Maria's Garden Update

Maria Killam is a blogger, designer and colour expert who lives just outside of Vancouver, BC. Five years ago, she posted about her new house and the garden that needed to be completely ripped out and redesigned.

 I live in New York, but offered to help. I designed Maria's entire garden remotely with drawings and photos. Maria wanted the look of a classic English garden that included boxwood because it's green year round. She also wanted a white-on-white color scheme. I gave her two options for the front yard.

Option 1



The one lonely post was not beautiful yet, so I recommended that Maria move the downspout and beef it up to 10" and that's what she did.



Before (when she took possession)


A professionally designed landscape many times will incorporate both curves and straight lines to add a bit of tension.......but that is for another day.
The backyard was even worse than the front yard with half of it covered in concrete. Maria's studio office is behind her home (below):

Maria wanted a vegetable garden and she had two out-buildings, one on the left side (the studio above) and a garden shed located on the right (below):

 She had a large plum tree in the middle of the yard.  As a designer, I rarely if ever never leave a lonely tree planted among the grass and definitely not surrounded by a bed..........unless of course it is a great shade tree................plum trees seem to be a common choice by a novice, to incorporate a new colour into the landscape, however, the best way to make a purple plum tree look like it belongs in the design, it needs to be repeated by other purple shrubs and flowers........another blog altogether.

Not wanting to offend the plum tree gods....I originally incorporated the tree into the design plan.
Then, in the fall when Maria was raking and raking and raking the leaves she emailed me and said "Can I just get this tree taken out of our plan?",  I breathed a sigh of relief  and I replied "Off with her head".

This is the area in between both out-buildings. I designed a lattice fence to connect them with varying sizes of boxwood  & perennials in front of the fencing.

Here's the other side of the yard with the plantings in front of the patio.


Maria loves sitting on her sectional to enjoy the white hydrangeas and flowering Japanese Snow Bell tree in front of the sitting area. This is a note from Maria: "Every day I look outside and think of you because I would never have been able to dream up something so beautiful. My readers will occasionally leave me comments saying that since I'm a designer I could have done it myself but you and I both know that isn't true. Working with you was so fabulous because you have the experience to explain the WHY. Why my far-fetched ideas were not as good as yours! And because of that, I have the garden of my dreams." Thank you so much! Maria Killam, Founder and CEO of Understanding Undertones.
If you are building a new house, or planning a new landscape, I would love to help you create the garden of your dreams, you can contact me at mwhite8410@gmail.com. Go here to view my eDesign rates. SaveSave SaveSave


New Ideas for a Tradtional

Definitely a different take on your typical colonial home,  Matthew Cunningham chose to surprise us taking a modern approach to this renovation, one the average designer might not make

Instead of the typical overly detailed overly landscape design most would have done, Cunningham went ahead and stripped down the entire design to a clean basic look. 

Allowing the mature surrounding landscape to take center stage and adding at best minimal amenities such as a simple rectangular pool and spa, as well as a paired down bar unit and sitting area.

Stone walks and patio, simply laid, reinforce the whole minimal look.

I love the way the simple gate and fencing revert back to the dark shutters.....most would have opted to keep it safe with a white or at best cream fence.

In a perfect world it is always a good idea to situate the pool area a comfortable distance from the entry. You want to be able to walk into a yard and not feel as though you are right on top of the pool. From looking at the site plan this was not possible.
Positioning the simple trellis parallel to the pool serves to strengthen the design
.....a wonderful choice , wouldn't you say?

Not sure how I would have handled the bar unit and step system but do like the convenience of the cooking it right outside the door, tucked away, as well as not in the line of site from inside. 
So often I look out of wonderfully decorated room to the backs of barbecue system.

When designing a small pool layout, try to position the steps to the side as Cunningham has done in this pool. 
Long stadium steps are classic but only if you have the room. Side position steps with a bench running along one long length will still allow for swimming laps, and seating. Keep in mind steps usually can take from 4'-5' of swimming lane if not positioned right.

Let's open up a conversation on this post and design. Would love to hear your feed back and ideas on this "new idea " on a traditional. 


Don't forget to sign up for the end of month drawing!

If you would like to add a more Classical feel to your garden please contact me for further information at mwhite841@verizon.net


Ringing In The New Year

Though I have not posted  as much as I would have liked to, 
wanted to,
 planned to,
 and wished to this year,
 it has been a GREAT design year for me.

