Archive for the ‘Garden Design’ Category

Urbio Vertical Garden
Andrea Bellamy |

From hanging baskets to Woolly Pockets, green walls to palette gardens, vertical gardening is hot. (Just flip through the inspirational Garden Up! by Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet to get a sense of how many options there are for smart use of vertical space.)

I recently came across a vertical gardening concept different than anything I’ve seen so far. It’s called Urbio, and it’s a sleek-and-modern-looking system of magnetic pots that, according to the designer, “will help us transform any wall or ferrous surface into a beautiful vertical garden.”

Urbio is comprised of a team of designers lead by Beau Oyler and Jared Aller of Enlisted Design and Tim Cui of Volare Studio, and they are currently on Kickstarter, a crowd-sourced funding platform for creative projects. As of posting, 574 backers had pledged $52,816 toward making the Urbio concept a reality.

Intrigued, I asked creator Beau Oyler for the details on Urbio:

Heavy Petal: Enlisted Design, your product design studio, has a wide range of clients—not just the gardening industry. How did Urbio come about? What inspired the design?
Beau: I’ve lived in apartments, condos, and last year, finally bought a 1014sf house. Everywhere I’ve lived, I grown something. Whether it was herbs in a cup on the window mantle or a potted garden on the porch, I’ve found a place to grow herbs, veggies, flowers, etc. Urbio is the solution I needed all along. Once the idea was expressed, the design team branched out to urban gardeners in their sphere of influence and questioned the concept. Their findings and our design and development skills combined to create a fun product!

Each pot is made of eco-plastic and is equipped with large neodymium magnets that are strong enough to hold almost anything to the wall, or to each other. Stick ’em together for a neat vase or centerpiece.



Pousse Créative: planters for flora and fauna
Andrea Bellamy |

Whenever we hear about designing gardens for small spaces, there’s talk about objects that can do double duty, such as benches that also serve as storage.

Designers Sébastien Haquet and Thomas Lanthier of Pousse Créative have taken that concept one step further, creating beautiful and functional garden pieces that also provide shelter for birds, cats, dogs, and even rabbits and chickens.



Garden storage in urban spaces
Andrea Bellamy |

In my book, I wrote something about how, when you’re gardening in a small space, everything is visible…and thus, there’s no room for broken tools, ugly containers, or plants you’re really not too fond of.

It’s true. Unlike with many larger properties, in a small urban garden, balcony, or patio, you don’t have the luxury of a hidden corner where you can stash your crap until that elusive day you can sort through it. You’ve got to make every inch of available space work extra hard.

And that’s hard.

Gardening is messy work. No matter how minimalist you attempt to be, gardening always seems to bring with it bags of potting soil, tomato cages, gloves, spray bottles, plant tags, and empty containers that need homes. Unless you resort to keeping them inside (like you’ve got room for that!) it’s tough to store these things neatly and securely outdoors.

It’s always been a challenge for me. And it’s one, I’ll freely admit, that I don’t have worked out yet.

That’s why I’m sharing my current garden storage solution with you. I’m not totally happy with it, but it was the best I could do while sticking within a tight (less than $100) budget.

The darkside of the back patio

This is the ugliest corner of my back patio, which is why I’ve never shared it before (my husband would disagree, of course, but he’s uncommonly fond of barbecue). What you’re looking at is the back wall of my house (my living room is on the other side). That round vent-like thing is the “chimney” for our gas fireplace. If we had tons of money, I would replace that with a double-sided fireplace that could be enjoyed indoors and out. But we don’t, so the chimney stays, and we try not to look at it.

Besides being somewhat unsightly, the chimney gets hot when the fire’s on, so I can’t place plants, furniture, or, say, a custom storage cabinet against that wall.

Instead, we bought a low, cheap, resin storage bench, which does a pretty okay job of hiding most of my tools and garden crap.

inside the storage bin

Here’s a peek inside. Bags of organic fertilizers, tools, potting soil, gloves, twine, etc. My biggest problem with the storage bench idea is that doesn’t allow for much organization. Stuff gets buried. But it manages to keep everything dry and contained, and really, that’s about all I can ask for the price.

How do you corral all your garden stuff?


Lime green in the garden

lime green umbrellas

I love green in the garden. Who doesn’t? It’s the colour of new growth. Photosynthesis. Good health.

But that’s not the green I’m talking about here. I’m talking lime green. Pucker-yer-lips, jolt-to-the-system lime.

