someone who understands the flowers she is recreating.

      Required Reading: The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers | Gardenista

    Above: Cetti's version of a camellia, a flower she loves to make, including its leaves and buds, which are so much the personality of this plant. 

    Required Reading: The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers | Gardenista

    Above: Summer dahlias were a flower form that had Cetti stumped for awhile because of their unique petal layering. After studying them in nature she came up with a way to simplify their form just enough to make it not too labor intensive. 

      Required Reading: The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers | Gardenista

    Above: According to Cetti, one of the easiest flowers to make is the poppy, seen here. As she shares in her book, she once made more than 200 for a state dinner at the White House. 

      Required Reading: The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers | Gardenista

    Above: Geraniums are a signature plant for Cetti. Here, the whimsical painted-leaf variety perfectly reflects the real thing. When Cetti discovers a plant that she loves, she will often create it in a potted version and is known for her hollyhocks, orchids, and muscari. 

    the exquisite book of paper flowers | gardenista

    The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers is available from Abrams Books for $24.95, as well as through Amazon and local booksellers.

    For more Gardenista-recommended titles, see our archive of Required Reading posts.

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    With a remodel and a garden design project underway, I've been researching how to simplify garden maintenance and cut back on water usage. And I keep hearing more and more about the advantages of decomposed granite. Why? It turns out that in many ways decomposed granite (or DG, as it's commonly called) is the ideal hardscape material: natural, permeable, aesthetically versatile, and wonderfully inexpensive.

    After I started looking into DG, I began to notice it everywhere: The pretty little path through the local recreation field that never gets muddy? Decomposed gravel. The soft, natural-looking gravel driveway, where the gravel stays put? Also decomposed granite. The mulch at the base of trees that keeps the ground weed-free?  DG again.

    Is DG the right material to choose for your hardscaping project? Read on: 

    Hardscaping 101: Decomposed Granite | Gardenista

    Above: A decomposed granite path lined with boxwoods and dwarf catalpa trees (Catalpa nana), photographed just after a heavy rainstorm (note the lack of mud).  Designed by Brad Eigsti of Imprints Landscape Architecture. Photograph by Ellen Jenkins.

    What is decomposed granite? 

    Decomposed granite is like gravel, but finer and generally more stable.  It's formed from the natural weathering and erosion of solid granite, a tough, hard, igneous rock. The DG sold as landscaping material is typically composed of fine 3/8-inch (or smaller) particles; some may be no bigger than a grain of sand. Colors vary, from buff to brown, and include various shades of gray, black, red, and green.

    Hardscaping 101: Decomposed Granite | Gardenista

    Above: A sampling of a few decomposed granite colors. Photograph by John Whittle.

    What are the types of decomposed granite?

    Although there are at least 30 colors and varying degrees of particle sizes, decomposed granite basically comes in three forms: natural, stabilized, and resin-coated:

    • Natural DG is used as a mulch material and can be spread around trees and garden beds much like wood mulch. It will continue to weather after it is put in place and provides nutrients to surrounding soil and plants.  It lasts longer than most other mulch materials and will not attract pests.
    • For a path or patio, DG with stabilizers (which serve as a binder) is the best solution. Stabilized DG is often added on top of another gravel material, tamped down, then left with a thin loose layer on top.
    • DG with resin for driveways has a similar surface to asphalt, but has a more natural look and is permeable.

    Hardscaping 101: Decomposed Granite | Gardenista

    Above: A front entry in LA features decomposed granite with stabilizer over layers of crushed stone, surrounded by native grass and kangaroo paws. Photograph by Katrina Coombs via Grow Outdoor Design. For more, see Transforming a Tangle Into an Elegant Entry.

    What are the best ways to use decomposed granite? 

    While DG is most commonly used for paths, driveways, garden trails, and as a xeriscape ground cover, it can also be used to create smooth visual transitions between formal garden and wilderness. One of its advantages is that it breaks down, so any DG that migrates into lawn or planting beds does not cause problems the way gravel does. Lining a path or patio with a black metal strip (which will disappear if buried low enough) will help keep it in place.

    One caveat: Make sure not to install the material too close to a house or building. It does stick to shoes, and will scratch floors. This can be avoided by separating the DG from the home with a few feet of other surface materials, plus a door mat.

    Hardscaping 101: Decomposed Granite | Gardenista

    Above: Concrete pavers and decomposed granite are interspersed with thyme and chamomile next to a raised bed in this garden by BaDesign. Photograph by Branden Adams. 

    How much does decomposed granite cost?

    The raw material costs from $40 to $50 per cubic yard and is available from landscape suppliers (and at stores such as Lowe's and Home Depot). The cost to have a contractor install a path or patio is approximately $4-$6 per square foot, depending on conditions and whether stabilizers are added. If you do it yourself, the cost will be about half that amount.

    For a resin-coated DG driveway, which has a surface much like asphalt (but is permeable), the cost is higher. A local driveway installer is the best source for cost information.

    Hardscaping 101: Decomposed Granite | Gardenista

    Above: Side yard path of decomposed granite lined with brick-sized bluestone and flanked by boxwood hedges. See Design Sleuth: An Elegant Garden Path.

    Considering a path that mixes DG with bluestone? Learn more about the options in Hardscaping 101: Pennsylvania Bluestone.

    Decomposed Granite Recap:

    • Has some of the advantages of gravel—the crunchy sound, the softened look, the permeability—without some of the disadvantages: it remains firm underfoot.
    • As it starts to weather and erode, it's simple to add more.
    • Soft, natural appearance.
    • Can be used to smooth transitions between garden and wilderness.
    • Provides good drainage.
    • Excellent mulch material.
    • Inexpensive.
    • Sticks to shoes—different surface materials are needed near house, plus a doormat, to keep material out of house (will scratch floors) 
    • Good solution under large trees where grass won't grow.
    • Keeps dust down.

    Planning a hardscaping project? Ellen has done the sleuthing: everything you need to know about materials, from Limestone Pavers to Picket Fences, is in our Hardscaping 101 archive.

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    Although we haven't put away our wooly socks and down coats here in the winter-weary Northeast, we comfort each other by commenting that spring is in the air and warmth and sun will surely follow soon. The hardy gardeners among us have already begun their spring clean-ups. However, if you're waiting for actual spring weather to get going or if you're a novice and don't have any idea of how to begin, here's a suggestion. Pick up Nancy J. Ondra's new book from Storey Publishing, Five-Plant Gardens: 52 Ways to Grow a Perennial Garden with Just Five Plants.

    Ondra is a Pennsylvania gardener, a blogger and the owner of two extremely photogenic alpacas.  She is clearly also possessed of a great deal of plant knowledge and common sense.  Her book is a collection of plans for 52 small perennial gardens, each composed of five compatible plants.  The number is five because Ondra says it is enough to provide variety while still being manageable and inexpensive. The book includes gardens for nearly every shape of space and type of condition likely to be encountered by the home gardener: shade, wet spots, gardens on slopes, dry soil, relentless heat, salt, and plant munching varmints such as deer.  

    Photographs by Rob Cardillo.

    "Burgundy Glow" ajuga by Rob Cardillo via gardenista

    Above: "Burgundy Glow" adjuga, one of Nancy Ondra's selections for the "Welcome Spring" garden.

    You can choose to have a garden featuring a particular color (white, red, silver, pink, yellow, blue, etc.) or one that attracts birds and butterflies or one that flowers at a particular time.  ere's Ondra's suggestion for an early blooming garden called "Welcome Spring" (doesn't that sound nice?). The plan calls for Siberian Iris ('Caesar's Brother'), Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum), Ajuga ("Burgundy Glow"), wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis 'Corbett) and perennial geranium (Geranium sanguineum var. striatum). Ondra tells you how many plants to buy and provides a simple diagram for a triangular bed which clearly shows where each plant belongs.

    "Corbett" wild columbine by Rob Cardillo via gardenista

    Above: "Corbett" wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).

    Because she understands what it is like to go to a local nursery with your list of plants only to find that they are out of what you want, she includes a number of alternatives for each selection.  Substitutes for the iris "Caesar's Brother" include irises "Moon Silk" or "Sparkling Rose" or even a yellow foxglove.  The instructions for each garden include detailed guidance for maintenance throughout the growing season such as when to deadhead or divide the plants.  

    Striped bloody cranesbill by Rob Cardillo via gardenista

    Above: Striped bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum var. striatum)

    "Caesar's Brother" by Rob Cardillo via gardenista

    Above: "Caesar's Brother" Siberian Iris.

    Jacob's Ladder by Rob Cardillo via gardenista

    Above: Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum).

    The beginning gardener will benefit from the book's opening pages which contain sensible advice on site preparation, plant buying and tips on cultivation such as when and how to water. But even experienced gardeners should find inspiration browsing through Ondra's interesting combinations which include native plants as well as familiar garden stalwarts. The plants themselves are attractively presented in clean, spare portraits by garden photographer Rob Cardillo

    Five-Plant Gardens by Nancy C. Ondra via gardenista

    Five-Plant Gardens is available from Amazon for $13.63.

    For more garden reading, see all of our Required Reading posts.

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    Christopher Bradley-Hole made a stir last year with his Chelsea garden, mainly consisting of different heights of boxes. Was it cold, was it inspirational? Maybe we just needed more time to decide; these abstract landscapes grow on you. We visit Bury Court in Hampshire, which has been growing for ten years:

    Photographs by Clive Nichols.

    Front Garden at Bury Court, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: The Chelsea garden was a potted version of the English landscape, with its quilt of fields and hedgerows. It was almost all green. The garden at Bury Court is also green—turning to gold—as Bradley-Hole uses grasses to connect the garden space with the Hampshire landscape beyond.

    Bury Court is divided into two sections: The Courtyard, which came first and was designed by Piet Oudolf in his early days, and the Front Garden, that of Bradley-Hole, which came after. The whole garden works as a mixture of informal naturalism (Oudolf) and formal simplicity (Bradley-Hole).

