5 Benefits of Vertical Gardening

Whether you live in an apartment or have a tiny backyard but would love to use your green thumb, consider making a vertical garden. Vertical gardens are becoming extremely popular in urban homes where horizontal gardening space is limited. Aside from providing beautiful, living decor, vertical gardens can have some impressive benefits to you and your home.

Exterior Protection


Vertical gardens that are installed on the exterior of your home can help protect your siding against harsh weather. In areas where rain is plentiful, vertical gardens on the side of your home can protect your exterior paint from water damage. If installed properly, vertical gardens on the side of your home can also act as a type of insulation which could help boost the energy efficiency of your home. These types of vertical gardens could also potentially help you earn LEED credits.



If you want a stylish and pretty way to hide your trash barrels or electric meter, use a vertical garden. Having a solid vertical garden instead of vines will provide a more complete level of beauty and privacy. Vertical gardens work well as a room divider where they can do double duty – provide total privacy and improve the air quality of your home.

Mental and Physical Health


Along with improving the air quality of your home, vertical gardens are great for our mental and physical health. If you work from home, consider putting a vertical garden in your home office. Studies have shown that having plants in your work area can help improve your quality of work and keep you more positive and productive. For those who suffer from arthritis or who can’t kneel or bend anymore, vertical gardens are the perfect option. You’ll be able to easily care for your plants in a vertical garden without putting any strain on your knees or joints.

Pet Safety


If you have pets or live in an area with a lot of wildlife that keep eating and destroying your garden, a vertical garden may resolve your conflicts. Vertical gardens can be raised higher than a raised gardening bed so pets and wildlife cant get to them. This is especially beneficial if you plan on growing plants that may be hazardous or poisonous to your pets. In addition to keeping pets and wildlife out of your plants, having a vertical garden will cut down on weeds or at the very least make it much easier to control the growing of weeds so you won’t have to spend as much time weeding your garden.



Vertical gardens are unique and beautiful. And you can make them out of almost any material. From vintage picture frames to recycled pallets, vertical gardens are extremely adaptive and versatile. You can install them in any or every room of your home or on the exterior of your home. You can decorate with an entire wall of a vertical garden or grouping smaller vertical gardens like photographs. No matter the size or style of your home, you can take joy in growing a vertical garden in your home.

Partnered post. Article written by Kelly Mahan, also a writer for homeyou.com, a company that connects homeowners to reliable, affordable and professional contractors for their home improvement projects. Check more on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Make your garden beautiful as well as practical


Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image by Bruce Fingerhood

Many people who live in congested towns and cities crave a garden. So, if you’re lucky enough to have one then you have to make the most of it. Here are some great ideas on how you can make the most of your garden space.

  1. Plan the use of the space: Just as you would with any other room, make sure that you measure your garden. You can only begin to plan what you would like to do when you know the exact measurements. As soon as you have these you can begin to sketch and design what you would like your garden to look like. Be sure to be creative yet practical and do not bite off more than you can chew. If you feel as though your plans are a touch too elaborate then consult with landscapers.
  2. Consider a shed: If you’re short on space indoors then you really need to utilise your outdoor space. A shed or outhouse is perfect for this and you can place any large object in there as well as any tools.
  3. Make an area for the children: If you have a family then you need to make sure that your garden can be used by everybody. For this reason you should consider making at least part of your garden into a play area for your children where they can play sports or games. It is much safer for them to play here than out on the streets, or even in the living room around the ornaments!
  4. Have an area designed specifically for you: However, you probably spend most of your life thinking about your kids so it’s time that you thought about yourself for a change. A decking area similar to the ones offered by Milford is perfect for entertaining so you can have all of your friends and family around to enjoy the sunshine.

A garden really is a great space to have, so make sure that you make the most of it. There is no right or wrong way to utilise your garden space so use it in whatever way you see fit. You may think that none of the above ideas are right for you, and that is absolutely fine. These, however, are great starting points. So, get those creative juices flowing; you could be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Building the Ultimate Garden Tool Kit


In order to maintain a garden properly you will need the right set of tools. This post will guide you through a few garden must-haves.

