Garden Designers Roundtable: Color in the garden!

Garden Designers Roundtable: Color in the garden!

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.”

John Ruskin

Color is the first thing that draws us to a garden. Brilliant blossoms call from across a yard, or stop us in our tracks while driving through a neighborhood. We are drawn to color, to vibrancy. But color can also be used subtlety, to convey mood, depict feeling, or simply to display whimsy.

Let’s take a look at just a few colors, their uses and the messages they convey.

Blue, conveys tranquility and harmony. The blossoms of Geranium ‘Rozanne’ provide a pleasant and peaceful face in the garden.

Geranium 'Rozanne'

White, silver and gray provide a neutral backdrop for more riotous color, and can appear other worldly during the evening hours in a garden on a full moon.

Stachy byzantina 'Helen von Stein'

Yellow is Cheerful and happy, and brightens the spirit, as these Swamp Sunflower do against the autumn color of Spirea.

Helianthus 'Gold Lace'

Red is the color of passion! Rich and full, it quenches the soul.

The deep red tones of Boston City Hall Pavers are matched well with the green and chartruese of Lady's Mantle

Of course within all these colors are many hues and tones, each of which changes the feeling of the original, giving the artist/gardener a wide palette with which to convey a message. And when a designer is able to call upon the colors of the garden’s surroundings and match them within, the garden is forever tied to its place.

The red leaves of the Japanese mapple in the background are echoed nicely by the blossoms of Miscanthus and Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

We’ve touched on just a few colors and their uses here, and now I’d like to hear from you, and how you use color in your garden. What are your favorites and what moods do they evoke for you? Leave a comment!

I’ll see you out in your colorful garden!


Please remember to visit my fellow Garden Designers Roundtable bloggers, who are also discussing color. Their links are below, Enjoy!

Capitalize on any Size!: A guest post from Kathy Moran of

Capitalize on any Size!: A guest post from Kathy Moran of

I am very pleased to introduce you to Kathy Moran of Kathy is the first guest blogger to appear here on Blue Heron Landscapes, and I hope you enjoy the wonderful ideas she bring to us today! You’ll find more information on at the end of this post, please pay them a visit.

An elegant arbor provides a welcoming place to sit!

Just look through any magazine for outdoor design ideas, and you’re bound to notice the trend toward turning patios, yards, and porches, into outdoor living rooms.  Often furnished as luxuriously as indoor rooms, some are even equipped with stoves and refrigerators.

After seeing so many pictures of these gorgeous spaces, many people give wistful sighs when glancing at their own backyards and patios, feeling that they’re too small or drab to have any such potential.  However, they needn’t give up so quickly, because there are many ways to capitalize on spaces of any size.  In fact, even those who have small porches or patios, and limited acreage to work with, can create charming backyard havens and outdoor living rooms.

A custom pergola transforms this patio into an elegant outdoor room!

For example, trellises, arbors, and pergolas can be strategically placed to define a specific area, such as a cozy hideaway in a corner of the backyard, a delightful niche for entertaining, or a secluded alcove in a side yard.  These rooms will have colorful walls and ceilings that are alive with vibrant, climbing flowers and vines, as well as built-in shade and air-conditioning.  Another alternative is to use planter benches with latticed backs, which supply seating, flowers, and walls, all at once, without hindering air circulation.  Multi-paneled garden trellises and screens also offer beauty and privacy.

Polywood tables and chairs resist the weather!

It’s easy to decorate these spaces attractively, as today’s outdoor furniture is available in styles and colors that will complement any motif, from rustic, to refined, or classic, to contemporary.   Beside the traditional woods, modern choices include durable aluminum and polywood, along with synthetic wicker, a material that looks stunningly authentic, but is practically indestructible.

Carefully selected colors can establish a flow from the indoors to the outside, giving the illusion of a larger space.  For instance, if the room immediately off the patio has blue walls, patio furniture, outdoor throw pillows, or patio umbrellas with blue in them, will create a unified look.  Blue flowers, in a bed, and/or in some planters placed near the door, will enhance the effect; and a vase full of those flowers on an indoor dining table or accent table will tie things up perfectly.

Accoutrements make this dining area feel like an indoor room!

This principle applies not only to solid colors, but to patterns and materials, too.  Indoor paneled walls and wood furniture can easily be complemented by wood outdoor furniture.  Moreover, with the countless colors and patterns available for outdoor furniture cushions, it’s easy to find some that will correspond with indoor upholstery, carpeting, throw rugs, or tapestries.