    Front Garden at Bury Court, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: As the grasses grow up over the season they undermine the linear formality. However the Central Oak Structure (designed by Bradley-Hole, above), reinforces the grid pattern of the garden. Viewed from within, the landscape is framed in every direction, by the oak uprights.

    Christopher Bradley-Hole has written several books on modern garden design: The Minimalist Garden and Making the Modern Garden, in which he surveys the contemporary garden scene from around the world.

    Front Garden at Bury Court, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: Bradley-Hole mixes different types of grass together, along with meadow-like perennials (including Eryngium and Agastache shown here). They intermingle in gravel, edged with rusted cordon steel. The garden is laid out on a geometric grid pattern: the grasses shimmer and the planting flows, within strict limits.

    Front Garden at Bury Court, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: The Front Garden is criss-crossed with straight paths made of granite setts, to reflect the materials of the house, which is mainly pale stone and brick.

    Front Garden at Bury Court, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: A planting of silvery Stachys 'Big Ears', the dark Sedum 'Matrona', phlox 'Rosa Pastell', with Echinops ritro 'Veitch's Blue' to the rear (Left) and Agastache foeniculum (Right).

      Bury Court Front Garden, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: A rectangular pond is home to a sculpture made from oak, by Paul Anderson. 'Relic' oak is sourced from old barns, boats, gates, etc., and is transformed into garden sculpture or furniture.

    Front Garden at Bury Court, photo Clive Nichols. Gardenista

    Above: The blackened reflecting pool sits at the heart of the garden. On one side is this weathered oak garage, designed by Bradley-Hole and flanked by the tall grass Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', which keeps its shape in winter. The pool sits between this building and the oak pavilion.

    For more on that Chelsea garden, see Celebrity Spotting at the Chelsea Flower Show. Do you want to knock about more in Hampshire? See Manor House Stables, A Champion's Home Reborn on Remodelista.

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    Is this the real test of a marriage? Can you work together in a 250-square-foot studio without committing homicide? "It's actually very pleasurable for both of us," says Ayelet Waldman, who shares the backyard writer's studio in question with her husband, Michael Chabon. Although the two writers (her new novel, Love and Treasure was published last week) keep different schedules, they sometimes find themselves together in the small shingled studio in their backyard. 

    Maybe it works because of the couple's famously intimate relationship ("I gotta admit I sorta envy them," wrote one Gawker commenter—apparently not a professional writer—earlier this week). As for me, I'm happy to go on record admitting to being jealous of their writer's studio. Let's take a look around: 

    Photographs by Aya Brackett for Gardenista.

    Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon Berkeley Writer's Studio ; Gardenista

    Above: The freestanding studio looks like a miniature version of Waldman and Chabon's shingled Craftsman house built in 1907. Originally a garage (with barn doors), the studio was in "a dramatically rundown state" when the couple moved in, says Waldman. "Rats running around. Horrific."

    After it was renovated, the studio became Chabon's exclusive retreat and the subject of his 2001 essay "A Fortress of One's Own" in This Old House magazine. "We moved to that house when I had just started writing, and I hadn't sold anything yet, so I didn't think I deserved an office," says Waldman. "Then I had terrible repetitive stress injuries, and arthritis in my pinky finger, so I got an office out of the house, but that was super lonesome. So Michael said, 'Let's share.'"

    Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon Berkeley Writer's Studio ; Gardenista

    Above: The studio has two separate but open work bays—Waldman's desk sits beneath a bulletin board she covered with color-coded notecards while working recently on the script for a TV pilot—and a shared central space.

    Is it ever annoying if one spouse is on the phone while the other is trying to write? "We are never on the phone in there—publicity, interviews, hondling with agents all happens in the house—because we really try to keep the space purely for real work," says Waldman.

    And the guitar? "Michael plays it a little bit," Waldman says, "but he's not in a Dad band yet. I think you have to be 53 before you join one."

    Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon Berkeley Writer's Studio ; Gardenista

    Above: Chabon collects typewriters. "Michael is obsessed with obsolete technologies," says Waldman. Other collections include: eight-track tape players and turntables. 

    Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon Berkeley Writer's Studio ; Gardenista

    Above: Ayelet found Swedish designer Pia Wallen's flannel Cross Blanket (CA $275 from Mjolk) on Remodelista.

    Waldman's desk is not always this neat. "It gets really awful when I am in the thick of a book," she says, adding that she is starting to think of a character who may become the protagonist of her next novel. "I'm thinking of her as a Saul Bellow-Nabokov combo. So I'll buy dozens of biographies of them, in an almost talismanic way, to help me with her."

    What should be above Waldman's desk is a window. "I like to look out when I work," she says, "but the space was built for Michael, and he has to be boxed in so as not to be distracted."

    Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon Berkeley Writer's Studio ; Gardenista

    Above: Chabon writes in an Eames Lounge and Ottoman (he rocks when he works). "First, he had a desk, but then he moved over to the Eames chair, and that invalid swing arm laptop table he has now," says Waldman. "It's exactly like a dentist's setup. He battles carpel tunnel syndrome, and this setup works for now."

    Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon Berkeley Writer's Studio ; Gardenista

    Above: For a look inside Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon's house—more books included—see The Mysteries of Berkeley: A Literary Couple at Home on Remodelista.  

    How do other artists work? See their spaces in our Work Studio archives.

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    A few weeks ago my aunt emailed a grainy photo along with the following caption, "Black pussy willows! Have you ever seen these?" I had not. Intrigued, I went in search of this unlikely harbinger of spring.

    Much like the standard (and lovable) gray variety, Salix gracilistylus ‘Melanostachys or black pussy willows, burst forth in the early spring with bunny-like blooms or catkins, in this case in a velvety, jet black. To find one of my own, I called upon my local tree experts at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, which of course had two of these striking willows at the height of their spring splendor. After seeing Salix gracilistylus 'Melanostachys  in person, I found this dark specimen so bewitching I decided to plant my own. 

    Photographs by Justine Hand for Gardenista.

    Salix gracilistylus Melanostachys 3, by Justine Hand, Gardensita

    Above: Among the many pussy willow specimens at the Arnold Arboretum, two black Salix gracilistylus ‘Melanostachys’can be found along the marsh opposite the Hunnewell Building.

    Salix gracilistylus Melanostachys catkins, by Justine Hand, Gardensita

    Above: Pussy willows catkins are actually flowers. 

    Salix gracilistylus Melanostachys at Arnold Arboretum, by Justine Hand, Gardensita

    Above: Pussy willow trees can reach 10 or more feet high with a 15-foot spread. Here at the Arnold Arboretum, they are planted in their happiest habitat of moist marshes and wetlands.

    salix gracilistyla and Oliver, planting a black pussy willow by Justine Hand, Gardenista

    Above: My son, Oliver, admires the fuzzy black catkins of Salix gracilistylus ‘Melanostachys’and decides we need one of our own.

    Before you buy:

    As with any plant, it is important to do some research before you buy to determine if your yard has optimal growing conditions. All pussy willows prefer full sun (because they are prone to rust) and moist, but not boggy, soil. I never thought I'd be glad that someone engineered our driveway so that it funnels all rainwater into our yard, but it does make for perfect pussy willow conditions. (And I have the only yard in the neighborhood that requires no additional watering to stay green.) If your yard is dry, you can still plant pussy willows, but you will need to water more often. 

    Also, pussy willows are dioecious; each shrub is either male or female. The male catkins are more impressive, so ask your nursery which you are getting. Finally, pussy willows have invasive roots with a large spread, so don't plant them too near your water lines or septic tanks. 

    planting a black pussy willow by Justine Hand, digging the hole, Gardenista

    Above: Awaiting its new home, my new Salix gracilistylus ‘Melanostachys’ was purchased from Holly Hill Farm; $12.

    Planting Instructions:

    A hardy plant, pussy willows can be planted right after the ground thaws. Pick a sun-to-partial-shade spot, with plenty of room around it (at least 10 feet). Then dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root spread (about a couple of inches on either side of your plant).

    planting a black pussy willow by Justine Hand, fertilizer, Gardenista

    Above: To encourage healthy roots, mix your soil with organic matter such as manure, peat, or compost. Wait a full year before fertilizing your pussy willow.

    planting a black pussy willow by Justine Hand, loosen roots, Gardenista

    Above: Loosen the roots before planting and spread them across a little mound built up in the center of your hole.

    planting a black pussy willow by Justine Hand, planting, Gardenista

    Above: Add a mixture of soil and manure loosely around the plant.

    planting a black pussy willow by Justine Hand, push down, Gardenista

    Above: Fill in the hole so the surrounding soil is level to where the plant sat in its original pot. Press gently all around and water thoroughly. 

    planting a black pussy willow by Justine Hand, add mulch, Gardenista

    Above: A final 2-to-4-inch layer of mulch will help direct the water that willows love to the roots.

    planting a black pussy willow by Justine Hand, single bud, Gardenista

    Above: You may notice that the catkins on my pussy willow don't look black. That's because the flowers are in full bloom. Next year as they begin to appear, I'll have the same black catkins as pictured above.

    planted black pussy willow, Gardenista

    Above: Already sprouting leaves, my newly planted black pussy willow provides a welcome bit of spring in my yard. He's pretty small now, but with proper care, he'll grow fast.

