Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Big Change

You may have noticed my posts have become a little more spread out over the past few weeks.  That's because I'm whipping up something different, fun and exciting!

Without going into too much detail right now I'll just let you know that Topiary & Tiramisu will be transformed into a new garden blog with a slightly different focus and name.  It won't be revealed until early February 2013, so until then I'll be taking a little break from blogging here, though will continue on my other blog, The Lunch Box Project.

As my transformation date approaches I'll make sure to pop up a post about it.  Until then enjoy the holidays!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Photo 101 (a little more)

Here are some "abstract" practice photos taken on the Iowa State University campus for my Photo 101 class.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Photo 101

I've been taking a Photo 101 class at Nicole's Classes and have finally been learning to use the manual settings on my camera.  I still have a lot to learn but wanted to show you my progression.  Here are a couple of my first shots.  Hopefully we'll see some improvement over the next couple of weeks!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bee Boles

I've always been fascinated with bees and honey, so was absolutely thrilled to see this antiquated sweetening factory several years ago on a trip to England.  These are bee boles filled with straw structures called skeps circa 1820 to 1840.  Bees were important to gardens for several reasons:

  • They provided a sweetener for ordinary people
  • The bees provided pollination for the garden
  • Beeswax was still an important payment of taxation

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Little Things are Grand Things

My daughter and I found this cute little chair at an antique store last weekend.  It's a great miniature of the many Adirondack chairs my husband builds each spring for those yearning to get outside after a cold winter.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Let Limits Expand Your Creativity

Don't let limits hinder your creativity.  Ideas grow within focused guidelines. Really, it's true.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bird & House

I found a fabulous collection of bird houses at Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa a couple of months ago and plan to share a few here and there.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Garden Terms: Topiary

Topiary is the art of clipping plant materials into an ornamental shape.  This practice can be traced back to Roman times through their extensive writings and wall murals.  Since then it has evolved through French and Italian Renaissance gardens to those of today.  How can you miss those fun stacked green globes in many a landscape?

Image on left courtesy of Belle Botanica, while image on right courtesy of Topiary Classics
Image courtesy of Vintage Decor Prints
Image courtesy of Modern Toile

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Urban Knitting

This was the ultimate surprise when I entered Reiman Gardens' butterfly wing a couple of weeks ago.  A new type of graffiti, yarn bombing, began in the Netherlands in 2004...yep, as an illegal, in the middle-of-the-night, anonymous-type of knitting craze.  Of course, the display below is legal and pretty cool.  What a wonderful way to draw attention to the beautiful detail of plants.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I know, I know...these are such a common plant, but I really do love them.  I adore cut flowers and these always perform rain or shine.  Every spring my husband just sprinkles a few seeds in the garden and wa-la! How can I resist all these delicate differences in shape and color?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Retro Landscape Paintings

What a pleasant surprise when I found these lovely paintings by Leah Giberson.  They showcase all the cool retro landscape elements I love...hedges, bright metal lawn chairs and those silly pruned mid-century modern topiary-like shrubs.  To top it off, Leah also loves gardening.  You gotta like that.  Please take a peak at her other paintings here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Plant Binge

How many times have you entered a nursery center with looking as your only goal, but leaving with handfuls of plants?  The worst case is at the end of the planting season when everything is marked down to pennies.  How could you not purchase a few more goodies for the garden?  I fall into this category often, but I do follow a few personal rules.

1. Try to buy at least three (or more) of one plant.  Though you may not have a destination in mind yet, at least there will be a nice grouping for the final design (and it will look like you planned it).

2. Try something new.  If you're only paying 99 cents, why not try a new plant?  If it doesn't do well, no biggie.  My garden is filled with sale (and even free) plants that no one else wanted or recognized.  I now have some amazing plants that I would have never dreamed up on my own.

3. Is there a season you're lacking great color?  Late summer or fall perhaps?  Try to find plants that fill those gaps.  Don't let the lack of bloom in the nursery distract you - just because it's not blooming at that moment, doesn't mean it's not fabulous.  Read the tags and grab the beauties others missed.

4. Pick up those small, special plants (less than 12" tall).  These itty bitty plants are perfect for the front of your border or tucked in small spaces.  Buy as many as you can.  It's so much fun spreading these out along the front of a planting bed to pull it all together (what? a sale item creating a a cohesive design?).

What other hints do you have?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Summer Beauty

I discovered Allium 'summer beauty' a few years ago and fell in love.  Strangely, it was the foliage that first struck me...long, narrow slightly twisted leaves (similar to daffodil foliage) compact and beautiful spring through fall.  The very light pink, almost white round flower clusters pop up in late July/early August.

It's not only beautiful but also drought tolerant (one of the few plants in my garden this year that still looks's been hot and dry in Iowa), plus can be divided.  These were pretty rare a few years ago, so I had to buy one at an auction.  Every couple of years I gently divide it in hopes of having more beauty all summer.

Oh, and to top it off, I just found out that Midwest Groundcovers now has a smaller cultivar available called Allium summer peek-a-boo™. It only get's better!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Craft of Gardening

It's been extremely dry here in the Midwest, so I've been watering quite a bit resulting in lots of thinking time.

My thoughts this week...what is the difference between design and craft?  Is there a difference?  I design gardens...look at the problems and opportunities, then create a plan on paper.  I also design with my hands by installing plants, moving them, watering them, pruning create something beautiful.  Isn't that craft too?  Though we discuss gardening as art and design, it's also a least for those willing to get a little dirty.

