Garden Designers Roundtable


Garden Designers Roundtable


The Garden Designers Roundtable was established in December of 2009.  A group of well known garden designers who write from across the US and in Britain post on a topic relating to landscape and garden design every month.  I was very pleased to have been asked to guest post with this group last year, and am even more pleased that I have been asked to join their group as a permanent member.  The topics provoke a wide range of essays, as each designer writes from their distinctly unique point of view.  If you are not familiar with or a regular reader, I would encourage you to visit their website and read.  It is a very diverse and talented group with loads of expertise and enthusiam.  I am indeed privileged to be a part.

The members:

Andrew Keys

Andrew Keys – Topsfield, MA

A self-professed plant nut, Andrew Keys is the principal of Oakleaf Green Landscape Design of Topsfield, Mass., 20 miles north of Boston. Andrew blogs at Garden Smackdown, an exercise in extreme plant geekery with a dash of pop culture. Andrew also contributes to Fine Gardening Magazine!

A lifelong gardener, Andrew started Oakleaf Green in 2009, with the philosophy that the crux of every 21st century design problem is our role as stewards of the Earth. Through Oakleaf Green he offers accredited organic design/build services with a focus on planting design and specification.

Connect with Andrew at LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter.


Christina Salwitz

Christina Salwitz – Renton, WA


Christina Salwitz is a home garden training specialist

Christina provides every level of gardener with a fresh and objective perspective on their special needs. By focusing on organic methods, improving soil quality, pruning technique and seasonal focus, Christina translates “garden speak” into a language that gets people of all ages excited about achieving their gardening dreams! Christina has a fun, dynamic and enthusiastic approach to teaching. She has a unique and way of connecting to clients and students to make them feel like they can do anything! Her unique style is crafted through leading numerous Technical College courses, seminars for garden clubs, radio shows, and many articles that she has written for various gardening publications. With her experience in world-class nurseries for the more than twenty years, Christina has heard it all! Specializing in instructing adult gardeners, experienced or not, in how to become a confident gardener. With an exceptional focus on saving each client MONEY, TIME and LABOR, she has become foremost in gardening education for many years. Christine Blogs at The Personal Garden Coach.


David Cristiani – Albequerque, NM


David Critiani

David Cristiani, author of the blog The Desert EdgeDavid has over 20 years of experience designing outdoor environments in the Southwest. His projects include a variety of resource-conservative commercial, institutional, and residential designs. David has merged the practice of landscape design with his knowledge of climate and the study of arid-region plant geography and species composition. This unique insight has proved valuable for both site-specific design work and for assisting regional growers, by collecting seed and cuttings for large-scale production of promising high desert plant introductions.


Debbie Roberts

Debbie Roberts – Stamford, CT

A lifelong love of digging in the dirt eventually lead Debbie Roberts to a career as a professional landscape designer. Debbie is the owner of Roberts & Roberts Landscape and Garden Design, where she specializes in designing low-resource sustainable gardens to complement each client’s unique lifestyle.  Her own garden, located in southwestern Connecticut, is used to test and trial plants and gain as much hands-on experience as possible so she can pass it along as a garden coach and in the garden design classes she teaches.

Debbie is a founding member of the Connecticut chapter of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. Her articles about gardening and landscape design have appeared in a variety of regional magazines and newspapers.  Debbie shares her thoughts on gardening and design at A Garden of Possibilities.


Deborah Silver – Detroit, MI

Deborah Silver

Deborah resides and works in southeastern Michigan.  She has been the owner and design principal for her landscape and garden design firm, Deborah Silver and Co Inc, since 1986. Her shop, Detroit Garden Works, is devoted to offering fine ornament and specialty plants to gardeners nation-wide.  She designs and manufactures garden ornament of all kinds in steel, concrete and wood at a third company, The Branch Studio. She writes regularly about topics related to the landscape and garden on her blog Dirt Simple.


Douglas Owens-Pike

Douglas Owens-Pike – Minneapolis, MN

Following his MS degree in plant ecology at the University of Washington, Douglas Owens-Pike looked around, could find little evidence of landscapes designed for the health of our planet, and founded EnergyScapes in 1989.  We plan, transform and nurture landscapes for beauty and sustainability.  Doug writes about and teaches these principles in forums including: MN Landscape Arboretum, MN DNR, MN State Hort Soc, Friends of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, and the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.