    Continued Care: 

    • The Latin "Salix" comes from the Celtic word “sallis” — “sa” meaning “near,” and “lis” meaning “water.” If yours is not near water, you'll need to water your newly planted willow at least twice a week for a few weeks, and after that once a week. Mature willows need 1 inch of rainfall per week or equivalent.
    • Willows do not need much fertilizer. But if your soil is poor, add more organic matter or fertilizer in the fall. Be sure to wait a full year before applying fertilizer, and then apply it around the outer edges of the tree's canopy, making sure that the fertilizer does not touch the plant itself. 
    • Also if you have bunnies in your yard, you may want to protect your new bush by placing wire or mesh around its base.
    • To maintain you willow's health and shape, prune it in early winter (when it is dormant, but before the catkins start to form). Remove any dead branches and cut one-third of the oldest branches back to the ground. Snip any suckers on the main trunk or coming up from the ground.
    • Most important: share! After your pussy willow is established, you can easily make cuttings for friends. Learn how to propagate pussy willows from cuttings at Martha Stewart.

    Looking for more trees that flower now? Try planting A Fruit Tree That Blooms in Spring. And don't overlook The Magical Powers of White Cherry Blossoms.

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    This week, the editors at Remodelista embraced the idea of Warm Minimalism. Our takeaway from their lineup? All you really need is good book, a warm cup of tea, a trusty companion, and a comfy place to hole up for the afternoon. Being surrounded by minimalist architecture in warm tones is just icing.

    Get the full picture below:

    trending on remodelista | gardenista

    Above: Waxed canvas lined in vinyl and originally intended to shelter fruit and vegetable trucks gets a new life as weatherproof outdoor furniture upholstery in the latest collection from Casamidy. Alexa introduces us to the newest item on our garden wish list in Indoor/Outdoor Furniture Made From Salvaged Wax Canvas.

    trending on remodelista | gardenista

    Above: Banish your pooch to the doghouse no more. Margot explores options for canine-minded home improvements in Remodeling 101: How to Build a Dog-Friendly House.  

    trending on remodelista | gardenista

    Above: Dalilah tempts us to leave the office early and indulge in a pot of tea with her piece, Song Tea & Ceramics: A New Tea Tasting Room in SF.

    trending on remodelista | gardenista

    Above: Our reading list already got considerably longer this week, but Christine has convinced us to add one more to the pile in Required Reading: The Stuff of Life by Hilary Robertson. For more from Hilary, see Marrying Pots and Plants at Mrs. Robertson in Fort Greene.

    trending on remodelista | gardenista

    Above: Just about any garden would look smart against a herringbone backdrop. Christine visits a new house embracing the old style in Architect Visit: Herringbone House in London.

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    A week of admiring pared down landscapes and gardens has us feeling inspired to live with less. We were wowed by this minimal landscape and learned how to plan a perennial garden palette with just 5 plants. Next week we're painting the town in pastels but until then, let us share a few things we're obsessing over.

    Merci Rock Gardens | Gardenista

    Flower Petal Explosion | Costa Rica

    8 April. 10 AM | Gardenista

    Lilacs via Sacramento Street | Gardenista

    Waywardspark Cabin | Gardenista

    • Above: Cabin living with @waywardspark. Photograph by Camille Storch.
    • Lanterns to make at home.  
    • In need of gardening, outdoor, and floral inspiration? Peruse our Pinterest; there's lots to see there. 

    Check out more recent posts in our latest issue, Less is More, and don't miss out on Remodelista's week of Warm Minimalism

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    With the weather turning against us, we can launch a stealth attack on winter by sprouting seeds indoors (to get a start on next spring's edible garden). It's simpler than you may think.  

    Photographs by John Merkl.

    gardening 101 sprout a seed l Gardenista

    Keep It Simple: Fluffy soil, plenty of sunlight and water, and room to grow. That's all a seed needs to persuade it to germinate. Plant seeds in small individual pots, seed flats, or newspaper pots.

    gardening 101 sprout a seed l Gardenista

    Step 1: Find a sunny windowsill indoors; seeds will sprout faster in a warm (70 degrees) spot.

    gardening 101 sprout a seed l Gardenista

    Need to Know: Some seeds take longer to sprout than others, so don't despair if you see no action for a couple of weeks. (My cilantro seeds sprouted in ten days, but my foxglove seeds didn't germinate for three weeks.)

    gardening 101 sprout a seed l Gardenista

    Step 2: Fill small seed pots with a 1-inch layer of charcoal (to aid drainage) and then a layer of potting soil (from 2 to 3 inches deep). Don't pack it down too tightly because baby roots will have a harder time in heavy soil.

    gardening 101 sprout a seed l Gardenista

    Step 3: Plant from three to five seeds in each pot, making sure they don't touch. Push the seeds into the soil gently and barely cover them with dirt.

    Step 4: Water the seed pots daily, to keep them moist. But don't flood them. The  soil should look dark and moist, but you should never let water pool on the surface.

    gardening 101 DIY newspaper seedling pots l Gardenista

    Step 5: The first two leaves to sprout will look undifferentiated. A few days later, a third leaf—a true leaf—will appear, displaying characteristics of the plant. At this point, you can thin seedlings, removing all but one from each pot.

    Step 6: You can transplant seedlings to larger pots after their true leaves appear. Or you can transplant them into the garden next spring after the last frost date; if you started your seeds in biodegradable newspaper pots, you can plant the pots directly in the garden.

