Category Archives for "Garden Design"

Published! A Feature on Davis Dalbok

Davis Dalbok

Are you familiar with the design work of Davis Dalbok? If you’re an enthusiastic garden maker, chances are you have. You can now get inside his head, thanks to Landscape Marketing Experts writer Megan Padilla, who contributes to Garden Design magazine regularly. Once an editor for the magazine and now a frequent contributor, Megan has an insider’s view of the world of gardens and the people who make them.

Who is Davis Dalbok?

The recent issue included her feature about San Francisco designer and purveyor Davis Dalbok. This was not Davis’s first foray into the magazine. Megan wrote about his personal garden in a previous issue.

Interested in reading Megan’s most recent story about Davis? It isn’t online yet…you should subscribe to Garden Design today! Click here for a sneak peek at the issue.

Why You Need to Know Our Writers

If you’re wondering why we broadcast the news when one of our writer’s garden stories is published, keep reading.

We want you to know that when you hire Landscape Marketing Experts to create your marketing content, you’re tapping a resource like no other. Our team is the most knowledgeable, most experienced, and most passionate marketing agency in the world of gardens. We don’t take this content lightly: it is our EVERYTHING!

Better Marketing Content

Our investment in creating your content goes well beyond quick and dirty, generic ideas and writing. We like to get deep into your company to find out what makes you different and make sure that’s conveyed to your audience. Every word, every picture, and every idea is only for your business, no one else. In addition to our serious exploration of what makes you special, we bring our expertise in gardens, plants, and design to the table.

If you’re looking for a team of experts to help your garden business grow, send us an email. We can’t wait to meet you!

October 1, 2016

How My Latest Story on Water Features Came Together

water features

Most days, I’m immersed in marketing projects for our clients. Many of them are in the landscape design field, and I thoroughly enjoy creating strategies for them so they can expand their reach and grow their businesses. Once in a while, I get an editorial writing project, like the assignment from Orlando Magazine on water features. I reached out to friends in the industry for their best tips–after all, who is better positioned to discuss water features than landscape designers?

I called Phil Maddux, president of Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design in Miami, Florida. He has created some of Florida’s most beautiful residential landscapes (plus many outside of Florida, and not only residential designs), and he shared some of his firm’s most recent fountain and pool projects. Having visited dozens of his projects with him over the years, I knew he’d point me in the right direction.

Then I called Stephen Block, the owner of Inner Gardens in Los Angeles. Stephen in one of the foremost experts on garden antiques, and has taken me to dozens of gardens that he’s designed, too. Each one is exquisite, and because he’s so particular, I was sure his ideas and advice would be spot on.

I admit I’m a Carolyn Mullet groupie, and follow every one of her Facebook posts. She shared photos of a gorgeous pond garden in Sarasota, and after some online snooping, I was able to track down Ana Bowers, its creator.

My story was quickly taking shape, and after lots of emails and phone calls, it gelled. Now it’s been published in the October issue of Orlando Magazine, and I’m so excited about it! The photos are gorgeous, but more than that, the words of wisdom from my landscape designer friends could not be more apt. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it. Click HERE.

September 19, 2016

Garden Designers, Share What You Know

garden designers

Last year I wrote a piece full of tips for adding style and personalization to backyards, emphasizing that every material and every surface is an opportunity to make your yard your own. The ideas came from garden designers that I’ve known for years, people who daily invest their knowledge and creativity in other people’s gardens (plus their own!).

One of the ideas in my Orlando Magazine story was to use an exterior wall of the house to hang things, making the adjacent space more like a room.

Design an outdoor room that uses the house’s architecture as an anchor.

But, be careful what you put there. Years ago, a designer in Sausalito told me he had placed a large mirror on a wall facing a garden, and birds kept flying into it. One bird actually died as a result, so he stopped using mirrors in gardens altogether.

Garden Designers, Differentiation is Key

There are things designers know from experience that the rest of us don’t.

When I develop and ghost-write content for a garden designer as part of their marketing program, the designer herself is my primary resource. Tapping her expertise is what makes for the most interesting, shareable, and authentic content. That content is used on her blog, her eNewsletter, and her social media posts.

Every designer brings something different to the table, and that’s one of the things marketing should express: differentiation. As a designer, your experiences are different than another designer’s. Your approach and communication style is unique to you. All your marketing efforts should reveal that, and make it clear to potential clients how your brand of work aligns with their needs.

Unified Branding

Not only should your authentic perspective come through in your marketing, but it should be consistent across all your channels. A channel can be a blog, an eNewsletter, a Facebook fan page, an Instagram account, a brochure–any of the mediums you use to communicate with your audience.

If the way you communicate doesn’t align among these various mediums, it creates brand confusion and dilutes your message. Your messages to the world need to be similar no matter where you’re publishing. That’s why having professional marketing support from someone who knows the worlds of garden design AND marketing can be so helpful.

I’d love to schedule a free consultation with you to discuss your marketing goals, so call me anytime at 407-461-4368.

Design an outdoor room that uses the house’s architecture as an anchor

September 14, 2016

Small Space Gardens and the Influence of Modernism

I’ve got small garden spaces on the brain–specifically in areas that are adjacent to the house, condo or apartment. Many people don’t have more space to work with than a porch or terrace, and if they do have more space, they tend to spend most of their time close to the house anyway. To address these realities, I’m talking to landscape designers and architects and listening to their ideas about the best way to design with plants in these areas.

Recently, I spoke with Charles Birnbaum, President and Founder of The Cultural Landscape Foundation. I wanted Charles’ insight on gardens that are enclosed by or right next to the house’s architecture because that topic is relevant to one of Charles’ areas of expertise: the history of modern gardens. He reminded me of Thomas Church and the other greats of modernism.

“Look at Church’s career, or Garrett Eckbo or Robert Royston. All of them got their start doing small, in-town enclosed garden spaces.”

He noted that as their ambitions grew they abandoned those for major landscapes, like public spaces, but the principles that had driven them early on influenced not just their large projects but the way designers handle small gardens now, seventy or more years later.

The houses and gardens of modernism were designed to work together, to flow into each other so people living there could experience a connection with the outdoors when they were inside, and the safety and comfort of home when they were outside. That quality or dialectic is something I plan to explore in my book.

Church gardens

Laura Livingston, a landscape contractor who installed the restoration of Church’s design for the garden at Castro Adobe in Watsonville, California, notes how functional the garden is.

“We followed the original plan closely, based on research done by landscape architect Pam-Anela Messenger. The garden was designed strictly for residential use, but now that fundraising for Castro Adobe is a consideration, events are held in the garden to raise money for the remainder of the house’s restoration,” explains Livingston. “We didn’t make changes to the garden to allow for events, but because it’s such a good garden, it works. That’s the thing about Church, his gardens allowed for so many possibilities for how the space would be used.

The garden also shows how tightly Church’s projects were tethered to the architecture. Cork oaks that he placed in close proximity to the house are now mature, so when you relax on a bench in the garden, you look toward the house and see light filtering through the tree branches.

“It’s clear that he thought about that view, not just the vantage point from the house out to the garden,” says Livingston.

The St. Francis bird bath is placed in original location, on axis with a path leading from the house to benches. This very simple, elegant garden, first constructed between 1968 and 1972, has all the trappings of a garden any of us would hope to have today: trees for shade, flowering plants to tend, places to sit, walk and play–all within a stone’s throw of the indoors.

Church’s emphasis on the act of gardening is what distinguishes this garden (and his others) from a landscape. A landscaper herself, Livingston often installs a fairly narrow palette of landscape plants, so she was struck by the detailed plant list (most of which were chosen by Church’s client Mrs. Potter) that she chased down for the installation.

“There are particular varieties of iris that were used, and I was only able to find two or three out of ten, as well as certain roses, narcissus, lavenders, and an apricot tree. Plant names change, patents get lost or expire, and this makes it really hard to track down the varieties,” she explains. “The plan also called for the use of seeds, which you hardly ever see anymore. It was obvious that the goal wasn’t to make a low-maintenance garden. It has to be taken care of.”

New issue of Landscape Architecture is Compelling

Lisa Gimmy’s story on the Lovelace Garden, designed by Isabelle Greene, FASLA, is in the current issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine. The garden is best known for its beautiful swimming pool. Greene pioneered the use of natural stone in swimming pools and spas, and the Lovelace pool is one of her masterworks.

The article focuses on Greene’s design process, which resulted in the superb fit between site and program. Photos by Marion Brenner accompany the story.