There are also many lighting options for these spaces, which, in addition to candles, party lights, and torches, include exquisite outdoor table lanterns, pendant lights, and floor lamps.

So, the next time you’re browsing through a magazine, don’t be dismayed if you don’t have the same kind of sprawling backyard or spacious porch or patio that you see in the photographs.  No matter how large or small an area you have as a foundation, you can be sure that, with the proper planning, it can be transformed into a striking outdoor room that’s as functional, practical, and comfortable as any room in your home.

Yours Outdoors,


About is a family of five websites specializing in outdoor furniture and garden structures.  Offering a wide variety of top quality and handcrafted patio furniture,,,, and can boast the absolute authority on both their products and their ideal uses.

As experts in the field, writes a well-read blog,, to help outdoor enthusiasts, landscapers, and gardeners design their gardens, lawns, and patios to suit their needs.  Their biggest passion is always making sure everyone can get the most out of their outdoor living spaces as possible!

To learn more: visit,, Follow them on twitter with @CedarStore, or, of course, simply call them up at 1.888.293.2339.

Practice what you preach?

Practice what you preach?

The world of Garden design is chock full of talented people from all walks of life, and from all corners of the globe. And depending upon one’s perspective, the approach to designing a garden might follow a certain criteria to success. But does this mean that there are hard and fast rules? And (for the purposes of this post), do artistic denizens of Garden Design practice what they preach on their own Gardens? Well the answer to each of these questions is a definitive Yes…. and No. You see, just like the “Pirates Code” in the Pirates of the Caribbean, these rules  ” is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules”.

Here are a few of the rules… er guidelines that I follow when designing a Garden:

The Garden must match the surroundings. A garden or landscape should appear to fit comfortably into its space, and should complement the architecture of the home. The transition of that, which is designed, be it house or garden, should appear seamless, to that which is nature.

The soft tones of Boston City Hall pavers, and the blue of Nepeta create a pleasing entranceway.

The design should address realistic expectations of the client’s interaction with the garden. For the client with a green thumb (or even a want of a green thumb) bold swaths of perennials can be combined with shrubs and even vegetables. For those with little time or desire to work in the garden, lovely conifers, shrubs and a smattering of perennials will require little maintenance. For the entertainers, a patio garden and lawn space will provide ample room to play.

Bold swaths of perennials capture the remains of the day.

It should embody Genius Loci. Genius Loci, or sense of place, ties the garden to the heritage of its site. Alluding to the past can be a powerful design element when creating a garden. Experiencing the history of the site connects us to the life force of garden.

This Brownstone slab was found three feet below ground, when digging the corner pier for this porch. It now stands as a welcome reminder of what lay beneath this garden.

Finally, to paraphrase Captain Barbossa, there really are no rules, so have fun, and create something you will connect with and enjoy!

For myself, I do follow these guidelines at home, but it seems the one I am most successful with is Genius Loci, as evidenced by the wagon wheel in the picture below. It came with the house, and was soon placed against this sugar maple. That was over ten years ago now, and every time I pass by I am reminded of those that brought it here, and I hope they are happy with my efforts.

A lingering reminder.

This post was inspired by friend and fellow Garden Designer Susan L. Morrison of Creative Exteriors Landscape Design in the San Francisco area. She recently proposed a question to me and two other of our colleagues, Susan Cohan of Susan Cohan Gardens in New Jersey, and Rebecca Sweet of Harmony in the Garden, also in the San Francisco area. The question: Do designers practice what they preach? She then suggested we all post our responses on our blogs at the same time. It’s a great idea Susan thanks, it’s an honor to be included with three very talented designers

You can read each of their responses here:

Susan L. Morrison    Blue Planet Garden Blog

Susan Cohan     Miss Rumphius’ Rules

Rebecca Sweet     Gossip in the Garden

Thank you, dear reader,  for sharing this time with us, and I sincerely hope that you are happy with the garden you’ve created. Please leave a comment below and let us know.


Scott Hokunson

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When the cat’s away…..

When the cat’s away…..

