Spring is quickly approaching, and–if you’re like us–you’re happily anticipating being outside enjoying your garden, deck, or patio in the warmer weather. On February 20-22, the Statehouse Convention Center, in Little Rock, will play host to a gardener’s dream weekend that is sure to inspire you. Featuring speaker presentations, display gardens, how-to demonstrations, silent auctions, floral competitions, shopping, and more, the event is a perfect way to prepare for spring. Don’t miss family day on Sunday, which includes special activities and workshops for children. Tickets, $10; 3-day pass, $15; Children 12 and under, free. To learn more, call (501) 821-4000, or visit the show website at argardenshow.com
Hello again; I hope you are having a fantastic February! Although February can be a pretty slow month when it comes to your garden and outdoor living spaces, it is a great time to organize your thoughts, make plans and get inspired for the upcoming spring. To that end, I thought I would share some more photographs from my visit this past summer to Charleston, South Carolina. While there, I took a day trip out to Middleton Place, one of the many historic properties in the area. Middleton place was first settled in the late 17th century and encompasses our nation’s oldest landscaped gardens. The estate has remained under the control of the same family for some 320 years and is well worth a visit! The formerly grand main house was burned during the Civil War. This is the principle structure still standing today…one of two accessory dwellings that flanked the main residence. It is filled with historic artifacts and antiques, and as you can see, is surrounded by wonderful, old trees and plantings. This pile of rubble is all that remains of the old main house. A reminder of a dark chapter in America’s history, it is a bit eerie, but also a moving link to our historical past. Another link to the past is this massive tree base. As someone who loves driftwood and the like, I was captivated by its sculptural qualities, and it is fun to imagine it in its former glory, shading the house with its massive branches. As you approach the house, you pass through this charming garden gate. I love gates and try to incorporate them into designs as much as possible. They are an easy and attractive way to create a sense of arrival and coziness in a garden space. This gate, painted in traditional Charleston green, is visually light and airy and gives the path beyond an intriguing, mysterious appeal. Nearby, this bench is nestled against a centuries-old brick wall. Garden benches are another of my favorite design elements, as they can transform just about any spot into a relaxing destination. The low wall is also a noteworthy design tool. Here, it divides a large lawn from a shady pleasure path, giving both areas a sense of definition and purpose. I just love garden ornaments, so I couldn’t resist the remains of this old urn. It presides over the grand lawn that sweeps past twin lakes, known as the Butterfly Lakes because their design was modeled after the wings of a butterfly. Ornaments, such as urns, sculpture and statuary, offer appealing contrast value to natural plantings and are essential additions to any garden or outdoor space. The Butterfly Lakes also frame a stunning view of the Ashley River, which actually served as the primary mode of transportation to Middleton Place back in the day. So, what you see here was basically the outdoor reception hall! Not bad, huh? The precise alignment of this vista with the bend in the river was a deliberate design decision and exemplifies the expert skill and care that was employed in laying out the property. Having a well-designed plan always pays off! Another garden ornament, this sundial joins a glorious Live Oak in stealing the show in one of the formal garden rooms featuring geometrically arranged paths and clipped boxwood hedging. While you may not be able to recreate the shelter of this unbelievable oak tree, this is also another good example of how a simple garden bench can turn a forgotten corner into a place to stop and smell the roses. The lawn in this garden room may be a little worse for the wear, but the combination of a strong, deliberate design, structured evergreen plantings and central ornamentation makes for a great example of what I call a winter-worthy garden. A well-designed garden should be appealing throughout all four seasons, and winter is the perfect time for assessing the worthiness of a particular space. Even covered in snow, the value of the pathways, hedging and birdbath in this garden could still be appreciated. This is a view across the Rice Mill Pond with the mill, itself, in the distance. The pond is and was a source of irrigation for the gardens of Middleton Place and is a beautiful setting for a garden stroll. A pump house near the Rice Mill Pond is nestled among towering oaks dripping in mood-setting Spanish moss. This marble statue serves as a focal point at the termination of this garden path. Framed by hedges, it is another good example of the value of properly placed garden ornaments. Well there you have it…my version of a garden tour at Middleton Place. I strongly encourage you to experience the real deal, if you are able. Or, at least check out their website to learn more about this enchanting piece of southern history and to garner more inspiration for your own springtime gardening projects!
