Creating harmony, simplicity and peace in the landscape......

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.

Gardening is an instrument of grace. "

May Sarton

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pantone's Advice for 2015: Serenity in the Garden

 "There is a growing movement to step out and create ‘quiet zones’ to disconnect from technology and unwind, giving ourselves time to stop and be still. " 

- Pantone 2015 Color Forecast

acer griseum - Paperbark Maple

Colorful Garden Ideas...

from Design Seeds

Those of us who love color (me! me!) can’t resist the urge to include all the hues on the color wheel in our gardens.  

Jan Johnsen  - colorful flower garden 

Color does add a dramatic punch to a garden but it can result in visual cacophony (aka : a colorful mess).

 Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, Pa addressed this dilemma in their 600 foot long ‘Flower Garden Walk’. They decided to feature one color at a time..

from Design Seeds

So along this broad brick walk is a mix of flowers, spring bulbs, shrubs and grasses that showcases one individual color followed by another. 

As you stroll, you experience the full impact of each color of the rainbow, before going on to the next.

At the start is a grand sweep of lavender, purple and blue

courtesy: historicfloralgardens.blogspot 

which melds into soft pinks and reds then changes to oranges and warm yellows,

Ultimately ending in white.

Some of the plants in this garden :

  • butterfly-bush 
  • Golden oriental arborvitae,
  •  panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Unique'),
  • purple smoke-bush (Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak'),
plus thousands of ever-changing bulbs, annuals and perennials from April through October.

This fun approach can be used in any garden –  a long curving flower bed can begin with white wax begonias extending through pink ones and ending with red begonias.

and in fall for a dash of purple add the ornamental cabbage! oops - here I go into the colorful mess arena...

market hues by Design Seeds

For a great color contrast paint something like a picnic bench a fun color like they did below....

Phlox in front of a blue picnic table.  I took this photo at Stone Meadow it.

above all, Have Fun!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

'Touch the Earth' through a Garden

sculpture by Ruth Moilliet - Bluebell 2

The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.
~ George Bernard Shaw

Many of us turn to gardens and landscapes as a way to create a more meaningful connection to the earth. This urge is the impetus behind this garden blog.

I share my experiences in the garden world as a way to inspire others to ‘touch the earth’.

garden by Jan Johnsen

 I believe the piece of ground outside our door can be a conduit for us to appreciate the energy that flows within plants, water, trees, sunlight, rocks, birds and assorted creatures.

It is in a garden, as George Bernard Shaw declared, where we can touch the divine.

Looking at the natural world in this way is nothing new. The idea of sanctified outdoor space was the genesis for the sacred groves of the Egyptians, Indians and Greeks.

It birthed the medieval labyrinths and Native Americans’ 'medicine wheels'.

And ancient Chinese geomancy, ‘Feng Shui’, and Indian ‘Vaastu’,  sees the earth and her directions as living, vibrant forces.

cascade and garden by Jan Johnsen

In my blog (and my book, Heaven is a Garden) I explore some of these traditional practices and share them with you.

I believe that now, at the dawn of the 21st century, we can learn a lot from these 'rediscoveries'.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Create a Circular Peace Garden

Circles in the landscape - design by Jan Johnsen

Our natural inclination, when in a group, is to gather in a circle.

The ineluctable unity of this shape gives each person equal standing, equal voice and equal support. It is a perfect shape for expressing ourselves to others.  The result? A unified purpose or intention arising from talking and listening, in turn.

Yay for the circle!

Like theater in the round, no one has a better seat than anyone else. It is no wonder that circular gathering spaces are popular for group activities and in various spiritual traditions.

The Contemplative Mind is enhanced through circular gatherings

This is why I advocate Circular Peace Gardens wherever people may gather.

A circle is a nurturing form that invites us in - there are no hard edges, corners or angles.

Alcazar Garden, Seville, Spain  photo by Jan Johnsen 

So what is the perfect size for a circular 'people space' outdoors?

 It is all a matter of proportion, scale, context and intended use.  If you are in a dense urban neighborhood - the size of the circle may be decided for you by what is available....if you are in a wide open flat space, the size would depend on intended use.  Above all, I always counsel people to make it bigger than they think they need.

Always start with determining the personal space required for each person which is about a 2'6" radius around each person...then I add another 1.5 ft. for 'move around' space.

4' radius or 8' diameter for each person

I then use this as the space - 4 ft. - as the rough distance between people.

So if you want 10 people in your circle then multiply 4' x 10 to get a circumference (perimeter) of about 40 ft.  Once you know that you can go here (click on it) to determine that your circle's diameter should be about 13 ft.

The radius would therefore be about 6.5 feet.  If you wanted 20 people, then double 13 to get a diameter of 26 ft. This is the minimum - you can always go bigger.

