Where To Find Inspiration

– Posted in: Garden Musings, Garden Visits

I’ve never been remiss about sharing with other gardeners that some concepts seen in my garden haven’t been my  originally designs. To the contrary. Several years ago when Chris Woods (Ex-Director of Chanticleer) was teaching me about garden design and perennials, visitors to my garden would frequently comment on how my style of gardening reminded them of Chanticleer. Well, we both did have Robinia pseudocacia ‘frisia’. But the truth is….Chris influenced my plant palette and combinations tremendously. At that time, Chanticleer was a nascent public garden, so I was able to pick up ideas easily. I never gave a second thought as to whether or not I was copying any. The only thing I knew was that I was inspired.

May 13, 2011-Chanticleer 027

On my last visit to Chanticleer this past May, after I spent quite a bit of time in the overwhelmingly beautiful Tea Cup Garden taking photos, some wooden boxes on top of the entryway caught my eye. I grabbed Jonathon Wright (who creates and maintains the garden) and asked him what he was doing with the boxes. It was simple he said; he filled them with veggies, including some beans, with the intent of creating a jeweled, draping effect on the wall of the front courtyard/entryway. The more he talked about designing these veggie filled boxes, the more I fell in love with the idea. When he mentioned the yellow beans that were going to drip over the sides that he had found at Territorial Seed Company, I knew I had to get my hands on some.

May 13, 2011-Chanticleer 031

When I got back to Israel, still in the midst of trying to get a ‘first layer’ of my new rooftop planted up, it hit me that window boxes on the ledge behind the seating area would be perfect. I decided that terra cotta or ceramic boxes wouldn’t do. They had to be wooden ones. Meanwhile, knowing that my father was coming to Israel in less than 3 weeks, I got online and ordered seeds from Territorial Seed Company; 2 packets of Pole Beans, “Goldmarie” and ‘”Golden Sunshine”.

May 13, 2011-Chanticleer 034

I was lucky to find some wooden boxes at one of my local nurseries. Because I needed plants that would mature quickly, before the scorching weather arrived, I used coleus, cabbages, orange zinnias, marigolds and the yellow/chartreuse sweet potato vine as my base. I was able to add the yellow Pole Bean seeds to the mix in mid-June. They are just beginning to take off.



I have dozens of containers to water early each morning. Because my rooftop is a small garden, unlike what I used to have, I have the luxury of being able to take the time to look at each plant as I soak it; marveling at its growth, concerned if it doesn’t look healthy, or noticing how it looks companioned with another container.


But nothing gives me more pleasure than winding my way behind the seating area and watering each window box. I don’t quite know why but there’s something about lifting the lower leaves nestled on top of the soil and cupping them in my hands as I make sure that the water is soaking into the soil, that gives me immense pleasure. Go figure.


Already the coleus have become too top heavy; they need to be cut back. Although I want the vines to be draping on the interior wall of the garden, my focus is on creating a feast for the eyes as people walk down this narrow urban street. I want them to see a  festival of colors on top of the ledge…and smile.

So, I have Jonathan to thank for helping me create a design element in my garden that I probably would never had thought of. Do I think that my window box plantings will look like Jonathan’s when mature? Not at all. But what’s important is that I was inspired by someone else’s work and felt free to bring that element into my garden. The scope of the ‘borrowed’ design doesn’t matter; it is the pleasure that it gives you that does!


Have you ever been so inspired by an element you’ve seen in another garden that you felt compelled to incorporate it into your garden?

If you want a list of all of the plants being used in the Tea Cup Garden, click on here .

To find the entire plant list at Chanticleer, click on here.

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

Google+ | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest  

Fran Sorin
8 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Lisa at Greenbow July 14, 2011, 6:31 am

I often ‘borrow’ design ideas from other gardens, magazines, books. It never looks exactly the same yet you get the same feel.

I think your wooden boxes will look great with the trailing beans. Plus you can have a snack while you are out watering.


