Urban terrace ideas

Hello people!

Welcome to my blog, today I have a new project to show you all.

A couple of friends asked me for some garden design advice, as they share a terrace with their floor-neighbors, they wanted to make it “greener” and yet, enjoyable for everybody, without leaving behind their personal touch and style.

One of the many, many “pros” of plants, is that they can be used to achieve (almost) any decoration goals, like making a place feel cozy and fresh at the same time.
In this project, plants will be used to gently “divide” the terrace. As I said before, this is a shared terrace and the idea is to use resistant and drought tolerant plants, with soft shapes so that the terrace still looks open and fresh, while creating a “private” space for my clients.


The Project

 

The apartment is on the first floor with full sun exposure. It is a big area that my friends and their neighbors use a lot when the weather is nice, so there is space to create something new, without interfering with others peoples ideas.

My friends’ living room faces the terrace with a big window, sometimes used to access the terrace. They manage to enjoy the views from the window, wether is summer or winter so I wanted to help them have a greener space during the year.

 

Plant Selection


Acer palmatum f. ‘Atropurpureum’: deciduous small tree (its leaves fall in winter), slow growing, it has dark red and bright foliage in autumn, it is very resistant to cold and can also be placed in a full sun area (depending on the zone you’re living, this terrace is in Northern Italy), protected from strong drafts. It needs moist but well-drained soil to grow perfectly.

Left: Acer palmatum ‘Shigitatsu Sawa’. Right: Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’


Pinus mugo
: it is an evergreen (its leaves don’t fall down in winter) dwarf conifer. Slow-growing, it likes well-drained soil. It also grows well in a sheltered full sun with exposure and likes any type of soil. The needles turn yellow in winter.


Rudbeckia fulgida
: it’s a rhizomatous perennial with “hairy” leaves and branching stems, they carry flowers with deep-brown centers and bright yellow florets in mid to late summer and early autumn. It is deciduous which means the aerial part will dry completely, and grow again in spring. It loves full sun exposure in a sheltered area, it grows well in any type of soil. It can grow 1 m tall.


Salvia x sylvestris ‘Tänzerin’
: it’s a bushy perennial with lance-shaped leaves and, dense racemes of small violet flowers in early summer. They grow well in full sun exposure and like moist but well-drained soil.


Sesleria autumnalis
: it’s a perennial grass that grows up to 60cm tall, linear leaves, with a narrow, silvery-white panicle to 10cm in length in late summer. It grows well in full sun or part shade and it likes moist but well-drained soil.

 

As I said, this terrace gets a lot of sunlight during the day, so they needed plants that thrive in the sun but also that look great in winter time.

The mix of colors will be perfect for summer, the heights will help them get a bit more privacy and in winter they will still have nice shapes that can be combined with fall/winter bulbs or other annual plants.

Annual plants:

  • Bulbs: crocus, spider lilies, irises, etc.
  • Hellebores
  • Cyclamen

Other details to make your terrace a perfect place:

  • Getting an exteriors carpet: will help the area look brighter and more organized.
  • Candle holders in different shapes and heights will make the eye focus on different points and have a warm sensation during the nights.
  • Containers are very important too, they will define the “style” of the terrace. For example, clay containers have a vintage and “used” style (which I love); Tall plastic containers in black or white, define a more elegant terrace, and so on, and again, select different heights, even if the plants have different dimensions, playing with containers will set the difference.
  • Lights are sometimes better than candles so you can use your Christmas lights to decorate the walls, rails or even the floor, just play with it and you’ll find the perfect spot for them.

Hope you like this project and if you have any ideas for your own garden. If you’re looking for someone to help you, let me know, I will be happy to help!

Edible Garden – Tips & Ideas to start one

Hello people!

Today I have a new project to show you and, as usual, I’m very excited. Each and every project is very different and I enjoy every minute of the design process, on the other hand, my clients have a lot of things in common: the need and desire of doing things by themselves, following simple steps, that my friends, is why I’m here for!.
Find me here 
and contact me for any idea you have, I’m happy to help.

Now, let’s talk about this new project.

Growing your own food is one of the best things you can do when you have space to do it, right?. As I explained it in my latest post “How to organize your crops and harvest“, you don’t actually need a lot of space to grow your own food, you can grow many things (vegetables, herbs and/or fruits) in a small terrace using containers, you can even grow indoors, but that’s material for another post.

That being said, if you do have a good amount of land to grow your own food, then you are super lucky and I salute you for making it work!!!.
However, if you don’t know how to start a vegetable garden by yourself, I’m going to give you tips and ideas to start an edible garden.

One of the things about growing your own food is that it’s so satisfying, still, making it look good is not as important; A blooming garden has to be perfect and beautiful, but the same importance is not given to an orchard, which it’s still a garden, an edible garden. I think making appealing your edible garden, will give you twice the satisfaction!.

Choose the method you want to plant your herbs: Containers or beds, your choice!


Knowing how to plant and what to plant will give you better crops, fewer pests, and better looks.

This project is all about edible gardens using herbs, so, if you don’t know where to start, this post will give you tools to start a big or small edible garden by yourself.

