Austin owner Julie Blakeslee keeps founder Selena Souders up to date with the Austin office...
November 21, 2012 :: Posted by Julie Blakeslee
S- i know i know- for a couple of reasons it's easy to forget that i'm related to Dolly Parton. I try to play up the Anne Boylen side of the family for the sympathy card. But, you know I really relate to cousin Dolly when i'm trying to talk to clients about the price of…. subtle. I mean it's like the older you get it takes an inordinate amount of maintenance to look like you haven't put any effort into your maintenance. And hear me now, but believe me later it's as complicated to achieve that in the garden as it is under your chin.
Let's start with chez Spong. We found a photo at the History Center of the original front of the house and decided to dial it back to pre- war chill.
at the time of purchase:
sometime this summer:
And i confess, it seems annoying, even to me who understands why it costs so much, to pay to just take stuff away. But you know, pull up all those boring yaupons, get rid of all the excess stones, bricks, tiles, hire a really great hombre to wield a tiny little jackhammer to take off the additions to the patio while leaving the original 95 year old tile work, move the electric, re route the gas, hand dig around the heritage oak , bulldoze the wall and OMG look at all that dirt i just took out of that little bit of space down there?
And i really added were some limestone caps on the steps that were kind of already there under all the 80's ca-ca. easy. and i'm installing a circular low wall that let's us hang under the oak canopy. some grass. and you know. done. but mon dieu. it's a fortune. BRS is too busy- i'm using subcontractors- i feel our client's pain. I've been doing it in little bite sizes to hide the price from myself.
We've a couple other favorite clients who have faith in subtle. For a favorite recent project we arrived on site to this:
The client wanted it really to look like "nothing happened to the site- perhaps a bit enhanced". So we planted thousands of natives. grasses, yuccas, some bushes, seeds etc. We pick axed them into the rock just like nature would have done it. The patient patient client was out of town during our install. She was sent photos that showed "all we had done that day" in which was all but impossible for her to see what she was paying for.
To add insult to injury, we had to come out and weed every six weeks to make sure the natives didn't have too much competition for precious water. But now not even 6 months later at least there's been a slight pay off.
Spring will be fun to see and in a few more seasons- it will be divine. But honestly, it will need 1 more year of weeding to ensure that the babies we planted win. All in an effort to get the place to look like nothing happened to it. The goal is to look like we were never there and it's hard to see value in that sometimes. But it's one of our favorite ways to work. And I guess it's good for the ego to let nature take the credit sometimes. Happy Thanksgiving sister. more soon. jb
October 29, 2012 :: Posted by Julie Blakeslee
S- do i say this every year... the weather finally broke- it's totally gorgeous here and we've been just working until we drop. Chucho dropped- has Chucho ever been sick since he started with the company at 15 years old? Yipes. But we are pecking away at it. We are in a funny spot- we have great great projects that we are working on- but we are getting backed up. Some clients are ok with waiting, but we are beginning to lose projects because we are booked out a bit. Which of course is a luxury but now a double edged sword. I get nervous about hiring another crew- everyone is clicking here together we are running 2 crews and i'd hate not to have top quality work. ack. So, of course I put my head in the sand a bit and think about E.A.S.T (east austin studio tour).
We are working a post apocalyptic angle featuring our new planter series we are doing with Massif Concrete. look cute solo or en masse non?
But- also we are contemplating if gardeners will be the most powerful in the post apocalyptic world since we will be the ones who know how to grow food and utilize phytoremediation. Which as we all know, is using plants to pull toxins from the soil. And let me just say that HEMP is one of the most effective plants at removing radiation from the soil. So let's all keep a good supply of seeds. I won't be growing it in our exhibition el camino garden however. Gotta love a crew to whom I can say- Can WE just get a shelled out El Camino please? HOW HARD can it be? and 24 hours later- this shows up at the lot. jaunty right?
Justin and I are going to have to try and plant it up this week to look like a fully grown vegetable garden. i know all this apocalyptic talk makes you want to ask about the Hades Garden. I did have to kill some things that just weren't cutting it- the wing thorn rose- cool but not for this location. The Millet never turned black- you must die. And of course i'm still picking out the amaranth. The green rose is a blooming fool. And the black pomegranate really makes black pomegranates- and grew from the 4" stick to a 12' bush.
and get a load of the stepelia- all those flies. SO nasty right? yay. the whole street smelled like old trash cans. It's all floating around in my brain because this fence we just finished (see below) seems to be in the hades apocalyptic vein right? although really, i was thinking of the artist Louise Nevelson.
