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Archives for September 24, 2013

Which came first, the firm with a shop or the online business?

YOU’VE heard the one about the shop that decided to trade online, but how about the internet business that decided to open a shop?

That’s the story of Internet Gardener, a family-owned business that started out selling goods through a website but has now expanded into a showroom in Calverton.

The business can trace its origins back to an idea that one of the founding family, Andrew Baxter, had when he did work experience at a local garden centre.

He asked the owners whether they’d ever thought of launching a website, in a bid to open up a new market and sell to buyers across the country.

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But at the time it was not common and the garden centre decided not to pursue the proposal. The Baxter family, however, had other ideas.

Mum Sue, who was working at a local doctors’ surgery, recalls: “We were passionate gardeners. We looked at it as a family and our view was that it was a good idea, so Internet Gardener was born.

“I left the surgery and ran it on my own from a home office for about 18 months. I never left my desk – I was doing accounts, website population and customer service, and Andrew was working on products.

“We would even meet suppliers round the kitchen table. It was unbelievable – you just wouldn’t do it now.”

She added: “We had to knock on the door of major suppliers, tell them we’d got a website and a home office. We really had to persuade them to believe in us – and they did.”

In its first year, 2006, Internet Gardener turned over £43,000. A year later, it had rocketed to £330,000. This year, it is on course to break through the £3 million barrier.

Mrs Baxter says: “We invested heavily in our website, and at the time there weren’t many people doing what we were doing. So we managed to get in with suppliers who wanted to have an online presence but didn’t have a means of doing it.”

Through the website, Internet Gardener was selling garden machinery, pots and planters, landscaping materials, furniture and outdoor living products.

Its model was simple – orders would come in through the website and stock would be dispatched from the suppliers, meaning the business did not have to carry expensive stock, keep it in a big warehouse or have a fleet of delivery vehicles.

The business did better than the Baxters expected, and it moved from their home into premises at the Sherwood Business Park in Daybrook. But expansion meant that within a year, the business had to move again, this time to Daleside House in Calverton.

“Moving into those offices was a real step forward for us,” said Sue. “We could develop customer services. It has always been crucial that people are given a good experience when they buy with us because that’s what brings them back.”

Now, the business has expanded again – but only a few yards from its old premises. It has taken over a site formerly occupied by a windows business, this time adding a showroom where it can allow customers to go and see a wide range of larger, outdoor products.

Mrs Baxter says it has also invested heavily in the software, technology and people behind its website so that it now has several different websites feeding into a complex ordering system which automatically feeds information through to accounts.

“It isn’t just the websites, though,” she says. “Since we opened the showroom, we’ve had an influx of visitors. But gardeners can be different to electronics buyers. We publicise our phone number prominently because gardeners like to talk and tell you about projects they’ve got one.”

With summer out of the way, the Baxters will be hoping for a cold snap, which tends to push up the sales of everything from interior furniture to boots.

Mrs Baxter said: “Eventually, we’ll have our own warehouse, take more products into stock so that we have more control.

“There’s also more we can do to raise our profile online and move the business up to the next level through YouTube, Twitter, members clubs – perhaps even celebrity endorsement.”

Article source: http://www.nottinghampost.com/came-firm-shop-online-business/story-19836702-detail/story.html

You can help change the world, just take off on a trip to Seattle

It’s a new school year and education is on everyone’s mind, but what about lessons in social responsibility? You can start with a weekend in Seattle and a visit to the new Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center, (gatesfoundation.org).

Using interactive exhibits, the visitor center tells the stories of why people donate money and how the recipients’ lives have been changed through charity. It’s a very active museum with levers, cranks, pulleys and quizzes.

Flip the wooden blocks lining one wall and unveil important milestones in the foundation’s history. Try lifting two 16-pound buckets filled with sand–the weight children have to carry water for miles in developing countries–and then spin the oversize globe to find a location where the foundation is making a difference.