Exterior designer Daniel Keeley is an Arkansas native and founder/principal of DK Design. His work has won numerous awards and accolades and is featured regularly in various publications. For more information visit dkdesignoutdoor.com.
Well, summer has definitely arrived! Last month I complained about all the rain, and I suppose I should have kept quiet, because it is plenty hot and dry now. Still, it has been a wonderful month full of rewarding projects and fun events.
One of the most exciting happenings was the realization of the At Home in Arkansas Curb Appeal Makeover. My crew and I spent a weekend with the contest winners, along with members of the At Home family, and we had a blast! Be sure to check out the full makeover feature in the August issue of At Home. Until then, here are a few sneak peek photos:
We used large boxwoods (my favorite shrub) to dress up the home’s entry.
Hydrangeas and azaleas helped fill in a forgotten shady corner.
Hostas and other textural plantings were used in various spots for their interesting foliage.
And here is Yours Truly, filling a pair of window boxes with colorful annuals!
Another thrilling experience of the past month occurred June, 20th…the evening of the Garden to Grill dinner party we hosted with Chef Jen Lewis. It was a beautiful gathering with delicious food, tasty drinks, good music and great people!
Around the Live Outside the Box House, the garden continues to fill in rapidly. The hostas I showed you last month burst into bloom finally and are only just now beginning to fade.
In the perennial garden, the purples are dominating right now, with the Hyssop and Chaste Tree taking center stage.
The view through the perennial garden looking toward the front lawn has improved for other reasons, as well. I decided to plant a trio of Emerald Green Arborvitae at the end of this vista to help screen out the neighbors house. Nothing against the neighbors, of course! Although it is a little difficult to see in this photo, I think the result is a good one, as the eye can now focus on all the colorful blooms of the perennial garden without being distracted by the house beyond.
The vegetable garden also continues to thrive and to provide me with fresh produce! The cabbages (despite a few worm holes on the outer leaves) are ready to harvest.
As are some of my tomatoes! I actually am dying to fry up some of the green ones before they all ripen, but these will be great on a grilled hamburger or chopped into some fresh salsa.
The dill from the Nourishmat is as tall as I am (6’2″ in case you were wondering)!
And one of the grape vines has already grown to the top of the fence and then some!
I can’t wait to have them all properly trained along the entire fence. At this rate, I am hoping they may really look like something by the end of the season. Either way it is so fun watching them grow….which you can practically do! So, join me next month. Who knows? Maybe they will have taken over the whole place!
Exterior designer Daniel Keeley is an Arkansas native and founder/principal of DK Design. His work has won numerous awards and accolades and is featured regularly in various publications. For more information visit dkdesignoutdoor.com.
Rain, rain, go AWAY! I hate to be such a sore sport, but my goodness I wish the rain would let up just a bit! Haha. Well, my sour attitude aside, the ample rain certainly has made for a lush month here around the house, and it has kept temperatures relatively cool…for which I am very grateful.
The past month has been a busy time of planting (between rain showers) cleaning and preparing for more events. In the front entry garden, we removed the white tulips that were so triumphant this spring and replaced them with white begonias. This classic bedding plant is perfect for the front of the house which receives a mixture of sun and shade. This year, they are arguably getting a little more sun than they would like because, unfortunately, we had to remove the large maple that anchored the front left portion of the garden. Although, we were extra careful not to disturb it during all the remodeling construction and new garden installation, the tree just was not happy with its new surroundings, I guess. It was showing signs of severe stress last summer, but I waited until this year just to be sure, hoping it would recover. But, alas, it died completely, and so it has been removed. I am currently trying to decide what should replace it. The decision is not as simple as I would like, due to the presence of overhead power lines. As much as I would like to replace the maple with another large shade tree, it really is not a responsible choice, since I know the power company will simply hack it to pieces once it gets too large. So, I am considering several smaller, flowering trees instead, including cherry, Japanese snowbell and serviceberry. Other than this one disappointing setback, the garden is thriving! Just next to the empty spot created by the removal of the maple, the hostas are just about to burst into bloom.
Around the corner, the perennial garden has at least doubled in mass since last month.
The allium have come and gone, and other varieties, such as iceberg roses, Shasta daisies and artemisia have stolen the show.
