Friday, 27 April 2012

The balcony planters arrived

...but they were both chipped and cracked when I opened the boxes, which surprised me because they came with loads of bubble wrap.  I'm going to have to wait for an exchange before I can enjoy them, but I set them up quickly on the balcony with the bistro chairs and took a couple of snaps from the cemetery.  What do you think?

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Medium sized shrubs for the roof garden

Having seen the soil depth I'm working with (pretty decent!) and the vast emptiness after having planted almost all of my initial plant selections, I clearly need more shrubs in the 4-6ft tall range.

At the nursery yesterday I saw a few other interesting candidates.  First up is Rubrus idaeus 'Anne', which is a yellow raspberry.

I researched it and it seems like a good candidate.  Not too big and with allegedly very tasty fruit.  Today I returned and made the purchase.  The leaves are a really pretty chartreuse color, but maybe they mature to the darker green shown above.

I also came across some Hibiscus moscheutos 'Blue River II' that I later learned get rave reviews:

Excellent.  I picked up one of those today.

Three of the nurseries that I ordered from in the first round sent me nicely leafy, mature and really carefully packed plants, so they were the ones whose catalogues I turned to first for 4-6 foot tall plants.  This morning I placed an order with Niche Gardens for a few things.  Among them is this white-flowered Seashore Mallow (Kosteletzkya virginica 'Immaculate'):

I probably don't need another rose, but this Persian Rose (Rosa 'Nastarana') and it's description in the Niche catalogue hooked me.   It can be grown upright-ish as a shrub, blooms from spring until frost and is very fragrant:

White Bush Clover is another plant I'm going to try.  It has a very interesting arching growth habit, which appeals to me, and like the others, it gets to be 4-5 feet tall.

Hopefully these five newbies will fill things in nicely.

Not in the shrub category, but my husband has been begging for a grape vine to train up the pergola.  (He adores fruit.)  The nursery had several, of which the best seems to be 'Niagara'. 

(Green grapes will work better with the color scheme.  They had 'Reliance' too, which is a red grape that seems to be both delicious and have nice foliage.)  Today when I was back at the nursery, I got a Niagara vine.

Eventually I am also going to need some shade plants to plant along the front of the patio, under/behind the high top table.  I'm hesitating about ordering the shade plants, though, because until we get the table, there is no shade there and I don't want to kill anything. But that part of the garden looks really bare and it's front and center.  Maybe the solution for this season is annuals.  I'd need to source some really interesting ones, though, to keep from feeling bored.  Will report back later on this.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

More planting in the roof garden

I've done some more planting in the roof garden.  All the lavender plants are now in.  I put in a row of the dwarf white lavender 'Coconut Ice' under one of the headhouse windows.  I like the idea of a lavender hedge but when I went looking for photos of 'Coconut Ice' to show you, I kept seeing it described as opening pink, then fading to white.  I might have to dig the whole thing up.  See?

Darn nursery plant descriptions.  (Usually I don't buy unless I've researched first at home but I was soooo excited to see dwarf white lavender that I pounced.)   I also planted four 'Cathy Blanc' lavenders, which will undoubtedly be better behaved, though they're puny now:

I planted the white flowering almond Prunus glandulosa alba plena:

I planted two Alstromeria 'Apollo':

I also threw my three Veronica 'Whitewater' into the ground because they have been looking increasingly miserable.  When they arrived they were *stunning*: the definition of elegance in a tiny plant:

Our dwarf North Star cherry arrived yesterday, so I planted him too.  He's pretty tall already - almost four feet, I'd say.

I was planning to espalier him against the iron railing as he grew, but I'm not sure that's going to be possible.  I think I need to bring in someone who knows what they're doing with a pair of pruning shears so as not to butcher him.

When I was checking out the latest arrivals today at my local nursery, I succumbed to the siren call of three incredible 'Dove' columbines.  I planted them all in one big clump.  They're absolutely covered with flowers and over 2 feet tall:

Not bad for some much needed instant gratification, right?