The visitor center challenges you to become active in charitable works by asking how you would allocate funds if you had a foundation. Use the keyboard to type your answer and watch it appear on an electronic billboard. Best of all, the ideas don’t disappear into cyberspace; the foundation pays attention to all suggestions.

Kids will love the Innovation and Inspiration Gallery, where they create solutions to the world’s problems using primitive tools: Tinker Toys and pipe cleaners. Afterward youngsters can proudly post digital photos of their works on the gallery wall.

The lessons even extend to the bathroom, where the stalls have photos of the primitive outhouses people use in developing countries. It reminds Americans that things we take for granted, like indoor restrooms, are luxuries in many places.

When visitors leave the center, they’re invited to make a difference by writing down the ways they’ll help others and pinning their pledges on a metal tree.

Across the street, artist Dale Chihuly is giving back to the community with a garden and glass exhibition (chihulygarden andglass.com). A native of Tacoma, Wash., Chihuly grew up hunting for beach glass on the shores of Lake Puget. He expresses that childish wonder in elaborate, immense glass flower sculptures reminiscent of the crazy landscaping by Edward Scissorhands in the movie of the same name.

Imagine flower arrangements gone wild with gigantic tendrils reaching out to grab you like the plants in the movie Little Shop of Horrors. In the massive greenhouse, Chihuly’s red and orange fiery baskets of flowers change color depending on the elusive light of the Northwest.

Besides flowers, the Chihuly garden houses the most comprehensive collection of the artist’s rainbow colored artwork, including a marine motif starring a giant squid and seashells.

Continue immersing yourself in Chihuly’s world at the café. A consummate collector, Chihuly displays many of his finds here. Be sure to note the accordions lining the ceiling. Neighboring fisherman, farmers and vintners supply the café with the fresh local fare and boutique Washington wines.

The Gates Visitor Center and Chihuly Garden and Glass are located in the Seattle Center, home to the Space Needle, a high-rise tower with a panoramic view of this green city. Next door, the monorail will take you quickly and inexpensively to the famed Pike Place Market, a combination of farmers market, fine dining spot and outdoor theater.

Although it’s a tourist spot, the market is also a functioning harbor with fisherman just off the boat dressed in orange vinyl jumpsuits. At Pike Place the fisherman enjoy juggling salmon along with witty barbs in front of impromptu crowds.

Don’t miss a photo op with Rachel, a 550-pound bronze piggy bank. Visitors who drop spare change in this piggy bank contribute to thousands of dollars annually for needy community members.

Seattle makes it fun to help others, so help yourself and your family realize the power they have to change the world. All it takes to start is an airplane ticket.

Contact Ruth Carlson at ruth@ruthcarlson.com.

Article source: http://www.mercurynews.com/los-gatos/ci_24160599/you-can-help-change-world-just-take-off?source=rss

Metro rail landscaping competition held

The Hyderabad Metro Rail on Monday informed that as many as 70 applications have been received from landscape architectural firms and architects registered with ISOLA or Council of Architecture for planning and designing of landscapes along the central median under the viaduct of Hyderabad Metro Rail Corridors.

In an event meant for meeting participants of the competition, the HMR chief NVS Reddy said, “We are taking latest concepts and successful ideas from all over the world. In this competition too, we expect unique and innovative ideas to add greenery under the 72km long viaduct.” He  added, “I am extremely happy that at least 30 proposals are worth considering. All participants must submit their unique designs before October 31”.

The winner of the competition will be awarded Rs 8 lakh, while the runners-up and second runners-up will receive cash awards of Rs 6 lakh and Rs 4 lakh respectively. Reddy also clarified that participants will have to restrict their landscaping design to the height of 5.5 metres as skywalks are proposed to be built later on, using JNNURM and HMR funds, following the Bangkok model of metro rail.

Participants quipped in with queries like availability of water, drainage, presence of service utilities, strata below the viaduct, etc.

Article source: http://newindianexpress.com/cities/hyderabad/Metro-rail-landscaping-competition-held/2013/09/24/article1800615.ece

Bob Hope estate on the market for $27.5 million



A big piece of Hollywood lore here in the Valley is on the market. And it can be yours for $27.5 million.

