Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Winter in Maine, 2013

This has been a very snowy Maine Winter. In February we measured 49 inches of snow. A Winter Wonderland indeed! The Pergola in the Orchard Garden added drama and Structure to the Winter Garden Views. The Blue is the signature color of this property and is used as an accent throughout. In the Spring we will be planting Hops Vines on the Pergola. They are rapid growers and the Lime Green color  of the leaves and cone shaped flowers will pop against the blue!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Collage of Home & Garden in 2012...

 It has been a very busy 2012. The Pergola was added to the Orchard Garden and the wild grasses and Flowers really hit a high note this year.

Inside, The Studio was finished and a few rooms were freshly painted. The Orchid Room continues to amaze me, the south facing windows are great for my Orchids and a tonic for cold wintery days.

The Garden, with wild grasses and wonderful spots to contemplate while one is "taking a turn about the garden"!

Snowy Days can create magical twilight in the Garden. The twinkly White lights are the perfect note to a winter landscape.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Decorating Your First Home...

When you get it together and finally are able to buy your first home, most of us are so excited to create the home of our dreams. I would like to share some tips on how to design on a dime, and plan for resale. This is your first home, not your forever home. A good mantra, write it down.
The decisions you make need to take into account the people who will purchase your home within the next 5 to 10 years.
Now let's start with appliances.
If you need to buy appliances, buy middle range. They look great, will last during the duration you own the home and will be energy efficient. Also you may want to think of brushed steel. It shows no fingerprints and goes in most any decor.

Another important subject is paint, here are a few of my   color tips.  Bright or deep colored might be a sweet song in your heart but a high percentage of future buyers do not have the ability to see past a Tangerine kitchen or a Cranberry Great room. So here are your painting tips.
First, always prep and prime your walls. Second buy a high quality paint with a bit of a luster finish. Your paint job will still look great after five years and because you chose a luster finish, you can easily wipe of scuffs and marks without damaging the paint.
House Beautiful Magazine is very big on color. They have partnered with Benjamin Moore and have a vast collection with an easy application that takes the guess work out of how a room would look when painted in your chosen color.
I think for easy living and for resale the compromise is simple, lean towards the lighter versions of the colors that speak to you.
Instead of a deep Tangerine for a kitchen, how about a light Cantaloupe? It is the same warm family, just not as intense. Save your deep or bright splashes of color for your Art, Mixmaster, Toaster, Towels and Dishes. 
Are you thinking a deep Blue for a library. Wow, yes that would look dramatic, however your room would feel smaller and absorb the light, not reflect it. Also for resale, a neutral Taupe or Griege (Grayish Beige) is not only very popular but quite lovely.
I am a fan of subtle reflective colors that change with the weather and the light. Sherwin Williams Paint company has a palette that I use consistently. My top favorites are Frostwork, Copen Blue, Opera Glass, Relaxed Khaki, and Sea Salt. These colors work well with different trim colors and all react to the light, making the room color, different at all times of the day. I have used these colors in Homes and Offices on both coasts. I am asked often about these colors and others who use them seem to be as happy with this simple palette as I am.
The fun part is choosing the art and accessories that can make a room POP.

Furnishings. A great sofa is an investment. An okay sofa can be $1200 and will last about 10 years. A great sofa will last 20+ years and cost $1800-3000. Find a sofa that is comfortable, neutral, well made and if you can swing it has down wrapped cushions.
Choose a fabric that will work with many colors. Preferably a textured fabric that will be comfy and hold up well as your family grows. Your taste will change over the years, a classic sofa will change with you. Another beautiful aspect of a high end sofa is that you can have a new slip cover made to reflect your next homes style.
Remember it is better to have one fabulous piece of furniture than a room of furniture that is poorly made and not attractive. Less is fine, you can always save and buy the matching chair next year and for the time being make do with a few of your other pieces, or none at all.

