In the Garden With: Roanne Robbins

January 11, 2012

Can I introduce you to someone else?  Starting next week, Roanne Robbins is going to also be kicking off a new column here.  To help you get to know her better I thought it would be fun to revive the In the Garden Series and ask her a few questions. Roanne is the owner of HoneyField Flowers and is one of the authors of The Continuous Container Garden.

Roanne Robbins Lupine Field
How would you define your style?

Natural, Woodsy and classic. I’m loving anything faux bois lately and lots of wooly plaids and chunky knits. Big bulky vessels that look like ice and English lead containers. I also have a soft spot for beautifully stacked wood and would love to design a mid-calf length Carhartt skirt with a reinforced front apron and back slit.

Do you have a garden?

Yes. My garden in RI is home to many misfits that I picked up along the way. Transplants from my old flower shop, Nature Contained, orphaned plants from container plantings, photo shoot take homes and many, many impulse plant buys. Its a festive hodgepodge. There is a lot of chartreuse, purples and burgundy tones which seem to tie the composition together.  There is a section with Vitex, Tiger Eyes Sumac and Sedum ‘Matrona’ which makes my heart purr.
The garden I am working on in Harvard, MA is rocky, mossy and sweet. I have been adding a lot of tiny fairy-like flowers. I am envisioning small diminutive blossoms and bulbs dancing in between lichen covered rock.


What would your ‘one day’ garden look like?

Even though I have a garden, my one day garden or what I call the garden that lives in my head will have lots of fun sanguisorbas, tulips and alliums. I love incorporating woody shrubs and trees into the garden. My dirty secret as a gardener is that I like trees better without leaves. I am especially loving hawthorns lately and am crazy about anything that blooms on a naked branch like quince, corylopsis and witch hazels. I love the erratic structure and bones that woody shrubs bring to the composition.

Roanne Robbins Grandmother

Do you have any favorite or sentimental plants or flowers?  Why are they a favorite?

I love lilacs. They are my childhood love. My grandmother’s home was engulfed in them: she was such a lovely woman. Her mother brought them over from her childhood home in the UK.  My parents have one of the original lilacs in their garden and there are two baby plants waiting for my brother and I.

I also love lupines because my 3 year old daughter, Nora is in love with them. We went Lupine hunting in Franconia Notch this year and it was pure magic. I highly recommend lupine-seeing in Sugar Hill, NH and while you are there stop in at Polly’s Pancakes for breakfast!

Daughter and the lupines

What is your earliest or favorite gardening related memory?

I clearly remember being in the garden with my father, who is an amazing gardener, pausing while weeding strawberries to watch a thunderstorm roll in. I think I remember this because of the smell that comes along after a storm -ozone or petrichor? I seem to just remember it in snippets of senses. The tasty wet berries, the smell of the air, the wet cement of the patio, the green hedges which look so very green in the stormy light, the pouring rain and my dad’s smile. I think I was 6.

What are three cardinal design rules that you think universally apply to outdoor projects?

Play with your design. It is great to have a coherent plan but not at the expense of all the fun experimentation brings. I was an art major so color and composition is always on my mind. At times I was too rigid. But then I read a great article that Tom Fischer wrote when he was the editor at Horticulture Magazine that basically went on how we gardeners should  F**K the color wheel and be a bit more brave. I photocopied it and pinned it to my office tack board. It was very inspiring.

Scale and Proportion are important.  If your container plantings look off and you don’t quite know why chances are the scale or proportion is off.
Extract the vernacular of your surroundings. To me, container plantings and floral arrangements look best when they have something to visually connect to.

Roanne Recommends….

I love great plants people who are growing wonderful plants with integrity, heart and thoughtfulness. I love when I can shop at nurseries I love like Van Berkum Nursery in Deerfield, NH., Glover Perennials & Landcraft in Long Island and Flower Company in Maine.  Its also great when you can shop larger scale nurseries with great plants and knowledgable staff. You cannot beat the staff at Sylvan Nursery in Westport, MA.  I also love visiting Snug Harbor Farm in Kennebunk, Maine. Again, great staff and an amazing owner makes it much more than just plants.

Garden, plantsy road trips are very important to me. Pilgrimages to Terrain and Stone Barns are worth every penny in gas.

Personally I am obsessing over fine gardening tools. Like the gorgeous yet functional Sneeboer ‘Lily Shovel’ and the luxurious ‘MIRA’ trowel from PKS Bronze.

papaver orientale royal

Oh and that Papaver orientale ‘Royal Chocolate Distinction’, she is haunting me.

images from: Roanne Robbins, and RHS

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