{...and yes, I do wear skirts while watering, it's just more comfy}

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Miracle...Eating Broccoli

I still can't believe it.  My 13-year-old son, the one that is Mr. Picky Vegetable Eater, suddenly likes broccoli.  I'm not sure what happened.  Last year he wouldn't touch the tiny tree greenies from our garden and now he can't get enough of it.  My daughter and him even snack on broccoli at night now.  My husband brings it in, they throw it in a steaming pot and wa-la, it's gone! What is going on?! I am so thrilled I'm about to burst.

Speaking of eating veggies from the garden...I was honored to be a guest writer at Stay At Home Foodie last week.  Another thrill!  Thanks Deena!  You can read that post here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cooking in the Garden

My sister-in-law attended a garden tour in Woodstock, Illinois and found this fabulous collection of vintage kitchen ephemera. This is such a great example of displaying something you love outside, rather than on an interior wall.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Maze of Garden Links

I've been on a search for some great garden blogs...ones that have a slightly different landscape perspective. These are quirky, tough, imaginative, and have a touch of style, plus still have lots of great information.

This is a short list I've pulled together for you to enjoy:

Garden Rant
Heavy Petal
Miss Rumphius' Rules
The Germinatrix
You Grow Girl

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Florida Keys

My mom, daughter and I visited the Florida Keys over the weekend for my brother's wedding.  It was so beautiful that I had to share some images...from a garden perspective.

We experienced Islamorada (that's where we stayed), plus Key Largo and Key West.   Everything was lush and spilling over with flowers and southern hospitality (see that pineapple?). I didn't know that roosters roamed the streets of Key West (and even sneak inside the shops)!

Being someone that loves formal gardens, I was thrilled with all the perfectly trimmed hedges.  I also loved the bright colors, stucco walls, fancy gates, and just general quaintness.  We even got up bright and early the first day to see the sun rise...look at that.  Just imagine a soft, warm breeze.  

Many parts of the keys still have that 1950s-1960s aura...adding more mystic.  It's just an amazing place surrounded with great history, expanses of ocean and lots of sun. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Arrangement of Plant Forms

Once you understand that all plants have a form, try arranging some in front of your house (see post prior to this one).

Take a photo, place tracing paper on top, then start creating a nice composition of plants. You don't need to know specific plant materials at this point.  Just arrange the forms in a pleasing way...and don't forget to layer your plants.  Two to three rows (one in front of the other) is much better than one!   Don't stop at one option.  Try several until you find the perfect solution for you and your house.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Plant Forms

There are three design elements to consider when creating a planting design: form, texture and color.

Each plant you choose encompasses these characteristics in different ways. Though you should consider all of these it is important to know that form is the most consistent, then texture and finally color.

A good planting design should start with a strong composition of forms.  Below are some examples.

Can you think of plants in your area that fit these forms...whether tree, shrub or even perennial?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Farm House Arbor

This rustic, yet quaint arbor is located at the Farm House Museum on the Iowa State University campus.  It was reconstructed from old photographs several years ago and is such a nice addition to the site.  I walk past it often and suddenly felt compelled to share it.  I love the combination of the perfectly constructed bird gates paired with the natural wood structure.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bright Spots Today

As I was walking through campus yesterday I noticed many of the shrub roses blooming. The top rose is "All the Rage", the middle photo is "Yellow Submarine" and the last is still unknown to me (any thoughts?). All are about three feet tall...and growing in zone 5a. A big thanks to campus staff for helping me identify them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Garden Bench

It would be nice to have a garden bench in our yard.  Nothing too fancy, just simple wood. My one rule about benches though...please place them where you'll actually use them. Don't locate them in an obscure flower bed, at the end of a long driveway or on top of a hill that can't be accessed.  Use them to actually sit on, relax for a moment, take a peak around your beautiful garden, then you can get back to weeding. If you want a bench to be multi-functional, also use it as a focal point. 
Image courtesy of Oh Pretty Shiny

Image courtesy of J2 Studios Photography

Image courtesy of Dragonfly Photography

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sweet Peonies

As with everything else in the garden, our peonies are blooming early.  I snuck a few in the house to fill the air with sweet scents.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sprinkling the Strawberries

A few weeks ago my husband planted our new strawberry patch...with an eager three-year old helper.  I heard it was a fun evening filled with lots of sprinkles.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Children and the Landscape

I've talked quite a bit about how I became enamored with the landscape, but I often look at my children and wonder if they'll make their own special connections.

My 10-year-old daughter and three-year-old son seem to have that initial spark.  They enjoy being outside playing ball, chasing butterflies and climbing trees.  My 13-year-old son never seemed to ignite that spark.  If given the choice, he'll choose inside.  His outside choices revolve around group activities like camping or sports - all good, but he's not usually the initiator.  Are these connections genetic, environmental...a little bit of both?

Image courtesy of Jonas Peterson

Monday, April 30, 2012


Recently, someone mentioned to me how they detested ferns and wanted them all pulled from their yard.  I shrieked inside knowing how much I love them.  Ah, the sweet little fern...they are either loved or ridiculed.

I've attempted to trace my fern adoration to the idea of magical woodlands and grandmotherly gardens (though I haven't experienced either).  Strange how I have no special memories of this plant, but have somehow grown attached to it.  Could it be it's strength and dependability as a shade plant, while still having a meek and delicate disposition?

Image on left source unknown and image on right courtesy of Letterology

Image courtesy of Robert Hasty Photography