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(showing articles 1 to 50 of 50)

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    Cold weather never seems to stop the Swedes. A case in point: Uppgrenna Naturhus, a conference space, spa, and cafe enveloped in a massive, modern greenhouse.

    Located in Sweden's southern half between Stockholm and Gothenburg, Naturhus makes use of a closed-loop waste system to grow fruits and vegetables rear-round, while taking it off the municipal waste grid. The building is designed by Tailor Made Arkitekter and principal Fredrik Olson, a specialist in livable greenhouse spaces..

    Photography by Ulf Celander via Arch Daily. 

    Uppgränna Nature House | Gardenista

    Above: To make way for the new structure, the architects demolished an existing barn on the site painted in the traditional "falu" red of Swedish farmhouses. They recreated the red color on the new structure and added white shutters in a nod to traditional Swedish farmhouse style. 

    Uppgränna Nature House | Gardenista

    Above: The "Naturhus" concept, developed by Swedish architect Bengt Warne in the 1970s, is a core living area surrounded by a shell of glass, effectively making a live-in greenhouse. At Uppgrenna Naturhus, the indoor climate approximates that of Northern Italy, allowing plants to be grown year-round for both beauty and utility while reducing needs for indoor heating.  

    Uppgränna Nature House | Gardenista

    Above: Inside, the space is divided into several green-themed zones, including a Mediterranean zone, a "rainforest" for spa treatments, a lemon grove, and an "Orient" lounge. Here, a cafe space in the Mediterranean growing zone.  

    Uppgränna Nature House | Gardenista

    Above: The plants of the Mediterranean garden play an important role in the building's closed-loop wastewater treatment system. Here, wine grapes, apricots, melon, tomato, and peaches provide food for the center's use. "It becomes very clear why you should not emit pollutants in the environment," say the architects, because "it turns back into your own recycling system." 

    Uppgränna Nature House | Gardenista

    Above: Here, the "Orient" loft located above the conference rooms functions as a great hall for events. 

    Uppgränna Nature House | Gardenista

    Above: Depending on the configuration, the "Orient" room hosts parties, lectures, and concerts under the stars.

    Uppgränna Nature House | Gardenista

    Above: Naturhus offers expansive views of Lake Vättern and its island Visingsö, and is dotted with a few unsheltered outdoor terraces to take in views when the weather permits. 

    Uppgränna Nature House | Gardenista

    Above: Sited on a gentle slope, the 520-square-meter structure is partly submerged underground. 

    Uppgränna Nature House | Gardenista

    Above: Tailor Made Architects has a consulting arm called Green House Living, specialists in livable greenhouse spaces who hope to develop many more in the future.

    More green spaces from Scandinavia: 

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    Here's an entirely different sort of holiday tree: an oak sapling sprouted from a foraged acorn.

    We spotted the clever idea via Swedish stylist Marie Delice Karlsson's blog Min Lilla Veranda, where a tiny tabletop forest grows in tall glass bottles.

    Read on for step-by-step DIY instructions and a few of our favorite vases for acorns:

    DIY Grow an Oak Tree from Acorn; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Min Lilla Veranda.

    Tall, narrow-necked bottles make ideal vases to support the acorns and to allow growth of oak saplings' long taproots.

    acorns oak tree ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Trackers Earth.

    Early December is the best time to collect hardy acorns that fall in late autumn. Inspect acorns and discard any that have worm holes, are soft, or have moldy caps. Remove caps from the rest and submerge acorns in a bowl of water to check viability. Discard floaters because they won't sprout.

    DIY sprout acorn in water ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Sotsur.

    To encourage acorns to sprout, keep them moist or in a bowl of water. After three to six weeks, they will start to sprout and can be placed in a bottle or vase of water with the root submerged.

    Estrid Ericson acorn vase; Gardenista

    Above: Mimicking the shape of an acorn, a round Acorn Vase by designer Estrid Ericson is 160 SEK.

    Floating Forest series of vases; Gardenista

    Above: Inspired by Ericson, designer Michael Anastassiades has created a Floating Forest Series of vases specially for acorns. Components include a polished brass Cone and Disk (£40 apiece) designed to suspend an acorn above the surface of the water in a vase.

    For more of our favorite vases, see:

    Subscribe to Gardenista daily newsletter ; Gardenista

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    Nothing is more luxurious than spring flowers blooming in winter. And no one understands this better than Scandinavian gardeners, who fill their rooms with fragrant blooming bulbs—including hyacinths and paperwhites—at Christmastime. Here are 13 beautiful case studies to help you recreate the look:

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

      White muscari forced bulbs Scandinavian style ; Gardenista

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


    forced hyacinth bulbs ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Mariaemb.

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

    forced hyacinth bulbs ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Mariaemb.

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

    forced hyacinth bulbs on a window sill ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Constanḉa Cabral via Flickr.

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

    forced bulbs hyacinths ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Weekday Carnival.

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

      forced hyacinth bulbs ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Weekday Carnival.

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

    forced bulbs Scandinavian style Christmas ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Vintage House.

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

    Forced hyacinth bulbs ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Holmsunds Blommor.

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


    Gardening 101: How to Force Tulips Bulbs l Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

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

    forced bulbs hyacinths and tulips ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

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


    Forced bulbs paperwhites for winter ; Gardenista

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

    winter forced bulbs paperwhites ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by John Merkl for Gardenista.


      Forced amaryllis bulbs ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Emil Evans.

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

    Where to buy bulbs:

    • Hyacinths. A package of 15 light blue, fragrant Delft Blue Hyacinth bulbs is $9.18 (a 60 percent discount off regular prices) at Holland Bulb Farms.
    • Tulips. Early-blooming single tulips force well indoors; a 12-bulb bag of Purple Prince tulips is $3.98 (a 50 percent discount off regular prices) at Holland Bulb Farms.
    • Paperwhites. Narcissus Paperwhite 'Nir' bulbs are $3.32 for five bulbs or $14.12 for 25 (50 percent discount off regular prices) and available until they sell out at Brent and Becky's Bulbs.
    • Amaryllis. Given a special treatment to make them bloom by Christmas, Amaryllis Alfresco bulbs will produce a profusion of white flowers; $17 apiece at White Flower Farm.

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

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    Maybe you do it for the scent of piney, aromatic evergreens. Or because you want to create a winter woodland indoors. Your motive is your business.

    We agree with the impulse. There's nothing more festive in December than draping greenery across a mantel, over a doorway, or down the center of the holiday table. Here are 10 sources for freshly cut garlands and boughs:

    Evergreen roping garland Christmas holiday ; Gardenista

    Above: Fresh pine roping. Photograph by Erin Boyle.

    Above: Michigan-based Wilson Evergreens delivers via Fed Ex ground shipping three varieties of freshly cut garlands from the state's northern forests. Each garland of Cedar Pine ($55), White Pine ($42), or Balsam ($38) is 18 feet long.

    garland noble fir mix ; Gardenista

    Above: A 25-foot length of Noble Fir Mix Garland is $148 from Terrain.

    fresh privet berry garland ; Gardenista

    Above: Alexa made a moody holiday garland using boughs of fresh privet with dark berries (which she found at the corner florist). You can use her technique with any kind of bough that's available from the florist; for step-by-step instructions, see DIY Privet Garland.

      Fresh birch bough garland Christmas ; Gardenista

    Above: Recreate the look of Martha Stewart's Birch Bough Door Garland (for step-by-step insructions, see Martha Stewart) with a mixture of fresh Fresh Evergreen Boughs. A 3-branch bundle is $45 from The City Loft via Etsy.

      Fresh privet pistachio herb garland ; Gardenista

    Above: Designed by The FloraCultural Society in Oakland, CA, a 42-inch-long Garland is $50.


    Above: Woven with wire to make it easy to drape over mantels or around railings, an aromatic Bay Leaf Garland comes in two lengths, 6 and 12 feet. As the garland's leaves dry, you can use them in cooking; $59.95 or $99.95, depending on length, from Williams-Sonoma.

      Fresh holly boughs Christmas tabletop ; Gardenista

    Above: Bloggers Mary and Tim Vidra of 17 Apart created an evergreen Christmas table runner with holly boughs cut from the garden. To recreate the look, a 24-inch box of fresh Christmas Holly is $24.99 from Mistletoe.

    Boxwood Garland Christmas ; Gardenista

    Above: With rounded, glossy leaves, a 4-foot-long swag of Boxwood Garland looks velvety on a mantel; $59.95 Jackson & Perkins.

    Freshly cut aromatic evergreen boughs Christmas ; Gardenista

    Above: A 5-pound shipment of aromatic, freshly cut Evergreen Boughs to lay across a mantel is $23.95 from Vermont Evergreens.

    Fresh everygreen garland magnolia eucalyptus berry ; Gardenista

    Above: A 10-foot-long Fresh Seeded Magnolia And Berry Garland is made of a mix of Southern magnolia, eucalyptus seeds, and toyon berries and is $168 from Terrain.

    Subscribe to Gardenista daily newsletter ; Gardenista

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    Says photographer Paolo Fusco: "Hardly anything is open 24 hours in Rome: a few bars, a few stores, self service gas stations and flower kiosks, a lot of flower kiosks. You can find them everywhere in the city and they never close."

    Fusco wanders on foot through the city "in search of these islands of light and flowers." Let's tag along:

    Photography by Paolo Fusco.

    Rome flower stall all night florist ; Gardenista

    Above: Fusco's Fiori 24h photos recently were exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina in Serbia. Read more about the exhibit at Naturae Project.


    Above: "Why these kiosks stay open 24 hours remains a mystery," says Fusco, who discovered them "mostly distributed in peripheral areas of the city." 

    Rome flower stall all night florist ; Gardenista

    Above: Most nights, "almost nobody stops to buy flowers," says Fusco.


    Above: "The night florists are all immigrants who spend the night taking care of the plants and sleeping on their chairs or on the floor," says Fusco.


    Above: "They seem like sentinels in the quiet Roman night, small lighthouses populated by half-asleep immigrant workers," says Fusco. 


    Above: Fusco, whose work is dedicated to exploring the urbanized culture of Rome, is currently working on another photographic project to document city life.

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    Does this sound familiar? A couple buy and remodel a Brooklyn townhouse, then look out through their new floor-to-ceiling windows and, noticing the wreck of a garden, request a budget-friendly overhaul. This is the part of the story where garden designer (and Gardenista contributor) Lindsey Taylor comes in.

    She arrived on the scene to find faux stone pavers, a useless grass patch, and a perimeter planting bed that had a bad curve with fake Belgium block. The clients wanted "a simple palette for non-gardeners who like to entertain," Lindsey says.

    Taking design cues from the rear facade created by Brooklyn-based Bangia Agostinho Architecture and the calm interior spaces by designer Suzanne Shaker, Taylor modernized the hardscaping and created inviting spaces for dining and lounging.  "We worked as a team so everything would feel coherent, indoors and out," Lindsey says.

    Photography by Pia Ulin via Bangia Agostinho Architecture except where noted.


    Above: The new garden is a tranquil space, made to feel bigger with oversized bluestone pavers and generous planting beds edged by retaining walls capped with bluestone (for extra seating). "I worked with the lines of the existing raised garden in the back but straightened its corners to update it and make it feel more elegant and modern," says Lindsey.

    Visible at right is a Balinese chaise the clients had purchased on a trip to Bali and which still was en route, being shipped in a container, when Lindsey first saw the garden. "They were a little concerned when they told me it was coming, wondering if its style and size would work with the garden," says Lindsey. "But when I saw it, I thought it was totally fantastic, and that it was a great organic sculptural element to break the cleaner lines. It softens the space, provides a surprising element, and is also very comfortable."



    Above: Conscious of the clients' budget, Taylor analyzed the existing garden to see "what was there that could remain, what we could work with," she says. "Often we're too quick to eliminate everything."

    Some things had to go: the faux stone pavers, the grass patch, and the fake Belgian block. But Taylor decided to keep the bamboo fence at the rear of the garden "because it's somewhat attractive and it helps keep the garden from looking like a boxed-in space and the lower height, allows the owners to take advantage of the borrowed view of another garden just beyond the fence line."


    Above: Remodel in progress; on the garden level of the house is a separate apartment rented to tenants. 



    Above: Lightweight fiberglass boxes planted with Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light' for soft screening provide privacy for both tenants and landlords.  

    brooklyn townhouse garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Lindsey and designer Suzanne Shaker decided to paint a red exterior brick wall the same shade of white as the interior walls in the kitchen to visually connect the two adjacent spaces.


    Above: Photograph by Lindsey Taylor.

    The architects designed the balcony and railing; a Fermob wire chair was sourced from GRDN in Brooklyn.


    Above: The dining table and benches are faux concrete, from Chicago-based Zachary A. Design.

    brooklyn townhouse garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Lindsey cut a pocket in the bluestone patio to create space for a Japanese stewartia tree, underplanted with lavender and boxwood. "Stewartias tend to be quite variable in their shape," she says. "I spotted this one at Gowanus Nursery and fell in love with it for its very tight upright form, a perfect form for the garden, providing a divide between dining and outdoor grilling area."


    Above: Cornus kousa 'Milky Way', a dogwood tree with snowy white flowers, anchors a back corner of the garden. On the fence in the background is a New Dawn climbing rose.


    Above: Photograph by Lindsey Taylor.

    The cedar fence is unstained; it will weather to a soft gray and then be sealed. "The back of the house was dark, and the garden is a hot space, very sunny. So we left the fence alone instead of staining it to keep the garden from feeling too hot and dark," says Lindsey.

    Space between the horizontal slats is good for circulation. "There is a problem with mosquitos in Brooklyn, so we wanted a lot of good air flow and its better for the health fo the plants," says Lindsey.

    For more of our favorite Brooklyn townhouse gardens, see:

    Subscribe to Gardenista daily newsletter ; Gardenista

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    Using scraps from a Christmas tree lot, you can make a miniature forest. We spotted the DIY project via Say Yes and are running out now to get refills for our glue gun.

    Photography by Liz Stanley via Say Yes.

    DIY miniature Christmas trees from scraps ; Gardenista

    Above: Scraps from live Christmas trees make a miniature forest just like what you'd buy in a hobby store—except this one smells like evergreens.

    DIY miniature Christmas trees from scraps ; Gardenista

    Above: You need a glue gun and scrap wood with holes to make bases for the trees.

    DIY miniature Christmas trees from scraps ; Gardenista

    Above: For step-by-step instructions, see Say Yes.

    DIY miniature Christmas trees from scraps ; Gardenista

    Above: Next year, scrap wood reindeer?

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    My favorite arrangements to make for the holidays are those inspired by my natural surroundings. What better way than to take a walk in the woods, on the beach, in the mountains, finding unlikely elements for a wild, seasonal arrangement? When making a wild and foraged arrangement, I tend to choose a foliage that can serve as a base, and help guide the feel of the arrangement. 

    Photographs by Sophia Moreno-Bunge.

     an unexpected holiday arrangement from sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: This year, I decided to use castor clippings as my base, since they grow rampantly all along the Pacific Coast Highway in California where I find myself for the holidays. I love the star-like shapes of the leaves, and their surreal size. I also decided to use one of my favorites, foraged bottle brush—a tree that screams California Christmas to me, because of its luscious red color.

    an unexpected holiday arrangement from sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: Star-shaped castor leaves.

    an unexpected holiday arrangement from sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: Bright red bottle brush. With castor and bottle brush on my mind, I took a trip to the downtown Los Angeles Flower Market in search of a few more "ingredients" for my holiday arrangement.

    an unexpected holiday arrangement from sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: At the market I chose striped red and white amaryllis, a beautiful bundle of pine (whose bunch shapes are incredible) and some wild rose hip branches. 

    an unexpected holiday arrangement from sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: All of the ingredients. In addition to your flowers and greenery, you'll also need a large vase, preferably with a tapered opening to keep your stems from spilling out, and a pair of clippers.

    an unexpected holiday arrangement from sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: To begin, I fill the vase with water and add my castor and pine base, creating an architectural shape. The beauty of this sort of arrangement is that you can supplement with your own floral materials, and use whatever you have handy as your foliage base. Make sure you cut your stems at a diagonal, and leave each stem as long as your vase will allow so they reach the bottom of the vase and can drink as much water as possible (you can measure the stem up to the vase before you cut it!).

    an unexpected holiday arrangement from sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: I added a cascade of bottle brush on one side of my arrangement, accentuating its natural shape.

    an unexpected holiday arrangement from sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: Next I added rose hip branches. And last, three stems of amaryllis (or your own floral choice). Amazingly, the amaryllis buds will continue to bloom over the next few says, filling out the arrangement even more.

    an unexpected holiday arrangement from sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: The finished product.

