My Favorite Project of 2013

I have been blessed with an abundance of fascinating and exciting projects over the years, but one recently stood out as a favorite. It was not the most expensive, or lavish, in fact it was of humble scale, but it had several key characteristic that made it very special:

The design eliminated an environmental liability, increased the property value, gave it purpose and dramatically enhanced the aesthetics.

As seen in the photo below, the property was an unused lot and the stormwater regularly pushed fertilizers, road pollution and pesticides directly into the adjacent waterway.

deforest aerialThe  owners of the abutting home were avid surfers and paddleboarders with young children. They were interested in creating water access and a place to relax. I suggested a beach style oasis with native, drought tolerant dune plant materials and sand. No turf to water or fertilize, no exotics needing insecticides. We added a Tiki styled outdoor bar and simple site furnishings and an environmentally friendly oasis was born.

deforest after aerial

IMG_4269 IMG_4272 IMG_4278 IMG_4286deforest family

My kind of town

It was some time in the mid 1980’s that Martin County adopted the slogan “Enjoy Our Good Nature”. It has stuck with us, and I think that is partly because it nods warmly to the environment while cleverly applauding our own southern hospitality.

This year, while serving on the executive committee for the Children’s Home Society 2012 Designer Showcase, I have been repeatedly reminded of that “Good Nature”.  Local volunteers, donors and businesses have enthusiastically and liberally given their time and treasure to support the wonderful work of the CHS.

My contribution was the landscape plan for the Capt. Sewall house, which is this year’s Designer Showcase home. I developed a concept that paid homage to the historical landscape and culture of its original construction in 1891.

I developed the palette and layout on paper, but how was I going to get it implemented….for free?  In the last breaths of the Great Recession, how could I convince landscape contractors and nurseries to donate time and materials? Well, I made three phone calls and all three, without hesitation said yes!

Bluewater Landscape (772)546-7773  showed up with a truckload of hardy native plants.

Natural Balance Landscape 772-287-5149 arrived with skilled installers, more plants from our friends at Ed Miller and Son and mulch from Wholesale Mulch of Stuart.

And Aiello Landscape 772-546-9890 brought beautiful trees and large accent shrubs and more mulch!

The house is now beautifully transformed from the inside out. Now, here is your opportunity – the Preview Party, which you do not want to miss, is Friday November 2nd. The house tour, speaker series and trunk shows all start Saturday the 3rd and run through Saturday the 17th.

I prepared a short video that will give you insight into the cause, as well as all the details for the fun party and tour.

Please click on this link to watch:  2012 DESIGNER SHOWCASE VIDEO

Thanks, and I hope to see you there.


The devil is in the details

Yes, the devil is in the details, so in part 4 of our series on outdoor spaces, let’s look at details.

If you are just joining us, you may want to rewind and start from with post #1 from my friend interior designerTammy Dalton – click here.

Okay, last time we talked, we reviewed project planning process from a distance, let’s now step a little closer.

The following sections (click to enlarge) are sketches that I developed by actually doing the work myself, I can say with confidence that most homeowners could handle all three of these projects over a couple of weekends with a very small budget.

Potted plants placed around a patio, pool or even tucked into a garden can offer color and contrast. The shape, form and scale of the pot can also serve as a way to visually define a space, draw attention or guide a person through a series of spaces.


Water features are always enjoyable. The sound is soothing and the water movement mesmerizing. While desperately trying to find custom, cost-effective, low maintenance fountains, I developed the system shown below. You pick a high quality, weather proof pot, urn or vase and then use it as a center piece for a “spill over” fountain. Large heavy-duty plastic tubs are easy to find online or at big box home stores. Install using the details shown and you will have years of enjoyment.                                       

Another favorite outdoor amenity is the fire pit. Even in Florida we can enjoy this staple of socialization five months out of the year. The truth is, fire pits don’t really project much heat, so most evenings the fire can be enjoyed. On warm nights, my wife will simply put candles in the bottom and the ambiance is achieved with ease. Below is a simple stone fire pit detail. I prefer to use native Florida materials like limestone. Tennessee and Colorado stone is beautiful, but I think a sense of place is the more important component of aesthetics. I built a similar pit in my back yard and it has worked really well. The only downside is you have to sit with your back to the wind because the smoke will getcha. Using Duraflame or similar products reduce the smoke problem significantly. 

Thanks for reading, I hope you find these tips useful as you embark on your weekend projects. 

Stay tuned for the next exciting post-in-series which will be delivered by Tammy Dalton in a couple of weeks.

If I may be of any help in planning your next landscape project, please call me –               772-419-0024 or email – You can also visit my website at where you will find more information on design and materials.

Continue scrolling down to see more about sustainable gardening and other landscape topics explored on previous posts.

Ponder, Prepare and Prevail

Interesting that I am high in the Smoky Mountains, far from my tropical Florida home, as I write this post about outdoor spaces. Being here reinforces the fact that design principles

apply every time, to every space, everywhere. Here, palms give way to big hardwoods, stucco becomes brick and stone and fountains yield to firepits. But, if you look past the obvious material differences, the structure, function, rhythms, balance and organization are all there.

In part one of this series, my friend Interior Designer Tammy Dalton got us thinking about the beautiful and functional ways we can enjoy our spaces. If you missed it, check it out – Tamara Dalton Design Studios. So now that you are inspired, lets tackle the first step of the process – site analysis.

If you want a great outdoor space, start by throwing away the notion of decorating. Decorating is what you do to a Christmas tree, it is temporary and serves only one purpose and that is to be pretty. Replace that verb with design. The best way to start a design is to ask questions; in school we learned this as site analysis. Go ahead, grab your notepad and lets analyze your site.

