Current Shows

Due to the Corona virus, the Surface Design workshop has been postponed until this summer. The new date for it will be announced when the Art House re-opens.


I'll be teaching this one-day workshop on March 14, 2020 at the Art House! Learn to design your own unique papers and other materials for collage, card making, scrap booking, journal making etc. I supply all the materials. All you need to bring is a sack lunch and a beverage. Hours are 10-4; fee is $90 per person. Register online at or call 678-543-5777. Act now! Seating is limited!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Landscape Design: Bringing Artistry to Life

Hi friends! If you've been wondering why I haven't posted anything in several days, it's because we've been busy watching our front and side yards get a total makeover. Two bitterly cold winters in a row had killed half the shrubbery in front of the house, and most of what was still alive looked pretty sorry. The old landscape timbers we had laid down years ago to contain a gravel pathway had long since rotted out. Ditto for the wood deck leading to the side entry. A straggly nandina, a patch of leggy sedum, a sun-starved banana shrub and an abundance of weeds rounded out the picture. Clearly it was time to do something about the disastrous state of our yard.

Our yard as it looked last summer, before the winter of 2015 killed off half the shrubbery.
 Landscape design is an art form I have no talent for, as the photo above demonstrates. Nor did Hubs and I feel physically capable of digging, lugging, dragging, shoveling and lifting heavy items like flag stones, large plants, gravel, bags of mulch and soil amendments, etc. No, the scope of this project demanded that we call in professional help. It proved to be one of the smartest moves we ever made.

Hubs and I were in accord on what we envisioned: a casual, country garden with low maintenance, deer resistant, drought tolerant plants. We wanted it to be bird, bee and butterfly friendly, and we wanted it to be visually consistent with the surrounding woodland environment. We did not want a design that was formal looking in any way, or one that relied on a bunch of high maintenance plants requiring constant pruning and coddling.

Our landscape designer, Ridley Hailey from Pike Nurseries Landscape Design, had no trouble understanding exactly what we envisioned. He listened to us, asked plenty of questions, made a number of excellent suggestions we hadn't thought of, and then drew up a beautiful plan that met our every criteria.

Then, this past Monday, the crew from Pike arrived to turn our dreams into reality. Four days later, it was done. And it exceeded all our expectations!
Our new landscape is a dream come true! Hubs still needs to put the landscape lighting back into place, and I need to cut those tags off the newly installed plants, which, on this side of the house, include "Bonanza" camellia, red heuchera, autumn fern, Hilda Niblett azalea, and red rhododendron.

I wanted the big "Nikko Blue" hydrangea on the left to remain, even though it currently needs a bit of TLC. It'll look fine when its winter killed branches are removed. That large glazed urn next to the path is to become a bubbler fountain, and an evergreen clematis will be planted to grow up and over the arbor.

A spreading Japanese maple flanked by daylilies adds interest to the corner bed. Once the urn becomes a water feature, winterberry (gaultheria) will be planted around it. To its left (not pictured) is a red rhododendron that will eventually fill the corner, providing visual contrast to the Japanese maple. Perennials consisting of yarrow, coneflower, coreopsis, lambs ear and black eyed susans lend a cottage garden feel; low growing plum yews brighten the shady path leading to the back yard.
Now, what was so intriguing to me about this visualize-communicate-realize process was how effectively it worked even though three people were involved. We never showed Ridley so much as a magazine photo as an example of the look we were after. We did provide him with a written laundry list of wants, along with a description of how we maintain the property as a haven for wildlife and our feelings about chemical pesticide use (minimal if at all). The entire communication process was written and verbal, not visual.

Somehow, we all ended up on the same page, and when the design was actually implemented, it came to life with not a single aspect out of sync with what had been envisioned. I find this quite fascinating. Was this a form of mind transference? Group think? ESP?

In a way, it reminded me of commissioning a painting. In this case, Ridley was the artist. We told him what we wanted and what we didn't want, and he designed the plan around it.

But having produced a number of commissioned pieces myself, I recognized there were some key differences, namely, Ridley was given nothing visual to work toward, and because he didn't know us personally at the outset of the project, he had no idea what our tastes might be. In fact, I don't think he ever came into the house, where the decor might have revealed our color preferences or decorating style. Usually in a commission situation you're given something to go by, however small it may be: a photo, a scrap of fabric, or a clipping from a magazine depicting a favorite color. Not so in this case!

So you could say coming up with this design was, for our designer, very much like painting a non-objective abstract: no external references, everything rendered purely from the imagination. As I walk around his creation, noticing soft coral buds unfurling on the azaleas, feeling the smoothness of flagstones under my feet, seeing the ferns nodding in the breeze, it's all in the physical here and now -- a lovely canvas brought to life.

But here's what's so intriguing to me: what I see before me had its origins entirely in the mind, in the imagination, in memories and emotions and perceptions. To my way of thinking, that process of transitioning from the imagined and intangible into physical existence is mystical. It's an act of co-creation with something much greater than ourselves. To pick up a brush, compose a haiku, design a landscape or engage in any creative act is to make that sacred connection. The connection is very real, and very magical. It's a precious gift. And I feel very blessed to sense it each time I walk through this beautiful garden, with many thanks to Ridley, a true artist indeed.

Text and photos ©2015 Lynn Edwards

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