The most important garden tool is undoubtedly the spade and investing in a decent one is a must. A tool known as a Mattock is used around the world but less so in the UK. It is like a spade but the blade is at a right angle to the handle. These are great for all the basic needs as well as clearing rough ground and are a great alternative to a traditional spade.

When looking for the right garden maintenance tools, the most expensive are not necessarily the best. Simply buying a high priced, ferocious looking mower will not lead to the best results. However if you team a good lawn mower with a good pair of border shears this can make all the difference. Long handled boarder sheers save bending and offer a greater level of accuracy while maintaining your lawn.

When looking for a mower you should match it to your requirements. A small lawn can be cut using either a 16 or 18 inch mower. If you have a larger lawn you should be looking at investing in a 20 to 22 inch petrol powered mower for the best results. For most lawns either petrol or electric powered will be fine but for larger lawns you should stick to petrol.

Hedge shears and secateurs are also a must have. A normal set of shears is fine but it’s worth investing in a pair that you can extend. In most cases this will eliminate the need for a ladder and help your reach those places that are just too high.   

It is also important to ensure you are using your tools as safely as possible. Whilst garden tools do not carry the obvious dangers associated with some other power tools, this does not mean they can’t cause some serious damage.

The best way to protect yourself is to ensure you have the right equipment. A pair of thick protective gloves is a must, at all times. Even the most innocent looking pair of secateurs can leave you with a nasty gash.

When using lawnmowers and strimmers obviously you’re going to need more than a pair of gloves.  Even when using these items at home it is still recommended that you wear some form of protection for the eyes and ears. The most common way of protecting the eyes is with a pull down face mask that allows you to work as normal without impairing your vision. Ear defenders are also a wise investment, especially if you’re spending a long period of time working with machinery. In the short term you may not notice the damage it could be doing to your ears, however over time you may start to notice the impact of being exposed to constant loud noises.

Whatever your passion is in terms of DIY it’s essential to ensure you have the right equipment for the job at hand. Swift Trading Industrial Tool Supplier offer a wide range of tools for both indoors and out which ensure you always get a professional finish that you can be proud of. So make the most of the weather and start building the ultimate gardening tool kit.

partnered post • CC-licensed image by Cory Doctorow

Make this the year that you improve your garden


Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image by Markles55

This year we have been blessed with gorgeous weather and forecasters predict that there is much more to come! Due to this, now is the time to make those garden improvements that you’ve been considering for so long. Here are some great ideas on how you can make your garden look as stylish and artistic as the inside of your home.

  1. Consider landscaping: If your garden has slopes or inclines then it will be very hard to maintain. As well as this, any unevenness can also affect functionality and style. For this reason, you should consider landscaping your home and garden as this will give you a greater range of options and alternatives.
  2. Plant a lush lawn: A lawn or grassed area can enhance any garden or outdoors area. Grass provides you with almost limitless options and looks simply stunning if it is well maintained. However, if you do not have the time to look after a lawn and want the same great look then consider artificial turf. This provides the same great look while also adding greater functionality. Try checking out Great Grass MCR Limited to see exactly what options are out there.
  3. Build feature flower beds: Consider using flowers to add style and substance to your garden. The main advantage of flowers is that they can make your garden look radiant at any time of year. For this reason, consider buying perennial flowers as these can make your garden sparkle all year round.
  4. Add paving: Paving can add functionality to your garden. As well as being easy to maintain, you can use paving to make your garden more accessible and family friendly. Paving can still look beautiful and good quality paving will last a lifetime, so it is well worth the investment.

There are literally thousands of ways that you can improve your garden and these barely scratch the surface. Don’t be afraid to plan and experiment as you can change your mind at any time. The most important things to consider, however, are space and time. There is no point committing to something that you either do not have the space for or the time free to keep up with. If you don’t have the space or time then your garden may look shabby and untidy and this will achieve the exact opposite of what you were trying to achieve.

Simple Summery Updates for Your Garden


Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image of a freestanding tub by Angela Sevin

Now that summer has finally rolled around, many of us are scrambling to get out into our gardens. When we get out there, however, we find that things aren’t quite as nice as we remember them. Luckily, updating your garden is simple, easy and quick to do, so can enjoy your garden to the fullest.

