Monday, May 23, 2011

My container Garden Revisited

It is that time of year again and we are planting the containers for my front courtyard. Last year, I posted a step-by-step procedure, however, it was early on in my blogging career, so I'm guessing most of you have not read it. I really loved the plant combinations, so we are repeating them this year. Here is the end result from last Summer. The Leagrave bench is one of my favorite garden items on our website. Click here to learn more about it. 

I combined Plumbago "Auriculata", Cleome "Royal Queen" mix, with a trailing Verbena "Lanai Peach." I also experimented with some orange Portulaca as a more drought resistant alternative to the Verbena. It turns out, that the Portulaca fared better with the Mediterranean plumbago. Cleome can really take abuse, and I love how it towers and gets a little wild and wooly.

I am in the process of building up my container garden. My dream was to create a terra cotta hedge of lavender, but my plants needed some maturity. They thrive in the full sun and reflected heat of the courtyard. This fall, I transplanted them to a nursery bed, to survive the bitter weather we've experienced lately. Here they are, in moderate transfer shock, ready to complete my vision. 

Gardens are all about anticipation. It is hard to buy lavender this size, and in N.C. zone 7, they will not make it through the winter in pots. In year two, I'm on my way to a fragrant and soft accent to my annuals. Cleome, that tall wooly plant in the previous pictures, reproduces like a good Catholic and reseeded themselves in all the pots, not to mention the cracks in the bricks. Container gardens can actually be somewhat perennial.  However, all flower arrangements, landscape, or container gardens require the same design elements of a home, or music. There must be a refrain, a chorus and a little mischief in between. I add some tropical elements and succulents to pull it off. Here is my chorus: 

My favorite color combinations are blues, purples, corals, pinks and white. The plants are selected for their compatibility with sun and water requirements. I shop at a favored Greenhouse and attend farmers markets. Note my window box. I buy Hydrangeas at the grocery store for almost nothing and enjoy them in the house. I re-plant them everywhere.  I never met a hydrangea I didn't love and I collect all varieties. 

These hydrangeas cost about $19.00 and are about 4 years old. I let them turn any color they want to. The pots at the breezeway are in their full glory. I began by planting the tallest plant (Cleome) in the center of the pots. 

My Plumbago comes in hanging baskets and I carefully separate them for the containers. 

I then plant 3 in a triangular pattern, leaving space around the edges for the verbena or portulaca to cascade over. 

The Verbena is pretty, but the Portulaca proved to be a better choice for the full heat and sun in my courtyard. 

It can rain and blow with ferocity in the South, as you have heard on the news lately. Until the flowers take root in the light soil, I shelter them in the breezeway and water them very gently, so as not to created gullies and expose the roots. 

It really helps to take photographs of the process and the end results, as a reminder for the following season. I really liked the softness of the Perestroika Sage, combined with the spiky Cleome. It can really take the full sun and heat of the courtyard as well, so I plan to add more this year. I added some Star Gazer lilies to the window box last Summer and hid the pots behind the lush hydrangeas. I've added them to my shopping list, as they were a gorgeous and unexpected fragrant addition. 

For the sake of conservation, I planted the lilies in the winter nursery beds and two made it. I added them to the center of the containers this year, for a little variety. I cannot resist including some bouquets from my hydrangeas and a few gardens from Summers past. 

This was a wedding bouquet for my friend's 80 year old Mother's hasty trip to City Hall. Her fiance would not wait!! I am mixing (something blue) Hydrangeas with some really pretty, dribbly Lace Caps. I had to add some Katherine Hepburn Calla Lilies, and a touch of peach stock for counterpoint. I can report that the bride and groom are blissfully happy. 

In case you haven't seen my ultimate garden. I planned, personally planted, watered and weeded this "Bit of Earth." Sadly, the deer found it. The least obtrusive, electrified deer fence was erected. They still leaped in, and the fence is not beautiful. Because of the steep hillside, in the glory days, it was visible from all the front windows of the house and gave us a great deal of happiness. On a last, sensible note, I will show you a great way to keep your garden tools handy and available. 

I buy river rocks and pebbles that are cleaned, and spray them with a bit of WD-40. I shove my tools back in the basket, after a good rinse from the hose, and a wipe from a rag. They are lubricated and handy for their next chore. If you have any photos of your container gardens, flower beds or gardening tips, please send them on. I'll create a post around your ideas and images. Happy Spring!! 
Send images and ideas to

Monday, May 16, 2011

Miami Design District By Viive Ralston

For those of you who have always wondered what you drive by on your way from MIA to sparkling South Beach, let me introduce you to (drumroll please) The Miami Design District!  What was once a quiet, empty, almost desolate part of Miami, is now a vibrant, bustling destination complete with gorgeous furniture showrooms and boutiques, delicious restaurants, and hot high end shopping.

As you drive west from the airport, ask your taxi driver to take you to the corner of NE 39th St and NE 2nd Ave – the red arrow points that that intersection on the map.  You will be right in the thick of things and ready to take a tour of the area.  On the map above, everything in orange is retail space, and everything is blue is future retail space – read: this place is growing by the minute!!