Oh yes….I have been inspired more than once by books and magazines. As a matter of fact, after I saw pictures in a magazine of the Luberon area in Provence, I got myself on a plane and went to visit….so began my love affair with the southern France landscape….and lavender.

It was a Gertrude Jekyll garden on the cover of House and Gardens that gave me the idea of using a series of stone walls at different levels in my backyard…..after a year and a half of interviewing and finally using a well known landscape architect with no results that felt right for me.

AND believe it or not, several years ago at The Tea Cup Garden (at Chanticleer once again) when Dan Benarcik was in charge of it, I asked him how he came up with his beautifully crafted lavender based centerpiece. He told me that he got the idea from a magazine. Fran

Jim/ArtofGardening July 14, 2011, 6:36 am

Inspired? Constantly. my whole garden is made up ideas “purloined” from other, better gardens & gardeners. I have a vegetable potager from Villandry, an espaliered apple from Giverny, a row of lavender from Provence, and a diamond-shaped pear espalier from Belgium. Inspired, influenced or outright stolen, with out ideas from others, I’d have no garden. If I could just figure out how to suspend a tree growing in a big egg from my house, I’d have my Jaffa/Tel Aviv-inspired garden feature.

So….when can I come visit your garden? You certainly have chosen some awesome garden to mimic….ideas from Villandry, Givery, Provence and Belgium.

Harold Nicholson’s allee of trees surrounded by a riot of spring bulbs inspired me to create an allee of Tillia cordatas. And the series of metal arbors on my front walkway was inspired by Giverny (great minds think alike).

NOW….I don’t quite understand your joke about suspending a tree growing in a big egg from my house in order to create a Tel Aviv/Jaffa inspired garden…please explain (LOL!!)! Fran

Flâneur Gardener July 14, 2011, 12:34 pm

Everything about my garden (that wasn’t already there when we bought our summer house) is inspired by other gardens, most notably those I grew up with, but also public gardens in Denmark and England. And I don’t mind; I don’t want my garden to be original, but beautiful!

Hmmmm…I have consistently found that it is my memories of gardens, landscapes and nature from my childhood that have shaped my sense of gardening as well. I love your belief….that a garden needn’t be original, just beautiful Thanks for sharing Flaneur Gardener! Fran

Noel Kingsbury July 14, 2011, 1:19 pm

Amazing what you can do with window boxes!

It sure is…although back East when I had designed some window boxes for houses with front porches, I never imagined that I’d be using them in my own. Urban gardening changed that……Fran

Cathy July 14, 2011, 2:15 pm

You now have me envisioning them all over my garden LOL

I was inspired in similar fashion by a visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC to use pots set against shrubs and inside perennial beds. But I love the idea of rectangular or square boxes encircling the posts that hold up our deck. Pots look cluttered there.

Thanks for a great inspiration!


Containers in perennial beds sound beautiful. For years, I dreamt about using a few McCoy containers in my perennial beds but they were too pricey. Am glad to connect with another window box affecianado. I would love to see some photos of yours. Fran

Gillian July 14, 2011, 6:33 pm

wow those look beautiful! from both sides! Some kind soul once said duplication is the sincerest form of flattery. Isn’t that why we blog to share ideas?

I couldn’t agree more…..
In all arenas of life, there is very little that is truly original.
If gardeners pick up ideas from other gardens, it is how they use it in the context of their own that gives it a unique sensibility. And yes, I’ve gotten some great ideas from other bloggers’ posts. fran

Patrick's Garden July 15, 2011, 10:15 pm

It’s been 10 years since I’ve had the pleasure of watering my own pots because I became a quadriplegic. Now I do so enjoy designing everything and I have a cadre of friends who help water them.

Dear Patrick,
I was inspired after reading about you on your website. You’re a wonderful example of an individual who has overcome tremendous obstacles and continues to lead an incredibly active and creative life. Thank you, thank you for sharing. You have made my day. BTW, it’s a great site, filled with an abundance of rich material. Fran

Previous Post:

[shareaholic app=”recommendations” id=”13070491″]