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Show #23/4810. Design Tips To Consider When Planning Your Garden

Owner's Painting Background
SINCE SHE WAS A YOUNG GIRL, SUSAN ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A PAINTER. Her parents were avid gardeners and she grew up working in the garden - weeding, watering, whatever needed to be done. When it can time to go to college, although she still wanted to be a painter, her parents were concerned that making a living would be difficult. So, she combined painting with a fine arts degree so she would have an improved prospect of getting a job after graduating. Her first job was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, because she had always wanted to work there, but after 2 years she realized that although she loved the work she would rather be painting. She went back to painting, raised a family, but as the kids got older she was able to spend more time painting and working on designs. At this point she was painting and drawing and hoping to have a show and get her artwork into the public. It was much harder than she imagined. After about 5 years a friend, who's an interior decorator, said design is all about shape, color and pattern. Why not put that on fabric? It would be fabulous. Although Susan hadn't thought of it before she was surprised at how much she liked it and how effective it was. Her she could put her designs on fabric and get them out more broadly in the world, which was attractive and still is.

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Dahlias
DAHLIA 'BISHOP OF LIANFAFF' IS A FAVORITE. When Diane first talked with Susan about this garden she presented her with a couple different plants, some were reds and oranges, some were pinks. They decided they wanted a variety of everything. They choose Dahlias in every color range, in every form and every size. This bed was designed to hold all of them. They over winter them inside. When deciding which to keep they take into consideration those that formed really well and those with colors that were the most appealing.

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The Front of the House
JOE AND DIANE NEXT VISIT THE FRONT OF THE HOUSE. It is welcoming and inviting. They wanted this area to be particularly whimsical, it was intended to appear as a seaside cottage. The plantings were chosen because of their ability to reflect that. Diane and Susan wanted something in color from spring through fall and they've included evergreens for winter interest. Thus, textures and bloom times were an important consideration. The plants in bloom now are all white, and that was by design. Susan requested white. White is a color one sees particularly well at night, which works well in terms of entertaining.

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Dinner Plate Hibiscus
DIANE HAS PLANTED WHITE HIBISCUS AS A FRONT FOUNDATION PLANTING. It's a whimsical plant called Hibiscus 'Dinner plate.' It's very different from the shrub Hibiscus which they have located on the corners of the house. Susan requested these because she wanted to use them in her paintings and fabric design.

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The Back of the House
THEY NEXT VISIT THE BACK OF THE HOUSE and it has a completely different look and feel. That of course dictates a completely different set of rules when designing the area. The front was whimsical, the windows were up high and had window boxes. When inside one can't easily look outside. But the back side is completely open, the windows go all the way to the ground and provide an incredible view of Long Island Sound. Accordingly the back terrace is really a part of the interior of the house. Because of that and because the inside of the house is very contemporary in feel and furnishings they kept the outside contemporary meaning the plant selection was somewhat limited. Diane kept the plants monochromatic and used only a few types of plants.

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The Lowest Part of the Garden
THEY NEXT MOVE TO THE LOWEST PART OF THE GARDEN. This area is closest to the water and when looking up Joe knows that slope created interesting problems. This was the most difficult part of the property to deal with. At the very bottom they previously had a wall that had vines growing on it and they were doing fine. Above that were remnants of a Taxus baccata (Yew) hedge. They decided to supplement and enhance it, otherwise when coming down the hill one might have toppled down a 3 foot high wall.

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Show #23/4810. Design Tips To Consider When PlanningYour Garden

Complete transcript of the show.

The inspiration for our landscape designs can come from many different sources. Fabric design similarly comes from unique situations. In this show we meet a very talented artist that finds the inspiration for her fabric designs in her landscape. And both are stunning. Her exquisite home in Connecticut, situated on the water, has gardening ideas all can utilize.