Not only was I able to offer E-Designs, I was able to juggle and design both in New York 
and in France.

Along the way I met some of the nicest clients a designer could have hoped for,
 making this year all the more rewarding. 
Your comments and suggestions as well as friendships have been a big part of why I continue, 
and I thank you all for sharing with me and for being a part of my year.

I am looking forward to the new year with a
 renewed sense of purpose as well as a
New Blog Format.
 We will be exploring new and upcoming designers,
 new design styles, 
and some new and old design theories.
 New plants available at market as well as new products I have been working with this past year, will also be included.

 A New Web Site,  
Question and Answer Column 
 Newsletter & Reader's Gardens
will also be included.
 Book and garden accessory 
will happen at the end of each month for those who have joined the site, so do sign on and leave a comment.

 Making 2015 a year to remember.

Wishing you health,
 creative genius,
 and love,  for the coming year.



Berries To Reconsider

When designing a garden I always add is what I call "cuttables" , to any planting list I create. Those wonderful evergreen boughs and berries we all seem to decorate with come the holidays.
Nothing gives me more satisfaction than being able to stroll through my gardens clipping and gathering an assortment branches, be they needled conifers or evergreen leaves such as hollies and box woods, all for indoor display.
 As gorgeous as the blog post have been these past few weeks, with all the wonderful winter arrangements, please remember that the majority of  colorful berries being used are poisonous to small animals as well as children. Once cut and brought indoors these berries become dry and easily fall off their branches.

Treehugger.com did a very informative post on poisonous berries a few weeks back, that you can read here. Though not a complete list it will give you a good idea as to what to avoid when building your display.
Alternatives?  You might want to consider the following,

 Nandinia domestica 'Alba'

Junipers, for their berries as well as foliage
Pyracantha, in wonderful shades of reds as well as oranges and yellows 

Or better yet try mixing faux berries with your fresh cut evergreens, as Cindy Hattersley of Rough Luxe Lifestyle did in this charming basket.

If you would like to add a more Classical Contemporary feel to your garden please contact me about e-designs  at mwhite841@verizon.net


How A Garden Came To Be.

As most of you know I offer e-design on a regular basis. I love the idea of being able to connect with clients  on the east coast as well as across the country and Europe. It makes for  interesting work ......as well as great friendships.
Elizabeth Avenue Before
Last year I was fortunate to be able to collaborate ................I believe good residential design involves both the designer and the homeowner............with Maria Killam and Terreia Raufman.  Many of you know Maria from her color and design blog "Color Me Happy" . if not, stop by. You will be amazed by what  you will learn from each and every posting. Not only does she go into detail as to the whys and hows of color and design, her upbeat positive nature will inspire you.
And inspired we were. After our initial contact, it was decided that the gardens should have a loose, relaxed, almost country feel to them, with a bit of sophistication thrown in for good measure. Preliminary designs were created.
Rather than work with color,  we agreed on a white garden, this way we would not be competing with the interior colors but rather complimenting them with hints of yellow and green in the design.

With very little coaxing Maria realized certain major changes would have to take place before the design fun could happen. This of course would cut into the budget but sometimes "ya gotta do what ya gotta do"............ and so the backhoes were called in and the sea of concrete ripped out. Plants we were saving were relocated, grades were shot.....a term in the industry for checking the levels for water run off as well as sitting water and erosion .......and a rich top soil installed.
Once the not so pleasant work was over, walks were installed
Patios laid
Plants were planted

and a vegetable garden was born. 
Because the vegetable garden could be seen from the front entry, decorative fencing was installed to soften the view. The same fencing design was then carried to the front of the house as well, creating a transition from the driveway to the front and rear walks.
A good example of plantings being "worth their weight in gold"......This tree not only adds visual interest in the rear yard but from inside the front hall area as well.  If you look closely you will notice the hollies along the fence, They were used as vertical elements along with hiding the view along the studio from the kitchen window and when walking into the rear yard.  When planting, especially major elements  always walk around looking from different angles and views before deciding on the permanent local 

The ranch house itself had very little architectural detail we could work with..........so what I call accessories were added . Bits and pieces of architectural elements some classic some whimsical,  adding not only character but the warmth and charm the house first lacked. 

The landscape now compliments the existing structure, blending almost seamlessly into one impressive picture.
And so a Garden came to  be
All photos courtesy of Maria Killam

If you would like to add a more Classical feel to your garden please contact me for further information at mwhite841@verizon.net