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Functional Landscaping For DIY Enthusiasts

My husband is a DIY enthusiast, which is great because he can help so many of my projects. No matter what I need done, he seems to have the tools for the job. But his hobby also came in handy on a recent client project where I was involved in the interior and landscape design for a new home. The family wanted a functional garden with pool and was not averse to getting their hands dirty and doing some regular maintenance.

I love it when clients tell me this as it gives me a lot more flexibility. However, in this case there was the problem that they had already set up a shed for the husband’s business tools and we had to design around it. This is never a good idea, but I love a challenge. So I brought my husband to the house and got his input on the existing shed and what we could possibly do to integrate it.

The first thing we realized was that it was not too late to move the shed to another part of the yard. This had the advantage that we gained flexibility, but it also meant that the shed could be positioned away from the sunniest part of the yard. What my husband also noticed was that the shed was missing insulation and that some of the tools stored in it could get damaged though temperature fluctuations.

Cosmos_flowers_in_Thailand_09As we had only recently done a DIY spray foam insulation project of our own, we knew how easy it would be to rectify that. While blown in insulation costs are much lower, this was not possible due to the design of the shed’s roof structure. The client was delighted to hear this and since we had something like this before we were able to offer this service very cheaply as we could keep down the spray foam insulation cost.

So with the shed problem resolved we managed to come up with a much better design for the rest of the yard, including a pool with natural shading. Because the clients wanted something with a bit of maintenance we were able to plant up some trees and hedges that would eventually completely hide the shed. And with the sunniest part of the yard now free, I was able to extend the lawn area to give a much larger area for their kids to play in.

One the things I get most joy out of is choosing and locating very specific seasonal flowers that bloom at very different times of the year. One of the questions I ask my clients is what their favorite colors are, including the children in the house. This I then use to come up with specific locations for certain flowers so that over a period of 2 to 3 months all the colors gradually come out to a peak. I also like to add some late bloomers for the end of summer so that some nice surprises appear when least expected.

I have lost count how many times I received phone calls a year after completing a project about how wonderful the garden looked with all the different colors perfectly matched up; this gives me incredible job satisfaction.

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Why I Love Flowers

The simple answer is that I grew up around flowers as my grandmother owned a small flower shop and I spent a lot of time there as a child and teenager. From an early age I learned about all the different types and when they were in season and which flowers are best for weddings, which ones for funerals and how to arrange very unique bouquets. I loved this time and I often went to her straight after school and would sit in the back doing my schoolwork.

I managed to convince my parents that this was a good idea because my grandmother always said how much of an influence plants and flowers have on concentration and mental wellbeing. My parents decided to put this theory to the test and allowed me to go to my grandmother after school as long as my grades did not worsen. This motivated me to get better grades, just to make sure that I could be surrounded by flowers.

I always knew I wanted to work with flowers and eventually decided it was the best idea to go into horticulture and landscaping which I eventually studied in college. Since then I have set up my own flower business, which now is a smaller part of what I do, because I mainly focus on landscape and interior design. The interior part came later as I found that first of all it allowed me to get a larger client pool, and also meant that I could upsell additional services to existing clients.

I would say that at this stage 25% of my clients, who come to me for either garden or interior design, also hire me to do additional work for them. The great thing is that I now also work with architects and construction companies and get to travel quite a bit to help out in many different locations. This can be very challenging as I need to learn a lot about different climates and culture as well.

So, while my love of flowers came at an early stage, I now love them because of the opportunities they have given me. I run a successful business and have a few employees and I go to work with a smile on my face, every single day. What makes me so happy about this is that at numerous times of the day I will be reminded of the times with my grandmother and all the things she taught me. I wonder did she realize what she was seeding all those years ago.

I totally believe that I am healthier and happier because of the fact that I work with flowers and plants all day every day. One of my next goals is to work with psychologists on a more in-depth study of the effects of plants on mental health, a topic that I have spent a lot of time researching. I have already reached out to a few universities and other research facilities and really hope that in the next 12 months I will be able to start posting about this new challenge.