SINCE SHE WAS A YOUNG GIRL, SUSAN ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A PAINTER. Her parents were avid gardeners and she grew up working in the garden - weeding, watering, whatever needed to be done. When it can time to go to college, although she still wanted to be a painter, her parents were concerned that making a living would be difficult. So, she combined painting with a fine arts degree so she would have an improved prospect of getting a job after graduating. Her first job was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, because she had always wanted to work there, but after 2 years she realized that although she loved the work she would rather be painting. She went back to painting, raised a family, but as the kids got older she was able to spend more time painting and working on designs. At this point she was painting and drawing and hoping to have a show and get her artwork into the public. It was much harder than she imagined. After about 5 years a friend, who's an interior decorator, said design is all about shape, color and pattern. Why not put that on fabric? It would be fabulous. Although Susan hadn't thought of it before she was surprised at how much she liked it and how effective it was. She could put her designs on fabric and get them out more broadly in the world, which was attractive and still is. Today her company makes home furnishings out of the fabric. One could recover a couch or chair, they make ice buckets, Kleenex holders, frames, pajamas, towels, dog beds and dog leashes with their designs. Joe likes her art work and notices that they are inspired by flora and fauna.

Susan still loves gardening and she has some beautiful gardens which are her inspiration. Outside one sees Long Island Sound and their beautiful home. It had always been her dream to live on the water. The water and gardens are a huge influence in her paintings and colorings. When they bought this house there was a very formal house on the property. They initially figured they could work with it but the foundation was leaning and was so bad they had to scrap it. They were then able to build a home that is more like she and her husband. It is less formal and she hopes, very inviting and warm, as well as great looking. Inside it has a lot of barnwood, antique floors and big open rooms. It's easy for large groups to move around and they love to entertain. They have school groups and charity events often, it's a wonderful house for those type occasions.

Joe is anxious to see the gardens and Susan suggests he go and meet Diane Devore, the landscape architect and talent behind the beautiful gardens. Diane has an undergraduate degree in horticulture and a Master's in Landscape Architecture. Oddly a lot of people that are Landscape Architects don't have degrees in horticulture. It's not always a prerequisite. This property emphasizes the importance of a strong horticultural background because in order to create diversity and different gardens one needs that knowledge.

This property is very interesting, it is located on a little cove off Long Island Sound, which is just off the Atlantic Ocean. The Sound mitigates the climate or weather here. Spring is a little bit longer in coming because the water is so cold but the fall is longer, the frost is delayed, because the water extends the season. In the winter because it's salt water it doesn't freeze allowing Diane to utilize plants here that can't be used in much of the surrounding area. She has a much broader spectrum of plant material she can work with here versus elsewhere in the state. Diane plans her designs based on what blooms when, so understanding the location is essential.
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DAHLIA 'BISHOP OF LIANFAFF' IS A FAVORITE. When Diane first talked with Susan about this garden she presented her with a couple different plants, some were reds and oranges, some were pinks. They decided they wanted a variety of everything. They choose Dahlias in every color range, in every form and every size. This bed was designed to hold all of them. They over winter them inside. When deciding which to keep they take into consideration those that formed really well and those with colors that were the most appealing. They tag those, bring them in and over-winter them. They're still experimenting with Dahlias, they added some this season and will take a look at those and decide which ones to keep.

