Monday, March 29, 2010

Cast-stone Planters from Haddonstone

Say the words container gardening and what might come to mind is either a window box or some basic shape of terracotta. An alternate material that is often seen in public gardens or old estates though is cast stone. Cast stone dates back to the 12th century and can look like poured concrete but it's a more refined compound manufactured to simulate natural cut stone by adding sand, stone, and gravel to the concrete in just the right proportions.

There are some considerations with choosing these pots- one is their heavy weight the other is that they can get expensive. By contrast to the warm red-orange tones of terracotta, cast stone offers a cool and soothing neutral foggy hue that allows the plants to be the focus. Particularly striking are plants in the pale greens and blue spectrum such as succulents. Care should be taken in choosing the right plant and the right location as moving these requires a strong back and often a second pair of hands.

Robert A. M. Stern the American architect and Dean of the Yale University School of Architecture is no stranger to designing consumer goods that include a dinnerware collection, jewelry, lighting and door hardware. Now his latest design work can be seen in the form of cast stone.

The Stern Collection of cast-stone planters from Haddonstone was designed in collaboration with Robert A.M. Stern Designs. The first two ranges in the collection are called Athenian and the Olympian. The Athenian range features assorted urns on bases inspired by Art Deco and Art Moderne ornaments. The Olympian range alludes to the shapes of ancient and neoclassical vessels and includes two bowls, two urns, and a tall, slim amphora.

Retail prices for the smaller pieces start at about $300 the larger vessels sell for as much as $1200

(dudleya pulverulenta or 'chalk dudleya' shown her in bloom planted in a lotus bowl is not from Haddonstone although a similar version may be found there)

A ten minute video tour through Haddonstone’s factory in Northamptonshire, England

Thursday, March 25, 2010

John Muir Botanical Collection

Known as a writer, naturalist, and co-founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir is honored in a stationery collection distributed by The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

There is certainly not a shortage of good looking paper products on the market now but these cards offer both beautiful images documenting Muir’s botanical legacy and they support the parks that stretch 70 miles north and south of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The assortment includes five SKUs of note cards, botanical prints, and a birthday reminder calendar.

In a time when many of us are constantly connected by electronic gadgets, how interesting to read that on excursions into the back country Muir traveled alone, carrying only a tin cup, a handful of tea, a loaf of bread, and a copy of Emerson.

So for anyone who has never walked through an ancient redwoods forest, Muir Woods in Mill Valley, California is just a short trip over the Golden Gate Bridge in the valley of Mt. Tamalpais. Visit sooner than later as the current cycle of fog-less days is said to be harming these giant beauties. With your mobile phone shut off you might just start to see and hear what you've been missing. The park's gift shop offers better photographs and postcard images than anyone could ever possibly capture with an I-Phone.

For wholesale inquiries
(415) 561-3033

Monday, March 22, 2010

Four New Garden Books

- Coming Soon to Your Local Bookseller (Hopefully)

Many of the current new garden titles are about maximizing small spaces with big yields of vegetables. The concept seems a bit too obvious to me and even first time gardeners should be able to figure it out from the instructions on the back of a seed packet.

When the warmer months of summer arrive I'll want to read more substance than about method. So after browsing the upcoming releases I am certainly looking forward to spending some quality time with these books.

Tenryuji: Life and Spirit of a Kyoto Garden
Release date: May 1st
Stone Bridge Press
Author: Norris Brock Johnson is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina. He was a Fulbright Lecturer at Waseda University and University of Tokyo, Komaba. Professor Johnson has been researching, teaching, and writing about the temple gardens of Japan for twenty years.

How to Plant a Tree: A Simple Celebration of Trees and Tree-Planting Ceremonies
Release date: April 15th
Author: Daniel Butler is an environmental writer who contributes to many of the United Kingdom's leading newspapers and magazines, including Country Living, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, and The Daily Telegraph. A former editor of Tree News, the in-house magazine for the UK's Tree Council, he is a devout tree-lover (he recently planted his own thousand-tree wood!).

Asian Gardens: History, Beliefs and Design
Release date: July 15th
Author: Tom Turner teaches on the undergraduate and masters programmes in garden history and landscape architecture at the University of Greenwich in London. Garden design was influenced by Polytheist, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Daoist, Shinto and Modernist beliefs. Asian Gardens: History, beliefs and design explores how these belief systems influenced the design of gardens.

The Ivington Diaries
Release date: July 6th
Bloomsbury USA
Author: Monty Don is one of Britain's best-loved gardeners. He wrote a weekly column for the Observer between 1994 and 2006 and he was the charismatic presenter of BBC Gardener's World from 2003 to 2008. He lives and gardens in Herefordshire with his wife Sarah and their three children. The Ivington Diaries is a personal collection of Monty's jottings from the past fifteen years.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Young Billionaire With a Soul

The ultra rich are not very popular now. Yes, there are exceptions like Bill & Melinda Gates whose foundation is expanding health care around the globe and reduced malaria cases by 50%(a disease that kills about one million people a year). When many people are out of work it's understandable that there is strong resentment from the have-nots toward the haves.