    Taken by the rose hips? See Rose Hip Wreaths from the Hedgerow. For more seasonal DIY ideas, see all of our Holidays posts.

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    One day while Paul Mottorshead and Olivier Guérin were visiting Guérin's parents in Chérac, Bordeaux, they happened to drive past a small building on a narrow side street in the historic center of Cognac. There, on Rue du Palais, an idea was born. 

    The couple decided to quit their jobs in London and move to France to open a garden shop in the 16th-century townhouse in Cognac, and to name it Ambre Concept Store. Next they decided to renovate the shop's courtyard garden. Both turned out to be wise decisions:

    Photography by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: From the street, there's no evidence of the shop's hidden courtyard garden.

    The couple's plan to relocate and open a shop wasn't quite as whimsical as it sounds. Mottorshead had plenty of experience with plants; at the time he managed Clifton Nurseries in London, overseeing the venerable nursery's supplies and decor. Guérin was operating a language school for corporate executives.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: Inside the shop, home wares and house plants sit side by side. Before opening the shop, the couple traveled to Italy, Belgium, Spain, and South Africa to ferret out unusual items. 

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: Cognac-based architect Eric Daigre renovated the shop.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: The inventory is eclectic, from flowers to furniture and includes both vintage and new items. Scents, soaps, and teas also are on offer in the shop.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: Behind the shop is the garden courtyard, where the couple sells garden products and plants.

    Courtyard garden Ambre shop Cognac, France ; Gardenista

    Above: "The courtyard was originally more Mediterranean with palms and gravel, but the palms were to big and spiky and we replaced the gravel with a deck to make it look more contemporary," says Mottorshead.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: At the back of the garden, a Mottorshead and Guérin built a fence from birch tree trunks cut in half and attached to a simple rectangular wooden frame. On the other side of the fence, a decorative metal sculpture reinforces a neighbor's wall.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: A square zinc fountain is edged in box and adorned with evergreen ivy.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: In the terra cotta pot is an espaliered apple tree called Reine de Reinettes, an old French variety.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: Reine de Reinettes originates from France in the 18th century and has been popular in England since the Victorian age. For more information about the variety, see Orange Pippin.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: Pots (from L) of ivy, hydrangea, and rosemary create a romantic tableau.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: The fence's wooden frame is covered with a black weather resistant fabric to hide an original breeze block wall at the back of the garden. 

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: The peeling back adds texture and color.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: Ivy grows on the fence.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: From French furniture manufacturer Matiere Grise, a galvanized steel Up Chair and Zonda Standing Table are weather resistant and are available in more than two dozen colors.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

    Above: A potted fern is among the plants for sale in the courtyard.

    Ambre Concept Store France; Gardenista

     Above: Chinese star jasmine grows on a metal trellis against a stone wall.

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    My brothers and I thought my father invented the concept of the backyard ice skating rink. The first we heard of it was one night when he went outdoors in Chicago's sub-zero weather to spray a thin layer of water onto a plastic tarp he'd stretched over a low wooden frame. Seemed like a crazy idea. But my father was like that. He had hobbies that became obsessions that grew into lifestyles—remind me to tell you sometime about his stamp collection, which sent all of us to college—and we were not surprised to wake up one morning to see a Zamboni-quality layer of ice sparkling beneath a pitiless winter sun.

    My father's ice rinks became the hit of a neighborhood where families shared Black Hawks season tickets and carpooling duties to kids' hockey tournaments. Over the years as he refined his ice-making techniques and conscripted my three brothers to do hose duty, the only casualties were my mother (an uncertain skater who ended up with stitches) and Peter the rabbit (who died from eating the bath towel that shielded his cage from icy blasts of wind as kids tromped through the back door).

    Nowadays you can buy backyard ice rink kits and supplies from dozens of outfits such as Iron Sleek (which sells ice rink "systems") and NiceRink, or you can save money and follow step-by-step DIY instructions from such sites as Instructables and Popular Mechanics (which promises that you can build a backyard ice rink "with little more than 175 feet of lumber, 25 metal stakes, and a 50-by-100-foot plastic liner"). But the principles remain the same as in the 1970s, when my dad staked the yard to determine its slope—my grandfather, a mechanical engineer, helped him with that part—and then winged the rest of it.

    Is a backyard ice skating rink the right winter project for you? Read on to find out:

    Pick Your Spot


    Above: A backyard ice skating rink is a project in climates where temperatures dip to 20 degrees or below—and stay there—in winter. In warmer regions, ice can turn to slush, which is no fun for anyone.

    Choose a flat location for your ice rink, near a water source if possible (our hose stretched from its spigot all the way to the center of the ice).

    Determine the Slope

    Backyard slope elevation ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Backyard Hockey.

    No backyard is perfectly flat. Seriously, don't skip this step: stake the four corners of the rink and then eyeball the stakes to determine which one is at the highest elevation. Tie twine around that stake at the height of the top of the ice surface (at least six inches from the ground). Then run the twine to the other stakes and tie it at a level height. You will see immediately the variation in height. (You will be filling the rink to the height of the twine at each of the four corners.)

    For more tips about how to determine your yard's elevation, see Backyard Hockey.

    Supplies and Materials

    Backyard ice skating rink ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Designitecture.

    The main materials you need to build a backyard ice skating rink are boards to form a perimeter to contain the water (pressure-treated plywood or 2-by-12 lengths of lumber will work), brackets to brace the boards to keep water from pushing them out of place, and a waterproof liner (preferably clear-colored or white) for the bottom of the rink. For components, you can go to a hardware store or buy specialty supplies online from companies such as NiceRink

    Build the Frame

    ice rink frame construction ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Mark Claypool.

    Shore up the rink's low retaining wall with strong brackets to prevent water, as it freezes and expands, from pushing the frame out of shape. On a cold day (it's best if temperatures are in the 20s and go even lower at night), unroll the liner, smooth it flat and drape it loosely over the boards (water will take up the slack as it freezes).

    Add Water

    ice rink cafe lights ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Sixty Fifth Avenue.

    There are at least two schools of thought on how to fill the frame with water. My father's technique was to fill our ice rinks in layers, standing in the dark with a hose every night for several nights. He waited 24 hours between layers to ensure that the previous night's water was frozen solid. After four or five nights of adding water he tested it by walking on the frozen surface to see if it would hold his weight without cracking. 

    Another method is to fill the rink all at once.  "Don’t try to fill in layers because you could jeopardize your liner. If you put down one inch of ice first, then try to fill again, the new water will bore a hole in your ice and fill from the bottom up. This will push up that first layer of ice, which could damage your liner. Avoid this by filling all at once," says blogger Joe Proulx of Backyard Hockey


    Backyard ice rink skating ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Popular Mechanics.

    To keep a rink in shape all winter, groom it a the end of every day of skating. Sweep the ice with a broom and then add another thin layer of water to smooth out the surface. You can do this with a hose, or you can have your children do it with a hose, or you can purchase a tool like the  Nice Ice Backyard Ice Rink Resurfacer ($179.95 from X Hockey Products), which applies a thin, controlled layer of water evenly to the ice surface.

    Note: To avoid damaging the lawn beneath, take down the rink as soon as water starts to melt in spring. Most experts recommend draining with a pump or a siphon.

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    For years, I've been on the hunt for the perfect star to top my holiday tree. Most, I've found, are either too big, too plastic, or too costly. So this year I decided to make my own. With nothing more than some foraged larch boughs and glittery string, I crafted a simple, natural star that looks much more at home atop my Scandinavian tree.

    Photography by Justine Hand for Gardenista.

    DIY, foraged tree topper, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: One of my favorite things about this project is the minimal time and materials it requires. Likely you have these things right on hand in your craft drawer and yard.


    • Straight branches from any tree or bush. I used larch, then also experimented with evergreens and rose hips.
    • Festive holiday string or twine. 
    • Scissors, shears, and wire.

    Step 1:

    DIY, foraged tree topper, step 1, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Cut four straight branches the same length, depending on how big you want your star to be. I used 9-inch sticks for my 9 foot tree.

    Step 2:

    DIY, foraged tree topper, step 2, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: If you are using larch or something with needles or buds, remove these from the center 2 inches of each branch.

    Step 3:

    DIY tree star, step 3, Gardenista

    Above: Lay two branches across each other to form a plus sign. Then place the remaining two branches diagonally across these to form a star with equidistant spokes.

    Step 4:

    DIY, foraged tree topper, begining the God's eye wrap, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: To secure the branches, I resurrected an old skill from my camp days: God's eyes. Though this double cross version looks more complex than the standard with two crossed sticks, the technique is the same. In fact, after I got started I couldn't believe how easily my fingers settled into the rhythm of the task. Like riding a bike, I guess.

    First, tie a bit of string to one of the branches. Then lay it across the star and wrap twice around the whole base. Then move to the next "V" and repeat until you have wrapped each section in a star pattern.

    Step 5:

    DIY tree star, step 1 gods eye, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: To begin your God's eye, wrap the twine across the front and around one branch.

    DIY tree star, step 2 gods eye, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Come across the front to the next branch. Wrap around and then move across to the next. Repeat until you have built up the middle of your God's eye. After you achieve the thickness you want, flip you star over and tie off the loose end.

    DIY, foraged tree topper, begining the God's eye wrap, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Here's what your star should look like after this step.

    Step 6:

    DIY foraged tree star, second layer 2, by Justine Hand for Gardenista.jpg

    Above: The second layer of your star is made using a standard four-point God's eye. This time, tie your string farther up the branch. Wrap around, but instead of going to the next immediate branch, skip one. Repeat three times and tie off the end. 

    Step 7: 

    DIY foraged tree star, third layer, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: To fashion the third layer, repeat as above, but start on one of the branches that you skipped before to create two standard God's eyes at an angle to each other. 

    DIY foraged tree star, final, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Voilà! If you wish, you can trim the alternate ends of your star. Then attach the star to your tree with a bit of wire.

    DIY foraged branch ornaments, gardenista 

    Above: I also experimented with other materials such as evergreens and rose hips. Hung together, they look like falling snow flakes.

    N.B. Want more DIY holiday decor? Michelle offers a tutorial on Snowballs for the Christmas Tree, while Sarah teaches us how to make a Cardoon Swag.

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    For a new cabin in Denmark, a young family had somewhat conflicting desires: a large house that would look small, modern architecture that would blend into the forest, and open spaces for dinner parties but privacy for the family. 

    Copenhagen-based Primus Arkitekter solved the puzzle with a long, narrow house providing ample square footage while appearing modest in size from each end. Inside, a mix of shared spaces with high ceilings and intimate nooks lends an alternating sense of open space and coziness. And the house's bold exterior in a weathered, rough-hewn finish recedes into the forest. 

    Photography by Stamers Kontor via Arch Daily, except where noted. 

    Forest House in Denmark | Gardenista

    Above: The cabin's dimensions look modest from the front, meeting the clients' desire to avoid ostentatiousness. But inside is plenty of room. 

    Forest House in Denmark | Gardenista

    Above: The house sits on the edge of a forest in Asserbo, Denmark, a small town inhabited since the 12th century. On one side are tall plantation trees, with grassland on the other. Photograph by David Bülow.

    Forest House in Denmark | Gardenista

    Above: Inside, the openness of full-height ceilings contrasts with the density of the surrounding forest. 

    Forest House in Denmark | Gardenista

    Above: The interiors are by Danish designer Louise de Fønss, who kept bulky furniture off the floor to maximize usable space in the main entertaining room. The double-height steel windows are Millennium series by Danish manufacturer HS Hansen, and the polished concrete floors are by Londero Mosaik. 

    Forest House in Denmark | Gardenista

    Above: Interior walls are clad in boards of slightly different thicknesses, lending a light checkerboard look in a nod to the exterior cladding. Note the opening in the concrete wall at the back of the kitchen, allowing a glimpse of the living room. Cabinets and interior woodwork are by Danish furniture manufacturer Københavns Møbelsnedkeri

    Forest House in Denmark | Gardenista

    Above: The interior is modern and cool, softened by textiles. Built-in storage spaces are hidden throughout the long, open-floor plan. 

    Forest House in Denmark | Gardenista

    Above: The cabin's exterior is clad in solid oak boards treated with iron sulfate—both to protect the wood and to achieve a weathered look. Note the outdoor shower off one of the bedrooms, and the drainage spouts that collect water from the roof in wooden barrels below.

    Forest House in Denmark | Gardenista

    Above: The vertically oriented boards are mostly accompanied by vertical windows framing views of the woods—but occasionally a horizontal window breaks up the monotony. 

    Forest House in Denmark | Gardenista

    Above: Light plays off the oak cladding, lending different geometries and patterns at different times of day. 

    More Danish outdoor spaces: 

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    Where is the frigid grip of winter? In the Northeast we are in the disconcertingly mild cuddle of mid-December. Gardeners are beginning to scratch their heads and wonder what is going to happen to their fall-planted bulbs. Will they break dormancy now and be zapped by the first real freeze? 

    The good news is that the cool-weather salad bar is still wide, wide open.  

    Fresh-cut greens might not seem synonymous with midwinter but even in ordinary weather cycles, mâche, pea shoots, fava bean leaves, and mustard can be on your holiday plate if your USDA hardiness zone is 6b or higher. For a small investment per packet, you cut your salad shopping bill drastically, and have the satisfaction of picking your daily bowlful, grown right at home.

    Photography by Marie Viljoen.


    Mache cold weather winter crop ; Gardenista

    Above: I started growing mâche (also called corn salad and lamb’s lettuce) because I could not find its delicate and easily bruised rosettes at markets. Mâche is a true winter crop. While many sources cite it as easy to grow, there is a trick (which they don’t mention):  the seeds will not germinate if temperatures are above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. After overnight temperatures are steadily below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it is time to plant for midwinter or spring harvest.

    A good source for seeds is Botanical Interests, where a packet of Heirloom Mâche Seeds is $1.89.

    Giant Red Mustard

    Giant red mustard ; Gardenista

    Above: One of the cold-hardy Brassicas, giant red mustard thrives in nippy weather and adds a welcome bite of pepper to a mixed salad. The largest leaves make good leaf wraps.  (And planted alone in a perennial bed, the leaves are indeed giant and are very striking.)


    Spicy arugula winter greens; Gardenista

    Spicy arugula is a staple in my daily salads. This year - gardening in-ground in Brooklyn after a move from a container garden in Harlem - I have been thrilled to discover that they will thrive without direct sunlight. In fact they perform better than the arugula that I have grown in full sun. Plant as early as late summer, with successive sowings till frost.

    Fava Greens

    Fava greens cold weather crop ; Gardenista

    Above: Fava greens are the earliest spring crop to plant, so why not make them the last crop of the cooling year? Fava greens keep pushing out shoots as fast as you nip them for salads and stir fries. They can take high shade, making them a versatile crop.

    Pea Shoots

    Pea shoots winter garden crop ; Gardenista

    Above: Peas work well in containers and in-ground. If you plant in late fall they will not set pods, but you will be able to appreciate their pretty, sugar snap-flavored shoots.

    Baby Kale

      Baby kale winter garden crop ; Gardenista

    Above: Sweet kale leaves taste better after a crisp frost, and are tough enough to withstand dustings of snow. Their texture holds up to composed salads and works beautifully with sliced apples and pears. Plant dwarf varieties for containers and small spaces and also for earlier harvest.

    For seeds, a packet of Dino Kale seeds is $3.95 from Hudson Seed Library.


    Fenugreek winter garden crop ; Gardenista

    Above: I sowed my first fenugreek patch from store-bought spice in late summer. The seeds all germinated quickly. While not a typical cold weather crop, the greens still can be collected while temperatures hover above freezing. The legume is common in India (where it is known as methi) and in the Middle East, but not much used stateside. The fresh leaves are good raw or wilted (and a favorite in parathas). And their roots fix nitrogen in the soil (nice bonus). Look for the seeds in Middle Eastern or Indian grocery stores and soak before sowing.

