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Tried and Tested: How to Make Fresh Flowers Last Longer


We're not so naive to think cut dahlias will stick around forever, but we're ready to do what it takes to keep them alive just a little bit longer. What if you dissolve an aspirin in the water? Or drop a copper penny into the bottom of a vase? Can it be that easy?

In the interest of science, we bought a bouquet so we could test five additives people commonly put in water to try to make fresh flowers last longer:

  • Vinegar and sugar mixture. The common wisdom is that vinegar will mitigate bacteria, and sugar will act as food.
  • Conventional flower food.
  • Bleach. The idea is that a teaspoonful will kill bacteria.
  • Aspirin: To increase the acidity of the water
  • A penny: The copper allegedly acts as an antibacterial agent.

Here's what we learned:

Photographs by Erin Boyle.

how to keep flowers fresh | gardenista

Above: Fresh dahlias, straight from the florist.

To begin, we followed best-practice cut flower procedure and coddled our charge with tried and true cut flower care basics:

  • Trim flowers once they're home; a 45-degree angle is best.
  • Use a clean vase, because the worst enemy of fresh flowers is bacteria. 
  • Keep flowers out of direct sunlight; the cooler and darker the room, the longer your flowers will last.

how to keep flowers fresh | gardenista

Above: We ran three sets of trials to try to get the most accurate results, to see if any additive made a cut flower last longer than a dahlia in plain water.

how to keep flowers fresh | gardenista

Above: In each trial, we tested sugar and vinegar, bleach, a copper penny, an aspirin tablet, and flower food, courtesy of the corner bodega.

how to keep flowers fresh | gardenista

Above: We crushed the aspirin tablet before stirring it into water. 

how to keep flowers fresh | gardenista

Above: Marked and measured, I ran each trial for five days. (By that time, all of these fresh-cut dahlias were ready for the compost pile.)

how to keep flowers fresh | gardenista


  • Vinegar and Sugar: Flowers strong through Day 3. By Day 5, flowers were curled on the edges and ready for compost, but still relatively intact. Similar results to plain water.
  • Conventional Flower Food: Flowers lasted through Day 3, strong stem through Day 5. In one trial, the flower curled completely by Day 2.
  • Bleach: Strong stem through Day 5. In one trial the flower stayed healthy through Day 4, in another it was shriveled by Day 2. Most inconsistent results.
  • Aspirin: Flower held strong through Day 3 across all three trials, but flopped by Day 5. In each case, the stem turned gray. 
  • Copper: Lasted well through Day 3 in each trial. Stem still strong by Day 5, but flower curled. Similar results to plain water.
  • Water: Flower strong through Day 3, shriveled by Day 4 or 5.

how to keep flowers fresh | gardenista


We didn't see the drastic differences that we thought we might. In our first trial, the bleach and flower food seemed to have actively negative effects on the flowers, but two more trials didn't prove the same. All things considered, we found fairly consistent results in all three trials, which has us thinking we might just stick to plain water in the future.

But one additive we'll likely avoid? Aspirin. It turned the stems an icky gray color that was worse than a slightly droopy flower. 

What about you? Do you have a tried and true method? Do you bother with flower food, or let nature run its course?

N.B. This is a rerun of a post that originally published on September 19, 2013 as part of our Modern Root Cellar issue.

See our Floral Arrangements Posts for more flowery inspiration.


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Recipe: Irresistible Vegetable Soup in 30 Minutes or Less


Soup for supper? It's my first first choice most days. But a hurried weeknight is not the time to try out a new soup recipe. Or any recipe, for that matter. You won't need to if you can remember three magic numbers: 4, 2, 1. 

  • 4 cups chopped vegetable 

  • 2 cups stock

  • 1 cup dairy

That's it. Three ingredients. Works with any root vegetable. It only takes 30 minutes to make. And it's a lot of fun to experiment with ingredients. Here are a few variations I've made so far this month:

For ingredients and step-by-step instructions, see below.

Want more Easy Dinner Ideas? Try our Kale Salad With Apples and Almonds or our Celeriac Gratin With Thyme and Gruyere

Photographs by Michelle Slatalla except where noted.

Garden-to-Table carrot scallion soup recipe l Gardenista

Above: One night last week I got stuck in rush hour traffic, arrived home after dark, and learned that electric power had been shut off to my whole town for much of the day. Soothing solution? Soup for dinner. I made carrot soup, using 4 cups of chopped carrots from the crisper drawer, 2 cups of chicken stock I found in the freezer, and 1 cup of whole milk. I also had some scallions lying around, so I added them to the mix for flavor.

carrot soup in beaker l Gardenista

Above: Half an hour later: carrot-scallion soup.

cauliflower soup DIY l Gardenista

Above: The other night I was craving spicy, curried Indian food. Soup solution? I made cauliflower soup, flavored with toasted turmeric seeds from the pantry and parsley from my winter garden.

DIY cauliflower soup recipe ; Gardenista

Above: This is such a forgiving recipe. When I say "4 cups of chopped vegetable," that means a situation that looks like this.

Garden-to-table cauliflower soup recipe l Gardenista


Above: Curried cauliflower soup made with turkey stock from the freezer. I sprinkled chopped chives on top.

Garden-to-table-tomato soup l Gardenista

Above: Photograph by John Merkl.

Ever since I canned my garden tomatoes, I've been hoarding the precious jars for something special. Soup is special. I combined 4 cups of canned tomatoes (plus their juices) with chives from the depths of the refrigerator to create...

Garden-to-Table tomato soup recipe l Gardenista

Above: Cream of tomato and chive soup. Made with my own garden tomatoes, this tasted like the essence of pure tomato. Only slightly better (because of the cream). You can also use canned tomatoes.


4-2-1 Vegetable Soup

Serves 4


  • 4 cups of any raw root vegetable (or combination of vegetables, depending on what you have lying around), such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, celeriac, potato.
  • 2 cups of stock (chicken, beef, turkey, and vegetable stock all work equally well—I've tried them)
  • 1 cup of dairy, such as heavy cream, whole milk, yogurt, or sour cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh herbs to taste


Chop four cups of vegetables and any herbs you feel like adding to the mix. Place in a medium saucepan on the stovetop, add stock, and simmer until vegetables are soft (about ten or 12 minutes).

Puree the soup, either with the help of an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor or blender. Routine to saucepan over low heat and stir in dairy (do not boil or the mixture will separate). Season to taste with salt, pepper, and any additional herbs or spices you like. Serve immediately.

Note: If you have any leftovers (highly unlikely), this soup freezes well.

Ready to move on to a 5-Ingredient Cocktail Party

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Garden Visit: Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage at Dungeness


The space around this modest cottage in Dungeness, Kent, the former home of the multitalented filmmaker Derek Jarman (1942-1994), could be considered one of England's best-loved gardens. The property is not open to the public, nor is it closed; visitors are free to wander. "The garden is the landscape," says Jarman's friend, the photographer Howard Sooley. "It ends at the horizon."

Photographs by Howard Sooley.

Derek Jarman's Garden by Howard Sooley. Gardenista

Above: In 1991 Howard Sooley was assigned by a magazine to photograph Jarman, and the two struck up a close friendship. They went on to produce a seminal book together, Derek Jarman's Gardendescribing a whole new kind of garden. The book was published just after Jarman's death 20 years ago.

Jarman's reputation as an artist is so tied in with his remarkable garden these days that it's worth recalling that he was also a hugely influential film director, stage designer, author, and diarist. His early film work was closely allied with that of Tilda Swinton, who appeared in his best-known film, Caravaggio, released in 1986. He lived in a flat over the Phoenix Theater on London's Charing Cross Road but increasingly, in later years, he sought out the otherworldly coastal headland of Dungeness.

Derek Jarman garden by Howard Sooley; Gardenista

Above: "It's not often that you find a garden on such a small scale that is so at ease with the world," says Sooley. "It's not an artist's garden that's trying to be clever." Posts like these are markers for plants that die down in winter. They also provide height—and perches for migratory birds. 