Burning it was just the best way to get it black and finished in one fell swoop. Hans with a blowtorch on a client's property- the torture to our insurance company is really non stop. But really it was JT who suffered. Every single board was placed at random. with me figuring out the random. Poor patient JT- higher, lower, left, right, left. no, that one isn't really right. we are all still talking so no permanent scarring physical or physic seems to have occurred.
more soon- Julie
June 29, 2012 :: Posted by Julie Blakeslee
S- whoa. We've been a wee bit in the weeds. Quick ATX update.
The Hades garden had a major set back when sophisticated east side plant thieves stole several of the more choice selections that i had so carefully mail ordered and then nursed to happiness. quite dispiriting i confess. In spite, i let the garden wallow with the gaping holes in the ground until in a hormonal frenzy i got back out there and replanted it- albeit with some cruel choices. Fish hook cactus Mr. Rustler?
Here's what Dr Robin pulled out my toe 2 weeks later after I tripped over my own trap moments before an appointment. (but it's nothing in comparison to the sun spots on my hands- look at that?!)
But now all is growing in well enough for a first year garden. The mullien is blooming- will it really turn black?
A "red" pumpkin that we are trying to hide from the rustlers.
In other news, I just got back from a quick trip from LA and Palm Springs. I do love that the dishabille of the Chateau Marmont extends to it's garden areas.
I feel like everything here has to be so neat and tidy. The confidence that you are cool enough to have something be real is true sprezzatura. But it's all in the details non?
We also popped out to the Parker meridian in Palm Springs to see the Elysian designed landscape. Which is cute- but tidier in spite of an attempt at overgrown insouciance. Admittedly, overgrown is harder to achieve in the desert. But as charming as the Parker is- the Marmont feels actually authentic- but i think even this "fakeness" is on purpose at the Parker, which is in itself quite genius. landscapes talk. more soon. xojb
March 17, 2012 :: Posted by Julie Blakeslee
S- How can you miss all this?
i should have added, please don't pee on my new garden. You know i loves me my SXSW. We taught the new girl Kate to play hipster homeless rockstar to enhance her first experience with the parade outside our windows. I did have a wee freakout on the guy who was sleeping in his van for a few days along side the building. Justin went all organic on him like any other pest. first with sea weed spray on the garden, then a bit of composted manure. none of which really didn't seem to budge him. A friend last night pointed out that perhaps he smelled worse than anything we could throw at him.
mercy sakes alive-the whole thing makes me bolt. It was good timing because I needed to get up to see the NYC apartment one last time as it is under contract. I can't remember if I told you that it was published late last year in NEW YORK Rooftop Gardens by Charles de Vaivre. Ooh la la. It's a big old phat spread- and it's nice to have it documented before another girl gets to have her way with it. It's hard to leave an established garden. Terraces are a little more instant gratification than in ground gardens- but still they take time. And the patience is worth it- but i've such a hard time getting our clients to chill with the fact that construction is messy and takes time. And sometimes things have to go backwards to go forwards.
Below is what the terrace looked like before this girl got her hands on it.
you know i can't resist a little fake grass.
then the discouraging backwards to go forwards…. imperative to install a perfect new roof membrane. it took forever to make sure everyone one came by to inspect it- but this is the foundation on your house- what's underground is the most important of all. And of course it's what keeps rain off your neighbor below-lawsuit city in NYC- so wait to get it right.
beginning to lay the marble custom cut tiles. no grout for drainage. lots of tips for the freight elevator guy.
custom planters from brooklyn.
finally, the uppity fake grass.
Scented geraniums for the inaugural season's annuals.
then finally 8 months later, move in day. (i should have kept the pink on that vintage couch)
and 4 years growth gets perfect hedges (the remnants of a dinner party visible there)
Clearly, i'm feeling all nostalgic. I had some fancy photographer come and take pix of the inside- if he ever gets them back to me, i'll put them up so you can see them.
well- as long as we are imbibing in some real estate porn- check this listing out that we went to go see when we were there. gorgeous right? i begin to get obsessed all anew because there's always a new garden to be made…xojb
March 8, 2012 :: Posted by Julie Blakeslee
S - quick update from the Hades planting. The garden is beginning to hang together, and I'm much perkier- probably because my roses came in the mail.