Edible gardens should be fun like this one. Say yes to creativity!


WHY HERBS?

Herbs transform our dishes into amazing family favorites, sometimes we even have our personal herbs mix. Right now I’m using a Provence herbs mix that I bought in southern France (it’s made from savory, marjoram, rosemary, thymeoregano and sometimes lavender) and I kinda love it…
Ok, this is not a cooking post, nevertheless, you can find your beloved herbs in your own garden and you can have them fresh during the year, isn’t that cool?

 

Herbs don’t only taste good, they also make our garden look better! (garden = terrace, window sill, backyard, front yard, etc).

 

WHAT TO PLANT?

Most herbs are perennials, which means they don’t “die” in winter; Rosemary, sage, and thyme (to name a few), have beautiful shapes that will stand out in your garden and work very well with other shrubs and flowers.

For example:
L
avender and rosemary work pretty good together, they smell amazing, attract pollinators and they will cover a good amount of space if you want to;
Sage comes in different foliage colors so you can create unique sage beds with different colors and smells. It looks great among achilea, rudbeckia, and lavender.
Thyme, it also has different smells and foliage colors, it has a small ball-shape so it will cover nicely spaces between blooming shrubs, stairs or walking paths at home.
Chives look great among rosemary, sage, stachys (which is not an herb but is a nice evergreen with silver foliage), thyme, oregano, etc.

Origano, chives, thyme & sage are one of my favorite combinations, they look and grow great together


THE PROJECT

In this case, we have nice size for an herbs garden, about 10m² for planting, and 2m² that already has 2 vintage roses.

I explained in my previous post how important is the spacing in an orchard, my advice is to be organized and leave the necessary spaces between plants so they grow comfortable and you’ll be sure that your plants won’t grow on top of each other after 3 days of summer.

Another thing to consider is that there are plants that work and grow better together, like basil and tomatoes, thyme and sage, rosemary and lavender. Your edible garden can have lots of colors and shapes if you choose the right plants and, your vegetables will be healthy and beautiful.


PLANT SELECTION

In this project, we have perennials, annuals, and flowers to plant directly in the soil. Annuals can be in containers so it’s easier to change them during the year, you also will have a different look in your garden depending on the container and the heights of it or the plant.

Plant selection: aromatic herbs & flowers


Perennials
: all of them will attract bees and improve pollination
– Rosemary
– Sage
– Thyme
– Chives: Repels aphids.
– Mint: depending on the zone it will disappear in winter and come back on spring. Mint can be very invasive, that’s why I suggest planting in containers, they will give a different touch to your garden and different heights.

Annuals: all of them will attract beneficial insects to improve pollination
– Basil: repels aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, hornworms among others.
– Parsley
– Coriander

Blooming
– Nasturtium: helps avoid fungal diseases, attract aphids away from other plants, trap other insects such as whiteflies, squash bugs, cucumber beetles and cabbage worms.
– Pot marigold or calendula: attracts beneficial insects.
– African marigold: repels garden pests like beetles, slugs and tomato worms; it also attracts beneficial insects like bees and butterflies and, it will keep away mosquitos!

Mulch
Mulch is your friend, it is a soil cover made from bark (in this case), it will retain moisture in the soil, protect the roots in winter, in summer, it will keep the soil fresh and, it will help you control weeds.
You can also use pebbles for a cleaner look.

THE DESIGN

Final look (right section)

REMEMBER

  • Most vegetables need a good amount of direct sunlight per day, about 6 hours; veggies will be bigger, tastier and your harvest will be substantial. Don’t worry, herbs will be ok with 4 hours of sunlight per day, they will grow slower but they will be fine.
  • Enrich your soil with compost, eggshells, etc. All plants need a good root system and nutrients to grow.
  • Pick the right place to plant, it should be protected from the wind, open to pollinators and with a good drainage.
  • If you are a beginner, start small, there’s no rush, there’s a lot of things you can grow in a small space, you can do it!!!.

Hope you find useful info here, let me know if you like it, or if you still have questions, don’t hesitate to ask, I’m here to help.

How to organize your Crops and Harvest

Hello everybody!

Today we’re going to talk about our beloved orchards, I know spring is already gone 🙁 but, I’ going to give you some tips for an organized crop and harvest.

I have to be honest, I don’t have an orchard myself, we’ve been traveling a lot during the past years so even if I had the space to grow something, I wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on my beloved veggies and there are no “plant-sitters” around yet (sigh).

So to gather all this info, I talked to an experienced Italian grandpa, he has been growing his own food for years, and he has become the “Veggie Guru” of the area, so people ask his opinion about their own plantings everytime they see them around.

His name is Virginio and he became my “to go” person to talk about veggies and fruits, you know, casual conversations.

Virginio, the Italian Veggie guru (yes, that’s also my finger in the pic)

I asked Virginio to let me visit his orchard and learn more about plants, care and, how he organized his crops.

First, let’s talk about what he usually grows and recommends:
This is what Virginio recommends to plant from March to the end of the season

 

HOW MANY PLANTS?