In the fountain garden, the new iris are blooming, despite having just been planted. They still have a lot of filling in to do, but I am thrilled to see them flowering so soon.
There have also been other guests pop up in the fountain garden…baby birds! The garden has been teeming with nesting birds for a couple months now, and this Robin’s nest is just visible from the kitchen window. It is nestled among the branches of one of the crab apple trees near the fountain where I can watch the little babies grow.
Perhaps the most impressive growth, however, has been in the kitchen garden. It has absolutely exploded…so much so that I can’t keep up in harvesting everything. Still, it so fun to cut greens for a fresh salad or grab some herbs for grilling meat when I can!
As I mentioned, we have also been preparing for more exciting events around the house. The next one is a collaboration with my friend and cohort, Jen Lewis, who will be grilling some delectable seasonal treats for our guests.
As part of the preparations, I used three large, potted holly trees to close off the entrance to the driveway. They help make the adjacent garden areas more private and, when viewed from certain angles, blend right into the permanent holly hedge separating the garden from the street. I have never been able to resist the urge to convert a driveway or carport into another outdoor living space, and this is an easy and temporary way to do just that. You might consider doing something similar if you need a bit of extra space for your next garden party.
Also in preparing for more outside-the-box events, we have not forgotten about the inside of the house, either. Meet Barry the barracuda. He is the latest addition to the walls of the den and the perfect, unexpected way to greet new guests!
Well there you have it…another month has flown by. Please come back next month (my birthday month and of course that of the country’s, as well!) to see the latest!
Those of us of a certain age will remember using concrete blocks—yes, those concrete blocks, with hollow cores and rough edges—as shelf supports. They were lugged inside and, in conjunction with basic lumberyard boards, contained our stereos, books, and the occasional potted plant. We were happy to leave them behind when we attained a more secure economic status. Well, here’s a new way to think about using them, and they won’t contain any of those volumes the campus bookstore refused to accept for resale.
The idea is quite simple: find a level surface and stack them, so that the occasional block is extended from the pillar. Plant in the hollow core. You won’t need a master builder, but you will need to ensure the blocks are on a completely flat surface. Use a leveler to make sure. Depending on the amount of blocks you have, begin arranging them so that every second, third, or fourth level of your stack will feature an extended brick. You want strength out of the column, so stacks should probably be at least two blocks wide, if not more.
You might want to draw out a diagram, or ‘practice’ stacking the blocks. You’ll need an ample amount blocks, no matter if you build a column, retaining wall, support for a pergola, or something else. This part is the most time consuming, but you want to build with care, so your handiwork doesn’t topple over just as you walk away. Use both the logical and creative sides of your brain—right side and left—for building calculations and the look of your design.
Step back frequently as you stack to make sure your design is on each side of your stack. You want extended blocks on each side, and from each column. This step is important if you are creating a freestanding column because you want people to see your plantings on each side of the stack. Don’t be afraid to start over again! Design is about creating!
If you are looking for a permanent structure, then you can mortar the blocks. If not, think of this project as a great temporary addition to your patio or barbecue area where your guests will gather. Create a tower, have several blocks extending from it, then prepare to plant in the hollow cores. The best way to plant in them is to cut some wire mesh to create a pocket to hold the soil. Mold the mesh into the hollow core, with a small amount left as a securing ‘lip’ on the edge, so the mesh won’t fall through with the weight of soil and plant. Add a bit of potting mix, then your plants. Pack sphagnum moss around the plant to create a more finished look and also hide the mesh left around the edge.
Have fun with your plant selection because they probably won’t stay in their pockets long. If healthy, they’ll outgrow their space soon. Erecting these columns or walls in shady areas is a good idea because your plant selection can be more interesting and varied, and watering won’t have to be as frequent. Ferns, succulents, bromeliads, and specimens with variegated foliage should be used for best show against the concrete, so shade becomes even more important. Remember, cram it and shove it!! Don’t be afraid to use lots of varieties and LOTS of color!
Once you’ve created your tower, and planted in the little ‘balconies’ you’ve incorporated in your design, step back and admire what you’ve done. Using and stacking concrete blocks as a design for plantings beats a simple bookshelf any day.
Remember, Live Life to the Fullest!
