Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's All In The Details

This is a fountain created at a home in Hohokus , NJ made from an antique stone trough from Holland , a lions head fountain mounted on a bluestone slab and a custom made trellis.

I was asked to lecture this March to the Tenafly Garden Club. A couple of years ago I lectured to this group on the history and method of garden design. So this year I thought I would go further into designing a home landscape by focusing on the role of details in the garden. Details can be anything from a piece of sculpture or antique iron work to a water feature, selection of stepping stones for a path, or a rock retaining wall. Details are the little accents and features we work into a design which individualizes and distinguishes a landscape. Here are a couple of examples in some gardens I have done over the last few years.

Here we flanked the entrance to the driveway with 2 custom small iron fences and a pair of lovely planter cast stone planters

Garden details can be a combination of materials and plants used to focus attention or high light an area. The fence and urn above was chosen in stead of the more massive stone pillars commonly used to frame entrances to grander homes in our area. I think this solution offered a softer look, more individualized design and a chance to vary color and theme by season with the plantings in the urn.

Travertine inset in a home path

In this photo above a detail was made in a front walk using scalloped stone tiles made from the same travertine material as the walk. Putting in this framed detail added a lot of character and individuality to this home's front path. This detail was just near the curb end and a second one was inserted just before the front door like a welcome mat of stone.

19th C. garden astrolabe

The antique astrolabe in the center of this garden was the perfect addition to the plantings. Our client actually found it at an antique garden fair . It became the crowning touch to the replanting of this garden.

Sometimes a change in the planting scheme or a group of different color and texture plants can be an interesting detail in a shrub border as shown below.

A green Japanese Maple flanked by miniature boxwood form a corner detail to a long planting bed

Don't be afraid to experiment with garden details. Use rocks, artwork, even tropical plants set out in movable pots. They can add fun, color and excitement to a garden.

Arnie Friedman, Feb. 2011

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A New Project From the 2009 Season

The Kaye Garden

I reported this fall about a wonderful project I did with my crew this past season. Here is the project as it came together from initial demolition to final clean up.

Starting in the spring of last year I had the pleasure to start working with a lovely home owner in Saddle River , NJ. The rear yard of this home had a concrete swimming pool and patio that was no longer being used and it took up the whole yard.

Once we removed the pool and filled the crater we had a large blank canvas to create a whole new landscape. Our first task to begin building the hardscape features .

We created a large patio for entertaining backed by a wall of natural stone and a second patio near the house that would serve as a place for morning coffee or a summer barbecue. Water feature was planned to tie the wide yard together. It would have a bubbling fountain by the house and covered veranda and spill out into a rill of water that would run across the yard spilling into a hidden cistern under a water garden and a second fountain at the far side of the yard.

Large slabs of irregular cut blue stone was chosen for the paving of the patio and walkway across the back yard.

Finally we were ready to start introducing trees and large shrubs . Rich organic top dressing was added to make planting beds for flowering perennials and even an herb garden.

A small lawn filled the center of the yard, ramble paths for strolling among the various gardens were made from gravel and stepping stones were laid across the small pond in the center of the gurgling stream.

Finishing touches included some out door furniture for the patio, a bench or two along the paths, low voltage outdoor lighting and even a custom made wrought iron fence.

Monday, September 28, 2009


It has been a busy summer and fall with a number of projects going on simultaneously. Just last week we saw the finishing touches added to a total landscape remake that started last April at a residence in Saddle River, N.J. I am posting a photo album here of the project. If you click on the first photo it should let you see all the pictures in this album.

I have been very lucky to be working with a home owner who gave me lots of free rein to transform the entire rear portion of her property in to a creation that reflects her needs and tastes with my visions of hard scape, detail features and plantings. Thank you, thank you Mrs. Kaye for your faith, good humor and support through this project.

Kaye Residence

Sunday, May 10, 2009

2009 First half of Spring in the Garden

An important part of spring for us is going to the NYBG Antique Garden Ornament Show. We couldn't resist buying this basin . It dates to the 1930's and is concrete with a wonderful aged patina. Right now it has been sited in the front of our house. surrounded by plantings of Baptisia and some other flowering perennials. Who knows it might eventually find its way to a good home at a client's but right now we are enjoying it. Soon I think my wife and I will plant something in the basin although I have thoughts of putting in a small pump and filling it with bubbling water and some aquatic plants.

