Recommended Gifts

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Recommended Gifts, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

It’s time of the year for holiday gift guides. Not typically a fan of “gardener gift suggestions”, since they often created by folks that don’t garden and think all gardeners use are hoses, shovels, gloves and hand cream.  Here are my recommended items for either yourself or a gardener on your list based entirely on items I use or have.


Recommended Gifts, Thinking Outside the Boxwood



The Gardens of Arne Maynard. I judge garden books first by the photographs. It is impossible to get the same perspective from an image that you get from standing in a real garden. So the photos in garden books have to be incredible strong, with great color saturation, image size and paper quality to bridge that gap, and this book delivers all that.  With images both at the micro and macro levels of a garden, you are able to appreciate, study and learn from Arne Maynard’s design style.  Written by Maynard himself with the details a plantsman and designer wants learn, as if you were walking through the gardens with him listening to the stories, learnings, and inspiration for each space.


Swiss Army Floral Knife.  This knife is great for its thin profile (easy in the pocket), sharp, flat blade, bright colors (I have yellow) and price (if I lose it, not a big deal). Use it to cut back blooms, take cuttings, and open nursery boxes.


Wild Tomato Vine, Pure Soy Candle. My mom got me hooked on this candle after she purchased one during a trip to Detroit Garden Works. The fragrance of tomato vines creates such a sensory experience for me that when the grey of March becomes numbing, this candle reminds me that life is coming. Forget the smell of flowers, gardeners want that fresh vine ripened tomato smell.


Klein Tools Canvas Leather-Bottom Bucket Bag.  Designed for electrical workers, these bags are sturdy and just the right size for carrying my essential gardening tools around the yard and from job site to job site. I can carry pruners and soil knife when not in use, ear protection, cleaning supplies for pruners, etc. I also love the rough and tumbled look the leather and canvas as gained over the years.


The Wave Hill Chair by Dan Benarcik. My trip to Philadelphia this past fall was so inspiring, with over 200 photos on my camera taken in three short days. While there I was able to put together the connection of the iconic garden chair with the craftsman Dan Benarcik. Over the years Dan has been crafting and refining the famous Wave Hill chair and offers the chairs for sale in finished, kit and PDF plans. My winter project is attempting to craft the chair using some spare lumber we have at the shop from the PDF. If you feel less handy use the kit or even order a completed chair.    


Have a great holiday, and if you have any great tools or gifts you recommend please pass along. I am always looking for something to keep in my Klein bag.

Garden Design Magazine

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On Tuesday evening a box of fresh off the press copies of the relaunched Garden Design Magazine arrived at my house.  I know I cannot provide a truly objective point of view since I contributed an article (page #62 ) and pretty much stop every ten minutes to confirm it is really there. But the magazine is must subscribe and great coffee table book.

GARDEN DESIGN MAGAZINE IS BACK! Thinking Outside the Boxwood


When the magazine shut back in 2013, it was sad but not initially mourned. Its last issues were too west coast, uber high end, and less grounded in horticulture. Then I started reading shelter magazines for their garden features and just got annoyed. Great photos, but plant IDs were limited to boxwood, roses, lavender and hydrangeas and never helped readers gain any plant knowledge. Worse yet, articles always skipped over the often amazing landscape designers and architects that created the spaces. Garden Design needed to come back!


The team at the magazine really listened to all the chatter about the magazine, interviewed readers, and realigned to create a garden magazine that can be enjoyed by people across zones, coasts, yard size and level of horticulture knowledge.  The magazine includes no ads or sponsored content and the paper is think with some heft to the magazine.  Congratulations to the team at the magazine and thank you for allowing me to be a part of it. I pinch myself you included me with the cool kids (ahem, Dan Hinkley) in helping to bring it back.


Ok, now go subscribe!







Design 101 – Arboretum & Botanical Garden Plant Sales

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Ok, so this is an insider secret for gardeners, but should be known by everyone – Local Arboretum/Botanical Garden plant sales. These are hands down best resource for finding unique, native and difficult to source plants, more importantly, the proceeds support your local arboretum/botanical garden. Over the past two weeks my area has been host to numerous plant sales that allowed me to pick up plants for home and clients that I have been having difficult sourcing this spring.