Derek Jarman garden by Howard Sooley; Prospect Cottage; Gardenista

Above: Sooley says that visitors are "ecstatic" upon seeing the garden, especially when they come under an English blue sky. And they do visit, particularly on holidays. Even without the garden's reputation, the lines from a poem ("The Sun Rising," by John Donne) embossed on the side of the house guarantee that passersby will always stop.

Derek Jarman garden by Howard Sooley; Gardenista

Above: The garden is full of wildflowers introduced by Jarman. Shown here: wild poppy, pale blue Devil's-bit Scabious, dark red Valerian.

Derek Jarman garden by Howard Sooley; Gardenista

Above: The coastal plants that thrive in the garden are those that naturally migrate toward shingle (a British term for a pebbled shore). They'd flop in a well-tended border, but here they're stronger and tighter; "the more perfect version," as Sooley puts it.

Derek Jarman garden by Howard Sooley; Prospect Cottage; Gardenista

Above: You want structure? Here it is, but you won't find a garden gate or perimeter fence. "There's something special about the fact that this is a small cottage," says Sooley. "It's a small-scale domestic garden that's about wanting to garden."

Derek Jarman garden by Howard Sooley; poppy; Gardenista

Above: Opium poppy in a more interesting shade than the usual sugary pink. "The plants carry the meaning of the garden," says Sooley. "The way they sit in the shingle tells the story."

Above: A Sooley portrait of Jarman, in gardening mode. The garden has moved on since Jarman's death, but not in a big way. Sooley still comes for a few days to tend it, and Jarman's partner Keith, who lives there, pulls out any unwanted grasses. Unlike so many British gardens, it's not about preserving what once was.

For more Sooley collaborations, see Bounty From a North London Allotment. And on Remodelista, see House Call: A Ceramic Artist's Enviable Life on the Scottish Coast.

Considered Design Awards 2014; Gardenista

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Outbuilding of the Week: A Backyard Writer's Shed by Weston Surman & Deane


I think most of us will agree that there's no more pleasant spot to spend an afternoon working than in the garden. But for many of us, moving a desk, chair, and personal library into the garden would be too much of a leap. If you dream of a garden office but haven't yet commissioned one, you'll take vicarious pleasure in the writer's shed that architects Weston Surman & Deane designed for an author and illustrator in London.

The architect team worked with the client to build a backyard escape: "Drawing on the historically intimate relationship between writers and their sheds, the space was conceived as a haven in the city; a fairy-tale hut at the bottom of the garden where the client could retreat and immerse himself in his work."

For more on the writer's life, see another Perfect Writing Shed in the Garden.

Photographs by Wai Ming Ng.

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

Above: The garden shed, completed last spring. The architects acted as designers, project managers, site managers, and lead contractors, allowing the firm to deliver an ambitious design within a limited timeframe and budget.

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

Above: Oiled OSB and painted pine tongue and groove flooring were used throughout the shed. 

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

Above: A wood stove sits atop a hearth of cut concrete paving slabs and is flanked by custom bookshelves designed to store the client's large book collection.

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

Above: A closeup of the bookshelves and horizontal window.

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

Above: Garden taps above a porcelain sink make a space for the illustrator to clean his paint brushes and keep his work space tidy.

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

Above: The offset pitch of the roof allowed the architects the opportunity to include a north-facing skylight above the client's desk.

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

Above: Seen from the outside, the north-facing wall of skylights (Right) on the slanted roof and a bespoke sliding door and frameless windows (Left) flood the artist's workspace with natural light.

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

Above: Firewood for fueling the stove stacked against the cedar shingles of the shed.

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

Above: The back-lit cedar facade glows with warm light in the early evening.

For another project using cedar shingles, see Summer Living in Montauk on Remodelista.

Satisfied to spend New Year's day looking at Garden Sheds? We can help.

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Black Magic: Architects' 8 Top Paint Picks


You love black houses; we love black houses. Easy to admire but a bold move to make, not just any shade will do. We've asked architect and designer members of our Professional Directory for their favorite black exterior paints. Here, they've shed some light for when you're ready to go dark.

What's your favorite shade of black paint?

Photographs of paint swatches by Katie Newburn for Gardenista.

Above: Top row, left to right: Farrow & Ball Railings; Benjamin Moore Midnight Oil; Benjamin Moore Carbon Copy; Farrow & Ball Off-Black. Bottom row: Benjamin Moore Black Forest Green; Benjamin Moore Black Panther; Farrow & Ball Pitch Black; and Benjamin Moore French Beret

Best Exterior Black Paint Colors, Benjamin Moore Carbon Copy, Gardenista

Above: SF-based Butler Armsden Architects renovated a William Wurster home and had it painted in Benjamin Moore Carbon Copy, a rich black shade with a hint of purple. The architects used a flat finish for the body of the home and a soft gloss sheen for the trim.

Best Exterior Black Paint Colors, Benjamin Moore Black Forest Green, Gardenista

Above: This home by architect Roberto De Leon is painted in Benjamin Moore Black Forest Green. The shade is discontinued, but can still be mixed on request. Black Forest Green was also a favorite pick of LA-based DISC Interiors (and, after seeing it in person, I myself am obsessed). Photo via Dwell.

Best Exterior Black Paint Colors, Benjamin Moore Black Forest Green, Gardenista

Above: Another example of Benjamin Moore Black Forest Green. Williamstown, Mass.-based Burr & McCallum Architects painted this farmhouse with trim in Essex Green.

Best Exterior Black Paint Colors, Farrow and Ball Railings, Gardenista

Above: Stylist Arren Williams chose Farrow & Ball Railings for his own home (pictured here). Railings is not a true black, but functions beautifully in place of one. TheJenTurner Studio also used Railings on the exterior trim and front door of her home in Brooklyn. For details, see The Architect Is In: Tips from Jen Turner's Grand DIY. The shade was also recommended by Charles Mellersh Design Studio in London. Photograph via House & Home

Best Exterior Black Paint Colors, Farrow and Ball Off Black, Gardenista

Above: Farrow & Ball's Off-Black is a favorite of designer/fabricators MADE LLC in New York. Photograph via Farrow & Ball

Best Exterior Black Paint Colors, Benjamin Moore Black Panther, Gardenista

Above: Owner Margaret Grade of Sir and Star restaurant in Marin chose Benjamin Moore Black Panther for a dark overhaul of her formerly white building. This shade is in a tie with Pitch Black for the blackest of the shades recommended here. For more, see A Restaurant That Channels "The Birds," West Marin Style. Photograph by Alexa Hotz.

Best Exterior Black Paint Colors, Benjamin Moore Midnight Oil, Gardenista

Above: Portland, OR-based Bright Design Lab used Benjamin Moore Midnight Oil on this home still under construction. The shade is a very dark gray with just a hint of brown.

Best Exterior Black Paint Colors, Farrow and Ball Pitch Black, Gardenista

Above: NYC-based Steven Harris Architects used Farrow & Ball Pitch Black for a long exterior storage wall on this beach home in Montauk. Photograph by Scott Frances

Best Exterior Black Paint Colors, Benjamin Moore French Beret, Gardenista

Above: SF-based Boor Bridges Architecture used Benjamin Moore French Beret on this home in Sonoma (still under construction). Architect Bonnie Bridges describes the shade as "the blackest black with an ever-so-subtle hint of blue." Though black may be an unlikely pick for a home nestled among the trees, "It’s rich enough to be the backdrop to the vast site and amazing views," she says. 

Can't decide which color to paint your exterior? See the 10 Easy Pieces posts in our exterior color series: Architects' Top 10 Grays, and White Exterior Paint Picks.

What paint color should we profile next? Green? Yellow?

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Outbuilding of the Week: A Retro '60s Camper, Outdoor Bathhouse Included


J. Wes Yoder usually refers to the 1962 Shasta camper that sits in his leafy East Nashville backyard as "the camper," but he says that when he's feeling especially Southern, he likes to call it "the trailer." Whatever you decide to call it, I think you'll agree that the tiny aluminum outbuilding on wheels is 100 percent charming. I first read about the Yoder's backyard retreat on Megan McEwen's Daytripper and I've been drumming up reasons to head to Nashville ever since. 