    Winter Cress

    Winter cress garden crop; Gardenista

    Above: Here is a plant you may have noticed growing in the wild in cold weather. Winter cress (also called upland cress and creasy greens) is as cold-loving as its name suggests. Planted in early fall, it can be harvested well before the last frost of winter. The leaves are mustard-like in flavor and develop more chewiness with colder temperatures. In a salad their heat offsets the tropical sweetness of winter mangos. Left to bolt, its pretty yellow flowers on tender stems are also delicious.

    A good source for seeds is Johnny's, where a packet of Winter Cress Seeds is $3.95.

    Winter garden crops lettuces greens ; Gardenista

    Above: The best thing about cold weather salads is that you get to plant them again, starting in early spring. If it it is too hard to decide what to plant, consider signing up early for a seed of the month club, like Grow Journey’s, where a surprise collection will arrive monthly, guaranteed to contain leafy edibles that love the cold.

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    The Remodelista editors headed abroad for holiday design inspiration this week. Here's what they found in Paris, Scandinavia, Brussels, and London:

    dried herbs kitchen paris ; Gardenista

    Above: dried herbs in the kitchen in An Artfully Appointed Flat in Paris.

    Swedish Scandinavian dining chair ; Gardenista

    Above: Julie goes beyond the Wishbone and the Ant to round up her favorite examples of the New Scandinavian Chair in this week's 10 Easy Pieces post.

    Hotel Providence Paris; Gardenista

    Above: Alexa discovers a Velvet Goldmine in a new hotel in the theater district of Paris.

    Happy Guesthouse Brussels ; Gardenista

    Above: Margot finds happiness in A Minimalist Guesthouse in Brussels.

    Kitchen of the Week London Remodelista ; Gardenista

    Above: Margot visits a boundary-breaking London remodel to unearth the Kitchen of the Week.

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    From new resin plant stands to a thistle-and-oak arrangement, here are a few things we loved this week. 



    • Above: Design studio Capra Designs debuts its hand-poured resin plant stands. Photograph by Eve Wilson. 
    • House greenery you don't have to water.
    • 3 ways to enjoy Yosemite in the winter.
    • Over on Remodelista: A Happiness-Inducing Guesthouse in Brussels.


    Instagram and Pinterest Picks of the Week 


    • Above: The bounty of fresh produce in artist Emily Billing's feed continues to capture our attention (@emersonthoreau). 


    For more Gardenista, visit our latest issue Holidays Abroad.

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    We'll be celebrating self-sufficient homesteaders (and their DIY holiday gift ideas) this week. Curl up with us in front of a fire:

    Table of Contents: Homesteaders ; Gardenista

    Above: For more of this flower farm, see Garden Visit: Local Flowers from Robin Hollow Farm in Rhode Island.


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

    Above: The holiday season should not feel like a rush to the finish line. Avoid the frenzy of last-minute shopping with three gifts you can make at home. We'll offer step-by-step instructions in this week's DIY posts.

    Before and After remodeled barn Germany Kroger ; Gardenista

    Above: We visit a remodeled barn in Germany in this week's Before & After post.


    Tasha Shoo farmer Australia ; GArdenista

    Above: We visit a modern farmer in Australia in this week's Garden Visit.


    charred wood cottage facade ; Gardenista

    Above: It is possible to build an entire cabin on a budget of $45,000. See how in this week's Architect Visit.


    Egg Shell Mulch in the Garden, seed starters, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Save your eggshells to use in the garden. Justine explains why in this week's Gardening 101 post.


    Christmas decor Sweden holiday garden advent ; Gardenista

    Above: To celebrate Christmas, we'll drop in on a garden in Sweden for a special holiday Garden Visit.

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    In the German village of Uckermark, architect Thomas Kröger and team at TKA recently converted a 140-year-old brick-and-timber barn into a family vacation house with a separate guest apartment. "In its time, it was an ultramodern building," says Kröger, a Berlin star who got this start working for Norman Foster and Max Dudler. Now, the structure is ultramodern once again—while remaining true to its past.

    Photography by Thomas Heimann via Yatzer, unless otherwise noted.

    Before and After remodeled german barn Kroger ; Gardenista

    Above: The 1900 farm building known as Landhaus was once used to house two settler families as well as their cattle. The converted interior is still defined by a series of original beams and trusses.

    Above: The barn hadn't been used for decades when the owners, a young family, bought it as a country escape. Its three new archways (with slatted-wood gates) open the house to fields, orchard, and garden. Photograph by Thomas Heimann via Home World Design.

    Before and After remodeled barn Germany Kroger ; Gardenista

    Above: Kröger describes his design as applying "the preexisting language of the house and adapting it using its own means and rules." 

    Above: The house is centered by a double-height great hall with a fireplace (a necessity because the room is unheated). Note the inset sitting niches in the hearth.

    Above: The brick-paved great hall is cathedral-size in scope with two stories of rooms around it. Explains Kröger: "The space is designed so that the great hall is unheated and surrounded by an enclosed and heated body of rooms. So for the cold season, only the smaller and more sociable areas of the house can be used, like birds' nests."

    Above: Platform stairs lead to the slightly elevated open kitchen-dining-living area.

    Above: The dining table is crowned by a wood-slatted pyramid that extends to the upstairs floor, which has three bedrooms, two baths, two studies, and a loggia.

    Above: The minimalist kitchen is freestanding and defined by a sculptural angled ceiling hood.

    Above: A cross section shows the dramatic pyramid that divides the upstairs floor. Plan via Metalocus.

    Above: A longitudinal section of the design. Plan via Metalocus.


    Above: The main room opens to a lounge furnished with mattress-inspired seating.

    Above: Glass partitions offer sweeping interior views. "The entire building was upgraded and a considered approach to energy was made," explains Kröger. "The walls of the heated rooms are insulated on the inside with a wall heating and clay plaster."


    Above: The barn's apartment is in a connecting structure with its own entrance. It has a living area and kitchen on the ground floor and two bedrooms and a bath on the second floor. 


    Above: The bathroom's honeycomb floor tiles extend up the walls.

     Above: Though contemporary in spirit, the room incorporates the wooden trusses.

    Above: Changes to the barn on the street side are "barely readable," says Kröger.

    Above: Uckermark, just an hour north of Berlin, is a popular rural retreat.


    Above: The back of the structure, pre-renovation. 

    Above: Arched openings were introduced to connect indoors and out.


    Above: The interior as it looked at the start of construction. See more of Thomas Kröger Architekt's work at TKA.

    Take a look at some more farm conversions we've been admiring:

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    The holiday season should not feel like a race to the finish line. Avoid the frenzy of last-minute holiday shopping with homespun gifts. Here's a fragrant orange and clove pomander you can make with materials you may already have:

    Photography by Erin Boyle for Gardenista. 

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

    Above: A fragrant hostess gift.

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

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


    • An orange
    • Ribbon
    • Straight pin
    • Whole cloves (about 50)

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


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

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

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

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    A few years ago Tasha Shoo and her husband, Ben, bought 10 acres of land an hour's drive from Melbourne, Australia, and moved there from the city with their three children and a dream of raising the food they eat.

    With chickens, pigs, beehives, and garden plots, the experiment was a success—and intoxicating. After 18 months of harvesting her own salads and curing her own bacon and eating strawberries that really taste like strawberries, Shoo embarked on a second phase of farming: She and Ben launched a project called A Plot in Common, digging six extra edible-garden beds that they offered to share with neighbors.

    Word got around. Australian photographer Tara Pearce, who tells the stories of people who've chosen the country over city life, came by with her camera to take a look. Here's what she saw:

    Photography by Tara Pearce except where noted.

    Tasha Shoo Australia farmer Outer Towners; Gardenista

    Above: Shoo raises her family's meat, vegetables, and fruit on the farm, which also has a small orchard, prompting Pearce to describe her as a "modern farmer."  Shoo's husband, Ben, works as a designer from a small studio on the property.

    Tasha Shoo Australia farmer Outer Towners; Gardenista

    Above: On the farm is a small cottage and several other buildings, including a barn. Photograph via A Plot in Common.

    Tasha Shoo Australia farmer Outer Towners; Gardenista

    Above: Netting protects the crops from rabbits and other hungry varmints.

    Tasha Shoo Australia farmer Outer Towners; Gardenista

    Above: In addition to her own garden plots, Shoo has created an additional six beds that neighbors may use for free to plant their own food. "More and more people are becoming interested in where their food comes from, but not everyone has the space or knowledge to grow their own," she says. "The idea for A Plot in Common is to explore ways in which we can share our farm, the space, and what we have learned."

    Tasha Shoo Australia farmer Outer Towners; Gardenista

    Above: Purple cauliflower.

    Tasha Shoo Australia farmer Outer Towners; Gardenista

    Above: "What can you do here that you can't do in the big city?" Tara Pearce asked Shoo. 

    "Last Sunday we drove up a nearby mountain and had a picnic in the snow, went down to a tasting in a vineyard, and took a bottle home," Shoo said. "Then we made pasta with our own homegrown eggs, beef, and vegetables."

    Tasha Shoo Australia farmer Outer Towners; Gardenista

    Above: What appeals most about living on a farm, Shoo said, is the ability to "go slow, spend more time doing less, and explore the things that you would usually pass right by."

    Tasha Shoo Australia farmer Outer Towners; Gardenista

    Above: The farm, located in the town of Lauriston (pop. 538), is surrounded by rolling hills.

    Tasha Shoo Australia farmer Outer Towners; Gardenista

    Above: Harvesting rosemary and collecting eggs.

    Tasha Shoo Australia farmer Outer Towners; Gardenista

    Above: Home-cured meats. "We had quite a bit of pork in the freezer from last year's pigs," Shoo said. "We dreamed of salami, prosciutto, bacon—anything cured, really—but they seemed a little out of our league. Funny how you put things in the 'too hard' basket. It's just taking that initial step, isn't it? Bacon was our first step."

    For more of our favorite modern farmers, see Organic Flowers at Red Damsel Farm and Dinner at Beetlebung Farm.

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    Around this time of year, when my sisters and I migrate home for the holidays, we become what my dad calls "fire gloms." We can't help it. My parents' house is never exactly toasty, and the roaring fire in the kitchen fireplace is the perfect spot for gathering. Enter the house during the winter and you'll no doubt see all four of us lined up, bums toward the fire. 

    Of course someone needs to keep the fire roaring, so a few years ago I generously gave my dad a log carrier to help him with the task.

    Here's a roundup of 10 firewood log carriers, perfect for toting logs from woodshed to fireplace, without snagging sweaters or mussing rugs in the process.

    filson log carrier canvas leather ; Gardenista

    Above: This is the Log Carrier I gave to my parents a few years ago. It's 19.5 inches wide by 43.5 inches long and made from twill and bridle leather; $88 from Filson.

    10 Easy Pieces: Firewood Log Carriers | Gardenista

    Above: The Steele Canvas Log Carrier is on sale for $103.20 from Rejuvenation.

    10 Easy Pieces: Firewood Log Carriers | Gardenista

    Above: The Shanty Man Log Carrier is made of waxed canvas and leather straps from dead stock WWII leather gun slings. Brass grommets lend an extra layer of support; 18 inches wide by 38 inches long and $142 from Peg & Awl via Etsy. 

    10 Easy Pieces: Firewood Log Carriers | Gardenista

    Above: The leather and canvas Firewood Sling is 21 inches wide and 52 inches wide and is $140 from Frost River.

      Timber hauler firewood log carrier ; Gardenista

    Above: A less expensive alternative, the Log Carrier, is 18 inches wide by 56 inches long and is made from waxed canvas and wooden dowels; $80 from Frost River.

    L.L. Bean canvas log carrier ; Gardenista

    Above: A Dura-Tough Standing Log Carrier made of canvas  is $39.95 from L.L. Bean.

    10 Easy Pieces: Firewood Log Carriers | Gardenista

    Above: I'm a big fan of Beckel Canvas tents and duffles, so no surprise that I love the classic canvas look of this Log Carrier made from 20-ounce canvas duck with 2-inch cotton webbing wrap; $32 from Beckel Canvas. 

    10 Easy Pieces: Firewood Log Carriers | Gardenista

    Above: The Canvas Firewood Tote is made from 18-ounce canvas and polypropylene and cotton webbing that's been triple-stitched for strength; $65 from Patzbag.

    Duluth Trading canvas leather firewood log carrier ; Gardenista

    Above: Made of cotton canvas with a heavy duty leather handle, a Firewood Log Carrier is $59.95 from Duluth Trading.

    10 Easy Pieces: Firewood Log Carriers | Gardenista

    Above: The Carrier Company offers an all-jute Log Carrier that measures 52 by 95 centimeters; £36.

    Have a lighter load to carry? See A Bag for Kindling. Stay warm: see 10 Easy Pieces: Freestanding Wood Stoves.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published on December 4, 2013.

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    Honestly, I never imagined I'd meet a God's eye I liked. But recently, when trying to conjure a Christmas tree star (see A Star Is Born: DIY Foraged Tree Topper), I remembered the old camp craft, and I thought maybe it's not the object itself that lacks appeal—perhaps it's just the rainbow yarn. And so the idea of the non-gaudy God's eye was born.

    Photography by Justine Hand.


    Above: I began with some red and black ribbon and white yarn, and then threw in a little glittery gold and silver string for extra holiday cheer.


    • Natural yarn, ribbon, or twine. I used a selection of Italian Cotton Ribbon and Wrapped Cotton from Studio Carta, as well as Twine ($5.60 a roll) from Anthropologie. 
    • Balsa wood or popsicle sticks. Balsa wood is readily available in strips at your local hardware or art supply store. 
    • Scissors.
    • Exacto knife, or other sharp utility knife.

    Making God's eyes is a bit like riding a bike. After a brief refresher, you'll find you settle right back into the rhythm of it. Let's start with the basics.

    Ornament 1: The Simple God's Eye

    Step 1: Cut your balsa wood into two pieces of equal length.

    Note: Although you can use popsicle sticks, I chose thinner widths of balsa wood, which seemed a better way to conjure the light snowflakes that I wanted to make. 

    Step 2: Place two pieces together to form an X. To secure, simply wrap your twine diagonally in each direction to create an X across the front. I do not tie my yarn to the sticks because it creates an unruly lump. Simply wrapping around in each direction several times is enough to secure the center of the God's eye. After it's wrapped, trim any loose ends.

    Step 3: Wrap the twine once, back to front, around one stick.

    Step 4: Bring the twine across the front to the next stick, wrap around the back and across the front to the next stick.

    Step 5: Repeat: Wrap around, quarter turn across the front to the next stick, wrap around, and so on until you reach the desired width. 

    Above: Made with Studio Carta Wrapped Cotton String in red ($22 for 90 yards), my simple God's eye is a festive ornament. I finished it with a simple knot around the final stick and then created a long tail with a loop at the end for hanging the ornament.

    Above: The back of the God's eye is also lovely. Here is a step-by-step guide to making a classic God's eye.

    Ornament 2: The Multi-Textured God's Eye

    Above: To create this pattern, I wrapped the first two layers in the traditional manner, pulling the ribbon and then white mohair, passing the yarn over each stick. For the final layer, instead of moving over, I passed under each stick. (You can also simply turn the God's eye over and continuing working across the front of the opposite face if that's easier for you.) To switch materials, simply tie one to the next with a knot and trim the tail. After you begin experimenting with different patterns, you'll find that the possibilities are endless.

    Ornament 3: The Complex God's Eye

    Above: For a more elaborate design, start with four sticks crossed into a star form. (Note: I found that it's easier to secure this many sticks if I notch them with my Exacto knife.) The techniques for making complex God's eyes are the same as the simple, you're just dealing with more quadrants. First, to secure the sticks, wrap a thread diagonally across from one quadrant to the opposite moving around the star. Then work the yarn around in eighths instead of quarters, wrapping it around each stick and across the front to the next one.

    Above: You can create more intricate patterns using the complex God's eye framework. Here I applied the basic technique in the center. For the outer pattern, I skipped a stick to create a square pattern. To do this, tie two pieces of string to two consecutive sticks. Wrap one once around in a square, tie off, and then use the other to go once around.

