New Nordic Gardens by Annika Zetterman

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New Nordic Gardens by Annika Zetterman, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

I am so thankful for the connections created via Instagram. It is the social media platform that has allowed me to befriend designers I have long admired and more importantly, I have been exposed to individuals with unique perspectives I would have never known without the platform. One of the individuals I am thankful for finding is Annika Zetterman, (instagram) a Landscape based out of Sweden. Thanks to Instagram, I was given a heads up about her new book, New Nordic Gardens: Scandinavian Landscape Design. I am so thankful for her book since books on Scandinavian garden design are often not translated in English and are very difficult to get copies stateside. This combination makes learning about Nordic designers very difficult, but Annika is the liberator to us nordophiles.


New Nordic Gardens by Annika Zetterman, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodPhoto Credit © Annika Zetterman From New Nordic Gardens: Scandinavian Landscape Design by Annika Zetterman.

Scandinavian Garden design reflects the simplicity, quality and sustainability notability seen in the interior, product and fashion designs of the region. Materials are selected for long-term durability and connection to nature. Gardens are designed to be experiences from within, not just viewed from in doors or for the neighbors benefit. The New Nordic Gardens explains these innate Nordic principals while showcasing a vast collection of innovative applications that are all fresh and new projects that I have not seen before. You can see from my copy of the book in the intro image I have already marked dozens of pages for future reference.


Later this week I will have interview from Annika with all her favorite items. The book releases April 11, TODAY (well yesterday, technical difficulties yesterday)! (order on Amazon HERE). Here are a few image excerpts from the book, but I would highly recommend it to any designer or gardener looking to learn about  a true Nordic perspective in garden design.

New Nordic Gardens by Annika Zetterman, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodEnhancing the character of weak light

The light at noon is the most balanced light, appearing nearly white, while light in the early morning or afternoon can provide an array of color variations. Natural light changes frequently, and so gardens also change in their colors, often appearing extremely subtle in the characteristic low light of Scandinavia. This garden by Zetterman Garden Design, situated close to a bay in Värmdö, Stockholm, is enchantingly calm on a still day dominated by a beautiful, weak light.

Photo Credit © Annika Zetterman From New Nordic Gardens: Scandinavian Landscape Design by Annika Zetterman.


New Nordic Gardens by Annika Zetterman, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodTranquil sophistication

On late summer evenings we might finish the day with a swim. When adding water to a garden, with swimming pools and larger bodies of water in particular, consider how they will blend with the rest of the garden and the wider surroundings. Swimming pools are large and relatively solid in color, so choosing a tile, stone or liner that includes colors close to natural water bodies in the region will help the pool to blend in comfortably. This pool by Zetterman Garden Design in collaboration with Per Oberg Arkitekter in Saltsjöbaden, Sweden uses a mosaic containing greens and turquoises, conveying a feeling of tranquility and sophistication, and rests peacefully in the space.

Photo Credit © Annika Zetterman From New Nordic Gardens: Scandinavian Landscape Design by Annika Zetterman.


New Nordic Gardens by Annika Zetterman, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodSaltsjöbaden, Sweden

In summer Scandinavians like to do everything outside. We hang out laundry, move our indoor plants outside, chill in hammocks and share meals. Outdoor kitchens, built-in barbecues, pizza ovens, fish smokers and other cooking facilities are increasingly a normal part of our gardens. This black beauty in a garden by Zetterman Ggarden Design in Saltsjöbaden, Sweden is made from Danish brick, fired to withstand the cold winters, with its chimney standing tall like a sculpture perched on a cliff. A sloping sedum roof gives character to the oven, matching the small herb garden that sits in a pocket of the rock just below.

Photo Credit © Annika Zetterman From New Nordic Gardens: Scandinavian Landscape Design by Annika Zetterman.

Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens

Bulbs, Fall, G A R D E N S, Gardens, Landscape Design, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Last spring I shared a perennial garden design featuring alliums from Longfield Gardens (Bountiful Blooms, you can order the collection here). That was during allium bloom time. Now that it’s allium planting time, I am sharing a second design. As I’ve shared before, I use alliums frequently for their cool color palette, deer resistance and unexpected texture. The two designs that I developed for Longfield Gardens are completely different. The first one, Beautiful Blooms, focused on color and lush blooms. This second one, Daring Forms, plays on textures. I used Giant Allium ‘Gladiator’ and Allium aflatunense ‘Purple Sensation’ in both designs, which showcases their versatility. All of the bulbs are available either separately or in pre-packaged in collections from Articles on their website about these designs offer additional details, photos and more information about the plants.

