Posts tagged "Garden Design"

Create a “Winter to Spring” Garden Vignette With Potted Plants!

potted garden vignette for the spring with junipers harry lauder walking stick tree daffodils

Create a transitional,  "winter to spring" garden vignette using potted plants while you wait for the sun to shine.

I appeared on "Good Things Utah" recently to present some container garden ideas that are realistic for cold winter areas.


Container gardens are the answer to space-challenged yards and urban patios and balconies with tiny square footage.

Instead of just setting out a mishmash of potted plants, create a "garden vignette" or a grouped collection that tells a cohesive story.




What do you think about my plant selection?

Garden Vignette 101

A vignette should start with  a decorative focal point.


Metal trellis with checkerboard moss pattern in garden

I employed a metal trellis as a background and covered it with spagnum moss decorated in a checkerboard pattern.


You will need a small tree to anchor your container garden.

I elevated a leafless Corylus 'Contorta' (Harry Lauder walking stick) tree to sculpture status!

 "Harry" is planted in a shiny, ochre colored ceramic pot and propped on top of a copper planter.



Blue Star Juniper Topiary Planted in Containers


Two, topiary  Blue Star Junipers  flank the small tree and contribute more structure to the vignette.

Narcissus and Hyacinths round out the ensemble, bringing a welcomed jolt of color and fragrance to the winter patio.


Did You Know?

Junipers are the extreme survivors in nature and are able to withstand extreme heat, drought and cold temperatures!


There are hundreds of juniper varieties with growth habits that range from  prostate, mounding, twisting,spreading, spiraling and more.

You can also find Junipers in every hue of  gold, blue, green and silver!


Junipers are very common plants, consequentlly, they don't receive the adulation they  deserve.


Let's take a moment to contemplate their amazing characteristics!


Enjoy the video and get started on your winter garden vignette!


So what's thriving in your container garden right now?

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Press: Country Garden in

Apartment Therapy The Gardenist Before and After Shirley's Country Garden


I'm happy to see that  is featuring my "Country Garden" project on their site today!

Rochelle Greayer, "The Gardenist" wrote an article  titled,   "Before and After: Shirley's Country Garden"  about one of my small, affordable garden designs.


rose trees in country garden


As a matter of fact, Rochelle has a whole series of "Before and After"  gardens on her blog this month!

Make sure to comment and share her article with your friends!

Thanks Rochelle!



Outdoor Dining Area Design Ideas

Outdoor Table Setting with tile table, roses, muffins and fresh fruit

Nothing levels the playing field between the rich and poor as the experience of dining outdoors.

Everyone has the same access to the sun, the moon and the stars!

If you ask me, outdoor dining is one of  the most indulgent pleasures that we can all enjoy.

Whenever my family eats in our backyard, our "ordinary" meal is transformed into an extraordinary one!


Inexpensive muffins, strawberries, pretty dishes and flowers are downright luxurious in this outdoor setting.


One of my favorite landscaping features to design is outdoor dining areas and outdoor kitchens.

I love the challenge of creating  beautiful and functional dining spaces that fit within my clients budgets.


Here are some examples of outdoor dining areas that I've designed using "weird," recycled, inexpensive and non-traditional materials.



Functional design doesn't have to be expensive.

I'm  also including  some "optional design features" that are nice to have if you have want to spend a little more cash.



Instant Garden Dining Area Using TV Trays!


Outdoor Dining Using Portable TV Trays by Shirley Bovshow for an HGTV makeover show

TV tray collection surrounds a container garden"centerpiece" 


Some of you may remember my garden makeovers for HGTV's "Outer Spaces" show.

This was one of my favorites, "Green Thumb's Paradise."

Of course the budget was measly (as most garden TV makeover budgets are),  so I hatched this crazy idea of placing  TV trays around an urn to form a dining area!


A Funny Background Story About This Garden Makeover


Outdoor Dining area layout for a garden makeover show on HGTV by Shirley Bovshow

 My yard was my "live" drawing board for many years until I gave it a  makeover.


When I was designing this garden makeover, my yard was a  barren landscape so it became  my defacto "design lab."

I used landscaping paint to draw the patio and garden bed configurations on my dead lawn.


This way I could, walk through the area and  experience it before committing to the design.

Once I was happy with my "dress rehearsal" design, I'd draw up the plan!

Don't be afraid to do the same in your yard!


Garden designers, am I crazy?


