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Showing posts from 2016

Garden tip - Obey the Request of the Stone

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My upcoming book, The Spirit of Stone (published by St Lynn's Press) will be out in February, 2017 .  It looks at many ways you can use natural stone in the garden from artful accents and stone walks to sustainable dry creeks and rock gardens.

One of the topics I address is the art of setting stones in a rock garden. I once lived in Japan (I worked in a landscape architecture office in Osaka) and so I feel a special connection to Japanese rock gardens.   In my work with placing rocks (often with large machines) I always listen to what the stone says. Sometimes, after a tough time placing a rock, I say that the stone does not want to be there and remove it. 
 I used to think that this conversation with a rock was my unique approach. But I was wrong. I also said that the first rock to be set determined the rest of the rocks in the garden and so this was the most important. Again, this was an old rule that I thought I made up. The 11th-century guide to making Japanese gardens, the Saku…

The Enchantment of a Curved Garden Walk or Wall

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The line of a garden walk can be an integral part of the overall composition rather just a simple linkage. And the layout of a garden wall can be something more than a physical barrier.

 For example, ancient Chinese garden designers used curving perimeter walls to enclose their revered gardens.  Osvald Siren described the winding grace of a Chinese garden wall in his book, 'Gardens of China':

“They seldom follow straight lines, and as a rule are not broken in sharp angles; they rather sweep in wide curves, ascending and descending according to the formation of the ground and thus often have the appearance of being elastic or modeled rather than built up.”

The elasticity of a curve lends a mysterious air to Chinese gardens.

Andy Goldsworthy, the great land art artist, did this with a stone wall at Storm King Mountain Sculpture center.



You can also attract people’s interest by laying out a walkway in a strong, playful line. Here I laid out an S-shaped steppingstone walk rather …

The Garden Lady chats about Heaven is a Garden

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C.L. Fornari, aka The Garden Lady, has a wonderful garden radio show that airs every Saturday on the Cape Cod station WRKO from 12-2 p.m. You can hear it as a podcast online.

Her show covers many gardening and landscaping topics and she discusses her favorite plants and answers listeners' gardening questions.

 C.L. is also the author of the inspiring book, The Cocktail Hour Garden: Creating Evening Landscapes for Relaxation and Entertaining

I was especially thrilled a week ago to be interviewed by C.L. about my book, Heaven is a Garden.  She asked some great questions about what is music for the eye in a garden and how to make your garden in tune with the four directions. C.L. is an insightful interviewer and I wanted to  share our short and fun chat with you!

Click below to hear our conversation or even read the transcript:

The Garden Lady radio chat with Jan Johnsen about Heaven is a Garden, 2016 









Hip Hip Hooray for Rose Hips

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Allow your roses to form hips. Did you know that, like many plants that produce fruit, the formation of rose hips is a signal to the rose to go dormant for the season?



Rose hips provide wonderful color in the garden and are a good source of vitamin C for birds in the fall and winter. They are one of the highest plant sources of Vitamin C. 'Cherry Pie' Rose makes great rose hips:



You can eat them too. Rose hips are used for jam, jelly, syrup, soup, beverages, pies, bread, and wine. They can also be eaten raw if care is used to avoid the hairs inside the fruit.  The redder they are, the softer and sweeter.  


for more info on roses go to Chris Van Cleave - click here






Speaking with Earth Spirits

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Speaking with Earth Spirits 
Deep down, in the warmth of the fecund earth, the spirits sing songs of life. Hoping we hear, they inhale and exhale along with the seasons.


Now, in the cool days of November,
they sing to us of rest and replenishment  and ask us to be calm.



The time has come to listen and of course, to rake the leaves...the leaves...

- Jan Johnsen









Renew Your Garden Tools!

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Winter is the time to get your garden tools in shape... hand tools such as shovels, picks, trowels, loppers, etc. should be cleaned, sharpened and well oiled.

Steel wool can clean off any rust or caked-on dirt.

And pure white vinegar works to remove rust too: pour into a bucket or small plastic tub. Submerse rusty pruning shears in the solution and soak overnight, or roughly 24 hours. The acid of the vinegar eats away at most of the surface rust.  Wash off the next day...for more on this go to the Backyard Boss article on cleaning pruning shears. 




But the most important thing I have found is to make sure to oil the tools. It is a rust preventative and a wood saver. 