    Are you a novice gardener? See more of our Gardening 101 posts, including How to Water an Air Plant and How to Plant a Bulb.

    N.B. This is an update of a post that originally ran on November 4, 2013 as part of our Garden to Table issue.

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    Why can't scientists figure out how to freeze frame spring? Jasmine, apple blossoms, the first climbing roses: every flower in my garden is currently trying decide whether it wants to be pink or white or some variation I can only describe as a blush fade. You can see why we decided to dedicate this week to spring's pastel palette.

    What's ahead: Join us for an exclusive tour of a modern version of a white garden later today. We've also rounded up pastel lawn chairs, attractive drip irrigation systems (they exist!), and a DIY Easter tabletop that Erin worked all last week to perfect (eggs are involved).

    Pretty in Pastel ; Gardenista


    Barbara Chambers Architect Mill Valley ; Gardenista

    SF-based architect Barbara Chambers gives us an exclusive tour of her own newly designed indoor-outdoor garden (and tips for connecting your outside space with your interiors) in this week's Architect Visit. Photograph by Liesa Johannssen for Gardenista.


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

    Above: Erin gives us step-by-step instructions for creating the perfect writer's shed in this week's Steal This Look. Photograph by Wai Ming Ng.


    wheat grass easter centerpiece | gardenista

    Above: We can't resist a DIY Easter centerpiece. Erin offers step-by-step instructions for how to get your eggs to hatch wheat grass in this week's DIY Project. Photograph by Erin Boyle.


    Drip irrigation system at The French Laundry in Yountville ; Gardenista

    Above: Even the most reluctant gardener on our staff is taken with the virtues of a good Drip Irrigation system. Christine explains what won her over in this week's Hardscaping 101.


    DIY Forsythia for the Easter Tabletop Arrangement ; Gardenista

    Above: Looking for a last-minute idea to import some springtime to your Easter tabletop? Erin's easy DIY Project takes advantage of forsythia season. Photograph by Erin Boyle.

    Over on Remodelista, we're also celebrating spring's Shades of Pastel. Here's a Sneak Peak at the week ahead.

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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 ;

    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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  • 04/14/14--09:00: DIY: Hanging Easter Posies
  • In celebration of that time of year when one gets to indulge with abandon in bunnies, chicks, and all things "cute, pretty, and pastel,"  my children and I have been creating myriad Easter projects. But this is one I did all on my own when they were at school: delicate, tiny Easter posies hanging from the window, a welcoming homage to spring.

    Photographs by Justine Hand.

    Above: Since your egg vases are fairly small, check them daily for water.

    Above: A completed posy in its little egg vase awaits a sunny spot in the window.


    Above: For this project all you need is: ribbon, flowers, scissors, glue, and some cleaned eggs shells with the tops taken off (like a soft boiled egg.) We collected our eggs over several breakfasts. Don't worry about creating even edges; the flowers will hide them.

    Step-by-Step Instructions:

    Above: I selected Studio Carta's 2/8" Width Cotton Ribbon in sophisticated hues, such as this "iron" spool pictured here. I also chose: marigold, sage, pool, chartreuse, and ice at $9 each for five yards.

    First, measure a length of ribbon from the top of your window to the height at which you want to hang the egg vases. Double this length and cut. I found it best to stagger lengths slightly.

    Above: Place glue across the lengthwise circumference of the egg. Then place the middle of your ribbon at the bottom center of the egg and press down to glue along the sides.

    Above: To make sure that the glue adheres to the sides, cross the ribbons over the top of each egg and let the eggs dry for several hours.

    Above: Taking your flowers, assemble them into a small bouquet. Measure the stems against your egg to make sure that each bouquet sits right in your vase. (Ideally, this forager would have loved to use vernal garden flowers, such as crocus and narcissus. But since springtime drags its feet here in New England, I selected a mix of blooms, herbs, and branches from Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

    Above: Place the posy in the egg and water it. I found that my soy sauce pitcher was perfect for this task.

    Above: Repeat with other arrangements. Here I used pussy willow, an orange tulip, and sage.

    Above: An aster, cherry blossom, and pussy willow arrangement sits next to my original pink tulip bouquet.

    Above: My finished posies.

    N.B.: You could adapt this project and use similar egg vases (with shorter ribbons perhaps) to create a blooming centerpiece for your Easter table or even place them in egg cups to use as place card holders.

    Above: Tie off the ends of your ribbons in a small bow and hang them with a tack (yes, it's strong enough) in the window. (Now, if only that snow outside the window would melt!)

    N.B. I think it would be lovely to adapt this project with a Fragrant Bouquet for a Baby like this one by Erin.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published March 29, 2013.

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    Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis: "The Sweet 'n Low"

    At her tallest, lily of the valley only grows to be 8 inches high, but don’t let her small stature fool you. It would be a shame to underestimate this delicately beaded white flower, with her entourage of shiny green leaves. Not only are lilies of the valley a favorite in wedding bouquets (as far as we are concerned, lily of the valley stole the show from Kate Middleton at the royal wedding), but also strategically useful in the garden. These low-lying flowers and their foliage arrive in early May to provide coverage to distract the eye from fading foliage of early bloomers.