Chris Olsen is a nationally known home and garden guru, designer, author, TV personality and public speaker. In his book, Chris shares his landscape and gardening knowledge along with his unique flair for home decor and design.He is also a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. Learn more about Chris and all of his work at chrisholsen.com.
Diane Carroll says, “I spent two days this week photographing a gorgeous, color-filled house with Tobi Fairley (which will debut soon in our August issue), and it’s fun to see one of her sources of color inspiration. I’m a fan of Mary’s work too andÂ can’t wait to see the results when Tobi and Mary team up on a Virginia showhouse this year, sure to be a Southern classic.” (“Color Inspiration: Mary Douglas Drysdale” from Tobi Fairley Interior Design Blog)
Paulette Pearson says, “As we plan our August family homes issue, this post on children’s rooms really stood out to me. I would have loved a map on my bedroom wall as a child,Â allowing me to dream of all the places I could one day visit.” (“Book Review: Room for Children” from The City Sage)
Laura LaRue found this patio before & after just in time for summer. “With all the outdoor living we are doing this summer, this is just what our patio needs. This is one awesome project. So inspiring!” (“Before & After: Karen’s Amazing DIY Backyard” from Design Sponge)
Lauren Strother is ready to start her herb garden. “With summer here I’m trying to do much more home cooking and this little herb garden idea is such an inspiration!” (“Cute Potted Herbs (and other charming things)” from Keeping Up With the Joneses)
Kathy Condrey thinks this post is porch perfect. “I love the before and after posts! Could definitely relax on this porch. Providence Ltd. did a beautiful job.” (“Let’s Kick Back on the Porch” from Providence Ltd. Interior Design)
I joined the Chenal Garden Club in Little Rock. We meet once a month to hear a featured speaker, and this week’s topic was fascinating. Mark Gibson of Green Thumb Water Garden Center in Little Rock showed us how to build a beautiful floating garden. It’s surprisingly easy and ideal for anyone with a pond or area of water that needs some attention.
1. Start with a can of Rockin Foam.
Make sure it is black so it doesn’t stand out, and use a closed-cell foam or your water garden will sink. Be very careful not to let the foam touch your skin! Spray a round or square pattern about 12 to 14 inches wide and let it set for about 20 minutes. After the foam sets, build sides by spraying extra layers of foam along the edges to hold in your soil and plants. Let set overnight. One can of foam makes approximately two islands.
2. Next is the fun part.
Add your soil and plants! Use a good grade of potting soil, spreading it around to camouflage the funny-looking foam base. Then add a mix of your favorite plants, using a taller one like a pitcher plant as your centerpiece. Finish it off with more soil as needed and a nice layer of moss. Almost anything planted in the ground can also be used in a floating garden. Here are some plants that thrive in water gardens:
-Elephant ear plants
After placing the garden in the water, use a rope tied to a brick to anchor it. Extension cordsÂ work well, because the plug keeps the cord from coming loose after it’s inserted through the foam. Floating gardens look beautiful in koi ponds.
Cooler days, the kids back in school…it’s prime time for cozying up the kitchen with some home cooking. How about trying a few of those fall veggies you’re seeing at the farmers market?
(photo Lisa Barber, via The Independent, UK)
In our Kitchen & Bath issue, we went directly to the top for some inspiring recipes: writer Lila Ashmore asked chef Jay Baxter of the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion for a few of the first family’s favorites. (Did you know there’s a wonderful garden on the mansion grounds, tended to lovingly and expertly by the Pulaski County Master Gardeners? )
First Family Favorites
Recipes from chef Jay Baxter, Arkansas Governorâs Mansion
Beet, Goat Cheese and Pistachio Pinwheels
1 T. olive oil
3 fresh beets (trimmed and scrubbed clean)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 pkg. small flour tortillas
1 cup goat cheese (herbed is preferable)
1 8 oz. pkg. fat free cream cheese (room temp.)
