Barbara B's Garden-BlogSummertime! This is the time I want to move outdoors to live on my porch and in my garden.

This reminds me of a conversation I had not long ago with my good friends, the Polaks, while they were visiting. Both are landscape architects. Bogdan, whose background is European and whose education is American, brings a wonderful point of view to the subject.

Over dinner one night we were discussing the idea of using gardens as an extension of our living space and agreed that it was neither a new or novel idea. Throughout the ages people have used their gardens to amuse and entertain, to do daily chores and to rest. They lived out of doors and slept indoors unless it was a hot summer’s night, and then they had sleeping porches. With the technological advances in house gadgetry and electronics, slowly but steadily people have retreated under the roof where all their needs are met by Sony, GE and Honeywell. The change in the way we live today and to our approach to living is very well represented by the gardens surrounding our houses. We have ended up with open spaces, acres of mowed lawns and for the best part hardly any space worth visiting not to mention in which to spend time.

We have reduced the usable parts of our gardens to the size of decks and patios we are able to afford. With a little guidance from a professional landscape designer and a basic understanding of our own nature we could expand our houses to palatial proportions. Let’s approach the subject from a more familiar perspective: the house.

When building or buying a house we pay particular attention to the number and size of the rooms, whether they will fulfill the functions we need them to fulfill or how many closets there are, and how much storage there is, etc. Then we, hopefully, get some guidance from a professional interior designer so that our needs for privacy and aesthetics are met, and we are surrounded by beauty and comfort. Then we celebrate our accomplishments. Shouldn’t we apply the same principles to the garden? Absolutely! After all it is a natural and logical extension of our living quarters.

What can we possibly do in the garden that we cannot do in the house? The list is long and only our imagination will set the limits. Here are a few examples: We could grow water plants and have fish, or attract butterflies and birds. What about a space to meditate and contemplate, or play games (anyone for badminton or croquet?), and grow vegetables and herbs. Imagine a space from which to fill your house with flowers. To start a green addition to your house we should designate spaces for specific activities by erecting living walls that will define them. Should the walls be impervious? Not necessarily? Even sparse planting will provide you with enough definition and privacy to accomplish creation of garden rooms. Remember, plan carefully and accordingly; need – size.

The principles of garden design are the same as designing your home. Define the function of your spaces, and then plan what you need to fulfill this function. Finally add the details. In my work we fulfill the function with a floor plan and then add the details with specific color, furniture, fabric and accessories. In garden design you design the space according to the function with a plan then add the details with specific trees, shrubs, flowers, walls and then garden furniture and accessories.

The use of stone walls gives texture and interest to a garden. Paths wandering to a destination lead you to an unexpected area of tranquility. A private corner with a bench so that you can sit and meditate on the beauty of your world. Or a garden ornament or interesting bench even grown over with moss or lichen are like accessories and art in an indoor room. They give the garden personal style. Statuary is another great garden art. I recently saw a wonderful small horse farm with a charming cottage, a lovely garden with the outdoor spaces defined by unique horse statues. From inside the house you have a fabulous view with a statue beckoning your eye to the fields beyond. In the front of the house there is a small private garden space with another horse sculpture to bring it to life. It certainly delights as you find the owner’s interests when you turn a corner.

Up north many houses have sun rooms on the south side of the house to bring the garden indoors during the winter. One of the most enjoyable ones I created with a client was to have a garden mural painted on the walls depicting a garden complete with stone walls, trees, flowers, birds, chipmunks and squirrels at play. We added a heated stone floor and comfortable furniture. It was a winter garden and then in the summer had French doors along one wall that opened it up to a terrace outside and became part of an outdoor living space.

My house in Connecticut was built in 1850, and even though the garden has been changed many times over the years, the bones of the old garden rooms were still visible even though they were buried in places. It took time, but bringing the garden room with old rock walls back to life was a labor of joy.

Now, I am here in North Carolina and my new garden was completely overgrown when I bought the house. Slowly, I am making outdoor spaces to give my house charm and character and make living spaces for me to enjoy the wonderful outdoor living in this mild climate.

When I was a child my favorite book was The Secret Garden. Here in my small front garden I am trying to create, in a very different way, the tranquility and creativity that those children realized in bring the secret garden back to life which transformed their lives. After a couple of years it is beginning to have the shape I desire. The plants are beginning to grow to some maturity and give my garden the beginning of my vision. I have added a dark green fence with lattice at the top so that the plants in the small flower garden have a back drop to enhance their colors. This and a large tree located between the fence and the street give me a small, lovely area of tranquility and beauty.

Barbara B Bench Blog

What I love about a garden is that it grows and changes with time just as we do. We are inquisitive beings who love to discover and experience our surroundings. Let’s use this wonderful sense of ours for the specific purpose of enlarging our living spaces and making our garden a pleasure to create and enjoy.

Gillian Drummond is the founder and principle designer of Drummond House , Interior Decoration and Consultation, in Tryon, NC. You can see her website @ To contact her call 828-859-9895 or email to


Interior Insights

Creating a home for the well-lived life

A number of things came together just as I was contemplating writing this month’s column. First, I had the pleasure of staying with some friends in their unusual home, which they built four or five years ago in northern New England. It is a model for how to use design and style to create a house that functions well.

Second, the latest issue of House & Garden arrived. As usual, the September issue is all about luxury. And last, I saw the movie “De-Lovely”. Not only were the sets and interiors beautifully done, but they showed an elegance that has nothing to do with pretension.

As the thoughts of these three experiences tumbled around in my mind, I realized that each of the elements they represent is truly part of my design philosophy: functional in design and style, elegant but not pretentious, and luxurious. I recognize that these three goals are what most of my clients are looking for and what I work with them to achieve.

I’d like to show you what I mean by describing my friend’s house in detail. It is a weekend and vacation home that sits in the middle of acres of beautiful hay fields. From a distance, you’d think it was a farm. Up close, it looks like a group of very well-kept sheds. However, after you walk up the stone path and through the door you enter a well-proportioned “living room” with very high ceilings. The house has a clean, simple Shaker style.

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Summer Living

A Fresh Perspective

Does anyone think of decorating in August?  We’re all either vacationing or packing, or sending children off to camp, or just simply feeling too lazy to think of anything but a glass of iced tea or a cool breeze.  Decorating in August!  What a silly idea!

But in another time and place, in that Long Ago before air conditioning and jet planes, summer was the time when cottages on Northeast Harbor, Fisher’s Island and Watch Hill were opened and aired and dusted and scrubbed.  Fresh slipcovers were fitted and paint was “freshened”.  It was finally, really summer.

And, even if one didn’t go away, a home was transformed for summer by the use of slipcovers in white duck or gay chintz.  The oriental rugs were rolled up and stored to be replaced with sisal or fiber or colorful cotton rugs.  Heavy draperies came down, leaving the light sheers underneath or replaced by featherweight chintz.  The floor of the dining room might be left bare, and less formal china used – pottery instead of porcelain, creamware instead of Spode.

In the living room the fireplace was transformed.  The firescreen and tools disappeared and a decorative fireboard brought down from the attic.  It covered the open hearth and declared summer with painted flowers and farmyard animals.  In the bedrooms, starched white eyelet tie-backs, often windowsill length, fluttered at windows.  Tailored bedspreads came off to reveal lovely seersucker and eyelet blanket covers.

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