Recent events have kept me from attending to all the details that keep each project moving along smoothly, and that has caused there to be a little downtime for the crew. When faced with idle time in the past, I could usually trust that my crew would keep themselves busy in some sort of constructive fashion. My current crew, consisting of 2 college aged males on the otherhand, upon finding themselves with some empty time, decided they would rather exercise their ceative muscles. When instructed to move an existing pile of brick, they instead decided to build a monument any mason was sure to be proud of. So, move it they did. All that was left was to sit back and soak up the accolades.

So my friends, I give you – “Pile of Brick”, by Justin and Mike.


Now in the past, I may have over reacted to this kind of “tom-foolery”, but I have matured over the years, and have learned to accept things for what they are. After all, they could have used their idle time in all manner of degenerate ways (that’s a story for another time!).  No, this time I took into account that the customer was fairly amused, and that their actions didn’t leave me with any repairs or the need to replace anything (which is also a story for another time!), instead I focused on the positive, and….. promoted them.

I am pleased to introduce the new Vice President and Executive Assisant, of material storage and brick stacking for Blue Heron! (I’ll let them decide which is which).


Now if I could only find their time cards……..

See you in thegarden!


Encore! Well…. maybe just a do-over.

Encore! Well…. maybe just a do-over.

To those of you that tuned it to watch “The Ultimate Backyard Makeover” on FOX 61 this past Saturday, I must first say thank you. Not only did you perservere through a long blog series, you went the extra yard. Now, if you found yourself saying “what the heck was that?”, you are not alone. Apparently there were some technical difficulties in the Fox 61 control room, and half of the show did not make it on air, so if you didn’t get it, it wasn’t you. Fox 61 will be re-airing the the show in all its glory again this Saturday (Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel) and this time you’ll get to see the whole thing.

So if you have it in you to give it one more try for cause, please tune in. Oh and just in case, better have a copy of your favorite movie to watch if things go awry again. I think I’ll rent moonstruck……

See you in the garden,


A deserving Family and 15 Minutes for Blue Heron

A deserving Family and 15 Minutes for Blue Heron


Promoting a small business can be a daunting task. Finding the right venue to get your message out, getting ad copy just right and staying within a budget, all can test the reserve of even the most creative soul. That’s why, when the Backyard Makeover project presented itself, I gladly jumped onboard. A role in a televised production, on a local station, professionally filmed and produced, would surely provide needed exposure and credibility for Blue Heron Landscape Design. Most of the other participants, already advertisers with Fox 61, undoubtedly also knew of the value of this exposure, and also were quick to sign on. With stars in our eyes, we arrived, prepared for our companies expected fortunes.

Fate, I have always maintained, has a sense of humor, it seems, that it also has a sense of purpose. Here was a group of companies determined to take advantage of a brilliant opportunity, unexpectedly finding a greater purpose; Present a very deserving family with a private place of respite that they would not otherwise be able to afford. Now, I don’t mean to make our homeowners out as destitute, for they are not. Simply good people, that life threw one too many curve balls. And by no means are we, the participants meant to appear as saints, most assuredly we are not. This rather simply, became a feel good story that would benefit both sides in ways that neither could have imagined, and that is good story to tell.

Thank you to WTIC FOX 61, for providing this opportunity, and thank you to each of the other participants for making my job easier. Special thanks to Ron and the crew at R-N-L Enterprises, for without them we never would have pulled this off. And, thank you to you, readers, for the opportunity to tell this story, I know time is precious, and this has been a long blog. I hope you have enjoyed it.

Now, I must go, it just started to rain again, and I think I left my tools outside……

Follow this link to more pictures of the project from start to finish.

See you in the Garden,


The FOX 61 Ultimate Backyard Makeover is scheduled to run Saturday June 27th at 12:30 pm. Please tune in! And feel free to email me any comments, even those less flattering.

A deserving Family and 15 Minutes for Blue Heron PT. II

A deserving Family and 15 Minutes for Blue Heron PT. II

Day two of our project began with a job meeting. This is a common occurrence, especially when so many contractors and vendors are participating. Four of those participants met on the homeowners back porch, and the discussion quickly centered on our first obstacle, and what would prove to be an ongoing theme for this project….Rain. Each contractor, stood with his umbrella, the whole group looking more like the crowd at the US Open, than a group of artisans set to reconstruct this backyard. Quickly, we dispensed with ‘interesting topics’, such as; “I wasn’t given enough notice for this project!” and “There’s no way this will get done by Friday!”, and refocused around the homeowner’s story and the opportunity we each had to help them out.