    Above: You can also alternate the yarns that form the squares to create a radiating snowflake look. To do this, begin as you did above with two pieces of string tied to consecutive sticks. Work one string around the square, but don't tie it off. Simply hold it taut, while you work the next string once around. Continue to alternate once around with each piece.

    The Finished Look

    Above: Hung on a bare branch, my God's eyes conjure a simple Scandi Christmas.

    Above: Smaller God's eyes make great gift tags.

    Want more Scandi-inspired holiday decor? See:

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    On the coast of Brittany, architects Lucie Niney and Thibault Marca of Paris-based NeM Architectes discovered "a vacation home frozen in time." The challenge was to add a bedroom without sacrificing any of the quaint atmosphere. The solution? They designed a mirror image—an even tinier replica—and connected the two buildings with a small walkway.

    To create a mirror image effect, the architects wanted to complement the existing white cottage with a dark addition. (Black is a color often seen on the foggy Brittany coast, where nearby oyster huts are frequently coated with a black paint described as a tar.) But instead of painting the cottage black, Niney and Marca decided to burn it:

    Photography via NeM Architectes.

      NeM charred wood vacation cottage Brittany ; Gardenista

    Above: Old and new. The two cottages are joined by a walkway clad in charred Douglas fir.


    NeM Architects vacation cottage Brittany ; Gardenista

     Above: Working with a budget of $45,000 and a mandate to add a bedroom to the vacation cottage, the architects decided to build a second peaked structure alongside the house.

    Charred Douglas fir wood for a cottage ; Gardenista

    Above: During a recent trip to Japan, the architects had become interested in the Japanese charred-wood technique of shou-sugi-ban. Charring wood makes it weather- and mold-resistant, a benefit near the sea. 

    Site plan for Brittany twin cottages by NeM Architects ; Gardenista

    Above: The architects' plan called for a freestanding charred-wood cottage connected by a walkway to the existing house.

    NeM charred wood cottage Brittany ; Gardenista

    Above: The new cottage is clad in charred Douglas fir.


    NeM charred wood cottage Brittany ; Gardenista

    Above: The two cottages share a terrace.

    NeM charred wood cottage Brittany ; Gardenista

    Above: The bedroom in the new cottage has floor-to-ceiling doors instead of a wall, to connect it to the backyard.


    Above: Connected by a covered walkway to the existing house, the new cottage is a mini replica of the old.


    Above: From the road, the new charred wood cottage is reminiscent of the dark-stained facades of nearby oyster huts.

    For more about shou-sugi-ban, the technique of charring wood, see:

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    Last fall, I started collecting eggshells after I read an article on that touted their usefulness in the garden, for everything from fertilizer to organic pest control. This spring, I'm using crushed eggshells in the garden five ways:

    Photography by Justine Hand for Gardenista.

    Egg Shell Mulch in the Garden, sving shells, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: During the winter, I saved the shells from all the eggs we ate by simply rinsing them and placing them in an open container where they could dry out. (No, they did not smell. Everyone who came to my house and saw them asked me this question.) After my containers were full, I set the kids to pulverizing them into little bits with wooden spoons, thus compacting the shells so that I could collect more.

    Eggshell Fertilizer

    Egg Shell Mulch in the Garden, soil enrichment, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: When tilled into the soil, ground eggshells provide your plants with calcium.

    Though nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are most vital for healthy growth, calcium is also essential for building healthy "bones"—the cell walls of a plant. Composed of calcium carbonate, eggshells are an excellent way to introduce this mineral into the soil. To prep the eggshells, grind with a mixer, grinder, or mortar and pestle and till them into the soil. Because it takes several months for eggshells to break down and be absorbed by a plant's roots, it is recommended that they be tilled into the soil in fall. More shells can be mixed into your soil in the spring.

    By the same token, finely crushed shells mixed with other organic matter at the bottom of a hole will help newly planted plants thrive. (Tomatoes especially love calcium.) For an exciting recycled garden cocktail: try mixing your eggshells with coffee grounds, which are rich in nitrogen.

    Finally, eggshells will reduce the acidity of your soil, and will help to aerate it.

    Eggshell Seed Starters

    Egg Shell Mulch in the Garden, seed starters, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Because they are biodegradable, eggshells make excellent, no-waste seed starters. For this, reserve some of your deeper shell halves. Sterilize the shelves by boiling them or by placing them in a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes. (If you put them in a cooling oven after, say, you baked a roast chicken, you can sterilize eggs without using excess energy.)

    Next, with a nail or awl, make a hole in the bottom for drainage. Add soil and seeds according to the packaging. When sprouts appear, plant them—egg and all—right into the soil. See a complete DIY at 17 Apart.

    Eggshell Pest Control

    Egg Shell Mulch in the Garden, deer repellent 2, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: A coating of crushed eggshells in the garden is said to help deter several pests, both large and small. Deer dislike the smell of the albumen and will stay away. Apparently you can also use egg's insides to deter deer. See DIY: Homemade Deer Spray. Be aware, however, that though deer hate the smell of eggs, rodents love it. Therefore, it may not be best to use this deterrent near the house.

    Many gardeners also tout the use of crushed eggshells as a snail and slug repellent. But a recent test by All About Slugs in Oregon seems to have dispelled this as a myth. If you've had any success with egg shells as slug repellent, we'd be curious to know.

    Eggshell Bird Food

    Egg Shell Mulch in the Garden, for birds, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Like plants and people, birds also benefit from a bit a calcium in their diet, especially the females who need extra before and after laying their eggs. To make bird food, start by sterilizing the shells by leaving them in a cooling oven after you bake a meal. Then crush them into fine bits and mix with your favorite seed.

    Eggshell Mulch

    Egg Shell Mulch in the Garden, Gardenista

    Above: Like oysters (See A Gift from the Sea: Oysters in the Garden), eggshells used as mulch provide a striking accent in the garden. If you gather enough, you can even apply a layer thick enough to deter weeds.

    Looking for more recycled garden how-tos? See:

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    Down to the wire. If there are last-minute gifts on your holiday list, just say no to the frenzy at the mall. A DIY potted amaryllis bulb is a lovely gift—and you'll enjoy assembling it. Read on for easy instructions:

    Photography by Erin Boyle for Gardenista.

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

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

    You can give an amaryllis bulb that you've potted, or you can provide the bulb and a pot so a recipient can plant it (timed with holiday travel plans because no one wants to be out of town when the flowers emerge!).

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


    • Amaryllis bulb
    • Terra cotta pot and saucer
    • Ribbon
    • Greenery (optional)


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

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

    gift tags ; Gardenista

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

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

    Above: For another last-minute DIY holiday gift, see DIY Gift: Orange and Clove Pomander.

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    You can make it snow indoors with pots of white cyclamen. 

    There are quite a few kinds of cyclamen—nearly two dozen species—beyond the common, florists' cyclmen for sale in supermarkets. And yet. The large-flowered potted variety you see everywhere can be a care-free, ruffly petaled thing of beauty if you set pots of it on the mantel or beneath the Christmas tree.

    After the holiday season ends, cyclamen will be happy to continue blooming year-round in its pot. (I set mine in a sheltered spot that gets a northern exposure and water once a week.)

    Photography by Michelle Slatalla.

    white cyclamen in pots Christmas ; Gardenista

    Above: Cyclamen persicum, native to Mediterranean climates, can do well in the garden too, if you live in a growing zone where temperatures don't drop below freezing. If you bought a plant or two for the holidays, paint the plastic nursery pots gold for now and decide later, after New Year's, if you want to commit.

    Christmas potted cyclamen on mantel l Gardenista

    Above: Cyclamen spreads from tubers. If you like the look of its velvety, upright petals—they remind me of the ears on a certain little dog I know—you also can experiment in the garden with more delicately shaped woodland varieties. Cyclamen cilicium, for instance, has pale purple flowers. It is 3 inches tall and native to Turkey and has mottled green and white leaves. In the garden, it will tolerate light shade; $16 per plant from Plant Delights.

    Christmas potted cyclamen on mantel l Gardenista

    Above: For instant holiday decor, head to the supermarket; potted cyclamens are inexpensive and will bloom through the season in well-drained soil. I paid $4.99 per pot for mine.

    Softening on poinsettias? We witnessed a Christmas Miracle: 5 Poinsettias That Aren't Tacky. And see what happened when Justine decided to get a live Christmas tree and plant it in the garden after the holidays in DIY: Plant Your Christmas Tree.

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

    Photography by Christine Chitnis for Gardenista.

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

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

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

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

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

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

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

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

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

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

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

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

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

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

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

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

    Above: Christmas bells and garland.

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

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

    Detroit Garden Works Christine Chitnis Gardenista

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

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

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    Everyone knows that starting the day with a well-balanced breakfast is a good idea and as far as I'm concerned, this is especially true on Christmas. It's a day when, if I'm not careful, I might happily fill up on melty foil-wrapped chocolate Santas in front of the fire and drift into a sugary stupor. A proper Christmas deserves a proper morning feast. But it also shouldn't be anything too complicated—there's dinnertime for that. Fresh juices, an indulgent smattering of fresh fruit, something warm from the oven, something savory, and something sweet sounds perfect to me. Olivia Rae James agrees. Here, her dreamed up version of the perfect Christmas morning spread. 

    Photography by Olivia Rae James

    christmas morning breakfast | gardenista

    Above: Olivia's idea of the perfect Christmas morning spread.

    christmas morning breakfast | gardenista

    Above: Olivia's boyfriend, Blake, was in charge of making the cinnamon rolls. He used Oh, Ladycakes Small Batch Cinnamon Rolls recipe, but added a boozy addition to the glaze: a touch of whiskey. Don't mind if we do.

    christmas morning breakfast | gardenista

    Above: To offset the sweetness, Olivia made tartines of smoked salmon and whipped cream cheese on toasted sourdough bread.

    christmas morning breakfast | gardenista

    Above: Part of Christmas morning tradition in my family, too. Olivia broiled halved oranges, sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar, until they were just warm. 

    christmas morning breakfast | gardenista

    Above: Blake's glazed cinnamon rolls, ready to eat.

    christmas morning breakfast | gardenista

    Above: Coffee and grapefruit juice to wake up sleepy family members.

    christmas morning breakfast | gardenista

    Above: Breakfast in action. What about you? What you are your favorite holiday breakfast treats?

    For more of Olivia's festive recipe ideas, see A 5-Ingredient Holiday Cocktail Party and Mulled Apple Cider With a Secret Ingredient.

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    Blogger Maria Sandberg of Lilla Villa Vita lives with her husband, two sons, and dog in a fairytale house in southern Sweden. Every winter, she takes advantage of a white landscape to deck the house (and the garden gazebo) in greenery and candlelight. Let's pay a Christmas visit:

    Photography via Lilla Villa Vita.


    Above: Built in 1909, Lilla Villa Vita is a house in Kristianstad in southern Sweden (closer to Copenhagen, Denmark than to Stockholm).


    Above: The wreath and garlands of spruce boughs came from florist Dennis Blommor in nearby Ahus.


    Above: Wrapped around tree trunks, white string lights glow in the snow.


    Above: "The table below is my little nature table, with treasures from nature and forest," says Maria.


    Above: A dash of red: "I like to decorate from nature," says Maria, who decorated with apples from a neighbor's tree.


    Above: A birdbath becomes "a little candy table instead" when it's too cold for birds to bathe.


    Above: More red. The garden gazebo, dressed up for the holiday season.

    lilla villa vita garden gazebo candles Christmas; Gardenista

    Above: At night, candles light the gazebo from inside.

    lilla villa vita garden gazebo candles Christmas; Gardenista

    Above: No red ribbon necessary.


    Above: Snowpack.

    Merry Christmas. Here are more of our favorite holiday gardens to visit while you're curled up with a cup of tea:

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    In the hectic days leading to this holiday weekend, here are a few things that brought us serenity and inspiration. 




    • Above: On our wish lists: a trip to the rolling green hills of Scotland. Photo by Marlen Komar.
    • Over on Remodelista: An alpine hut that bends the rules. 


    Instagram and Pinterest Picks of the Week


    • Above: Fruits are high art in the Instagram feed of Smit Farms (@smitfarms). 


    • Above: As fans of the botanical-based apothecary Marble & Milkweed, we love perusing through the team's In The Garden board.

    For more Gardenista, be sure to check out our most recent issue Homesteaders

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    Revisit the greatest gardening hits of 2015 with us this week: 

    Table of Contents; Best of 2015

    Above: For more of this garden (and cat), see 11 Garden Ideas to Steal from South Africa.


    Ikea glass greenhouse hindo ; Gardenista

    Above: Ikea's best new garden product for 2015? The Glassy Greenhouse.


    Curb appeal perennials garden front yard landscaping ; Gardenista

    Above: See 7 New Ideas for Front Yard Landscaping in this week's Curb Appeal post.


    houseplants bedroom Portland OR Emily Katz ; Gardenista

    Above: Join us for The Big Debate: Plants in the Bedroom?


    Steel Factory Windows and Doors, Gardenista

    Above: Erase the boundaries between outdoors and in with steel factory windows in this week's Hardscaping 101 post.



    Above: We pay a call on a tiny 800-square-foot brick house with an enormous vegetable garden in the front yard (the proportions look perfect to us).

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    From the Department of Famous Love Letters:

    In 1941 when a young Charles Eames proposed marriage to Ray, he wrote, "I am 34 (almost) years old, single (again) and broke. I love you very much and would like to marry you very very soon. I cannot promise to support us very well. But if given the chance I will sure in hell try."

    He sure in hell did. In 1945, the designer began brainstorming ideas with fellow architect Eero Saarinen for a pre-fab house where the Eameses could live in LA's Pacific Palisades. By the time the iconic modernist home was built four years later, the design had changed radically—because of the garden.

    Nearly 70 years later, Case Study House No. 8 and the 1.4-acre property that inspired the Eameses' work for the rest of their lives remain intact, overseen by the nonprofit Eames Foundation. The other day photographer Mark Robinson (whose online shop OEN is one of our favorites) visited with his camera:

    Photography by Mark Robinson except where noted.


    Above: Photograph by Daniel Schreurs.

    The original plans called for a cliffside house to overlook the ocean. But post-war steel shortages caused delays. Waiting for construction materials to become available, the Eameses picnicked on the property and fell "in love with the meadow." To preserve it, they changed the design of the house.


    Above:  Photograph via LA Places.

    Built in 1949, the house was redesigned to fit into the landscape and became the home of the husband-and-wife design team for the rest of their lives (Charles died in 1978 and Ray died 10 years later).


    Above: A shaded patio, with a corrugated steel overhang, and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows connect the garden to the living room.


    Above: Photograph by Ricardo DeAratanha via Los Angeles Times.

    The living room has a 17-foot-high ceiling and 10-foot-high potted houseplants to reinforce the connection to the natural surroundings. 


    Above: Photograph by Ricardo DeAratanha via Los Angeles Times.

    Among the artifacts original to the house is a ball of dried tumbleweed that hangs from the ceiling; the Eameses collected it on their honeymoon in 1941 as they drove from Chicago to the West Coast.


    Above: The house, preserved in its original state to the extent possible, has had plumbing and electrical repairs (and original fabric recently was re-glued).


    Above: The Eames house and garden are open to visitors; to make a reservation, see Eames Foundation.


    Above: A seedling seeks the light.


    Above: Originally designed as a metal chair in the 1940s, Charles and Ray Eames' a Molded Plastic 4-Leg Side Chair with a metal frame now has a seat and back made of recyclable polypropylene. The Eameses "continually updated their work as new materials became available," according to Design Within Reach, where the licensed design is available in 13 colors (including white, as shown) for $319 apiece.

    Above: The Eames house is at 203 Chautauqua Bloulevard, Pacific Palisades, California.

    For more Eames design, see:

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    Spotted and admired in Ikea's new spring collection, a glass greenhouse cabinet to house your plants outdoors or in:

    Ikea Hindo greenhouse cabinet ; Gardenista

    Above: Made of powder coated galvanized steel with glass doors, a gray Hindö Greenhouse Cabinet measures 56 3/4 inches high and 24 3/4 inches wide; $99 (currently available in US stores but not online).

    Ikea Hindo greenhouse cabinet ; Gardenista

    Above: The greenhouse cabinet has five shelves, three with adjustable heights. Each shelf will hold up to 50 pounds. The cabinet's feet also adjust to enable the greenhouse to stand level on an uneven surface.