My back patio

I used lime green cushions in my back patio to add a punch of colour to an otherwise subdued palette. The lime of the pillows is echoed by the bright, bamboo-like foliage of Northern sea oats (Chasmantheum latifolium), which you can see peeking out on the left side of this photo. Lime contrasts so nicely with red cedar, as well as charcoal gray stone (or Sunbrella fabric, as the case may be).

Looking for other lime green accents? Here are some of my faves.

Green garden hose

Green hose clothes from Dirt Couture.

Bali garden

Green ceramic stool (similar to this one). Photo by David Tsay.


Panier side table from Hive Modern.

Freakshow 2

Lime green gravel! Photo by Sassy Gardener on Flickr.
Bauer Jardiniere

Classic jardiniere from Bauer Pottery.

Nicotiana x sanderae Perfume Lime

And then there are plants, of course. Like this lime green nicotiana. Photo by scott.zona on Flickr.

Heuchera 'Key Lime Pie'

So many lime green heucheras! This one is Heuchera ‘Key Lime Pie’. Photo via The Plant Directory.


Window box round-up

windowbox by sunface13 on flickr

Windowbox by Sunface13 on Flickr.

I remember the first time I saw window boxes worth coveting. I was 20 years old, backpacking through Europe. Although I wasn’t yet a gardener, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the perpetual, ageless villages with their cheery window boxes spilling over with geraniums. The window boxes were simple, but gorgeous, and I wanted to take them home.

Outside my window by James Jordan on Flickr

Outside my window by James Jordan on Flickr.

In my mind, the best window boxes will always be European, best suited to crumbling brick or stucco apartment buildings. But right now the closest I will ever get to gardening in a European window box is vicariously.

Although I’m not in the market, I was curious to see what was out there in the way of window boxes, so I pulled together a few internet finds to share.

diy windowbox

Sweet DIY succulent windowbox planter (made using an aluminum gutter) by Kalani Kordus on Flickr.

teak wood planter

Simple teak wood planter from Jayson Home and Garden ($64-$115)

zinc rectangular planter

Inexpensive zinc rectangular rail planter from Crate and Barrel ($13.95-$19.95).

terrazzo lite window box

Modern terrazzolite windowbox from Jayson Home and Garden ($78-$160)

galvanized metal planters

Galvanized metal planter box from Pottery Barn ($59).

coir-lined planter

Coir-lined traditional iron window box on ($165.96).


Name that plant
Andrea Bellamy |

herb tags

Nickel herb markers from Nina Gibson Designs. $28 for four.

There’s nothing worse than a garden littered with nursery plant labels. Where each plant has a little plastic tombstone. Sure, labels might come in handy if you’ve forgotten whether it was Euphorbia ‘Blue Lagoon’ or ‘Blue Haze’ you planted, but does every pansy need to carry its own ID?

Still, there are some cases where a plant label is entirely appropriate. With perennials, I usually just slightly bury the nursery label at the same time I’m putting the plant in the ground, so if I need to replace the plant or for some reason am just desperate to remember the name, I can poke around in the dirt and (usually) find it.


Write-and-erase plant tags from Allsop Home and Garden. $16 for six.

But with vegetables, plant labels are a necessity. They’re a place holder, so that a week after you do your sowing you can distinguish among the nearly-identical little green seedlings. And even though I swear I’ll remember which tomatoes I’m growing, at the end of the summer it’s hard to tell a Purple Calabash from a Purple Brandywine.

bird plant markers

Birdie plant markers from The Modern Gardener. About $9 for 10.

There are a million kinds of plant labels on the market, from the most basic – white plastic tags and wooden tongue depressor types – to the clever, the cute and the Betty Boop.

So what makes a great plant marker? For me, it’s gotta be one you write on yourself. Although some herb marker sets are lovely, inevitably they don’t include all the herbs you plan on growing, leaving your herb garden haphazardly labelled. The horror!

hairpin plant markers

Hairpin-style rose markers from Lee Valley. $16.80 for 25.

Ask a bunch of gardeners about their favourite labels and the talk turns to permanence and DIY pride. Which type of Sharpie to use, how to clear coat a rock so that your Latin is legible next year – that sort of thing. I’m less concerned with longevity because I buy or make ’em cheap, don’t need that many, and because I’ll be planting something different next year anyway. And if I can make ’em myself? Awesome.

Herb markers

Set of metal herb stakes from Spoon Sisters. $22.50 for nine.