Genevieve Schmidt

Genevieve Schmidt – Arcata, CA

Genevieve Schmidt does landscape design, garden coaching, and fine landscape maintenance in the redwoods of Northern California. She approaches landscape design with an eye towards sustainability and usability, and her experience running a skilled landscape maintenance crew means that her gardens are fun to maintain, and function the way they are supposed to.

Read her garden musings and advice at North Coast Gardening, and see her work at Genevieve Schmidt Landscape Design. You can also follow Genevieve on Twitter.


Ivette Soler

Ivette Soler – Los Angeles, CA

Ivette Soler, is a Southern California garden designer/consultant/writer who has a particular passion for succulents, food, and getting dirty! Her intricate, “Maximalist” plantings for Los Angeles design firm Elysian Landscapes have been featured in several major books and magazines including Garden Design, Metropolitan Home, Sunset, and House & Garden. Her writings on all things GARDEN have appeared in a variety of garden and shelter magazines, and her blogging as The Germinatrix brings her enthusiasm and plant mania to the vibrant internet gardening community.


Jenny Peterson – Austin, TX

Jenny Peterson

Jenny Peterson is the owner of J. Peterson Garden Design inAustin, Texas, a design-and-build company specializing in small space landscaping—patios & balconies, terraces, container gardening and smaller urban and suburban settings.  JPGD is committed to organic methods and the practice of xeriscaping to conserve water.

In addition to landscape design, Jenny writes for her blog, jpetersongardendesign as well as for various lifestyle websites.


Jocelyn Chilvers

Jocelyn Chilvers – Denver, CO

Jocelyn Chilvers is a professional garden designer with a passion for creating beautiful landscapes that are lifestyle friendly and Colorado “green.”  A graduate of Colorado State University’s landscape horticulture/design program, Chilvers has over 25 years of experience helping clients in the Denver area enhance their outdoor environments.  She also lectures and teaches a range of design related classes at Denver Botanic Gardens, ProGreen Expo, and garden centers throughout the region.  Her work has been featured in numerous regional publications as well as Sunset’s Backyard Makeovers. Chilvers enjoys sharing her vision of the world of plants and garden design through her blog, The Art Garden.


Lesley Hegarty

Lesley Hegarty – Bristol, Avon, UK

After studying modern languages at university, careers in the Royal Navy and stock broking in the City of London, Lesley Hegarty’s interest in plants and design was ignited by taking on a rather unruly and very challenging garden full of potential and a great training ground for all things horticultural.

A Royal Horticultural Society Diploma in Horticulture and formal garden design training at the prestigious Pickard School followed and culminated in Lesley teaming up with Robert Webber to form The Hegarty Webber Partnership. Together they design a wide variety of gardens from country estates to city courtyards.

After advising clients on investment in stocks and shares, Lesley is finding much greater satisfaction in inspiring clients to realize the real joy and ‘guaranteed return’ to be gained from investing in their gardens.

Outside of work, Lesley enjoys music, playing tennis, all things French and an active family.

Website (and integral blog): The Hegarty Webber Partnership


Mary Gallagher Gray – Burke, VA

Mary Gallagher Gray

A northern Virginia native, Mary Gallagher Gray has always loved the outdoors and drawn great inspiration from nature.  This love, combined with the desire to pursue a creative profession, led her to dive headlong into the study of landscape design back in 2007.  Currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Sustainable Landscaping at George Washington University, Mary also does freelance garden design and coaching  in the Metro DC area.

Mary is also a lifelong writer, and loves to muse about gardening, design, and the environment on her blog Black Walnut Dispatch.


Pam Penick – Austin, TX

Pam Penick Austin TX

A hot-zone gardener from Austin, Texas, Pam Penick is the owner/designer/garden coach at Penick Landscape Design, promoting creative design with native and adapted plants that thrive in Austin’s temperature extremes and drought/flood cycles. She’s also the author of Lawn Gone!: Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard (expected publication in Spring 2013).

Pam’s award-winning blog, Digging, provides daily inspiration on topics as diverse as drought-tolerant plants, garden design, lawn alternatives, garden tours, and garden happenings in Austin and her own back yard. Her articles have appeared in Fine Gardening and other publications, and her photographs have been published in various books and magazines. Follow Pam on Twitter and Pinterest, and “Like” her Facebook pages for Digging and Lawn Alternatives.