    For more of Ikea's new collection for 2015, see:

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    They say you are what you wear. This is also true of your house. Your front yard makes a strong first impression. Here are seven of our favorite landscaping ideas to dress up the place:

    Fairy Tale Flowers

    Front Yard Landscaping Ideas Flowers Path ; Gardenista

    Above: For more of this garden, see Garden Visit: The Hobbit Land Next Door. Photograph by Tom Kubik for Gardenista.

    My next-door neighbor in Mill Valley, California tore up the grass first thing when she moved into her house. The property is fenced, so it feels like a private world. The walk from the front gate to the stoop is only about 30 feet, but on the way you pass so much—a hydrangea grove, lemon trees, fragrant roses, Japanese maples, columbine, wisteria, herbs—that it can take days to get there if you stop to smell everything.

    Front Yard Landscaping Ideas Front Porch Flowers Pots Containers ; Gardenista

    Above: On the front porch, a potted orange begonia is all it takes to remind visitors of the flowers they've just walked past.

    Front Yard Landscaping Ideas Flowers Window Box ; Gardenista

    Above: A riot of color in a window box reinforces the theme.

    Gracious Living

    front yard landscaping ideas Los Angeles ; Gardenista

    Above: For more of this garden, see Before & After: A Grande Dame in LA's Hancock Park.

    The first time LA-based landscape designer Naomi Sanders saw the grand 1920s house in Hancock Park, it felt hemmed in despite its generous front yard. A maze of formal parterres and fussy plantings ("a million different plants") were to blame.

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


    Above: By simplifying the plantings, Sanders made the boxwood parterres feel tailored instead of cluttered.


    Above: A front path of flagstone was replaced by concrete pavers. "It makes the hardscape feel more connected to the house," says Sanders.

    The Secret Garden

    Linsteadt Mediterranean edible kitchen rose garden California ; Gardenista

    Above: A mysterious front path invites visitors into Jean and Ken Linsteadt's Mill Valley, CA front yard. Two pencil thin cypress trees flank—and define—the walkway. For more, see A Modern Garden Inspired by the Classics.

    What makes it welcoming? No fence. No gate. And the high boxwood hedges look fluffy rather than fierce (thanks to gentle pruning).

    Linsteadt Mediterranean edible kitchen rose garden California ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista.

    A the end of the path, wide stone steps (and Louis the springer spaniel) lead to a covered front stoop.

    Linsteadt Mediterranean edible kitchen rose garden California ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista.

    Alongside the Linsteadts' path, cheerful pink and white clumps of Santa Barbara daisies signal that visitors are welcome.

    Elevated Thinking

    front yard landscaping ideas stoop garden ; Gardenista

    Above: In Philadephia, a steep grade change required retaining walls at a property's edge. To make the house feel accessible and welcoming to visitors, designers at Fieldesk planted a colorful, drought-resistant front yard garden on either side of the stairs.

    front yard landscaping ideas retaining walls ; Gardenista

    Above: Hardy perennials including coreopsis (R) and thyme edge the walkway.

    Painterly Prairie


    Above: Photograph via Adam Woodruff & Associates.

    In central Illinois, garden designer Adam Woodruff created a painterly mini prairie when he tore out the turf in his own front yard and planted a low-maintenance mix of perennials, ornamental grasses, and shrubs.  


    Above: Woodruff planted hardy blooming plants that will perform year after year. He created a crazy quilt of color (L) with Astilbe chinensis ‘Purpurkerze’; Helenium ‘Mardis Gras’; Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’; Eryngium yuccifolium; Origanum laevigatum ‘Herrenhausen’, and Perovskia atriplicifolia.

    At (R), plants include Perovskia atriplicifolia, Amsonia hubrichtii, and Salvia ‘May Night'.

    Victory Garden

    Front yard landscaping ideas vegetable garden; Gardenista

    Above: For more of this edible garden in London, see Garden Visit: The Little House at 24a Dorset Road.

    When London architect Sam Tisdall designed a replacement house to match the rest of a block's Victorian era homes (which had been built for railway workers), he sited the clients' vegetable garden in the small front yard to take advantage of available sunlight.


    Above: Raised beds add another architectural element to the facade.

    Steal the Views


    Above: From a Napa Valley farmhouse, you can see vineyards from the house—if nothing blocks the view. For more of this garden, see Vineyard Retreat: A Garden That Belongs to the Land

    "Our goal was to make this garden evocative of the surrounding landscape, which is just stunning," said SF-based landscape architect Scott Lewis, who came up with a garden design for the one-acre property. "What we did was clear the clutter away to take advantage of those views."


    Above: On both sides of the front path are sweeps of perennial grass Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition'. In the fall, the grass turns gold, like the distant hillsides. 

    For more of front yard landscaping ideas, see:

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    Are you sick of hearing that succulents are "easy" when the only thing yours do reliably is die? The solution is to get the right succulent for the job. 

    For instance. If you are trying to grow succulents indoors, buy plants with bright green leaves (instead of gray, blue, or purple leaves). When you pot succulents, remember they need better drainage and soil aeration than thirstier plants; use a cactus soil mix and add a layer of gravel to the bottom of the pot. If you put succulents in the garden, dig in some sand to improve the soil's drainage before planting.

    Here are ten of our favorite succulents (and the secrets to keeping them alive):

    Black Rose 

    Black aeonium succulent ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Gwen's Garden via Flickr.

    Native to the Canary Islands, aeoniums thrive outdoors in similar Mediterranean climates—with hot, dry summers and rainy winters. Aeoniums come many colors—including green, striped, and gray—but we particularly love the black varieties such as Black Rose (above). They create a dramatic counterpoint to blue- and gray-leafed plants in the garden.

     Aeonium 'Zwartkop' has long, delicate leaves that taper to a point; a plant in a 1-gallon pot is $12 from Cycadpalm.

    Burro's Tail

    Burro's tail succulent plant drought growing guide ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Cereal Magazine.

    Extremely delicate leaves will fall off at the slightest touch, so place Burro's Tail in a spot where it won't be disturbed. A Sedum morganianum has bluish green leaves and, when it blooms, tiny red flowers. A bare-root Burro's Tail in a 4-inch pot is $7.99 from Succulent Babies via Etsy.

    Aloe Vera

    Aloe vera plant, Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Justine Hand for Gardenista.

    Hardy indoors or out, aloe is your friend. Of more than 250 species of aloe, the one known as "true aloe" is aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis). Probably because of its amazing ability to cure sunburns. Aloe vera's leaves ooze a soothing substance that makes a fine hand lotion. An Aloe Vera Medicine Succulent Plant is $14.95 from Cactus Limon via Etsy.

    If you, like Justine, keep a potted aloe indoors and snip off the tips of leaves to use for medicinal purposes, you can make your supply go further by propagating the plant's offsets. Follow Justine's lead in DIY: Propagate the Plant of Immortality.

    Pencil Cactus

    the new "it" houseplant | gardenista

    Above: We have good reasons for calling the pencil cactus The New 'It' Houseplant. Photograph by Erin Boyle.

    Happy to be a houseplant, Euphorbia tirucalli hails from Africa and earned its Pencil Cactus nickname for the shape of its branches. Give it a sunny spot and don't over-water it, and this hardy plant could grow as tall as 6 feet. A Euphorbia Tirucalli in a 4-inch pot is $12 from Pernell Gerver.

    String of Pearls

    String of pearls succulent hanging house plant ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via A Home Full of Color.

    A good choice for indoors where you can control its climate, slow-growing String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) likes bright, indirect light—and to be left alone. Let the soil dry thoroughly before watering. Its trailing stems can reach lengths of up to 3 feet. A 6-inch hanging pot of String of Pearls is $12.99 from Hirt's.

    Paddle Plant


    Above: A pink-tinged paddle plant. For more, see Steal This Look: An Indoor Succulent Garden.

    An exception to the "bright green leaves only" rule, kalanchoe will thrive indoors in indirect, bright light. One of my favorite succulents, a Kalanchoe Luciae looks like it's wearing lipstick on the edge of its leaves. The rosy edge makes it a good candidate to combine with other red or purple-leaved succulents. A rooted cutting of Kalanchoe Luciae is $7.95 from Bkyard Paradise via Etsy.

    Hens and Chicks

    Hens and Chicks Sempervivum succulents ; Gardenista

    Above: A variety of Sempervivum. For more, see Steal This Look: An Indoor Succulent Garden

    Growing in tight clusters that look like rosettes, Hens and Chicks spreads quickly to fill a container or a bare, sunny spot in a dry garden. There are thousands of varieties of sempervivum with leaf colors ranging from deep green to pale blue to purple-tinged; an assortment of 11 Sempervivum Succulents is $22.40 from Rainforest Rose via Etsy.

    String of Bananas, Lady Aquarius, and Perle Von Nurnberg

    Succulents to mix in a container garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Three hardy succulents for a container garden. For more, see DIY Container Garden: 3 Tough Beauties That Won't Die.  Photograph by Meredith Swinehart

    For a container garden that won't wilt in the heat, we consulted our favorite succulent expert, Robin Stockwell, who owns Succulent Gardens nursery in Castroville, California. The recommendation: combine trailing blue-green String of Bananas (Senecio radicans); the ruffled rosettes of 'Lady Aquarius' echeveria (Crassulaceae echeveria cv. 'Lady Aquarius') that are blue edged in pink, and smooth rosettes of pale lavender 'Perle Von Nurnberg' echeveria (Crassulaceae echeveria cv. Perle von Nurnberg).

    A String of Bananas plant is $10.99 from Succulent Beauties via Etsy. An Echeveria 'Lady Aquarius' in a 4-inch pot is $8.95 from Annie's Annuals. A collection of three Perle Von Nurnberg Echeveria plants is $22.45 from Succulent Babies via Etsy.

    For more, see:

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    When we moved our family of four from Bath, England to Portland, Oregon in 2012 little did we know that we would spend the next three years transforming a disused rose garden into an English kitchen garden, complete with vintage-style greenhouse.

    It was a big move for me, not least in family terms but in gardening terms too. I was leaving behind a walled kitchen garden where I had carefully trained espaliered apples and fan-trained peach trees. I was looking for a place where I could re-invent my old garden and add more besides.

    We found a house in Portland that stood on 0.6 acres. It was quite unusual to find a house with so much outdoor space close to the city, we were told! The problem was that the garden, though once beautiful, hadn’t been tended for roughly six years. The old rose garden was knee-deep in blackberries, the fountain was full of dirt and weeds, a crabapple sat sadly enveloped in Old Man’s Beard, and we found three ponds that we didn’t know were there. There was a lot of work to do.

    Photography by Gillian Carson.

    vintage greenhouse, box bushes

    Above: The old rose garden became my new kitchen garden. We felled a dying tree and asked a local greenhouse maker (SturdiBuilt) to build a bespoke wooden frame (measuring 10 by 16 feet) to sit on a red brick base. I wanted it to look as much like an English greenhouse as possible to remind me of home.

    Haws watering can, box bushes

    Above: I brought this Haws watering can with me from England. It's quite simply the best watering can I've ever had. The design is called 'Peter Rabbit'. (N.B. A red Peter Rabbit Watering Can is $89.99 on Amazon.)


    overgrown kitchen garden 

    Above: When we arrived, the fountain was in disrepair and full of dead plants. Weeds choked the old roses and blocked the pathways.


    vintage greenhouse, kitchen garden

    Above: Brick paths edged with box give the vegetable beds structure and provide evergreen interest during the winter months.

    seedlings in greenhouse

    Above: I raise all of the vegetables and herbs in the kitchen garden from seed in the greenhouse.

    I planted some apple trees (Ashmead’s Kernel and Liberty) along an east-facing wall and trained them as espaliers. I also added a fan-trained Peach (Q18) which is resistant to peach leaf curl and does very well, even in our wet climate.

    my tiny plot, Gillian Carson, kitchen garden, grape vine

    Above: I like to shell peas outside my greenhouse next to a grapevine trained along the fence.

    vintage tools, old tools, wooden handled tools, hand tools

    Above: Luckily, I had decided to ship all my tools from the UK, even though I had to scrub each one with disinfectant to comply with US import laws. It was worth it because I felt like I could get started on the garden immediately. 

    greenhouse, tomatoes, bunting, greenhouse style

    Above: The first thing I added to my greenhouse was a length of Union Jack bunting. Since then I've added mirrors, antique boxes, and vintage terra cotta pots.

    rhubarb forcer, vintage kitchen garden, victorian walled garden

    Above: One of the pieces I brought with me from England was this rhubarb forcing pot. It's fantastic for making long, sweet, pink rhubarb stems. I've also used it to force sea kale in the past.

    terracotta pots, galvanised tubs

    Above: I love old terra cotta pots and galvanized tubs and try to use them whenever I can.

    circular vegetable garden, patterned salad garden

    Above: The design of the old rose garden lends itself well to growing vegetables. Each year I plant vegetables and herbs in a different pattern radiating out from the central fountain, which we cleared out and repaired. 

      secluded seating in kitchen garden,

    Above: I mix vegetables with flowers. Here a delphinium mingles with the grapevine.

    vegetable box, homemade

    Above: The benefit of having a fully stocked kitchen garden is that you can use the produce to give as thank-you gifts. This is a vegetable box that I made for one of our neighbors who gave us a bike.

    heirloom tomatoes, artichokes, peppers, summer harvest

    Above: I love to grow the un-buyables: unusual or interesting varieties of artichoke, heirloom tomatoes, and peppers saved from seed.

    pickles, preserves,

    Above: Picking is a huge part of what I grow. Whatever we don't eat gets preserved for another day.

    flowering vegetables, beneficial insects

    Above: Each year I let at least one vegetable go to seed. I'm always surprised at how many beneficial insects the flowers attract. It's great for the garden and fascinating to my children.

    Gillian Carson British expat Portland Oregon garden; Gardenista

    Above: In the evening there's nothing better than taking a last look around the garden, closing the gates, and putting the tools away, until tomorrow.

    Visit more of our favorite "gardeners' gardens" at:

    Enter the Gardenista Considered Design Awards 2015 ; Gardenista

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    At one of our recent editorial meetings, a discussion about plants in the bedroom revealed that Gardenista and Remodelista's editors are in two diametrically opposed camps: Love them or hate them.

    Why the debate? Photosynthesis adds oxygen and purifies the air (which is why Michelle has plants in every room... well, also she's just a plant nut). But because plants require light to photosynthesize, at night the process apparently reverses and plants may respire as humans do, emitting carbon dioxide (this is the part that Sarah finds creepy).

    How to get to the bottom of this? I asked an expert: my 15-year old son who happens to be a bit of a plant biology aficionado (go figure).

    Me: Is it true that plants emit oxygen in the day and carbon dioxide at night?

    Son: You know about photosynthesis and respiration, right? Well, plants respire at a slower rate than they photosynthesize, so there is actually a net gain of a few molecules of oxygen per cycle.

    Me: So you think it’s healthy to sleep with plants at night?

    Son (suspicions aroused): Why are you asking me these questions? Is this your way of testing me for my biology exam? I thought you were working.

    So, for readers avoiding a family domestic, I have decided that it comes down to personal preference. What’s yours? Let us know in the comments below.

    Above: I can't see the harm in having a few slow-growing succulents, given their Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), which allows them to take in carbon dioxide during the night and store it to use for photosynthesis the next day. Photograph via Old Brand New Blog.

    How about an indoor lemon tree in the bedroom? See DIY: Potted Indoor Citrus Trees.

    Above: Alexa likes the way these plants on the windowsill add cheer to a children's bedroom in a summer house in Söderfors, Sweden. For more windowsill plants, see DIY: Grow Lily of the Valley on a Windowsill.

    What plants look good in a bedroom? See Indoor Lemon Tree (I'll Take Two).

    Above: For some, one plant in the bedroom is enough; they draw the line at more. What do you think—can you have too many? Photograph via Fresh Home

    Whatever side of the debate you favor, we all agree that plants in the rest of the house can only be a good thing. See 239 images of Plants as Decor in our Photo Gallery.

    See More Houseplants posts ; Gardenista

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published January 7, 2013.