Design 101 - Arboretum & Botanical Garden Plant Sales- Thinking Outside the Boxwood

The plants you will find are a mix of cuttings from the arboretum or botanical gardens personal inventory or nursery stock from area growers whom bring their most unique based on the discerning clientele. Some sales provide a PDF list of their inventory (names and quantity) prior to the sale for you to research and plan your shopping list. Don’t worry if you don’t know your plants, the sales are well organized by annuals, perennials, edibles, trees etc with knowledgeable sales associates to help you. Above you can see I scored Silphium perfoliatum, Silphium terebinthinaceum, Colocasia ‘Elena’, and Colocasia ‘Black Magic’


The bad news is that most of these sales in the Northeast and south regions have already past, but you can use the database from The American Horticultural Society to find your local arboretum and botanical gardens to find the dates for sales to mark calendars for next year.

Garden Directory from The American Horticultural Society

Design 101 - Arboretum & Botanical Garden Plant Sales- Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Another great sale (sorry, was last week so plan next year) includes growers bringing their newest introductions and unique plants is Trade Secrets in Sharon, CT. The plant and antiquities sale supports the Women’s Support Services (WSS), a non-profit helping those experiencing abuse in northeast Connecticut. The first day includes the plant sale and Sunday includes garden tours (which include Trade Secret founder, Bunny Williams’ garden). For those in the area a must do on your May Calendar.

Design 101 - Arboretum & Botanical Garden Plant Sales- Trade Secrets,  Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Photo from Flower magazine, 2013 Trade Secret Garden Tours, by Mick Hales


I hope I have not offended any plant lovers with sharing the secret, but it really is the best source for plants and benefits good causes it is hard not to share. I also spent this weekend in Springfield, OH at the Antique Extravaganza while everyone at the east coast was at Brimfield. I missed a (broken) Kramer Brother’s container to match my other three, but was also able to pick up some plants. For some reason every weekend in May is crammed with great stuff.


The Garden Museum & Tom Stuart-Smith

G A R D E N S, Garden Tours, gardening, Gardens, Inspiration, Landscape, Landscape Design | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

This might be something everyone already has on their subscribe list, but if not you need to join the Garden Museum’s email list or at the very least periodically check in on what they have going on. The Garden Museum is the ultimate place for plant geeks, with exhibits of garden visionaries and garden tours with leading designers among the list activities for garden enthusiasts/professionals/plant geeks. The major drawback for Americans is the museum is located in London, so we can read and dream about these amazing exhibits and garden tours.

Garden Museum, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


This July the Garden Museum offers two garden tours featuring gardens designed by Tom Stuart-Smith in the span of three days with Tom on hand to speak and share his inspiration and philosophies.  I included Tom as one of my Master’s of Design post series here, so it is no surprise that I am a huge fan of his work, (okay, more like groupie.) The opportunity to hear him speak in the gardens he designed would be on par with talking with Piet Oudolf at Hummelo.  So as I do wishful airfare searches to make the trip myself, here are the details for you to also dream.


Saturday July 12, 2014: Tour of Broughton Grange, with Tom Stuart-Smith and Todd Longstaffe-Gowan. Broughton Grange features 350 acres of gardens, farmland and open meadows. The gardens include a wild flower meadow, knot garden, parterre, sunken garden and the Walled garden. In 2001 Broughton’s owner Stephen Hester commissioned Tom Stuart-Smith to turn 6 acres into a walled garden. The garden features three terraces, each with distinct individual features while sharing a tread of common characteristics to unite the overall garden. Watch a video of the garden here.

The gardens at Broughton Grange, Oxfordshire. Designer Tom Stuart-Smith, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

This tour includes a talk from the owner, along with Tom Stuart-Smith sharing his inspiration and design for the garden. Tom will also talk with Todd Longstaffe-Gowan about the role of space and enclosure in the garden.

See more about the tour and book tickets on the Garden Museum Website, here.

