The Container [and Much More] Store


When I left San Francisco last month, my daughter-in-law Yan Zhang gave me one tiny cutting from each of the succulents growing on her rooftop garden. I wrapped them in damp paper towels, stuck them in a baggie, brought them home in my carry-on, and planted them in a shallow terracotta pot. Since then, I’ve been looking in local garden centers for the stone trough that will be their permanent home. Baby Succulents

Driving east along Rte 27 in Water Mill last week, I spotted a place that promised to have just that. A quick U-turn brought me to The Laurel Group Home and Garden Shop, where I was greeted at the entrance by an inspirational collection of miniature desert landscapes in troughs. (There’s a trough category in our Garden Club’s flower show coming up next spring, and I’d love to be able to produce a respectable entry.)


Outside the shop, outdoor room settings beckon and containers of every size and shape are helpfully grouped by color.




Big, beautiful, but not what I need right now. What would await me inside?


Indoor garden rooms, furnishings and accessories… and lots and lots of pots.


LaurelGroup080416_6 (6) copy

LaurelGroupSq Trough

And there, on the floor, was exactly what I was looking for, the square trough underneath the round one. It’s made of “Fiber Cement,” a material that looks like stone but weighs 7 lbs, not the 30 lbs or more a cast concrete trough of that size would weigh.

The Laurel Group specializes in large residential and commercial landscape projects, but the manager who assisted me, Jackie Fagereng, was delightfully helpful with my one small purchase.

Next up… planting the container.

Posted in Flower Arranging and Decor, Nurseries and Garden Centers, The Hamptons | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Hamptons Show House 2016

HouseExteriorFrom the outside, this year’s Hamptons Show House looks very much like so many of the $5 to $20 million properties for sale on the East End. There are the lawns, the pool, the tennis court, the decks set up for outdoor dining and lounging.


Big Luxo

Inside, however, is a slightly different story. For me, this house is all about the details: the muted colors, black-and-cream contrasts, interesting textures, well-curated art and accessories, and use of natural materials. Unlike last year’s Showhouse, which seemed to be all about drinking, with cocktail setups in every space, this house is about relaxing in intimate spaces, to perhaps read a book, view a painting. Here are close-ups of some of my favorite spots to sit, contemplate, be inspired, or perhaps enjoy a game of backgammon or darts.






And where more color is used, especially in the hot coral sitting room by Dyfari Interiors and the hand-painted peony powder room by Steven Stolman, it’s a welcome blast among the neutrals.




And then there are the practical aspects to the house. The to-die-for kitchen, closets and bathrooms. And especially this laundry room. I mean, who wouldn’t want two washers and dryers? And another prime spot for your photography collection? (I hope the steam doesn’t ruin the emulsion on the photo paper.)


The 2016 Hampton Designer Showhouse, located on Noyak Path in Southampton, is open through September 5. The $35 admission fee benefits Southampton Hospital.

Posted in Art Inspired by Nature, Beach houses, Interior Design, Private Gardens, Show Houses, The Hamptons, Travel-USA Northeast | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

On (and Off) Dune Road



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It was “just another” bike ride along Dune Road from Westhampton Beach to East Quogue—viewing various houses from the sublime to the ridiculous—when I spotted a path leading through the protected marshland. I got off my bike and began to follow it.
After a beautiful ten-minute walk, the view opened up onto the bay and a morning sailfish regatta. Aahh.

Posted in Beach houses, Conservation, The Hamptons, Travel-USA Northeast | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Garden Grows in The Bronx: Wave Hill

When I posted a few of these photos on Facebook, out-of-towners couldn’t believe they were shot in The Bronx.



Yes, this is leafy Riverdale, just over the Henry Hudson Bridge from upper Manhattan, a mostly bucolic section of the Bronx where apartment complexes, stately homes, schools and houses of worship exist side-by side.  And this is Wave Hill, a 28-acre public garden overlooking the Hudson River that hosts year-round programs in horticulture, education, and the arts. When I visited in the spring, above, the tulips were just bursting into bloom.


When I visited a few weeks ago, the mature perennial gardens were a source of delight and inspiration: so many interesting plants existing so harmoniously with each other and with the visitors who’d come to picnic and enjoy the sunset and the concert.





The performers at Sunset Wednesdays on July 27 were Duo Jalal, violist Kathryn Lockwood and percussionist Yousif Sheronick, who presented a virtuoso concert reflecting many musical traditions and styles: from modern Classical and jazz to Klezmer and the Beatles.


Here, Yousif is playing the bodhran, a traditional Irish frame drum… in a composition that is anything but Irish.  Check out their schedule and try to catch a concert. Duo Jalal is not to be missed.


Posted in Hudson Valley NY, Public Gardens, Urban Gardens | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

I Left My Heart [at the Green Wall] in San Francisco

Dion Zhang Miller

Dion Zhang Miller

I went to San Francisco for ten days to meet my new grandson. Of course I fell in love with him.

On Saturday afternoon I took a break from family to visit the newly reopened San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and report on the current “Typeface to Interface” exhibition for Print magazine. And while I was there I fell in love with something else — a green wall — something I’ve been interested in for a long time.

