Monthly Archives: October 2009

Woolly Pockets



I came across this great product on Flora Grubb’s web site (pictures taken by Lance Shows).  Flora and her business partner have opened a much touted garden center in San Francisco.  It is worth have a look at her web site, I have been in the horticulture industry my whole life and in turn always around garden centers.  What they are doing here is absolutely amazing.

I think there are so many great options for Woolly Pockets.  They can be used inside and out and have a moisture barrier so when used on an interior wall you don’t have issues.  Click on their link and you can order directly from their web site whose gallery has some wonderful provocative images.  Below are a few examples.




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A pool to relish

This is a near perfect example of what I think a pool should be.  I always explain to my clients that the reality of a pool is that it is looked at 90% of the time and maybe used the other 10%.  This leads to the question of what do you do with it that 90%?  My answer is that it should work as a water feature; one that you happen to be able to swim in.  This is a great example of a beautiful clean lined pool.  The turf running up to the edge instead of a pool deck takes away the sense of a pool as do the details in the coping.  This is at a resort in Italy near Florence.  All of the work done here was designed and installed by a company called Paghera.  They do absolutely amazing work with clients such as the Vatican, as well as all the plans for the Palm Resort in Dubai.

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I loved the scalloped edge on the canopy!

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Filed under Paghera, Pools, Travel

Don Shadow


For those in the Horticultural industry there are few men as well known or as respected as Mr. Don Shadow from Winchester, TN(shown above with Taxodium dis. “Falling Waters”).  His status is legendary as are the many stories, new plant introductions and animals under his care.  I have been fortunate to have know Don my whole life (our families have know each other through the industry for four generations).  Outside of working at our family nursery from a very early age Don was my first mentor and employer in Horticulture.  He instills in everyone he meets a passion for the new and useful plants he is constantly bring back from around the world as well as plants that have been available for years.  I have as much respect and admiration for Don as anyone I have ever met.  He is truly a Renaissance man from East Tennessee.  I am copying an article from Horticulture Magazine written by his good friend Paul Cappiello of Yew Dell Gardens in Oldham County, KY.

March 24, 2008

by  Paul Cappiello
With just one step into the office, it’s obvious that you’re not in just any old nursery. Sure, there’s the usual clutter, the endless stacks of tags, catalogs, invoices, and a few odd flats and pots. The dirt clods on the floor, the grafting knife on the sill, and the half-eaten breakfast on the desk wouldn’t be out of place in any nursery in Mobile, Minneapolis, or Monterey. But a quick second look at that desk provides an immediate clue to the uniqueness of the surroundings. There, in the middle of the piles of paper, sits a journal with the following name:Swine Taxonomy. That’s pigs, folks, not some newly discovered family of cold-hardy begonias!

The proprietor of this Serling-inspired bit of incongruity is the legendary Don Shadow, proprietor of the wholesale Shadow Nursery, acquirer and grower of the most diverse and numerous life’s collection of horticultural holy grails, a man with a nose for rare plants, a Pachydermic memory, and a Tennessee twang so sharp it could slice the shine off the mornin’ dew.

Shadow is known around the world as one of the most connected of plantsmen and as the most active acquirer of unusual plants. The letters strewn across his desk come from across town and around the globe. People write with pictures of possible introductions.“Send cuttings, send seed,” he responds. They write for advice on what to do with a new plant that’s been discovered in some remote swamp or hollow. “Send cuttings, send seed,” he responds. They write looking for the rarest of the rare and the oddest of the odd. “I’ve got cuttings, I’ve got seed,” he responds.

Shadow’s nose for rare plants is so great that he’s been known to pluck them out of thin air. On a trip to Japan, during dinner with a few skittish Japanese nurserymen, he inquired as to the location of their weeping Acer buergerianum. The locals tossed accusatory looks at each other, and then, after a long, uncomfortable pause, one of them got up and led him to the great find, never knowing that Shadow had made up the plant. He had never seen, heard, or read of it. He just had a feeling.

The Shadow Nursery booth during trade shows never fails to draw a crowd to see what the master thinks to be his most special new acquisitions—a weeping this, a variegated that, and often a young grandson or two, to boot. At lectures, he is virtually unstumpable. At one talk by the equally unredoubtable Dr. Mike Dirr, Shadow stood in the back of the room, half listening and half talking to others. Upon Dirr’s brief description of a plant that he’d met in an English garden, without Shadow’s ever looking at the screen, that unmistakable piercing twang rose up from among the masses with the answer: Orixa japonica ‘Variegata’! There were no other guesses from the crowd.