Oh, and while I was planting today I noticed two interesting things.  First, the not-good: some kind of black bird was picking branches off my Artemesia 'Silver Brocade' and carrying them off to make a nest.  The nerve!  I don't even know my new neighbor's name.  He's about the size of a robin, with a yellow beak, black body and whitish speckles on his chest.  Well, that artemesia is gorgeous and *soft* so I can easily imagine it lining a newborn's bed:

The good surprise was that there is a single, minute red strawberry on one of my 'Golden Alexandria' plants!  Incredible, since they're not even in the ground yet. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Furniture for the roof garden

I've been mulling over the furniture for the roof garden for months but it's definitely time to commit and place some orders or we'll have nowhere to sit this summer and some of the vines that are already here will have nothing to climb.

There are basically three small "rooms" in the roof garden.  The first is the stone patio.  All along, I've wanted a narrow rectangular high top table to place as close as possible to the roof's railing and four counter height stools with backs - two placed side by side along the length of the table and one at each end of the table.  Originally, I had this in mind from Crate and Barrel, even though it's not designed for outdoor use (you'll notice my flagrant disregard of that concept throughout this post):
Well, when the patio was built, the green roofers made it smaller than we'd expected, which means more flowerbed along the railing, but less depth for a table - especially ones that you can't tuck the stools beneath.  The best alternative I've found so far has been this one, from ABC Carpet and Home:

Stools have been tricky.  I like the bentwood ones from CB (black? white? two of each?), but wouldn't risk them outside:

Something like this with a back miiiight be okay too - I like the way the slipcover cushions soften the look, and they are small enough not to take up too much space when stored indoors:

I think it might be simplest to get them custom made, but  it's looking like we should wait to buy a table and stools until next year, saving up until then.

The second garden "room" is to the right of the patio.  That's where I've always imagined having an outdoor daybed.   I love the idea of sleeping in a garden and of indoor furniture outside (in case you couldn't tell!)  I also like the idea of growing vines up the bedposts and into the bed's canopy: the sense that the garden is encroaching.  When I came across this photo in a recent issue of Architectural Digest, all I could think was "daybed thieves"...

...because prior to seeing it, I was thinking of something inspired by the canopy bed below, but sturdier, heavier, rust-proof and black:

Then I started to worry about the idea of a daybed.  First of all, my husband has insisted that a double bed would take too much space away from the garden and that we should just get a single.  But then he's troubled that we won't really both be able to sit on it together - or at least we'd be head to toe and it would be really tight.  Also, it's not exactly somewhere you can sit with a (platonic) friend.  Finally, we were attacked by the new Restoration Hardware phonebook-size catalogues last week.  I admired these in it:

A pair of them (with cushions) seems both functional and elegant.  I went by our local RH store yesterday to feel the cushion fabric swatches and placed an order, together with the cushions in their white "classic linen".  The delivery timeline is pretty nutty: not until mid-June, but I'm trying to tell myself that it will be mid-June in the blink of an eye (unfortunately).

Not wanting to give up on my idea of a canopy, I turned to the idea of a pergola.  I think the shape I'd originally had in mind needs to be modified to include a few more straight lines, in keeping with the fretwork on the backs of the chaise lounges.  So our ironworker is going to make us a small pergola inspired by the canopy on this bed:

I hope this chaise lounge plus pergola combination is the right way to go. 

I find that it can be really hard to make design decisions which seem unconventional/impractical but which are actually more functional for how you live your life.  I know that seems counter-intuitive because designers pride themselves on their unconventionality, but actually there are lots of assumptions about how certain spaces should be used.  In choosing the pair of chaises plus pergola option over the canopied daybed (perhaps double and/or with adjacent comfy chair), I hope I'm choosing the option that works better for our lifestyle, rather than just going along with how most people would think about the space.  The sense of feeling time pressure to decide also isn't helping.