Daring Forms collection available HERE, and additional article HERE

Bountiful Blooms collection available HERE, and additional article HERE.


Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Inspiration: This garden weaves perennials, grasses and bulbs into a beautiful tapestry of changing colors and dynamic textures. The look is ethereal, but the plants are as tough as nails. This border will tolerate heat and drought, and requires very little maintenance. Planted among these easy-care perennials are three types of alliums, each with a different height, flower size and bloom time. They will be the crowning jewels in this contemporary garden design.



Implementing the Design:

With the last design I walked you through the planting process step by step. With this one, you’ll be able to follow along as we’re actually planting the perennials and bulbs. We will revisit the design over the course of next year so you can really see how all the plants will play with each other. A disclaimer is I only planted half of the design, making this only 9 feet x 10 feet compared to 18 wide.



The perennials in this design can be planted anytime between mid-spring (after the soil has warmed to 60+ degrees) through early fall. Whenever you plant, make sure to provide a consistent supply of water for the first few months so the plants are able to establish strong roots. Allium and crocus bulbs are only available for fall planting. You can purchase the bulbs in August or September, but wait to plant them until soil temperatures have cooled down, sometime between mid-October and the beginning of November. In mild years I have planted as late as Thanksgiving and have not had any issues. If you plant too early, the warmth of the soil can rot the bulbs.



Giant Allium ‘Gladiator’, Allium aflatunense ‘Purple Sensation’, Allium stipitatum ‘Mount Everest’ Species Crocus ‘Romance’ and Giant Crocus ‘Yalta’ – You can order the bulbs in the beginning of August up until November, but shop early for best selection. When the bulbs arrive (see image below for how bulbs will arrive), store them in a cool, dry location until you are ready to start planting.

Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Here is how my bulbs arrived from Longfield Gardens for planting. Keep bulbs in their bags until planting, once opened will be difficult to tell apart. Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood



Artemisia ‘Fowls Castle’, Pentsemon ‘Dark Towers’ Beardtongue, Lavandula x intermedia ‘Phenomenal’, Ajuga reptans ‘Binblasca’ Bugleweed, Stachys byzantine ‘Helen von Stein’ – Look for these at your local garden center or online suppliers like Longfield Gardens. Plants in 1-2 quart containers are fine. Larger sizes cost more and require more work planting.

When selecting plants, take a minute to pull the plant from the container and look at the root system. You want to see fresh, white roots. Typically, the later in the season you purchase, the greater the chance the plant will be root bound. You can still buy root bound plants, but you will need to cut/slice the roots around the edges and cut off the bottom “foot” (about an inch) to encourage new growth before placing in the ground.  If you don’t the “tease” the roots there is a chance the roots will continue to circle and not properly establish— this is called girdling.

Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood



Prepping for Planting:

When selecting the location for your border, look for a place that gets full sun. These plants will do great in a hot spot within your garden. Once you have your location, prep the bed by tilling or turning the soil and adding organic matter. I use leaf compost made from the previous year’s clippings, but you can purchase a similar product from your local garden center. A little goes a long way. If you amend your soil too much, you run the risk of having floppy plants later in the season. You want to make sure you are providing a well-balanced soil that drains well and has plenty of nutrients to help plants get established. If you’re unsure about the pH or nutrient levels in your soil, it wouldn’t hurt to start with a soil test. They’re available through garden centers or online services.


A handful of soil amendments to tilled into the soil prior to planting. you are looking to add this into the soil about 8-10 inches deep. Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood





STEP ONE: When you have your bed prepped and plants purchased, use the design as a guide for placing the plants on the bed – still in their containers. This allows you to work out spacing before you start to dig. Begin in the center of the bed and work out to the sides. If your bed is narrower or deeper than our 10 ft x 18 ft design, this will give you a chance to make some changes in spacing.  DO NOT PLACE OR PLANT THE BULBS YET, this will be the last step.

Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


STEP TWO:  Once you finalized your placement, you can start planting. If your design is against a building, start at the back and work forward. Leave all the plants in their place and move one at a time as you dig the hole, then place the potted plant into its hole. Once all holes are dug, you can go back to un-pot, cut roots (see up in selecting plants about root bound plants) and formally plant. This method limits the exhaustive up and down strain on your back.



Here are the plants still in containers in their holes. You can see that this method sees the least disruption to the original placement. Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Here is a before and after of a root bound plant when preparing for planting. You can see all the white roots wrapping around the soil. In the second photo I have used my fingers to loosen and break the roots around the sides and used by soil knife to cut off the foot or bottom inch of soil. This step will help the roots travel into the new soil. Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood




STEP THREE: When you have all the potted perennials planted, give each plant a deep watering. Proper moisture is the key to establishment. You can use an overhead sprinkler or water by hand. Either way, I always do the finger test. Stick your finger in the soil, if soil sticks to it, you are fine. If not, it’s too dry and you need to water more. If you plant the potted perennials in spring or summer, stop at this point and add the bulbs in the fall.

Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


STEP FOUR: Referring to the design, start by placing your bulbs on top of the soil as you did with the plants. This way you can make sure you are happy with your spacing and have everything spread out. The ‘Purple Sensation’ and ‘Mount Everest’ bulbs should be mixed into the back third of the garden.  The crocuses are planted in groups of 4-5 bulbs keeping the ‘Romance’ within the ‘Helen von Stein’ and the ‘Yalta’ within the Bugleweed.

Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood



STEP FIVE: Once you have laid out all the bulbs, pick a corner and work across the bed, planting as you go. For each allium, dig a hole that’s 3 times the depth of the bulb and a little bigger than the width of the bulb. Place a sprinkle of bone meal in the bottom of the hole as a starter fertilizer, add the bulb and cover. For the crocuses, dig 8-inch diameter holes that are 3 times the depth of the bulbs. Add 4-5 crocus bulbs and cover. Once all the bulbs are planted, you can mulch the bed with chopped up yard leaves (optional).


Planting the Allium Bulbs: (note the depth of my soil knife in the first photo to showcase how deep you need an allium hole)Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Planting Crocus Bulbs:Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Here is the completed planting after the bulbs have been planted, but prior to covering of leaf mulch for the winter.  Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood



The first year your garden will look good, the second year will be better, and the third year and beyond will be the real pay off for all your hard work. Consistent watering is key the first year, especially throughout the hot summer months. Make sure to remove any weeds that try to take root in the border. After a few years, the plants will be large enough to choke out most weeds.


I am a gardener who doesn’t cut back my perennials in the fall, because I like to enjoy their winter structure. That being said, if some plants are looking pretty gnarly, feel free to clean them up a bit. Come spring, we cut back the perennials for a fresh start and mulch the beds with 1½ to 2” of compost or chopped leaves. In this case, more is not better. We keep the mulch layer thin so as not to smother the base of the perennials. This organic matter will also feed your garden for the year so no addition fertilizer is really needed. By the second year, the perennials will be well rooted and you’ll only need to be concerned about watering during periods of drought. If you do water, make sure you are soaking the soil to encourage the roots to go deeper into the soil.  Shallow watering will encourage shallow roots.





The following spring, keep your eyes open for the bulbs breaking through with the rest of your perennials. The crocuses will bloom first in early spring followed by the alliums in late spring. The idea of this design is that once the bulbs have finished blooming, emerging perennials will cover up the dying bulb foliage. I am a big fan of leaving the dried heads of the alliums to add visual interest as far into the summer as possible. I generally end up pulling the dry stocks out come late July. You can also hang and dry the allium heads to make stunning dried arrangements.


I will share photos of the garden growing all next year and beyond so you can see how the design is expressed in living, growing, changing plants. Please let me know if you have any specific questions, I will be glad to answer. Please visit Longfield Gardens for additional information and to purchase the bulbs in used the design HERE.

DOWNLOAD THE PDF: daring-forms_allium_garden_design


Also, there are some other great bloggers sharing about allium bulbs throughout the week for you to check out:

Daring Forms with Longfield Gardens, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Spring in Miniature, RH + Branch Studios, Plant Obsessed and The English Garden Revivial

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I know “round ups” for blogs normally are posted on Fridays, but lately I have only been able to devote snippets of time to pleasure reading. Just in case the gardener’s spring to do list also has you busy, here are some quick hits of stuff you might find interesting.