A great place to start is Holly Hunt at 3833 NE 2nd Avenue, (305) 571-2012.  This is a beautiful showroom filled with sleek modern furniture and lighting. 

Gorgeous low leather sofas, smooth wooden tables, and sculptural light fixtures blend together creating a stylish and comfortable environment just waiting to be personalized and accented.

In case the modern look is not the right fit, they also show a line called Gregorius Pineo manufactured out of California, which is based on more traditional scale and design.  Luscious upholstery, carved wood, and eye catching iron detailing evoke a rustic country home, or a cozy mountain lodge.

Fly by the Jonathan Adler boutique, which is filled to the brim with colorful throw pillows, pottery, wall art, and unique table top items.  I could have spent the better part of an hour cooing over it all, but I was on my way to….  Water Works!

I feel that a well designed bathroom is one of the most important features in a house or apartment, and yet, I never seem to feel any inspiration for creating one.  After my first Waterworks visit, I am confident that this will no longer be a problem.  The Miami Waterworks showroom is a place where one can shop for bathroom fixtures they way the French shop for cheese.  It is a beautiful boutique filled with hundreds of varieties of sinks, bathtubs, fittings, hardware, lighting, towels, even bubble bath!

Image courtesy of

A couple of doors down, I stepped into Adrianna Hoyos’ showroom.  Hoyos is an internationally known designer from Ecuador, known best for her specialty – designing and decorating high end hotels and resorts.  I was dying to see her furniture creations, because I love her style of mixing clean lines with forms inspired by nature, all crafted using exotic Latin American materials.  

Images courtesy of

Her flagship Miami store was showing her latest Africa collection, which is a gorgeous collection of rich dark woods, giraffe motifs, and fresh white fabrics.

Next I popped into Ligne Roset to browse through their amazing sample sale.  I like to look in on this company every season, because I am always amazed by their fresh creative style.  They use unique materials, and apply them in never before seen ways.  Could I decorate an entire room using their furniture, rugs, and lighting – no.  But I like to pick one piece to mix in with some more classic styles – usually accent pieces and accessories, although they also have amazing sectional sofas.

I saw some really eye catching poufs – which, might I add, was a prevalent theme at the spring High Point Market.  Fun, casual, modern – they make perfect occasional seating, and they actually look quite sculptural.  The square shape has more structure and form, and bright colored fabric is a must for cheering up a sad room.

Ligne Roset’s accessories are my favorite.  On the left are tall, sculptural vases, in the center are some stylish mirrors and whimsical hourglass end tables, and on the right two sleek floor lamps, a very interesting little waste basket, and a fun red side chair.  Just one or two pieces from their collection would provide that unexpected punch that your room needs to become Elle Décor worthy.

Image courtesy of 

Next door, I stepped into a beautiful boutique, Monica James and; Co.  I was completely drawn in by the colorful display in the window.  Monica James is an interior designer by trade, and her boutique is a gorgeous mix of custom upholstery, antiques, and hand selected lighting and rugs.  If you need visual inspiration, this is a great place to find it.  They also offer a beautiful selection of fabric.

Across the street, I spotted ThreadCount – an amazing source for bed and bath linens and more.  They obviously have lots of gorgeous sheets and towels, also beautiful Dransfield and Ross place settings.  I must have sniffed every Lafco candle in the shop – they make one for each room: Breakfast Room, Kitchen, Guest Room, Sun Room, Foyer, Patio…  I just love the concept of having a signature scent for each environment in your home.

They sell Savoir beds, and dress them to the nines, complete with a fun breakfast tray! 

My last stop in Miami was Jalan Jalan Collection.  Very unsuspecting from the outside, but inside is a treasure trove of furniture, lighting, decorative art, everything!  It is a large store, but it is well organized into a series of smaller spaces and rooms that you can peruse at leisure.  And you will want to take your time, lest you miss one precious morsel.

Images courtesy of

Jalan Jalan is extremely well inventoried.  It is an eclectic collection, with lots of color and texture, and a diverse selection of styles.  It felt like walking through a furniture market.  One room featured African masks and driftwood lamps, the next Buddha statues and ships lanters, the next totem poles and rich leather chairs. 

Image courtesy of

There is something for everyone, and even if you think you know what you like, you might find yourself gravitating towards something completely new – if only because they make it look so inspiring in their beautiful showroom!

At this point, I suggest you treat yourself to a mojito and some tapas at either Sra. Martinez or Mai Tardi, two amazing restaurants in the district.  You can sit under an umbrella and listen to the buzz of the district, and rest your tired feet.  Sra. Martinez is in an old Post Office Building across from the Design and Architecture High School.  Mai Tardi is in a little garden off of NE 39th Street.

The Design District has truly become a destination, and everyone interested in furniture and design should visit.  There is so much to see and visit, you’ll want a couple of days.  Every Saturday there is Launch Miami Market, which highlights the new product of up and coming artists, designers and entrepreneurs.  On the second Saturday of each month, come into the Design District at night to experience Art + Design Night, where boutiques and galleries open their doors for extended evening hours, complete with music, food, and (of course) shopping!  Explore the Design District’s website for more information on events, as well as designers and vendors in the area.