Photography by Laura Dart for J. Wes Yoder.

shasta camper | gardenista

Above: The recipe for a pretty perfect weekend retreat: wooden deck, hammock, bathhouse, and camper. 

The Nashville, Tennesee novelist and author of Carry My Boneshad been wanting to make room for a garden house or writing shed in his yard when he came across a listing for a beat up camper on eBay—available immediately and ready for pickup just 45 minutes outside of town. With its canned-ham design, the camper wasn't the exact 1950s aluminum model Yoder originally had in mind for his outdoor workspace, but it was an affordable entry-level variation on the theme. Undaunted by the extensive renovations his new charge would require, he set to work gutting the camper and building an accompanying outdoor shower, bathhouse, and deck.

By the time Yoder finished the remodel, he had decided to recoup the renovation costs by listing the camper on Airbnb the very same day he completed the project. No surprise, it's been booked almost every night since he finished the project last October.

shasta camper | gardenista

Above: Inside, Yoder worked wonders with a coat of fresh white paint. Cozied into one end of the camper is a double bed with built-in storage below. Clever grommeted curtains can be moved during the day to let in the light.

shasta camper | gardenista

Above: Originally festooned in Budweiser paraphernalia, the camper's clean lines were emphasized with the addition of simple handmade and vintage furniture.

shasta camper | gardenista

Above: A tiny kitchen complete with sink and hot plate provides guests a place to prepare meals.

shasta camper | gardenista

Above: Less than two miles from downtown Nashville, the camper sits in a quiet residential neighborhood that doesn't have many other lodging options. Yoder provides a hand-drawn walking map of the neighborhood for guests. 

shasta camper | gardenista

Above: Yoder built a transomed bathhouse complete with clawfoot tub with the help of his dad and uncle. He sought inspiration from garden sheds and outbuildings online and cobbled together plans for the simple outbuilding.

shasta camper | gardenista

Above: A peek inside the bathhouse.

shasta camper | gardenista

Above: For guests who prefer to shower al fresco, a simple outdoor shower above slate pavers set in gravel is hidden between the bathhouse and camper.

To book your own stay, visit Yoder's listing on Airbnb. Rates start at $95 per night. 

Inspired? See Wanderlust: 10 Airstream Trailers for Living Small and 5 Essentials for the Retro Camper on Remodelista or browse the rest of our Outbuildings archive.

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Hardscaping 101: Gabion Walls


From the banks of the Nile to your backyard, gabion walls are a boon to the landscape. Used for thousands of years by military and structural engineers, gabions provide an attractive, effective, and inexpensive retaining-wall system. Read on to find out how to use this ancient technology in your garden:

Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp Landscape with Gabion Walls, Gardenista

Above: Landscape architects Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp, based in Evanston, Illinois, topped gabion walls with poured-concrete slabs at a family retreat on Lake Michigan.

What are gabions?

Derived from an old Italian word, gabbione, meaning "big cage," gabions are enclosures that can be filled with any sort of inorganic material: rock, brick, or concrete debris. The cages were originally wicker, but now are usually a welded mesh made of sturdy galvanized, coated, or stainless steel wire that won't bend when filled with rocks. In landscaping, gabion walls can support an earth wall, stabilize the soil, prevent erosion, and more. 

Gabion Walls Platform 5 Architects, Gardenista  

Above: In a Bedfordshire, UK, project, London architecture firm Platform 5 used gabion walls to create a transition between domestic and agricultural environments. For more, see A Smart Modern House, Meadow View Included on Remodelista.

David Coleman Winthrop House Gabion Walls, Gardenista

Above: Outside a house in Winthrop, Washington, by David Coleman Architecture, gabion acts as a retaining wall, a privacy screen, and a contextual link between building and landscape. Construction waste was dramatically reduced by using excavated material as filler. Photograph by Lara Swimmer, courtesy of David Coleman Architecture.

What is the history of gabion walls?

About 7,000 years ago, early gabion-type structures protected the banks of the Nile. In the medieval era, gabions were employed as military fortifications. Later they were used for structural purposes in architecture. Evidently, Leonardo da Vinci used gabion for the foundations of the San Marco Castle in Milan. In recent history, civil engineers have used gabions extensively to stabilize shorelines, riverbanks, highways, and slopes against erosion. 

Gabion Wall at the Thunderbird Hotel, Gardenista  

Above: "Using regional materials ties a new space into the culture of a place," says landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck. She and her company transformed an abandoned parking lot into the Capri Lounge, a community gathering space for the Thunderbird Hotel in Marfa, Texas. Photograph by David Lake.

What are the benefits of gabion walls? 

History has shown that gabions are a lasting solution to soil erosion. Other reasons to use them:

  • Aesthetics: Gabions look natural and can tie a house to the landscape by using filler materials excavated from the site or the local terrain.
  • Environmental friendliness: When onsite material is used as filler, transportation costs and associated fuel consumption are eliminated.
  • Sustainability: Used as shade screens in hot climates, gabion walls provide passive cooling; they allow air to move through, providing ventilation.
  • Permeability: Gabions are permeable and free-draining; they can't be washed away by moving water.
  • Easy installation and built-in strength: The stone fill settles to the contours of the ground beneath it and has such frictional strength that no foundation is required. In fact, the wall's strength and effectiveness may increase with time, as silt and vegetation fill the voids and reinforce the structure. Another advantage over more rigid structures: Gabions can conform to ground movement.
  • Long-lasting.

Coen + Partners Gabion Wall, Gardenista

Above: In this residential project by LIVINGplaces Design Studio, "Gabions provided the opportunity to use an organic material (stone) that is contextual to the site’s geological history," says Jonathan Blaseg, of Minneapolis landscape architects Coen & Partners. "The cage relates more directly to architecture and the acknowledgment of structure." Photograph via Coen & Partners, a member of the Remodelista Architect and Design Directory.

Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp Landscape Gabion Walls, Gardenista

Above: Gabions define an entertaining space and provide seating. Photograph via Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp.

What material can you use to fill a gabion wall?

Rock is the most typical filler for its durability, longevity, and stability. Often the filler is chosen for its aesthetic attributes, or by what can be recycled from a site. Some considerations depend on a wall's purpose. For a retaining wall, the rock must be dense enough to support the load. A hard rock such as basalt is typical.

N.B.: If you're building a retaining wall, get a landscape architect or engineer to determine loads and stresses and other factors. 

Gabion Wall Fillers, Gardenista

Above:  Lighter, less dense rock can be used in a low decorative wall; shells, glass, brick, river rocks, or even broken ceramics are possible materials. Photograph via Studio G Blog.

  Butler Armsden gabion wall ; Gardenista

Above: A gabion wall is part of the sustainable landscape created by Shades of Green Landscape Architecture at a house in Tiburon, California. The wall was filled with crushed concrete recycled from a building site, but decorative rocks were used in the visible areas at the front and top. Photograph by Matthew Millman.

Any reason not to use gabion walls?

Gabion walls may come with one warning label: possible animal habitat. "Gabions can be nice hiding places for small critters," says Ive Haugeland, principal at Shades of Green Landscape Architecture. "They're good for wildlife habitat, but that needs to be OK with the people living there, too." 

Rhodes Archecture Gabion Walls, Gardenista

Above: Landscaped courtyards screened by gabion walls provide private outdoor space in a four-home Seattle compound designed by Rhodes Architecture + Light. Photographs by Fred Housel via Rhodes Architecture + Light.

Can I use gabions for more than just retaining walls?

Absolutely. Gabions can be reinvented for many garden uses: benches, outdoor fire surrounds, fence foundations, pond surrounds, planters, even pillars for water taps.  