Designed by Habitat Horticulture, the SFMOMA Living Wall is the largest in the U.S. Measuring 29′ 4″ tall and 150′ wide, the 4,399-sq-ft wall provides an outdoor experience for visitors and background for art at the third-floor sculpture terrace — home of the Alexander Calder Motion Lab exhibition through September 10.


Living Wall 1



Alexander Calder, Big Crinkly, 1969

Featuring 19,442 plants of 37 different species, the wall is a work of natural art supported with a recycled-water system. Approximately 40% of the plants — 21 species — are native to California and the Bay Area, many of which can be found on forest floors of local parks, including Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods.

An examination of local ecosystems with similar conditions to SFMOMA helped determine the plant selection and composition that would thrive. A lighting analysis helped predict the evolution of its growth. Featured native plants include wild ginger, redwood sorrel, huckleberry, pink flowering currant, western sword fern, and yerba buena. The wall is primarily irrigated by storm water and excess water from the museum’s HVAC system. Monitored by moisture sensors so that it’s watered only when needed, the wall is held in place by materials made from recycled polyester and water bottles.

Wal Detail

My colleagues at the Garden Club of Irvington-on-Hudson and I will be consulting with local experts in the hopes of creating a similar — but smaller and less ambitious — green wall project using Hudson Valley natives at a public site in our area next year.

Posted in Garden Design Projects, Horticulture, Public Gardens, Travel-California, Urban Gardens | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Tree Man of Holbox Island

I was touring Holbox Island on my bike. I just had to stop. The signs were so intriguing: “Adopt a Tree” in more than a dozen languages and “Vivero Plantas Endemicas” (garden center for native plants).


1 Entrance

I got off my bike and went inside.

1b Interior

There I met Vicente Caceres. With his minimal English and my very basic Spanish I learned a lot about the ecology of the island and what he’s doing to protect and enhance it.

2 Vicente

Vicente grows a lot of plants, tropicals and succulents. But mostly trees. He is the Tree Man of Holbox. The palm tree, to be exact. Two kinds of palms grow in the Mexican Caribbean, specifically in the Yucatán peninsula, he told me. There is the palma kuka, with its typical long, single stem, like the ones below.


And there’s the palma chit, with its fan-shaped fronds, like the young plant below, almost ready to transplant. Both are slow-growing.

6 Palma 3 años

Vicente has patience. He has grown many, many trees from semillas, seeds he’s harvested, collected and planted.

4 Seeds 1

5 Seeds2

It takes three years, he explained, for tiny seedlings to grow large enough to transplant. They do, under his care. Over the past three years, Vicente has propagated and planted more than 1,000 trees in public places all over Holbox: parks, schools, cemeteries, sports fields, plazas.

You, the visitor, can be part of the process. You donate some pesos and Vicente scoops compost he makes from seaweed (there’s lots of that around), coffee grounds, etc. into a pot he fashions from plastic cut from a recycled trash bag. Then he pokes a hole in the compost, transplants a tiny seedling, and paints your initials on the bag with pink nail polish.

7 Seedlings

8 My seedling

There’s mine in the lower right corner, with the ‘E’. I hope it grows up strong and healthy like the ones in the picture below, and that it ends up shading a field where the kids play soccer. But anywhere on the island will be fine.

3 Chit

Next time you’re in Holbox, stop by and adopt a tree. The name of the place is Yumil Ka’an, which means “Lord of the Hammock” (there are a lot of hammocks on the island, and I hope Vicente stops working long enough to rest in one of them.) You won’t need a map. Just follow the roads and paths and you’re sure to meet him and get the tour yourself. And if you can’t make it there, his Facebook page is Holbox Viveroyumil.


Posted in Conservation, Horticulture, Nurseries and Garden Centers, Travel-Mexico | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Hand-Painted Advertisements of Holbox

Smokin Frida2

My husband and I recently had the pleasure of spending a week on Isla Holbox, Mexico, a tropical island/wildlife reserve about 30km off the coast of the Yucatán. We stayed at Villas Flamingos, a low-key resort where the main activities are bird-watching and strolling in the shallow waters that surround the island. Evenings meant a trip (a 20-minute walk along the beach, 10-minute bike ride, 7-minute golf-cart ride) into town, which consists of small shops and restaurants grouped around the zocolo and along a few side streets. From the first moment, we loved that town, in fact the whole island, with its truly laid-back, unspoiled (no mega-hotels), friendly vibe.

The most striking feature of the town: the paintings on the walls. The people of Holbox are truly creative. Here is some of their work:


Besides a Frida obsession, there is great interest in space travel, fantastic creatures, and the local Mayan heritage.




Many of the paintings identify and promote local businesses and products. Could this medium be even more effective than Facebook advertising?






My favorite, below, is a piece that turns the corner of a building and celebrates the colobrí or hummingbird. The signature, Jade Rivera, led me to the website of the artist, who has been commissioned to create extraordinary wall paintings all over Latin America.



And here is our favorite restaurant, El Colibrí, home of delicious food and musica en vivo (live music) every evening.


Posted in Art Inspired by Nature, Travel-Mexico | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment