Friday, August 26, 2011

Very smart

Fun, economical and a lot of hard work. As they say in Maine, 'some cunnin'.   Bad Beaver Farm - Part1

Taking the hands on approach.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Buffalo Bill slept here

While traveling through eastern Wyoming we passed Pahaska Tepee Lodge, the 1904 hunting lodge built by Buffalo Bill Cody. The Lodge was mostly used as a stop over for people visiting Yellowstone National Park but also as a base for Cody's back country expeditions. The the main lodge is crafted using local Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) and has some very interesting construction features that occur when building material is plentiful.

Pahaska Tepee Lodge entrance, c. 2011
Pahaska Tepee Lodge, c.1940
On the side porch new tongue & groove flooring has been
added to the original half log decking. Hopefully this will be
restored to the appropriate deck at some point in the future.
Here, Cody stands on the same porch.
Under foot is the half  log decking minus
the applied modern tongue & groove.
Half log steps with a somewhat strange corner post repair.
A side door was very sturdily
built with sawn Ponderosa Pine.
I was very tempted to remove the
inappropriate sign.
The joints are dovetailed,
making a very permanent connection.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011


What's not to like about lichen?  If we could only get it to grow on our cars, pavement, and all things plastic.

Stone seat. Northeast Harbor, Maine.

Exposed ledge. Northeast Harbor, Maine.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bourbon Shack

Heading south, we had our final stop over. Our friends Barry Archung and Rick Benoit were kind to put us up for the night before we flew out the next day. Barry is a landscape designer and the most knowledgeable plants-man I've ever known. Spending one hour with him will teach you more than a month of hard study. At their beautiful  home they created a small outpost known as the Bourbon Shack. It's non-electrified and heated by wood stove, it is the ultimate in charming and we wanted to spend the night there. It's a one room cottage with board and batten siding and a ceder shingle roof. The interior walls are open to the studs and underside of the roof shows the ship sheathing and ceder shingles. All wood and no paint except the door. To top it off the piers that support the cabin are granite posts.

The bourbon Shack seen from
the garden patio.
Granite piers, granite steps and a
sliding barn door. There are always
potted plants ready for planting on
this large Marblehead, Ma. lot.
The sign was painted by Milissa
Hudak as a cabin warming.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stony inspiration

It's hard not to love the cottage architecture of Mount Desert Island. In particular the homes, churches and gardens of the 'Rusticators'. The Rusticators were the wealthy from the northeast who spent summers in the small coastal villages, tending to build large 'cottages' as was/is the de rigueur along the New England coast from the 1870's to the present. One of the signature traits Mount Desert had to offer was the abundance of rock. In fact, Mount Desert is nothing but rock, pink granite making up most of the island bulk. Because of such abundance, and because the cost of labor in that day was comparably very low, the architects and gardeners used it with impunity. It's fairly obvious that the way the Rusticators would show there wealth was in the silent competition to see who had the most and best stonework. Here are three examples of chimneys and my very modest attempt to have a little rustication of my own.

Northeast Harbor, Maine. Very rustic.
Northeast Harbor, Maine. Although
this is a very new house,  the
stonework tradition is still  thriving.
Here is the living room at Keewaydin in
Seal Harbor. A work of art made of granite.
(Photo: Dunham Family Collection)
After years of seeing stone at every
turn I wanted a bit for myself. I've just
picked the stone for my wood stove
hearth and it's being brought over to
the shop to be cut to size.

The stone, cut to fit under the
stove, is an end cut. This piece
would be the end of the granite
block that is cut from the quarry.
It has a very flat side (the result of a
very large saw at the fabrication
shop) perfect for laying on the floor.
With out the help of my brother-in-law
the stone would still be out front.
Because the stone is so irregular I had
to grind areas away with a diamond
blade until the stove was level. No
easy task, requiring a plastic tent and
fan to capture the dust and stone. I
finally have a bit of stone, now to
get lichen to cover.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

latches, knobs, levers & catches

Our trip next brought us to Maine. While there I took note of some utilitarian items. You can't find this stuff at Home Depot. The small details are what make things so interesting.

These are small handcrafted latches and a
center window stay. The knob, top photo, and it's
matching brother at the other side turn to lock
shut. The stay, bottom photo, props open the
large top hinged window. 

Door latches at my camp were hand wrought
by a black smith in Bar Harbor, Maine . 

Northeast Harbor, Maine. While photographing this beautifully
designed and built garden entry I couldn't help but note
the lever/catch. Made of brass and apparently custom,
it has a nautical feel while at the same time fits wonderfully
with the Japanese inspired gate. And it works seamlessly, I tried.
This is the matching side gate. Here the catch
latches on  to a brass receiver that has been
bent to match the profile of the round gate post.
So well thought out. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Newport is no new port

On our trip north we stopped into Newport, Rhode Island. We were there to see the property of friends in preparation to create a new garden. However, it didn't take us long to venture out to the 'Old Town' to see all the 18th century homes. Newport is one of those lovely New England towns composed of homes spanning four centuries. The town is of course known for the palatial 'cottages' built on Bellevue Avenue but there is a treasure trove of large and small wooden homes that have been well restored. Although the styles are many, the gambrel roofed, wood sided house is very prominent. Here are some examples.

