I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer so far! Whether you are relaxing at the beach, on your way home from vacation, or just trying to make it through this heat, it is time to give your plants some summer love! Following spring and the first chunk of summer weather, I like to call July the “third season”. It’s possible that your plants got fried during these warm days, so it is time to refresh your containers, window boxes, and flower beds. Adding colorstar fertilizer to any new plants will help extend their season. Succulents are also a great option if you don’t have a lot of time for your plants. Other than freezing temperatures, succulents can stay alive almost year-round! Go around and pull out dead or bloomed out plants and see some of my favorites below to add to your containers.


FULL SHADE: This plant needs a little more love and attention but does great on a front porch. Caladiums and Maiden Hair Ferns are just a perfect combination. Now I did not even plant these guys, I literally took them out of the pot and put them into a container with no holes. Both of these plants love water- they are what I like to call water hogs. I give them two cups of water once a week for them to thrive.

FULL SUN: If you follow me you know I just love succulents! They just keep getting prettier and prettier every year to me. Now of course in the south you have to replant them every year (unless you can bring them in every time there is a threat of freeze). But if you are just slap done with watering your containers this summer and you came back from vacation and everything looks fried, just stuff and shove some succulents. They love the full sun and take the dog days of summer.

FULL SHADE: Hydrangeas, tropicals, and any mix of ferns always dresses up any container. If you water your Hydrangeas well they will eventually fade and look antique like in this photo.

FULL SUN: White Mandevilla, succulents, pink Angelonia, and pink Trailing Vinca love the heat and will put on a show for days!

FULL SUN: Boxwood, purple fan flowers, cuban oregano, and diamond frost just love the summer heat and full intense sun.

First off, let’s clarify what exactly a landscape designer or architect actually is. Yes, a landscape designer does tell you what color flowers to put in your yard and which bushes will best frame your windows, but the work of a landscape designer encompasses so much more. Hiring a designer is about creating “good bones” or a solid foundation for your yard. This is an investment that will not just last while you are in the home but, if done correctly, can last for decades. There are many wonderful things you as an individual can do around your own yard but hiring a landscape designer will help you avoid mistakes, and will they will bring the foresight and experience of what will and what won’t work for you!

My number one priority in any landscape project is functionality. My philosophy is that every aspect of your yard or garden should have 360-degree accessibility. You should be able to walk around each part of your yard and plants, shrubs, or trees should be planted where you can easily get to them. Also, your space should be designed specifically for your family. Do you have small children? There will need to be space for them as they grow whether that is a future basketball hoop or a playground! Are you trying to downsize? There is no need for you to have a massive garden or landscape design. Not only should a good designer help design what works for you now, but they should be looking towards the future. Some of the homes that we have worked on require a long-term plan of 50 years or more! A good designer will help you make wise investments about each aspect of your design.

One of the main things that I share with each client is that if you are not planning on making an investment towards proper irrigation and drainage in your yard, the rest of the project is a waste of your time and resources. Why? Because without correct water flow, other aspects of the landscape will not withstand time or outdoor elements. All it takes is one heavy storm to destroy plants without proper drainage. Irrigation will help your plants receive the right amount of water and without good coverage and watering, your plants will quickly fade. Without a drainage plan that expertly curated, your plants will sit in water and, just like any other living thing, will not survive. But if these aspects are done right, your yard and garden will be able to flourish for many many years. If you are wanting to make an investment in your home through landscape design, start with the good bones of proper drainage and irrigation.

While a landscape designer brings much to the table when it comes to your property, don’t get pressured into doing every phase at once! Live with your current landscape and get an understanding of what both you and your yard need! Start with a good drainage plan and after that you can move on to your evergreens, or your trees and shrubs. The last step for your yard is what I like to call the jewelry! This is all the color that gets added to your yard, from planted flowers to window boxes. When you are ready to make this investment in your home, sit down with a skilled and experienced designer who can help you create the best game plan for your space!

This is my plant haven! I put all my struggling plants here to keep them well watered.

Your kids are out of school for the summer, the heat has hit, and it is time to escape to somewhere cooler- or at least someplace with a beach! As you pack up for vacation and check things off your list there is one thing that might be really easy to forget- your plants! Before going out of town, it is important to make a plan for your plant’s survival while you’re away. It is the worst feeling to come back from a trip and see all your hard work wasted on dead plants. I have several things that I do when I go on a trip to keep my plants alive. Today I want to share these ideas with you!

Put your plants in the sink with some water to keep them alive!

For your outdoor plants here are my recommendations:
• If you are able, hire a friend, neighbor, or a student you know to come and water your outdoor plants. This way, your plants won’t miss a day of watering.
• If you have an irrigation system, gather all your potted plants in one place so that your sprinklers can hit them all every time.
• If you don’t have an irrigation system, invest in a drip tube system from your local hardware store. These systems only cost between $20-$60 and run on a battery powered timer connected to your water hose.
• Give your plants a lot of water before you leave, especially around the root ball. I don’t recommend doing this regularly because too much water can be bad for your plants but saturating your soil before you leave gives them water to drink while you are away.
• Give your foliage a drink as well before you leave.