The wingthorns are just a stick- I always really adore a plant that can travel like that- look at those thorns! But the green and dame de coeur roses are already setting bud and roses make everything better.
I put those voodoo lilies in the ground and they are kind of rotting out and falling over real drama like 1 by 1 which is rather sad of them. I left their bulbs in the ground- there's a chance that the nursery forced them or whatever? I've never grown them. They will be quite a surprise if they come back next year. They are also called Viagra Lily so…
I guess I ordered some more plants because when I came in to the office this am there were several angel trumpets (antique lace variety), black euphorbias, a voodoo flowering maple (see her above?) and a dutchman's pipe. So ah, i kind of scrambled around and found spots for them. It's becoming "that" kind of a garden-you know when you go on site to a client's and you're all like- wow- one of everything. eek.
Revisionist history: now a collector's garden. Not super smart to grow a bunch of experimental things as your exhibition garden- if things crap out, clients are going to think we have a black thumb. Everyone knows gardeners kill way more than we grow. right space right plant right client.
Justin started an "anime" garden in the front- everything's super sized. We'll see how that progresses- his plants look like something that people are going to steal and there is an office pool to see how long they last out there. xoxojb
February 29, 2012 :: Posted by Julie Blakeslee
S- look at this scraggly ass start.
I mean, i'm probably hormonal- but-for heavens sake- does this look pathetic or what. It's February 29th and I'm sweating through my shirt direct planting seeds into the ground, simultaneously thrilled that there has been no winter and petrified of what this summer might bring because there has been no winter. dig bitch dig grumble.
Clearly I'm super pissy- so i already yanked out a giant coral bean tree from last year that was supposed to be an anchor. It just looked too messy (had JT pull it up in exchange for a cupcake). And the one at the back is also on my list too unless i'm in a better mood tomorrow. Normally i'd all be happy that black sunflower seedlings were volunteering from last year
but Justin drove up at the end of his day and was pissy too.
And I'm all- should they live?
And he's like nah- they bloomed last year we took a picture and then they crapped out fast from the bottom up.
So they are out. I've nuked the red hot pokers I special ordered in toffee brown. They looked too strappy with the oxblood lilies which i know will work better and i'll be desperate for a fresh bloom in the fall.
I opened up my pack of lime green nicotina seeds and they are freaking microscopic.
WTF am i supposed to do with this? just sprinkle and hope for the best advises Justin. I open the coleus seed and there are solomente 10 in there- really? So i just kind of dust them under the black pomegranate tree and in front of the nicotina. Now the black pomegranate stick in a 6" pot has already sprouted out a few leaves so we looove her. Good girl.
I decided we needed something more meaty by the BRS sign so popped in an agave weberi- and i've got this idea that i want to grow the red pumpkin underneath it- which made Justin's eyes roll back in his head- until he got his game on and was all like- yeah. WE can DO that. rearrange the irrigation to drip, mound the agave. Now I'm all thinking the pumpkin vine will be ugly or take over the sidewalk. but SO cool to have a big red pumpkin doing it's thing there all summer.
I did decide on my linking colors- chartreuse and silver. So I popped in a few Artemesia -i thought it could help disguise the icky bottoms of the black cannas and love the whole absinthe link to the hades garden.
But there are a few things that aren't here yet because- ahem, it IS still February (as I keep telling our clients) and it's hard to be patient and not fill the holes because of course I ordered too many plants for the amount of space. I mean, why do we do this every year? Whatever- tomorrow's another day and we've still over 1/2 the border to plant. I'm sure it will all pull together. And look at this AWESOME jump we get on it planting it on leap year day. That has to be good luck non? xoxojb
February 20, 2012 :: Posted by Julie Blakeslee
S- now this is what winter is all about right? In spite of not having time to go over plant catalogues with Mr. Gosling this January- which is a complete rip off- I was able to put a bit of thinking towards our side garden. The castor beans were pretty nuts last year- but as they are annuals, we've got a clean slate again. Yay!
Thursday, Jenn unpacked our first flush of plants for the….. Hades Garden. Oui, I decided upon a theme of plants that kill. or maim. or smell like rotting flesh. or have the word voodoo, or blood in their names. I think this came about from trying to think about black and red plants. Or rather, I hope. Look at these pathetic little things that came in the mail this week.
Those tall things on the left- are voodoo lilies. Who could resist this explanation- and these photos?