    Lily of the Valley Field Guide ; Gardenista

    Above: For more photos, see our Gardenista Gallery for images of Lily Of The Valley.

    lily of the valley, gardenista

    These pearly little blossoms remind us of the first spring dew. While they are sweet, however, they are not completely innocent. Lily of the valley has sometimes been considered an invasive species of plant, taking over vast tracts of forestland to the point where other flowers are unable to compete. Before planting lily of the valley pips in your garden, be sure you are not near protected woodland areas.

    Cheat Sheet:

    • One of the few flowers that does not mind shade; plant at the base of trees for a fragrant ground cover.
    • Interplant with daffodils whose leaves can't be cut back until later in the season, or to mask the bulbs of later-blooming flowers.
    • Can be invasive; plant where you can keep it in check (or where you don't mind mingling)

    Keep It Alive:

    • A perennial that grows from pips, lily of the valley is hardy in zones 2-7
    • Before planting pips, soak them in lukewarm water until they swell, and then trim the root slightly.
    • Easy to grow indoors or in window boxes

      Lily of the Valley Narcissus Daffodil bouquet in vase ; Gardenista

    Above: For an easy DIY, see Erin's post: Grow Lily of the Valley on a Windowsill.

    The quietly assertive lily of the valley thrives in a variety of soil and moisture conditions. Use this innate determination to your advantage and coax your lilies of the valley to grow indoors on a windowsill, even in a very small, decorative pot.

      Shane Connolly wedding flowers, lily-of-the-valley and jasmine. Gardenista

    Above: Kate Middleton's wedding bouquet featured lily of the valley and jasmine. For more of her wedding flowers, see Ask the Expert: 10 Tips for Wedding Flowers from Kate Middleton's Florist. Photograph by Jason Lowe.

    Celebrating the beginning of May is of national importance in France, and each year, traditionally, it is greeted with a bunch of muguet du bois, or lilies of the valley. Flower shops in Paris will be brimming with these simple white flowers, and farmers will decamp from the countryside to sell their posies out of carts. Why not start a May festival of lilies here on our own soil?

    Shop Our Picks:

    Lily of the Valley picks ; Gardenista

    Above: Shop our Picks for Lily of the Valley.

    Looking for more sweet-smelling spring flowers? See our Field Guide archive for Narcissus. Planning an edible garden? We've also got Carrots and Lettuce covered.

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    Of all the old rectories and vicarages in the Cotswolds, the one with the garden by Dan Pearson is the standout. There is still scope for proper tea on the lawn, but Pearson has achieved a more relaxed formality by mixing new structures of local stone with soft-hued plants that perform over a long season.

    Photographs by Nicola Browne and Dan Pearson Studio.

    Dan Pearson Old Rectory, Gardenista

    Above: The old rectory's one-acre garden is near the heart of the village. The honey-colored house is anchored to the garden through its hardscaping and formal design elements including platforms of boxwood.

    Dan Pearson works on private and public spaces around the world, notably a forest in Japan which aims to be sustainable for the next 1,000 years. He has also been chosen to design the plantings for a new garden bridge spanning the River Thames in London.

    Dan Pearson Old Rectory, Gardenista

    Above: Panels of wildflower meadow divide up the lawn, requiring skilled maintenance by the two gardeners who work here part-time. As a designer, Pearson's relationship with clients involves some hand-holding, and the process of establishing a meadow can be particularly nerve-wracking for all parties. A perennial meadow takes at least a couple of years to settle in and for a suitable mowing regime to be established. Included here: Ox-eye daisy and pale purple Greater Knapweed.

    Dan Pearson Old Rectory, Gardenista

    Above: "I use a small planting palette," says Dan Pearson, referring to the different sections of the garden. "It's pared right down so you get part of the picture." This part, surrounding the main lawn, includes the mauve seed heads of Calamagrostis x acutifolia 'Karl Foerster' and violet shades of Veronicastrum virginicum 'Lavendelturm.' In the foreground: fuzzy grey and purple Lambs Ears (Stachys byzantina) with magenta Lychnis coronaria. Plantings of hot colors are in walled areas of the garden.

    Dan Pearson Old Rectory, Gardenista

    Above: Dry stone walls use material that is both new and reclaimed from the local quarry. Surrounding a simple canal flanked by sawn stone paving, the walls are broken up with narrow slits for glimpses of the garden beyond. Hardscaping construction was carried out by the building stars of the Chelsea Flower Show, Swatton Landscape.

    Dan Pearson Old Rectory, Gardenista

    Above: The property is bordered on one side by the River Windrush. Water features three times in this garden: as a reflecting pool (Above), a low-key swimming pool on the lawn, and the canal.

    Dan Pearson Old Rectory, Gardenista

    Above: Dan Pearson describes his approach as "relaxed and naturalistic." Here, alpine strawberries spread around stepping stones, accompanied by white astrantia and clouds of umbels.