The Plants

Colour - Annual plants inject a pop of colour and elegance to your garden. Choose your favourite colours to liven up the evergreen, the borders or dotted around in plant pots.  You could have begonias, petunias, geraniums, snapdragons as well as a whole host of other plants to brighten up your garden.

Climbers – Climbing plants offer a more immersive feel to your garden; with plants on the walls or fencing it makes for a lusher, cosier experience. Morning Glories grow quickly and easily so you’ll have a plant-covered wall in no time.

Layers – Layering plants so that they are in height order gives your garden depth and adds interest. Think about how the different plants will work together.

Cacti – You might even be brave enough to add a few cacti to your garden. Keep them in pots so you can bring them in when it gets cold again, but they make interesting centrepieces for the patio table, for instance.

 Bringing the Inside Out

Lighting – If you’re lacking ambient light in your garden for those warm summer nights, then candles are the best option. Contained in pretty tea light holders, a candle will make your garden feel relaxed.

Art/Mirrors – The addition of art and mirrors will add a bohemian atmosphere to your garden. A mirror will also make your garden look a lot bigger, but it will only really look like it’s supposed to be there if it is big and ornate. A garden sculpture creates a focal point so if you don’t have time to update your whole garden then it is a great way of detracting attention away from certain areas.

Garden Furniture – A new set of dining table and chairs, or something comfortable to lie on makes a whole world of difference to your overall garden and your enjoyment of it.

Soft Furnishings – The British weather and soft furnishings don’t often go together, but all it takes is a watertight box to store them in and you can keep rugs, floor cushions and blankets in the shed or garage. The addition of soft furnishings to any garden makes it more habitable and inviting.

The Basics  

Borders – If you simply want to neaten up your garden, then adding border edging will help stop weeds getting in with your flowers. It will also make your garden look a lot smarter.

Mulch – Mulch is a bit of wonder product when it comes to gardening. It helps block sunlight to the ground below so that weeds can’t grow, helps retain water and gives your garden a professional look.

Fencing – The fencing of your garden makes a huge impact on the way it looks. Well maintained fencing looks fresh and neat, but old or rotting fencing can make the entire garden look neglected. You can buy fencing direct or you could even make your own. Make sure that your replacement fence complements the rest of your garden’s style.

How to Make your Garden More Eco-Friendly


Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image of a backyard vegetable garden by Will Merydith

Just because your garden is outdoors and you have a few plants in it doesn’t mean it’s particularly eco-friendly. It seems a lot easier to make eco-friendly changes inside your home rather than outside it, but it’s actually the other way around. There are so many easy ways you can make your garden kinder to the environment, and there’s something to suit everyone’s budget.

Use solar lamps

Solar lamps are a great way to easily light up your garden in the evenings without using electricity. For most people, this is actually easier and more accessible than using light-bulb lamps, as many people don’t have outdoor plug sockets and having them fitted can be a bit of a pain. Solar lamps are now much cheaper than they were a few years ago, and can be picked up relatively cheaply, so being eco-friendly doesn’t have to break the bank.

Swap electric heaters for a chimenea

Heating your garden on cool evenings doesn’t have to use up electricity. Cut your electric bills and be kinder to the environment by investing in a chimenea. Chimeneas are clay open fire garden heaters in which you can burn wood; it’s basically a contained fire, and creates a cosy feel in your garden at night. They’re also great for toasting marshmallows on, so it’s something kids will love for a post dinner treat.

Build a pond

Building a pond in your garden is perhaps a little more extravagant than the previous suggestions, yet even better for the environment. Freshwater habitats for are experiencing a decline, and by having a pond in your garden you can really make a difference to local wildlife struggling to find a suitable dwelling. Insects, spiders, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds and mammals will all benefit from your pond, meaning you’re really benefitting the eco-system. As long as you keep them supervised, children will love spending time around the pond and monitoring the different wildlife that comes to visit. If have a little freshwater haven in your back yard sounds like an appealing way to make your outdoor space more eco-friendly, then check out All Pond Solutions.

