Mosaic Gardens Journal

news, photos and inspiration

The Dobson Garden in Fine Gardening March 27, 2012

Ted and Nancy Dobson’s Asian-inspired garden is getting a lot of attention these days!   It is now featured in the May/June issue of Fine Gardening, where you can see some of Buell’s gorgeous photos and get a few ideas for your own small space from Rebecca’s article.  Subscribers will receive their issues any day now, and non-subscribers can pick up their copies at Market of Choice, Jerry’s and some of the bigger bookstores on or after April 3.

We are delighted for the Dobsons!  While we helped them lay the foundation of their garden, they have made it absolutely their own.  The garden reflects not just their eye for detail and hard work, but their joyful and peaceful personalities, as well.  Congratulations on a job well and beautifully done, Ted and Nancy!

Much more on the Dobson garden here.

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See the Dobson Garden in Sunset! January 27, 2012

Filed under: Garden Profiles,News,photos,Tricky spaces — Rebecca Sams from Mosaic Gardens @ 10:28 pm
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Have you seen the terrific little garden on p. 44 of the latest issue of Sunset?  Ted and Nancy’s Asian-inspired space is getting a bit of well-deserved attention!

You can learn more about the Dobson Garden in these journal entries, *and* in the next issue of Fine Gardening, which will feature lots of beautiful, new photos by Buell!

ImageMuch, much more to come!

 

The Dobson Garden on Sunset’s Fresh Dirt! August 30, 2011

Filed under: garden design,Garden Profiles,News,photos,Tricky spaces — Rebecca Sams from Mosaic Gardens @ 3:37 pm
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The Dobson Garden

Have you seen the Dobson garden on Sunset’s garden blog, Fresh Dirt?  Jim McCausland’s terrific article and photos offer a great view of the peaceful courtyard garden.  If you would like to know more, check out our earlier post on the space here.  Careful observers will note changes between our photos and Jim’s.  Like any great garden, Ted and Nancy are always refining their space, and we think it’s better than ever right now!

The Dobson garden will be on the Hardy Plant Study Weekend Tour next June.  More information on the Study Weekend to come.

 

One to Watch October 28, 2011

Filed under: friends,garden design,Tricky spaces — Rebecca Sams from Mosaic Gardens @ 4:39 pm
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The Dobson garden this fall

Even fall rains can’t get Ted and Nancy Dobson’s garden down.  This tiny, magical space only gets better with age and the careful attention of its inhabitants.  Readers familiar with the space through garden tours or the journal may note the beautiful new water feature at right, one of the Dobson’s summer projects.  Stunning, isn’t it?  It seems that we’re not the only ones who love this intricate and collaborative space, and you may get to see this fabulous garden in print soon (more details to come, of course)!

While photos may be worth a 1,000 words, a visit to this garden speaks volumes.  The Dobsons’ garden (and several of our other gardens) will be on the tour for the Hardy Plant Study Weekend next June 7-10, 2012.  Save the date and stay tuned for more information!

 

Happy News & Happy New Year! January 6, 2010

Filed under: News — Rebecca Sams from Mosaic Gardens @ 5:02 pm
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Bamboo screens frame an enticing view of the next room in the Dobson garden.

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Happy New Year! Our twenty-ten is off to a great start, and we hope yours is, too.

We had some fun news to kick off the year – Ted and Nancy Dobson’s garden is featured on the Sunset blog, Fresh Dirt! Thanks to Jim McCausland for the nice article and heads-up. If you’d like to learn more about the Dobsons’ garden, check out our third newsletter.

 

Mosaic Newsletter #4 July 28, 2009

Filed under: garden design,Newsletter,photos — Rebecca Sams from Mosaic Gardens @ 6:23 pm
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This time of year, everyone’s free time fills with daytrips, summer projects and visiting family and friends. When the beautiful, long evenings roll around, we find ourselves wanting to spend time *in* the garden, rather than *on* the garden. In honor of summer fun and spaces that don’t overwhelm us with to-do lists, we’ve put together a few secrets to creating visually rich gardens that don’t require constant attention. We’ll also introduce you to one of our favorite shady places to spend a warm, summer afternoon – Baltzer’s Specialized Nursery.

The past month has been a busy time for Mosaic, but we’ve managed to add a few fun posts. If you haven’t checked in for a little while, take a moment to check out the cool dry-stack stone wall we built, some tips for lowering water use in your garden, a couple photos of our project at the coast and three of our favorite perennials. If there’s anything you’d like for us to discuss, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you!

The big easy - thanks to careful plant and materials selection, prep work and many of our other time saving techniques, this S. Oregon coast garden gives more than it takes.

The big easy - thanks to careful plant and materials selection, prep work and our other time saving techniques, this S. Oregon coast garden gives more than it takes.

iSummertime and the Garden’s Easy

There’s a myth that it takes almost daily work to make a garden beautiful year-round. Some great gardeners love to spend most of their free time deadheading, weeding, pruning, raking and fluffing, but many of us find garden work to become (gasp!) a chore if it takes too much of the time and energy we would rather devote to other pursuits. There’s no such thing as a “no maintenance” garden, but in the years we’ve spent refining our plantings to reflect both the aesthetic desires and the lifestyles of our clients, we have discovered a few ways to create spaces that look great with just a little TLC.