Rebecca Sweet

Rebecca Sweet – Los Altos, CA

Rebecca Sweet lives in Northern California and is founder of the garden design firm Harmony in the Garden. Rebecca’s signature style is ‘California Fusion’ – a style that blends a client’s personal desires with regionally appropriate plants.  In Northern California, this means having a garden that is lush yet drought tolerant – able to withstand the area’s long dry summers. Rebecca’s gardens have been featured in several local publications as well as national magazines such as Fine Gardening.  Join her at Gossip In The Garden, her entertaining yet informative blog, to read more about all things gardening.


Robert Webber

Robert Webber -Bristol, Avon, UK

Robert Webber grew up in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. He read modern history at university, but after 10 years in the City of London in international banking he returned to his ‘roots’ and retrained in amenity horticulture at Cannington College, Somerset. After 13 years as Head Gardener of Bristol University Botanic Garden, he left to train as a garden designer, living proof that Arians do re-invent themselves.

Robert now works with Lesley Hegarty in their garden design partnership based in Bristol and North Somerset. Their design ethos combines rigorous attention to the client brief, context and plantsmanship, with an imaginative use of space and a contemporary twist. They have designed as far afield as Scotland and Tuscany.

Left to his own devices and with a deep enough pot of money Robert would become a serious art collector.

Website (and integral blog): The Hegarty Webber Partnership


Rochelle Greayer

Rochelle Greayer – Boston, MA

Boston Based, but world minded Rochelle Greayer, is a design obsessed garden creator, writer and ‘go local’ advocate. She is the owner of Greayer Design Associates, founder of multiple farmers markets and the editor of Studio ‘g’, a landscape design blog full of ideas for creating unique gardens. Rochelle is one of the co-authors of The Garden Makers Manual and The Garden Design Workbook, as well as a regular contributor to Landscape Middle East Magazine.  She has won numerous design awards including a Bronze Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society for a show garden at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in England. Her work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Design New England, and Landscape Architecture magazines among others.  Connect with Rochelle through the Studio ‘g’ group page on Facebook or on Twitter.


Scott Hokunson – Granby, CT

Scott Hokunson

Scott Hokunson, designer and principle behind Blue Heron Landscape Design, has been creating landscapes since 1981, and brings a wealth of experience and expertise to each project. A proponent of natural and sustainable principles, Scott works closely with his clients to create elegant outdoor living spaces, minimizing the impact on the environment through all phases of the project, including ongoing stewardship.

Scott is also a garden writer, whose work has been featured in Fine Gardening Magazine and Connecticut Gardener Magazine. He writes the company blog Blue Heron Landscapes, and is a founding member of the international garden design blog Garden Designers Roundtable.

Scott lectures to garden clubs and other interested organizations on garden design, plants and gardening, and in 2011, he served as an advisor to a class on Sustainable Landscape Design at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Since 2009, Scott has been co-host and designer for The Ultimate Backyard Makeover show on FoxCT. The show airs on Father’s Day weekend.

Follow Scott on Twitter, and connect with him on LinkedIn. Become a fan of Blue Heron Landscape Design on Facebook!


Shirley Bovshow

Shirley Bovshow – Los Angeles, CA

Shirley Bovshow is an in-demand landscape designer in California as well as a nationally- recognized garden television host and new garden media broadcaster. Shirley describes her approach to landscape design as “out of the box,” (she drags a ladder around new projects to envision the yard from different heights) and demands “multi-purpose” function from her landscapes.

“It’s not good enough that a landscape stand there and ‘look pretty!’  It has to do something for me! Feed me! Save me some money on the water and electricity bill! Function as a sanctuary and entertaining showplace!  Increase the value of my home!” Shirley commands.

Check out Shirley’s website her syndicated blo g, Eden Makers and watch her trailblazing online garden TV show, the Garden World Report.


Susan Cohan

Susan Cohan – Chatham, NJ

Susan Cohan, APLD, is a woman with an opinion.  A landscape designer blogging as Miss R, she is a lover of the land, passionate about design and living a creative life.

Her boutique landscape design studio, Susan Cohan Gardens specializes in residential landscape design and creating artfully designed spaces for outdoor living.  Susan is an active user of social media… some of the many places you connect with her are Twitter, Facebook, Susan aka Miss R, or just see more eye candy on her Flickr page.