Curb appeal. It is important to drive up to your home and have it feel as beautiful as you had dreamed it would. Some easy fixes can be a paint job, shutters, a colorful door and fresh plantings.
Planting beds that are in good condition and have some nice mulch with no dirt showing will looked well cared for and save you big money on your water bill!
Perennials and foundation plantings are less expensive than bright colored annuals in the long run. If you choose your plant material wisely they will also require less care, water and maintenance. Consider a garden, front and back, that features tall perennial grasses and the various varieties of sedum mixed with some low maintenance Carpet Roses. If you live in a warm climate plant a few trees such as fruitless Olives or Pepper Trees. They will provide shade, will not require much water, care or trimming. They also have smaller root systems that do not get into the sewer and water pipes. This is really important advice.
My own Maine garden has an Apple Orchard, Wild grasses, some perennials, and Rosa Rugosas. We were also blessed with a wide variety of trees including for 200 year old Maple trees and Woodland areas with fantastic varieties of Moss and Fern.
Lets talk garden color. Keep it neutral, with a bit of a flair and lots of texture and contrasting leaf colors.
If you would like to learn more, google Garden Design Magazine, they feature many lovely examples of gardens for your area of the country that will thrive. You can also click and go to my "Garden Portfolio" Design site. There are alot of great ideas to borrow. From Hardscape to Garden Structures and Pools. You may also want to take some time and walk the neighborhood or the local Botanic gardens and see what plants and trees are growing with little effort and much ease. Take the time to google Drought tolerant and Eco-Friendly or Green and Sustainable Gardens. Click on images and then go to the sites that interest you the most.
A great tip is to hire a designer to walk your property with you and give you tips, tricks and ideas about what you can do. Expect to pay around $300.00 for a consult. You will save much more by not making mistakes and doing it right the first time. One last tip. Use great compost, lots of Bone & Blood Meal,  ground Sea Kelp & Rock Phosphate.
These simple items used consistently will make for a high PH balance, healthy plants and bugs in balance. We live in the natural world and the full spectrum of insects and birds is very important. Strive to keep the circle unbroken, everything depends on each other, really.

Enjoy your home. Have fun feathering your nest. Make sure you include your partner, they really do like to be part of the process. Welcome to home ownership and may your next home be your forever home.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mindful Gardening, Bugs are Your Friends...

Summer is the season we all wait for, especially in the state of Maine. In October of 2008 we moved into our home in Topsham Maine. Unfortunately the gardens had been managed chemically. This was a very quiet property, during our first garden season of 2009 . Very few birds or butterflies graced the landscape. On our property we have adopted a policy of "All living things matter." I believe it is important to welcome Birds as they will eat alot of the bugs. Spiders not only bring good fortune (they say) but also take care of many flying insects who get caught up in their webs and later become a meal for those web spinning spiders. We planted liberal amounts of Bee Balm, Echenecia, Cleome, Cosmos, Joe Pye Weed and Day Lillies as well as Apple Trees and Blueberry Bushes to encourage and attract all of our winged friends. We let the formally mowed lawns go wild and cut paths that now meander through these meadow gardens. We now sport an Upper Meadow and a lower Woodland Meadow.
Today I would like to talk a bit about the upper meadow garden. It has a wide range of Grasses (5 varieties), Clover, Equisetum, Millet and Wheat. Within the meadows we have walking paths and a scattering of blooming Rudibeckia, Verbena Borenesis, Cosmos, Bronze Fennel, Milk Weed and a few Artichoke plants. Full sun, organic amendments and periodic big rains have brought this part of the garden to an officially ALIVE status. Birds, Butterflies, Bees, Spiders, Moths and other various flying and crawling creatures show up and add to the beauty of this now thriving, organically managed Meadow. We feed with Bone and Blood Meal and Seaweed Compost and wowza the difference is palpable from that first "Silent Spring" of 2009.
Gardening can seem like a mystery but if you listen to the lay of the land, the light & topography, the mystery will reveal itself, with many of your questions answered, by sheer observation. I think that if you pay special attention to the individual plants that make up the whole garden you will not only be successful you will be blessed with a garden that is a natural living oasis. The circle of life in the garden starts with the microbes in the soil. Organic amendments and proper watering will not only change your PH to a higher thriving level but will support plants that are so healthy they do not attract bugs or disease. All bugs in balance are a good thing, after all we live in the natural world. Living in harmony is the easy, breezy approach and certainly less stressful for you and your garden. Ants, Aphids, Caterpillars, Beetles are commonly thought of as pests. However in balance with all other living things in the garden they take care of each other and you will have to give up very little of your flowers and vegetables to the cause of a chemical free landscape.
Mindful Gardening is in the long run, the easy way.
If you would like to view Organic Gardens I have designed, click here for the portfolio.
Some of my organic sources you may want to check out.
The Invisible Gardener. Andy Lopez is a brilliant gardener with harmonious ideas and approaches to living as one with our gardens. Do not be put off by his presentation, the information is garden gold.
Remineralize The Earth. Joanna Campe is a champion of adding "Rock Dust" to the earth by enriching our soil with minerals. Easy, inexpensive and terrific for the health of your property.
She is doing great work all over the world.
Rodales, As the publishers of Organic Gardening Magazine they are the old time experts. Their breadth of knowledge and online resources that are unmatched. Rodale Publishing is in the business of selling the idea of living in absolute harmony with the earth.
You can also google "Organic Gardening" and surf around to find natural methods to follow in your garden.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Building a Garden...

