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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in garden design (142)


A Garden Designer; One of America's Hidden Treasures

Designed and photographed by Michelle DervissIf one were to name prominent garden designers, there’s a good chance most of them would be British or Dutch. They are well known to us because their work has been showcased in magazines and picture books. Not enough people are aware that there are world class garden designers also working on this side of the Atlantic.

The hauntingly beautiful and brilliantly executed garden shown in the photo above surpasses anything we have seen coming out of Europe. This is an example of the many extraordinary accomplishments of Michelle Derviss, a talented landscape designer who works in California. The image is that of a hillside converted into a garden that is both deer and drought tolerant. Notice how the plant compositions are enhanced by the unique perspective that sloped and terraced gardens offer the viewer.

Additional landscapes, designed and sculpted by Ms. Derviss, are extensively archived in her blog as well. After clicking on to that site, it will take the visitor no more than a nano-second to recognise that Michelle is a national treasure. We should be celebrating her genius.



Front Garden Entryways

This image accompanied the text of the magazine article titled "Design an Engaging Entryway" that I received on line from "" A very well crafted article about front yard garden entryways arrived in an on-line newsletter on October 19, 2009. Titled “Design an Engaging Entryway”, it was sent by Fine Gardening Magazine.  As a topic of interest, the front entry garden is a polyvalent subject and writing about it requires great organizational skills. I was impressed how admirably the author tackled it and how adaptable the advice turned out to be.

This article is about making a good first impression: drawing attention to the garden entryway of the home,  using ornamental plants for winter interest, making the entry appealing by using archways, installing double rows of flower beds and placing unique objects that define the home owner.

However, the author also touches on a controversial issue in the subtitle, “A front yard should ….reflect who you are”. I have my reservations about that advice especially when it empowers gardeners to plant messy cottage gardens in full view of the neighbors.

Let’s go back to when it all began: The misguided philosophy “Do Your Own Thing” dates back to the 1970’s. A social revolution took place during that period that resulted in the discarding of many societal conventions that had been hypocritically adhered to. Some of the derision was justified, but it went too far. It encouraged the display of personal bad taste in the name of self expression.

The lowering of community standards extended to gardens as well. A messy cottage garden, especially one that was flaunted in public, became the statement of the liberated gardener. Much to the dismay of neighbors, it is today still considered a bold and defiant personal expression. However, such a front yard garden neither adds anything to the value or appearance of a property nor is it inviting. It would be better situated in a back or side yard where only the homeowner can justify its existence.

A front yard garden must respect the design of the home even in the depths of winter when nothing is in bloom. It should enhance a property, not devalue it. And above all, it should welcome guests with beauty. The personality of the homeowner may be reflected in the assiduous selection of plants, by the unusual combinations of color, shape and texture and by the creative placement of hard objects. Thanks, Fine Gardening, for inadvertently raising a controversial topic. It certainly was an inspiration for this garden writer to make a bold and defiant personal expression.


Meet a Talented Deziner

This photo is taken from Michelle's "Raised Flower Beds" collection.

When planning a color scheme for a garden, one should always consider the hard elements that make up part of the landscape. Collectively know as hardscape, these include paving stones, boulders, fences, fountains, gravel paths, retaining walls, walkways, pergolas, archways, arbors, garden sculptures, swimming pools and large decorative urns. All bring color and surface texture to a garden, usually in neutral tones. Do not overlook them because, when used creatively, they enhance colors found in nature.

Here is a photo, by the talented "garden sculptor" Michelle aka "Deviant Deziner” and posted to her blog site Garden Porn. The light, bright shade of grey used for the stones of the retaining wall enhances the strong pink flowers as well as the lime Hosta, making both of them appear more vibrant. The right shade of red flowers would have looked almost as striking against this cleverly chosen stone color.

By the way, the title of Michelle’s blog camouflages an extraordinary talent. When you visit her site you will be amazed at the scope of her work, "sculpting" gardens, that she captures so beautifully in striking photographs. I hope that, in the future, she will allow me to use more of these wondrous pictures to illustrate some of the themes that I enjoy writing about.



Good Bye Lawn, Hello Outdoor Living Space

Image courtesy of meadowfarm.comThere has been a lot of discussion over the last few years about the declining need for a green lawn in today’s landscapes. This debate has been fueled not only by the desire to conserve water but also by the realization that changing lifestyles result in lawns that remain unused. This debate is also accompanied by the shrinkage of free time needed to care for lawns and by the toxic effect of chemicals necessary to maintain them.

Once upon a time, a lawn was a symbolic part of a private home. It included the back yard where children romped around and grew up. Today’s children don’t have the same free time to play outdoors. Many of them are enrolled in sports played on municipal properties. The result is that, for some, the back yard has become an anachronism and its maintenance a burden.

It is not uncommon to see a lawn being sliced away to create a patio or a deck or excavated to make room for a swimming pool. All of these changes, which reflect a contemporary value to live outdoors as opposed to work in the outdoors, create a need for new styles of landscaping that will soften the hard lines of wood, stone, concrete and plastic. Nature, as trees, shrubs and foliage, needs to be reintroduced into this new setting but in a more controlled and deliberate manner. In these circumstances, it’s often helpful to work with a landscape architect to create the over-all plan for one’s outdoor living space.

However, for color and passion that only flowers can evoke, it’s best to use a garden designer to add the finishing touches. The ideal balance between these two professionals is to have the landscape architect integrate the location of flowerbeds into the master plan and to allow the garden designer to fill them up. However, in determining the number of flower beds and their sizes, the needs of the client should always be elicited and never overlooked.

Many garden designers and landscape architects are so talented that when properly planned and executed, it is possible to create an outdoor living space that resembles an interactive work of art.



Landscaping on a Rocky Slope

A cliff garden at Windsor Castle

 A rock garden brook at the de Cordova Sculpture Garden as seen from below.

The rock garden brook in the de Cordova Sculpture Garden as seen from above.

Here are photos of rocky slopes that have been integrated into their surrounding gardens in two different ways. The first image is that of a cliff transformed into a tiered garden on the grounds of Windsor Castle in the U.K. The second and third images are that of a slope in the De Cordova Sculpture Garden in Lincoln, Massachusetts. This slope has been converted into an interactive climbing rock garden by virtue of the stairs that gently follow the path of the falling brook. Sculpted stone archways have been strategically placed to add perspective while enhancing the visual flow created by the brook and its waterfall. The rock garden at Windsor Castle integrates well with the style of garden design used on the surrounding grounds. The sloped garden at de Cordova relates to the many outdoor sculptures that  are placed at various elevations of the parkland.