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My First Experience With Japanese Gardens

Strangely enough, the first time I really got experience Japanese Gardens was many years ago in London at the Chelsea Flower show. Ever since that day as a teenager I have been fascinated with far eastern flowers and culture. At the time I met some members of the Japanese Garden Society in London and was fascinated by all their pictures of the different designs.

About 5 years ago I went on my first trip to Japan where I spent a lot of time experiencing many different designs and started studying about the thought process that goes into these very unique designs. It has taken me a lot of time and 2 further trips to fully understand the thought process because it is so completely different to what we are used to the America and Europe. Not only are the plants and flowers very unique, but the whole design and use of ricks, stone and water plays a much more important role.

At their very essence, Japanese gardens are designed to create miniature landscapes which can be either completely fictional and fantasy, or they can be representations of actual landscapes. The latter can be very difficult to achieve especially for us perfectionists.
In London I had met a Japanese embassy employee and he showed me pictures of the garden he had created. Then he showed me pictures of his home in northern Japan and I immediately understood and noticed the perfect correlation between the real and miniature landscapes. I think that was really the moment that I really got hooked on this.

The purpose of this type of landscaping can be to either just create something that is visually very esthetic or to create a place for relaxation, contemplation and even meditation. Buddhist monks often take advantage of the calming effect of these designs and this can be seen in most of their monasteries.

Dating back to the days of emperors and nobles in Japan and reflect their unique culture and also their local flora and fauna. While it is not really a problem to bring this type of design to Europe and America, there are some flowers that either will not survive our climate, or they will not thrive as much as they do in Japan.

I learned this the hard way on one of my first projects where I managed to get some Japanese plants and flowers that I had fallen in love with in Japan. But after a couple of years I figured that they would simply not have the same effect here as they were not growing and blooming as they would in their native environment. I didn’t give up and over the years have found some really great ways to bring these designs to my clients.

I even regularly work with some Japanese people that I have met over the years who tend to their own gardens, but are very helpful when it comes to perfecting and criticizing my own designs. Many of my projects show small hints like water features and my clients so far have really enjoyed varying degrees of this design.

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Creating A Healthy Environment With Flowers

People with allergies and hay fever may well curse this post, but I am going to go with it anyway and I hope that you will read on to the end as there are some great solutions for those that suffer with allergies.

A few months ago I came across a great article, you can read it here, which outlines some of the most significant physical and mental health benefits of plants and flowers in and outside our homes and work places. There is a ton of information in the article and after reflecting on the information for a while I decided to write up a post about my own take on it.

The first thing I really agree with is that flowers generate happiness. This is not only the case for women, but many studies have shown that men also subconsciously react to flowers. One of the tricks is to find your favorite flowers, but to also regularly introduce new and especially exotic ones as these can trigger all sorts of different emotions and provide diversity in our lives.

One thing I also found fascinating is the effect that plants, flowers and pretty gardens have on sick and injured people. Studies have shown that the healing process and recovery time in hospitals is increased when patients have some plants around them, or have access to nice gardens and surroundings. It may well be one reason why for generations now, people tend to bring flower arrangements to friends and family that have fallen ill.

Many corporations have also invested a lot in making their work environments friendlier by adding different types of plants and providing for small green areas for recreation. This has a direct impact on employee performance which makes this a great investment. A few years ago I actually had a small business owner contact me to set up a small indoor lawn with some benches where employees could go and take of their shoes and socks.

This turned out to be incredibly popular and they used this set up for some of their creative meetings where everyone had to have bare foot contact with the grass. The impact was huge and the business owner has maintained this practice to this day attributing it to some of their most innovative and profitable ideas.

Having a place outside, even a very simply landscaped yard has real impact on mental health. Being surrounded by plants and nature in an otherwise very urban environment helps people relax and unwind and forget about the problems of everyday life. Positive attitudes towards life and its problems are much more common in people who spend significant time outside and around plants. Taking on small gardening projects also helps to clear the mind from the normal daily tasks.

These are my main points that I have spent some time thinking about and I will probably follow up with some more posts on this topic in the future. If you have some ideas or feedback on this topic then I’d love to hear from you in the comments or through my contact page.

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