Take a look at the slideshow to to see what came from that adventure.




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The Perfect Setting!



Three trees and lawn in backyard provide shade for new outdoor dining area

 Three trees offer shade for the future outdoor dining area.


The yard I was designing  for the HGTV  garden makeover had good bones.

Three trees enclosed  an intimate grassy patch which I immediately identified as the future dining area.


Container Garden as a centerpiece for outdoor dining arrangement for HGTV makeover by Shirley Bovshow

 Lower left is the urn planter used as centerpiece for the collection of TV trays


We created an informal patio floor using recycled concrete pieces embedded in sand to provide a level floor for the furniture.

Four TV tray tables were set around a tall urn planted with a tall ornamental grass for dramatic effect.

Instant centerpiece, instant dining area, instant happy homeowner!

Six years later, the homeowner is still using her tray table dining area.



Outdoor Dining for a Small Tract Home Yard!


One of my favorite repeat landscaping clients in Los Angeles bought a home with a small (800 square feet) yard.

Never mind the small square footage, my charming client wanted an  entertainer's retreat with dining for eight, a sunbathing area, and a garden for him to tend!


Recycled Concrete Patio and antique wood dining table sealed for outdoor use

The antique indoor dining table was sealed with matte marine varnish to protect from water. 


He also had a GINORMOUS table he wanted to use in the outdoor dining area, so I designed the whole backyard around the table.

Take a look.



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I divided the rectangular tract lot into three separate areas and used inexpensive recycled concrete for the floor.

The wood table was very heavy so we mortared the concrete pieces instead of setting them in sand.

Another important consideration was shade and accessibility to the kitchen.

You don't want to walk long distances between the kitchen and the table unless you are an experienced



Backyard Entertainer's Yard with Dining area in small tract lot


The dining patio area was constructed in a strategic location behind a few shade trees, so my client saved money on a shade structure.

Now my client  happily dines with his seven guests while listening to the calming trickle of the fountain, strategically placed in his garden.

He has it all!



Front Yard English Garden Tea Bistro!


English Tea Garden Patio with gravel, fountain and roses

An unused front lawn was removed to make room for the English bistro garden!


Landscape designer, Michael Glassman and I had a blast designing this front yard, English tea garden for our show, "Garden Police" on the Discovery Home Channel.

You  may ask, "Why place a dining patio in a front yard?"

The answer is, "No backyard!"


I know some of you may relate to this problem, but it's nothing to cry about.

Get creative!

Privacy is the most important issue when your front yard functions as your backyard.

Here's what we did.


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Ditch the Lawn!

Front lawn area before garden makeover as an English tea garden


The first step was to remove the water-thirsty lawn and in it's place, create a gravel patio.


The crunchy sound of the gravel is very European!


Recycled brick used as garden edging in English tea garden

 Brick edging surrounds the fountain and flower garden


There were some bricks from  the entry planter that had to be removed  because they posed a trip hazard in the new patio.

The bricks were re-used as edging for the new patio and garden beds.

No materials went to waste.


To make the dining experience more enjoyable, we added a fountain and planted the area surrounding the patio with a variety  of colorful plants and roses.


Front yard English garden with gravel patio, roses and fountain

 Front yard English garden with gravel patio, roses and fountain


Although you can see the patio from the sidewalk, it is not completely exposed, just enough for people to see  and feel a little jealous!



Outdoor Dining Elements From Shirley's Gardens!

Here are some design elements from some of my other outdoor dining rooms.

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See any ideas you can use?


For those of you who are contemplating building an outdoor kitchen, here are some tips I posted on my other blog, The Foodie Gardener!

"Five Tips For Creating Functional Outdoor Kitchens."



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This post is part of a group post by the

Garden Designers Roundtable on the theme of  "Alfresco Dining."


Visit some of these other blogs for more creative ideas.

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Susan Schlenger : Landscape Design Advice : Hampton, NJ





3-Tier Container Garden

Copper container garden vignette

These  gorgeous, three-tier container gardens were spotted in front of the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago where I stayed this week.

The  first thing that caught my attention was the copper containers themselves and then I noticed how dynamic the plant arrangement was!

Not only are the copper containers  a feature in this landscape, but the “understory” planting of bulbs and annuals all work together for this spectacular vignette.


close up of copper container

Note how the tulips, Swedish ivy and other annuals complete the look underneath the copper container garden arrangement.


