{cookie cutter gardens}

You may ask, "what do cookie cutters have to do with gardening?". Well it's a terminology I've given to all those gardens out there that look identical to the neighbours, the one around the corner, or around the block. You know the ones: highly manicured and clipped gardens with a green hedge made up of either Murraya paniculata, Buxus or Vibrunum spp., a square of lawn, a couple of standard iceberg roses and maybe a border of Mondo Grass.
Following on from my last post I got to thinking - instead of feeling angry about such a short-sighted opinion I found I was more frustrated by such an uneducated point of view. It's not a new point of view for me. I've always held a torch for creating gardens that are individual and designed specifically for the site they sit within and the client who will be using them.

Whilst I can completely understand taking a liking to a particular style or theme and using certain designs as precedence, I have trouble understanding why you would want a garden that looked exactly the same as someone elses?  And so I came up with the term "cookie cutter gardens".

Reading of the case of Julie Bass, in Michigan and the statement made by the city planner, Mr  Rulkowski, it dawned on me that the issue is more a case of someone not fitting the social norm and not following the trend that society sets out telling us how we should act or appear. By not fitting the comfortable stereotype and being different her garden was deemed inappropriate.

It has been something I have thought about for some time - why are there so many gardens that look so much the same? And why do people insist on using such a limited plant palette? I have spoken with others in the industry and asked for their thoughts/opinions on the matter, they've all had similar responses along the lines of: "people like to use what is proven to look good", "people are scared to step outside the square" or "that's what's in the magazines and TV shows, so that's what people want". Whatever the reason I'm certainly not laying blame or saying it's wrong - just wondering why???
Would you choose to be: 'same same' or 'different'?

When I was writing my business plan for {hort couture} I realised that one of the most important elements I wanted to deliver my clients was a custom design approach. Rather than creating ‘cookie cutter’ gardens with a limited planting palette, I want to ensure an individual and site specific planting palette is recommended. Sure, if a client likes the Jones' garden down the road that's fine - I want to understand what they like about it and find a way that we can use certain elements as precedence only, making the garden unique in it's own way so it is not a mirror reflection.

To me a garden is to a gardener what a canvas is to an artist. Creating a garden is an art. You can purchase a one-off original commissioned piece of artwork that takes all things into consideration for just you and your garden  or a stock-standard, mass-printed poster from IKEA that is produced for the masses. 

With a bit of research and proper planning there is no reason you can’t extend your plant palette a bit, buck the latest fashion trend for gardens ... murraya hedges, standard iceberg roses and buxus borders, and make your garden stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons – after all who wants to see themselves in the same outfit as everyone else walking down the street?

Images: i am baker

{grow your own - if you dare...}

It's official the Law is an Ass - at least it is in the overly litigious USA! Following on from my post yesterday about converting our front yard into our productive zone I came across the most absurd incidence of law breaking in Oak Park, Michigan, USA.

At first I thought it may have been because she had planted on the nature strip causing an obstacle to pedestrians (thinking of course if this were the case the Council would have no doubt been scared of the obvious implications of people suing for accidents caused by a stray tomato or bean...) BUT Julie Bass had done no differently to me and put in five raised planter beds in which to grow her vegies in her OWN front yard!

The argument from the city planners are that local codes require front yards to have only “suitable” live plant material. Ummm I'm confused as to what the so called "suitable" plant material might be. In an interview with Detroit News, City planner Kevin Rulkowski said, "a tomato vine on a tomato cage is just not attractive... Add that to the big wooden boxes. It's not the first impression people often put in front of their home ... or want to see in their neighborhood." Then the comment that I nearly choked on, "I don't know of any community where I have seen a full garden in the front yard. In planing and zoning, we try and put things in appropriate places." (Obviously he hasn't come across many Italain/Greek suburban gardens)

So, from this I'm perplexed about a couple of things:
1. Am I going to face a law suit for choosing to grow vegetables in the most appropriate position on my property?
2. What constitutes "suitable live material"?
3. In Kevin Ruklowski and his fellow colleagues minds what constitutes a "full garden"?

If someone dared tell me how and what I should be gardening in my own front yard I'd swiftly show them the gate via the pointy end of my boot, with a gentle nudge from my gardening fork just to make sure they got the hint! 

What about you - would you dare???

~Image via Log House Plants (wouldn't you know it they happen to be a nursery specialising in edible and ornamental plants! ...in Oregon, USA - I wonder if they sell them with a warning sticker about where they're allowed to be planted?) 

{in my garden :: front yard transformation}

Vegie patch in the front yard? Hell yeah! We are lucky enough to have a large lawn area which our dog loves, but it takes up way too much of my time mowing it (weekly during summer...), I hate the idea of watering a lawn during summer so it tends to brown-off in the hot/dry spells - not very attractive, and it does nothing to attract birds or bees into my garden. So I always knew it wasn't going to stay for long. Not to mention that we are lucky enough to have soil which is amazing quality. The area was once covered with market gardens so the soil is beautifully friable and perfect for growing produce - a shame to be covered in grass...
As the front yard receives the most sun it is the most practical site to locate our vegetable beds. I'm a huge fan of gardens incorporating the productive with the ornamental. I've always adored the French potager style gardens and find the Italian/Greek suburban gardens fascinating how they use every square inch to grow something productive.

