Jan Kirsh Studio | 410.745.5252 | jankirshstudio@gmail.com www.jankirshstudio.com

Good Things – Do – Come in Small Packages

Dear Jan,

Late summer and early fall is an excellent time to check on recently planted gardens to assess plant growth. And, to look for horticultural surprises that occur, thanks to our challenging weather conditions

Taking detours on the way to new design projects gave me the opportunity to peek at a few small-scale gardens. Each of these gardens packs a design wallop, regardless of the compact size.

Small spaces are creative opportunities to make a design statement where every square foot matters. This lesson has been learned by studying city gardens in venues like Charleston and Savannah, where southern gardeners artfully combine hardscape with foliage and decorative elements.

Proof That Size Doesn’t Much Matter

A perfect porch for watching the world go by

Charming St. Michaels draws visitors who wander the walkable side streets taking in the historic ambiance.

It was a gift to design two “front and center” gardens in this nearby town.

Both are two blocks off Talbot, the town’s main street, and the gardens are on display 24-7, all year long.

The first incorporated five stylized cast stone planters that emphasize the classically proportioned open porch that wraps two sides of the house.

The sweep of a new herringbone brick sidewalk combines with shrubs and perennials to make this compact garden visually impactful.

The herringbone walk suits historic St Michaels

The planter featured here is cast stone, drip irrigated from below thru the informal brick 'pad' that sits on a blue stone paver. I purposely designed the raised brick border without utilizing mortar – allowing excess storm water to drain.

My client enjoys gardening and has a terrific eye for textural combinations - a fine collaborative partner

I had a companion on the brick walk - look closely at this very ambitious squirrel to see his winter preparations underway!

Update on a Corner Garden

The second 'in-town' garden is perched on a busy corner. The privacy border has filled in well and serves the intended purpose.

Narrow, upright growing boxwood partner with repurposed flowering shrubs from the previous garden iteration and the golden 'Creeping Jenny' ground cover.

Screening for the front porch and interior rooms was provided by narrow evergreens, native grasses for texture and a variety of 're-purposed' flowering shrubs from the former garden. Cultivating a garden of personal connection for my hard working, professional client was another important goal.

Privacy is being established, but the garden still allows for connection with the neighborhood

Our collaborative effort still allows curious passers-by to enjoy a view into this intimate space that has been a source of rejuvenation and relaxation. Proof once again that size doesn't matter as a small scale garden can be a personal sanctuary.

The garden has quickly matured and is proving to be a great “selling point” as this sweet cottage is catching attention, recently placed on the market.

The bright blue planters allow for seasonal accent color and anchor the gravel 'pad'

An Enclosed Garden that Feels Much Larger than It Is!

A view from above - organized garden 'rooms' in a small space. Decorative gravel 'ties it all together'

Downsizing is a reality for many of my avid gardener clients. My hope is to build a beautiful, “oooh and aaah” worthy garden as they settle into their next abode. The goal; a garden that had room for horticultural experimentation and one that provided aesthetic and psychic satisfaction.

This more compact garden provides the joy of locating & growing new 'finds'.

The smaller scale is much easier to manage.

This is a true collector's garden, there's always something in bloom!

In this case, a riverfront country garden was left behind, and we set to work together on a totally enclosed, significantly scaled-down garden.

How to fit all of the needs of a committed and talented gardener in a much smaller footprint? The result was a design challenge that propelled my delightful client and myself to collaborate on a working garden within a relatively compact footprint.

The result has texture, color, a flowing bed layout and walkway, a vegetable garden, shaded sitting spots, sun loving flowers, even a “back 40” workspace all within the confines of a fenced space.

Room enough for garden adventure with favorite plants

and new discoveries

A bird watcher's paradise

Raised bed vegetable garden tucked behind a low fence

Proof again that good design carries the day in a small space.

A Townhouse Garden Takes It Up a Notch

A special request from a prospective client convinced me to take on one of the smallest gardens that I have ever designed.

Goodness, what a request!

The goal; design and install a functional, four-season garden, with artful features, tucked behind a townhouse.

And to sweeten the question “can you please help me?” was the fact that my new client had never before had a garden of her own.