This is the time of year I wistfully contemplate the garden. What area will I choose to tackle this year? Do I need to think about paths, patios, walls, sitting areas or am I just going to enjoy a field of Sunflowers, perhaps. The possibilities are endless. I always study the area that is about to be transformed. I like doing the work one time! I carefully consider the end use and ask myself the following questions. Will the area be used for entertaining or is it a quiet spot on the north side of the house that is only viewed from a window? Possibly it is an area that would make a perfect kitchen garden later to be filled to full with Herbs, Vegetables, maybe a focal point of a henhouse for fresh eggs and other treats to be incorporated into Summertime meals. Maybe this is the year a pool or water source is seriously considered and will be integrated into a meditation garden or a main family area. In the end it boils down to several factors.
1. How the space will be used.
2. How much future maintenance will be required.
3. Money. Money. Affordability.
That about covers the basic three considerations, after the big three there are other points to be thought of.
1. Resale, will you be in this space long enough to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
2. Are your ideas practical and compatible to the needs of your family and the pets in your household?
3. Will you use the space as much as you anticipate?
Having taken our garden dream and put a pragmatic yet logical spin on the conversation can be sobering (reality, hmmm.) However this particular way of looking at your outdoor spaces can also be enlightening. You will be fully aware of the garden path you are traveling down and will not be surprised at the outcome.
Enjoying your own garden with your family and friends is a wonderful connecting experience and once you start, you will only want to expand your outdoor living spaces.
The spirit of balance lives within each of us, a garden heightens that sense of well being.

Build a garden it is a worthwhile experience.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Aesthetic Lifestyle, Beauty Matters...

The definition of Aesthetics: A guiding principle in matters of artistic beauty and taste; artistic sensibility: or an underlying principle, a set of principles, or a view often manifested by outward appearances or style of behavior.
I like to think that I am a citizen of the "Country of Aesthetics". Yes, my belief from a young age has been, "Beauty Matters". Indeed, an aesthetic life is made up of deliberate choices that are made everyday. The designer and guru of the Arts & Crafts movement, William Morris says, "Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." I live and design by these simple, brilliant words. This is such a precise statement that it could be the motto for the "Country of Aesthetics".

The question is how to embrace this philosophy of Aesthetic as a lifestyle. The answer although simple takes discipline.
1. Do not bring anything into your Home or Garden environment that you do not LOVE. Anything!
2. Explore and understand what colors, styles and textures you are attracted to.
3. A great way to ascertain your own personal style is make a list of your favorite colors. Take a trip to to your local bookstore and purchase (yes purchase) a pile of Home and Garden design magazines. Now here is the deal, as you flip through these magazines, tear out (you can do it) the pages that have images that appeal to how you would like your house to look, in general.
4. At this point you should be aware of your likes and dislikes. Now the fun part. Go through your home and remove, remove, remove all of the items that you now know in your newly conscious and aware heart that do not honor the Country of Aesthetic philosophies and principles.
5. Congratulate yourself, you have just finished the absolute hardest step, letting go of stuff that does not matter, is no longer useful or is not beautiful. MMMMMMM feels good.
6. I keep myself on track by not settling for something, but waiting until I can afford or find exactly what it is I see in a room or in my personal space, indoors and in the garden.
7. Repeat, Beauty Matters. Because it truly does.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Salad Composition...

There is nothing I love more than a sunny summer morning and an outing to my local Farmers Market. Yum. The possibilities for the evening meal are always an inspiration and a delight.
I am impressed by the heirloom varieties of most vegetables, however recently carrots have caught my fancy. Did you know carrots come in many more colors than plain orange? Such as pale yellow, maroon with an orange interior, a creamy white and even a subtle orange. Each color even tastes a bit different. Indeed these are not the carrots of our youth or even the produce aisle of the supermarket!
Summers in Maine are much cooler than the rest of the country, the lettuces, peas, and herbs do not "bolt" (rush to flower, rendering the lettuce especially, bitter) and seem to last longer due to the lack of heat and humidity. So selections for interesting salads are readily available this time of year.
This Summer Salad Composition is easy.
Mixed Greens (about 3 cups)
Nasturtium Greens & Flowers (From the garden) about 1-2 cup
Basil, Dill, Parsley (one or all of this combo) a small handful
Young tender Snap Peas, gently sauteed to a bright green. about 1 cup
Many colors of heirloom Carrots about 3-4
Dried Figs, a large handful
Spring turnips (sliced thinly) These are small, about 7 or 8
Roasted Beets (Golden, Ruby Red or Orange) about 1 cup chopped
Artisan Goat Cheese (York Hill-Garlic & Dill if you can find it) about 1/4 of a cup
Drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

Grab a large platter and cover with the mixed greens
Next tear the Nasturtium leaves and scatter over mixed greens
Julienne the Carrots, scatter artfully
Scatter Beets and Sliced Turnips and Nasturtium Flowers
Crumble the goat cheese place sprinkle on top
Drizzle the Balsamic Reduction vinegar.
Yummy, you now have a salad for 4.
This is excellent with some grilled, Fish, Chicken or any roasted meat.
We had a family dinner last night and enjoyed this salad last night with Lobster, which at 3.99 per pound is 1/2 the price of organic Chicken!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Orchids, Easy As 1, 2, 3...

I am a fan of Orchids and once you figure out how SIMPLE they are
to grow, you will be too. There are a long list of Orchids that are
not only easy to care for but easily purchased. You can walk into almost any Grocery Store and find them sitting in the flower department waiting for you to take them home. I also find my Orchids at Big Box Superstores and the occasional Nursery. Orchids are mass produced and relatively inexpensive. Typically I will pay 15-20 dollars for an Orchid. I expect them to bloom for several months, they never disappoint me.
Here is the deal, they love morning sunshine or a bright, bright light filled room. In nature they grow in steamy jungles attached to sides of trees, catching streams of sunshine and rain filtered through the canopy of leaves from above. The best part is this, at home the only required effort is to put them in the sink every few weeks, soak them with warm water and gently water the leaves. The rest of the time they hang out just enjoying the day and look lovely. I have never had bug problems or mysterious die backs. I believe it is because I do not "over love" them, I give them their space and pay attention to them only a few times a month. They are the perfect choice if you travel and like to come home to flowering beauties.
My favorites are Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchids), Cymbidiums and Oncidiums. All are hardy, inexpensive and beautiful.
My Orchids bring me joy every day.
When they are not blooming I put them together in long cachepots so they can rest and recharge. The best part of resting is 6 months later when they burst back into bloom. Oh happy day!
Give Orchids a try you will be happy you did.
To learn more, click here.