SEEING: Spring in Miniature

We only had a few warm spring days so far this year, which has delayed any large showing of spring colors. Luckily there are a few bulbs poking through, even if they are on the petite size. I am so excited to see the first sights of spring, even if it means crouching down to appreciate.




BUYING: Restoration Hardware collaboration with Branch Studios

Susan Cohan shared the scoop a few weeks ago on Deborah Silvers collaboration with Restoration Hardware and her Branch Studio containers. We have used her containers at client’s homes and they are as beautiful as they are durable, containers that will be around for years to come.  You can see the complete Restoration Hardware collection in the new Outdoor catalog, but currently you can only order the fountain. Congrats to Deborah and the entire Detroit Garden Works team, your work is visionary.

Restoration Hardware Deborah Silver containers



PLANTING: Camouflage™ Variegated Japanese Aralia

While reading the latest issue of Garden Design Magazine, I found a new plant that I am obsessed with, Camouflage™ Variegated Japanese Aralia. Introduced to North American by Dan Hinkley in 2008, the shrub is now distributed by Monrovia Nursery. Currently unavailable, the irregular variegation of the yellow, lime and green leaves on the distinct foliage shape makes it a focal point in any garden design. If I could get my hands on one, I would start with using it in a container and then place in a design once I can get at least three plants. Let me know if anyone has one!

camouglage variegated japanese aralia_02 camouglage variegated japanese aralia for Dan Hinkley and Monrovia Nurseries



WATCHING: The Great British Garden Revival

Over the winter I got hooked on watching season one episodes of The Great British Garden Revival off YouTube.  The hour long programs follow two different gardens types and provides the history, impact and how-to tips that both the novice and experienced would find valuable. I have not been able to locate any of the season two episodes online, but for those lucky Brits episodes are airing now.

15 Fresh Greens for Holiday Decorating

Advice, C O N T A I N E R S, container, decorating, Get the Look, Holiday, Uncategorized

The week after Thanksgiving is a rush to get our clients homes decorated for the holiday season. Even though the week is busy, we look forward to flexing our festive creative muscles. I shared photos of a few projects on instagram throughout the week (NickMccland),if you want a preview. There were questions about the types of greens we used and thought I would share a list of all the different types of fresh greenery we use as a info graphic for quick reference. These are the greens that work well in Ohio’s December climate or we use only indoor (such as pepperberry). There are infinite combinations you could make with these greens, highlighted with ribbon, ornaments, pinecones and branches.


15 Fresh Greens for Holiday Decorating Containers, Wreaths or Garlands from Thinking Outside the boxwood



One of our favorite tricks is using a variety of these fresh greens tucked in a standard Frasier Fir wreath or graland. The fir provides a dense base for tucking in other greens for distinctive texture and color. You can purchase greens from florists or take clippings from your own backyard. The dense fir wreath will hold the green’s branches with in the existing wiring, or use paddle wire to secure to the frame. This trick provides you with a nice fresh wreath, that is unique to only your home without the custom made cost or time.





Summer recap posts


I have neglected the blog this summer, but now I am back to an almost normal schedule will start this week with all the posts I should have shared before. Here is a list of the items to come this week and planned at least two/three every following week.


My personal garden. Friday was the last day of moving out of our home. We sold in July and are in temporary conditions that is allowing us to build our dream house over the next year or two (being realistic here). It is really sad to leave our first home and all the memories. We loved our home and the outdoor entertaining space which I never formally shared waiting for it to be “finished,” which was never going to happen.


Vancouver with the PPA. In July I went to the Perennial Plant Association symposium in Vancouver. While I was there I caught up with some old friends, met some inspiring new friends and toured great gardens. My camera is loaded with photos from both PPA gardens and personal tours. I was also extremely honored to receive the Young Professional Award… I was truly honored the get this award from my peers!


Quick Trip to Detroit with APLD. In August I made a quick trip up to Detroit with the APLD to do one of the tour days. I was not able to make it for the full conference, but we had a great time touring and catching up with Deborah and Rob from Detroit Garden Works. I was also able to share the Kresge Foundation with my co-workers.


Client Work. This summer we have not any one major project, but have been lucky to work on lots of different designs and installs. The wet summer has been completely different from last year when we were managing irrigation systems to ensure healthy plants. This summer we are playing catch up getting in the gardens between the rain.