And then there are the animals. The Damara zebras, red pandas, blue-tongued skinks, and sugar gliders at Shadow Nursery command as much, if not more, attention than do the plants. Shadow rises long before the crack of dawn to check the facilities, which rival those of many well-known zoos, and feed the tenants. His wife, Mary, would say that the only time Don sits down is to watch an occasional Sunday afternoon wild-animal show on PBS. Most of his forays across the nursery involve at least several stops to inspect a fence, check a newborn, or just sit and take in the view of one of his favorite subjects. And no tour would be considered complete without a visit to Shadow’s beloved Mr. Ed, an apparently 12 billion–pound water buffalo that, when called by name, comes crashing across the field and skids to a thunderous halt at the master’s feet—for a pat on the head and a kiss on the nose.

And so it is with this Tennessee farm boy. Be it his animals or his plants, he uses a caring touch and an appreciative eye to preserve and share the best, the rarest, and the most sublime.

Here are some pictures from my most recent trip to see Don.

DSC_0039A new variegated Rohdea japonica brought back from a collecting trip to Japan.  Note that even the fruit is variegated.  Very unusual.

DSC_0026This is an as of yet unnamed seedless double Hibiscus syriacus.

DSC_0017This is a new weeping and cut leaf Acer saccharinum ‘Born’s Gracious’.

DSC_0015New Callicarpa americana. This has not been named or introduced yet.  Look at the size of the fruit compared to my lens cap!

DSC_0008This is Don showing how strong the stems are on the new Hydrangea paniculata ‘Phantom’ out of the Netherlands.  This plant is more or less a much stronger stemmed version of ‘Limelight’.  This is a new Hydrangea cultivar with tons of potential.

Here are some of the animals that Don has in breeding programs.  Many of what he has are extremely rare and endangered; some of which no zoo in America have.  Just like the plants Don’s real passion and goal is not as a collector but as a conservationist.






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The Dying Arts of Pleaching and Pollarding

Arborists prepare to cringe.  I am a huge fan of the effects created by two pruning techniques, pleaching and pollarding.  Both of these techniques are used widely in Europe; but even there I sense there relevance is seemingly fading.  For me they combine two of the most essential garden tenants I know of, form and sculpture.

Pleaching is the act of pruning the canopy of a tree up and providing a consistent height while also containing the growth on the sides and top of the plant.  This is often done with single stem trees but can also be done with multi-stem plants(see my last posting on the Ware’s garden, the trees against the wall are pleached Carpinus betulus fastigiata).  The results are marvelous.  Perfect for creating a screen or accentuating a site line with and allee.

pleached allee


Pollarding is seen even less often.  It is a much more difficult technique to properly perform.  Basically what you are doing is constraining the height and ultimate size of a tree.  I would say this all came about when someone planted a tree that began to get much to large for the space where it was installed.  In an attempt to keep the tree in check they started pruning away.  The results are a tree that is kept much smaller that its natural tendencies would allow.  As you can see in the picture the results with foliage in place are great; but the real sculptural presence comes into play when the leaves drop and you are left with the knobby clubs at the end of the branches.  So lets remember to look to our Garden Design History for ideas and inspiration and not forget the techniques used in the past.






Filed under Garden History, Pruning

The Ware Garden

This is a garden that we put in several years ago.  The top picture of course is the before shot.  We were trying to create a simple garden with strong year around structure.  This has been a very easy garden for the clients to maintain and the flower beds allow the clients to rotate the color thorough that they want.

The water feature is another example of movement in the garden.  It too is very simple yet effective.  I wanted the sound and movement of the water without overwhelming the space.  This is one of my favorite gardens I’ve designed and some of the best clients you could ever have.  I want to thank Elevation Creative Studios for taking these wonderful pictures for me.





Filed under Movement in the Garden, My Garden Design

Taxus Pruning as an expression

I found these pictures on the web site of a company in the UK called Knives Out run by Nicky Fraser.  Her take on pruning is absolutely amazing.  These are some pictures of a hegdge they have renovated.  According to Nicky this is the fourth trimming that they have done on these Taxus and it becomes more refined and changes a little bit each time they sink their shears into it.  If would recommend you have a look at their web page to see even more of the amazing work they do; you can fine them on the web here.yew hedge 3

yew hedge 2

yew hedge

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Contemplating Public Spaces

Having traveled in Europe and in South America what I envy most from both of these locales is their cultures ability to relax, contemplate and simply to take the time to enjoy their life.  I look at these pictures that I took in Buenos Aires (the most european of south american countries) and wonder if this is inspired by their cities use of public space.  Could it be that devoting a larger amount of space to public parks use actually helps a culture slow down and to culturally mature?  I think so.  These spaces were always teeming with people both young and old; an interaction we rarely see here in the US.  So, let us all take note: relax, encourage our public officials to plant trees now and to set aside space within the sprawl so we all have a place to cool off, interact and think.





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