The RBB's third garden room is to the left of the patio.  Originally I had thought of it as a plant-only space, but I know conventional garden design demands a place for someone to sit and enjoy the room.  Maybe a couple of arm chairs?  But I would also like to include a water feature in the garden and I wonder if there's some way to combine one with a place to perch.  If it we're for the weight concern, I'd do a tiny reflecting pool with an edge wide enough to sit on.  I want to give room number three some more thought and also let the garden reveal what it needs in time.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Update on balcony furniture

It's been a few weeks since I wrote about the balcony furniture I was considering buying for the red brick building.  I did take part of the plunge and bought two of the wood block rugs from West Elm in the lighter color. (They have since gone on sale - I guess they're going to discontinue them).

The runners shipped separately and West Elm accidentally sent me a completely random other item (from PB Kids!), so I had to call, point out the mistake and wait extra time to receive the second rug.  As it turns out, though, the wood block rugs are perfect.  The fit couldn't be better and they look really good.  Plus, they'll keep our bare feet from scalding on the black metal on sunny summer days.

I also ordered two Pottery Barn Seagrass Stools, which turned out to be surprisingly sturdy and comfortable to sit on.  (Sitting cross-legged on them actually works really well.)  They're a smidge big on the balcony, though, and I wasn't crazy about having to lean against the RBB instead of the back of a chair.   I debated whether or not to return them for a couple of weeks, rationalizing that if I could find a different chair that they would work with, they could be used as occasional tables next to the new chairs. 

Then I came across these chairs, I think in one of the online design magazines (sorry, I forget which - maybe High Gloss?):

The color was what grabbed me right away - it's very similar to our front door's color, though of course one can never be sure based on a photo.  When I checked their dimensions, it turns out they're really shallow, which is exactly what we need.  They're made in France, so I rationalized that they're probably have quality construction.  They also fold flat for storage.  Finally, the price was great.  I ordered, they came on Friday, and it turns out they they are really nicely made.  The seat is actually some kind of rubbery plastic so it's a bit cushy.  The color unfortunately is a bit darker and less pretty than our front door, but it's in the same family.  Finally, the fit on our narrow balcony couldn't be better.  I'm going to keep them, which unfortunately means I can't use the PB Seagrass stools as side tables because their "x" bases look weirdly repetitive beside those of the chairs.  It's okay because by now my husband has also fallen for the seagrass stools, so we're going to keep them as extra seating/end tables indoors and if we get tired of them, bring them to the beach house, where they'll be appropriate too.

I spent a few hours today trying to figure out how to finish off furnishing the balcony and here's what I came up with.  I started with the planters, which you'll remember I had wanted to be black iron urns.  I've looked at a lot of iron planters at various price points.  They're expensive!  But also, they're really heavy even when they're empty and I don't want to add more weight than necessary to the balcony.  I came across these fiberglass urns today at Terrain:

I have no idea what I'll think of them in person.  Maybe they'll look hideously fake and plastic-y, but I am going to give them a try.

Finally, I looked for end tables that would tie together the wrought iron railing, the wood block rug, the blue chairs and the fiberglass urns.  It's amazing how many fantastic garden stools/end tables are out there!  But I kept coming back to this one that I've been eying for years:

Then I bit the bullet and ordered.  They're a little pricey, so I only bought one.  I'm planning to place it in the center of the balcony, opposite the front door, so that's what you'll see when you look outside.  Then the chairs will go one on either side of the door, and the urns will go at either end of the balcony.  Here's hoping that everything looks good and that the proportions work.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Day two of planting

I spent an hour unwrapping a large plant shipment this morning, then went upstairs and began planting.  Three hours later, it still doesn't look like much but at least a few of plants are happier now that they have their feet in real soil and a good soaking from the hose. 

I planted one of my two dwarf lilacs.  They're both 'Betsy Ross', remember?

Both shrubs are large compared to most other things in the garden and when I opened the box they were flowering beautifully inside it.