A few years ago when working for a privately held company I attended a weekly meeting that included the founder/owner of the business who herself is in this net worth club. She was frustrated with the meeting and complained to the group, "You all think making money is difficult ?! You should try giving it away." From this sentiment we often see the more sexy projects like high profile museums and expanded cultural institutions. These contributions are indeed significant but when so many people in the world do not have access to clean water or land to grow their own food, the importance diminishes greatly.

Now, in a time when many businesses are trying to quickly 'cash in' with the social media phenomenon how refreshing to read the announcement from Chris Hughes, one of the four founders of Facebook this morning. He spoke about a format for global volunteerism. In his own words: "Jumo brings together everyday individuals and organizations to speed the pace of global change. We connect people to the issues, organizations, and individuals relevant to them to foster lasting relationships and meaningful action."

The site is in its 'soft launch' phase and takes anonymous visitors through a number of philosophical profile questions. Questions come in the form of multiple-choice answers include one's general political position, favorite first names, cars, language preference, leisure activities and priorities of charitable contribution. Information will later be sent to your email address.

This will be an exciting development to watch. I only hope the was for easy name recognition and curious why it was not the traditional not-for-profit

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Alternatives to Spring Annual Brights- Go Monochromatic

-Los Angeles, California

Here in southern California we are quite lucky to have a rainbow of plant life blooming all year 'round. Anything can grow here with little or no attention. Lately I noticed many unplanned or ill chosen locations for things like fig trees- either sprouting 10 feet high from the side of a palm tree (most certainly planted by a crow) or struggling in the dark shade under a scrubby old pine.

It's odd that many large nurseries and garden centers treat our Spring like we were in New Jersey or Massachusetts. Pink, Red, and Yellow, oh my. Hundreds and hundreds of little annual flowers in crazy bright colors cascading over every possible surface at the entrance. To me so many of them are all flash and no substance. Where are the leaves that will insure a healthy life for these plants? Often hidden beneath the over fertilized flower heads.

Some of us are looking for interesting perennials or other rare finds. Too often I strike out in this department- perhaps because it seems that so few Angelenos actually chose their own plants or do any gardening. Doing things for oneself is a bit out of fashion here if you can hire someone to do it for you. How odd that I found my latest inspiration not at any nursery but inside the new White Flower Farm catalog. And they are void of color but not attraction.

I am very aware that shipping live plants around in the dark on airplanes is not ideal for many reasons, but here are a few bare-root choices that would zip along the mail stream nicely in a paper sack.

The common reference is appropriately named the White Egret Flower. It is a new offering this year and is part of a terrestrial orchid family with smooth dark green leaves. They bloom mid to late summer. For warmer climates they need to be frozen - not just chilled (35° F or less) for three months to simulate their natural northern Asian climate.
Zones 6-10 S&W
12-15" Tall

Another plant named after a graceful bird, Great White Heron. Enormous flowers that can be up to 11- yes eleven inches across. This Japanese variety with tall stems can grow as high as 4 to 5 ft. and blooms late in June or July.
Zones 4-9S/ 10W

The photo speaks for itself- The almost black flowers of this Siberian iris should bloom in June. Standard height- no more than 18 inches tall.
Zones 3-8S/ 9W

Two other considerations in this black and white theme come in the form of seeds from Renee's Garden based in Fenton, California. Both should be planted right in the ground.

The Black Watchman Hollyhock needs its space. It can grow to 7 feet tall and is on the Monticello heirloom list left by Thos. Jefferson. One needs to be very selective about a sunny location that can handle such a giant that will reseed even under the roughest conditions.

Legend has it that Queen Anne, the wife of King James I, was challenged by her friends to create lace as beautiful as a flower. While making the lace, she pricked her finger, and it’s said that the purple-red flower in the center of Queen Anne’s Lace represents a droplet of her blood. Also called Wild Carrot (since Queen Anne’s Lace is the wild progenitor of today’s carrot), Bishop’s Lace or Bird’s Nest. Grows to 3 ft. tall with 4-5 inch intricate blossoms.

Images listed are shown left to right.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ralph Lauren Home joins forces with Kravet

With 30 to-the-trade showrooms in North America Kravet will be representing Ralph Lauren Home's fabrics, wall coverings, and trimmings. A select number of the showrooms will also have lighting and window hardware. Folia continues as the licensee for the decorative fabrics and was one of the partners in this arrangement.

With this broad reach Ralph Lauren swatches may soon be the hands of many U.S. decorators and designers who may not have seen them before. Here I highlight two handsome patterns; a navy 'Chalk-Stripe' and 'Glenview Paisley' in henna. The chrome desk lamp is a classic called the RL '67 Boom-Arm and available in other finishes.

Kravet Inc. is a privately held, fourth-generation American family business that services the interior design trade exclusively in locations under their own name as well as Lee Jofa and GP & J Baker. They started in New York City as a small decorative trimmings store in 1918. They sell fabrics from a number of other well know designers such as Calvin Klein, Jospeh Abboud, and Laura Ashley.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Your Favorite Eau de Toilette; To-Go

As a follow up to my last post about price tags and cosmetics, Sephora France has launched yet another channel of distribution to expand their empire; vending machines inside the Paris Métro. I have seen similar perfume machines before- one was inside the old Gramercy Park Hotel in New York during an Art Fair. But what makes this idea work is the low price point leading to an easy impulse buy.