A while back, in our shop (I own a landscape design/build firm and we have trucks, crews and lots of tools) we would have a large container filled with sand and motor oil and put our tools in it. 

...the sand acts an abrasive to remove dirt and the oil prevents rust. But this is not so smart.
Why? Because the petroleum oil goes…

DE- STRESS AND RELAX

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You can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Garden Design Magazine's New Gorgeous Videos!

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Have you noticed that I love the new Garden Design Magazine?
At every talk I give, I gush about it.  It is a gorgeous magazine devoted to garden design and plants. Every article is fascinating. It comes every few months.



Now they have upped their game even more and have developed some fabulous videos that share with you a little of what is in their issue....
Jim Peterson, the publisher and driving force behind the magazine, plans to make three kinds of videos. The first supports stories in the magazine. The second is about garden features that are popular and on the fabulous Garden Design website  and the third will be about garden design and will be made in collaboration with designer,  Richard Hartlage.
Here is an interview with the editor of Garden Design magazine, Thad Orr, talking about the magazine and what is covered. It is a gem of a magazine and I urge you to subscribe to it!



Here is Thad Orr talking about the article about Desert Native Plants - wow!




Get your first issue f…

October Glory in the Garden

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October Skies Aster- Jan Johnsen 

 In my part of the world - New York State - October is when Mother Nature shines.  The days are shorter, the sun is low in the sky, but the weather stays warm enough for the flowering plants to hang on.
 I design and install gardens with October in mind because it is now when people have time to appreciate their grounds - it is too cold for the beach and graduations and summer parties are a memory. This is when people can stop and savor a garden.
The design of Fall gardens is something I urge my students to master because these gardens prolong our enjoyment of Nature's gracious gifts.  
And, more importantly, they quietly trumpet the siren call of the garden muse who is about to take her leave...but not just yet.....she sticks around to give it one last show....

So in that vein, I am describing a little of what goes into making a autumn flower border... I know most readers simply enjoy the photos but maybe a few are interested in the 'gory det…

Beyond Prison : Insight Garden Program

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In the 1970s, I was a part of a team that taught a one year intensive certificate program on Landscape Development and Maintenance at a community college near New Paltz, NY.

I was a young instructor but was very earnest and devoted to teaching. Then one day the president of the college called me in and told me that I, alone, would be teaching all my courses at a men's correctional facility 44 miles away. 

What??!! all my classes? away from the campus? in a prison?

After much protesting, I was sent 'away' to teach the entire program at a men's prison. Well, as often happens, it was one of the best experiences in my life. I taught full time there for 2 years and still cherish the memories.



I have a lot of fun stories. We installed walks, plant beds and even a solar greenhouse (it was donated by a friend who had it on his property)  where we grew organic salad greens. I was not backed by any grants or organizations - I just forged ahead.

I taught college level classes on plant…

The Rolling Crabapples - smile

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This is funny. 

 Glenn Eichler wrote an open letter to the New York Botanical Garden in 2014 in the New Yorker regarding his love of their rock garden. He felt it deserved more attention: 

"...rocks—dragged by glaciers, striped and striated by, I guess, also glaciers—deserve better. 

Not sexy? Compared to what, the Donald J. Bruckmann Crabapple Collection? 

No disrespect to Mr. Bruckmann, but Mick Jagger and Keith Richards haven’t spent fifty years playing to sold-out crowds as the Rolling Crabapples, the world’s greatest crabapple-and-roll band."

Glenn has a point, don't you think?







The Glorious Sunflower - The Fourth Sister

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I have written about the Native Americans'Three Sisters Garden (corn, beans and squash ) but I neglected to tell you of the Fourth Sister...

a very important member of this family!
This is from Hubpages
"Fourth Sister, didn't look anything like her other sisters, although she was as tall and as slender as First Sister (corn) . That seemed fair to all, because Third Sister and Second Sister shared similar but different features. They could climb and run, while their other two sisters were forced to stand tall and proud."
Mother Sun explained that each sister had her job and each had to benefit from and protect one another.  But Fourth Sister's job was most important of all -- for she was the guardian of the North, planted firmly, to protect others from the robbers who soon would come.


The fourth sister was the elegant sunflower.


The Sisters are known to the Native Americans as the “mothers of life”  but they all need each other to survive.  Corn uses the nitrogen sup…