The top  tier features the “thriller” plant, or featured plant- a strappy and billowy ornamental grass.

Perfect topper.

Underneath are lavender azaleas and spilling, Swedish ivy.



metal stand

The three-tier container plant arrangement is elevated from the bottom level for prominence.


A metal planter stand raises the copper containers for greater prominence.

I recommend using a concrete paver to place the stand on.

It will balance that the metal legs  so they don’t sink into the soil and tilt over.

You can always cover the paver with a sheet of moss.


Every tier in the container garden arrangement is elevated.


Some Tips

When selecting a plant stand for use within another pot like this, make sure the legs sit as low to the bottom of the container as possible so that it doesn’t “sink” after filling with soil and plants.

I suggest using a metal plant stand that is powder coated so that it doesn’t rot from the constant contact with moist soil.


Hope this container garden arrangement inspires you to create your own!

Here are some more of my container garden design ideas.

Want some design ideas for affordable and beautiful edible container gardens?

Okay, go out and garden!


Double Duty Built in Seating

built in semi circular stone bench doubles as a retaining wall in the landscape

Double duty built in seating in action. The semi circular stone bench functions as seating for the fire pit area and is also a retaining wall for the newly constructed upper garden level!


Functional Landscape Design:

Many homeowners start their landscape construction projects in the fall and winter in Los Angeles so that they can be “outdoor living and entertainment ready” for the summer.


If you have visions of hosting crowds that are bigger than your outdoor furniture can accommodate, you should seriously consider incorporating built in seating into your landscape.

The beauty of built in seat walls is that they serve a variety of functions.




My raised vegetable garden planter is both garden and furniture!


Double Duty Raised Vegetable Gardens

My kitchen garden is conveniently located across from the cooking area so that I can pluck fresh herbs and vegetables for my dishes  and entertain my guests while I cook.

Who wants to be alone when they are grilling?

I have a bar counter near the BBQ that seats two people, but my raised planter can seat ten more!

I love how I don’t have to rent dozens of chairs for my get togethers.

As a designer, it also gives me great pleasure to see people congregate in the areas that I designated for seating.




Seat walls should be 18″ tall for comfortable seating


Another benefit of the seat wall in my  outdoor kitchen area is that  it caps a raised planter for my vegetable garden.

The native soil in my yard is clay and deficient in nutrients making a raised garden bed ideal.

I don’t toil to prepare my soil for planting!

I just fill my raised garden planter  with my favorite soil blend, (Kellogg’s Patio Plus ) and plant away.

Weeds are not a problem in my garden.


Built in Patio Seating



Built-in seating near a fireplace is practical.

In this patio it also functions as a screen.



The  stone bench separates the spa area in the master bedroom retreat from the rest of the patio!


Privacy Screens and Seating


Built in seating can also be used to separate areas of your patio and create different rooms and destinations.

The long narrow patio runs  the span of the back of my house.

I built the arched bench to create privacy and carve out a separate master retreat area with a “hidden” spa.

Now my husband can take a dip while I have tea with my girlfriends on the other side!

I’ve ever done this, but I could if I wanted to!



built in semi circular stone bench doubles as a retaining wall in the landscape






*Construction by award-winning California landscape contractor,  Southern California Landscape, master stone masons and builders 818.834.7241.


More Resources:

Planning on adding an outdoor kitchen to your yard?

Read about important considerations so that your new addition is functional, practical and beautiful.

Need Some Inspiration for Your Personalized Garden Shed?

Need some inspiration for your personalized garden shed?


I've been challenged  by Debra Prinzing's book, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways to consider the creative use of sheds within the garden as personal retreats, work spaces and hobby rooms.

Although I'm a landscape designer who relishes the unconventional, I haven't crossed the bridge yet to design a "non-gardening" related shed.

Garden sheds are very common, yet I bet you haven't seen sheds like the ones presented in Debra's book before.


Photographed by the talented, William Wright, the book is visually stunning and offers inspirational accounts of how these customized retreats have enriched the lives of its keepers.


Caution: Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways may cause uncontrollable desire for a shed of ones own!


Usually, I don't care to read about the homeowner's lives in  a design book, I just want to see the pictures!

The profiles about the shed owners in the book, complimented my appreciation for the sheds.

It opened my eyes to how a well designed garden structure could meet a variety of needs.


One shed was used as a design studio, another as an artist retreat, another for writing, yet another as a children's playroom.