That’s the asking price for the Bob Hope estate in the 10000 block of Moorpark Street in Toluca Lake.

The listing hit the market on Monday, but buzz about the sale had already generated interest.

“We just had our first showing yesterday (Sunday), said Jade Mills, who handles estate properties at Coldwell Banker in Beverly Hills.

What the late comedian called his “dream home” was built in 1939 in what was then a walnut grove. The listing went active after a weekend auction of items in Bob and Dolores Hope’s estates that included things that had been in their Toluca Lake home and their John Lautner-designed house in Palm Springs.

Hope’s daughter, Linda, spent the past several years putting the collection together. “I think it went pretty well. Obviously, one would like to see better (sale) prices, but all in all I would say it was pretty successful,” she said of the auction.

The Palm Springs house went on the market earlier this year priced at $50 million. “That’s a big price tag, but that’s what my mother sort of thought it ought to go for, so out of respect to her we put it on at that price. So far nobody has been beating down the door,” she said.

Dolores Hope died earlier this year at age 102. Her daughter has fond memories of growing up in the Valley and getting to witness some political and show business history.

One day, the presidential helicopter Marine One landed in the yard so President Richard Nixon could play golf with Hope at nearby Lakeside Country Club.

“It was kind of a big event for the neighborhood,” recalled Linda Hope, who still lives a few blocks away.

The estate includes a putting green and sand trap, as Hope was an avid golfer — for years a fixture at the eponymous Bob Hope Desert Classic in Palm Springs. He would often practice shots from various areas of the lawn and ditch along one edge of the property.

The sprawling house and grounds were always a source of good vibes, Linda recalled, because her dad like to entertain, especially given his USO tours around the world.

“They used to have a big party around New Year’s, which coincided with the Rose Bowl, and he used to take two busloads of people to the game, and then they would come back to the house,” she said.

Selling the house is bittersweet, to be sure. “Of course there is sadness. I grew up there and lived in the house since (the) 1940s,” she said. “Of course I’ll miss it. But I hope that somebody buys it and loves it as much as my folks and I did.”

One stipulation: Whoever buys the house has to live in it for five years.

Mills, who is handling the sale with Drew Fenton of Hilton Hyland, doesn’t know how long it will take to sell the pricey estate. “Each home is purchased by the person who falls in love with the property. This is a very special property, so when the right person comes through, I think it will sell,” he said.

The flat lot features a 15,000-square-foot main house, a two-bedroom guesthouse, a swimming pool, lush landscaping and gardens — and, of course, the Hopes’ offices.

It also includes a garden shed equipped with a television and bathroom.

The “for sale” sign is not a welcome mat for lookie-loos, though. You’ll need a very green bank account to even get a peek at these digs.

“Everyone has to be vetted,” Mills said. “We have to make sure everyone who comes to see it is totally qualified. They don’t want just anyone. We’re being very careful.”

Article source: http://www.dailynews.com/business/20130923/bob-hope-estate-on-the-market-for-275-million

Eagle Scout Dedicates Satellite Monarch Butterfly Garden

(Provided photo)

(Provided photo)

Why save the monarch butterfly?  The majestic monarch butterfly is an essential part of the ecosystem and in desperate need of help.

Once a common sighting in backyard gardens, the orange-and-black butterfly known for its long migration is on a dramatic decline. There are several factors for the demise of the milkweed-dependent butterfly.  Luckily, there’s a lot to do to help.

Eagle Scout Candidate and local community steward, Casen Zitzelberger, son of Gregory and Jacqueline Zitzelberger, dedicated the new Snetsinger Satellite Monarch Butterfly Garden on Saturday during a program held at Parker Dam State Park. His project was a collaborative effort between the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden (SBG), Penn State Master Gardeners, Parker Dam State Park and the Presbyterian Boy Scout Troop No. 2.