Always work from the center point out when laying out the circle...Here is a wonderful diagram from a mathematics in gardening blog:

You can fashion a circular garden in a lawn, bordering it with rocks, bricks, tree stumps or shrubs. You can even mark one out on a lawn with some powdered agricultural lime.

Of course you can get very technical about the whole circle thing....The epitome of circular shapes in a green space are those famous Crop Circles that spring up overnight in the middle of a field.

 Some think these shapes are made by people with plywood boards in the space of 5 minutes, but I beg to differ :

Good Luck! Let me know....

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Aexander Calder and the Phi Proportion

Alexander Calder was a famous  artist that used shapes that are 'biomorphic'.  They recall shapes found in nature such as leaves, flowers, clouds.

Shadbush leaves in Autumn - Calder's inspiration?

Calder's other interests included physics, astronomy and kinetics.  He was inspired by color and composition and Piet Mondrian's paintings.

by Piet  Mondrian, this incorporates Phi proportion

In some of Calder's signature hanging mobiles, he arranged colorful natural shapes in a mathematical pattern found in Nature called the Fibonacci sequence which is based on the proportion known as PHI (1:1.618).

In the Calder mobile below, called, 'Back, White and Ten Red', the shapes are arranged in the Fibonacci sequence, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5.....(each number is the sum of the two preceding it).

 Perhaps he got this idea from Mondrian who also used Phi in his famous artworks.

Fibonacci sequence in Calder's  'Black, White and Ten Red', 1957

The mobile has each number as a separate hanging unit on the mobile like this:

source: St Mary's College, Maryland 

Calder and Mondrian knew about Phi, the Golden Proportion, and now we all are learning about it!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sparkling White Plants in the Fall

Garden  #heavenisagarden

White elevates a garden. It soothes us.  Uplifts us.  It adds sparkle to any outdoor space. This clear and crisp color shines brightly on a misty autumn morning like a beacon that offers us sweet tidings. 

Because white flowers 'glow' in dark autumn evenings, I place white mums in pots by my door to greet people. I also plant them in the ground to light up dark corners.

white mums - photo by Jan Johnsen

I also enjoy how white Angelonia flowers (an annual here)  keep blooming in the coolness.

Angelonia and Buddy Purple Gomphrena. annuals here by Jan Johnsen

And of course, Montauk Daisies are the stars of October...shining ever so freshly on cool afternoons...they are perennial and come back every year.

Montauk Daisy and Japanese Forest Grass - photo by Jan Johnsen

Montauk Daisies

And don't forget those plants that have variegated leaves!

Outside my window in the northwest section of my little yard is a variegated dogwood shrub.

I prune it back in early spring and then the green and white leaves grow in to cover the compact bush with a cloak of brightness, which I especially admire in autumn.

Variegated Dowood shrub - photo by Jan Johnsen

Variegated iris ensata is also a stand out in the fall. Its white and green blades are still looking strong.  I took this photo below in October.

Variegated Iris ensata - photo by Jan Johnsen

And of course white can be introduced in other ways into a garden:

But that is a topic for another day.....

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ideas for a Fall Garden - Garden Design

Kousa Dogwood in Fall - Jan Johnsen

Check out 'Ideas for a Fall Garden' on

Please click on the article name above for some great end-of-the-gardening-year ideas for your garden.

Their website accompanies the new magazine that I really like, Garden Design. Click on it to see more.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Garden of Oz, Los Angeles

Garden of Oz  photo by Philip Gutt

Somewhere in Beachwood Canyon in the Hollywood Hills (beneath the Hollywood Sign) in Los Angeles, way up high, is a hidden private garden that you may have heard of, once in a lullaby.

Garden of Oz - photo by Gerard Bosch

It is a treasure trove of recycled garden art - multi-color mosaics and hand painted tiles mixed with old Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels embedded in the rockwork.

Add to this vision a plethora of plants and flowers cascading over benches and walls.  The garden even contains a 'road' ( really a walk) paved with yellow 'bricks'. iron gate and sign announces the Garden of Oz. The  mailbox outside the gate reads “Letters to Oz”.

(Perhaps a flying monkey swoops down each day to pick up the mail.)

The story goes that the wonderful Gail, the garden's owner and creator, was an adviser to the Pope (which one? I don't know). She created this multi-faith garden and gave all the children who live nearby a key to get inside the gate whenever they please.

And it's also been said that the Dalai Lama once sent 15 of his monks to bless the garden which features menorahs, statues, and mandalas from all over the world.

It even has a Peace Pole.

Garden of Oz - photo by Gerard Bosch

I would love to visit this mini-paradise, located at 3106 Ledgewood Drive, Hollywood, so if anyone happens to come upon a local kid with a key, let me know.   :-)

(Update: I had the chance to visit but could not get there on the right day.  I will try again soon - .)