About 6 sprouts from each aromatic, but if you buy them already grown, you can totally buy less.
From 15 to 20 tomato, peas, lettuce and rocket salad plants, 4 zucchini and spinach sprouts, 4 to 5 peppers and so on.

You can totally plant whatever you like, this will depend on your taste.


Disclaimer #1
He explained that if you want at least half a year worth in vegetables, a family of three will need more than 1 sqm like you normally read online.
Don’t get me wrong, planting in containers or small terraces will *always* be worth the try and, it’ll give you something to eat, however, what you can harvest from 1 container of peppers is not going to be enough for the rest of the month, nor the year.

According to Virginio, if you want to take home a good supply of veggies, you will need more space, about 15 to 20 sqm is OK to grow vegetables from the list above for 3 people.

This is about 15 sqm with a lot of space between sprouts, you can put one more line of them.


Planting in containers

If you have a terrace, you can always grow your own aromatic herbs, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, arugula, zucchinis, wild berries (like strawberries) and even small trees (like citrus trees), everything is possible, so don’t worry, any space is a good space for a plant!

Once you’ve selected the planting area, the next thing is to clean it from weeds, move the soil and add hummus and mix it together, that’s the base to start a project.

Beds ready to be planted
Land ready to be planted


Now, you have to select the space for every vegetable, for example, putting the tomatoes on the back of other small vegetables so every plant will have the same amount of sun. This layout will change around August when you’ll start again the seeding season. It is very important to change it so you will avoid plant diseases and other anomalies in the soil.

Every plant will have its space and organized position


Another great advice from Mr. Virginio (to an amateur like me) is to plant lettuce, peas, cabbage, etc., at different times (dates) and groups;

For example: if you buy the little six-pack sprouts, plant them around March; after 30 to 40 days, plant another group of sprouts and repeat it again once or twice, that way you’ll have early and continuous harvests.

Lettuce & chard growth. Sprouts planted every 30 days (from left to right)


If you can cover your plants forming a greenhouse, you can totally anticipate 1 month of planting, even more, if you live in warmer areas.

ABOUT THE SOIL 

Once a week, carefully move the soil around the plants with a hoe, it will help oxygenate the roots and the soil.

Preparing the soil. Peas on the right

If you need/want to fertilize your plants (with granulated or liquid organic fertilizer), do it around the total diameter of the plant, not directly to the stem, this way you’ll help the roots absorb the nutrients better.

CROP ROTATION

In late August / early September, you can start rotating the crops and changing the planting position. It will help maintain the soil fertility, control weeds, minimize diseases spread and pest growth.

Crop rotation chart

That’s it, for now, I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did, I had a lot of fun at the orchard and learned a lot with Virginio.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask! You know where to find me 🙂

Garden tips & plants for humid areas

Hello people, it is Project Time!.

I’m always excited about projects and I hope you are too, here you’ll find tips and ideas to apply to your own garden or terrace. Remember you can find me on Fresh Lemonade Gardens. Send me your gardening plans or questions!.

Ok, now, I bit info about the clients:

A family of three (mom, dad and baby girl) recently moved into a new and bigger house in northern France, with a lot of green space to work on, they want to start by renewing their entrance area, where they have a garage and a secondary access to their house, but, it’s the access they see every single day, because it’s the garage access.

The problem

They just rented a house that was inhabited for a long time, they have a bunch of old and dead plants that cover all the space. The garage area has also dead plants and they would like to cover it all with beautiful plants.

Northern France has a wet weather, so they have grey days most of the time.

They need a space where they can feel safe and bring to life their new home.

First impression of the area
What they want/need

They need an organized space (that gives them a “welcome home” effect) with low-maintenance shrubs. As the area is not attached to their house and they have to walk a few meters to actually enter the house, it is convenient to have small shrubs that leaves them a clear view, to see everything around.

The garage has already a define flowerbed space and they want some evergreen (plants that maintain their leaves in cold weather) to cover it, like a Lavender mix (Lavandula angustifolia, L. stoechas, L. officinalis, L. dentanta) and a climbing rose at the back.

Lavender & pink roses

They would like to have an ornamental tree that provides color and fun to grey winters.

The project

We are starting by cleaning the area to understand what we have over there and, let us have a clear vision of what we want. It’s a bit heavy work, but it’s important and worth doing it, trust me, you’ll feel much better after you see that clean and open space, sometimes you’ll feel it look bigger than you thought, and that’s so good, more space for plants! right?.

Notice they have stairs that divide the “planting” area, we are going to use that “highness” to simulate different shrub dimensions.