Gabion Bench, Gardenista

Above: Top a low gabion wall with wood or concrete, and voilà: instant seating. Photograph via Pinterest, Lyndal Pile

David Coleman Architect Gabion Wall, Gardenista

Above: Architect David Coleman's Hill House uses gabion as a stair rail and visual divider between the entry stairs and the deck. Photograph by Lara Swimmer courtesy of David Coleman Architecture.

Gabion Garden Fencing, Gardenista

Above: Gabion wall dividers in the garden of lighting designer Greg Yale's Southampton house. Photograph via Cottages & Gardens.

Note: Whenever gabion construction is used for fencing or screening, it needs the rigidity of a surrounding frame. 

How much do gabions cost?

The price can vary widely, depending on:

Gabions: The cages are typically made of 3-inch mesh, which is sold in a range of sizes. According to Gabion Baskets, the industry standard is 3-foot increments. To estimate cost, figure on $35 per cubic yard (a 3-foot-square cage) for standard-gauge galvanized mesh. Gabion walls can be made in virtually any size (within structural limitations) for site-specific needs. 

Filler: Here's where you can exercise control over the price. Your filler could be expensive slate or free recycled concrete. For a large project, you often can find filler onsite.

Installation: Gabions are extremely affordable for a retaining wall or stone fencing, since little excavation or land preparation is needed. "It looks like the clients dropped hundreds and thousands of dollars," says Kettelkamp, "but because they don't require a foundation, it’s a very economical way to build a garden wall. The cost of labor is minimal compared to a traditional New England fieldstone wall."

Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp Landscape Gabion Walls, Gardenista

Above: In Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp's Lake Michigan project, the gabion basket walls were built using standard stock panels of wire from Nashville Wire Products. "They sell big panels of wire and you wire them together to make baskets," says Kettelkamp. "A compacted one-foot-thick layer of gravel is spread beneath the wire frames. Then you fill the baskets with whatever you want. We knew some concrete roads were being ripped up nearby, so we recycled the crushed concrete to fill the baskets." To see more of this project, go to A Classic Lake Michigan Summer House by Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp.

Gabion walls Herbst Architects New Zealand pool house ; Gardenista

Above: A gabion wall borders a pool house in New Zealand. Photograph via Herbst Architects.

Gabion Wall Recap


  • A structurally sound way to prevent soil erosion and build a retaining wall
  • Easy to install—no excavation or foundation required
  • Affordable
  • Attractive
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Long-lasting


  • Can provide a home for unwanted wildlife
  • May be too bulky for small spaces

Love the look but don't need a wall? See Rebecca Cole's Gabion Furniture for a simple way to use it in your outdoor space.

Attracted to wire mesh? Consider Hog Wire Fencing. For more ideas, see all of our Hardscaping 101 Features.

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Architect Visit: A New Farmhouse for a 100-Year-Old Barn


After purchasing a verdant lot in Virginia, the owners' first instinct was to restore the site’s existing barn and move in, but architect Donald Lococo had another plan.

After persuading his clients to leave the building as is, Lococo went on to design a new modern farmhouse in a similar agrarian aesthetic. The site was selected to preserve the grove of mature trees, and Lococo was able to frame the postcard-perfect scene of the nearly century-old barn.

Photography via Donald Lococo Architects.

farmhouse ; Gardenista

Above: Architect Donald Lococo selected the site for the new house to preserve the trees and the historic barn. 

mudroom ; Gardenista ; farmhouse ; potting room ; entryway

Above: The interior/exterior exchange between the historic structure and the new farmhouse is made prominent by one of the most beautiful mudrooms we’ve spied. Located in the back entry, the space is anchored by a reclaimed bench. It was repurposed to function both as a potting table and sink counter. A wood plank, discovered during construction, serves as an overhead shelf for additional storage.  

Gardenista ; wood floors ; farmhouse ;

Above: Double doors and gleaming wood floors frame a view of the weathered barn.

kitchen ; green ; Gardenista ; farmhouse

Above: An unexpected, yet serene shade of pistachio green on the cabinets contrasts with slate floors and reclaimed timber beams.

  dining room ; plates ; farmhouse ; Gardenista

Above: A farmhouse isn't complete without a cabinet display of antique china.

For more mudrooms, see Storage: Entryway and Mudroom Roundup on Remodelista. And see our Storage archive for our favorite Shelving, Doormats, and Coat Hooks.

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Current Obsessions: A Year of Possibilities


Happy 2015—here are a few things on our radar as we head into January. 

Gardenista Current Obsessions Heidi Swanson kale

2 seater porch swing; Gardenista

Gardenista obsessions wit and delight  

Instagram and Pinterest Picks

Garden design Gardenlife_Syd ; Gardenista

  • Above: Landscape designer Richard Unsworth (@gardenlife_syd) shares garden design ideas we're eager to try this year. 
  • Sunset Magazine's Healthy Eating board is inspiring use to eat more chia seeds (seriously).
Take a look back at our favorites of 2014. And experience more nostalgia on Remodelista.

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Table of Contents: A New Start


Welcome to 2015. We're welcoming new garden trends—hello, countertop microgreens and mini meadows—and a chance to start fresh. Join us this week as we pamper our houseplants:

tulip bulbs on gardenista

Above: Photograph by Michelle Slatalla from DIY: How to Force Muscari Bulbs.


West Village townhouse living wall LUBRANO CIAVARRA ; Gardenista

Above: A living wall makes the most of a narrow, 15-foot-wide backyard in New York City. Michelle tours in today's Architect Visit.



Above: Marie went home to Cape Town for the holidays, and now she's back, invigorated from a Garden Visit at Cellars-Hohenort.

10 Easy Pieces: Labware Plant Stands ; Gardenista

Above: Cool, minimalist, and streamlined, labware is the next hot tabletop trend. Michelle finds the best beakers and flasks for foliage, in Tuesday's 10 Easy Pieces.


City balcony terrace garden Scandinavian ; Gardenista

Above: Ready to make the most of your tiny terrace this year? You'll find plenty of inspiration in our Roundup of city garden spaces. 


  Farmer D Cold Frame ; Gardenista

Above: Janet reveals everything you need to know about starting spring plants in a winter cold frame, in this week's Hardscaping 101.


How to keep a houseplant happy in winter cut back on water l Gardenista

Above: Get to know the potted pilea. In Trend Alert, we have tips for how to keep this houseplant happy.

Above: In a post-holiday daze? Lindsey Love has the cure in Garden-to-Table Recipes. Just don't call her soup a detox.

Over at Remodelista, Julie and the team have stylish design strategies to help you stick to your resolutions: clutter-clearing helpers, budget-friendly accessories, and new morning habits to get you out the door on time. Hit refresh here.

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Architect Visit: A 15-Foot-Wide Garden for a West Village Townhouse


What do you do with a tiny backyard that's only 15 feet wide—and half as long? In downtown Manhattan, a two-story living wall creates an illusion of space (and views of greenery) for a narrow West Village townhouse.

A gut renovation by Brooklyn-based architects Lubrano Ciavarra gave the homeowners the opportunity to dig out the backyard and cover the back wall with two tiers of planters, creating a walk-out garden with seating on the ground floor (where the new kitchen is situated). 

Photography by Chris Cooper via Lubrano Ciavarra.

West Village townhouse facade curb appeal Lubrano Ciavarra architects ; Gardenista

Above: To the street, the narrow brick house presents a traditional facade.

West Village townhouse living wall LUBRANO CIAVARRA ; Gardenista

Above: Looking down on the excavated garden pit from a top floor.

West Village townhouse living wall LUBRANO CIAVARRA ; Gardenista

Above: The ground floor kitchen opens to the excavated garden; full-story glass doors replaced the back wall of the house on two levels.

West Village townhouse living wall LUBRANO CIAVARRA ; Gardenista

Above: The first-floor parlor looks out onto the top half of the living wall.

West Village townhouse Lubrano Ciavarra architects ; Gardenista

Above: The full-height windows completely replace the back wall of the house, to let in sunlight and, when open, to blur the boundaries between indoors and out.

West Village townhouse Lubrano Ciavarra architects ; Gardenista

Above: Period details, including a marble mantel and elaborate moldings, are original to the house. 