How could I resist making a retreat for a long time apartment dweller who wished for a splendid garden?

The bubbler adds a splash

The oversized ‘bubbler’ is seen from inside the townhouse and the trickle of recirculating water soothes. Another example of how thoughtful design makes even the smallest garden special.

The garden plan made the new space buzz with promise

We are not quite finished, but the start is a grand one with elegant design solutions.

A high level of quality pleases us all.

We removed the ‘standard’ set of steps and redesigned them along with custom handrails to provide a tad more patio space and lighten the appearance of the entry.

Porcelain pavers cover a “plain Jane” concrete

patio that has been reshaped.

The original steps and handrail

Great job by SolidTops and

E.R. Harvey Metalworking Co.

More to come, but perhaps this preview will entice you to stick around and read my update next time.

St. Michaels Community Center

McInturff Architect's entry inspired the design of the Corten steel planters

This small community based garden is barely off the drawing board, but there are similarities to my residential projects, so it deserves mention, too.

The St. Michael’s Community Center is under going a major redesign and renovation. McInturff Architects in conjunction with Harper and Sons: General Contractors have taken this former lumber storage and CBMM boat storage facility and imbued it with contemporary freshness.

The striking design is glorious, it feels 'cathedral-like', a wonderful and useful building filled with natural light.

The entry garden will welcome the community to the newly revised space

This glorious renovation will better serve the St. Michaels community. There’s space for classes, events, activities, offices, a base for a job force training program, and food distribution space.

Learn more from the website; and from Patrick Rofe the executive director at The St Michaels Community Center.

The kitchen facility is top notch with design input from chef

Jordan Lloyd.

The garden areas are not large, but the design intent is that they complement the revised building and add a “welcome to the SMCC vibe” when they are constructed and planted.

Blue Grape Screen

Aluminum blue-painted 'Grape Screen' catches sunlight in the garden

Final update on the ‘Grape Screen’. Patience paid off and the Blue Grape Screen is securely set in place in the entry garden. The steel posts were set in concrete, then painted, and finally the three panels were securely installed. This lively art screen becomes part of a welcoming '3-D collage' at the end of my drive, joining the Red Chile Pepper and the two lime green brick posts.

There is not an ounce of shyness here. When I give directions to my home studio, there’s plenty to catch your eye as you turn into the drive. The panels form a screen that measures 8’ x 10’.

The new screens add yet another option for privacy when I am working on garden designs. They make an indoor/outdoor ‘room divider’, a background ‘wall’ poolside, or a privacy fence.

The Succulent Screen

The latest hand drawn Succulent Screen has been digitized and the initial test run was cut on the water jet at Solid Tops.

I'm a fan of these sculptural plant forms and was eager to translate that inspiration to a drawing.

Succulents caught my eye when I first began to “mess about” with plants.

Succulent plants inspired this latest drawing

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats” says Ratty to Mole in Kenneth Grahame's classic novel ‘The Wind in the Willows’.

I take rather large license when I suggest that we substitute the word “garden” for boats. Or, perhaps the word “plants”.

Gardens and plants can be addictive, entertaining, inspirational and bring folks with common interests together. Studying and drawing the succulent plants that inspired the screen was a welcome challenge (this piece may very well be the first in a series).

The conservatory at Longwood Gardens began my love affair with succulents. Their artful conservatory display caught my eye long ago and whenever visiting public gardens with a succulent collection, they still captivate.

Want more stories and photos?

Follow me on Instagram & Facebook!

Landscape. Sculpture. Jewelry.


Follow @jankirshstudio on Instagram and Facebook to stay up-to-date on landscape projects, observations of nature, sculpture inspiration, current exhibits and installations, and my brand new, 3D-printed jewelry collection.


Hoping that you find time to collaborate with your special partners on projects that bring joy.

There's much to be gained from working together.

And, yes—please click on the yellow line below to help share my stories with your friends.

Thank you!

LinkedIn Share This Email
Facebook  Instagram  Linkedin  Pinterest  Youtube  

Jan Kirsh Studio | 410.745.5252 | jankirshstudio@gmail.com www.jankirshstudio.com