Homemade plant markers range from the utilitarian – such as cut-up Venetian (aka “mini”) blinds, milk cartons and pop cans – to the kitschy cool – such as these Shrinky Dink markers – to the truly artful – such as these quilted plant markers. I still like the old stone plant markers a la Martha, and I’m quite happy with the hand-stamped wooden ones I just whipped up the other day (see below).

plant labels

Wooden markers stamped with permanent ink. $1 for 100 extra-large popsicle sticks. $6 for the alphabet stamps. $10 for the ink.

What’s your take on plant labels? Any favourites I’ve missed?


Home Outside winner!
Andrea Bellamy |

So this contest closed a couple of days ago, and I’m finally getting around to announcing a winner. Sorry to keep you in suspense.

And I’m still not going to name names (skip to the end if you’re impatient!)… because I wanted to say a couple of things about the entries. 76 of you entered, telling me why you needed a copy of Home Outside by Julie Moir Messervy.

Seems like we all face similar issues in our gardens. Many of us are overwhelmed. “I really want to transform [my garden], but knowing where to start is really hard,” says Abby.

Like Lisa, who wrote, “right now all I see are the jobs that need to be done…” some of us see our gardens not as pleasurable but as guilt-inducing sources of anxiety. Yikes!

And, like Michelle, who wrote, “I’d like something more interesting but I don’t know what,” we’d all like some inspiration, please.

Finally, we all just like a good, weighty garden book with luscious photos. As Jim puts it, “I need this book because I don’t have nearly enough gardening books.” Ha!

But I had to choose just one winner, and with the help of, I chose Jenn S. Here’s what she had to say:

“I’m a beginning gardener with a large lot. I really need to do something more to spruce up the place, but I’m feeling totally lost. I’ve put in hours and hours of work, but my garden is lack luster and I am criticised by my neighbors. Help!”

Can we all agree that Jenn needs this book? (Criticized by her neighbours? What the hell! Don’t you just want to tell them where to stuff it?) Jenn, I’ll email you for your address.

There you have it. I’ll leave you with the words from one last entrant that had me giggling.

There once was a lady in Texas,
Suffocating in the weeds of her “ex’es.”
Her soul’s soil is depleted –
Loamy inspiration is what’s needed –
A lush book has the nutrients in excess!

-Stemme Fatale


Berries in the winter garden

Photinia davidiana (David’s Christmas berry) is a tough evergreen plant that also has white flowers in early summer.

I last wrote about how hardscaping can make your garden in winter – and year round, for that matter. I still maintain that the hard landscape makes the biggest overall impact on the garden in winter, but there’s no denying plants pull their weight.

Take evergreens. They’re pros at this winter thing. Evergreen shrubs, trees and hedges can function like hardscaping in terms of their permanence and impact. They are architectural plants that will retain their form while the rest of the garden lies dormant. Ornamental grasses and plants with interesting seed heads are also popular additions to the winter landscape.

But when it comes to creating interest in the winter garden, you can’t beat berries. They provide food for birds, colour amidst the white – or gray, as the case may be – and joy to human visitors. Here are some of my favourites.

The berries of cute little Pernettya mucronata look like tiny strawberry bubblegum spheres. This low-growing shrub has fine, glossy evergreen leaves that take well to a shearing.

Although the berries of the Pacific Northwest native Snowberry (Caprifoliaceae Symphoricarpos albus) are considered toxic, they can be highly entertaining to children. I survived growing up with a yard full of them. Now Lila will have to, too, as I planted one in our backyard. (*Update*: Eleanor from Out of Doors, an ethnobotany student, has pointed me towards the Plants for a Future Database listing for snowberry, which indicates, “Although toxic, [saponins]


Hardscaping in the winter garden
Andrea Bellamy |

Even covered in snow, a bench is a focal point that provides a resting place for the eye and reminds us of peaceful reflection. [Photo: sarae on Flickr.]

The experts are constantly exhorting us to add winter interest to our gardens. “Emphasize structure,” is a popular refrain. “Think about hedges, arbours and other permanent landscape features.” And while in theory I couldn’t agree more, in the past, I have not been so good at following this advice.

This winter, however, with the semi-completion of our back patio, I finally understood what hardscaping can bring to the winter garden. Hardscaping is a landscape designers’ term for the hard landscape: the permanent, man-made features of a landscape – stone, concrete, wood, metal, etc., (rather than plants or bare earth).

The chink

Fences provide a vertical element in the winter garden when plants are dormant. [Photo: zenera on Flickr.]

Even though the bamboo against my fence is flattened under heavy, wet snow; even though the hornbeam is bare and the one shrub that might have offered up some berries is buried; even though my bright, lime green pillows are inside for the winter and there’s not a whiff of gin and tonic about, my patio still looks half decent.