Provide a bird house

Just like pond wildlife, safe places for birds to build their nests and protect their young are in dramatic decline as more and more forest areas are being destroyed to make way for new housing developments and other industrial buildings. Providing a bird house in your garden will help the local bird population, giving it the chance to prosper. You can also buy bird house cameras that link up to your TV, so you can watch the development of the chicks and see what goes on in the nest. Hanging up a bird feeder will also help whilst attracting all different kinds of birds to your garden.

Grow your own fruit and vegetables

Dedicating a corner of your garden to growing your own produce is a great way to be more eco-friendly whilst saving some money. Plus, it’ll be fun for children to help out and watch the seeds they planted turn into things they can eat. It may seem complicated if you’re not so green-fingered, but it doesn’t have to be difficult! There’s plenty of advice available online, so have a read through this guide to growing your own fruit and vegetables.

Making the Most of Your Summer Garden


Keeping on top of your garden is no easy feat. With summer finally upon us, it’s now a definite venue to amp up your hosting skills and move the socialising into the great outdoors. With the bushes and shrubbery to be pruned, floral accents at their most colourful and weeds to be kept on top of, there is a seemingly endless list of garden chores to check off.

With the plants and flowers taking up your time, there are a few simple ways to get the most out of your outdoor space this summer; minimal effort, but maximum impact.

Choose low maintenance flowers

Most flowering shrubs will only bloom for a couple of seasons, so pick ones that will be ready for summer and plant a couple of months early to prepare. Your garden will be spotted with colour and will only require watering and very occasional pruning to keep them in shape.

Utilise your space

The garden isn’t only for your plants and flowers. Shackletons has a great range of garden accessories and storage solutions to keep it stylish. Use subtle boxes and hampers to hide away garden equipment and unused perishable accessories like rusting metal and sofa cushions.

Bring in the entertainment factor

Dinner parties don’t need to be relegated to the house. Weather permitting; bring them outdoors where they can last long into the evening under the stars. The Shackletons range makes dinner maintenance easy and post meal relaxation appealing with comfy cushioned chairs and sofas. You just need to add the food & drink for the perfect excuse to get outdoors.

See the light

Install subtle lighting around your entertainment area. An easy method is to plant solar lights in the surrounding garden areas for low maintenance power and soft lighting into the night. Not only will this create a great atmosphere, but it’s an easy way to encourage guests to stay outside once the sun begins to set.

Use Drain Grates for beautification

Just as you would pay attention to what you have as flooring in the interiors of your house, you should follow the same approach to your outdoor and garden areas. This means getting the best drain grating supplier in Singapore and asking them to beautify your garden. This will ensure that your garden stands apart in terms of both aesthetics as well as functionality.

Merge the barbecue with indoor cooking

Long summer evenings are the perfect opportunity to make use of the barbecue, but that doesn’t mean your in house oven needs to go unused. Prioritise meats and vegetables on the barbecue to give a chargrilled taste. For cooked salads, side dishes and added extras, use your indoor appliances to make room on the barbecue. Browse easy barbecue to table serving options on Shackletons to make your hosting duty a breeze.

Weather proof

Once the party clean up is over, invest in some garden furniture covers for any unpredicted weather changes. They needn’t be too expensive or a design feature. Focus on function and get weather proof covers to prevent them blowing off and safe guard them from water and dew where appropriate.

Simple tips with optional extras to give your garden a little more personality and make it your own, just add the guests. The list is pretty much endless on how to improve the space you have. No matter what the size there are plenty of entertainment opportunities, natural colour to be added and a high or low maintenance approach depending on your garden personality. Make the most of the summer – long nights and warmer weather means you have just doubled your hosting space and there is the potential to make it amazing.

partnered post • CC-licensed image by Adam Reeder

Outdoor Pond


Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image of a backyard pond by Chang Er

I've always dreamed of having my own backyard paradise with a pond. I imagined emerging from our house onto our craftsman deck and stepping down into an oasis of lush greenery that peeled away to reveal a beautiful babbling pond filled with a rainbow of carp. Instead we got holes in our backyard, my husband's thrown out back, and some disappointment. More than anything my dream of a pond led us to rush into the installation without developing a solid plan or blueprint that suited our yard. After a few failed attempts we did manage to install a lovely little pond but not without a lot of unnecessary work and one giant bruised ego (mine).