This unusual tuberous plant has one giant divided leaf on top of a 5-6' tall, green and purple mottled, fleshy stalk (petiole). When old enough, the tuber produces a fascinating 6' flower (early May, before the leaf emerges), resembling a giant vase made from the purple vinyl used for cheap '70s car seats. The vase (spathe) is home to a 3' purple spadix that sits atop a 2' speckled petiole...gather your neighbors for the flowering ritual. After flowering, the plant may rest for a couple of months before the leaf emergesin late June. The mother tuber will form offsets, eventually making a giant clump...STRANGE!
"when it's old enough". I guess I'm set to wait- because that stick to their right is the largest black pomegranate I could find.
Better if Eve is eating a black pomegranate. hmm- maybe this is how we got to a Hades Garden.
anyhoo- Also ordered a Mangave "bloodspot". An accidental cross between an agave and a manfreda that may bloom without dying like an agave, which doesn't strictly fit the theme (not dying), but we'll give her a spot because of her good thorns and good name.
And this neat "Kniphofia toffee nosed" - I still haven't gotten a poker to be happy for me here through the summer but that's really no reason not to try again. right?
This wonderful 1980s introduction was selected by John Metcalf of Four Seasons Nursery in the UK. Compared to the larger pokers, the narrow green leaves on this winner of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Award of Garden Merit make a smallish, 2' wide clump. Starting in June (NC), the 3' tall, narrow flower stalks end in ivory flowers with an orange top...a very unusual color combination in pokers...elegantly stunning and a hummingbird magnet. Be sure to stick one of these pokers up your...I mean, IN your garden!
The nursery that we ordered these plants from kind of cracks me up.
When Jenn read the literature that came with the plants it said " please do not ingest, snort or smoke" these plants.
We've also got carrion plants coming.
Blooms smell like rotting meat to attract flies.
ooh and a wing thorn rose. Look at those ornamental thorns! We had a booger of a time finding it. Had to order from canada. Which doesn't bode well- but whatever.
And what else? some black coleus for filler, oxblood lilies and Australian black cannas. And from seed a "rouge" pumpkin for some fall pizzaz,
"black currant swirl" datura for a dark trip. Oh and some elephant head amaranth.
I mean I know I shouldn't plant amaranth- it's a self seeding fool but i have to. it looks like a big ole ...well… that or someone shooting the finger. tee hee- i'll be spreading big purple cocks all over lower Cesar Chavez. la-ti-da.
Holding over from last season, we've got a black smoke tree rescued half dead from a client's garden last year. Thanks Gardens. and those black ornamental peppers that are still completely leafed out in February. Thanks Home Depot.
But now mama's got to weave all this shit together. In ballet we call that "enchainment"- the linking steps that knit dance together. Enchainment is the difference between dance and Cirque De Soleil. Cirque is just trick trick trick. No one wants their garden to be wow wow wow. The eye and soul needs some quiet places to rest before the next surprise.
But ahem, my work is cut out for me. These colors all look like ca-ca together and my eyes may be bigger than my border. We'll see what transgresses. I remember reading about James David's beautiful garden in a picture book and he's all- oh heavens, i'd never plant all this difficult pouty stuff in a client's garden. That's what I'm saying! more soon- xoxojb
February 2, 2012 :: Posted by Julie Blakeslee
Hello. January. was it good for you? Because like I don't really remember. Our clients have been fantastic. Just like we all wish it would go people started calling in November to begin planning for spring work. So like a good little firm we've been designing like fiends- right on schedule.
We have been sojourning to Johnson City for a project. It's only an hour and a half away but it makes me feel all city folk.
Justin and I popped out of the truck to open the fence to the property and felt like we needed safety orange. Justin just giggled- don't be ridiculous. It's important to round out any trip to the Hill Country with BBQ- and we deemed Ronnie's appropriate after seeing his parking lot.
But at the table I looked to my right and saw the christmas raffle and I reassessed my safety orange needs. planting begins in the spring- should be safer.
anyhoo- a little of January went to my time on the Waller Creek Conservancy board.
