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.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


       Of course my favorite color is green, and as some who have been following in these pages know, I put the flower second to the plant. It really is almost a rule I have; focus on the plant, concentrating on shape, size and texture.
       Well I broke my own rule a couple of weeks ago by buying a Indian Hawthorn (Raphiolepis indica). It was so stunning at the nursery, and with my mother in law coming to town, I thought 'why not'. Well, I knew better. Although happy in the rest of Florida, it preforms poorly in the Keys because our soil and environment are quite different from those of the main land. In fact it continued blooming for only several days and my mother in law didn't arrive in time to see the show. It looks so sad now that I won't post a picture. Instead, I'll post a photo of one of my completed projects which illustrates that a mostly green garden and an occasional flowering plant is all it takes to make an impression. Just pick the right plant the first time.

Monday, April 4, 2011


There's a movement in residential architecture toward re-establishing the Romantic. In the Romantic, first conceived by the Edwardians, architects borrow on motifs from history to design or embellish their new houses, with the beautiful buildings of English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens becoming a prominent design guidepost. Lutyens was a habitual borrower himself, using medieval, Elizabethan, Georgian and classical decoration in his arts and crafts styling. Here are two of the best practicing today.

You can see the historical influence in this house by McAlpine Tankersley.
Here Pursley has beautifully recreated the English Arts and Crafts.
Ivy Rock is a Lutyens house from 1904

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Favorite plants

Philodendrons have a unique way of growing. They are nearly all strong vertical growers and will shoot up a tree or palm quite quickly. As the vine grows upward the successive leaves will increase in size, from juvenile to adult, reaching for the brighter areas of the canopy. The difference in size from the juvenile (typically what one sees in a philodendron house plant) to adult can be astonishing. We see a leaf produced at the base of the tree measure approximately 6" to 8" long, but by the time the vine has reached the tree top a new leaf could be two to three feet in length. The flowers are fragrant and beautiful. Fact is, the flower is actually a spathe and spadix arrangement, with the center spadix being the pollen barer. Reproduction gets quite complicated from here, but suffice to say, it involves a beetle to get the job done.

This Philodendron has a cataphyll (a protective sheath for
the new leaf) that is bright red.
One of the larger leaf philodendrons
Planting a fragrant Philodendron near your patio
will make being outside at night even better.

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”