Excerpt from Springwise in The Netherlands

It's been a while since we've come across any new efforts involving vending machines, but recently a nice one in the Paris Métro caught our eye. A week before Valentine's Day, fragrance retailer Sephora installed a series of machines at various Métro stations dedicated to selling Calvin Klein's CK One scent in a special, portable size.

From February 7 through February 20, visitors to the Métro's La Défense, Charles de Gaulle-Étoile, Montparnasse and Miromesnil stations could buy a special 15ml size of CK One at an on-site "CK One Pocket Store" by Sephora. Priced at EUR 10, the limited-edition pocket size is also available through Sephora itself. The vending-machine concept was created by Paris agency Nouveau Jour, which says it expects to use it abroad as well. A video on Daily Motion shows the campaign in action.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Estée Lauder tackles taboo of showing prices

Estée Lauder Cos. CEO Fabrizio Freda gave an interview with the Wall Street Journal revealing a significant shift in the way the company’s products will be shown in department stores. For the first time pricing will now be visible.

The main reason Freda stated that Lauder wants to show pricing is to illustrate the affordability of the products. This might also make the initial conversation easier for the shy and price conscious shoppers.

For example- Clinique’s Radiance chemical peel product is the most expensive item in that brands line at $55.00. A 2 oz. roll-on antiperspirant is $9.00. The most popular item sold at Macy’s is the 4.2 oz. Dramatically Different Moisturizer at a modest $24.00.

This follows other recent shifts in the way people are buying beauty products. Sephora has grown into a giant powerhouse with 750 stores in 21 countries. It is a force to be reckoned with since it has only been in the U.S. since 1997. The chain is well known for their generosity with samples, a lenient return policy, ease of one-stop shopping, and the option of self-service. Here you can see each product's retail price posted clearly from six feet away. As a way of taking department stores head on it has also opened 155 shop-in-shops inside JCPenny locations since 2006.

There are other reasons to watch Sephora. The cosmetics chain has a two level customer rewards program. Spend $100 dollars and you get a free gift. Spend $350 in a calendar year and you become a V-I-B which means Very Important Beauty Insider. And among the extra perks for this level include invitations to events at different stores. They also get exclusive dibs on new product launches and what is promoted on the company website as “total red carpet treatment”.

Combine all this with recent news of prestige and salon brands being reformulated and offered at mass merchants, like Frederic Fekkai heading to Target where they already sell Bumble and Bumble. So it’s no wonder that a company like Lauder needed to prod department stores to do something to be competitive.

For some time now the design of more inviting cosmetic spaces has replaced the traditional glass fixture counter top that divided buyer and seller. Prada was a leader a few years ago where their space was wide open and fully interactive. Other make-up counters shifted to a more spa / salon environment adding comfortable chairs that replaced barstools.

If all the department stores are agreeable to this shift it could lead to some healthy competition from brand to brand. I have a feeling the GWP promotions are about to become both more frequent and a little more compelling too.

The WSJ interview can be found here:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A New Crop of Businesses on Montana Avenue

-SANTA MONICA, California

Here in this quiet beach town in LA County there is a sign that the economy is improving. This neighborhood’s main shopping street had as many as 30 vacant store fronts last year in the seven block stretch, and slowly some new shops are opening up. Recently four have opened that all offer garden-related items or cut flowers and each has a unique focus.

H&H or Household Horticulture has been opened for a few years but they recently re-branded themselves from a name that did not clearly identify their trade: Hoot & Heart. They take a modern yet rustic approach to garden décor, plants, and containers with a flower studio at the back of the shop. Just one block away Stephanie Grace’s ‘Petals, Parties & Gifts’ refers to themselves as a “full service event production firm”. One imagines Stephanie will or could handle at least one big Oscar after-party next week. The target customer being the well-to-do brides that want every detail managed for them. The shop, her third location displays fine dinnerware place settings along with formal wedding gifts for the home. Just recently they started merchandising cut flowers out on the sidewalk perhaps as a test to attract a walk-in business.

The Language of Flowers (and is a tiny florist where for years the former owner displayed nothing more than old knickknacks and philodendrons in the window- a small television was the most prominent feature then with a few mums mixed in. Perhaps when the analog TV signal died- so too did the old business. The newly renovated space was opened up and is bright & quite cheerful. I suspect this is the neighborhood favorite since there are always people inside and it’s directly across from the school pick-up area.

The last to arrive was Inner Gardens. Here they cater to the decorating professional with big garden ornament, landscaping & design commissions, old furniture and antiques suitable for enormous homes. Mix in some unusual orchids and you get the picture. A second showroom is in West Hollywood, the main nursery is in Culver City.

I admire the ambition to open a flower related business in a time where the way of sending flowers direct via Fed-Ex has hurt so many independent flower shops. Add that to two nice supermarkets on the street that sell flowers too and there is bound to be some healthy competition this spring. With competition often comes innovation so I’ll enjoy watching and reporting on their progress in the next few months.