I hit the internet for information about building our pond, but I encourage you to take time to get out and look at backyard ponds in action. Not all ponds are created equally. For instance I was at a party last week and incurred a healthy case of pond envy. My friends installed a beautiful koi pond that stretches much farther than ours and sets a beautiful scene for their entire yard. Had I encountered this pond before digging ours, a larger pond budget might have seemed worth it.

Call Before You Dig!

If you live in Texas, call 811 to request a surveyor to mark your property for gas, electric, and water lines. Uncovering a gas line while digging not only slows project progress, it also might cause costly damages. Not novices to home renovation, we did make this call. Unfortunately while I thought I knew our safe areas from previous landscaping projects, it turned out the exact place I wished to place our pond actually contained a sewer line. Not a huge setback, but it did cause us to move our entire project over about five feet diagonally.

Maintain Your Water Level

Invest in a float switch or similar method to keep your water at level on a continuous basis. Unfortunately we left for the weekend shortly after we installed our two beautiful carp. The weather became unpredictably hot, water evaporated, and we came home to two very crowded fish. While we lucked out and did not lose our little buddies, had we been absent a day or two more the heat of reduced water might have killed them.

Hire Someone!

I cannot emphasize how much work it is to dig a pond and then hustle in the necessary stones to landscape it. While we are not strangers to heavy lifting for home renovations, this is an instance where paying the professional is worth the pain and labor saved. After heaving half of our rocks from the driveway tot the pond perimeter, my husband threw out his back and we stalled on the project until we opted to pay some strapping neighborhood teenagers to carry the rest of the stone. 

Investing in a pond creates a beautiful element within your landscaping, and while I roll my eyes every time the subject comes up or a visitor compliments our little pond, I do love to walk out cool mornings and meditate over it with a cup of coffee.

make your own backyard paradise


Our friend Kimberly Aardal forwards the following short article on easily and inexpensively remodeling your backyard into a stress-relieving retreat:

Your Backyard Can Be Your Paradise – In 10 Simple Steps

It's probably no shock to learn that stress levels have increased dramatically in the lives of most Americans these days. But what may be a surprise is the fact that moderate stress levels affected over half of the population in the last year. Even our much-needed rest has been impacted by this phenomenon, with studies showing nearly 50% of Americans losing sleep as a direct result of stress.

A Simple Remedy for Stress

As is often the case in life, the simplest solutions can be the best. And they frequently are right under our noses. Relaxation is critical to good health and can be found in many places. However, one logical place to start is one's own backyard. It's a defined private space, free from the pressures of the fast-paced world beyond. A well-arranged backyard can offer us the peace and tranquility that allows our mind to relax and our body to heal a bit. Here are ten steps to transform your backyard.

1. Start with the Big Picture

Any landscape architect will tell you that balance is the most important consideration when undertaking a site project. Before embarking on remaking your backyard, familiarize yourself with the positive elements that are present in your backyard, taking note of textures, colors, even the scale of trees and shrubs. Regardless of the scope of your project, remember that the eye seeks the balance that we find in nature. Areas of your backyard that are flat and straight (a concrete walkway for example) can easily be complemented by curved planted areas or a border of colorful ground cover. In the case of small yards, creating the illusion of more space is not difficult. By installing serpentine pathways rather than straight ones, the perception is one of a deeper environment. Break up sight lines with plants and trees and encourage variety. This will ensure that a stroll through your backyard is not just a walk from one point to another, but also a sensory experience. Be on the lookout for locations where outdoor wood furniture might be placed to invite a quiet moment of relaxation or reading. Itís always wise to carve out a seating area large enough for two to enjoy.

2. Define What Relaxation Means

To some, the most pleasurable form of relaxation in the backyard is actually quite active: donning gardening gloves and maintaining a vegetable garden, mowing the lawn or sculpting the hedges. To others, the thought of leaving their rocking chair and working up a sweat is anathema to the whole point of a backyard paradise. Know your preferences and your ultimate goal before embarking on a new design. If the yard is to be shared with a loved one or the whole family, build their needs into the equation. Should yard maintenance be seen as a burden, be clever about your selections when buying plants and ground cover. If appropriate vegetation is chosen, your quality time wonít be dominated by chores.