What did I do right?

I’ll put it in the words of Vancouver-based garden designer Ruth Olde of Blasig Design, whom I interviewed last year. In explaining her approach to garden design, Ruth said:

“I first consider the garden as a space that is going to be lived in without plants. I think of the form and the function. Plants are the icing on the cake. But if tomorrow you should – heaven forbid – wake up and find all your plants dead, you should still have a garden.”

While some people – myself included – would argue. “but it’s not a garden without plants,” the point Ruth’s making is that it’s the non-plant elements that can really make a garden. That’s where hardscaping comes in. It creates the backbone of a garden, the bones upon which everything else hangs. And in winter, this structure is clearly evident, which is why it’s a great time to assess your garden.

Let’s face it: plants are rarely the stars of the winter garden. Sure, there are plants with lovely berries, gorgeous bark, interesting seed heads, and even flowers. But it’s the architecture of the garden that provides overall impact: the structure that garden writers go on about.

And while this might not be popular with certain plant-obsessed gardeners who see every square foot of patio as taking away space for a new plant (and I’ll admit, I have to struggle against that line of thinking in the quest for better design) I’m convinced that done well, hardscaping is the secret to a great garden, in winter and otherwise.

Courtyard of Belvedere

Formal gardens are based on structure. Here, evergreen hedging provides a similar function to hardscaping in that it is basically a permanent fixture of the landscape. [Photo: miss karen on Flickr.]

It’s all about balance. Plants are yin to hardscape’s yang. Hardscaping sets off a prized specimen plant better than a sea of more plants. A single row of bedding plants doesn’t have the presence or scale to set off a sweeping walkway.

Take a moment this winter to assess your garden’s structure. Even though your plants may be buried in snow or sleeping under the soil, does it still look like a garden? Is it interesting to look at? If you answer “no” to either of these questions, think about how you can create a stronger backbone for your garden.

Formal garden styles tend to be inherently stronger, architecturally speaking, since they use straight lines and geometric elements such as clipped hedges and raised beds. Informal garden styles can still possess plenty of backbone, however, provided that their individual elements are well defined. Both styles benefit from thoughtful additions of hardscape materials.

But don’t just add a patio or pathway because your garden feels heavy on the lawn. Hardscaping is functional. Fences provide privacy. Oblisks support climbing plants. Paths connect. Patios provide a place to relax, barbecue and entertain. Assess what’s needed in your garden to make it work better and you’ll end up with an opportunity to not only improve its functionality but its overall beauty and impact.


Garden Tour: Andrea and Ben’s urban patio

Today marks the launch of Rock n’ Scroll: the Heavy Petal Garden Tour (woot!). See gardens from around the world, and share your garden with the whole wide web. Here’s how. To kick off the tour, I’m sharing my own back patio with you. Enjoy!

The basics

Gardeners: Andrea Bellamy and Ben Garfinkel (with daughter Lila, five months)
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Size: 195 sq ft. 13′ (4m) x 15′ (4.5m)
Orientation: east
Zone: 8b
Years gardened: 2.5

The Details

Style: West Coast modern.
Inspiration: Modern architecture, Japanese gardens and the West Coast forest.
Favourite element(s): The fence (it was time-consuming, but relatively inexpensive and made such a huge difference in the feel of the space). I also love my little woodland garden bed.
Favourite plant: This garden contains predominently green foliage plants, and it doesn’t really have any one plant that steals the show. I like the way all the different greens work together – it’s such a soothing effect – rather than one particular plant. That said, Acer palmatum ‘Fireglow’ (‘Fireglow’ Japanese maple) provides the only foliage that isn’t green, and as such, is a focal point.
Biggest challenge: Coming to terms with the fact that I couldn’t have everything I wanted in such a small space.
Biggest save: The furniture (bought second-hand and refurbished.)
Biggest splurge: The Galiano Grey basalt pavers.
Advice for others: There are almost always thrifty ways to mimic big money magazine ideas if you’re willing to put in the time.

Cladding the inside of the existing fence with 1″x3″ strips of cedar gave the space a different feeling without completely remaking the fence (or breaking strata rules).

The furniture was bought second hand and completely refinished.

Before: Boring pavers, a rough-looking fence, crappy furniture and a motley collection of containers.

After: Sleek and polished, and way more appealing to hang out in.

See more photos of our garden on Flickr.

Share your garden with others. Click here to copy and paste the survey into an email, attach photos, then email me!


Older Posts >>