It's a public private conservancy a la the Central Park Conservancy that is helping to fund a juried competition to design the newly available land along Waller Creek here in Austin. The CoA got bond money to make a tunnel that will control the creek's flooding. This opens up 28 acres of new land- along the 1.5 mile of creek. It's 11% of downtown- including palm park on Cesar Chavez and 1-35 and Waterloo park. They are building the giant tunnel thing at Waterloo park. Incredible opportunity to design right in the middle of Austin. The Jury was in town 2 weeks or so ago to narrow the submissions to 9 teams. Check it:
Stage II Teams
Burgos & Garrido Arquitectos and Miró Rivera Architects
Civitas and BIG New York City
CMG and Public Architecture
James Corner Field Operations and SHoP
!melk and Page Southerland Page
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Thomas Phifer & Partners
Stoss Landscape Urbanism and Saucier & Perrotte
Turenscape and Lake | Flato Architects
Workshop: Ken Smith Landscape Architect
Ten Eyck Landscape Architects and Rogers Marvel Architects
The jury dinner was held at a friend and client's house downtown. I was looking forward to the dinner because the jury of course is populated with superstars in the garden design world. But the afternoon before the dinner, the host called, bless her heart- she was at the end of 3 huge dinners in 3 days in a row- and asked ever so sweetly if we had anything hanging around the office that would suffice as table decor for the dinner for 50. I had to turn to Justin and say, well ah, can we just whip up something well freaking extraordinary for some of the top garden design people in the country ah by tomorrow @ 4pm? ever resourceful Justin dug around in our valentine's day stash and came up with this last minute effort:
I was lucky enough to sit by juror Darrel Morrison. He's famous around here for designing the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center. But he's Mr. Native incarnate- hails from NYC. We had a great discussion about the Johnson City project which is several acres that will not be irrigated. And no latin was spoken well until my second glass of wine where you know those plant names just roll off your tongue and onto the table. I tease, but you know it's nice to sit next to a landscape architect who's into plants. A lot of times they like to leave the touchy feely plant parts to the garden design team. Which of course is good by us right?!
Next stage of the competition is for each of the firms to present concepts and the field will be narrowed to four teams who will receive 100k stipend to fully develop their plans. They will be presented in the fall (smart to have all these people here in the blistering summer thinking about our parks) and the jury will choose the team who will receive the commission. It's pretty fascinating to think about and an honor to be involved in such an historic undertaking. just that. more later. xoxojb
November 19, 2011 :: Posted by Julie Blakeslee
S- another day in paradise. a favorite client asked if we could clear a few branches out of the lake while we were doing a bit of planting on the property. roger that. Chucho began whacking away and JT began pushing and pulling on the limbs in the water while I, as usual got on the phone.
A few minutes later, JT snuck up and made some motions like we’re going to pull it out of the water. yes yes. fine fine. A bit later- i turn around and they’ve got the truck hooked up to something and are making whooping noises. Perhaps time to wrap up my call and pay a modicum of attention – we were not strictly on our client’s property at this point. Why do you need a chainsaw? And where did Chucho find a boat? and HOLY SHIT what is that?
Chucho’s caught himself a whale.The guys were giggling like horrid teenagers. Our options were somewhat limited at this point. As tempted as we were to try and drag it out to the middle of the lake- we did have it most of the way on shore so I called for the chainsaw- and ah bring an extra chain mmkay- and I scuttled back to the office hoping for the best. An hour and a half later I receive this text. that’s our boys. Happy weekend. xxojb
November 18, 2011 :: Posted by Julie Blakeslee
Do you remember me talking about our client with the Paula Hayes planters? We are fortunate to have been able to do a bit of planting in and and around them and it’s fun. fun. fun. Although the texas heat has cooked a few roots- we’re getting the hang of them. And it’s been an honor to have the opportunity.
I’m a bit too interested in her though i admit. Not only does she form these spectacular vessel shapes for the plants- importantly she designs entire gardens. and this is her art. fully accepted in the art world. as it should be right? The idea that her gardens are commissioned as art installations is genius. This woman is living the dream. Below is a photo i found on the web of the same client’s garden in Santa Fe- Ms. Hayes worked on the plantings for this garden as well as the vessels and I can tell you- it’s stupendous.
So yesterday i pop open my NY observer to read:
Coral, palm trees and a saltwater aquarium alight at Lever House
and rather than a stab of oh man why don’t we ever get to do anything good (tee hee- i’m joking! but does put our little window works install into perspective non?) i feel a huge power to the sister moment. I’ve seen some groovy wacky stuff through the windows at the lever house. But it looks like she’s really holding her own. I’m up there week after next and I’ll try and pop through and see for myself.