Tips for Indoor plants:

• It is best to invest in indoor plants that don’t need a whole lot of water. Plants like pothos and birds nest ferns and succulents only need watering once a month which makes them perfect if you travel often.
• Before you leave, give your plants a lot of water to drink while you are away.
• One of my most used tricks is to put a couple of inches of water in your shower, bathtub, or kitchen sink. Then place your plants (still in their pots) in the water. Make sure your plant has drainage in the bottom to soak up the water! This gives them enough water to survive while you are gone. I have done this many times and very rarely have I come home to a dead plant.
• If you use pots without drainage, giving your plant 1-2 inches of water before you leave can give them enough to last until you water them next.
Self-watering bulbs are a great investment and work wonders on household plants.

Enjoy your summer travels and we hope our recommendations will allow you to come home to happy and healthy plants!

This is my favorite water nozzle, made by Dramm. I have had it forever and it gives just the right amount of pressure without damaging your flowers.


I have a huge affinity for window boxes in all shapes, sizes, and colors! They are very near and dear to my heart as they remind me of my childhood. My father is from Austria, and if you have ever been there or to other areas of Europe you probably noticed that window boxes play a strong role in the décor and personality of a structure. Growing up in Lawrenceville, Georgia, my dad brought his love of window boxes to our home and that memory has been with me ever since! We had window boxes on every window of our two-story house and my dad even welded a copper apparatus to water them! Each box’s key feature was red geraniums and I just remember looking out the window as a young girl and those red beauties being front and center.

A boatload of succulents!

The tall plant in the center is a Kimberly Queen Fern, the white flowers are white begonias, the trailing plant in the corner is called Jack Frost, and the green and white leaf plant is an Alexander the Great.

A window box can be a great way to easily frame a window and bring color to your home. We use them frequently on our client’s homes and the boxes on my own windows bring in gorgeous humming birds and butterflies! Below I have included a few of my favorite window boxes in all different shapes and colors coming from clients to our travels! Next, I want to share a few of my tried and true tips and tricks so you can have the perfect box this season!

Birds Nest Fern, holly ferns, and angel wing begonias make for a window box that loves the shade!

I wish I knew the names of each plant, but they are a fun and easy way to dress up any wall!

Tips from Me to You

  • Every box should have three types of plants- tall plants in the center, shorter plants as fillers, and a trailing plant to soften the edges. Some of my favorites are pink Angelonia (something tall), diamond frost and pink million bells (filler), and Cuban oregano (trailing).
  • Window boxes are small containers, so you need to maximize the space your plants have to grow. Don’t use rocks or pebbles at the bottom as they take up precious root space.
  • Add as much soil as you can to give your plants the most space
  • The bigger the box the better! Small pots turn into crockpots here in the south- they trap heat, killing your plants.
  • The tougher the plant the better, your box will be taking a lot of sun! The pictures below feature sturdy plants.
  • We love to build boxes for our clients because this way you can get the exact measurements you want. But if building isn’t your forte, check out these boxes from Home Depot.

The white lace-like flowers are lobelia, the pink ones are pink million bells, the green and white leaves are Cuban oregano, and the tall white flowers are diamond frost.

I hope each and every one of you had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend, getting to spend time with friends and family as we graciously remember those who gave everything for the freedom we get to enjoy. For our team here at Carmen Johnston Gardens we have had a wonderful and busy spring with many projects keeping us on our toes but last week my husband Tommy and I were able to escape to Palm Beach for the long weekend and enjoy some restful quality time on the idyllic island. As we returned from our trip, I just knew I had to share a few of our favorite places in Palm Beach with you! From where to stay, what to eat, and what to see and do, Palm Beach is the perfect getaway for every garden lover and landscape enthusiast.

We had the opportunity to stay at the beautiful hotel, The Colony, for our extended weekend stay and let me tell you- it is a landscape and architectural masterpiece all on its own! From the iconic pink color to its well-manicured grounds and pool we enjoyed every aspect the hotel had to offer. The décor, done by Dorothy Draper, was stunning and created a wonderful atmosphere in which to stay. Upon our arrival, we were greeted with the pleasant surprise that the island itself was not at all crowded! Now, let this just be our secret- but to have Palm Beach not be crowded on Memorial Day weekend was incredible! There was no traffic and no lines making our stay so peaceful! The Colony’s customer service was a highlight of our trip, making it one of the reasons I highly recommend booking your stay here! The location is ideal as well, as the hotel is within walking distance of shops and the beach and the hotel provided services to take us anywhere we needed to go. They have adorable bikes you can use to travel the island, the cutest pink golf cart they will drive you around in, or a fun Suburban with a surfboard on top! The weather was perfect for our excursions and for someone who works in the sun year-round to not break a sweat all weekend was just the icing on the cake!