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 T. chopped fresh chives
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup shelled pistachios
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss clean beets in olive oil, place on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt. Place in oven and bake until tender, approx. 30-45 minutes. Pierce with a fork or knife to determine tenderness. When fully cooked, remove from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, in a food processor bowl, combine cheeses, lemon juice, chives, garlic powder and pepper. Blend until smooth and spreadable. Add pistachios and pulse for a few seconds. When beets have cooled, slice as thinly as possible into chips. Microwave flour tortillas in package until hot and pliable, 30 seconds to 1 minute. One at a time, remove tortilla from package and cover with cheese mixture to desired thickness; 1/8 to 1/4 inch is best. Next place beet chips on top of cheese mixture, covering completely, and roll up as tightly as possible. Repeat with remaining ingredients until finished. Place rolls in refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour. Slice into pinwheels of desired thickness. Bite sized or small sushi roll size is best.
Sage and Rosemary Roasted Autumn Vegetables
1 cup butternut squash (peeled and seeded)
1 cup pumpkin (peeled and seeded)
2 beets (scrubbed clean)
1 shallot (peeled)
3 cloves garlic
2-3 carrots (scrubbed clean)
2-3 parsnips (scrubbed clean)
1 cup fresh chopped sage
3-4 rosemary sprigs
2 T. olive oil
1 T. black pepper
1Â½ T. kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice all vegetables into bite size pieces, leaving carrots and parsnips long. Slice lengthwise if needed. Keep vegetables around the same size so they cook in the same amount of time. Toss veggies with olive oil, sage and rosemary. Place in a baking dish and add 1/4 cup water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake for approx. 1 hour, turning about every 20 minutes.
Garden Fresh Spinach and Feta Puffs
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup tightly packed fresh spinach
1 tsp. flour
1/4 cup feta crumbles
10 canned jumbo biscuits
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place all ingredients in a food processor bowl and pulse until well incorporated. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with a biscuit cutter and place biscuits on a lightly greased cookie sheet; spray canola oil works fine. (Cut the dough into squares to have zero waste.) Bake biscuits in a hot oven until light golden, 15-25 minutes. Serve hot.
(photos courtesy of the Pulaski County Master Gardeners and Arkansas Governor’s Mansion)
In case you missed it:
Our weekly roundup of top blog reads: Friday Favorites
Just when you thought you were out of ideas for garden decor, Chris Olsen of Botanica Gardens comes to the rescue with a unique and festive way to jazz things up. Here, a fun and easy how-to for bottle stars. We love this idea for outdoor entertaining.
This is a great project for the outdoors, to dress up any patio, deck, or as a garden accessory.
You will need: assorted wine bottles, 4 rolls of paper towels (to use as braces) and clear silicone household sealer.
1. Apply sealer to bottom of one wine bottle as shown. Repeat with three more bottles.
2. Attach bottles together as shown, making sure sealer is touching all surfaces.
3. Apply sealer to another bottle in center of grouping; allow to dry.
4. For next layer, lay a roll of paper towels as a brace between bottles. Add sealer to bottom of bottle and glue as shown; repeat for three more.
There are many uses for your bottle star. You can tuck it into the branches of your trees or hang upside down from tree limbs as an outdoor chandelier.
Or as I have in this fabulous planted container.
To make this, you will need: One bottle star, 18-inch pots (ours is Terra Cotta), potting soil and assorted annuals.
1. Place star on top of container that is full of soil.
2. Plant annuals between bottles, the more plants the better! Display to show off!
Now you can have your melon and eat it too! Our resident garden expert, Chris Olsen of Botanica Gardens, shows you how to use the summertime favorite in your exterior decor. Just one more reason to throw a party!
When I think of summer, I imagine a tasty cold slice of watermelon. Watermelons are ready for the picking in summer, and they are not just for eating. Why not decorate with them???
Create that perfect centerpiece for your next summertime function. All you have to do is slice your melon into two halves. Then divide that half into two more halves. Take each of the quarter slices and remove about 8 inches of meat from the center. Then slip in place of the missing melon flesh, a pre-moistened piece of floral oasis foam. Now you have the perfect base for a summer arrangement. Just use flowers like colorful zinnias right from the garden, blue thistle, vibrant mums, and even fresh foliage. This arrangement should last for about 4 or 5 days.
Hereâs another idea for you!!! Take an assortment of color watermelons and tuck them around your potted containers and even in the garden as you would pumpkins in the fall time. Create groupings of two or more melons. They will last for only about 2-3 weeks outdoors before turning to mush. Watermelons can become that perfect summertime accessory for your patio, deck, or landscape.