How it will look 🙂
Plant selection

They need low-maintenance plants for a wet zone (northern France) so this is the list of plants for this specific area

Plant selection and distribution
  • Edgeworthia chrysantha or paperbush: an ornamental tree is very resistant and can easily grow on container too, the Paperbush is a good option for this kind of climates. It likes partial-shades and with the right draining soil, it will grow and give you all the satisfaction you need in cold winters. It will thrive during winter with early blooms, in summer, it has a leafy and globe shape with big oval leaves.
Chinese paperbush
  • Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’: is a perennial bush, with succulent stems and leaves and pink blooms from August to November. It attracts butterflies. They like full sun or partial shades, it’s a low-maintenance plant and it thrives between ornamental grasses.
Sedum spectabile & Stachys
  • Alchemilla mollis or lady’s mantle: is an herbaceous perennial, it loves partial-shades and blooms from July to August with small, bright yellow flowers in large sprays just above the foliage.
Alchemilla mollis in Vancouver
  • Euonymus ‘Silver Queen’: evergreen shrub with dark green leaves and white edges. It grows well in full-sun or partial-shades. It will make your garden stand out in winter.
Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’
  • Juniperus communis ‘Depressa Aurea’: it’s a dwarf conifer, evergreen with nice bronze foliage colors during autumn. It grows well in any type of soil and loves temperate climates.

  • Carex brunnea: ornamental grass with clear cream/yellow leaves. It likes partial-shades and it’ll bloom in summer and it’s perfect to plant with other flowering plants to create a green “separation” in between.

  • Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’: another perennial shrub, with heart-shaped silver leaves and blue little blooms in spring. It loves partial shades and it goes well around ornamental grasses like carex.
Brunnera foliage & blooms
Alchemilla mollis & Brunnera
  • Tiarella cordifolia: this is a small perennial evergreen, it can become a groundcover if you leave it the space to grow. Interesting autumn foliage and blooms from April to June.
Tiarella cordifolia & Carex pensylvanica
  • Bulbs: I recommended a mix of irises, tulips and garlic bulbs, to plant next to the stairs and between small shrubs. 
    Yellow tulips between blue and pink blooms, they will stand up around all the green colors in the garden

    This garden was designed to have blooms through all seasons. You can always plant them in containers and give them try. You’ll see that the “right” perennial plants are the solution to all your problems and will bring you joy with really low maintenance.
    The idea of having a garden is to have fun too, try it and let me know all about it!

 

ISABELLA GARDNER MUSEUM – PART 2

COURTYARD’S SEASONAL DISPLAYS

 

This is the second part of a Post I published last week Isabella and her love for Art and Gardens, on it, I talk about the amazing life of the Gardner family, its trips, and their lifestyle that lead them to build the Isabella Gardner Museum.

Isabella Stewart Gardner was passionate about art and culture, she became interested in the gardens she saw while traveling all around the world and wanted to leave her legacy through art; this Museum is the accomplishment of those interests, with, of course, her personal and intimate touch.

Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice, 1894, by Anders Zorn (Oil on canvas, 91 x 66 cm)

Her museum is a mix of styles, gothic, renaissance, roman and byzantine, famous because of its great art pieces, nevertheless, the garden courtyard is also an essential part of the building, with floral exhibitions of new and full-grown plants that change constantly during the year, according to seasons and blooms.

Every month the courtyard has a floral theme and color, therefore it has become as essential and iconic as every part of the museum.

The Courtyard


Before we start talking about plants, here are some curiosities about the courtyard and it’s care:

  • Every seasonal display in the courtyard contains 300 to 500 plants.
  • Each plant is placed in the courtyard for around 7 days, after that, they have to replace it with another identical one; there’s a lack of sunlight in the courtyard, caused by the tall walls so close to each other and the plants can suffer having low light.
  • The most traditional display is the long Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) hanging from the third-floor balconies as Gardener used to in the early 1900’s.


That being said, here’s the list of displays during the year

 

Winter tropics (January – February)

Tropical and subtropical plants fill the courtyard: lots of Orchids, norfolk island pine (Araucaria heterophylla), tree ferns (Cyatheales), fishtail palms (Caryota), areca palms and ferns.

This display is inspired by old images of plants placed by Isabella.

(You can also grow this plants at home, in a room with indirect light and high humidity).



Orchids (February – March)

Exotic orchids native to Southeast Asia and Africa, like slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum) with maroon and green flowers, Leopard orchids (Ansellia) with yellow flowers and brown spots, nun’s cap orchids (Phaius tankervilleae) and other groups, all of these, surrounded with calla lilies.


Hanging Nasturtiums (April)
The most traditional display in the museum.

As Isabella did in the late 1800’s, hanging nasturtiums keep making a dramatic appearance above the courtyard. Cascades of flowering nasturtium vines grown in the Museum’s greenhouses, they require continuous care to ensure the dramatic length.

Hanging nasturtiums above the Gardner Museum courtyard

 

Spring blooms (April – May)

Time to talk about color! After the Nasturtiums (also colorful), they place azaleas, blue cineraria, ivory and cream daffodils, and pines. Another Gardner Museum’s signature is the Clivia miniata. Flowering maples used to flank the steps and the statues.

This is the most famous and labor intensive of the courtyard displays.


Hydrangeas (April – June)

The most notorious and common are the Hydrangea macrophylla, Hydrangea quercifolia, and Hydrangea paniculata among other specimens grant life and color to the courtyard. Violets, deep blues, and whites of the hydrangeas complement the delicate yellow oncidium orchids.


