Tag Archives: Design

Not Your Average Screening Solution

9-18-14 screening solution 1This past spring we were asked to design the impossible:  create a visual screen along the property line that was tall, narrow, wouldn’t block the sun and wasn’t a fence.  Hmmmm …    A row of tall evergreens or a tree was nixed due to the added shade and depth of planting bed it would occupy.  What else could do the job?

In short order Christie had the idea to create a series of sculptural  lattice “trees” that would obfuscate the view into the neighbor’s property and be used to showcase the client’s clematis vines.  What seemed like a straight forward idea quickly grew in complexity when Allan Robinson had to make the idea structurally sound.  The lattice panels were reinforced with stainless steel rods to allow us to hang them unconventionally, on one side;  red cedar fence posts had to be sourced so the lattice panels and posts would weather evenly; and an experienced cabinet maker developed a custom jig to mount the panels to the posts.  Working long hours and into the dusk, we conscripted extended family members and hustled to beat the clock, as the garden was to be featured in a National Garden Tour in two days’ time.

Sometimes an idea is just too good to pass up.  By collaborating with the homeowners, who had a strong sense of what they wanted; with multiple vendors (including www.latticestix.com) and with multiple designers in our office, we were able to leverage the strength of many talented individuals and accomplish something unique and wonderful.

What problem do you need solved?  Let us collaborate with you.

9-18-14 screening solution 2

A Room with a View

9-4-14 room blog pixIt’s not just a phrase limited to travel destinations or books anymore. And why should it be? We all have indoor windows that seize our attention – like over the kitchen sink or across the dining table. With thoughtful design and intentional plant selection, your view from these indoor windows to the outside can be pleasing and relaxing year round. Maybe without a beach though…

When planning a landscape, it is easy to get overly focused on that front foundation planting or other areas where the public/guests can also see it. What will be planted on either side of the front door, for instance.   But most of us see this view only once or twice per day compared to the inside views that might engage us for an hour or more every day. We call these more compelling views the “primary” view: what you will be looking at most frequently. It might surprise you to figure out where it is at your home. It may also surprise you to see that there isn’t much to look at as of yet since it doesn’t demand public attention.

A primary view could also be a seasonal view from a patio or a deck. In this case, it is still a primary view, holding your attention for a longer length of time, but not a year round focal point. Many people are creating outdoor rooms with furniture and other accoutrements that are snow-filled in winter.   In this situation, your plant selection gracing these views should match the season(s) when you are outside. Maybe a lovely January composition is not going to be appreciated from your lounge chair on the deck.

Once you identify your primary views, put some time and effort into making them special. We are always here to help you create your “Room with a View”.


8-26-14 saw and pegs - CD weldingAs a grown-up who didn’t go to camp in the summers, this summer I found myself surprised to be looking at a list of “what to bring” to sculpture camp. My partner and I went to SNOWFARM, a New England craft program in Western MA. It is where grown-ups can go for a week of intensive craft learning and practicing. We went to learn Welding.

Many of you know about our penchant for rusty stuff and you have seen it perched and studded throughout our garden. Imagine stuffing a Subaru full of rusty junk and then putting your clothes in a separate car just to get out to the place. Two cars for two people. Our hoarding loot was met with oohs and ahhs from our other classmates, I will have you know.

Patti and I learned Stick and Mig welding techniques as well as bending, shaping, grinding and cutting metal. So what does a garden designer make, you wonder. Well, two 7’ tall sculptures using saw blades and gears, and a twirly concoction. I also made a skiing inch worm but that is not for prime time….

What I realized is that I love sculpture in the sense of gardens and objects being 3 dimensional. I want to see shapes and combine shapes in ways that are pleasing to the eye and to viewing from different perspectives. In its more basic form, garden designing is sculpting with different shaped objects.

Enjoy the photos.

8-26-14 welding seeing one8-26-14 saw and pegs - completed 3


blog post 5-12-14 the Team!

I wrote a blog about a Career Day panel that I was on recently.   Funny thing – being on a Career Panel.  The audience was comprised of landscape design students, each eager to gain insight into what it means to be a garden designer.  It is kind of like facing your Maker and answering penetrating questions, one of the most difficult being: “What are you proud of?”