The gardens at Broughton Grange, Oxfordshire. Designer Tom Stuart-Smith, Thinking Outside the Boxwood



Monday, July 14, 2014: Tom Stuart-Smith’s Barn Garden and Serge Hall

The Garden Museum is also offering an open garden with Tom Stuart-Smith’s Barn Garden and Serge Hall (Tom’s sister ,Kate, garden). Once again this tour includes a talk with Tom (twice in three days!) talking about the garden during July. (There are also tours on May 12 and September 15.) The Barn garden is a 20 year passion for Tom and his wife, Sue. The personal gardens of plant lovers provide the most unique perspective of design, it’s where they experiment and throw all rules out the window for passion.

Tom Stuart-Smith's Barn Garden and Serge Hall, Thinking Outside the BoxwoodTom Stuart-Smith's Barn Garden and Serge Hall, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

For more information on the tours and book tickets, visit the Garden Museum site here.


Recommended Place to Stay: Touring Tom Stuart-Smith’s gardens will provide you with an overload of inspiration, color, texture and framing the greater landscape. Contrast that experience by stating at The Hempel while in London. The hotel features a Zen Garden, Hempel Garden Square, designed by Anouska Hempel. The simple, clean design will provide reprieve from Tom’s gardens and allow you to reflect on the contrast.

The hotel features a Zen Garden, Hempel Garden Square, designed by Anouska Hempel, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

The gardens at the hotel feature three symmetrical square ponds edged in Portland stone, raked gravel paths and strong bands of green contrasting the white stone. The garden was featured in the final scenes of Notting Hill if looks familiar.


What else to do: An added Bonus, the tours are scheduled during the RHS’s Hampton Court Flower Show (July 8 – 13), so you can tick off that from your plant geek bucket list too.


What to Read to Prepare for your Trip:

Recommended Gifts from a Gardener

Central Ohio, G A R D E N S, gardening, Landscape Design, Landscape Products | Tagged ,

Tis’ the season for gift lists, so I wanted to throw out my recommendations. Gardener gift lists leave me mystified because they typically include items gardeners will never actually use. Here are a few items I recommend because I use them everyday.

Gardener Gift Guide from Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Links to Products: (1) Boots (2) Soil Knife (3) Shovel (4) Headphones (5) Tool Holder (6) Lens


Blundstone Boots. Gardening is a lot of kneeling, heavy lifting and dirt tracking. Blundstone boots are great for providing flexibility at the ankles, protecting the foot from equipment and easily slip on and off. I have had my pair for over five years and am just now getting to the point where I need a new pair.  Blundstone also uses sustainable manufacturing and promotes ethical treatment of its employees.


Lesche Soil Knife. We call these our soil swords, along with Felco Pruners these are our most frequently used tools. This is a great tool for planting, scoring the roots on a root ball or popping a weed out of the ground. This model is hefty and provides the best leverage, also I heard Martha Stewart’s gardeners use this knife so you know it is good.


All-Steel Super Penetration Shovel.  Also known as the King of Spades, this is my go to shovel. The all steel design has a pointed blade and sharp tapered edges to provide the most ease in cutting into soil. The foot pad also allows you to get the most impact from your exertion.


Noise-Blocking Stereo Earmuff. Lawn mowers, string trimmers, and leaf blowers all put out around 90 decibels,  which prolonged exposure can cause serious hearing damage. I always wear protection when using equipment and have found these great headphones that allow me to listen to music while working. I run Pandora on my phone and put on my headphones. I can still hear calls and text come through and am protecting my ear drums. I really love these!


 A.M. Leonard Double Pruner/Saw Holder. My soil knife and pruners are with me at all times, and proper storage that puts them at quick access is important. This side by side design is my preference, and the leather wears over time giving it a great patina. For someone that already has favorite pruners, this with the soil knife is a great combo gift.


Tamron SP A0S 17-35 MM F/2.8-4.0 Aspherical DI IF Lens. Gardeners know that moments in the garden are fleeting, each day brings different sunlight, flowering combinations…..and having a great camera and lens allows you to capture those moments when all your work looks its best. This is my favorite lens to use when taking garden photos because it is an Ultra Wide Angle lens.  I would also pair this lens with a polarized filter for better results when you are shooting on a sunny day.


Follow me on Instagram to see a photo my items noted above to see how they wear with constant use. Nickmccland


I am also working on one more gift guide for this or next week and owe a holiday decorating wrap up post.