Summer blues (June – July)

Late-flowering hydrangeas are a great source of color and create a nice environment in summer. Mophead Hydrangeas and H. paniculata ‘Grandifolia’ fill in the courtyard and stand out among the statues, then, they introduce Agapanthus blue blooms.

Agapanthus at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Bellflowers (August – September)

As the courtyard has small dimensions and tall walls, it remains fresh during warmer months, ferns and fountains’ water help maintain it that way. At this time of year, chimney bellflower (Campanula pyramidalis) appears in the courtyard. The Museum’s horticulturists grow this plant as a biennial, from seeds; it takes two years to get Campanulas to maturity (1,80m tall) and thrive in the courtyard.

Campanula piramidalis at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Chrysanthemums (September – November)

Late September is chrysanthemums’ time, different colors and species. It’s known that Isabella grew many chrysanthemums varieties, as a matter of fact, a pink-tinged chrysanthemum was named for her.

Chrysanthemum at the Gardner’s Museum
Chrysanthemum at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Holiday Garden (December – January)

Holiday traditions at the Gardner Museum showcase flowering jade trees (Crassula argentea) raised in the Museum’s greenhouse for many years, the oldest ones are 60 years old, with trunks around 10 to 15 cm in diameter and 90 cm tall.

Crassula, holiday courtyard

Other plants thrive around the Museum like jade trees, like silver dusty miller, green aloe, and amaryllis red winter blooms.

 

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – Part 1

ISABELLA AND HER LOVE FOR ART AND GARDENS


Last year, we decided to take a trip to the USA, 
my first trip to the USA.
It was fun, cold, hot, windy, special, interesting, fulfilling and everything I never thought it would be.

We met a lot of crazy –yet lovely– people and learned a lot from them and from their culture and surroundings.

Talking to a group of friends, we started a conversation about landscaping and how gardens have become a passion and a way to relax for a lot of people, including me.  One of them listened closely, not everybody is interested in talking about plants with a stranger, but he was and he mentioned this Museum, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; he said it was his favorite and that I should go and take a look.

At first, I was unsure, I don’t know much about art (nothing, to be fair), and I didn’t quite related plants with painting, but I listen carefully and he repeatedly mentioned plants, Italian architecture and other things that sounded good, so I was then interested.

By the end of the conversation, I was like: “ok, it is time for you (me) to learn about art and even if you (me) don’t understand a thing, just GO!!!”… So I listened to myself, and I did.

When I entered to the Museum everything I was expecting wasn’t there, everything I imagined had nothing to do with this building, do not get me wrong, it was beautiful, like a piece of Italian Renaissance in the middle of Boston.

Some lines about Isabella

Isabella Stewart Gardner by John Singer Sargent (1888)

I’m not going to tell you the whole story about her, let’s say Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924), came from a wealthy family, married John “Jack” Lowell Gardner Jr. another wealthy man. She was intelligent, elegant and eccentric.

They had a rough life with a series of losses, including their child. Isabella became extremely depressed and her doctor advised her to travel. Their elegant adventures began around 1867 when they travel to Northern Europe, Russia, Egypt, the Middle East, and Asia.

Isabella kept elaborate journals of her visits; their love for art, books, and culture grew with every travel and people they met.

The building

My personal impression of the museum: A small Villa with a courtyard, flowers, water, and art; it had a presence, an elegant and peaceful presence. I instantly felt comfortable, like I was visiting somebody’s home, Isabella’s home.

The building has her style, her taste, her soul.

In 1884 Isabella and Jack Gardner first visit the Palazzo Barbaro, a Venetian palace which became Isabella’s source of inspiration for her museum’s design.

Exhibition room
Ground hall with garden courtyard views

The museum is a mix of gothic, romantic, Venetian style; it also has that something, or, everything that Isabella wanted it to be.
A combination of styles, materials, spaces, colors, architectural elements and this is what makes the place unique. On their trips to Italy, they purchased columns, windows, and doorways to adorn every floor of the building, as well as reliefs, balustrades, capitals, and statuary from the Roman, Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance periods.

Exhibition room with one of Isabella’s paintings by John Singer Sargent (on the right corner)

The museum has had different interventions through the years. For the last changes at the Museum, Architect Renzo Piano was hired to design the New Wing, he emphasized the external gardens’ views through glass walls around the new area. He made the new building a piece of art that coexists with the historic building and share with it the same architectural importance.

“Gardens, both interior, and exterior are an integral part of the Gardner Museum experience today. When Isabella built the Museum, she created an experience that was as much about flowers and plants, artfully arranged, as it was about masterpieces of art. The culmination of that vision is the courtyard but botanical images can be found throughout the Museum.”

The Courtyard

In this museum, every space was carefully designed and the courtyard was no exception. Isabella was present in every step of the design and construction, she managed to mix different architectural elements and periods and created a beautiful harmonious space, worthy of a true collection, she transformed an exhibition place into a natural, delightful area which made me feel (again) that I was in her home.

First-floor courtyard view


The country yard was designed by integrating Roman, Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance elements like stonework arches, columns, and walls.