When they dig up the Dahlias they then plant Tulips so that in the spring there is a splash of color. Here again, they plant all different forms and sizes. After those have finished they pull them out and put in the Dahlias. Dahlias are a great plant that grow in most parts of the country. In Connecticut, they dig the tubers up, in the south the tubers might make it through the winter in the ground. Tubers are sprouts which form from underground roots. There are so many types of Dahlias and Joe believes all are beautiful, therefore they should be included in every garden. The Dahlia bed is bordered with Buxus sempervirens (Boxwood) which adds structure to the garden. There are Boxwood ovals in 4 areas defining the area and providing structure. Even if the Dahlias or Tulips are falling over there is still structure to the garden.
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JOE AND DIANE NEXT VISIT THE FRONT OF THE HOUSE. It is welcoming and inviting. They wanted this area to be particularly whimsical, it was intended to appear as a seaside cottage. The plantings were chosen because of their ability to reflect that. Diane and Susan wanted something in color from spring through fall and they've included evergreens for winter interest. Thus, textures and bloom times were an important consideration. The plants in bloom now are all white, and that was by design. Susan requested white. White is a color one sees particularly well at night, which works well in terms of entertaining. Another thing considered, because this is Connecticut and on the shore, pale pinks and pale blues tend to get washed out. White is a stronger color. To add interest Diane focused on leaf texture and how that texture worked in combination with other plants. The texture of the leaves is increasingly important when sticking with one color, in this case white, because one can no longer use color to carry the eye throughout the garden. And, that is an important principle to apply, no matter what the color of the flower.

The front of the house has a window box on every window. They were important and part of the design from the beginning. The idea was that they add warmth to the house, they also add a seaside quality. They also allow one to add color and soften the pale grey tone. The white flowers play very well against the grey background and add to the welcoming feel. These window boxes are a simple wood box. Normally one would have a liner inside, in this case they have copper liners with drain holes. But one could use plastic liners that are normally found at hardware stores. Irrigation is often a concern. Of course, one could just open the window to water. The other option and the one used here is to use a very clear tubing that can be run up the walls and installed inside each window box. In this case they knew from the beginning that they needed irrigation for the window boxes so they ran the tubing inside the siding and it then leads outside to the box itself. This makes for easy plant maintenance.
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DIANE HAS PLANTED WHITE HIBISCUS AS A FRONT FOUNDATION PLANTING. It's a whimsical plant called Hibiscus 'Dinner plate.' It's very different from the shrub Hibiscus which they have located on the corners of the house. Susan requested these because she wanted to use them in her paintings and fabric design. There are a number of unusual plants dotted throughout this area, there are perennials that typically wouldn't be used in the front of a house. They're scattered throughout and Susan uses them for inspiration. These Hibiscus are perennials so in the fall they die back. At that point they cut them to the ground but they come back the next spring. Presently they are staked because of the wind.

Diane has also planted shrub Roses in the area. Many people are familiar with hybrid Roses but the white shrub roses are a nice addition. They bloom all summer long and they're not high maintenance. They're really a shrub rose, not the standard Hybrid T and they've performed very well. Particularly considering the salt air. Possibly because of the wind movement, they've experienced no black spot. They've been a great performer and a nice contrast to the Hibiscus blooms. And importantly they have very different leaf textures.
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THEY NEXT VISIT THE BACK OF THE HOUSE and it has a completely different look and feel. That of course dictates a completely different set of rules when designing the area. The front was whimsical, the windows were up high and had window boxes. When inside one can't easily look outside. But the back side is completely open, the windows go all the way to the ground and provide an incredible view of Long Island Sound. Accordingly the back terrace is really a part of the interior of the house. Because of that and because the inside of the house is very contemporary in feel and furnishings they kept the outside contemporary meaning the plant selection was somewhat limited. Diane kept the plants monochromatic and used only a few types of plants. In addition to that they have a rather narrow terrace, so they had few areas for sitting. Therefore they put in some steps that lead down to a small viewing area which is on center with the door. This area provides an excellent view.