    Dan Pearson Old Rectory, Gardenista

    Above: Roses round the door of the old rectory, with elements of formality in the slightly shaggy boxwoods.

    For more big pastels, see Must-Have Flower: All About Veronicastrum.

    For more from this corner of the world, see Industrial Lighting from the Edge of the Cotswolds on Remodelista.

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    I've been daydreaming about this Weston Surman & Deane writer's shed since I first wrote about it last month. And though it might be awhile before I'm able to commission one of the same for my own (imaginary) backyard, I've sleuthed some of the elements that make the inside of the shed so appealing. 

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

    Above: The asymmetrical interior wall bedecked in bookshelves, sink, and freestanding wood stove. All that's missing is a messy potting table. Photograph by Wai Ming Ng.

    steal this look | gardenista

    Above: For the shelving and flooring inside the shed, oiled OSB (Oriented Strand Board) was used throughout. A 4-foot by 8-foot length of OSB Sheathing is $8.78 from Lowe's. Curious about using plywood instead? Learn the basics in Remodeling 101: The Ins and Outs of Plywood. The architects used pine tongue and groove paneling for the walls of the shed. The similar EverTrue 8-Foot Stain Grade Knotty Pine is $15.97 from Lowe's.

    steal this look | gardenista

    Above: Large skylights flood the space with light during the day, but in the evening the Drop Cap Pendant Set ($34.95 from Plumen) fitted with the Plumen 001 Screw Fitting Light Bulb ($29.95) lights the shed. For more about this covetable bulb, see the World's Most Stylish Light Bulb. Hoping to learn more about fluorescents vs. incandescents? See The Great Light Bulb Debate for the lowdown.

    steal this look | gardenista

    Above: Clamped to a shelf, a black architect's lamp provides task lighting. The Flexible Combo Lamp is a similar option; $92.49 from Dick Blick. For more choices see 10 Easy Pieces: Best Architect's Lamps on Remodelista.

    steal this look | gardenista

    Above: For cleaning paint brushes or muddy pots, consider the Shaws Contemporary Classic Firestone Sink from Rohl; $890.50. See 10 Easy Pieces: White Kitchen Farmhouse Sinks on Remodelista for similar options.

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

    Above: Behind the sink and around it, brass sheet metal makes a waterproof backsplash. 6-inch by 18-inch lengths of Metal Shim Stock are available in a pack of 10 for $69.12 from MSC Industrial Supply Co. 

    steal this look | gardenista

    Above: Above the sink, consider a simple brass garden tap like the one shown here. The Brass Water Tap is €15.80 at Manufactum.

    steal this look | gardenista

    Above: For keeping the place toasty, the Dovre Astroline 350CB is a clean burning, high-efficiency cast iron wood stove with a similar look to the one used in the shed. Available with an anthracite finish; £1,125. Contact Dovre for retail locations. For more options, see 10 Easy Pieces Freestanding Wood Stoves

    Hoping to steal other good ideas? See our archive of Steal This Look posts.

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    There are benefits to supermarket flowers, the first being that they make grocery shopping feel less onerous and the second being that they're on the affordable end of the price spectrum. At $8 a bunch, I could pop these tulips into my grocery bag without hesitation. Even better, tulips are so lively on their own that they don't need anything extra to look impressive. The trick is in how you arrange them:

    Above: When you select tulips, choose flowers with petals that are still relatively closed, but not so tight that you can't peek inside. I sometimes shy away from very brightly colored flowers, but this orangey-red was so spunky that I couldn't resist.

    Above: Like most cut flowers, tulips like a fresh cut once you get home. Some people swear by cutting tulip stems under water, but I've had luck just giving them a quick trim. Use clean scissors to cut your stems at an angle. If you need a good pair of shears, see our favorites in 10 Easy Pieces: Floral Scissors.

    Above: Next, remove any damaged leaves by stripping them off the stem. Tulip leaves add nice greenery to a simple bouquet, but too many can overpower the flowers in an arrangement.

    Above: Tulips prefer cool water, so fill your vessel with a few inches of cool tap water. I have a soft spot for antique ironstone pitchers. You can get a similar White Ironstone Pitcher from a vintage shop on Etsy at a range of price points.

    Above: One of the most delightful things about tulips is the way they swoop in every direction. I like to arrange tulips in wide-mouthed pitchers so there's ample opportunity for them to lean and swoon. Cutting my stems to a variety of lengths and adding them one at a time helps me to get the shape just right.

    Above: Surprisingly, tulips can continue to grow after they've been cut. Give your tulips a fresh trim and fresh water every day to prolong their life.

    Above: Kept away from the heat, a bunch of tulips can last up to eight days. I can't say the same for my groceries.

    For more of Erin's easy floral arrangements, see DIY: The Ultimate Disguise for a Plastic Florists' Pot and Bouquet of the Week: Splurge on Black and White Anemones.

    This is an update of a post that originally ran on April 12, 2013 as part of our Bring on the Spring issue.

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