Isabella’s passion for gardens inspired this area, the place where nine seasonal garden displays change throughout the year. Most of the plants for the courtyard are grown in the Museum’s temperature-controlled Hingham greenhouses and trucked to the Palace location where they are rotated in to keep the displays in peak condition.

Cool things about the garden displays

  • Every seasonal display in the courtyard contains 300 to 500 plants.
  • The average time for a plant in the courtyard is around 7 days, after that, they replace it with another identical plant, so they don’t suffer the lack of sunlight in the courtyard. It is a small courtyard with tall walls so direct sunlight is very poor.
  • The most traditional display is the long Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) hanging from the third-floor balconies as Gardener used to in the early 1900’s.

For those who know it and for those who don’t, this is a small but very rich space and there’s a lot to say about it, in terms of design, art, architecture, lifestyle, details and of course PLANTS!. I decided to separate this post into two parts, so I don’t leave behind the things that matter to me the most and that I want to share with you: Architecture and Garden Design.

Hope you enjoy this post and stay tuned for the next post, I’ll be talking about all the plant displays during the year in the museum’s courtyard.

The link to the Isabella Gardner’s page https://www.gardnermuseum.org/

Best Evergreen shrubs and why you need one!

This post idea came to me a few days ago, when designing a garden for a friend. As a designer, you always have (should) to explain your ideas and why you selected some materials, styles and in this case, plants.

Every time I place some “evergreens” I explain the same thing (with a lot of love) over and over, to different people, but, it seems they all have in common few things:

  • Color in winter
  • Low maintenance plants
  • Some of them also want less dirt in their gardens, especially those who live in rainy places (you know, because of the leaves on the ground transforming into a slippery battlefield after a rainy day).
Cypress’ formal garden

I will continue explaining to my clients why these plants are a great solution for those requirements but, I realized that maybe, some of you want to know more about this topic and so I’m here writing it 🙂

As its name says it, an evergreen is a plant that maintains its leaves through the year, so it’s always green. The opposite of these trees or shrubs are called “deciduous” and they change leaves or lose their foliage during cold or dry seasons.

Don’t get me wrong, evergreen DO lose foliage but gradually during the year, so they never get completely bald. The leaves age and they are replaced by new ones but their persistence varies depending on the tree, it can be few months or even decades.


Why do you need an evergreen plant?

Very simple, you need an evergreen plant in your garden or terrace because:

  • Less work during the seasons, which means, less maintenance and less leaves-sweeping.
  • It’s going to stay “alive” and green during winter when everything looks dead and dry around.
  • Most of them don’t need to be pruned, so, less maintenance (again).
  • It’s going to make your winter mornings better
  • They are perfect for indoor spaces.
  • You just need it, trust me.

Yes! The answer to all your prayers is in Evergreens!

Aromatics are a great solution for any angle


Picture this:

It’s spring, you’re in the supermarket trying to find the grocery shop list when all of the sudden, there it is! a beautiful bright pink cyclamen (or swinebread) that’s calling you!. You (obviously) buy it and after a few months, turns out that in summer they’re not quite what you expected, they are gone forever (not forever but you get the idea), now you are stuck with a nice vase with only the memories of your cyclamen, now you have to buy another vase to plant another summer plant which is going to have the same ending in winter.

Lots of ideas for container evergreen plants


Maybe you count the days to see your beautiful cyclamen bloom again and that’s perfect!. But maybe, you just want a plant to give you joy all year around and that’s why evergreens are your to-go plant.

The most common evergreens that you’ve probably have seen in your neighbors garden:

  • Conifers: not all of them but pines, hemlock, red cedar, blue spruces, etc.
  • Gymnosperms: like cycads or some palm-type plants
  • Live oaks, rainforest trees, eucalyptus, clubmosses, etc.
  • Lavender, rosemary, sage, boxwoods, holly, daphne, fatsia, camellia, euonymus, etc.

Ok, let’s not turn this into a botany class, the thing is that evergreens not only can brighten up your garden but also your living room. They are great decorative elements for your garden, whether is a tall ancient tree or a new shrub, they will give a different touch to your space

 

My favorites for seasons colors:

Abelia: full sun evergreen, it also tolerates half-sun, a variety of soils and temperatures, although it’s better to protect it from cold winter drafts and severe winters.

 

Viburnum: depending on the species they could be evergreen or deciduous, trees or shrubs that will bring long-year color to your garden and even terrace, because of their leaves changing colors on every season. They grow well in different soils at full sun or half-sun expositions.

Viburnum tinus “Variegatum”

 

Skimmia: these are acid-soil loving evergreens, they stay green in winter and develop small red-pink buds that will open in spring and transform into tiny white flowers. They love moist and, well-drained soil. They grow well in shady areas.

Skimmia japonica

 

Pieris: its mature leaves are generally dark green, but the young leaves are the ones granting that nice clear and pinkish color. They like acidic, moist and well-drained soil, and they look perfect in groups and prefer full sun or half sun expositions.


