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.


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.

Local, Available and Easy to Love

I am lucky, a big part of my job is chatting with people about their gardens. Admittedly this is an enjoyable occupation. One topic, always challenging, is debunking the myth that natives lack color and excitement. I could write endless pages on the benefits of native plants, but right now I just want to show you some color and excitement.

Check out these easy to find, easy to love, native plants.

Firebush attracts butterflies and will quickly provide a nice privacy buffer.

Crinum lily is usually used as an accent, punctuating a bed of low groundcovers. It also is interesting as a massing under large trees or palms.

Railroad vine is a very fast growing groundcover that thrives in coastal areas.

Geiger trees are medium in size, slow-growing and thrive in warm coastal areas.

Dahoon Holly display beautiful red berries throughout the winter. Dahoon Holly is found in upland plant communities.

Dune Sunflower is a hardy coastal bloomer that tolerates extreme heat, drought and salt.

Magnolia  is a classic, large flowering tree found in upland plant communities throughout the southeastern United States.

For covering fences, nothing is faster than Passion flower. The bloom is one of nature’s most amazing displays.

Jamaica Caper is a solid, thick shrub that yield these amazing blooms.

Milkweed is a great way to add color and attract butterflies.

If you have wet areas, Buttonbush might be a good choice.

Purple Coneflower is a great addition to your wild flower bed. Coneflower prefers well-drained soils.

There are so many more natives with color or interesting texture that we could explore, and I probably will on future posts!

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 I have written about on previous posts.