Category Archives: design

Our garden: cutouts

My question here in Stuttgart is a common one: “how to make a garden without much gardening?”

Our backyard is  an enclosed  strip of lawn that runs the length of the back of the house and wraps halfway around on both sides. There are two large trees and a concrete patio outside the center door. In one far corner is a small, oval-ish planting bed with a few shrubs and perennials and a lot of weeds. About 5′ beyond the fence are mature woods.

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And when I say ‘lawn,’ I mean moss, clover, dandelions, plantains, buttercups, lawn daisies, sprouted trees, an assortment of other low, creeping plants, and some grass.

I have no desire to dig the planting beds (or buy the trees and shrubs) that would improve this dull (except for the woods) space. We want to spend our time in Europe getting out and about.

But I do want to have a garden that’s a little more pretty aesthetically pleasing to sit in during the long daylight of summer.

My solution (at least for this year) has taken inspiration from several different sources.

pillow cover 3, enclos*ure1) The “wonky” log cabin patchwork pillows I made for the living room.

Hohenheim lawn 8, enclos*ure2) The front lawn of the 18th century schloss (palace) of Hohenheim (near our house in the southern suburbs of Stuttgart) — it’s part of the University of Hohenheim, which specializes in agriculture and natural sciences.

Hohenheim lawn 2, enclos*ureThe grass is cut short, except for five or six unmown islands.

Hohenheim lawn 10, enclos*ureNo doubt, the university is also trying to add some pattern and texture with low effort and cost.

Plienigen-Stuttgart, enclos*ure3) The public “hell” strips and other intermediary spaces along streets and sidewalks in nearby towns.  They have been left uncut and have grown into really beautiful urban meadows.  The area in the photo above was sprinkled with blue forget-me-nots a week ago.

4) Paths and patterns cut through long grass —  and labyrinths.  Here and here are a couple of images of a garden by Mien Ruys.

This is what I did about a week ago:

our yard 7, enclos*ure

Using my antique reel mower and some clippers, I cut patterns through the grass, which has only been mowed once this spring.

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I just “free-handed” it, starting with a patchwork-type design on the north side.

Then, I mowed a border around the patio and made a short path to the back gate.

our yard 17, enclos*ure

On the south side, my main concern was the planting bed, the shape of which does not even rise to that of a kidney.

our yard 2, enclos*ure

First, I mowed around it, enlarging it and cleaning up the edges (weeding it will come one of these days — it’s not really in our line of sight when we sit on the patio).  Then I matched it by making a similar shape on the other end of the same side of the yard, under one of the trees.

our yard 4, enclos*ure

I put our old table and chairs there (painting them is another chore for the future).

our yard 3, enclos*ure

Then, I mowed two curvy paths out from each oval, so they cross in the center.

our yard 30, enclos*ure

Then, I sat down to rest and admire my work.

Admittedly the results are, let’s say, “understated.”  But I have made my mark and I’m happier about the place.

The wheelbarrow is entirely ornamental.

The wheelbarrow is entirely ornamental.

For the rest of the warm months, I just have to mow the paths from time to time. I may plant some bulbs in the grass in the fall. And I’ve thought of wrapping the tree trunks in fairy lights.

In late fall (or should I do it in late winter?), I will need to knock down the long grass — which I’m afraid will involve me and a pair of long shears. There is always something. . . .


Filed under design, garden design, German gardens, nature, our garden, plants, working in the garden

The Sunday porch: irises

Japanese Iris GardenTwo women in a pavilion overlooking irises in Japan, between 1860 and 1910.

Japanese Iris Garden, cropped 1

Detail of photo above.

This hand-colored photograph comes from the National Museum of Denmark Commons on flickr — part of a collection that belonged to journalist Holger Rosenberg.

Unfortunately, the museum does not have any additional information about it.

Japanese Iris Garden, cropped 2

Detail of top photo. The flowers are probably growing in slightly sunken, wet or damp ground.

In Heian Period [794 -1185] Japanese gardens, built in the Chinese model, buildings occupied as much or more space than the garden. The garden was designed to be seen from the main building and its verandas, or from small pavilions built for that purpose. In later gardens, the buildings were less visible. Rustic teahouses were hidden in their own little gardens, and small benches and open pavilions along the garden paths provided places for rest and contemplation. In later garden architecture, walls of houses and teahouses could be opened to provide carefully framed views of the garden. The garden and the house became one.

— “Japanese garden,” Wikipedia

Click here to see all the Museum’s online photos of Japanese landscapes (and some wonderful kimonos).

There’s also a 1913 Japanese iris garden in East Hampton, N.Y., here.

To scroll through larger versions of these images, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and then on any thumbnail in the gallery.

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Filed under architecture, art, culture and history, design, garden design, landscape, nature, plants, The Sunday porch, vintage landscape

The fire pit in May

There is a fire pit underneath, awaiting summer cleanup — but I was drawn to the nice arrangement of shaggy grass and logs* (and, of course, the bench and the other beautiful pile of wood in the background).

This is at my brother’s and sister-in-law’s home in Loudon County, Virginia. The picture is from her (mostly about) quilting blog, deeroo designs.  Check out the spring color in their garden and also some ideas for half-square triangles here.

Tomorrow Tuesday Wednesday, about my own long grass. . .

Of all our sunny world
I wish only for a garden sofa
where a cat is sunning itself.

Edith Södergran, from “A Wish

*I imagine a nice little snake has been drawn to it too.

Photo © deeroo designs.


Filed under American gardens, D.C., design, garden design, gardens, landscape, nature, Washington, working in the garden

Life in gardens: flower fair

Grand Kermesse poster, Library of Congress“Country flower fair, May 19 and 20, 1918, at the Bordeaux Town Hall. To benefit the war charities and children’s charities.” Poster art by A. Guindet, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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Filed under art, culture and history, design, French gardens, life in gardens, nature, vintage landscape

Vintage landscape: Verona, Italy

Watercolor of Italian courtyard, Natl. Archives of EstoniaSan Giorgio cloister, Verona, Italy, May 19, 1878, via National Archives of Estonia Commons on flickr.

The watercolor is one of many Italian scenes collected (perhaps painted?) by a Baroness Meyendorff in the 1870s and early 1880s.


Filed under architecture, art, design, garden design, landscape, nature, vintage landscape