lavender walk

On todays rainy day, I fondly remember spending most of my summer on the sandy, arid terrain of Cape Cod, MA.   A welcome respite from manicured lawns and perennial gardens are the wildness of protected seashore and marshland.

Cape Cod’s milder winter climate and its nutrient poor, fast-draining soil allow a lot of plants to succeed over those in my New Jersey garden (think rosemary, 20 ft privet hedges, yuccas, etc).  Ideal for plants native to the Mediterranean region it is no surprise to encounter the family-owned lavender farm in Harwich, MA.  Visiting a few weeks past the final harvest did not diminish the olfactory experience of the surroundings.

desert beauty

Just back from Arizona and the most unusual landscape I have seen. From the various canyons to the populated desert community of Phoenix, Arizona is a state with a lot of variety on offer. With extreme temperature changes and availability of water (or not) come huge changes in vegetation all with a unique sense of beauty. I was fascinated to learn about the adaptations of plant and animal life in the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden. Established in 1939, it contains awesome (and lush-looking!) plantings of many native and non-native cacti and succulents. Just don’t hug the Saguaro!


On a Spring trip to Monticello in Charlottesville, VA, it was too early to admire the produce in the vast kitchen garden historically grown (beginning in 1770) to feed the large population on the estate. I won’t go into the controversial nature of its tenants here, but it is obvious from its size you will need many hands to tend this garden and harvest its offerings. What we did admire is the incredible setting and vast views of the Piedmont countryside.

On a much smaller scale, in Bavaria, I have seen lovely versions of kitchen gardens. Anyone claiming that growing food can’t be pretty and focus only on yield, is simply wrong. I’m looking forward to an upcoming project where I can let these images inspire a commissioned vegetable garden in a large sunny landscape without jumpy deer, a rarity where I live or work.

happy spring

Unusually warm weather gives us a head start on Spring. I celebrated today by potting up some tropical tubers (Alocasia, Dahlia, etc) in the greenhouse, to get their head start on foliage before the danger of frost outside has passed (technically that’s around April 15th here in Northern New Jersey). Planning summer container gardens for clients as their bulbs and perennials are bursting through the soil makes for a wonderfully busy time in the life of a garden designer.

However, no garden is complete without some fabulous container plantings. Many people balk at the work it takes to pot up and maintain those planters but, as with all plant selection, location is key and so is the right container. Reminding me of this big pot of ferns in a damp, shady spot and requiring little maintenance at Greenwood Gardens in Short Hills, NJ, a fabulous public garden on the national register of historic places I visited last Fall.

And their house-made hypertufa planters…

As we are sweltering under (still) leafless trees I’m reminded of this green “lushness” to come.

Looking forward to a long gardening season… and a re-start of this blog.

back home

Wow, the last 8 weeks have been a little busy!!! We are now back in the Garden State and happy to be home. Of course we already miss the lakes, mountains and wonderful friends we made in Bavaria but life is good for us right now, right here. We are still living without our household items (held up at customs?) which includes (among a 1000 other things) my garden tools and furniture. So now is my chance to slowly take in the state of the garden I left behind four years ago, seeing what has grown (or not) and what I’m missing. Surprisingly this list is not as long as I feared but there is much work to be done as any gardener will tell you.

But before leaving Munich I did have a chance to visit the display gardens of the Weihenstephan agricultural college. This scientific teaching garden was a nineteenth century villa garden and is now a public park. It includes habitat-based plant combinations with drifts of herbaceous perennials, a rock garden and water garden. It’s all on a small scale but it surprised me to see these habitats so similar to what can grow in New Jersey. Although… not sure I would see someone with hair to match the flowers of canna in my back yard. Look closely and see if you can find her!