This spring has been very busy at our house. We rebuilt part of our old wood deck replacing it with a blue stone patio and natural stone steps. The weeping mulberry tree that we have kept a few years in a large pot is now a planted feature along the new steps. I bet some are wondering why the metal wrap around it's trunk. That is to keep the ground hog from climbing up. For two years straight just as the leaves filled in and the berries grew plump he climbed up and ate every berry and every leaf off the tree.

Opposite the mulberry we now have a little bubbling fountain. Its great to hear the soft whispers of the water while we relax in the shade on our new patio.

Visiting a long time client in Scarsdale this Saturday I was rewarded with a great show of tulips planted last fall.

In several of her shrub boarders we planted tulips for punches of accent color . Here they are contrasted against the white of the Mt. Laurels and other spring bloomers and the chartreuse of the early Hosta.

A bird bath we sited in the walled garden of a client is accented here with Tulips. This is a simple but eye catching display that costs very little to do but adds a lot to the spring.

We spent days last fall planting bulbs all over and now we have many great displays of daffodils, tulips and muscari this spring. Miraculously the deer have not decimated the tulips as I feared. The rabbits however did get to a couple of tulip heads just as they were growing but not enough to stop the show.

A designer friend is redoing her parents home near by and my crew and I will be helping with the work. We were offered a wonderful Betula nigra that just did not go with the planned gardens . Wanting it to have a good home we worked long and hard to dig it out. Here it is loaded on our trailer ready for the ride to my house.

A new endeavor this year is caring for a good client's large pond . We have spent time in the past redesigning the plantings around the pond and now we are tackling its care. Our first project after cleaning the filters was to rebuild the waterfall. Here it is just after we re-worked the stones to cover the ugly filter box which is so important to keeping the water aerated and clean.

So that is all for now. I have got to get back to planning work for the second half of spring. I hope to have a new posting soon. I bet you would like to see how the River Birch looks in its new home.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Welcome to my Garden Talk blog

Hi, I'm Arnie Friedman and I want to welcome you to Garden Talk. Please look at the postings here with samples of my work. I will occasionally post short articles, advice, and hints that may be useful in your garden or with projects that you are planning. Besides being a professional landscape designer and installer I am a Rutgers Master Gardener so from time to time I will try to draw on the wealth of information from Rutgers Agricultural Extension and post information sheets and seasonal advice to help beautify your garden and keep our environment healthy.

Feel free to contact me by email or phone concerning any garden or landscape question. If you have in mind a project or just want to ask about what to do in your garden I would be happy to give you my input . My email is and my phone number is 201-707-5149

The main website for my business, Landscapes By Design is located here.

Stone Work

This past year we were fortunate to have the opportunity to do a number of jobs which involved building with natural stone.

Adding a stone feature to a garden not only provides a useful sitting or walking platform but in the case of a wall it can define space or be a retainer for a garden. Small walls can change the levels of your yard adding a lot of visual interest and texture to the garden.

This wall was made from stone rubble found on site. We stacked the stones and then added soil behind to create a raised planting area. In front of the wall we planted a small bed of perennial plants to soften the hard stone and add color as the plants grow and flower.

In these next photos you can see we used both stacked stone as a retaining wall and to form planting beds. We also used flat irregular blue stone to form a landing patio.

In this way we achieved a means of access to the upper level of the back yard as well as creating interesting areas for separating our plantings and making utilitarian steps into a place to slowdown and enjoy the environment.

There is even room here to stop and sit on the wall if one wanted to. The plantings in the small bed are roses and in the late spring and summer will add lots of color and aroma .

About Our Site Intro

The symbol you see next to the words "From Tree" is the old Chinese character equivalent to our English word "Tree". When four of these are placed in a box the symbol then means "Park". I loved this when I first saw it mentioned in a text by the noted garden historians Geoffrey and Susan Jellicoe in their book "The Landscapes of Man". For me this succinctly states what I believe garden design is all about. It is the taking of individual plants and other individual elements and grouping them together to make a larger whole which we call a park or a landscape.

I hope this helps explain the somewhat mysterious introduction to our web site.

Arnie Friedman

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Tour of the Morikami Japanese Gardens in Boca Raton Florida this January

Please click here to see the tour slide show.

Japanese garden design has had a great influence on European and American Landscapes from the mid-nineteenth century onward. This traditional garden in Boca Raton Florida follows many of the traditions but is adapted to the climate and soils of South Florida. I enjoyed touring the gardens although our time was limited and a rain storm forced us in side. Touring gardens is a favorite pastime for my wife and I and we always come back wanting to add something to our home garden. My wife is asking me to try and build a bamboo water feature similar to the one you will see in the slide show.