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    Forget minimalism. Portland, Oregon-based macramé artist Emily Katz takes a maximalist's approach to living with houseplants.

    Two years ago Katz learned how to make her first 1970s-style plant hangers during a visit to see her mother. "I knew she had made plant hangers in the 1970s to sell so she could buy a guitar (a Martin 1976 acoustic beauty that she still has)," says Katz, who recently was profiled in Urban Outfitters' About a Girl series. "She taught me in the kitchen how to make plant hangers, while my sisters baked cookies and my boyfriend sat on the floor playing that same guitar."

    Photographs by Michael J. Spear via Urban Outfitters except where noted.

    Houseplants Kitchen shelves Emily Katz Portland OR Gardenista

    Above: Today Katz's home is filled with hanging houseplants (as well as houseplants that climb walls, perch on shelves, and cover windows like filmy green curtains.

    houseplants kitchen Emily Katz Portland Oregon ; Gardenista

    Above: Vines and climbers share kitchen shelf space with plates and glassware.

    Houseplants Emily Katz Portland Oregon ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Emily Katz.

    In the living room are succulents and potted vines and climbers. For a similar houseplant collection, start with a selection of hardy indoor plants such as The Succulent Collection, a selection of six small succulents in pots; $40 from The Sill.

    Houseplants piano Emily Katz Portland Oregon ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Emily Katz.

    Next to the piano is a potted Monstera Deliciosa, a splitleaf philodendron with glossy green leaves. For more about living with large tropical plants, see Temporary Houseplants for the Commitment-Phobe

    Houseplants Emily Katz dining room Portland OR ; Gardenista

    Above: The large spiny euphorbia in the corner of the dining room is a succulent masquerading as a cactus. Start your own from a cutting; a Euphorbia Trigonia Starter Plant is $7.99 from The Maple Tree Lady on Etsy.

    Houseplants dining room Emily Katz Portland Oregon ; Gardenista

    Above: Katz creates a jungle effect in her dining room by massing more than a dozen potted plants together.

    Houseplants window planter Emily Katz Portland Oregon ; Gardenista

    Above: A similar macramé Double Plant Hanger made of cotton rope is available from Emily Katz's online shop for $108.

    houseplants bedroom Portland OR Emily Katz ; Gardenista

    Above: In her bedroom, Katz has a fiddle leaf fig tree (L) and another splitleaf philodendron. If you are trying to keep a fiddle leaf fig tree happy indoors, see The Fig and I: 10 Tips for Caring for a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree.

    Macrame artist Emily Katz work studio Portland OR ;Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Leela Cyd via Tea Cup Tea.

    At work in her studio in Portland, Emily Katz uses cotton rope to make one-of-a-kind macramé Wall Hangings; prices for the current collection at her online store range from $220 to $298.

    Macrame artist Emily Katz Portland OR work studio ; Gardenista

    Above: Emily Katz's work studio in Portland. Photograph by Leela Cyd via Tea Cup Tea.

    A Single Plant Hanger approximately 41 inches long is made from cotton rope and will accommodate pots in a range of sizes; $88 from Emily Katz.

    For more artists and floral designers at work in their studios, see:

    Subscribe to Gardenista daily newsletter ; Gardenista 

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    At the end of a lane of Victorian cottages in North London is No. 24a Dorset Road, a tiny 800-square-foot brick house with an enormous vegetable garden in the front yard. The proportions look perfect to us.

    The owners, who had lived next door for 20 years before asking architect Sam Tisdall to design a smaller house, sold their previous home but kept an attached garage. On its site, Tisdall designed the new house to take advantage of available sunlight and growing space, giving it a brick facade to match the rest of the block's Victorian era homes (which were built for railway workers).

    Photography via Sam Tisdall.


    Above: Recycled brick covers the facade and was used to pave the front path.


    Above: Raised beds built of oak railway ties reference the block's 19th century history as a housing for railway workers.


    Above: Surrounding the vegetable garden is a bed of Breedon gravel, a finely graded natural limestone quarried in Derbyshire.


    Above: From the front threshold, it is possible to see through the entire house to the small, fenced backyard. To the left of the walkway is a freestanding kitchen.


    Above: The U-shaped kitchen is flooded with sunlight from French doors that open on to the back garden as well as a side door and window.


    Above: The kitchen and dining area open onto the back garden and a patio with brick pavers laid in the same tapestry pattern as the front path.


    Above: Says architect Tisdall, "The terrace was locally listed so we knew that we would be up against reasonably strict planning restrictions, but it soon became apparent that the conservation officer would not accept anything other than an exact replica cottage."

    For more of our favorite small-space edible gardens, see:

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    Last week Michelle inspired us with 11 Facades with Factory Windows. The aesthetic harkens back to the greenhouses, factories, and warehouses of the 19th century. And their elegant, narrow sightlines offer unobstructed views, blurring the lines between indoors and out. What's not to like? They're expensive, for starters.

    Read on for everything you need to know about steel factory windows:

    Steel Factory Windows and Doors, Gardenista

    Above: A steel-framed window wall and folding doors blur the boundary between indoors and out, effectively doubling the living space. A project by Design of Wonder of Melbourne, it is featured in Steal This Look: Black and White Indoor/Outdoor Terrace. Photograph via Design of Wonder

    What are the benefits of steel frame windows?

    • Due to the material's strength, steel windows have very slender sightlines. A minimal amount of framing material is needed for structural integrity, offering clean and clear views. 
    • Steel frame windows span architectural styles, working well in both traditional and modern houses. 
    • All corners and joints of steel windows are welded, galvanized, and powder coated, forming an unbroken surface around the frame.
    • Extremely durable, steel frames are resistant to decay, weather, and fire. They are galvanized (coated with a layer of zinc at very high temperatures) to prevent corrosion. 
    • Unlike wood, steel window frames do not contract and expand in response to weather conditions.
    • Require minimal upkeep compared with wood windows and doors.

      Steel Factory Windows and Doors, Gardensita

    Above: The framing around industrial style steel doors can be pencil thin (unlike wood, which requires a large beam to support a door). London portrait photographer Abi Campbell's kitchen renovation included new steel frame doors and windows with large openings to bring in as much light as possible to the north-facing room. Photograph by Matt Clayton

    To learn more about the project, see Reader Rehab: A Photographer's Kitchen in London

    Steel Factory Windows and Doors, Gardenista 

    Above:  Requiring minimal framework, steel windows are a great solution for open corner windows, such as this steel entry door and surround. Photograph via Portella Iron Doors.  

    Steel Factory Windows, Gardenista

    Above: In a Brooklyn renovation, Elizabeth Roberts Design/Ensemble Architecture opened up the back of the house with a double-height wall of windows that includes an indoor/outdoor dining room with the open feel of a greenhouse. The entire window slides open to create a double-wide opening to the garden. The windows are custom powder-coated steel from Optimum Window in Ellenville, NY. Photograph by Dustin Aksland

    For a full tour, see Indoor/Outdoor Living, Brooklyn Style.

    Are steel frame windows energy efficient? 

    Bottom line is that metal is a poor insulator, and the thin steel and single sheet steel factory windows of the past did little to keep out the cold. The good news is that 21st century technology has caught up, and you can get the same historic looks with better materials and thermal efficiency.  

    Steel windows are available with insulated glazing panels; two or more pieces of glass are spaced apart and sealed, leaving an insulating air space. Another new technology called thermal breaks (whereby a material is placed between the inside and outside window frames to prevent thermal energy loss), common in aluminum windows, is available in steel windows. Steel fabricators will point out that steel itself has good insulating properties as compared to aluminum and thermal breaks may not be necessary. In fact, there are steel frame windows that meet LEED standards. Refer to fabricators' websites for details.

    Another consideration is that many fabricators roll their steel windows from 100 percent recycled steel. And, the new product can also be recycled at the end of its long life.

    Steel Windows and Doors, Gardenista

    Above: Like any window, the glass in steel framed windows can be UV-coated to protect indoor furnishings and art from sun exposure. Steel framed windows and doors lead to an outdoor dining pavilion in a Shelter Island project by Schappacher White.

    Are there different styles of steel windows?

    Steel windows are available in a range of looks from factory-style with a floor to ceiling collection of panes, to Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired style (his Falling Water House famously used steel windows), to a modern minimalist look with large panes of glass supported by pencil-thin sleek steel frames.

    Steel windows are available in a multitude of operable variations including: casement, in-swing, out-swing, awning, horizontal pivoting, vertical pivoting, folding, and hopper.

    Steel Factory Windows, Gardenista

    Above: A wall of old-style factory windows in a Seattle studio called "The Brain" by Olson Kundig Architects.

    Steel Windows and Doors Hess Hoen Architects, Gardenista

    Above: Steel doors are not commonly offered as sliders (Euroline does offer sliding pocket steel doors). Those seeking a full open outdoor wall experience, as in this project by Sydney-based Hess Hoen Architects, often go with folding steel doors.

    Gray Steel Doors to Garden, Gardenista

    Above: Not always black, gray factory-style doors complement their adjacent gardens at Patina Farms in Ojai (L), and in a Brooklyn townhouse garden (R) by architect Steven Harris

    How much do steel frame windows cost?

    Steel frame windows are expensive. Like many aspects of a home remodeling, steel window pricing is very site specific. Is it a single window replacement? A full remodel? Custom or standard sizing? The best way to estimate cost is to get a quote from your contractor or window supplier. In general, expect prices to be at least double that of wood, more than aluminum, but less than bronze. Remember to balance the cost with the longevity (we just had to replace a full wall of 15-year-old weather-worn wood windows) and other attributes.

    Steel Windows, Gardenista 

    Above: In this Mill Valley kitchen remodel, architect Brett Terpeluk, of Studio Terpeluk, added floor-to-ceiling casement windows, which flood the kitchen with natural light. Originally, the idea was to have custom window frames made of blackened steel with a wax finish, but the clients opted for a low-maintenance—and less expensive—alternative: Bonelli Series 700 frames of anodized aluminum with a bronze finish. Photograph by Joe Fletcher.

    Where can I buy steel factory-style windows?

    Beware of cheap imitators. Suppliers of fabricated windows and doors that come highly recommended by several architects and builders include: 

    • Crittall. This venerable company founded in 1889 in the UK has provided windows and doors to Yale University, Walter Gropius, and the New York Botanical Gardens. 
    • Dynamic Architectural Windows and Doors
    • Hope's. Located in Jamestown, NY, Hope's makes top-of-the-line steel and bronze windows and doors.
    • Bliss Nor-Am. This Rochester, NY/Canada-based company makes high-quality, beautifully detailed powder-coated metal doors and windows. 

    Steel Windows and Doors, Gardenista

    Steel Factory Style Door Atelier Domingue, Gardenista 

    Above: Shown here are custom steel frame doors from the Atelier Domingue Architectural Metalcrafts line.

    Can I use reclaimed steel factory windows?

    Yes! Reclaimed steel factory windows can be found at architectural and design salvage yards. Keep in mind that the price of fabulous vintage looks may include needed repairs and re-coating.  

    Reclaimed Steel Factory Windows, Gardenista 

    Above: Reclaimed steel factory windows found architectural supply yards, such as Recycling the Past, cannot, obviously, be customized to your setting; rather, your setting may need to be customized to fit them. 

    Steel Frame Windows Recap


    • Strong
    • Slim sightlines
    • Work with a range of architectural styles
    • Durable and long lasting
    • Low maintenance


    • Expensive
    • Heavy
    • Not the best choice in climates near salt water. More protection and proper finishing is required to prevent airborne salt corrosion 

    Steel Windows and Doors, Gardenista 

    Above: A renovated San Francisco garden by Scott Lewis Landscape Architecture viewed through ceiling-height steel sash windows. "We wanted a garden form that would be harmonious with the contemporary style of the windows," says Lewis. For a better look at the garden, see Scott Lewis Turns a Small SF Backyard into an Urban Oasis.

    For more window and door inspiration, see:

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    A never-ending real estate dilemma is whether it is better to rent or to buy. For one lucky Brooklyn tenant, renting is clearly the way to go.  Her apartment is on the top floor of an elegant, newly renovated Fort Greene brownstone. Just beyond her front door, her "backyard" is a lush roof garden, designed by Marni Majorelle of Alive Structures, a specialist in bringing natural beauty and native plants to the urban landscape.

    Although the roof garden is a natural place for relaxation, the brownstone's owners (who live below the rental apartment) installed it mainly for its value as insulation. They are not fans of air conditioning and say the garden on the roof helps cool the building in summer.  And, being a couple consisting of a cook and a gardener, they enjoy other benefits as well. The roof basks in bright sunlight so they are able to raise an abundant supply of herbs, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, habanero peppers, and other vegetables in a custom raised bed.  The owners share the crops with their tenant and produce such generous quantities of mint, basil, coriander, oregano, and dill that they frequently urge her to do more cooking to take advantage of the bounty.

    Photography by Marni Majorelle except where noted.

    Roof garden Fort Greene Brooklyn ; Gardensta

    Above: Photograph courtesy of Ari Burling.

    The clients requested a wild, natural look, which precluded the use of pre-fabricated tiles of low-growing sedums commonly found on green roofs. Instead Majorelle used grasses and native plants liberally to give the project the feel of an unruly, indigenous space.



    Above: During installation, lightweight growing medium was laid down to reach a uniform height even though the roof itself is sloped. This allowed for a deeper bed of soil at the far end of the roof where larger plants such as the towering Joe Pye Weed could thrive.



    Above: Inside a tall periphery border, shorter species including creeping phlox, succulents, low-growing grasses such as Seslaria autumnalis and thyme varieties ‘Minimus Russetings’ and ‘Purple Carpet’ provide a rich tapestry of textures.  They are mixed with some medium-height growers such as Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) lavender, dianthus, and Amsonia hubrichtii.


    Above: Photograph by Jeanne Rostaing for Gardenista.

    Lolling on the chaises or sipping coffee at the mosaic table while listening to bird song is guaranteed to be a quiet, calming experience.  In summer when the surrounding trees have leafed out, the nearby buildings almost completely disappear.


    Above: The green roof is small, just under 500 square feet. However, it feels much larger, easily accommodating the raised bed as well as a path, and both dining and seating areas. Majorelle designed the roof with a periphery border of tall plants to provide privacy and give the space "a feeling of enclosure." The roof is on a densely populated city block, but Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum ‘ Little Red’), New York Ironweed, Liatris scariosa, Ascepias incarnata, and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) grow high enough to soften the intrusions of city life, both visual and audible.


    Above: Photograph by Jeanne Rostaing for Gardenista.

    Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ provides spring color along with early blooming phlox, dianthus, alliums, and amsonia.

    Roof garden Fort Greene Brooklyn ; Gardenista

    Above: Although Majorelle checks in from time to time, the owners of the house manage the routine maintenance themselves. In early spring they cut down the grasses. Over-enthusiastic spreaders, such as the creeping phlox, frequently have to be trimmed back to prevent them from crowding out other plants. In keeping with the owners' concern for sustainability, rainwater collected in a row of high-tech containers is used for irrigation. 

    For more on green roofs, see:

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    Katrin Scharl was not a born gardener. In fact she really had little interest until she and her husband, Moritz Bayer, began dabbling in the small plot outside their rented Vienna home. When it came time for the German couple to buy their own home, they turned from city to country in search of the perfect garden home. Well, at least one with potential.

    In 2011, their search led them to the quaint village of Brandenburg outside of Berlin. There, on the town square, Katrin and Moritz found an historic brick farmhouse with 2,500 square meters of land. Though the plot had not been touched in 50 years, it did have a walled garden area, a barn, some self-seeded fruit and nut trees, as well as a few elderberry bushes. The couple's dream of a garden that would sustain them through the winter began to take shape.

    Since then, many have enjoyed witnessing Katrin's ongoing evolution from amateur to expert, which she chronicles on her blog, Taking Notes. Despite what Katrin describes as a trial-and-error approach, she and Moritz have utterly transformed their once weedy wasteland into a bountiful landscape, complete with orchard, walled flower garden, berry patch, vegetable beds, and chickens.

    Photography by Katrin Scharl, unless otherwise noted.

    Katrin Scharl in her garden, by Nicola Holtkamp, Gardenista

    Above: Katrin Scharl among the raised beds of her vegetable garden. Photograph by Nicola Holtkamp (who featured more of Katrin and Moritz's garden and home on her site, Im Augenblick).