West Village townhouse skylight roof garden Lubrano Ciavarra architects ; Gardenista

Above: In the top-floor master bathroom, a skylight lets in sunlight.

West Village townhouse Lubrano Ciavarra architects ; Gardenista

Above: On the narrow roof, a garden has walk-on skylights.

Designing a tiny townhouse garden? For more inspiration, see:

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Top 10 Garden Design Trends of 2015


A stylish garden need not sacrifice usefulness. We're predicting these 10 design trends—including native plants, sturdy accessories, and dramatic paint and stain colors—will improve any garden this year:

Black Fences:

trend alert: black fences | gardenista

Above: Photograph via Martin Veltkamp.

A black backdrop is the perfect foil for green (and any color flower). Black paint (or stain) is an inexpensive way to instantly create drama. For more examples, see our recent post Trend Alert: Black Fences.

Painted House Numbers:


Above: Photograph via Geeparee22.

Painted house numbers won't warp, rust, bund, chip, crack, or break. Also they cost nothing (chances are you still have a bit of leftover paint from the last time you painted the house trim), which could go a long way toward explaining why we're spying this environmentally friendly design trend more often.

Edible Microgreens:

Trend Alert: Grow microgreens in 2015 ; Gardenista  

Above: Photograph via The Merry Thought.

Are microgreens the new chia pet? Whether you sow a single container of microgreens or designate an entire section of your edible garden to the endeavor, you'll be on trend for 2015. The tiny sprouts are quick to grow (they take less than two weeks to go from seed to table), packed with nutrition, and adorable. Just shear and eat.

Stained Raised Beds:

  trend alert: stained raised beds | gardenista

Above: Photograph via Victoria Skoglund.

Natural wood is the fallback favorite for raised beds, but lately we're noticing dark stains—gray, blue, green, and black—that lend a certain formality to a kitchen garden. For some of our favorites, see Trend Alert: Stained Raised Beds.

Bamboo Accessories:

  Bamboo trellis DIY ; Gardenista

Above: Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

No longer dismissed as an invasive nuisance (see our recent post Bamboo: The Re-Think), bamboo is a sturdy, attractive, inexpensive hardscaping material that we're happy to see being used to make canopies and fences. Bamboo garden accessories—cloches and plant tunnels and trellises—blend naturally into the landscape.

Mini Meadows:

  Mini meadow Brooklyn Rooftop ; Gardenista

Above: Photograph by Sophia Moreno-Bunge for Gardenista.

Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf's High Line Park in Manhattan is an object lesson in how to design garden beds of hardy wildflowers and perennials to create unstudied waves of color year round. In Brooklyn, garden designer Julie Farris planted her roof (above) with plants that prove no garden is too small for a mini meadow. Added bonus: native plants create habitats for birds, butterflies, and bees.

Brown Blooms:

Piet Oudolf perennial grasses ; Gardenista

Above: Photograph by Paola Tasini via Flickr.

What's driving gardeners to plant more perennial grasses that turn into feathery drifts of brown in the winter? First spotted in Piet Oudolf's romantic landscapes, brown drifts of drought-tolerant grasses also signal that you're saving water. Also trending: brown seed pods, brown flowers, and brown leaves, all left to weather naturally in the fall and winter landscape. 

Floral Confetti:

  DIY flower confetti weddings ; Gardenista

Above: Photograph by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.

Brides, take note. Sprinkling petals—on tabletops, walkways, and your hair—is an easy and inexpensive substitute for fussy, expensive vases full of flowers. Rose petalss are a classic choice (and have a lovely scent); we're also seeing all kinds of colors and shapes of confetti made of cornflower, poppy, and wildflower petals.

Ribbon Driveways:

Ribbon Driveways pavers ; Gardenista

Above: Photograph via Martin Hoffman Landscape Architect

An old-fashioned design that harkens to the days when wagon ruts ran down the middle of a roadway, ribbon driveways typically put pavement beneath the wheels and grass in the middle. Back in fashion not just because they look great, they also create a permeable surface to reduce water runoff. See our recent post Hardscaping 101: Ribbon Driveways for more.

Forced Bulbs:

White muscari forced bulbs Scandinavian style ; Gardenista

Above: Photograph via Fröken Knopp.

Follow the lead of Scandinavian gardeners who've long combatted the chill of dark winters by bringing spring indoors. This winter we're seeing more pots of forced bulbs including muscari, narcissus, amaryllis, and crocuses. For more, see Trend Alert: 13 Beautiful Blooming Bulbs.

For more exterior design inspiration, see:

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Under the Radar: A Five-Star Garden in Cape Town


The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel, in the winemaking suburb of Constantia, Cape Town, is the kind of place where, on a given night in South Africa’s young democracy, you might have bumped into Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, or Desmond Tutu. In the 21st century the hotel is favored by honeymooners, local politicians, foreign tourists, garden lovers, and neighboring families who drop in for Sunday lunch or afternoon tea. And an oil baron who reportedly requires 1,000 fresh roses every week for his suites.

Photography by Marie Viljoen for Gardenista.

Cellars Hohenhort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: While five-star luxury is inherent, it is the nine-acre garden wrapping this historic property that defines it.

Cellars Hohenhort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: Flowers greet visitors the minute the car door shuts behind them in the car park (a feature infrequently associated with horticultural interest). Agapanthus, Iceberg roses, and alyssum form what in most driveways might be called a traffic circle. But in this arrangement the bricked roads become paths between flower beds. 

Cellars Hohenhort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: The effect is one of a small, beautiful town where one strolls from terraced citrus orchard to rustic garden, rose garden to vineyard, forest walk to Gary Player-designed putting green, all planted around a collection of buildings— hotel, restaurants, and spa—where flowers, greenery, and immaculate lawns knit the parts together.

  Cellars Hohenhort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: Recently, at the height of the Southern Hemisphere summer, pink Bougainvillea billowed over whitewashed guest suites (converted from an original carriage house dating to the 17th century). The climbers’ loose form and riotous pink is emphasized by the clipped green control of a knot garden at its feet, in a courtyard’s heart.

Cellars Hohenhort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: Far from being aloof, the Cellars-Hohenort welcomes its neighbors. A black and white cat marches down a gravel path. “That's Mister Socks," says an elderly man in long leather gloves, deadheading spent roses. "He belongs to neighbors but he likes it here…” The rose pruner is a retired banker, and cousin to Jean Almon, the woman who defined and led the development and care of these gardens for 24 years, retiring from her full-time duties only in early 2014.

Cellars Hohenhort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: White ducks paddle on water framed by flowers and herd their fluffy young beneath signs that warn cars of their presence. Indicating the water feature, Almon tells me on a recent visit, “This was supposed to be a rill,” inspired by a visit she made to England. “But then a Dutch visitor looked at it and said, 'That is a canal.' So now it is canal!” The ducks don’t care. 

Cellars Hohenhort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: There are other animal guests, I am told by Niall McKrill, the hotel’s new garden manager (his wife Jill, designs all the flowers for the hotel’s interiors), as we sit under the shade of an old yellowwood tree on the lawns: a Cape cobra visits the resident vineyard to snack on mice. The grapes go to acclaimed wine estate, Klein Constantia, which also planted the vines.

McKrill shows me a small nest in an Abelia hedge where a female prinnia sits undisturbed, hedge-clipping suspended for the duration. Cape dwarf chameleons are encouraged in the gardens, and help with pest control. But they cannot cope with the porcupine that comes rooting around four or five nights a week. She devours indigenous arum lilies and dahlias. 

Garden Visit Cellars Hohenort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: McKrill works with a team of four gardeners. “They know what they are doing,” he says, “They know the soil, and they use their initiative.” It shows. Two horticultural students swell the ranks for six-month stints to acquire practical skills such as compost-making. “It is incredibly important to garden in an eco-friendly manner,” said hotelier Liz McGrath, explaining the approach to gardening here. 