Susan Morrison

Susan Morrison – East Bay, CA

Susan Morrison is the owner of Creative Exteriors Landscape Design, a residential garden design firm located in the East Bay of Northern California. She is passionate about creating sustainable designs for both traditional and New California gardens. While puttering around online one day, Susan came upon the infamous Stewart Brand quote “information wants to be free.”  Through her Blue Planet Garden Blog and as a founding member of the Lawn Reform Coalition, she has taken this philosophy to heart. She speaks regularly in the Bay Area on design principles, sustainable gardening and lawn-free landscape design, and has been interviewed in such publications as the San Francisco Chronicle and the Contra Costa Times.  As a Master Gardener and a Bay Friendly Qualified Landscape Designer, Susan participates in various educational projects throughout the year.


Thomas Rainer – Arlington, VA

Thomas Rainer

Thomas Rainer is a registered landscape architect, teacher, and writer. He is a passionate advocate for an ecologically expressive design aesthetic that does not imitate nature, but interprets it. Thomas has designed landscapes for the U.S. Capitol grounds, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and The New York Botanical Garden, as well as over 80 gardens from Maine to Florida.

You can find his musings on the form, meaning, and expression of designed landscapes, at his blog Grounded Design



Sunday Opinion: The Plants

 faux bois

The heart and soul of any landscape is the plants.  As much as I love a fine bench, or a great galvanized tub, or my edger strip that keeps weeds out of my beds, or my deck with its comfortable chairs, or my tools, or my granite mulch, or my fountain, the really important news is almost always about the plants.  Beautiful plants always get my attention.  New ones intrigue me.  Old favorites bring back memories.  Great combinations never cease to interest me.

 magnolia Butterflies 

The frost destroyed every flower on all twelve of my magnolia trees-this is news.  OK, this is news in my world.  I have a very small urban property.  The magnolias are a big part of my landscape.  If you love magnolias as much as I do, those few fleeting weeks in the spring in which they bloom is a treasure.  That flowering cut short- heartbreaking.  Though I knew the trees themselves were not damaged,  I still worried about them.  The frost wrecked brown blooms of my Galaxy magnolias are still holding on-a daily reminder of a personally grievous event that warrants no press, no mourners besides me.

perennial garden designMy most favorite moments in the garden happen unexpectedly.  A clematis comes into bloom.  The Norway maple send forth leaves.  The lawn greens up, thickens, and grows almost overnight, given some spring weather.  A trout lily comes from no where and blooms.  The roses bud, and bloom, filling my side yard with that fragrance I associate with June.  The little plants I set in my pots flush out, and make a music I have heretofore not heard.  A hummingbird visits, fleetingly. All of what the plants provide to a landscape is one miraculous event after another. 

boxwood hedge

A large tree can provide shelter from the sun.  An old tree puts one’s own mortality in perspective.  A boxwood hedge can satisfy a need for order.  A wildflower garden satisfies that need to experience the primeval forest.  A rock garden successfully planted and maintained provides that particular pleasure-knowing you have suitably provided for a unique environment.  Growing food for your family dovetails with that most elemental instinct-to make a better world, to nurture.  By far and away, the most popular plant we carry in the shop is rosemary.  The pungent smell speaks strongly to the garden.  Cut sprigs season the dinner.  A wedding featuring rosemary features the garden.  Rosemary is a symbol of loyalty and remembrance.     

  white Japanese anemone

Spring flowering bulbs attest to patience, vision and belief in the future.  Fall blooming perennials bravely provide interest and color late in the year.  Tropical plants take the heat.  They grow to astonishing proportions.  Ornamental grasses court the wind.  The grass is a place for the corgis to play, and a place where the eye can rest. A grove of trees provides shelter from a sudden summer shower.   An espaliered apple tree occupies a very small space, but can produce lots of fruit.  Succulents are so sculptural in appearance, and need little in the way of care.   

landscape design

The moon and the Mohave desert are landscapes with capital L’s, but I would not want to live in either place.  I like land densely populated with all manner of plants. How many plants does it take to make a good landscape design?  As many as you can add to your vocabulary and experience.  Or as few as you like. As big, or as little as you like.  But a working knowledge of plants is essential. Design decisions involve making choices, so there has to be something from which to choose.    