Each participant would bring his certain product or talent to the group; Ron from R-N-L Enterprises, would provide site work, bed prep, brush removal and lawn establishment. Darren from Birch Mountain Earthworks would supply us with mulch, topsoil and playscape mulch. Bryan from Winterberry Gardens would bring in the plant material and plant it. My job was to design the overall layout of the site, including, location of their new shed and new playscape, size and shape of the new patio and sitting wall, and the layout of all the planting beds. I also would be scheduling each of the participants time on the site, keeping each abreast of the schedule, and coordinating with the film crew as to their arrival, so each could be filmed in action and interviewed for the final production. After getting a little understanding and relief from the executives at FOX 61, we set our schedule and were off.

R-N-L got to work immediately, clearing brush scraping sod from the beds, and excavating areas for the shed, the new playscape and the patio. They are an efficient crew, and were able to make quick work of theirs tasks, with the help of their Takeuchi Compact Track Loader (See picture at right). Carefree Small Buildings delivered the new shed, and with the precision of a surgeon the driver placed it exactly in the spot R-N-L had created for it. When commenting on how good the driver was, he replied to me, “oughta be, I been drivin’ this truck for 46 years”.

Next in were John from Nicolock Pavers, and his installer Gregorio. Jamie selected her paver style and color, Gregorio and I discussed the patio layout, and we set Monday as the day for installation.  Unfortunately, rain and schedule conflicts, would put the rest of the project off until the next week, but come that Monday morning, the place would come alive with activity.

In part III, tomorrow, we’ll do our best to stay out of everyone’s way, as the jobsite becomes a flurry of activity, including some emergency tree work, the patio installation, plantings and some very cool extras.

See you in the Garden,


The FOX 61 Ultimate Backyard Makeover is scheduled to run on June 27th at 12:30 pm. Please tune in!

A deserving Family and 15 Minutes for Blue Heron

A deserving Family and 15 Minutes for Blue Heron

Each one of us, or so we were told by Andy Warhol, will be famous for fifteen minutes. And so, comes the time for Blue Heron Landscape Design. While pumping gas one day, I returned a call to a Ron, a Landscape Contractor friend of mine, who had left a message for me regarding a “Backyard Makeover” show the local Fox affiliate was preparing. They were looking for a Landscape Designer to head up the project, and would I be interested in being that person. He explained they need someone to look at the winner’s yard and come up with a plan for all the goodies that had been donated by the other participants, and oversee the construction and delivery of the “Ultimate Backyard”. This was right up my alley, so with eye towards exposure for the company, and the chance to help out a deserving candidate, I jumped in and set my alarm for fifteen minutes.

Several weeks later, I had heard that a winner had been chosen, and that the project was ready to commence. So I waited for a call….. and I waited for a call….. and, on Monday June 8th, while pumping gas at that same station (que the eerie music) my phone rang. “Hi Scott its Bruce from Fox 61, are you ready for your fifteen minutes?” The plan was for me to meet the homeowner and then be interviewed on camera by the producer, and….could I be there in three hours? and they would like the project finished by Friday (yes that same week!) so production could air the final product the following Saturday? The fast paced reality of TV had shed its light on Blue Heron, and I was not amused.

WTIC Fox 61 was looking for a deserving family within its broadcasting area, that had a problem backyard, and story to go with it. Almost one hundred submitted applications, which were narrowed down to the three most worthy. These three were presented on Fox 61’s website and a winner was chosen. Here is the winning entry:

I would love to win this contest for my husband and my daughter.    We bought our home several years ago seeing much potential in the run down, unkempt back yard.  Little did we know then that I would be diagnosed with MS a year later and become unable to work or help much with the physical activity it would take to transform the gardens and lawn.    In December, we had a baby who was born with a congenital heart defect and required surgery just last month.  Now that she’s home and recovering faster than anyone could imagine, my husband has been very intent on creating a play space for her in our backyard.    I think he envisions many things for our daughter, but a safe deck (our stairs are being propped up with kitty litter buckets!) and grass would be the simplest luxuries!  We see so many possibilities when we look out our windows – we simply lack the time, energy, and funds to realize our dream backyard.

Later that day, after having rearranged a considerably busy schedule, I met with the winners and the film crew, and we were off and running. The homeowners Matt and Jamie, along with their daughter Adeline, couldn’t have been nicer, and were very appreciative of what was about to happen to their yard.