I planted the three 'Top Hat' blueberry bushes which arrived in the mail today.  They are absolutely tiny, but arrived complete with equally tiny (green) berries.

I got the alleged climbing hydrangea 'Skylands Giant' into the ground.  I say alleged because this so-called giant came in a 3" x 3" pot.  I wonder whether he's going to take off.

I planted clematis 'Huldine' and clematis macropetalia alba.  Also wisteria 'Clara Mack', which arrived today, looking puny.  I planted my 'White Dawn' rose, which also came today. 

Then I put in 3 'O Yashima' flowering quinces.  I planted the 3 "Perry's White" Oriental Poppies that I impulse-bought at a local nursery on Monday.  (I was planning to get 3 white oriental poppies, but "White Ruffles" not "Perry's White".)  They have been looking utterly wretched, so hopefully getting them into the ground cheers them up.  Here's what they are supposed to look like in bloom:

I planted three very wimpy looking Daphne burkwoodii 'Briggs' Moonlight':

Each plant literally has 10 leaves on it.  And these are supposed to become 4 foot tall shrubs...hopefully in my lifetime.  I was a bit freaked out that the label in the pot described them as pink-flowering.  Obviously I was expecting them to flower white.  Maybe it's a very pale pink?  Here's hoping because they were hard to track down and the foliage is really neat.  (I just checked another online source, which says the buds are pink but open white.)

I planted an 'Honorine Jobert' anemone:

I planted the garden's only hydrangea (Hydrangea x Wedding Gown), which arrived in today's UPS shipment and was drying out and drooping fast. 

I planted one of the garden's two mini variegated evergreen shrubs - Thuja Occidentalis 'Konfetti:

That's really stepping out of my comfort zone, but maaaaybe I'll be glad I have it in the winter.

Lastly, I planted one of the white peonies from a local nursery.  It's a white version of the classic pink 'Sarah Bernhardt':

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

My first day of planting the roof garden

I've been procrastinating about planting anything in the roof garden, even though I'm very excited about it.  The problem is that I really want to put in the larger plants first, to see how much space they'll take up and how they look in 3D before putting in the small plants in front of them, but everything is being shipped from all over the country and the nurseries are spreading out the shipping, (despite the fact that all the plants were ordered within 48 hours of each other).  Today a group of larger plants arrived, so I decided to dig in.  The absurdly hot weather we had the past 2 days (95 degrees on Monday!) also kick-started me because everything is drooping.  The white lavender in particular seems inconsolable despite my best attempts to water abundantly.  Hang in there guys!

This afternoon was much cooler and overcast, which they say is perfect planting weather from the plants' point of view.  I worked for about an hour and a half before getting cold and hungry and coming in for dinner.  In that time, I planted a few of the plants I've blogged about previously.  The Japanese Hydrangea Vine 'Moonlight' went in first.  When it arrived in the mail it was so puny I couldn't believe it.  It was in one of those tiny seedling cell containers.  Disappointing, but at least it's in the ground and maybe it's a very fast grower.  I also planted the Sweet Autumn Clematis, bought on Monday from a local nursery, which is a decent size.  I planted the White Flowering Chocolate Vine which came in the mail today, also in one of those pathetic seedling cells.  The leaves are really pretty - the 8 or 10 that it has!  I planted the three Calycanthus x Venus (Sweetshrub) that arrived today.  They're small, but not laughably so.  I planted 4 pots-worth of a bearded iris named "Immortality" that I bought at another local nursery.  This is what it's supposed to look like:

I put them all together in a clump, in the hope of making them look at bit more substantial.  Another relatively big plant I put in today is the honeysuckle 'Graham Thomas', which I debated buying and ultimately went for:

I'm glad I did, just to have something that isn't a midget.

More planting for me tomorrow....

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Roof garden: The evening of the big day

Really tired.  The green roof guys were here another 10 hours.  (I bet they're much, much more tired!)  So I'll let the photos do the talking...


I love that the height of the soil has given us back our views off the roof!