3. Color is the Key

When planning your new backyard layout, remember the importance of color. Itís a given that any yard with a lawn or trees is going to provide an abundance of green. But what other colors should you introduce into your new environment? What changes occur as the seasons change? Is there a dominant color already in the environment, such as a house or painted fence? As a helpful starting point, reference Feng Shui colors. The energy map will point the way to which of the five elements - fire, earth, metal, water or wood – is most appropriate for achieving harmonious balance in your new configuration. The colors you choose for plantings, furniture and raw materials are the key to ensuring a sense of calm. Comforting colors allow us to relax and unwind without distraction. Even the choice of a fabric color for pillows in a rocking chair nook should take nearby foliage into account. The most successful backyard arrangements are seldom achieved by accident.

4. The Element of Sound

For a backyard to be a truly sensory experience, consider the importance of sound. Sometimes what we call blissful silence in a backyard is actually defined by the soft whisper of a summer breeze or the tinkling of a fountain. Peace can be found in a well-placed wind chime or even in our favorite tunes, emanating from hidden speakers throughout the yard.

5. Back To Nature

Even the most formal backyard design will benefit from airborne visitors attracted to the tranquility, the fragrance and the colors of your new paradise. They should be welcomed as honored guests. Butterflies, birds and bees are essential to the balance that keeps plants flourishing and flowers blooming. They add sound, color, motion and they enhance the experience of relaxing outside. Encourage your visitors by selecting flowering plants that attract them. Try buddleias, bougainvilleas, azaleas, petunias or any others that are appropriate for your planting zone. Remember that low bushes or trees with Y-shaped branches create prized nesting locations for hummingbirds.

6. The Furniture Element

Comfort and durability should be the watchwords when picking out furniture for any backyard environment. It's essential that a well-planned layout include a quality table and chairs. For spots with a great view, explore benches and swings. Hammocks are traditionally suspended from trees but can be purchased with a stand and are suited for tanning under the sun or gazing at stars. Rocking chairs and gliders are perfect in an alcove, beside a garden or anywhere else conducive to napping or meditation.

7. Consider the Time of Year

The effects of the sun on your new backyard paradise depend a great deal on your location, terrain and the time of year. However, certain things are universal. In the spring, the lounging areas should face east or south. Direct sunlight, when itís a bit too hot, can be countered with the use of outdoor umbrellas or pergolas. The charming tradition of a covered porch allows for more substantial protection from the sun while affording a cooling breeze as well.

8. The Taste of the Outdoors

Yes, aromas and even tastes are vital to the outdoor experience. We are soothed by the scent of pine trees, the herb garden growing nearby or flowers in bloom. Your backyard should incorporate these elements as you lay out your planting areas. Movable pots with basil, mint or lavender can function as easily moved elements on a patio, deck or along a flagstone path. Relaxing aromas of chamomile and sandalwood can be incorporated into the lawn or mixed into a garden where the breeze can carry their heady fragrance. Try essential oils and candles as well. They can be introduced into a seating arrangement to enhance the sense of complete relaxation.

9. The Warmth of a Fire

As daytime moves toward evening or as summer moves to autumn, the backyard environment can still remain comfortable with the installation of an outdoor fireplace. On a deck or patio, this important addition to your plan will ensure pleasurable evenings of conversation, outdoor cooking and stargazing. The traditional clay chiminea and freestanding fire pits can do much the same and have the added advantage of being portable. For less warmth but more light, try tiki torches. They can be installed just about anywhere and they create a wonderfully festive addition to all evening activities in your backyard.

10. Let the Games Begin

As part of the essential balance of backyard design, donít forget to allow room for romping on the grass. Space for playing lawn games like bocce ball, badminton or horseshoes is as important to your new plan as the quiet seating areas and curved walkways. It's important to include a comfortable play area, a place to toss a Frisbee or roll around with the dog. It's all part of the process of relaxing.