From prep work to plant choices, hard work *before* planting made Joy Gregory's garden easy and fun.

From prep work to plant and materials choices, hard work *before* planting made Joy Gregory's garden easy and fun.

Start from the ground up – Before you plant a new bed or build a path or patio, take time to clear and prepare the site well. Many potential issues, from weeds to poor drainage to wobbly stones can be lessened or prevented by excellent prep work. In our plantings, for instance, we spend much, much more time clearing the site, grading, preparing the soil, re-grading and selecting plants than we do putting plants in the ground. And we never use weed cloth (that could be a whole separate post!).

Think ahead – It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, and select a pretty plant or hardscape material that will add to your to-do list in the future. For instance, many people love the pea gravel in our garden, but aren’t prepared to do the extensive prep work or raking and weeding required to make and keep it beautiful. For them, choosing a different gravel or hard paving will lead to a lower maintenance and more attractive garden in the long run.

Waves of striking foliage look great year round, while flowers add seasonal color.

Waves of striking foliage look great year round, while flowers add seasonal color.

Foliage power – If you select plants for the color, form and texture of their foliage, rather than flowers, you’ll have a longer-lasting effect with much less dead-heading. A few flowers are fun, but bold, spiky, sculptural, fuzzy and colorful leaves are the foundation of our plantings.

Plant in masses – groups of 3, 5, 12 or 25 strengthen a plant’s impact, while simplifying both the garden’s aesthetic and shortening your to-do list. Masses also allow you to shorten your plant list to include only the best of the best, without delving into less attractive, more needy plants.

Layers of foliage form, color and texture in this little courtyard garden capture attention year-round while keeping weeds at bay.

Layers of form, color and texture in this little courtyard garden capture attention year-round while keeping weeds at bay.

The nine month rule – if it doesn’t look pretty darn good for nine months of the year, it’s not worth it! Many plants put on an explosive floral show, and then peter out, leaving half a hole or clump of weedy foliage. One of the exceptions that prove this rule are lilies, which emerge through plants that will cover their fading foliage when they’re done.

Think thick – Plant with the goal of creating waves of foliage that cover the ground to shade the plants’ roots, save water and reduce weed issues. It may seem like more plants create more upkeep, but if you select your plants wisely and plant in masses, you’ll have less work, not to mention a gorgeous, lush garden.

Weed more to weed less – Weed well every week or two, if you can manage it, or very thoroughly once a month through the growing season. In the long run, weeding once a week will take much less time than weeding once a month, because you will break the cycle of reseeding. If you wait much more than a month during the growing season, you’re likely to have a bumper crop of the little devils for years to come. We once met someone who said it was impossible to control the weeds in his yard, even though “I go through it once a year on my hands and knees!”

Mulch! Mulching after planting and again every spring will kill or weaken weed seedlings, reduce water usage, insulate and feed the plants’ roots and look great. Garden Compost from Lane Forest Products is our favorite mulch (and a great way to recycle!).

Last, but not least, have fun – If you do your homework and prep work, there should be time and room for a few fun, higher maintenance additions to your garden. Most of our plants need attention only once or twice a year, and their easy care leaves us time to deadhead a few dahlias and tidy the pea gravel.

A very easy, shady garden.

A very easy, shady garden.

iBaltzer’s Specialized Nursery

A dwarf Japanese maple from Baltzer's is a stunner in the Dobsons' garden.

A dwarf Japanese maple from Baltzer's is a stunner in the Dobsons' garden.

Bob and Nancy Baltzer have a gorgeous, diverse selection of specimen Japanese maples and conifers. It’s easy to spend hours in the rows of their lovely, cool Pleasant Hill nursery. When you finally emerge from studying one after another gorgeous maple, you will discover that the best part of the nursery is the owners’ thoughtful advice and encyclopedic knowledge of their stock. If you find the perfect specimen for your garden, but don’t have the room to get it home, delivery to the Eugene-Springfield area is available.

Baltzer’s Nursery is open Friday, Saturday and Monday 9am-6pm and Sunday, 10am – 5pm. They are located on Highway 58, just outside of Pleasant Hill. For more information, call the nursery at (541) 747-5604.

Thanks for reading!

We hope you’ll stay cool and find a little time to enjoy your garden this summer. We are looking forward to starting a couple of new projects and watching our clients’ gardens grow. Keep an eye on the journal this month – there should be a few new pictures of our project at the coast and some more great ideas for your space.

 

Newsletter #3 June 27, 2009

Filed under: garden design,Garden Profiles,News,photos,Tricky spaces — Rebecca Sams from Mosaic Gardens @ 12:07 am
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What a wonderful June! We’ve had perfect working weather, fun projects and a terrific garden tour. Thanks again to everyone who came out to support the Symphony Guild at the Music in the Garden event. We hope you had as much fun as we did!