To learn more about evergreens and how to use them to upgrade your garden, check out some examples using low-maintenance shrubs and ornamental small trees from my blog 🙂

My first video & more info about Grass-like plants!

Grasses are one of my favorite shrubs to decorate a garden, there’s a vast list of varieties for every taste; small, big, golden, silver, rounded, tall, adapted to damp or dry soil, shady or sunny areas, and the list goes on.

Ornamental grasses can be the focus element on most gardens, I find them so elegant and graceful, especially the tall ones, because of its “fountain” shapes and subtle movements when the wind blows.
They can also be the perfect complement flowering plants to highlight its color and structure, some of them will grow perfectly in containers, so they’re pretty much perfect for any situation.

Ornamental grasses mostly like sunny and bright positioning, but, they tolerate well a wide range of conditions. They need moist but well-drained soil and, the most important thing about them is that they are super low-maintenance plants, you just need to “feed” them with fertilizer in spring and that should be enough for them to do the rest.

After giving you a quick summary of Ornamental Grasses, I wanted to talk to you about the Elegia tectorum, a gorgeous grass-like plant which was the inspiration for my first video in Cape Town.


Elegia tectorum

Common names:

Cape thatching reed, deckreed, dakriet (Afrikaans), restios.

 

Yep, this is <clearly> my first video, I explained a bit of this gorgeous plant in the middle of a windstorm, apparently XD (kidding, that’s normal weather in Cape Town o.O).

So here’s the rest of the information for this ornamental shrub that I hope you like as much as I do.

Restionaceae

 

Elegia tectorum or restios are a superficially grass-like shrub endemic from the Western Cape Floral Kingdom or Fynbos, which is the smallest and richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms per unit of area. They grow together with proteas, pincushion, and ericas among others.

Restionaceaes grow in greater variety in fynbos, they have symmetrical shapes and tufted red-like appearance.

They have thin dark green stems and brown flowers, male and female flowers grow on separate plants branched inflorescences; female blooms are protected by golden brown bracts.

They grow in sand dry soils in full sun exposition and plenty of air movement.

Protected area in Kommetjie, Cape Town – South Africa

Maybe you can find this shrub at home, maybe you don’t, there are other plants which can give the same effect and I’m sure you’ll know about them here.

You can find an example of a garden with grasses on my Low-Maintenance Garden post, there I show you how to use them also in small spaces.

Hope you enjoy it!

How to design your own Low-Maintenance Garden

Here we are again, with a new project and I’m very excited about it.I’m always excited about new projects, especially using low-maintenance plants to help my clients and you having a garden with no effort!

The place: a nice garden situated in Lake Como, in a small house part of an antique Villa, surrounded by nature but in desperate need of revitalizing.

My clients: a lovely newlyweds’ couple, transferred to an antique house a few months ago, they now have a nice and comfortable garden which needs some care.
They want to start this project step by step and that’s a nice decision when you are not sure what to do and how it will look in the end, so it is OK to separate the areas and visualize what you’d like before running to the nursery.

So, we decided to start with a small rectangular area, perfect for a flowerbed, situated right after the entrance door. This is the first thing they see every day, going in and out their new home so it was first on the list to fix.

 

It looks small but it has space for different dimensions shrubs and we are going to take the best of it

 

Former owners plant cherry laurel just to have some privacy from cars and some pedestrians but there’s still space for other plants there. So a nice way to start is taking a look at this old plants and make sure of two things:

  • First, we have to consider if we want to keep them, this can reduce costs, time and work.
  • Second, check for unhealthy plants, this way you’ll know if it’s worth to keep them, replace some of them or simply remove them.

 

The Project

For starters, I wanted to provide color and different textures, if you follow me on Instagram, you probably know those are the most important things when designing a garden, in order to have a relaxed and “spontaneous” garden… and if you don’t follow me, then follow me, I’m here to help 😉

In order to make this area pop, we need (as I said already) color and texture, and we’ll get it from some special shrubs. You’ll probably know them already, but, the first one is going to make you remember grandma’s home: it is the Butterfly stonecrop. Before you think about grandma’s garden again (in a negative way), let me show you how it will mix perfectly in contrast with other structured plants. A touch of color will be given by mixed bulbs and tall vervains. Texture contrasts will be given using small shrubs to fill some angles and renew this old area.

Flowerbed’s floor plan
How it’ll look



Butterfly stonecrop (Hylotelephium spectabile ‘Brilliant’): formerly known as Sedum spectabile, is a perennial with compact shapes, cultivated in full-sun, part-sun, and well-drained soils. They look gorgeous in rock gardens and they give all their best in autumn. Couple with perennial grasses they’ll look amazing. They have light green foliage, pink blooms between September and October and they’re low maintenance. Drought and heat tolerant, they grow 45cm tall and 60cm wide.
Also excellent to grow in pots on a sunny terrace.

Sedum and Stachys ‘Primrose Heron’ flowerbed

 

Fountain grass (Pennisetum orientale): it is a low-maintenance/easy to grow grass. They are super resistant and tolerate any soil, so they’ll grow nicely in well-drained soil. They like full-sun or part-sun exposition and blooms from June to October. Green-grey leaves and light pink blooms that change colors in autumn. They grow 50 – 60cm tall.