I'm going to practice crop rotation amongst four beds. We've erected three raised beds using non-treated, kiln dried Cedar timber from Naturalyards, with the fourth 'bed' being the garden itself, which will be a perennial border mixed with herbs, vegies and productive trees ( Malus ioensis 'Plena' {Crabapple}, Punica granatum {Pomegranate} and some citrus). I've been an admirer of Hendrik van Leeuwen for a number of years and love the garden he created in his own backyard. A must see here
So far we've been purchasing our seedlings from an organic grower at the Sunday Farmer's Markets we shop at, but I'm hoping my not-so-subtle hints for a subscription to The Diggers Club for my birthday may mean we're able to diversify our yield a bit more and introduce more heirloom varieties. 

Our little patch so far includes:
* Broadbeans          
* Butter lettuce   
* Broccoli   
* Bok Choy  
* English Spinach  
* Sugar-snap Peas   
* Radicchio   
* Parsley
* Thyme
* & a lucky dip mix of cottage garden style flowering plants

I'd really like to get in some garlic, rhubarb, globe artichokes and dill (mainly for their flower heads!). To be honest, the list is endless and will only be limited by space (we do have a HUGE nature strip so I may just creep out onto that...)

Next step is to put in some drainage lines, pebbled pathways and mark out the perennial border beds. I'm looking forward to the next Cottage Garden Club meeting to pick up a few goodies to start off my perennial border. Lots to do - bring on Spring I say!!!

{greening up the workspace}

I know full well how bland working in an office can be. All those grey workstations, beige carpet, dirty cream walls... how is anyone supposed to feel inspired to work??? From day one of sitting at a new desk I would put my mark on it and make it feel more like somewhere I could spend 8 hours each day. Photos of friends and family, inspiring phrases or quotes, holiday postcards, images torn from magazines - anything to brighten-up the space.

So, when I was asked to provide some indoor potted plants for a corporate client recently I could 100% relate to their client brief. They wanted to 'green-up the workspace'!! Who doesn't?

It's amazing what a difference a plant can make to an office environment. And don't go thinking that fake plants can provide the same effect. Fake plants don't need love and attention nor do they give back either. Having a living, growing plant to look after requires you to think of something other than those boring spreadsheets, "hmm does my plant need water? maybe a it needs to move to the other window...."
Recent trials conducted by the University of Technology Sydney, of the benefits of plants in classrooms found that performance across the curriculum, including spelling, mathematics and science, were consistently improved, along with the unanimous agreement from both teachers and students alike that the plants improved the appearance and ambiance of the classrooms.
Research conducted by a number of Universities including Oxford University and Washington State University indicate the following about plants in the work space:

  • Aid in cleaning the air and a creating a healthier environment by reduction of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)
  • Plant-filled rooms contain 50% to 60% fewer airborne moulds and bacteria than rooms  without plants, therefore, by cleaning workplace air with plants, staff  illness and costs of sick leave can be reduced
  • Employees tend to be less stressed and have better reaction rates
  • Positive effects on both employee perceptions and dispositions, which ultimately may lead to increased staff retention.
  • Plants absorb noise in busy office environments.  Improving the ambiance and  reducing distraction, it may increase productivity.
Delivery chic too! En route for another delivery...
Does your workspace need a dose of greenery?

{a new title for the business card: 'soon to be florist"...}

To me life without flowers would be dull - simply shades of grey. In their own simple way they bring life, vibrancy and quite often that certain je ne sais quoi to any occasion or space. They are not just for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's Day or Valentine's Day. They should be enjoyed every day, even if its simply admiring the arrangements in the window of the Florist shop on your way to work.

That's what I used to do. Even if it took me an extra five minutes I would still go an extra block to make sure I walked past my favourite florist before arriving at the office each morning. Just seeing the beautiful faces of the flowers staring back at me would put a smile on my face and give me the strength to walk through the office doors. I always knew one day those dear faces would beckon me to spend the whole day with them...

So, with great excitement I enrolled in a Commercial Floristry course last week! It's something I have been wanting to do for the longest time. I've always dabbled here and there with a bit of random flower arranging but have always dreamt of doing it professionally and adding it to my repertoire  of skills. As I was recently told, "...people will always get married, sadly people will pass away, boys will always be in trouble - we always need flowers".

My version of a mixed bag of lollies.
I loved that my house looked like a flower shop
So with this exciting new venture ahead of me I had my first visit to the Flower Markets on Friday. At the very dark and chilly hour of 5am my darling neighbour and I went off to fill our market baskets with all-sorts of loveliness. I was like a kid in a candy shop - deciding on what to leave behind was hard, I wanted to take it all home! I was able to restrain myself to the assortment above and had such fun creating some special posies for friends and family. 

& maybe just a couple for my bedside table too - waking up to these pretty faces is such a wonderful way to start the day!

~ I look forward to sharing with you all that I learn along the way during the next 12 months. Hopefully my skills will improve and progress!~