Paradise Found in Your Own Backyard

A sublime solution to the problems of a stressful world, your backyard sanctuary will allow you to relax and breathe. The enjoyment you'll get from a place of your own, where all your senses are enriched, will improve your life. Kimberly Aardal, Publisher of EveryDayRockingChairs.com loves the outdoors and relaxing in her own backyard paradise in her favorite white rocking chair. Kimberly lives in the mountains of Colorado with her husband Jon and yellow lab Ginger and has learned the value of slowing down and enjoying life to the fullest. When Kimberly is not sharing information about wooden rocking chairs, the three of them spend a great deal of time in the mountains hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and exploring the small mountain towns in their beautiful state.

cc-licensed photo by Tracie Hall

decor for the Arts & Crafts garden

Old House Journal has a nice short article by Clare Martin on how to furnish or accessorize your traditional A&C garden - she covers arbors and fencing, gates, fountains, benches and more:

If there's one overarching goal that all gardens of the Arts & Crafts movement sought, it was to blend in. Proponents of Arts & Crafts garden design wanted their landscapes to connect not only with the homes they were attached to, but also with their natural surroundings. The use of native plants and wildflowers, along with uncomplicated layouts, helped achieve this ideal.

Ornamentation also had its place in the Arts & Crafts garden, albeit in very subtle form. When looking for products to embellish your own garden, simplicity should be the name of the game. Forget ornate iron benches, elaborate trellises, and fancy ornamental planters. In the Arts & Crafts garden, as in the homes from the era, clean lines and unfussy patterns reign supreme.

Japanese Gardens in the US

The United States includes a number of first-rate public and private Japanese gardens, some being the cause and others the result of the immense importance that Japanese formalism has had upon American landscape and architectural design, most visibly in the Arts & Crafts Movement and more recently in certain contemporary styles.

One recent addition is the University of Illinois at Springfield's new garden; other highlights throughout this country include the very small but well-designed Japanese garden in Ashland, Oregon's Lithia Park and another, larger in scale, in Portland; San Francisco's Japanese Tea Garden and Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford IL.

Spokane, Wasington's Nishinomiya Garden is particularly photogenic. Saratoga, California is home to Hakone Gardens, the oldest Japanese estate in the Western Hemisphere - the bamboo forests at this eighteen-acre preserve are as impressive as they are enormous. The University of Arkansas' sprawling Garvan Woodland Gardens includes the Japanese-inspired Garden of the Pine Wind. San Diego's Japanese Friendship Garden's tea house is in operation most weekends, and the koi in their pond are some of the oldest in North America. The Asticou Azalea Garden, on the property of the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor, Maine, is particularly attractive when its New England backdrop is in the throes of Autumn's blazing reds and golds. The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida, includes not only a very pleasant garden but a museum of Japanese, Japanese-American and other related artwork, both classical and contemporary. Van Nuys, California is home to Suiho En, a Japanese water and fragrance garden, noted as one of the most authentic in the US. Also in the greater Los Angeles area, San Marino's Huntington Gardens includes a large pleasant Japanese garden as a small part of its acreage.

Canada also includes three of the most impressive Japanese gardens in North America: the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, the Nitobe Memorial Garden on the University of British Columbia campus, and the Japanese garden at Butchart Gardens in Vancouver.

creative commons-licensed photo courtesy of Flickr user Manyfires

Japanese Effects for Small Gardens (1910)

1805250324_0c65963443 Florence Dixon was a regular contributor to The Craftsman between 1901 and 1916; the following article appeared in the September 1910 issue.

The special value of the Japanese garden in this country lies in its availability for small areas. Nowadays, when a man wants a garden, he plans for some definite landscape effect. Often the size of his lot precludes the possibility of an Italian garden or a naturalistic treatment after the English-American plan. But a Japanese garden may be had in all completeness in a space where one would have said there was scarcely room for a flower bed. The Japanese garden adapts itself to lack of space. Other systems copy nature on only one set of terms, those of life-size, but the japanese method, while it can be and often is developed on a large scale, may also be reduced from natural size through all stages to a tiny miniature.

Continue reading "Japanese Effects for Small Gardens (1910)" »

Craftsman landscaping - bits & pieces

Arts & Crafts bungalows mix and match well with all sorts of landscaping - from the zen-like Asian-inspired landscapes of Greene & Greene to cactus gardens and even the manicured, symmetrical patterns of some of the English A&C-influenced landscape designers.