First I mentally ticked through the many things I have done as a garden designer: the designs I’ve created, the clients I cherish, the plants I cultivate, the obvious successes, and the occasional mistakes.  But then I started to settle in on something bigger that I am proud of:  being an employer.  In a million years, I never thought I would be a business owner who employed 6 people.  Initially I just needed to get a lot of gardening done and hiring one person made an exponential difference.  I know, not rocket science, but two people can do a lot more than one person.  Then I needed two, three, etc.

As a business owner, I could easily focus on my own capitalist drive and exaltation (ok so the company is named after me -an early misstep) but instead I get to build an engine that generates jobs for 6 people who are trying to live meaningful lives, just like me. We create a team, one that is more about the way we work together than it is about simply planting a garden or pruning plants.   It is more than getting the work done – it is the deeply satisfying way in which I am not all about me.   I am responsible and am held accountable to others, I make a difference for others, I support those around me and make every effort to make a small number of people’s lives better.   And so when I’m asked that hard question, I say that this is something I am immensely proud of.  What are you proud of?


When Did I First Feel Successful

Landscape Design by Christie Dustman & Comapny, Inc.Recently I was asked to be on a Career Day panel.  One of the questions posed to the business owners was the title of this blog – When did I first feel successful?   Sure I have successes to point at – being featured in The Boston Globe, winning design awards, etc.  But one day long ago stands out in my mind as a real game changer:  the day my Clients dug up their front yard to install my planting plan.

I was new in business and my drawn plans were largely theoretical.  This was going to be one of the first to be implemented.  It was nothing less than shocking to witness perfectly sane people digging up their lawn because I asked them to.   I felt a mix of terror and exhilaration that day.

What happens when rubber hits the road?   Would my ideas look as good in real life as they did on paper?  Maybe the paper ideas were worthless and I was fooling them and myself.  It was a crisis of confidence.  I am happy to report that the new plants and beds looked pretty good – still do, ‘til this day.

This memory reminds me that I am entrusted in such a stunning way by my clients.  In the end, I was personally successful that day, but more so, it was the success of our mutual trust that triumphed.  My ideas are just that, ideas on paper until someone believes in me and my vision and in the potential for a wonderful new reality:  a garden.  Together we are successful garden makers.

Christie Dustman

Put your money where your ‘garden focal point’ is

blog 2 pix goodnough after 5The saying goes, put your money where your mouth is.  For the garden, it might be more appropriate to say: “Put your money where your garden focal point is”.

A FOCAL POINT in the garden is, by definition, “the point at which all elements converge” (www.dictionary.com).   Simply said, the focal point is where your eye is naturally directed and settles for a view.  A focal point earns its prominence by being the specific site that you look at most from the kitchen table, family room or back door, for example.  You don’t have to work hard to find the focal point location–there it is, all the time.

For me, the garden focal point is the mouth piece of any garden or landscape.  It is the part of the garden that “talks” to you – perhaps beckons you to come outside, gives you a spot to sit psychically outside or provides seasonal drama. It concentrates compelling elements in one spot, like the crescendo of a piece of music.

What I have noticed is that not all designers figure out where the logical focal point is before doing a design plan.  And this leads to spending a lot of money for something that no one sees easily.  Nice and fancy, but expensive with little in the way of impact. That is why I place such a premium on finding and developing the focal point area and where I advise my clients to spend their money.  Let me quote another idiom:  Get more bang for your buck with a well located and designed focal point.

Christie Dustman

Sweet Sixteen and Blogging

Photo from the Hamden Court Flower Show, London, photo C. Dustman

Photo from the Hamden Court Flower Show, London, photo C. Dustman

It is SWEET SIXTEEN at Christie Dustman & Company this year. And like most 16 year olds, we are starting to Facebook, Blog and Tweet. Our new adventure into social media is our way to connect with you in an immediate and relevant way. Seasonal advice, interesting musings on plants, and photos of our work from the crew in the field. Hopefully we won’t bore you about what we are having at Starbucks!

Blogging and Facebook appeal to me since I have little conversations in my head a lot and I like the written word. Ideas, critiques and amazement thought bubbles (good and bad) pop in my mind all day so why not pass some of that along to you? Let’s share it together.

We are also on Pinterest and Houzz to showcase and trade awesome photos. Landscapes and gardens are so visually focused that sharing some of our favorite photos and seeing what else is out there is very appealing. Have you checked out either of these sites? It reminds me that the human mind is endless in imagination and creativity.

Christie Dustman