Ornamental grasses

 

Purpletop vervain or tall vervain (Verbena bonariensis): this amazing plant will give a nice touch of color, highness and “air” with its long and thin stems. This is an ornamental perennial plant that grows well in well-drained soil in full-sun and part-sun areas, it has dark green stems that “die” in winter and re-grow again in early summer. It has small purple flowers that bloom from summer to autumn, sometimes they last until late October. It goes from 1-1.5 m tall and 30-90 cm wide.

Verbena bonariensis
Tall vervain and grass mix

 

Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina): small and compact shrub, ornamental with soft silver leaves. Perennial, but it also dries in winter and re-grows in spring. It makes stand up pink, blue and purple blooms,. It likes a well-drained soil although it also grows well in rock gardens in full-sun expositions. Depending on the species it goes from 30 to 50 cm tall.

Stachys byzantina’s silver leaves

 

Bulbs: you can mix and match whatever bulbs you want, always!. Things to consider: highness and colors. In this case, some purple blooms would go perfectly so I choose Allium schoenoprasum, but you commonly call them chives. This is a perennial plant that grows from 30 to 50cm, flowers are pale purple and has dark green grass-like leaves. It would grow nice in full sun and you can plant separate bulbs or in groups depending on the final look you want for your garden. I propose at least 3 bulbs together, they will multiply next year so it all depends on you, I like the informal look.

 

Lamb’s ear and chives working together!

 

The idea of a nice garden is to make it as natural as possible as if those plants grow spontaneously. Don’t be afraid to mix and match, it’s nice to have different shapes contrasts in your garden, so, if you have any questions, you know where to find me!!!

Grass border and chives

 

Boost your productivity with these low-maintenance houseplants!

Hello there!

Here I am again with some more tips and ideas to help you transform your own space into a fresh and relaxed one with the use of plants.

This time I’m showing you a project for a Home Studio (or home-office, I just don’t like the word “office” anymore, be patient with me 🙂 ), my clients work at home and they weren’t feeling it, they were bored of the space, there was no life and it was affecting their mood and their way to engage with the space.
Sometimes we don’t realize that small changes can brighten up our day, that’s why I keep repenting we all need “fresh” spaces, where we can breathe and concentrate better, in this case: working better.

 

THE PROJECT 


They have a small studio, about 12 sq.m, it may seem small but they do have a lot of indirect light and I wanted to take advantage of that with the use of succulents, because, let’s face it, if you’re working, the last thing you want to think about is plant’s caring, and they will make the difference.

The project includes low-maintenance plants, each of them with a lot of character because sometimes, transformations require being bold, and these plants have everything we want.

I love sketching, so here’s a view from my client’s studio with some nature behind

 

PLANT SELECTION

 

Studio floorplan

 

  • Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
    Is an ornamental, evergreen, perennial plant. Evergreen means that even in colder seasons they’re going to maintain all their green leaves. Leaves grow vertically about 70 to 90 cm, dark green color with yellow edges when mature. It is perfect as a houseplant because it can tolerate low light and irregular watering.
    It will highlight every angle, and in this case, we’d placed it in a narrow niche to give the illusion of a taller space.
Sansevieria

 

  • Inchplant (Tradescantia zebrina)
    I chose this plant because of its colors, so beautiful and intense. When decorating, we also have to think about shapes and this one has it all.
    It grows well in indirect light and dry to wet soil, obviously, it has to be a balance, but you’re going to be fine with them.
    The falling shape makes it easy to find a high spot on a library, a shelf or in this case, the top of glass doors.
Tradescantia zebrina

 

  • Pincushion Cactus (Mammillaria)
    Is a cactaceae family member, small dimension plant, they need direct light, but, indoors, it’s better to place them in a bright place but avoiding direct sun through glass windows, it can be too intense for them. They like breezy areas so it is ok to open the windows and let them have some air in summer.
    If you find the right place for them, they’ll bloom in summer, forming a little “crown” around your cactus, it’s really pretty and perfect for a bookshelf or in a high space so you won’t pinch yourself constantly 🙂 it also works perfectly by itself or in groups. Give it a try! it’ll make you love cactus.
Mammilaria

 

  • Zebra Cactus (Haworthia fasciata)
    Small but equally ornamental as any other big plant, it’s a succulent with chubby leaves and white reliefs on the bottom that cross the leave all over them with (like a zebra). It can grow from 5 to 10 cm and needs a nice amount of light during the day, but, as I said before, it is better if you can avoid direct sun especially in summer.
    It’ll look amazing in a small container with other plants, but this time, we’ll keep it alone. If you have clear walls (for example) it will stand out without efforts!.

    Haworthia fasciata

     

    There you go, now you have character and colors in a small room, with no effort, no added furniture, and practically no deep plant care. Plants make our life better and sometimes you just need small steps including small but full or style plants.

    Hope you enjoy this post and if you have questions, I’m here baby 🙂