    Katrin and Moritz's first fall in the home was taken up by clearing 50 years' worth of untouched wilderness. "The garden was a literal wasteland," Katrin said. "There wasn't a single flower, but huge piles of rubble and rubbish." Fortunately, there were a few self-seeded fruit and nut trees as well as some berry bushes, so the couple was able to begin harvesting right away.


    Above: A view of Katrin and Moritz's garden three years after they moved in includes a walled flower garden with chicken run, an orchard, and a vegetable garden. Photograph by Nicola Holtkamp.

    With ambitious plans, the couple dug right in during their first full growing season in the home, planting the walled garden, completing a deck, clearing the vegetable patch and establishing a potato field. In addition, they expanded their orchard, adding pear, quince, and more apple trees to the existing plum, cherry, and nut trees.

    Rudbeckia, Katrin Scharls Brandenburg Garden, Gardenista

    Above: In the walled garden, cheerful Rudbeckia is complemented by the cool color of purple phlox.

    morningevening walled garden Katrin Scharl, Gardenista

    Above: Nestled between the barn and house, the couple's walled flower garden (shown here, year three) is divided into four perennial plots with walking paths in between.

    Katrin Scharl's Brandenburg Garden, Aug, Gardenista

    Above: Katrin traveled around the region photographing historic brick structures with painted doors, before settling on the perfect shade of blue for the barn door. Turns out it was "just a cheap shade form the local hardware store." The bike just happens to match.

    Katrin Scharl's Brandenburg Garden, geramiums in the window, Gardenista

    Above: Completely enclosed by the house, barn, and a brick wall, this cozy garden has a rather Secret Garden romance to it. Here a wooden gate next to the barn leads to the chicken run, vegetables and orchard beyond.

    Katrin Scharl in her Garden, Gardenista

    Above: Katrin picks lettuce from her vegetable patch. Photograph by Nicola Holtkamp.

    For Katrin and Moritz, the vegetable garden in particular was a learning process. A solid week of rain in June 2013 flooded the newly planted garden during its first year. After that the couple constructed raised beds.

    vegetable harvest, Katrin Scharl's Brandenburg Garden, by Nicola Holtkamp, Gardenista

    Above: A harvest of vegetables. Photograph by Nicola Holtkamp.

    Katrin Scharl's chickens, by Nicola Holtkamp, Gardenista

    Above: Katrin and Moritz's chickens provide fresh eggs 11 months of the year. (For some reason they seem to take the Christmas season off.) They also have the most stylish coop—a converted tool shed, painted "Labrador blue."

    blackberries ripen in Katrin Scharl's garden, Gardenista

    Above: Ripening black berries. Photograph by Nicola Holtkamp.

    Katrin Scharls Garden, apple trees, Gardenista

    Above: Katrin's apple tree bloom in spring...

    apple harvest Katrin Scharl's Brandenburg garden, Gardenista

    Above: ... and give her apples in the autumn, when the asters are in bloom.

    Katrin Scharl's Garden, Potatoes with Ludwig, Gardenista

    Above: Ever helpful, the couple's dog, Ludwig, assists with the potato harvest.

    walled garden bench, Katrin Scharls garden, Gardenista

    Above: A larger gate leads from the walled garden to the chickens, orchard, and vegetable patch.

    butterflies, Katrin Scharls Garden, Gardenista

    Above: Butterflies love Katrin's flowers.

    border garden Katrin Scharl, Gardenista

    Above: A border garden with soft pinks.

    Katrin Scharl's dill pickles, Gardenista

    Above: Provisioning themselves for the winter means a lot of canning. Here Katrin makes dill pickles. Elderberry syrup and plum butter are also among her specialties. Potatoes, apples, and squash are stored in the root cellar.

    plum harvest,Katrin Scharl's Brandenburg Garden, Gardenista

    Above: A harvest of plums. Often Katrin, who works from home as a PR writer, indulges in what she calls a "hippie lunch," fresh pickings from the garden.

    ose wall, Katrin Scharls Brandenburg garden, Gardenista

    Above: The walled garden is particularly romantic when the roses bloom in the early summer.

    Holly Hocks, Katrin Scharls walled garden, Gardenista

    Above: Hollyhocks climb the brick facade in the walled garden.

    poppies, Kartin Scharl's walled garden june, Gardenista

    Above: Pink poppies in the late spring.

    lupin, Katrin Scharl's Brandenburg Garden, Gardenista

    Above: Lupine and blooming garlic.

    Layout, Katrin Scharls Brandenburg garden, Gardenista

    Above: Katrin's hand-drawn plan shows the layout of the garden. In the future, they hope to push their garden's production even further into winter with the addition of a greenhouse.

    N.B. Continue your bucolic tour of Germany:

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    Some container plants are too much trouble. Not boxwood. It's easy to create curb appeal with this evergreen shrub because well-behaved box won't lose its leaves, outgrow its pot, or clash with other colors. Here are nine of our favorite ways to use boxwood as a container plant:

    1+1 Equation

    Boxwood planters curb appeal black paint windows ; Gardenista

    Above: Keep the look simple. One pot plus one boxwood ball: what equation could be easier? Containers of different heights with boxwood balls of varying diameters make a pleasing composition.

    Concerned about boxwood blight? Kendra has some suggestions about How to Eliminate Boxwood Blight.


    Twin symmetrical planters boxwood ; Gardenista

    Above: Sliding barn doors at Napa-based designer Barbara Colvin's Oakville home. Photograph via Heirloom Philosophy.

    Identical planters flank an entrance, a classic way to create a pleasing symmetry. As in a Renaissance painting, symmetry draws you in, instills balance, and creates depth and perspective. 

    For more garden design ideas using boxwood, see Gardenista Roundup: For the Love of Boxwood.


    Boxwood planters curb appeal black front door ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Woonstijl.

    Asymmetrical groupings of planters work well because they all repeat a single theme: boxwood. For more tips, see 11 Landscape Design Mistakes to Avoid in 2015.  

    Scatter Pattern

    Oliver Gustav's antiques shop Copenhagen ; Gardenista

    Above: Clipped boxwood adds formality to a garden. If you arrange planters haphazardly, you can avoid stuffiness and add an element of visual surprise.

    For more of this boxwood courtyard, see Shopper's Diary: Oliver Gustav in Copenhagen.

    Choose Wisely

    Boxwood green velvet ; Gardenista

    Above: Boxwood 'Green Velvet' is a hardy hybrid that holds a clipped shape easily; $14.95 for a 1-quart size from Wayside Gardens.

    There are more than 70 species of boxwood, of which the most common in Europe and the US is Buxus sempervirens.

    Varieties of Buxus sempervirens have widely different characteristics. For instance, 'Green Gem' is a slow grower and tolerates cold well. 'Green Mountain', which grows quickly and in a rounded cone shape, is a good choice for a hedge. 'Fastigiata' is tall and skinny with blue-tinged leaves. 'Suffruticosa' is the classic English box with soft, rounded leaves.

    In containers, consider planting miniature box. Varieties of Buxus microphylla include 'John Baldwin', which grows in a conical shape; 'Green Beauty', a good substitute for English box if you have full sun; and 'Green Pillow', with a dense and low growth pattern.

    A Shag Haircut

    Gwyneth Paltrow symmetrical twin planters Brentwood curb appeal ; Gardenista

    Above: In LA, Gwyneth Paltrow bought a Brentwood house where planters of unclipped boxwood soften the straight lines of the entryway. Photograph via Windsor Smith

    For our boxwood growing guide, see Field Guide: Boxwood.

    Clipping Service

    twin boxwood planters ; Gardenista 

    Above: Photograph via Wesseling.

    Boxwood is extremely easy going; you can clip it into balls—or into spheres, cones, or more fanciful shapes—and it will hold its shape for months.

    Feeling whimsical? To see how to shape a shrub into a boxwood bear or boxwood bird, visit a reader's Secret Garden: Fanciful Topiary in the Berkshires.

    Squares and Circles

    Curb Appeal twin boxwood planters ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design.

    Emphasize the geometry of a round boxwood ball by planting it in a square pot. If you're looking for simple wooden planters to complement the round shape of boxwood balls, see 10 Easy Pieces: Wooden Planters.

    Cloud Pruning

    Cloud prune boxwood ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Ivy Clad.

    For visual interest, place a planter  with a tightly clipped boxwood ball in the foreground against a backdrop of cloud pruned shrubs. For more on cloud pruning techniques, see 10 Garden Ideas to Steal from Japan.

    For more instant curb appeal, read 11 Ways to Add Curb Appeal for Under $100.

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    And, for more on container gardening, see:

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    One of the first landscape projects that designers Anishka Clarke and Niya Bascom took on five years ago when they were launching their business was a backyard garden in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood that had suffered a typical city fate. A single big tree cast dense shade over a scruffy patch of grass, hemmed in by a poured-concrete walkway. The 484-square-foot space looked like a small, sad rectangle of land that no one loved very much.

    But Clarke and Bascom, partners in Brooklyn-based Ishka Designs, saw possibilities. "This client had a young child and also entertained a lot in the backyard," says Clarke. "So we decided to keep it very minimal as well as give the space the flexibility to transform."

    Less than a month later, the change was remarkable:

    Photography by Niya Bascom Photography.

    Before and After Crown Heights Brooklyn backyard landscape Ishka Designs; Gardenista

    Above: The designers decided to work with instead of against the big Japanese maple tree. "We liked the idea of creating contrast, with the very organic shape of this off-center tree and a uniform paver and stone patio," says Clarke.

    After coming up with a design, Clarke and Bascom also "did the installation," as they say in the business. In other words, over the course of a couple of weeks, "we did all the laborious tasks ourselves including bag sand, lift sand, dig trenches, break bricks, displace dirt, haul pavers, lay pavers, dodge mosquitos, kill mosquitos," Clarke says.


    Before and After Crown Heights Brooklyn backyard landscape Ishka Designs; Gardenista

    Above: "The shell of the hardscaping was there—the concrete walkway—but the garden was very overrun and it was just a hodgepodge of things," says Clarke.

    Crown Heights Brooklyn townhouse garden landscaping makeover; Gardenista

    Above: The plan was to use the poured-concrete path, which ran in a U-shape around the perimeter of the garden, as a frame for a new patio. To create the patio, Clarke and Bascom tore out the turf and leveled the dirt to make a flat surface for the new pavers.

    Crown Heights Brooklyn townhouse garden landscaping makeover; Gardenista

    Above: The designers covered the leveled dirt with a layer of landscape fabric to create a weed barrier.

    Ishka designs DIY patio landscape Brooklyn backyard ; Gardenista

    Above: For the new patio, Clarke (L) and Bascom set concrete pavers in sand. They varied the width of the grout lines to create blocks of pavers for a checkerboard effect.

    Before and After Crown Heights Brooklyn backyard landscape Ishka Designs; Gardenista

    Above: "We used white stones between the pavers because the color created a nice pop," says Clarke. In the dappled shade beneath the Japanese maple tree, "black or a natural color stone wouldn't have the same effect."


    Before and After Crown Heights Brooklyn backyard landscape Ishka Designs; Gardenista

    Above: Vintage metal garden furniture painted white visually reinforces the brightness of the white stones in the patio. "The furniture is super lightweight and easily moved," says Clarke. "It also looks airy because it's wire."

    The designers installed a rolled bamboo fence. "Bamboo is a very affordable option and very organic. It allows air and light to travel through, so it keeps the garden light and cool," says Clarke.

    Before and After Crown Heights Brooklyn backyard landscape Ishka Designs; Gardenista

    Above: When Clarke and Bascom first saw the garden, clumps of hostas were thriving beneath the tree. They added more hostas with different shapes and colors of leaves along the fence line. "We liked the idea of using more hostas to make the space more minimal and uniform," says Clarke.

    Before and After Crown Heights Brooklyn backyard landscape Ishka Designs; Gardenista

    Above: In the foreground is a smoke tree shrub that Bascom and Clarke planted in an old pickle barrel.

    Before and After Crown Heights Brooklyn backyard landscape Ishka Designs; Gardenista

    Above: "The barrel will limit the smoke tree's growth, but it's been doing really well," says Clarke. "We put the smoke tree there because we wanted something full in the corner and we didn't want to add more trees to the small space."

    Crown Heights Brooklyn townhouse garden landscaping makeover; Gardenista

    Above: The old poured-concrete path frames the new patio.

    Before and After Crown Heights Brooklyn backyard landscape Ishka Designs; Gardenista

    Above: An aerial view of the garden, from the fire escape.

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    Here's a look at what's been inspiring us lately. 





    Instagram and Pinterest Picks of the Week

    Urban Gardeners Republic Instagram Gardenista obsessions

    • Above: We love the Urban Gardeners Republic feed for its communal vibe (@urbangardenersrep).


    • Above: The Creative Greenery board compiled by Sow ’n Sow taps into our imaginative side. 

    For more Gardenista, take a look back at some of our favorite moments via our Best of 2015 issue

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    Welcome to the Year of the Garden. For the next 362 days we're going to spend every possible moment outdoors—and we've rounded up the best new trends in landscapes and garden design to lure you to join us. Don't forget your sun hat:

    Table of Contents: A New Year; Gardenista

    Above: See more in Gardening 101: How to Sprout a Seed.


    Easton wild garden ; Gardenista

    Above: See Michelle's predictions for the year's top garden design trends in this week's Garden Design post. (And in case you're keeping score, see how well she did last year when she predicted the Top 10 Garden Design Trends of 2015.)

    plant-in city urban terrariums Huy Bui Brooklyn ; Gardenista

    Above: Gillian travels to Brooklyn to discover a new breed of urban terrarium in this week's Shopper's Diary.


    bluecranes_vincent mounier-gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Vincent Mounier.

    Headed to South Africa? "When I asked my local traveling friends where to stay during the spring flower season in Namaqualand’s Hantam region, Papkuilsfontein came out tops," says Marie. We tag along to an elegant guesthouse that attracts flower hunters from around that world in this week's Garden Travel post. 


    Mina No Ie Restaurant in Melbourne, a report from Petite Passport's Pauline Egge on Remodelista

    Above: Photograph by Pauline Egge.

    Meredith learns some new ideas for arranging houseplants from an unlikely source. Join her on a tour of green restaurants in this week's Roundup post.



    Above: Afterthought no more. Drainage is coming out of the background in hardscape design. Join us as we explore the new decorative drainage in this week's Hardscaping 101 post.


    Cactus Store LA Echo Park ; Gardenista

    Above: In today's Shopper's Diary, Izabella visits LA's coolest new cactus store.

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    New year, new ideas. Here are the top garden design trends for 2016:

    1. Monochrome Palettes

    Best Garden Design Trends of 2016; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Vertus.

    A one-color palette creates a serene backdrop for outdoor living—and plays up textures in the garden. A dash of black may be all you need to call attention to the green contours of a landscape.

    2. Raked Gardens

    Best Garden Design Trends of 2016; Gardenista

    Above: Environmentally friendly Gravel Gardens (one of last year's best garden design trends) are looking more manicured this year. Raking is a kind of meditation.

    3. See-Through Fences

    horizontal slat fence black ; Gardenista 

    Above: Photograph via Accents of France.

    Increase air flow if you live in a mosquito-prone zone such as Brooklyn with spaced fence slats (the Venetian blind look also lets in light and makes a small backyard feel less like a box).

    4. Pallet-Style Furniture

    Best Garden Design Ideas of 2016 ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Vertus.

    Recycle, reclaim, and reuse are the tenets of envionmentally friendly garden (and outdoor furniture) design. Upcycled pallets (or slatted furniture built to evoke the look) provide a geometric focal point in teh garden.

    5. Portable Gardens

    Best Garden Design Trends of 2016; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Spitalfields City Farm.

    Planters on wheels, portable pots in vacant lots, and Community Gardens That Move Indoors during cold weather are turning temporary gardens into permanent friends. (For another of our favorite traveling gardens, see 66 Square Feet Plus on a Harlem Terrace).

    6. Rollaway Walls

    Best Garden Design Trends of 2016; Gardenista

    Above: In Spain, an open-air weekend retreat by architects Churtichaga + Quadra-Salcedo was built on a budget of 50,000€. Photograph via CHQS.