Program information was shared by the following individuals, from left to right, Pam Ford, Penn State master gardener in Centre County; Dr. Bob Snetsinger, professor emeritus of Entomology at Penn State University; Carey Huber, state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Parker Dam State Park environmental education specialist; Zitzelberger; and Doug Ford, Penn State master gardener in Centre County.

Zitzelberger approached Parker Dam State Park with a mission to complete his Eagle Scout service project.  He adopted the garden this spring because of his interest in nature and improving outcomes for the Monarch butterfly in this region. Penn State Master Gardeners in Centre County provided guidance in designing and choosing native Pennsylvania plants to attract butterflies especially Monarchs.

The number of Monarch butterflies has dramatically decreased this year.  One reason for their decline is the increased use of genetically modified corn grown in the Midwest.  Researchers from University of Kansas reported that these crops are not grown for higher production, but also to kill off native species like the common milkweed.

Monarch butterfly caterpillars are dependent on common milkweed to thrive and mature into butterflies. These second generation butterflies are those migrants found in Pennsylvania.

During the program butterfly enthusiasts, Snetsinger and his wife, Wendy, shared their experience creating a three-acre butterfly garden in cooperation with the Tom Tudek Park located in State College. The park was dedicated in memory of their daughter, Clare, and the Tudek family’s son, Tom, who both died tragically at 17 years old.

Both young adults had an interest in butterflies.  The Snetsinger Butterfly Garden’s mission is to educate the public about the importance of butterfly conservation and ecosystems, many of which are endangered throughout the world.  Events and activities at the park are scheduled throughout the summer and posted online at www.snetsingerbutterflygarden.org.

Penn State Master Gardeners and outreach educators for the SBG, Pam and Doug Ford, encourage local residents to help improve the outcome for butterflies and other pollinators by also volunteering to become community stewards.  Currently, PSU Master Gardeners work with schools, neighborhood groups and community organizations to develop butterfly and pollinator friendly habitats by creating satellite gardens.

Anyone can attract beautiful butterflies by growing native host and nectar plants.  Bee Balm, Common Milkweed, Asters and many others are available at the annual Master Gardeners’ Native Plant sale. These plants are easy to grow since they thrive in all types of soil with limited water.

These plants are available in a variety of colors and sizes with varying bloom times from spring to fall.  Information about the sale and list of plants is available on the SBG Web site.

During a camping trip or picnic, visit the new SGB satellite garden and other pollinator gardens at Parker Dam State Park.  For more information about creating your own butterfly garden, contact the Penn State Master Gardener’s hotline at 814-355-4897 or CentreMG@ag.psu.edu.

Several community organizations donated supplies for the project, including Down to Earth Garden Club and Alvetro’s Landscaping in DuBois, Tammy’s Greenhouse, Bonnie’s Greenhouse, TD Fabricating and Welding and Swisher Concrete.  These organizations realized the importance of the garden and the hard work and dedication to complete this Eagle Scout service project.

 

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Article source: http://gantdaily.com/2013/09/24/eagle-scout-dedicates-satellite-monarch-butterfly-garden/

Conway farm a green classroom


CONWAY — Across 5.3 acres of this small hilltown, blue, purple and yellow perennials blossom, blueberries grow plump and a flock of laying hens roost.

On South Shirkshire Road in Conway, Lilian Jackman cultivates a perennial, herb and cut flower nursery, called Wilder Hill Gardens that utilizes sustainable methods and traditional farming techniques.

The buzzing garden also often becomes a classroom.

Over the past 25 years Jackman has owned the garden, about 100 students have learned to cultivate soil and propagate plants over the years.

Each gardening season Wilder Hill Gardens has two apprenticeship programs, one tailored to the serious home gardener or aspiring professional landscaper/grower, the second focuses on cut flower production and arrangement.

Jackman doesn’t offer housing and most students come from cities and towns close by. In addition to the practical learning, Jackman provides study material for students.

“Students get learning from both directions. They study and apply the hands-on experience,” Jackman said.