In this newsletter, we’ll share the transformation of one of the trickiest spaces we’ve ever seen, offer a few ideas from the resulting garden, and give a summer reading list of five of our favorite garden books. Be sure to scroll through the main journal when you’re done. In the last month, we’ve posted some great pictures, a guide to building simple and great looking tomato cages, a little about how we use metal in our designs and more.

i The Dobson Garden

Ted and Nancy Dobson are determined perfectionists. Everyone in their College Hill neighborhood watched with delight as they scraped, painted and pounded a neglected former rental house into an attractive home. Once the house met their exacting standards, they turned their attention to the yard, expecting to whip it into shape with substantially less effort and time than their house had taken. And then they called us….

Ted and Nancy Dobson's garden this spring.

Ted and Nancy Dobson's garden this spring.

All They Wanted Was a Container Garden


dobb42

Ted and Nancy's garden "before."

In our initial consultation, Ted and Nancy requested an irrigated container garden in their small back yard. The problem was hiding the irrigation. Previous owners had finished the basement of the house and poured concrete over the entire flat space behind the house. A steep hillside required a tall, cinder block retaining wall. Add in narrow dimensions and a stellar view of the heat pump, and, as you can see below, the space was irrigation-proof and less than attractive.

The contrast between dark, geometric wood and round river gravel strengthens the impact of both materials.

The contrast between dark, geometric wood and round river gravel strengthens the impact of both materials.

We used four main hardscape elements to create the Dobsons’ garden: gravel, ipe (a sustainably forested hardwood) decking, stepping stones and bamboo screens. In a tiny space, everything needs a purpose, and each of these elements blends form and function. A large, local river gravel covers the concrete and irrigation while still allowing water to freely enter the drain system, but visitors only notice its cohesive, subtle texture. The ipe decks give the Dobsons a place to enjoy their garden, and its rich color and strong lines contrast with the lighter, more natural feeling of the stone elements. We borrowed the excellent Japanese concept of using large stepping stones as both a stable walking surface and a way of focusing attention on the journey, rather than the destination, thus keeping energy in the tiny garden. Finally, simple bamboo screens frame an enticing view between separate two garden rooms – the seating area and the pathway or journey garden – and, oh yeah, hide the heat pump from the seating area.

Our design surprised the Dobsons, who had expected a quick meeting about irrigation, but it captured their imaginations. We installed the hardscape of their garden in spring of 2006. At the time, they were casual gardeners, planting a few annuals here and there and keeping a very tidy lawn. However, something in their new space set their prodigious energies and curious minds to work, and they elected to plant the new garden themselves. In the intervening years, Ted and Nancy have created a thoughtful, Japanese-inspired planting, which meshes perfectly with their cool, quiet space.

The gardening didn’t stop there, however. The front garden, which expands by the season, is a colorful contrast to the understated space in the back. Today, the Dobsons are regulars on garden tours and make long day trips to check out new nurseries. Every season finds them mulling over a new project and perfecting the existing plantings.

Bamboo screens frame an enticing view of the next room.

Bamboo screens frame an enticing view of the next room (this is almost the same view as the "before" shot!).

Three Ideas to Borrow

The Dobsons’ tricky space is a terrific illustration of some of our core design concepts. Below are three ideas that can help turn a difficult space into an inviting garden.

Think big, even in a small space. Ample hardscape makes a tiny garden more welcoming. Approximately 2′ wide stepping stones are an eye-catching invitation to stroll and the 8′ x 14′ ipe deck is a perfect spot for a glass of wine with friends.

Multitasking hardscape. Combining simple form with multiple functions keeps the garden cohesive and uncluttered. The Dobsons’ bamboo screens frame the view of their path, separate the garden rooms, provide a striking backdrop for planted arrangements, and screen the heat pump.

Limitations as framework. More often than not, careful and creative thought can turn an apparent disadvantage into a guideline for great design. The concrete floor of the Dobsons’ original “yard” is still under the layers of rich materials. What seemed at first like an unsightly, insurmountable obstacle became the inspiration for a terrific garden.

Summer Garden Reading

Here are five of our favorite garden design books for some summer inspiration. If you can’t find them locally (I’ve seen several of these available used), we’ve linked to online sources.

The Modern Japanese Garden – This book by Michiko Rico Nose is as much a study in simplicity, honesty of materials and effective use of space as it is a review of contemporary Japanese gardens.

Breaking Ground – The first garden book we loved, and one to which we regularly return for inspiration. A thoughtful introduction to ten contemporary garden designers by Page Dickey.

Gardens in the Spirit of Place – Page Dickey explores gardens that look to the surrounding landscape and culture for their inspiration.

The Essential Garden Book – As close to a “how to” as you can get in garden design, by Terrance Conran.

In the Company of Stone – Daniel Stone is a master in the art and craft of stonework, and this beautiful book by Dan Snow should be on every rock geek’s shelves.

Thanks for reading!

We’re already brainstorming for the next newsletter. In the meantime, bookmark the journal and check back every few days. In the next month we’ll share some process photos of the gorgeous, dry stack stone wall we’re building, and, hopefully, some new portfolio shots. If you want to be the first to know about the newsletters and Mosaic news, join our mailing list! We write once or twice a month at most, and we’ll never share your contact information.

Happy summer!

Rebecca & Buell