A very small house at the waters edge. The inappropriate water side
deck can be overlooked simply because the views are spectacular.
The roof is another story. The present insensitive asphalt roof
glaringly stands out. A ceder shingle roof would be the right choice.
Here's a large duplex. Phenomenal restoration with a ceder shingle roof.
Notice the 'invisible storm panel' over the original twelve over twelve paned windows.
These invisible storms are the modern equivalent to the double hung storm window.
They are just as efficient, protect the original windows from winter weather
and are better looking. The real difference is that, come summer, the new storm
windows are removed, allowing the beautiful original windows
with their wavy glass to be shown off.
Another great restoration with a ceder shingle roof and window in their full glory.
Preservation is well received in Newport. There are good examples on
nearly every block. So many of the homes are right at the public right of
way, giving the town a great deal of charm.  For gardeners, the
challenge is to make a lot out of a little. Because gardens are so small
they must be well conceived. And they are.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Went for a little trip

I just returned from a little trip north with some stops along the way. Miami Beach's, South Beach that is, large collection of Art Deco buildings can be quite captivating and there are all degrees of preservation. Here's some good examples and one in need.

Nearly all of the buildings closest to the
beach are hotels, stores or condos. The
single family homes start to appear several
blocks west of the hotels above.
There is a trend in Miami Beach to renovate the deco hotels into a contemporary 'Minimal Chic' reminiscent of the W hotel chain.  That detour is unfortunate. Buildings like the one below give a very simple and appropriate path to take when restoring. The style speaks for itself, and with abundant examples of good preservation to follow they could have another restored gem within the Deco District.

Well, nothing 6 or 7 million dollars can't fix

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Bougainvillea is a pain. It's thorn-ed, aggressive and for a good part of the year it doesn't flower. The old saying goes; Bougainvillea is beautiful - when it's in your neighbors garden. Isn't that the truth.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Favorite plants

Joewood (Jacquinia keyensis), for a small tree, stands out. A native to the Florida Keys and Bahamas, Joewood has a thick succulent like leaf with a downward curl that is fairly easy to spot while exploring local hammocks. I have found this plant far off the beaten path growing in solid stone, cycling between flood and drought conditions, and looking none the worst for it. Although a very slow grower in the harsh conditions of the Keys, when grown in a garden with supplemental water and fertilizer it preforms like a champ.

This 4' tall Joewood was found on Sugarloaf Key
and is approximately 40 years old. 

A close up shows the thick leaf and the
globular seed. The small cream colored flower
is extremely fragrant, reminding me of Lilac.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Every once in a while I see something fun and impractical and beautiful. In general, frivolity in design equates to wastefulness. However, on occasion we'll see a building that, some how, is serious and playful at the same time. The Thorncrown Chapel in Arkansas, designed by E. Fay Jones, would fit that bill.

Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs,
Arkansas. Photo: Whit Slemmons

Architect Gray Organschi  created this woodland bridge to span a brook. link No easy feat. A simple straight span with several supports would have served the purpose but instead Organschi choose to serpentine the foot bridge at a acute angle to the ravine. Stylistic whimsy might be a fitting description for this ribbon in the woods. Because the construction is of a laminated design, it's strength is derived from the gluing and bolting together of the structural decking. The components work in concert to make a strong, beautiful bridge.

A flight of fancy in the woods.
Photo: Gray Organschi

Another Organschi design, here an out house, is dressed in stone with a fitted interior, adding a bit of playfulness and permanence to an other wise utilitarian box.

So good looking it makes
you want to stop for a visit.
Photo: Gray Organschi

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Key West Eyebrow

The eyebrow house is quintessential Key West. First dating from the mid nineteenth century, the design appears to be an adaptation to the strong sun and high heat of the subtropics. The popular lore being that the shielded windows create a convection that would draw the cooler shaded outdoor air through the upper story. Eyebrows are gable ended houses with a three or five bay configuration. The three and five bay style is seen throughout western architecture but ultimately adapted to various regions here in the states. A recognizable variant is the center chimney, three or five bay colonial, a New England classic.

Three bay arrangement. Photo: Historic Buildings of Connecticut
In Key West, the eyebrow is formed by the front roof being extended forward (or the facade moved back, depending on how you approach it) to create a 5' or 6' deep porch. With this extension the upper floor facade windows are 'tucked' under the porch roof or 'brow'. Typically, from the interior, the second floor windows will start at the floor creating a low window with a charming downward view to the porch and front yard.

The porch roof forming a protective brow.
A tall three bay with the distinctive windows peeking out from
under the porch roof.  Photo: Monroe County Public Library

Although most Key West Eyebrows are three bay configuration
there is the occasional, more grand, five bay.Photo: Monroe
County Public Library
This charming Key West style was extended to a few grand plantation style homes. On these large homes the eyebrow windows are found on the third floor, helping to form an imposing facade. I have yet to see this configuration anywhere else.

Third floor eyebrows. The John Lowe house located on
Southard St. in Key West. Photo: Monroe county Public Library

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sad Hawthorn

I didn't place a photo in the last post of a very poor looking Indian Hawthorn because 'who wants to look at something bad?'. Well, some people do. It's the same curiosity as when we all slow down to see an accident, only with much less effect. So here you have it.
Not very cheery.
It should look like this.  Key West is very alkaline and I attribute that to it's unhappiness.

About Me

I am a landscape designer based in Key West, Florida and Surry, Maine. I place much attention with the house, not as an adjunct to the garden but as an integral element. This symbiotic relationship will always produce the best and most natural environment. The best description for my views on the relationship between the garden and the house comes from the naturalist Charles Keeler, “landscape design with occasional rooms in case of rain”