During the first apprenticeship, students learn to make table arrangements and boutonnieres and how to market. The second apprenticeship teaches students botany and soil science.

“Botany is essential if you want to be a grower,” Jackman said. “You need to know the structure of a plant.”

This summer, Julie Etter of Brattleboro was one student who spent the warm days learning to garden.

The 25-year-old has learned landscaping and the techniques for caring for plants.

“It’s been everything I was looking for without even knowing it,” Etter said. “There’s a lot of benefit to working with someone who has been here and has a lot of skills to share.”

Etter has always been surrounded by gardens. Her family had a vegetable garden, and in college she worked in gardening retail. Someday Etter would like to own a farm.

Jackman brings with her extensive experience in the field.

For 20 years, Jackman has worked in the garden and growing business.

She studied horticulture at the University of Connecticut. After school, Jackman worked on landscaping crews and orchards in her home state of Connecticut, as well as in Michigan and Florida.

Wanting to return to New England, Jackman moved to Conway 25 years ago, where she began Wilder Hill.

In addition to Wilder Hill, Jackman works on residential projects across western Massachusetts, including the Sustainable Energy Demonstration Garden at the Greenfield Energy Park. She also teaches at conferences throughout New England.

“I’m passionate about small scale agriculture,” Jackman said.

Wilder Hill Garden offers nursery, landscaping and wedding services.

On the nursery side, Wilder Hill has a pick-your-own garden operation using the different shrubs, fruits like blueberry, currant and gooseberry bushes, Asian and European pear trees, medicinal and culinary herb plants.

Jackman also provides a variety of landscaping styles from a formal vegetable garden to a terraced rock garden.

For weddings, Wilder Hill provides original floral arrangements using the wide range of flowers, grasses, shrubs, roses and herbs grown organically in Conway.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

Article source: http://www.recorder.com/home/8364491-95/conway-farm-a-green-classroom

6 Fall Gardening Tips: Blog Spotlight

See what Greenstreet Gardens suggests in their blog for cleaning up your fall landscape now to enjoy a beautiful spring yard later.

Are your perennials done and ready to be cut back? Get fall landscape tips from the Gardening with Greenstreet! blog. (Photo Credit: Susan Jenkins)

Article source: http://edgewater.patch.com/groups/around-town/p/6-fall-gardening-tips-blog-spotlight

6 Tips for Gardening in the Fall

Photo: Flickr/Salvadonica, Chianti, Tuscany

Fall vegetables are some of the year’s tastiest. Photo: Flickr/Salvadonica, Chianti, Tuscany

Gardening may seem like more of a spring and summer hobby, but the mild autumn months are a great time to spend outdoors in your yard. Check out our top tips for reducing waste, saving water and having loads of fun in the garden this fall.

1. Keep your veggie garden growing

You’ve likely already harvested the bounty of your summer vegetable garden, but that doesn’t mean the growing season has to end. No matter which area of the country you live in, you can find plenty of fruits and veggies that would be happy to call your garden home.

In most chilly regions — such as the Northeast and Midwest — crops like arugula, collard greens and spinach are ideal for September plantings. In warmer areas like the Southeast and Southwest, you can plant more diverse crops, such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale.

Gardeners in most states should have success with members of the cabbage family, as well as root vegetables like beets, carrots and radishes. Brussels sprouts and fennel also do well in the colder months, and fall is the perfect time to plant garlic and shallots for harvest next summer.

While most of these hardy vegetables can withstand a light frost, check with your local nursery to see which varieties work best in your region. Also, find out the average date of your region’s first killing frost, and plan to plant your crops early enough to let them reach full maturity before that date. Seedlings may be an option if it’s too late to plant from seeds.

Photo: Flickr/kennymatic

Leaves are just what your compost pile needs. Photo: Flickr/kennymatic

2. Add fall leaves to your compost pile

All those fallen leaves make ideal carbon-rich additions to your backyard compost pile and can help you strike the proper balance between green and brown waste.