With descriptive names for each shed like "Planting Paradise, "Mod Pod," and "Hampton Hut," I finished the book with the impression that there is a perfect shed out there for everyone and everyone should have one!


Here are a few examples from Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways:

One of the smallest sheds profiled in the book is an 8' x 8' foot potting shed in Santa Cruz, California owned by Martha Mendoza that Debra dubbed, the "Newsroom."


Martha, a Pulitzer-prize-winning investigative reporter, finished the interior of an old wood shed and uses it as her office.

She now has a private place to write that is close to home and her family.

The "Newsroom" is a good example of a shed that is accessible for many people.

I can just see Martha "digging up some dirt" for a story while enjoying the sweet view of her vegetable and flower garden!



Pictured above is one of my other favorite sheds that Debra named the "Rec Room."


Lin Su, a young technology professional for Yahoo, felt cramped in her 600 square foot Santa Monica cottage and needed more space for work and entertaining.

Lin opted for a prefabricated structure designed by Ryan Grey Smith of Modern-Shed and found the 10-by-12-foot studio perfect for her needs and budget.

Set in her modern garden, Lin's shed allows her to enjoy urban living at its finest!



I fell for this romantic shed, named the "Sweet Retreat!" Can you see yourself in this room?


Designers Rand Babock and Tony Nahr, created  this garden retreat and filled it with their favorite antiques and mementos.

Debra writes that Rand and Tonyr often use the room for dining, reading and intimate gatherings.

I wouldn't mind ironing mountains of clothes if I could do it in this room!


The "Sweet Retreat" measures a mere 10-feet-by-10-feet proving again that great things come in small packages!



Thank you Debra for including a Mediterranean-style shed for us "dry gardeners" who thirst for an oasis to relax in!


William Wright's camera lens closes in on this open-air pavilion aptly found under the "Extravagant Gestures" section of the book.

Located in Fallbrook, California and proudly owned by Les Olson and Patrick Anderson, the golden retreat is a crowning jewel in the two acre Eden that is home to plants that spike, whorl, fan and delight!

Debra devoted 8-pages to this jaw-dropping-gorgeous retreat and garden, so you will have to  buy the book to see the close ups!


Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways is a well-crafted book and  includes highlighted sections specifying information such as material used, design challenges, creative solutions and featured decor.

Use it as guidebook and muse for creating your garden hideaway.


All you need is a little yard space, lots of imagination and a small or generous budget.


Watch author, Debra Prinzing as she "sheds some light" on creative shed lighting techniques on "Garden Authority TV," a garden web series I created!



Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways should be on every one's coffee table for the beauty it shares and the dreams it provokes in us to "escape to our own backyards."

Monrovia Growers: Would You Like Some Design Inspiration to Go With That Plant?  Video Post #1

Independent Garden Center Show, Chicago 2008:

Shoppers at independent garden centers will have an added value service provided by Monrovia Growers, in-store boutiques that offer outdoor living and garden design ideas! Monrovia Growers, one of the world’s leading producers of container grown plants is setting up a “boutique within a store” display area in garden centers throughout the country.

 Don’t expect to see this level of inspiration in your big box stores- Monrovia has a staff of visual merchandising experts and  talented designers whose sole responsibility will be to keep the garden design ideas coming season after season. Monrovia does not sell their high quality plants in big box stores anyway and their stock is highly distinquished from their “anemic cousins” offered at discount outlets.

Monrovia worked the “foliage and texture” power combination to bring color to the autumn garden. I’m sold!

I got a preview of Monrovia’s design prowess at the Independent Garden Center show I attended in Chicago a few weeks ago. Their autumn container garden display was “out of the box” with uncommon use of landscape plants like phormiums, carex, huecheras and cotoneasters anchoring vignettes for the porch along with their signature topiaries.

A sense of playfulness and humor was evident in the use of unconventional “pumpkin” planters and the use of contrasting texture and form combinations like yellow mums and toffee-colored carex.


 Check out my video interview with Monrovia visual merchandising guru, Aaron Shiver at the Independent Garden Center Show.

Monrovia plants have always been popular with design professionals and now the general consumer can enjoy the full benefit of their quality plants along with some great ideas for using them in the garden and other outdoor areas.

Monrovia’s whimsical holiday display opens our minds up to the different possibilities.


Next Up on Hort Couture for the “Plantonista!”