    The ultimate luxury is a house that completely erases the barriers between outdoors and in. In the spirit of their predecessor the rollaway bed, rollaway walls disappear into the background when they're not needed.

    7. Mown Grass Paths

    mown grass path glyndbourne howard sooley ; Gardenista

    Above: A mown path cuts through an orchard in England. For more, see Garden Visit: The Unique  Charms of Glyndbourne in Sussex. Photograph by Howard Sooley

    Call it the ultimate low-impact hardscaping element. A mown grass path puts travelers in the midst of a meadow—temporarily. If you don't like the layout, let it grow back and start over.

    8. Blue Hydrangeas

    blue hydrangeas pool house Long Island garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Matthew Williams

    Nothing is more old-fashioned—or more modern—than electric blue hydrangeas. The hue is polarizing—and mesmerizing, when paired with the turquoise blue surface of a swimming pool as at the Hamptons home of Finnish stylist Tiina Laakonen. See more at Rhapsody in Blue: At Home in the Hamptons.

    9. Decorative Drains


    Above: Photograph via Studio Toop.

    The French drain comes out of the basement to claim its rightful place in the garden. As beautiful as it is useful, the decorative French drain adds an element of texture to your hardscape design. See more on Thursday in this week's new Hardscaping 101 post. 

    10. Instant Gardens

    Instant edible garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Seedsheets.

    Roll out pre-planted sheets impregnated with seeds to sprout an instant crop in a garden bed. Just add water to prompt pre-measured herb and vegetable seeds to grow. The trend is a natural outgrowth (pardon the pun) of last year's practice of Sprouting Microgreens with Growing Paper. (Come back next week when we take a closer look at one company that makes seed sheets.)

    11. Grass Gardens

    Easton wild garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Swaths of perennial grasses create painterly landscapes that serve as habitats for wildlife, need little water, and look good year-round. For more of our favorites, see 9 Ways to Create Curb Appeal with Perennial Grasses.

    12. The Grottage

    Garage turned cottage grottage ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista. See more in The 186-Square-Foot Guest Cottage.

    Garage-to-cottage conversions are on the rise. The garden grottage is the new guest room.

    13. The Untamed Look

    Messy garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.

    Above: It's hard not to see the perfection in imperfection in the garden: flowers gone to seed, sprawled clumps of unruly perennials, volunteer wildflowers, or a jerry-rigged hardscape plan that makes the most of what you have (instead of bulldozing everything to start from scratch). The untamed look was popular at last year's Chelsea Flower Show, and we're expecting to see even more of it this year.

    14. Turf to Order

    Wildflower turf ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Wildflower Turf.

    Above: Also seen at last year's Chelsea Flower Show, large mats planted with turf or wildflowers can roll out "like Persian carpets," noted our UK editor, Kendra Wilson.

    15. Eggshell Fertilizer

    Egg Shell Mulch in the Garden, deer repellent 2, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

    Above: Eggshells make an attractive garden mulch, with benefits. Justine, our East Coast editor  who started saving eggshells last year to use in the garden, says, "Though nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are most vital for healthy growth, calcium is also essential for building healthy 'bones'—the cell walls of a plant. Composed of calcium carbonate, eggshells are an excellent way to introduce this mineral into the soil."

    She preps eggshells by grinding them with a mortar and pestle before tilling them into the soil. (It takes several months for eggshells to break down and be absorbed by roots, add them to soil in both fall and spring.)

    See more in Gardening 101: How to Use Eggshells in the Garden.

    16. Artisanal Marijuana 


    Above: As more states legalize marijuana, backyard growers are trying to hybridize perfect blends and grow a bush that blends in with the rest of the garden. See more in Growing Guide: 11 Essential Tips to Grow Your Own Marijuana.

    Looking back on the year that was? See Top 10 Garden Designs of 2015.

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    From his Brooklyn-based studio designer Huy Bui co-created Plant-in City, a project to pair plants with sleek wood and metal to create a new kind of 21st-century terrarium. His latest venture is a new collection of stackable Plant-in MINI terrariums that also are monuments to urban living.

    Photography by Huy Bui except where noted.

    plant-in city

    Above: Bui carefully places plants into one of his mini terrariums. Photograph by Freunde von Freunden.

    Each terrarium is handmade, and Bui sees his planters as both art and places to house plants. “On one hand, it is a single object or sculpture for plants,” he explains. “On the other hand, they are a single unit that fits into a large whole, which can be stacked vertically. These units are like pre-fab homes, but for plants.”

    plant-in city

    Above: Bui's latest series of MINI planters are built in such a way that they can be stacked together to make larger structures. Configured using 13 separate components, a MINI 13 City Block is $1,150 from Home Made.


    Above: Made of steel, a Mini II Steel Terrarium is $275 from Home Made.

    The wooden terrariums are made from cut-offs with live edges or visible bark. With an intricate, mathematical composition they interlock in the same way as Lego. Each structure has distinct architectural elements. One may feature tiny cross-bracing, another expertly cantilevered planes. 

    “We source only local NY State wood that has been sustainable harvested,” says Bui.

    plant-in city

    Above: A MINI II Mobius Terrarium with Corten Steel Finish is $325.

    plant-in city urban terrariums Huy Bui Brooklyn ; Gardenista

    Above: The steel terrariums come in a variety of finishes including a natural polished finish, oxidized, black patina, and an extra special copper-plated finish.

    “Our steel versions, use the exact same dimensions as the wooden ones, but have different structural advantages and disadvantages and are made by a local steel fabricator,” explains Bui.   

    plant-in city

    Above: One of Bui’s most popular pieces is the Air Terrarium with a black patina ($400). It features a steel frame with a wired web that holds an air plant. He thinks that it’s the clean lines of the structure juxtaposed with the obtuse angles of the web and the organic form of the plant that make it such a sought-after piece.

    “There's sophistication in simplicity,” he adds.

    plant-in city

    Above: A Plant-in City  Lowline edition, Mad Scientist with LED lights. This terrarium was a collaboration with The Lowline Underground Park:  A proposal of an urban green space in Lower Manhattan.

    Bui’s interest in the micro-housing movement also inspired him to create the modular aspect of the Plant-in MINI series. “I love capsule and modular housing systems,”  says Bui.

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    When I asked my local traveling friends where to stay during the spring flower season in Namaqualand’s Hantam region, Papkuilsfontein came out tops.

    But Mariëtte van Wyk, the elegant farmer's wife who with her daughter-in-law, Alrie van Wyk, runs the Papkuilsfontein guesthouse outside the tiny town of Nieuwoudtville in South Africa, laughs: "When the talent for PR was being handed out, we weren't even last in line: we were playing outside!"

    They might not be savvy marketers, but Papkuilsfontein's reputation is spread by the most trusted method of all: word of mouth. And we were lucky to be squeezed in.

    Photography by Marie Viljoen except where noted.

    Papkuilsfontein South Africa guesthouse ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Vincent Mounier.

    Why Nieuwoudtville?

    Three -and-half hours from Cape Town by car, situated high on The Bokkeveld Escarpment above the forbidding Knersvklate, this hamlet finds itself in the international crosshairs of discerning flower hunters. Self-described as “the bulb capital of the world" the countryside here is packed with geophytes, annuals, and perennials.

    Papkuilsfontein South Africa guesthouse ; Gardenista

    Above: Famously, there are more species in this South African pocketsquare than in the entire United Kingdom. This eruption of flowers, their diversity and density, is unique on the planet.

    Papkuilsfontein South Africa guesthouse ; Gardenista

    Above: In late August and early September, after favorable winter rains, the show begins right in town with a postcard display of Ixia rapunculoides growing wild in the grounds of the sandstone Dutch Reformed church.

    bluecranes_vincent mounier-Papkuilsfontein South Africa guesthouse ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Vincent Mounier.

    In candy-striped fields beyond town flocks of blue cranes, South Arica’s national bird, gather daily to feed.

    Papkuilsfontein South Africa guesthouse ; Gardenista

    Above: The Hantam National Botanical Garden, just beyond town, is a former sheep farm whose conservation-minded owner, Neil MacGregor, maintained the land so well that it remains rich with flowers and endemic species. Several trails lead through different vegetation types.

    Papkuilsfontein South Africa guesthouse ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Annalize Buhrmann.

    Further along the same dirt road is the farm and guest house Papkuilsfontein, named for the section of river that winds through the property, whose pools—kuils in Afrikaans—do not dry out, even in parched Northern Cape summers. After exceptional rains this lazy water becomes a torrent that cascades into the Oorlogskloof, an imposing canyon that borders the farm.  

    Papkuilsfontein South Africa guesthouse ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Papkuilsfontein.

    At the Papkuilsfontein guesthouse, the Van Wyk men—Mariëtte's husband Willem, and their son Jaco (the sixth generation to farm here)—run the agricultural side of things, raising sheep (their own lamb and mutton is served at dinner), and growing rooibos tea, olives, and fodder. The women farm with guests. 

    Papkuilsfontein guesthouse South Africa ; Gardenista

    Above: Flower routes have been established on the farm allowing guests to drive themselves, or to take a guided tour through the Renosterveld  - a vegetation type of the Cape Floristic Region, where indigenous and endemic plants flourish beside cultivated fields. 
    Papkuilsfontein guesthouse South Africa ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Vincent Mounier.

    In wet weather there are deep puddles to ford, and when we visited we were happy to be in a sturdy Land Cruiser. Willem is on hand at reception in season to hand out farm maps and make sure that drivers stick to the right route for their vehicle. 

    Papkuilsfontein guesthouse South Africa ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Obie Oberholzer.

    The Van Wyks' venture into the hospitality industry began with the renovation a single stone cottage on their farm, in 1984. It is now one of three restored dwellings clustered in wide fields of spring daisies. Each is impeccably made-over to retain its original sense of simplicity—there is no electricity—while no luxurious detail has been overlooked. Mariëtte 's impeccable sense of design creates a sense of effortless calm. And the setting is idyllic.

    Papkuilsfontein guesthouse South Africa ; Gardenista

    Above: Over the decades the Papkuilsfontein accommodation portfolio expanded to house the annual flood of flower tourists. On De Lande, their farm nearer town, guest rooms have been added, along with a transformed Overseer’s Shack with corrugated walls painted oxblood red. De Lande is also where guests gather for drinks and evening meals (where the roast potatoes are legendary )and where lavish farm breakfasts are served in season.

    Papkuilsfontein guesthouse South Africa ; Gardenista

    Above: The most recent addition is Matjiesfontein, a Cape Dutch homestead built near a spring, where low whitewashed walls dating to the time when three farmers’ flocks drank here define the historic property. The house’s  two joined parts date to the 17th and 18th centuries. In 2002 Willem undertook the dilapidated structure's restoration, intending that he and Mariëtte live there after Jaco and Alrie married and moved into the main Papkuilsfontein homestead, as is farming tradition. And while the parents now live at Matjiesfontein year-through, in peak season visitors are accommodated in the 18th-century rooms, while the owners remove themselves to the 17th.

    Papkuilsfontein guesthouse South Africa ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Vincent Mounier.

    The restrained elegance of the revived building owes its new life to a painstaking and meticulous restoration. It included the sourcing of handmade nails, while a blacksmith in Cape Town made the hinges and window fittings. The tiles were handmade in Zimbabwe. "Nothing machine made looks right—too square and correct," explains Mariëtte. With Willem, their son Anton built the window frames. Steel cables were fitted to keep some of the walls from moving apart. The front door is an old regional cedarwood piece, now very rare.

    matjiesfonteinliving_vincent mounier-gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Vincent Mounier.

    "The lounge gave me lots of headaches," says Mariëtte. "Rooms are not very often balanced in old buildings…leaving spaces which will not allow for easy placement of furniture." And the walls' original colors were all over the map. "In the end," she says, "the first thing I bought was a Persian carpet with all those colors in it." The second addition was an old wakis (wagon chest), a family heirloom.

    For a weary traveler, the sense of the place is one where unfussy gentility and cultivated ease welcome you, from the decanter of sherry on a silver tray, to the good, collectable books stacked on a polished table. And if you walk barefoot across that Persian rug, you will find that it is heated from beneath.

    Bath by Vincent Mounier ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Vincent Mounier.

    The oversize bathroom is the size of some New York apartments, and enormous clawfoot tub begs you to submerge yourself while enjoying the passing flight of a malachite sunbird through the open stable door.

    Bedroom by Vincent Mounier ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Vincent Mounier.

    Spring nights are cold, so hot water bottles and comfortable beds keep you in the kind of deep sleep that city dwellers dream about. And the night skies here are unpolluted by light or industry, making for spectacular star gazing, year-round.

    For a rare combination of the best of Afrikaans hospitality, a restful countryside retreat, an introduction to a floral phenomenon, and side trips to spectacular natural scenery,  it is hard to imagine a place better situated or more thoughtfully planned than this working farm.

    For more details and booking (book well in advance for August and September): Papkuilsfontein.

    If you're planning a travel itinerary in South Africa, see more of Marie's favorite destinations:

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    There is no such thing as bad gardening weather. If you disagree, the problem may be bad gardening gear. Prepare for the elements and you'll find winter garden chores bracing. Promise. Keep hands warm (and protected from thorns) with leather garden gloves. Here are 10 of our favorite pairs:

    leather work gloves gardening gloves ; Gardenista

    Above: From Italy, a pair of The Chore Gloves leather work gloves has a hemmed edge and internal elastic cuff is $18 from Best Made Co.

    Goatskin garden work gloves ; Gardenista

    Above: This is the pair I wear (still going strong in year three). A pair of Women's Goatskin Work Gloves is currently on sale, marked down to $28 from $48 at Guideboat.

    leather deerskin garden work gloves ; Gardenista

    Above: Handmade in Washington state, a pair of black Wool-Lined Deerskin Work Gloves has an elastic wrist to keep out the cold; $89 from Kaufmann-Mercantile.

    leather gauntlet garden gloves ; Gardenista

    Above: One size fits all. A pair of leather Gauntlet Gloves is long enough to protect your forearms from thorns and broken branches and is £16.50 from Garden Trading.

    womens leather gauntlet garden gloves ; Gardenista

    Above: Sized specially for women's hands, a pair of straw-colored Women's Gauntlet Gardening Gloves is $44.50 from Duluth Trading.

    fleece lined leather garden gloves ; Gardenista

    Above: Available in both men's and women's sizes and lined with fleece for warmth, a pair of goatskin Tireman Gloves is made in the US and is $55 from Sullivan Glove Co.

    buckskin garden gloves ; Gardenista

    Above: Made in the US, a pair of unlined Natural Deerskin Gloves is $21.95 from Bear Wallow Glove Co.

    men's leather work garden gloves ; Gardenista

    Above: An adjustable cinched leather wristband keeps hands warm in a pair of Men's Leather Work Gloves; $18.50 from Fields and Lane.

    leather work gloves gardening ; Gardenista

    Above: Currently on sale at J. Crew, a pair of men's Leather Work Gloves is $59.50, marked down from $69.50.

    leather gardening gloves ; Gardenista

    Above: Available in both women's and men's sizes and manufactured by a two-century-old glove company in the UK, a pair of Rostaing Expert Premium Leather Gardening Gloves is £18.99 from Recycleworks.

    Are you preparing to tackle winter garden chores? Let us help, with:

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    Finally, instant pressed flowers. Copenhagen design team Anders Thams and Martin D. Christensen have created the Moebe frame, a simple affair consisting of two sheets of plexiglass framed by four slim strips of wood:

    Photography via Moebe.

    DIY pressed flowers art frame Moebe Copenhagen; Gardenista

    Above: The Moebe Frame comes with strips of untreated oak and is held together by a rubber band. It's  DKK 399 (about $58) from Bark Shop.

    DIY pressed flowers art frame Moebe Copenhagen; Gardenista

    Above: The design team's inspiration? "The classic clip-on picture frame has not changed much over the last several years and we thought it might be interesting to try and interpret a little on an old favorite," the team recently told Bungalow5. "In general, we think that it is cool to take an everyday object and try to boil it down to an even simpler version of itself— it doesn’t necessarily require a new feature, but just simplify it in the design and expression."


    Above: Christensen (L) is an architect and Thams is a cabinetmaker.


    Above: More inspiration, from Moebe's Instagram feed.

    For more DIY ideas, see:

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