After next week. My desk is covered in magazine clippings and flagged pins to share for get the looks, designer bios and plant IDs to share. I cannot believe that summer is winding down, somehow i feel like I missed it. I look forward to sharing all once again.

Inspiration: Interruptive Paving


I am in the process of redesigning the grill and dining area at our offices in between other work projects. Immediately surrounding our offices we have 5 acres of gardens that have been designed and installed over the past ten years. The grill area was on of the first areas installed and most heavily used, making it prime for a redesign. With this project we are able to improve on how we use the area and enhance the flow and features that are working well, and fix the problem areas. I will share the whole project once I am done with the design, but in the mean time will share some of the plants and elements inspiring me as I design.


Interruptive Paving is something I saw a lot while I was touring gardens in Belgium and is often used in large gardens when combing two different areas to blend the paving or hard surfaces. Different from when one paving element borders another, interruptive paving will intercept and break the paving elements, and help direct the eye or blend areas. It follows the more is more in paving and allows you to incorporate multiple paving elements and pattern in one area. Since our offices are a place to share design ideas with clients and test how surfaces will weather in Central Ohio, this is a great design style to play with.

My Pin here, and Original here. (I cannot identify the designer yet, but will continue to search out on Houzz)


My Pin Here, Original Here.


The Garden of Visceral Serenity by Yoji Sasaki

My Pin Here, Original from Here.


Future Gardens, St. Albans 2009

Designer: Andy Sturgeon, My Pin here, Original Here


Design by Bierbaum, granite cobblestones

My Pin here, Original here.


Designer – RH Factor Landscape Design, Houston TX.

My pin here, Original here.


Design by Joel Sanders Architect

My Pin here, Original here.


Designer – Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architects, Vermont

My pin here, Original Here.

Photos from My Yard


Tonight when I got home, the lighting was perfect casting shadows and highlights across the entire landscape. I love how the landscape changes daily in the spring, so I captured some of the spring color and foliage with my iPhone. My resolution this year is to always have my Cannon D90 with me to get projects and work photographed at its peak, but already I have reverted back to the iPhone.

Masters of Design: Russell Page (1906-1985)


“I know more about plants than most designers, and more about design than most plantsmen.” – (Montague) Russell Page

(image from here)


Recognized Style:

Neoclassical, Formal parterres, European with Middle Eastern influences


Page’s interest in gardening started at a young age with an early appreciation of Lawrence Johnston’s designs at Hidcote. With additional studies of sixteenth to the nineteenth French garden design and subsequent time spent in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Australia (to name a few), continued to influence his designs and plant selection. Page could often see the design for a garden upon the first tour of the space and took pleasure and pride in participating in planting the executed design.



Many of Page’s works are not well documented and have evolved over generations. The best record of his work is featured in The Gardens of Russell Page (see must read below). You can get more details on some of his work via the sites of the gardens/museums he designed. Here is a short list to review:

  • The Frick Museum New York (virtual tour)
  • Leeds Castle (the Culpeper Garden)
  • PepsiCo Sculpture Gardens (portions)


The best accolades received were the commissions and client desires to have a Page designed garden. The list includes The Duke of Windsor, Edith Wharton, King of Belgium, Anne Bass, Leeds Castle. Additional official recognition includes:

  • Designed & Directed the Festival of Gardens 1950 and received the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire)
  • Appointed Landscape Consultant by the Societe d’Encouragement for the racetrack at Longchamps, Pairs


Gardens of Note:

  • Villa Silvio Pellico, near Turin Italy
  • The Culpeper Garden, Leeds Castle
  • Home of Frank de Poorteres, Kortrijk Flanders (my personal favorite modern design)
  • Home of Anne Bass, Fort Worth Texas
  • The Frick Collection, New York, New York


Will also like:


Must read:

In 1962 Russell Page published his only book, An Education of a Gardener. This book follows a study by study of the projects he has executed over his early/mid career (designed until his death in 1985). Reading it provides insight and a foundation for understanding how to design a garden form and function grounded in the horticulture selection. The Gardens of Russell Page is a photographic and biographical tour of the gardens Page designed throughout his career. It provides a record of his work before the gardens are changed and his footprint is erased by future generations.

Favorite plants in design:

Yew hedges, Roses, water features, clipped boxwood,