The first plant they discuss in this area is Lavendula x intermedia. The color lavender in this setting is stunning. The silver gray color seems to evoke the seaside, it's very monochromatic and beautiful. When walking by and brushing the plant or even a slight breeze brings out the fragrance which is fabulous. This plant grows better in some parts of the country than in others. It does well here. But they did need to prep for it. To plant this they put about 6 inches of gravel underneath, then mixed in topsoil and compost resulting in a very light mix. Lavender hates to have wet feet thus the planting method. Last winter was tough and they lost several plants. That's why they now have Alyssum. It's filling the gap as the Lavender starts to fill out again. Diane does think that the Alyssum is adding a nice touch of color and it compliments the Lavender so they might use it again in the future. Diane shows us a taller plant but it is not in front of a window. It's another Hibiscus, but very different from those in the front of the house. The plants in the front were white, this is yellow. It is a tropical plant so it cannot stay out during winter, then it is brought into the greenhouse. Diane thinks it important to notice the proportion between the pot and the plant. The pot should always be 1/3 and the plant 2/3. By keeping this ratio one makes sure the pot is big enough for the plant. However the size of the pot doesn't ensure the plant won't blow over. This area gets a lot of wind and they lost several plants at the beginning. They then decided to wire the Hibiscus to the house when put outside in the spring and they've now been successfully growing here for 2 years.
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THEY NEXT MOVE TO THE LOWEST PART OF THE GARDEN. This area is closest to the water and when looking up Joe knows that slope created interesting problems. This was the most difficult part of the property to deal with. At the very bottom they previously had a wall that had vines growing on it and they were doing fine. Above that were remnants of a Taxus baccata (Yew) hedge. They decided to supplement and enhance it, otherwise when coming down the hill one might have toppled down a 3 foot high wall. As well, a lot of towns will allow a 2 foot wide planting in front of a wall, that will act as a guard rail, and this will often pass town and state codes. In this case they were far away from the house and the Yew hedge worked perfectly. But, above that was an extremely steep slope, over 50% slope. Plus there is salt water and salt air as well as wind to deal with and all are difficult. At first, they tried a meadow planting but there was too much erosion, heavy rains kept washing away the seed. Thus they opted for Rosa rigosa and it has done incredibly well. One often thinks of Rosa rigosa in seaside communities, in Martha's Vineyard it is all along the shore. It is also known as a Seaside Rose, it's light pink, has a wonderful fragrance and big beautiful rosehips in the fall. They added a few Buddleia davidii (Butterfly Bush) to add interest up above. They're trying to look at this area as a meadow area but are first attempting to get a shrub layer to start taking over. It's a transition space right now. But still looks beautiful.

Not only are they trying to find plants that work in this space but additionally they have plants that are trying to move into this space. The plant is Phyragmites and it has become very invasive in the northeast, all along the shore areas. Salt water seems to be the only thing that controls it and then only when it is flooding the area. It was starting to take over the lawn area. They initially used a chemical to knock it back but now that it's under control they put in a few hedges and they've begun seeding and mowing. Through constant mowing they've kept the Phragmites at bay and the most they can hope for at this point is for the Sound to really fill in, the salt water to return to where it was and this will eventually disappear.

Joe feels after looking at this property and Diane's other projects that she does a great job of blending the architecture of the house with her landscape design. Diane was concerned that when she first described these gardens to Joe that he would think it was going to be a hodge podge because there were so many different types of gardens. And when one thinks about it there are many different gardens. For example, there is a Dahlia garden by Susan's studio and that relates to Susan's studio, in the front of the house there is a very whimsical seaside look and that relates to the front of the house and not only does it relate to the house but the rooms inside, but the back of the house is more modernistic and when in those rooms, which are more contemporary looking out what one is viewing works with that environment. One would never put a loose vegetable garden off of a formal dining room. It wouldn't work with that formal setting. Diane thinks one should create gardens that work with each individual room plus the garden should reflect the architecture of the house. Once you start working within that framework it will allow you to develop a number of different gardens based upon your own interests, whether that be vegetables and herbs or flowers. And that is Diane's take-away. Design gardens after understanding the look of the rooms that overlook your gardens as well as considering the architecture of your home. Joe likes those ideas and feels they've been well stated. Diane has been wonderful to work with, very creative, very knowledgeable and communicates her craft very well.

Thank you Diane, this has been a wonderful experience. As an example of how captivating this property has been, after photography was complete our cameraman asked for just a few minutes so he could sit down, take in the surroundings and really appreciate this home and garden. It's been a wonderful experience.
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