Isabelle worked with owners Jon and Liliane Lovelace for forty years to perfect the garden. You can purchase a single digital issue of the magazine by clicking here, without ordering an annual subscription:

greene lovelace 2


A Pond in Sarasota

I was going to tell the story of the year I lived in Sarasota, the gardens I discovered there, and the beauty of the natural landscape. But this week I met Ana Bowers online, and fell in love with the pictures she sent me of her Sarasota garden. Sometimes pictures tell the story best. I suspect you might fall in love with this garden, too.









Visit Ana’s Facebook page for more.

September 3, 2015

I Fancy a Garden Shed

Sarah Ristorcelli

One of the best things that came out of my time as Editor of American Photo magazine was a deep love for Flickr, a photography site that I search a few times a week. American Photo had a partnership with Flickr at that time, so I made it a point to get to know the ins and outs of what Flickr has to offer.

Anyone can store and share their photos on Flickr, so professionals, passionate amateurs and everyday people use it, thereby opening up their world through pictures. If that sounds a bit like Instagram, consider the differences: the site is searchable and in many cases you can download and use the images (each account holder determines the download settings on their account).

All that said, I find photos on Flickr to accompany blog posts not just for this blog, but for my clients’ blogs. The blogs I write for doctors, lawyers, design firms and non-profits all benefit from the rich photographic content available on Flickr.

Today, after a chat about garden sheds, I searched Flickr’s Creative Commons inventory on sheds, and I found gold.

The image at the top of this post shows a shed made of reclaimed wood with a roof from an old mill. Tell me you wouldn’t love to teleport it directly to your back yard. The opportunity I see here is to get wildly creative, and break free from the inhibitions you might have when designing your house. A garden shed is a lab for your design experiments.

Here’s a shed that’s been transformed into a tiny guest house—a great use of space for those who need the overflow. Think of what a wonderful experience it would be to spend a night or two here, surrounded by nature and enjoying privacy away from the house.

Sarah Ristorcelli

Consider your stance when inside a shed. Shaded and protected, you see the light flickering through branches, the raindrops falling on leaves. You hear the birds twittering and hear them flitting about. It’s all-around delightful, far more immersive than the view from the house, but with just as much shelter.

Sarah Ristorcelli

Do you have or have you photographed a to-die-for garden shed? Please share it on my Facebook page. Or, share a link in the comments section below.

What Folly!

My sister was walking by a lake called Pühajärv near Otepää in Estonia and came upon this old rowboat planted with flowers. Lately I’ve been reaping the benefits of her photography and her good eye. She snapped a photo and sent it to me, and inadvertently inspired this post.

She got me thinking about garden follies and how they came to be. First off, a folly is an architectural object meant for gazing at, and not necessarily functional in another way. In 18th century British and French gardens, structures with styles borrowed from cultures around the world were designed as part of the garden. You would find Roman, Chinese or Egyptian elements that seemed…well…foolish in their context. These imports did have underlying meanings, though. Each piece represented characteristics and virtues that mattered to the owner.

garden folly

Photography credit: Kris Williams

Here’s a folly (above) that’s part of a terraced garden at Baron Hill Mansion in Beaumaris (Wales). The mansion has been abandoned for many decades and is in a state of disrepair, but that in no way hurts the folly. The abandonment and patina make it more charming and certainly a more interesting focal point for the camera.

garden folly

Photo credit: David McDermott

Can you imagine the decadent parties that once took place at Painswick Rococo Gardens with this folly as a backdrop? The flip-side of all this fabulousness is that many follies were built by impoverished people. At times follies were constructed for the purpose of giving peasants jobs.

While 18th century follies were created as intentional parts of the garden, since then some follies have earned the label simply by decaying beyond usefulness. Case in point:

garden folly

Photo credit: ukgardenphotos

Once a functioning boathouse, now a folly. Located in Scotney Castle Landscape Gardens (England), the boat house is among the ruins on property surrounding a moated 14th century medieval English castle. Because it’s dilapidated, boats can’t be stored here (it’s literally caving in), but it’s a beautiful scene all the same, and a must-see part of the landscape.

garden folly

Photography credit: Rachel Kinbar

With that premise, anything can be a folly. Remove the top of a broken birdhouse and fill it with flowers. Situate an antique or found object as a focal point in the yard. Instead of disposing of the old rowboat that almost sunk, transform it into a whimsical planter. It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s a folly!

Do you have a folly in your garden? Tell me about it in the comments below. Or better yet, post a picture of it to my Facebook page for everyone to see.