  • The San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at one particularly successful landscape makeover:

When it came to planting the bungalow garden, the most influential designer for Californians, as for the rest of America and England, was Englishwoman Gertrude Jekyll, whose best-selling book "Colour in the Flower Garden" reflected nearly 30 years of plant design. Astonishingly, her plant combinations are still widely used today with all styles of homes. What she excelled at was the natural-looking border built up typically with a discerning use of grays, silvers, pinks and whites accented with blues and a touch here and there of yellow or red. In her prolific career she used hundreds of different plants, commenting, "There are no bad plants, only plants badly placed."

  • This 1915 Craftsman home is ringed with appropriate trees and its entry is framed by a pretty pergola;
  • The Craftsman Perspective addresses landscaping, gives plant recommendations and some general gardening advice, tailored for the bungalow owner;
  • The newsletter of the Twin Cities Bungalow Club has a good article - including a few Q&A sessions - on what to plant and when to plant it in your bungalow garden.

Don't Fence Me In, part 2

One of the burdens facing historic-home owners is how to choose fencing that matches - or at least doesn't visibly clash with - the architectural style of their home. This can be more difficult than it seems, especially if you don't want to break the bank; a good landscape designer or carpenter with an eye for historic architecture can match details in the house with custom work, but we don't all have thousands of dollars to spend on a project like this (although a professional - someone like Peter Kirsch-Korff - would be happy to build you a fence, arbor, deck or gate that would certainly be more beautiful and sturdier than anything from a kit). The right fence, as Charles Smith notes in his 2005 San Francisco Chronicle article on the subject, can - paradoxically - draw neighbors in, and make a neighborhood's overall aesthetic character even more consistent, rather than working to compartmentalize a block. Such fences can also be "functional works of art."

There are some ready-made pieces, kits and packages out there, but a lot of times you'll have to be a bit more creative, gussying up a standard design with small details to reflect aspects of the structure's design - sheathing post-tops in copper or using a decorative finial, for example, or mirroring the house's lattice or lintel work with a small add-on. In some cases, a simple minimalist fence will allow an arbor or gate, picked specifically to match a feature or features in the house, to really shine. Lights - post lanterns or even something on the ground - picked to match outside fixtures on the house are also a great and relatively inexpensive way to tie the house, yard and fence all together.

And of course if you're handy and you've got the tools - and the time - you can just do it yourself. But be careful - if you haven't done this sort of job before, and if your property isn't perfectly graded, you might be biting off way more than you can chew.

Whatever you do, don't forget to investigate permits and local guidelines governing landscape design first, or you could be in for a rude surprise. No matter how much you know about the historic character of your home and neighborhood, there's sure to be someone in the city who thinks they know more and who claims to have more interest in the overall character of your neighborhood than you do.

A few miscellaneous links:

A Minature Mountain Landscape in Berkeley, California


Konrad Gauder has an article in the August '94 issue of Fine Gardening on building a scaled-down "alpine vista" in his yard in Berkeley - just perfect for the mountain cabin-esque Craftsman home that shares the site on Woolsey Street. Plenty of images of the project (and the absolutely beautiful fences and gates built by the Gauders) are also up on the site.

Konrad and Denise Snaer-Gauder own Landsculpture, a Berkeley-based firm known for "naturalistic stone placements, mosiac-like stone flatwork, curvilinear brick work, as well as furniture-quality gates, fences, decks and arbors."

In 1982, my wife, Denise, and I moved into her childhood home. It was a run-down, Berkeley Craftsman-style house, vintage 1910. The house had been unoccupied for seven years, but it held out lots of promise. What garden there was consisted of a strip of Bermuda grass sloping to the street in front of the house. Old bottlebrush, hibiscus and an invasive flowering quince decorated the foundation. Overgrown roses gave an unkempt appearance to the narrow strip of side yard, and in back of the house was a poorly constructed concrete-brick patio surrounded by shrubbery, a Japanese maple, and plum and mulberry trees. We kept the maple.

Some of the Gauders' other projects are equally impressive - a garden, fencing and stonework on Oakland's Crofton Street; beautiful fairy-tale stonework in paths, walls and steps on Skywood Way in Woodside, and more.