My photo
-an independent landscape designer with over 2,700 projects since 1981, giving me tremendous insight and expertise that allow me to solve design problems quickly. Services and styles are tailored to the specific needs of the client; ranging from scale drawn master plans with hardscapes and plantings to on-site consultations utilizing spray paint and flags for instant visualization. My specialties and services offered include residential and commercial, both large and small.

Monday, June 13, 2011


In May I am a pot man doing. By the end of the week I will be a pot man being. How about you?

Friday, April 22, 2011


In past years we have gone to Hooterville for the Easter weekend.
We pass the time shooting guns. I nailed Santa Claus right between the eyes. The Easter Bunny didn't fair too well either.
Then we drink wine and watch the turkeys watch the turkeys.
Dehlia tries hard to remind us that we are surrounded by the beauty of nature.
In the quiet of the morning it is mystical. This year we are hearing the call of the Steve Miller Band and Greg Allman in Toledo.  Think spring and be thankful.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

PHILOSOPHY-Embrace and Plan for Imperfection

"People are into how it looks, because they think it is going to feel the way it looks."-Carrie Fisher
They think they want perfection and if and when their surroundings are perfect then they will be happy.
The thing about nature is that it isn't perfect-
it is gloriously imperfect! 
This is a pedestrian walk way at The National Mall, a national park in downtown Washington, D.C.  I took this picture 20 years ago because I was impressed that the health of this tree was more important than paving. Below is a picture of our front sidewalk in Cleveland Heights, a Tree City. Many trees in Cleveland Heights have had their roots cut in the desire to maintain flat sidewalks. Of course the section of the tree canopy that was fed by that root would die as a result. We've been homeowners in this suburb since 1975. We had had an elderly neighbor who didn't even drive, forced to build a 2 car garage and a paved driveway. It has been a housing violation to have a gravel driveway or a  divided driveway in which  a  central strip of lawn runs the length of the driveway.
Our tree lawn has clover and many other "weeds." Despite being a lazy gardener, I have tried over the years to maintain some semblance of suburban "perfection,"  but I do not like to use weed killers.  I keep it watered and cut. I do not collect the grass clippings. I allow them to decompose and feed the lawn.
Just as a pear shaped woman should wear a colorful scarf around her neck to call attention to her face and away from her hips, I hope that my landscape will be appreciated for the gardens and not judged by the condition of the grass.
Recycled road paving bricks comprise much of our hardscape. Their irregularities make it next to impossible to have tight joints between the bricks. This is part of the charm of my deliberately imperfect landscape. Many years I have thrown white alyssum seeds all over the patio with a resulting frothy white softness. I pull weeds only as they offend me. Our front brick sidewalk is a primary source of nicotiana sylvestris seedlings. Once I have plucked those seedlings out, I will spray the bricks with full strength household vinegar allowing the sunshine and the acid to fry the weeds.
Once brown, the weeds burn off. A weed burning flame thrower is a tool guaranteed to get the men in your life interested in helping.
We had a 14 foot square patch of lawn in the back yard for the dogs. I do not miss the annual spring clean up. I decided to replace the lawn with 3 tons of pea gravel (which I moved all by myself!)  By embracing wabi-sabi, the aesthetic of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete,  I find time to relax and enjoy my yard.
A new client told me about the $300 per month she was paying to keep her lawn perfect. This reliance on perfect grass was detrimental to her 3 year old son's health and she was still not pleased with her curb appeal. I recommended putting the  aesthetic emphasis on creating a landscape that had good bones. I used the analogy that a homely woman with perfect skin is still homely, whereas  Audrey Hepburn, would be beautiful despite any complexion flaws. The best landscape should be like a little black dress, always pleasing because of its' effective design, but changeable by the addition of a colorful scarf. The effort could be put into a courtyard with a bench that would beckon year round  with spring and summer flowering plants, fluorescent fall foliage and architectural evergreens.
Tomorrow, April 22nd, is Earth Day- a day intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's natural environment. What if, instead of demanding perfection in our landscapes, via chemicals and concrete, we accepted imperfection?

Our properties don't have to be exactly right. They just have to feel right. Nature has always been here to remind us to mind our priorities. Happiness comes from being gentle, forgiving and generous to oneself and experiencing our world the same way. No happiness will be gained by having complete control over nature.

The mantis in the first picture is praying that we figure this out.

Do you need help figuring out how to feel happy in your garden?
I can help- contact me at
or call me at 216-381-1827.

