Gifts for Gardeners

Posted by Joel Port

Once again, the holiday gift-giving season is upon us! When I'm looking for fun garden accessories and gift ideas, there are a few websites I like to peruse. Here are a few of my favorite websites and products:

cool bird feeder


I especially like this bird feeder/bird bath from Blomus. It can be converted depending on the season... two in one! Available at Pure Modern.


Modern Gadgets always has off-the wall gifts. Check out this clever door stop:

door stop



aHa! Modern Living has one of the most versatile and useful tools in my garden... the garden knife. Every gardener should have one of these-

garden knife

Timber Press has a wide selection of books for just about any interest. Here's another useful tool I use for my garden:

The Well-Tended Perennial Garden


Trendir Modern Outdoors also has some great gift ideas. Enjoy!



Shanghai Projects

Posted by Courtney Skybak

We have received comments that suggest that most people assume that we only do work in the United States, or that all of our work is in Portland. Not so! Our projects range from coast to coast and beyond.

One of our most exciting international projects was a pair of homes in Shanghai, China. Part of a large development of luxury villas, both houses and their gardens demonstrate a contemporary interpretation of classic Chinese design principles and an essential integration of house and landscape. We worked in close collaboration with the architects of both houses.

Chinese garden design

The Bridge House, designed by Donnally Architects, was so named for the bridge that spans a dramatic waterfall from the bamboo-filled central courtyard to the front door. This design features staggered parallel bands of stone, water, and vegetation throughout the garden, emphasizing the transparency of the glass-walled living space at the heart of the house and directing views beyond to the nearby river.

courtyard waterfall


Water flows from a pool within the entry courtyard into runnels that thread the bamboo grove outside the front door. These runnels overflow in a wall of water that falls to the basement level, providing a dramatic waterfall to be viewed from the living room, the master bedroom above, and the family room below. From the pool at the base of the waterfall, runnels extend like fingers through mossy groundcover plantings into the family room terrace.

landscape design as seen from hallway

Outside the back of the glass-walled living room, a rectangular planting bed features small ornamental trees and rough bars of stone emerging from a bed of groundcover. A stone terrace reaches its fingers into a broad lawn that slopes down to the river at the back of the lot.

garden in Shanghai

The Reflection House, designed by Vandeventer + Carlander Architects, is so named for the reflecting pools flanking the transparent central corridor that connects the two wings of the house. The plan of the house forms an “H” with courtyard spaces between the wings of the house and glass walls focusing views into the courtyards.

entry wall

The entry garden leads visitors along a path of overlapping bands of stone into a grove of bamboo. The path continues across a lawn intersected by blocks of tall grasses and over a grid of stepstones through the reflecting pool.

bamboo garden

At the back of the house, the wings of the house extend into stone terraces outside the kitchen and living room. The kitchen terrace steps down to a grove of stewartias and pines. The back yard is a composition of overlapping terraces paved in stone, gravel, groundcover, and lawn, edged by the river that frames the south and west sides of the property.

landscape architecture

The Shanghai projects are both under construction. Here is the Bridge House, where you can clearly see the transparent nature of the central living space.

landscape architecture work for China

This view of the Reflection House shows the front courtyard, soon to hold the lawn and reflecting pool. As we receive additional progress photos, I will be sure to post them here.



SHWA in Metropolitan Home

Posted by Crystal Van Wyk

We are excited to announce that the Mad Park Residence is included in Metropolitan Home's final issue (December 2009)! Our collaboration with Vandeventer + Carlander Architects is featured in "The Art of the Family" on page 82. You can also read the article online here.

contemporary landscape in Metropolitan home

Photo from Metropolitan Home article.

Check out more pictures of this contemporary landscape in our project gallery.



Reworking the Soil

Posted by Crystal Van Wyk

Last week Joel and I were out working in the field taking advantage of some of our last dry days for the year. A client of ours whose garden was installed in 1998 had an area in her garden that was ready for a good dose of organic matter into the soil. Over the past 11 years the soil had not been amended with compost or protected from the elements with any top dressings and had reverted to very heavy clay.

amend heavy clay soil

The test holes we dug came up completely full of clay. Our client told us that the soil had become mucky and inhospitable.

amend soil

We dug in a good 4" layer of compost being careful not to hit the drainage or irrigation lines.


Joel bringing in soil to build up a circular mound to add interest to the otherwise smooth grading.

install plants

I'm giving the Rubus calycinoides 'Emerald Carpet' a good soaking to help with it's transplant. That's Ophiopogon japonica 'Nana' on the circle.

We planted the new residents of the garden tight and anticipate a nice lush blanket next spring!

If you have a garden that won't grow we do consultations to help with problems like bad drainage, poor soil, or good plant choices for problem areas.



On The Boards

Posted by Courtney Skybak

I just thought I would give you a little peek into our current projects here at SHWA. Joel is working on a residence on the east coast. Here are a few of his elevation drawings:


garage screen

A wooden trellis with wisteria on the now-blank facade of the existing garage



children's play structure over ac unit

A combined utility structure (lower level) and playhouse (upper level)



arched gate for fence

A fence and arched gateway between garden spaces




A small gazebo with open trellis walls and a shingled roof


I've been working on turning one of my recent plans into a 3D model. One of the most difficult things to communicate in a plan drawing is topography. A 3D model might not be as pretty as a hand drawing (in my opinion), but it is certainly effective at showing slopes, terracing, and how the grades will change. It makes it much easier to imagine how a space will feel. Though it's more compelling to view the model on screen and navigate through it, this snapshot can give you an idea of how it looks.

sunken garden

A series of terraces blanketed in groundcovers and gravel shaped by sinuous stone retaining walls.


On the other side of the office, Liz is exploring another great use of a 3D model: a framework for a hand-drawn perspective. This is a small pavilion for a formal garden design.

garden room

A garden pavilion with on open trellis ceiling



The Dean of American Women Landscape Architects

Posted By Joel Port

Recently, I've been getting a lot of design inspiration from the work of Ellen Biddle Shipman. She was a prolific landscape architect who formed her own firm in 1914. Much of her inspiration came from Gertrude Jekyll (another inspiration of mine) and collaborations with architects.During her long career, Shipman was involved in the creation of over 650 gardens!

circular stairs

I've been studying Shipman's garden style and learning from her aesthetic and technical artistry. The traditional garden elements are beautiful. I can relate with the hours of careful consideration that must have been put into each garden.

Shipman was a meticulous landscape architect and her high level of care can be seen in every detail. Of course, without skilled craftsmen, these details would not have been so beautiful. Credit must go to them, too.

plan for a flower garden

This is one of Shipman's landscape plans; complete with perspective sketches that convey her three-dimensional visions. For clients who have a hard time visualizing two-dimensional plans, these types of sketches can be really helpful. Not only do I like the design, I appreciate the care that was given to the composition of this sheet: Here's two other photos that reflect Shipman's elegant garden style:

water fountain

Ellen Shipman Images from: The Gardens of Ellen Biddle Shipman by Judith B. Tankard

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