While you’re at it, set aside time to do some pruning after your bushes, trees and shrubs shed their leaves for the season. You’ll avoid laboring in the yard during the cooler months, and your compost pile will reap the benefits of additional brown waste to counterbalance food scraps you’ll add throughout the winter.

Smaller twigs and trimmings can be tossed on your compost pile as is, but you may want to run larger branches through a wood chipper first to help them decompose faster.

Next page: Container gardens and clearing your fields

Article source: http://earth911.com/home-garden/gardening-in-the-fall-2013/

Virtual Gardens Illuminate Real-world Attitudes To Nature

Researchers have long struggled to design surveys that collect
detailed and informative data without introducing bias through the use
of loaded, confusing, or restrictive wording. A team of French
researchers has come up with a novel solution to this problem: Toss out
the surveys altogether, and replace them with a virtual computer program
that allows respondents to express their thoughts and preferences in
actions rather than in words.

This is the idea behind
Virtual Garden, a program that allows users to select from 95 different
features in order to create their ideal garden. The features fall within
seven different categories: animals, flowers, lawn and cover, sport and
playing, trees and bushes, water, and other. The program keeps track of
each item that is added and adjusted, and calculates biodiversity as
biotic features are introduced into the virtual habitat. Users are able
to view the garden from multiple angles and even take a virtual stroll
through the area in order to evaluate their progress and determine
whether further manipulations need to be made to the environment.

Far
from being merely a nerdy new version of The Sims, the program was
designed to assess which features people most want to experience when
they visit public gardens. Further, an analysis of the virtual habitats
could help clarify the role that biodiversity has in driving humans’
overwhelmingly positive responses to green spaces–particularly those
located in otherwise urban areas. Finally, by collecting basic social,
economic, and demographic information about each program user, the
program’s developers can also assess whether habitat preferences are
influenced by age, education, income, and general interest in the
natural environment.

The research team responsible for
Virtual Garden trialled the program among 732 Parisian hospital
patients. Each individual was given a 30-minute time limit for designing
the garden, though the average length of time required was only 19.2
minutes. Gardens typically contained approximately 24 different
features–9 “objects” (such as ponds), 5 animals, 8 flowers, and 5 woody
species (trees or bushes). Overall, users included fewer biotic
features than were expected by chance. Animals were particularly
underrepresented, with nearly a third of gardens containing no animals
at all, and almost another third containing fewer than 5 animal species.
Larger animals–especially mammals and herptiles–were not very
popular; the least preferred species overall were foxes and chimpanzees.
Ladybugs, peacocks, and great tits, on the other hand, were the most
preferred. The most popular species were generally those that are common
in Parisian gardens, suggesting that patients tended to populate their
virtual gardens with species that are most familiar to them.

 Several
demographic and socioeconomic factors influenced garden design. For
example, men included fewer animals and flowers than women; younger
patients included more non-native species; and people who showed a
greater interest in conservation and nature activities tended to create
gardens with higher biodiveristy. Interestingly, plant richness was
higher in gardens created by people who grew up in more rural areas,
again suggesting that familiarity with species is an important driver of
habitat preferences.

The Virtual Garden trial produced
two main results. First, it suggests that computer programs may be a
useful way to collect data from people without accidentally introducing
bias into a study. Such programs are likely to be particularly useful in
situations where researchers need to address or describe situations
that are highly visual in nature–such as habitat structure, the
aesthetics of which can greatly influence respondents’ attitudes and
opinions. Second, the patterns reported here get us one step closer to
understanding city-dwellers’ complex and often contradictory responses
to green spaces. There is particularly strong evidence of an
“extinction-of-experience” process, whereby people judge biodiversity
and aesthetics according to what they have previously experienced,
rather than what may be natural, healthy, and/or desirable in a given
environment. 

The
creators of the Virtual Garden hope that conservationists and managers
can use their program to collect and compare data from across a wide
geographic range, and, therefore, to improve our “understanding of the
role culture and living context…play in people’s relations with
biodiversity.” This could not only help save threatened species, but
also improve the well-being of people by increasing and improving
human-nature interactions even in the most urban of environments.