Tomorrow, we’ll look in on the contractor meeting, See what each is donating, and encounter several obstacles in the project. Until then……

See you in the Garden,


The FOX 61 Ultimate Backyard Makeover is scheduled to run on June 27th at 12:30 pm. Please tune in!

Raindrops keep fallin’ on my….

Raindrops keep fallin’ on my….

Rain for forty days and forty nights, the animals lined up two by two. You know the story. And so it goes here in southern New England. I woke up to read in the Hartford Courant this morning that it had rained on 26 of the last 46 days. At first I was amazed, and then, after considering the possibilities, relieved, for just add fourteen days to that rain total, and maybe a double procession of procession of camels, bears and chimpanzees may have interrupted the enjoyment of my English muffin and coffee.

Growing up here in New England, does prepare one for sudden and sometimes drastic weather swings. As a boy, I can remember my parents and grandparents reciting Mark Twain: “if you don’t like the weather in New England, Wait a minute”. Well I have waited a minute. In fact for 26 of 46 days I have waited 66,240 minutes. But it’s still raining.

Rain, didn’t matter much to me as a young boy, there was always some fun to be had rain or shine. Fishing is better in the rain, mud wars are definitely better in the rain, and you never have to cut the lawn in the rain. So I never cared if it rained. Now, some (mumbling low under his breath) years later, I am becoming an old”ish” New Englander, and the rain has become a more important part of my life. Rain is a blessing! New plantings are getting plenty of water, and my customers won’t have to drag hundreds of feet of hose around the yard. Lawns are greener, and will stay that way well into the summer before going into dormancy. Reservoirs are filling and aquifers are being replenished.

But, the work schedule is suffering. So, we get out while we can and catch up on office work when we must. After all, a mud war now, only serves to create more work. So we’ll wait a minute and hope for the best, because before long we will be enduring the dog days, thinking, “if only it would rain”.

Now, I have to get going, I just saw two giraffes walk through the back yard. I wonder…..?

See you in the Garden,


Late Winter Interest at Tower Hill

Late Winter Interest at Tower Hill

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a conference at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston Massachusetts. The conference was not exactly what I had been hoping for, but my trip allowed me to visit a truly beautiful garden finishing its long winter sleep, just about to awaken. Tower Hill overlooks the picturesque Wachusett Reservoir; its entry is a long uphill driveway that passes through thick woods, open fields and a small orchard, finally ending in a tiered parking area. A short walk to the main buildings, including its beautiful Orangerie, passes through a stunning gazebo and several welcoming landscapes. A must see garden, especially if you are within driving distance.

Here, at this time of year, the visitor is met with the mostly grays and browns of the late winter landscape. But, on closer inspection, and with minimal exploring, the sleepy garden begins to reveal its secrets. Pleasures not as visible come summer, are revealed. The curly, twisted branching structure of one of my all time favorite plants, Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana contorta) seems to explode as the firework trails left behind during a Grand Finale. The Dark Black puffs of Black Pussy Willow (Salix gracilistyla ‘Melanostachy’) cover the plant, and appear as thousands of caterpillars standing on end to greet you. In yet another part of the garden, Coral Bark Willow (Salix alba ‘Britzensis’) glows a radiant red and yellow, bringing an otherwise nondescript evergreen backdrop to life. Click the pictures on the right, and see if any of these garden gems deserve a place in your landscape.

You may have noticed that willows are figuring prominently here, and rightfully so. Willows, as do a good portion of the Dogwood genus, have exemplary bark coloration during the colder months, and as such lend themselves wonderfully to the winter landscape. Willows also serve a vital role in ecological restoration projects. They freely root and create a network of structure in the soil that is invaluable to stream and riverbank restoration. Not all varieties are as aggressive though, and are some are terrifically suited for our smaller residential landscapes. Would you like to see more? Bluestem Nursery in Christina Lake, British Columbia, grows a wonderful assortment of willows, ornamental grasses, and perennials. Their website is a great resource to learn more about these colorful plants. When at the website, click on willows, and you will find a great deal of information including descriptions, their uses and awesome pictures!

Now, if you find yourself longing for a walk through a beautiful garden, but think you have to wait until the spring flush of flowers, I would encourage you to visit a botanic or public garden in your area. You just might be surprised at the variety, interest and color that awaits! Oh, and you can always go back come spring.

See you in the Garden,