Friday, April 15, 2011

PHILOSOPHY-The problems of the site create the greatest opportunities for interest

After spending over an hour this afternoon going through  30,000+ digital pics on my mac looking for the before picture of this landscape, I decided to appeal to your imagination: small, pie-shaped property, detached garage, dominant driveway, numerous vehicles and a basketball hoop. Where to begin the design process? .....figure out how to lose the driveway, retain the access, keep the patio from feeling closed in and allow for basketball to be played.

The American dream is to have multiple cars and 5 acres. The greater American dream is to not have to look at the cars when relaxing on the patio!  


These are just a few examples from my projects and they are focused on the problem of losing the driveway. With over 2,700 projects in my career, many of them on smaller suburban properties, losing the driveway has often been the starting point in the design process. It has rarely been,  "Where are we going to put the petunias?" Landscape design is not just about plants- it is about creating outdoor living spaces that include plants. In my experience, the  most difficult properties- dark, small, irregularly shaped- have ended up the best, because I really had to think hard and come up with my most original ideas. My objectivity and expertise  in problem solving and space planning can spare you frustration and expense. I want your landscape to feel as comfortable as your family room. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

PHILOSOPHY-Take away the plants --what are the bones of the garden?

In northern Ohio, we have almost half a year of living inside, looking outside. Far too many people wait for May flowers to love their view. A landscape with good bones looks good 365 days a year.
Take away the plants --
what are the bones of the garden?
consider year round views from all angles

If your view this past winter could have been better,
please  contact me at 
or call me at 216-381-1827.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Why is this woman smiling?

................................because yesterday was pot day!
 This is the day each spring when I pull the plastic bags off of the good ceramic containers and arrange  all the flowerpots for the season. The story of my addiction is a logical sequence of events, but, it is a cautionary tale, as container gardening is a slippery slope.

I was younger then. We had a Gordon Setter who looked fabulous on furniture, but not so great in the gardens.
Then we had puppies and kept one! I had gone to the dogs.
I wanted the all-summer long high of COLOR that annuals provide. But dogs and bedding annuals play Rock, Scissors, Paper: the dogs are the rocks and the annuals are the scissors. I began with whatever small pots I had, but I quickly realized that larger containers were necessary-so my pot collection grew along with my addiction to COLOR.
I would spend the entire month of May visiting every garden center and greenhouse in northern Ohio fulfilling my lust for color. Soon I became obsessed with sampling every exotic new plant. My forays expanded far and wide-east on Route 2 to the Pennsylvania border; south to Columbus to Baker's Acres. I stopped bringing my husband with me, because he took up space in the car that could be filled with plants! A plant junkie lives a solitary existence.
My garden became ungaptchka! a Yiddish word that describes the overly ornate, busy, ridiculously over-decorated, and garnished to the point of distaste
Many years passed. I aged considerably. I took to drinking wine to quell the boredom while watering all of these pots for the second time on hot summer days. I gave up golf because I couldn't be away from the pots. Bill cooked all of the meals because I was always watering POTS! There were rarely any new annuals to satisfy my thirst for visual stimulation.
The pendulum swung, my budget and my energies had bottomed out. I had to fill the pots, but how? Out of desperation, I looked around at what I already had in the garden. Like Scarlet O'Hara and the draperies, I turned my little chin to the west.....and saw hostas. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, I divided them with a fury, filling most of the pots with ribbons of green, leaving only a few spots for my coveted COLOR.
Miraculously, by having the courage to change, I found serenity.
But I have an addictive personality and having discovered that the hostas were surviving our zone 5 winters, I began to experiment with other perennials. My curiosity was rewarded. Delphiniums came back year after year by not having wet feet in cold clay beds. Sedums dripped over the edges of my moss baskets. Burgundy foliage heucheras, silvery grey cerastiums,  strippy yellow hakonechloas, fern leaf filipendula vulgaris and even ferns were all thriving. All I had to do was buy a few flats of low maintenance annual color like impatiens and coleus.
It didn't take long for me to want to experiment with the the continuous high of evergreens.
Discovering that a big dwarf Alberta spruce would survive in a container, I scored a load of starter evergreens from  the Lowe's Home Improvement Store. At only $6@ the tiny dwarf Alberta spruces were comparable in price to fancy annuals.
They have survived a brutally cold northern Ohio winter. With the money I've saved, I have installed drip irrigation.
Arborvitae have been planted, in pots, to create privacy for the courtyard potting bench/bar that our son, Greg, built for us. Clematis and hops vines are filling the trellises.
Bill and I spend the golden hours of early evening together.
Fellow pot queen and gardener Linda Klein, nationally regarded for her exquisite gardens in Shaker Heights, is happy that my landscape is no longer "ungapatchka."

              Perhaps, bugs will be the only problem this year.
If you know anyone with a garden problem, please give them my number 216-381-1827. If you know anyone who likes to laugh- please send them this blog.