  • FOOTPRINT  How will your awesome new backyard plan impact the environment? Sorry, I don’t want to be Debbie Downer, but think about it…will your new addition have huge water or fertilizer needs? Will there be any impact to wildlife? Do you have to fell a big native oak tree to make way for that patio? Tread softly and you will be super proud of your design.
  • SOILS Are they well drained or boggy, what plants will they support?
  • MICROCLIMATE  Is wind a factor? Sun? Freeze? Salt? Cold? Breeze? Rain? Will plants thrive? Will you be comfortable?
  • LIFESTYLE Entertain? Kids? Pets? Grilling? Swimming? Hot tub? Sunbathing? Outdoor dining? Play area? Herb or vegetable gardening? All of these activities have particular spacial and environmental needs, you want to make the most of your space, but be sure your goals are compatible with your site.
  • SENSE OF PLACE Where are you? Coastal? Downtown? Inland? It can be fun to create an oasis that contrasts with the surroundings, but you still need to connect with your location. Subtle things like materials, shapes or colors will ground your design with local flavor and give it a comfortable sense of place.
  • HEALTH Allergies, accessibility, safety. I know this is a blah one, but come on, it’s important!

Okay, that should put you on the right track for a successful project, Tammy will take part three and then I will see you again in part four where we will dig deeper into specific suggestions for space planning, outdoor kitchens, pots, fountains, firepits and plant selections.

Remember, a blog is a conversation, so let’s chat, let me know what you think.

If I may be of any help in planning your next landscape project, please call me –               772-419-0024 or email – You can also visit my website at where you will find more information on design and materials.

Continue scrolling down to see more about sustainable gardening and other landscape topics explored on previous posts.

Take it outside!

Yeah, Summer is here, it’s warming up and you are ready to relax in your backyard paradise.

Whether you are entertaining all your friends or just hanging out with family, this is quality time, and quality time should be enjoyed in a good space. What is a good space? Well, I, along with my good friend and empress of interior design, Tammy Dalton,  want to help you with that.

Tammy just completed Part 1 of a series about outdoor spaces that we are doing together. Have a look, get inspired and rethink your outdoor space.

Click here and enjoy.


High on Pots

Maybe you have a deficiency of garden area, maybe you are looking for a splash of color or perhaps you are trying to define a space, whatever the motivation, containerized plantings may be the solution.

The  color, style, material and size options are endless which can make the design process fun. However, with options come the opportunity to fail, and with containerized gardening there are a lot of failures. Let’s avoid that.

Success comes by following a few simple steps-

First, select a plant  that is drought tolerant (you are kidding yourself if you think you are going to remember to water it twice a week). The plant should also be content in the sun, wind, cold or salt exposure you are providing. Size should be considered as well, will the mature size be appropriate for the container?

Next, think about the container itself. Natural clay pots absorb a lot of water, so use succulents or other extremely drought tolerant plants. Glazed pots are durable and can offer incredible color and design options. Always oversize the pot, this will give the plant plenty of space to grow and store water. The added weight also keeps the plant from blowing over. Lastly consider the shape. Pots that have an opening that is smaller than the     overall diameter of the pot are attractive but make plant removal very difficult as the root will have become larger than the opening. Lastly and most importantly, prepare the pot for planting. Start with filling the pot 1/4 with course stone, then cover the stone with a permeable non biodegradable material like weed matting, this will prevent the pot from getting clogged and ultimately becoming waterlogged. Then fill the pot with your favorite potting soil. That’s it!

Here are a few of my favorite plants and pots-



If you have any questions, let me know, I would be happy to help.
If I may help you with any outdoor project, please give me a call 772-419-0024 or email me: Also, my primary website has great information to help you get started with a project, the address is 

A New Day for the Garden

A lot of my time spent at the UF college of architecture was focused on stewardship of the land. To be honest, the subject matter didn’t give me goosebumps.  I was motivated more by things that were beautiful and inspiring.  As time passed, I continued to love things that were beautiful and inspiring but as I gained real-world experience my appreciation for forms and systems that were practical gained importance too. Then the Great Recession punished our excesses and the word cost effective became acceptable to actually say out-loud. Well, it’s a new day and I now find myself pondering sustainability. Perhaps it is the rapid passing of birthdays, I don’t know, but it is very clear that nothing lasts forever and it takes that grim realization to navigate us toward solutions. The good news it that there are solutions… all they need is a refreshed perspective to see them clearly.

Beautiful, Inspiring, Practical, Cost Effective and Sustainable. I believe that these five adjectives should be applied to every landscape project whether it has a budget of 500.00 or 500,000.00.

I posted this video a couple months ago, but it is so relevant to this conversation I have posted it once again. Please have a look and enjoy:

If I may help you with any outdoor project, please give me a call 772-419-0024 or email me: Also, my primary website has great information to help you get started with a project, the address is 

For those new to blogs: If you scroll down past the bottom of this page there are previous stories and photos to browse, also there is an archive button to the right where you can see older posts. If you like what you see, click the follow button on the bottom right hand of the screen, or you can follow me on Facebook, either way I will try hard to make posts that are useful and interesting for you. Thanks!

Feel free to comment, a blog is a conversation, so lets talk!

Treasures of the Yard

This morning as I grabbed the paper, I paused to look closely at one of the spectacular blooms our Passion Vine had produced. Impressed, I grabbed my camera and then noticed the color and texture of a nearby Bromeliad, which then led to a 5 minute photo shoot of several other species. It doesn’t take much to distract me from the original task at hand (getting the newspaper).

Anyway, this event reminded me of a lucky day about 10 years ago when Aida Fry who is an amazing local  artist, gave Jenny and I a tour of her studio. Her studio is packed with shells, sand and leaves, all the natural things that give her inspiration as an artist. I think of that often….we are surrounded by inspiration, we just have to stop and look!

Here is what inspired me this morning-