Above: Every year six tons of the compost are dedicated to the rose garden alone. Roses are the favorite flower of McGrath (pronounced muh-GRAAH, but Mrs. M to her staff). The powerhouse hotelier first spotted the potential in two modest, gardenless and adjoining hotel properties in 1991. She bought one, The Cellars, and two years later acquired The Hohenort, uniting them and transforming them into their current opulence and verdure. Asked about her relationship with gardens, McGrath responded, “I grew up in a home with a beautiful garden and a father who was a passionate gardener. I remember how well he taught me to love plants and to respect nature.”

  Garden Visit Cellar Hohenort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: In summer the gardens are perfumed. Confederate jasmine spills over iron arches beside the terraced citrus orchard, and frames an old urn among the flowers. 

  Camphor trees Cellars Hohenort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: Jean Almon tells me that growing up in Port St. John’s on South Africa’s subtropical Wild Coast, she “loved walking in forests and damp places.” We are walking now beneath giant old camphor trees whose character echoes that of their even older cousins on the Vergelegen wine estate. Beneath them lie the stumps of the oaks which first flanked the original drive, here, more than 300 years ago. Almon liked them enough to leave them, inspired by The Stumpery at Prince Charles’ Highgrove, which she loves. 

  Streptocarpus Garden Visit Cellar Hohenort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: At these exotic camphors’ feet grow local plants—Streptocarpus, Plectranthus and masses of forest-dwelling Clivias—which thrive in the shade. The path is mossy and damp and we dodge a sprinkler as it arcs past us, showering this forest garden with moisture in the dry Cape Town summer.

  Stepped Gables Garden Visit Cellar Hohenort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: Pausing beneath the grandly stepped gables of The Hohenort part of the hotel, we look up at a towering bank of hydrangeas dominating the perennials below. “These plantings were supposed to echo the steps,” says Almon, but the hydrangeas have a mind of their own. It is hard to keep a happy plant down.

Jean Almon Garden Visit Cellar Hohenort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: I’m on flexi-time now, smiles the 83-year-old horticulturist. She still visits the gardens most mornings, elegant in a broad-brimmed hat, wielding dead-heading Felcos in hands whose nails are a matching red. Spotting some rogue blue agapanthus, Jean Almon marches towards them and climbs into a bed on a steep incline. “This border is supposed to be white,” she murmurs. And five minutes later it is. A guest watches in admiration.

Garden Visit Cellar Hohenort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: Below the agapanthus border is a striking formal garden on a narrow terrace. It is The Cellars-Hohenort’s winning entry in the 2006 Cape Town Flower Show. The distinctive yellow-peach standard rose flanking the pools at the center is the Liz McGrath rose, bred by famed South African rosarian Ludwig Taschner. Local ironsmith Simon Beede created the fountains poised over the water like oversized waterbugs.

Rose in bloom Garden Visit Cellar Hohenort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: The bespoke roses do not end there: last November the new Relais & Château rose was launched at the hotel’s Conservatory restaurant. The young roses are planted in their own bed in the gardens. Soft pink, plush and perfumed, the cut blooms last well: the one I was given remained fresh in water for an impressive week.

Westringia topiary Garden Visit Cellars Hohenort Cape Town; Gardenista

Above: Clipped Westringia shrubs are the focal point from the patio where I sit with Almon at the end of our walk to share coffee and freshly baked scones. McKrill and his wife, and the pruning banker are invited to join us. The banker shows us a stick insect that has clung to his glove. “Do you feel comfortable here?” McKrill asks me, as he fingers a guest’s feedback form (“Niall is a real gem,” it reads). I do.  

Garden Visit Cellars Hohenort Cape Town ; Gardenista

Above: I don’t really want to leave. And that seems to be the idea:  “I would like my guests to remember the garden as a place to wander in peace and tranquility,” say McGrath in an email, “and to quietly enjoy the views and feel of the beauty of The Cape.”

I believe they do.

Above: For more information, visit Cellars-Hohenort Hotel.

For more of our favorite Cape Town gardens, see:

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Steal This Look: A Botanically Inspired Workspace


Dutch stylist Femke Pastijn relies on a simple palette of green, white, and natural wood colors to create an inviting workspace with botanical accents. During cold winter months, who wouldn't love to set up a desk in a warm, bright greenhouse? Here's how to recreate the look in your own office:

bright office space inside greenhouse on gardenista

Above: Do you have a white wall in your office? You're halfway there. Photograph via Femke Pastijin.


Above: A down light, such as this Deep Bowl Pendant from Barnlight Electric, has a stem mount that comes  in four lengths, from 10 to 36 inches, ranging in price from $155 to $175. 

How low should a ceiling pendant hang? A 30-inch distance between the bottom of the fixture and a desktop is recommended. For more considerations when installing a light, see Remodeling 101: How to Choose an Overhead Light Fixture.  

Above: A Vintage Toledo Dining Chair, recreated by Restoration Hardware in steel ($249) complements the industrial lighting.

Above: A metal harvest basket serves as a creative waste basket (when not storing harvested garlic). A Large Grey Round Basket  by Fog Linen is $75 NZ from Father Rabbit.

Above: For a humble, utilitarian desk, repurpose a work bench, potting table, or an unfinished Wooden Folding Table, available in several sizes at prices starting at £99.30 from UK Educational Furniture. 

For more compact desks, see 10 Easy Pieces: Desks for Small Spaces on Remodelista.

Above: A Storage Caddy, $45 at West Elm, corrals pens and notebooks on a desktop. Reserve a compartment or two to serve as a cache pot.  


Above: Sixteenth century naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi's botanicals look as modern today as they did 500 years ago. An 8-by-10-inch print of an Italian Vegetable (L) is $10 from Love the Print via Etsy. An 11-by-14-inch Pink White Radish Botanical Print (R) is $14.99 from Old Age Vintage via Etsy.

Preserved flowers branches ; Gardenista

Above: Preserved flowers and dried fronds make long-lasting arrangements. Stick a stem or two in a pencil cup to keep you company while you work. A bunch of Preserved Echinops (L) is $12 and a stem of spiky Preserved Antipodes (a native of Australia) is $18 from Terrain. 

Terrain copper watering can on Gardenista

Above: A Hammered Copper Watering Can, $98 from Terrain, serves double duty as a vase. 

Above: Naturalists' specimens bring the outdoors in. A Framed Moth mounted in an 8-by-11-inch frame is $28 from Paxton Gate. 

Did you resolve to organize your workspace this year? See:

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10 Easy Pieces: Labware Plant Stands


Better living through chemistry? We like to repurpose vintage laboratory equipment to make vases and tabletop tableaux to display flowers, fronds, and stems. Here are 10 of our favorites:

10 Easy Pieces: Labware Plant Stands ; Gardenista

Above: Photograph by Ethanollie via Etsy.

Vintage labware plant stand glass beaker ; Gardenista

Above: Dating to the 1940s, a Vintage Industrial Lab Stand (Right) with a round-bottom glass beaker is $95 from Ohalbatross via Etsy.


  Vintage glass and metal labware plant stand ; Gardenista

Above: A vintage Kelly Infusion Jar on Lab Stand with a cast iron base measures 18 inches tall (including an 11-inch high glass jar) and is $149 from Relique.

Frey Ring Stand and Vintage Lab Glass Beakers ; Gardenista

Above: A Frey Ring Stand (L) that holds four flasks or beakers with diameters of 3, 4, 5, and 6 inches is $31 from School Specialty and a set of six Vintage Lab Glass Beakers (R) comes with a thermometer for $199 from Chairish.

  Test tube labware plant stand ; Gardenista

Above: A bed spring refashioned as a lab stand supports a Large Vintage Kimax Centrifuge Tube Vase; $49 from Relique.

Laboratory glass bell on metal stand ; Gardenista

Above: A Laboratory Glass Bell and Stand measuring 21 inches tall (including an 18-inch glass bell) and has a chrome stand; $224 from Madformidcentury via eBay.

  Vintage labware plant stand beaker ; Gardenista

Above: A Vintage Industrial Lab Stand (third from Left) made of metal and glass comes with a glass beaker and is 12 inches tall; $78 from Ohalbatross via Etsy.