Shwartz, A., Cheval, H., Simon, L., and Julliard, R. 2013. Virtual Garden computer program for use in exploring the elements of biodiversity people want in cities. Conservation Biology 27(4):876-886.

Article source: http://www.science20.com/anthrophysis/virtual_gardens_illuminate_realworld_attitudes_nature-120880

7 Basics To Designing A French Style Garden

By Marianne Lipanovich, Houzz Contributor and Garden Writer

For most people, a French landscape is also a formal landscape, and therein lies its appeal.

Think Versailles, probably the most well-known French garden space. It has a distinct look and feel that set it apart from its Italian neighbors to the south and its British neighbors to the north. Still, there are elements of both. What we think of as traditional French style does have its roots in Italian landscape design. The resulting French adaptation was in turn adopted by British gardeners, and their adaptations made their way back across the Channel and in turn influenced later developments.

Symmetry and order are the heart of French landscape design. The gardens are also meant to be viewed from a distance, so form and design play a major role. They’re meant to highlight the centerpiece of the entire space, which would be the house (or, in most cases, the chateau). They’re known for their cool color palette, with an emphasis on whites, greens, blues and purples. Think boxwood hedges, intricately clipped shrubs, neatly planted garden beds and planters, and fields of lavender. You’ll also find a great use of stone, whether for pavings, edgings, a terrace or decorative elements, and places where you can enjoy the view.

Versions for Country and Courtyard

French country gardens are more informal, with a mix of softer plantings and bolder colors, but generally follow the same basic design principles. Planting beds may be more loosely planted and less structured, but they’ll still be contained by an edging or a border of some sort. The same gravel beds that work in a formal space fit in just as well in a small home’s front entryway. Rather than an overwhelming riot of color and plantings, there’s always a sense of order, even in the most natural of settings.

Although we often think of French landscaping in terms of large spaces, the overall style translates remarkably well into smaller courtyards (imagine an interior garden in a Paris building) and even the practical vegetable garden, where a mix of small raised beds is not only popular but practical. So while you might not want an entire landscape done in this style, you might find it ideal for a smaller area of your garden.

Warning: A formal design requires far more maintenance than, say, a natural garden. When something is out of place, it’s immediately obvious. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time keeping your garden in shape, a formal French-style estate may not be for you.

This small courtyard epitomizes the essence of French design, especially when viewed from above. All of the basics are here: striaght-lined geometric shapes, neatly trimmed hedges and shrubs, gravel for paving and a monochromatic color scheme.Design tip: In even the most formal of gardens, it’s great to include one thing that doesn’t quite fit the mold. In this landscape, the bench provides a one-of-a-kind element in the otherwise repetitive (in the best gardening sense) space, keeping it from seeming too sterile.

2. Stone surfaces provide the underpinnings. Gravel paths and stone terraces are hallmarks of French garden design. A gravel path is one of the easiest ways to start your landscape. In this case, the gravel defines the path area, while the inset stepping-stones make for a more stable walking surface.Design tip: With any loose stone, be prepared for some maintenance. While landscape and weed-barrier cloths will keep weed growth down, nothing is foolproof. You will need to periodically remove unwanted plant material. The secret is to do it before things get out of control.

For a more durable surface, consider flagstone or cobblestone. Edge the space with planting beds and add pots and climbers to soften the hardscape.Design tip: Using low stone walls to form planting beds not only elevates the plants and provides more growing space, but it’s also a great way to add extra seating. Choose a stone that complements the pavers on the patio so the entire space is cohesive.

Feel free to mix and match when it comes to shapes. The diamonds on the right are offset by the semicircle on the left. Using the same plant material to form the shapes ties the two sides together.Design tip: Be sure to look at the space from all levels. It should be pleasant when you’re in the midst of the garden, but it should also be visually interesting to look into the garden from outside or to view it from above.

Article source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/houzz/2013/09/23/7-design-basics-to-french-garden-style/