Hanging with the Horticult

The Horticult

A few months ago my editor mentioned the Horticult (a.k.a. Chantal Aida Gordon and Ryan Benoit) and thought it would be a good idea to reach out to them. I was all in. Their blog documents their garden-immersed lifestyle, their hands-on approach to making their garden their own, and the amazing d.i.y. creations that earned them Better Homes & Gardens Best Gardening Blog status.

My first conversation with Ryan raised a few questions:

  • How can a house’s architecture engage the garden more deeply and bring the garden into the house?
  • Isn’t it a good idea to create customized containers that are meant to work with specific plants?
  • Shouldn’t renters live in their gardens with the same full-hearted joie de vivre as homeowners?

Basically, and it goes without saying, I immediately knew that Ryan and Chantal are kindred spirits. The frosting: Ryan shot new photos of their entire garden.

The Horticult

There’s so much to see in this garden–so many rooms, and while it’s off the charts on outdoor living, the garden is totally plant-centric.

A Blog Called Plot

One of the couple’s fortés is getting really creative with containers (look at the ammunition cans-turned-planters). They figure, “we’re renting and we’ll need to take all this with us someday, so put as much as possible in pots.” When you need that many containers to house all your beloved plant collections, it naturally breeds ingenuity.

A Blog Called Plot

Another thing I love about their garden is that they use all their space. They make room for everything they want (cooking, growing, dining, sitting, watching) by just wedging it in where it makes sense. I don’t mean to diminish their design genius, I’m just saying they manage to make the unthinkable work, sometimes by insisting that it work.

A Blog Called Plot

It’s impressive in the moment as you take it all in, but you can’t get used to it because just when you feel like you’ve gotten to know their garden (through their blog or if you’re lucky to be a personal friend), it changes. Ryan and Chantal are forever rethinking each element of the garden, from the raised veggie beds, which were once concrete block and are now like this…

A Blog Called Plot

…To the fireplace room, where portable cedar fence pieces disguise the unattractive fencing behind it. Like the containers they found and made to grow their plants in, the fence can be taken along with them someday when they move because it’s mobile.

A Blog Called Plot

This is just a taste. There’s so much more. Satiate yourself by becoming a dedicated reader of their blog.


A Garden Design Called Piña Colada

garden design

I had the best conversation with landscape architect Michelle Derviss last week. She has her own design studio and has created many Bay Area gardens, but it’s the one in her own backyard in Novato, CA, that we discussed.

Over a decade ago, Michelle was dealing with some serious health challenges, and needed a place to completely relax and recover. She decided to echo elements of the places she loves to travel to most: the islands of Southeast Asia.

The 12 x 14-foot concrete patio was already in place. It was in rough shape, and probably original to the 1947-built house. Undeterred, Michelle designed right on top of it, covering imperfections with exotic outdoor carpets.

She had a traditional teak Balinese day bed that she had brought back from Bali the year before, and that has become the centerpiece of the garden. It’s soft and plush, upholstered with outdoor fabric and cushy pillows.

Michelle Derviss

The bed, a coffee table and other furnishings are nestled between bromeliads (many of which were bought from the plant table at San Francisco Bromeliad Society meetings), calla lilies, bamboo, and hakonechloa. The garden really is transporting–you feel as if you’re on a tropical vacation moments after walking through the garage. She calls it her Piña Colada garden, because being in the garden feels like a Piña Colada tastes.

As Michelle regained her health, the garden has entertained more and more visitors, and she hosts her friends from the Bromeliad Society as well as the Hortisexuals, a group of Bay Area plant professionals who have been going strong since the 1980s. Michelle welcomes guests desperate to escape the heat, since Novato is a cooler pocket.
I don’t know that you would technically label this a “therapeutic garden” but it has served that function, and has many of the qualities that intentionally-therapeutic gardens have. After all, much of what research has revealed about therapeutic garden design is also common sense.

A few traits noted by the Therapeutic Landscapes Network:

  • Plenty of shade
  • A sense of safety and security
  • Easily navigable walking surfaces
  • Lush plantings
  • A wide variety of flora
  • A plethora of seating
  • Spaces that allow for quiet contemplation
  • Positive distractions such as water

Are you interested in therapeutic garden design? Read this article about a San Antonio garden designed for wounded soldiers who have returned to the states.

Do you look to your garden as an oasis or an escape for healing? Please share your thoughts below!