Garden Diary - April 2017

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by Michelle Slatalla, with the editors of Gardenista
The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces

Monday, 24 April 2017

Gardens, plants, and landscapes. I'm so fortunate that my vocation and avocation are petty much the same. I can visit gardens and claim that I'm working, and not be accused of playing hooky. My friends understand, because they are much the same. Let's put it this way - my friends have taken me to see a garden after dark, by flashlight, assuring me that "I know you'll want to see this and it might be over by tomorrow." Or a mumbled apology as we look at some splendid landscape, that "You've just missed a lovely moment in the garden. If only you had been here [choose one] last week, next month, another time." Gardens in winter. Gardens just planted. Gardens overgrown. Doesn't matter. There's always something to admire.

My problem begins at home. I find it difficult to appreciate my own garden. There's always some nagging thing that should be done - sticks to pick up, weeds to be pulled, plants to be divided, seeds collected, always something. So when someone admires my garden I tend to have my own apologies. What every garden does offer, though, is another point of view on what makes a garden. Give several gardeners the same assortment of plants and sit back. Every garden will be different. There's always something to take away - and I don't mean the plants. Visit a garden. Admire what they did. Be so bold as to ask, "How did you do that?" Perhaps also enquire, "Where did you find that plant / chair / vase / trowel."

Gardenista has had a glossy online presence since 2012, with a focus on plants, garden tips, garden tools, outdoor living (no surprise, that includes gardening) with side trips into design and color, sometimes straying indoors. And now there's a book.

Excerpted from Gardenista by Michelle Slatalla (Artisan Books).
Copyright © 2016. Photographs by Matthew Williams.

The how did you think of / how do you do that / where did you find is what makes Gardenista, the book, stands out.

Profusely illustrated, the book begins with a baker's dozen of enchanted gardens from Cape Cod to California, and even across the pond to Dorset and an indoor greenhouse in London, England. Multiple pages with minimal text but lots of photographs captioned with rather concise information such as

Excerpted from Gardenista by Michelle Slatalla (Artisan Books).
Copyright © 2016. Photographs by Matthew Williams.

a clever, custom made, 18 inch deep mini potting shed
in Michelle Slatalla's Mill Valley, California garden.

Each garden's section concludes with a pair of pages headed Steal This Look. It might be a foolproof color palette, Miss Havisham's flowers, an architect's details, or other such tidbits. There is often a very specific what it is and purchasing information given: the accidental doormat is a piece of the artificial turf (Dupont's Forever Lawn) that was being laid in a different Mill Valley, California garden or the Relaxed Yankee's encomium for TeleBrands Pocket Hose Ultra, an expand and shrink hose.

Fitting in with our contemporary lifestyle there are pithy sayings and suggestions such as The Gardenista Manifesto, Ten Rules to Live By such as "06: Buy beautiful tools and you will enjoy using them for a lifetime."

A Painterly Landscape in Kinderhook, New York features a comfortable looking terrace of permeable concrete pavers planted with thyme. No mowing, and fragrant underfoot. There's a Courtland apple tree too (nursery of purchase specified, as are the specific color of Benjamin Moore paint on the window frames and the shingles Olympic stain.)

Excerpted from Gardenista by Michelle Slatalla (Artisan Books).
Copyright © 2016. Photographs by Matthew Williams.

The property also features a casual, country style, croquet court.
It may be in New York State but the croquet set is imported, used
for a game the owner refers to as "a blood sport for the British."

Excerpted from Gardenista by Michelle Slatalla (Artisan Books).
Copyright © 2016. Photographs by Matthew Williams.

An Austin, Texas garden shaded by live oaks has substantial concrete pavers that lead from garden room to garden room, one with a fire place, another with inviting classic butterfly chairs.

From garden visits Gardenista moves on to Design Ideas, three sections with suggestions for The Ultimate DIY Workspace (ten easy projects); Finishing Touches (fast fixes for an instant update); and Hardscaping Details (paths and drainage solutions.) Outdoor showers, also a foot shower for returning beach goers. Some do imply an astonishing level of ignorance. What, you are told, you need to paint an existing fence or wall - an optional painter's drop cloth, dark gray paint (brand and color suggested), paint roller and paintbrush, and a metal paint tray.

The Gardenista 100 lists a roundup of favorite everyday objects, each with a description / explanation plus a few words why it works and where to get it. Expert Advice culls landscape and garden design wisdom from landscape professionals. Finishing with a multipage section of Resources We Swear By from antiques and vintage, appliances, and architectural salvage to furniture, paints and stains, and yes - plants and seeds - to tools and finally Featured Architects, Designers, and Landscape Architects.

The focus of this book is on things, objects that create a garden with paving and gates, furniture and decorations. Though there are some plants they're definitely in the minority. The photographs are visually impressive. Lovely to look at, like any garden visit, but perhaps not as easy to imitate as stealing the ideas would imply.

Published by Artisan Books, New York, New York, 2016 ISBN: 978-1-57965-652-2, Hardcover, $40.00

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

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