  Labware plant stand glass flask ; Gardenista

Above: A 1950s-era iron Antique Lab Stand with a glass flask is 9 inches tall; $90 from Adry Vintage via Etsy.


Above: The DIY version. You can configure a custom (and relatively inexpensive) plant stand with labware components available in various sizes, including (clockwise, from Left): a 23-inch A Base Support Stand ($18.50);  a 3-In Ring Support ($5.60); a 250 ML Filtering Flask ($10.95); a 75 MM Diameter Glass Funnel ($2.95), and a 6-In Tripod Stand ($5.60) from Home Science Tools.

You can mix and match these and other glass and metal science equipment—including clamps, beakers, test tubes—to create any size labware stand. (When ordering, make sure the diameter of ring supports or metal stands is an appropriate size to fit glassware components.)

Test tube bud bases on a metal lab stand ; Gardenista  

Above: A set of eight glass Test Tube Bud Vases On A Metal Stand rests on an iron base and is $54.99 AU from via eBay. For a similar look, a Vintage Test Tube Rack with four test tubes is $48 from Vintage Archeology via Etsy.

Inspired to try science lab design? See more ideas in 10 Easy Pieces: Labware Vases.

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Small Space Gardens: 11 Tiny Terraces


No outdoor space is too small for a garden. Tiny terrace? Fire escape? Juliet balcony? With a potted plant and a folding chair, you've got a garden. Here are 11 of our favorites:


Above: A city view in Lund, in southern Sweden. Photograph via Bolaget.

Tiny terrace city garden Manhattan Mann and Karch ; Gardenista

Above: Architect David Mann and partner Fritz Karch live in a penthouse studio on Washington Square in Manhattan. For more of their garden (and apartment), see An Architect and a Collector at Home.

City balcony terrace garden Scandinavian ; Gardenista

Above: Photograph via Stadshem.

Ikea folding table garden terrace ; Gardenista

Above: Here's a terrace turned jungle, thanks to too many potted plants  and an Ikea folding table that evokes safari style. For more, see Steal This Look: Urban Terrace Garden


Above: Photograph via Planete Deco.

Tiny terrace city garden Antwerp ; Gardenista

Above: Photograph by Bart Kiggen via Coffeeklatch.

Antwerp-based garden designers Bart Haverkamp and Pieter Croes have their own "tiny oasis" in the middle of the city. For more, see Radical Gardens of Antwerp.

Isabelle Palmer Balcony Gardener terrace London; Gardenista

Above: London-based garden writer Isabelle Palmer kits out her tiny balcony with window boxes, and potted topiaries. See more of her garden in Ask the Expert: Balcony Gardener Isabelle Palmer.

66 square feet brooklyn balcony container garden via Gardenista

Above: Tiniest terrace in Brooklyn? Our own Marie Viljoen gardened in 66 square feet before moving to Harlem a few months ago. For more, see Garden Visit: 66 Square Feet.

Tiny city garden terrace Malmo ; Gardenista

Above: A sunny, tiled terrace in Malmö, Sweden. Photograph via Bolaget.

  Tiny terrace Nimes France Small Space Garden ; Gardenista

Above: Photograph via Light Locations.

Tiny City Terrace Urban Garden ; Gardenista

 Above: Photograph via Fantastic Frank.

For more of our favorite tiny terraces, see Garden Visit: 66 Square Feet (Plus) in Harlem and Design Sleuth: Parisian Balcony Mise-en-Scene.

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DIY: Portable Closet, Planter Included


Need more closet space? We spotted a clever DIY solution from Berlin-based designer Katleen Roggeman—with a built-in slot for your favorite house succulent. You can build your own in an afternoon, with an assistant and a beginner's experience with a drill.

For step-by-step instructions and measurements you can take to the hardware store, see Katleen Roggeman.

Photography via Katleen Roggeman.

diy closet planter with cactus on gardenista

Above: Bring order (and design) to your closet, with a freestanding Bauhaus-inspired wardrobe. 

Ask the hardware store to cut the side panels and shelves for you.

closet planter diy via gardenista

Above: Roggeman used a laminated plywood shelf. You can substitute an adhesive shelf liner to get the same effect. A roll of red Self-Adhesive Shelf Cover is $7.34 on Amazon.

DIY cactus terra cotta pot portable closet with planter ; Gardenista

Above: With your power tools are already out, why not tackle another DIY? See:

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Field Guide: Dischidia Pectinoides


Dischidia Pectinoides: The Ant Plant

Sometimes called the “ant plant,” Dischidia pectinoides is a curious little specimen that belongs to the same family as milkweed. It is a family of oddballs: climbers and vines with swollen-pocket leaves that resemble ravioli. These pods are called bullate leaves. Their insides can be hollow (not filled with ricotta and spinach) or in the case of some milkweeds, holding sticky, milk-colored fluid. Dischidia pectinoides has leaves with hollow interiors. In its native jungles and rain forests, the leaves are home to ant colonies that help pollinate the plant in exchange for, well, room and board.

But never fear. Though Dischidia pectinoides is a veritable bed and breakfast for bugs in the wild, as an indoor plant, it will not roll out the welcome mat to pests. In fact, for a loyal and low-maintenance bathroom decoration, there is no better choice than the Dischidia pectinoides. The Dischidia pectinoides is an epiphyte, which means it only needs sunlight, air, and a bit of water to survive. Requiring no soil, it thrives in a terrarium or in a shell.

seashell planters ant plant dischidia pectinoides opus florist via Gardenista

Above: Photograph via Opus Studio.

You can also plant Dischidia pectinoides in a 3-inch pot and suspend from the ceiling with a length of twine.

Dischidia pectinoides ant plant ; Gardenista

Above: Photograph by Alexa Hotz.

With its moisture and steam, a bathroom reminds the Dischidia pectinoides of its home in the rain forest. This houseplant is so lavatory-loving that it is content to bloom there for years and years, spicing up your loo with tiny red buds. Every time you take a shower, don’t forget you’re also feeding your Dischidia pectinoides its lunch.

Dischidia- Pectinoides-ant-plant-gardenista

Above: Photograph via Itswhatiminto.

Cheat Sheet

  • In the wild, it attracts ants that live symbiotically with the plant, exchanging food for pollination (but this won't happen in your house)
  • A flowering climbing vine, it has small red flowers
  • A good companion for other moisture-loving terrarium plants (such as ferns and moss)


Above: Photograph by Epiforums via Flickr.

Keep It Alive

  • Do not pot in soil; the ant plant is an epiphyte, which means it lives on air
  • Needs filtered sunlight indoors
  • Likes humid spots but only needs occasional watering
  • Tiny varieties are suited for small indoor spaces, though there are larger options
  • Will bloom any time of year if happy

Looking for more inspiration to get through the indoor-gardening months? See Expert Advice: 10 Best Low-Maintenance Houseplants and Gardening 101: Sea Kelp for Healthy Houseplants.

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Fence Fashion: 11 Ways to Add Curb Appeal with Horizontal Stripes


Horizontal stripes make things look wider, which is why you don't wear them. But your garden should. A horizontal slat fence will create the same optical illusion outdoors—and make your garden look bigger, too. Here are 11 of our favorites:

Curb Appeal horizontal slat fencing ; Gardenista

Above: Airspace between slats create a welcoming frame for a front entryway.  Photograph via Modern Sauce.

Curb Appeal green horizontal slat fencing ; Gardenista

Above: Danish architects Mette and Martin Weinberg screened their black paneled house with a green slatted fence. For more, see A Summer Cottage Transformed in Denmark on Remodelista.

Curb Appeal horizontal slat fences ; Gardenista

Above: Neutra house numbers and a pea gravel path. For more, see 5 Favorites: Modern Wooden Gates.

Curb Appeal horizontal slat fencing ; Gardenista

Above: A Stinson Beach, CA entryway by Blasen Landscape Architecture. For more, see A Seaside Garden at the End of a Dirt Road.