There is no need to open a book.  The plants will tell you what they like and what they don’t.  Feel free to move plants around-they handle it well if you are careful with their root ball.  It’s about time for the plants-are you ready?


 bark mulch

What exactly is mulch?  Well nothing much relating to gardening falls under the heading of “exactly”, but in general mulch refers to a covering applied to the surface of the soil.  It might help to think of it as a blanket.  The blanket on my bed keeps me evenly warm throughout the night.  The key word here is not warm-it is evenly.  If I am hot and then cold and then hot again, I wake up.  If I am evenly comfortable, I sleep undisturbed. 


Bare soil, exposed to sun and air, looses its water via evaporation quickly.  A cover layer of mulch, which might be hardwood bark mulch, bark fines, or leaf mold slows the evaporation rate considerably. Mulch not only conserves existing water in the soil, it is easy to saturate with water-either from the sky, or the hose.  Water on hard dry soil can run off before it has a chance to be absorbed.  Peat moss mixed into soil aids in the retention of water, but as a mulch it has distinctive drawbacks.  A thoroughly dry layer of peat is an excellent moisture repellant.  The perennial bed pictured above will loose water at a fairly rapid rate on a really hot July day.  Once we add more plants to this bed, we will mulch it. 


 Mulch discourages weeds from sprouting and growing.  If weeds do sprout through the mulch, they are easier to pull from moist soil.  Mulch applied in a very thick layer can smother plants.  A thick layer of old newspapers decomposes slowly enough such that any plant underneath will perish.  This can be handy, if you are trying to convert a grassy area to a garden.  This method of preparing a bed for planting takes a lot less muscle than digging.  What it does require is patience-time.  It’s important to distinguish thick from solid.  A pile of matted down grass clippings is missing one important component essential to decomposition. Air.  Airless decomposition smells and looks bad. It feels like a cross between slime and sludge.   

A thick layer of mulch is not necessarily better.  2-3 inches is plenty. When that layer of mulch decomposes, add another layer. Mulch piled up much higher may seen like a good labor saving idea, but this can suffocate plants-and this includes trees. 

   This tree grew into, around and through a chain link fence.  It is thriving, despite this injury.  8 inches of mulch piled up around the trunk of this tree could do far more harm than what this fence has done.  Note that there is groundcover, and a light layer of leaves at the bottom.   


I have never been a fan of mulch rings around trees.  I like trees set in the lawn, or in a garden bed.  Mulch rings do discourage a person operating a lawnmower or weed whip from getting too close to, or injuring the bark of a tree, but it is much more utilitarian than it is beautiful. 


 This tree rises gracefully out of the lawn.  This has a much more natural, and park-like look.  The other landscape beds have a lot of bark visible.  Mulch is good for plants, but it is not a substitute for plants.  Granted plants need proper spacing from their neighbors in order to promote healthy growth, but bark mulch does not a garden make.    


 There are other materials that work as a mulch.  Gravel is one of my favorites.  Stone does decompose, but it decomposes imperceptibly.  The entire side and back yard at the shop is mulched in gravel.  Water drains through it.  The wheels of our carts run over it easily.  And it shades the ground from the drying eyes of the sun.  The willows on the back lot line are planted in what amounts to big and little rocks, mixed with sand.  The decomposed granite mulch helps to slow the evaporation of water from the gound long enough so the trees can get a drink. 


Seeds will germinate, and plants will grow when conditions are right for them.  The smallest bit of gravelly soil between the stones on this terrace provided the perfect conditions for a pansy seed to germinate.  A sunny spot to bloom, and cool moist soil for the roots-courtesy of the mulch provided by this stone terrace.

Leaf Magazine Spring Issue


Leaf cover

As my landscape superintendent was on holiday this past week, my time was largely devoted to my crew.  But I finally had the time to read through the second issue of Leaf Magazine.  This digital magazine is the brainchild of Susan Cohan (noted garden designer and author of the garden blog Miss Rumphius Rules) and Rochelle Greayer (garden designer, and author of  the garden blog Studio G).  The issue really is quite remarkable, and fresh.  142 pages worth, chock full of interesting topics, great writers and writing, and excellent photography.  My favorite article?  The Bark Garden, by Ken Druse.  The photographs by Clive Nichol  are breathtaking.  The article about flower markets around the world was so interesting.  I am not one bit surprised that they already have 80,000 subscribers.  But don’t take my word for it, look for your yourself.