Curb Appeal horizontal slat fencing ; Gardenista

Above: Architect Anna Lantz Niklasson makes a walkway at her home in Sweden feel more expansive by framing it with horizontal slat fencing. Photographs via Husohem.

Curb Appeal black horizontal slat fencing ; Gardenista

Above: To make a small Mill Valley, CA backyard feel more expansive, architect Ken Linsteadt designed a fence using 2-by-2 slats of wood. For more of the garden, see A Mediterranean Garden Inspired by the Classics. Photograph by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista.

Curb Appeal horizontal slatted fence ; Gardenista

Above: Widely spaced slats in a tall wood fence shades a deck at the San Francisco home of graphic designer Jennifer Morla (of Morla Design) and her architect husband, Nilus de Matran (of Nilus Designs). For more, see At Home with an SF Design Duo on Remodelista.


Above: Photograph via Shades of Green.

Curb Appeal horizontal slat fences ; Gardenista

Above: A slatted fence made of western cedar primed trim board by Silva Timber. For more see Trend Alert: Black Fences.

Curb Appeal black slatted fece ; Gardenista

Above: Landscape designer Debora Carl installed a black slatted screen to create privacy for a deck in Encinitas, CA. For more, see Trend Alert: Black Fences.

Curb Appeal horizontal slat fence ; Gardenista

Above: For more, see Steal This Look: Roof Deck with Planters Made of File Cabinets.



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Hardscaping 101: Cold Frames


Winter gardeners, take note. You don't need a grand greenhouse to garden year round. A cold frame—which is essentially a warming hut for seeds and seedlings—can fend off frost to extend your growing season through the iciest months. Easy, economical, and space efficient, a cold frame deserves space in a sunny spot of every garden:

Lettuces in a backyard cold frame ; Gardenista  

Above: A cold frame in fashion designer Courtney Klein's garden in San Francisco's Mission District is built of 10-foot-long redwood planks. For more of her garden, see Garden Visit: Courtney Klein's Mission District Backyard.

What is a cold frame?

A cold frame is nothing more than a box with a clear lid that to trap heat and shelter plants from low temperatures and battering weather. Typically bottomless for good drainage, cold frames sit low to the ground and have no artificial heat source.  A transparent lid absorbs sunlight and can be lifted for air circulation (or kept shut to keep out the elements).

Victorian Glass House Cold Frames West Dean Gardens UK, Gardenista  

Above: Historically, cold frames were built as greenhouse extensions tucked against the outer walls with southern exposure as seen (with their glass lids removed) outside the Victorian glass houses at West Dean Gardens in West Sussex. They offered a place to harden off seedlings on their journey from the cozy confines of the greenhouse to outdoor planting beds. Photograph via WellyWoman.

What are the the benefits of cold frames? 

Cold frames...

  • Prolong the growing season so you can harvest greens and cool-season vegetables in winter. Cold frames create a microclimate that can be a zone and a half warmer than your garden.
  • Protect plants from wind and rains during stormy months.
  • Provide a frost-free haven for tender plants that won't survive freezing conditions. Move plants into a cold frame and insulate them well to lull them into dormancy until the weather is warm enough to transplant them into the garden. 
  • Have ideal conditions to gradually acclimate seedlings grown indoors to conditions outside without having to carry them in at night. 
  • Offer a good place to sow seeds in the spring (and enable you to start earlier in the season).
  • Are versatile; remove the lid and a cold frame becomes a raised garden bed in the warm months.
  • Are easy and affordable to make (or purchase).

Martha Stewart Skylands Cold Frames, Gardensita

Above: Because the growing season is very short in Maine (it generally lasts from late May to early September), Martha Stewart uses cold frames at her Skylands property to start vegetables she transplants to the main garden after the weather warms. Photograph via The Martha Blog

Where is the best place to put a cold frame?

To maximize warmth, light exposure, and weather protection for plants, cold frames should be sited in a south-facing position. Other site considerations are drainage and protection from wind. Placing a cold frame on a forward-facing slope facilitates drainage (as does digging down and adding a layer of gravel under a layer of top soil beneath a flat cold frame base). While not required, it is recommended that the back of the frame be higher than the front to capture the most sunlight and allow snow and water to drain off the top.

Lopez Island Kitchen Garden Cold Frames, Gardenista  

Above: Take a cue from history and put your cold frame adjacent to another outbuilding for added insulation and to buffer it from weather on one side. Lopez Island Kitchen Gardens has a cold frame against the south side of a garden shed, eliminating the need for a back to the cold frame. 

Can I make my own cold frame?

Yes. Cold frames are easy and affordable to make, requiring little more than a few boards, an old window (or piece of glass or plastic), some hinges, screws, and a bit of muscle. This Old House offers a How to Build a Cold Frame tutorial using a salvaged window, and Martha Stewart has her own meticulous step-by-step instructions.

Not ready to commit to a permanent cold frame structure? Lay an old window (or a sheet of plastic or glass) over a high-sided raised bed to construct a temporary cold frame.

Salvaged Window Cold Frame, Gardenista

Above: Another option is to place old windows tent-style over the plants along the length of a garden row. Photograph via Livs Lyst.

Farmer D Cold Frame ; Gardenista

Above: If you like the idea of a cold frame, but are DIY-averse, there are many pre-made cold frame options. See our roundup 10 Easy Pieces: Cold Frames. Photograph via Farmer D. Organics.

What vegetables grow best in winter cold frames?

Low growing, cool-season plants are the best inhabitants for winter cold frames. Vegetables that can tolerate lower temperatures include carrots, radishes, and leeks, as well as winter lettuces, spinach, and chard. 

Winter Lettuce North Pole, Gardenista  

Above: Choose cold-hardy winter lettuces varieties such as North Pole, Green Forest, and Winter Marvel. Photograph via Hudson Valley Seed Library.

Tips for using a cold frame:

  • Pay attention to the inside temperature of your cold frame. A bright sunny day can bring surprisingly hot temperatures. Vent by opening the lid slightly on sunny days and closing at night. Organic Gardening offers a good rule of thumb: "When outdoor temperatures are above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, prop open the lid 6 inches; when the outdoor temps clear 50 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the lid. Be sure to restore the lid in late afternoon to trap the heat inside for the cool night."
  • Consider a Non-Electric Vent Controller ($39.99 at Grow Organic) to automatically open and close the cover at a preset temperature.

Cold Frame in Snow, Gardenista  

  • Above: Don't assume snow is the enemy. In fact, snow on and around a cold frame can insulate it. Keep snow to a minimum on the lid to allow in light and prevent glass breakage due to the weight of the white stuff. Photograph via The Turnip Truck.
  • On extremely cold nights, a cold frame may need some extra insulation on the lid (where most of the heat escapes) to keep plants from freezing. Old blankets, towels, straw, rugs, or even newspaper will work.
  • In northern cold climates, cold frames can be dug down partially into the soil to provide greater insulation.
  • Plants grow more slowly in the cold. Adjust your planting schedule accordingly. 
  • You don't want the cold frame box to be too large, or you won't be able to reach the plants in the back. It is recommended that you keep the depth to a maximum of 3 feet. 
  • Need more heat? A cold frame can be made into a "hot bed" by using electric heating cables underneath. A non-electric option is to use a thick layer of manure or compost under the top soil. As the manure or compost decomposes, it generates enough heat to protect against early or late frosts.

  Cold Frame Potted Herbs, Gardenista

  • Above: For tender plants, like herbs, consider "planting" them in their terra cotta pots. This will help insulate against extreme temperatures that can build up in cold frames and will make it easy for you to move them inside if the weather suddenly turns much hotter or much cooler. Photograph by Erin Boyle.

Have a cold frame that you have been neglecting? Erin will help you get it going again; see DIY: Reviving the Cold Frame. If you want to extend the life of harvested vegetables over the winter, see our Root Cellar Primer. And, Laura has rounded up Garden-to-Table Winter Vegetable Recipes to turn your bounty into something delicious.

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