The Colony has wonderful dining options and we enjoyed their famed tuna tartare, curried chicken salad, and lobster salad. Our favorite restaurant was Café Boulud at the Brazilian Court with food by Chef Daniel Boulud. I loved the Dover Sole and Tommy was a huge fan of the Parisian Gnocchi. We both devoured the Pommes Puree (truly the best mashed potatoes you will ever eat!). For desert, we visited Saint Ambroeus where their gelato, tea, and the flourless chocolate cookies are to die for! We also brunched here and loved all the menu had to offer. Another evening we visited Flories at the Four Seasons whose menu boasts of many seasonal and garden-driven entrees and drinks which we especially enjoyed. The Breakers Hotel was also a favorite brunch spot of ours during our trip. For a more budget-friendly meal, we definitely recommend Coyo Taco. The shrimp, grouper, and al pastor tacos paired with one of their homemade margaritas are perfect on a warm day!

While our trip was primarily for us to enjoy some much-needed R&R, we were able to use the bikes The Colony provided to ride around the island and take in the beautiful sights. The beaches are of course a wonderful place to spend time and we sure enjoyed some sand between our toes! We also rode our bikes around and admired many of the beautiful homes around the hotel. Each house was perfectly manicured, and the landscape and architecture were stunning! You sure know that you love what you do when you spend your vacation looking at landscape design! If you want to get out and visit some places on the island, we recommend the Worth Avenue shops with its charming piazza and enchanting stores. Of course, we had to visit some gardens on our trip and our favorites were Pan’s Garden and The Society of the Four Arts

We loved every second of our trip and cannot wait to go back and experience more of what Palm Beach has to offer. What are your suggestions for what to eat and do on the island? Do you have a favorite spot on your getaways? Let us know in the comments below! We hope our recommendations help you plan your next trip to beautiful Palm Beach, Florida!

Like many big cities around the globe, New York City boasts a wonderful array of florals and landscape design. From window boxes to restaurant gardens, displays of local and international flora can be found almost everywhere. Depending on where the city takes you, there is something for everyone from botanical gardens to community gardens to flower markets. 

New York’s botanical gardens are perfect to visit regardless of the time of year. With conservatories and greenhouses, these locations allow for collections of tropical and even local plants and flowers to grow year-round. One of my favorites is the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Its great location and reasonable entrance cost made it a perfect morning trip. I loved the detail put into each aspect of the landscaping and appreciated the thought that went into areas like the Shakespeare Garden. Its stunning Japanese garden with dozens of Cherry Blossom trees and large collection of tropical plants located within its conservatories makes it a perfect Saturday morning or late afternoon visit. 

A great way to capture the local landscape is to visit community gardens and parks around the city. Many of the gardens are run by the community and if you are a NYC resident you can contribute to these gardens on a regular basis. Jefferson Market Garden is a perfect example and my favorite garden I visited on my most recent trip to the city.  I spent over an hour here enjoying the peace and calm. Located in one of the busiest areas in the city, it is a wonderful place to take a break from the city rush. Including shading trees, a goldfish pond, and a beautifully designed walking path, community gardens bring the calm of nature to the City That Never Sleeps.

One way to bring New York’s florals into your home is through the countless flower markets such as corner bodegas, many of which offer bouquets on a daily basis.  Areas like Chelsea and Greenwich Village also contain a number of flower markets open to both professional florists and decorators as well as individuals looking to make a home arrangement. I loved how no matter which corner I turned on to, I was sure to find a well-designed window box or quaint flower market. The High Line in Chelsea is a perfect place to enjoy both the cityscapes and floral landscape. Whether you want to spend the day in an idyllic garden or pick up a bouquet on your way to dinner, New York City has something for every garden enthusiast. 

We love succulents, so low-maintenance! If you are a forgetful water-er or frequent traveler, these are the perfect plants for you. Succulents are perfect for the hot summer sun since they love to dry out. We planted with an Atlanta couple at the Home Depot in Midtown last weekend; check out the video below for a step-by-step tutorial. Make sure to check out the other posts on Planting a DIY Succulent Garden and Rehabbing Your Succulents. A few key points:

  • Succulents like a drier environment. Make sure you are using a high-quality ‘cactus soil’ or mix some sand into your regular potting soil that you have on-hand for proper moisture and drainage.
  • When picking succulents, make sure to choose a variety of colors, shapes and textures for richest look. I love to plant in odd numbers in containers because it makes centering and balance much easier.
  • Ensure your plants have some room to grow in their container with proper drainage. Space about 2 inches apart, and keep those roots in tact when planting.
  • The marble chips polish off this look perfectly, so clean and modern! These were less than $5 at the garden center! (similar here).
  • Make sure you aren’t over-watering your succulents. 2 times a month is plenty

And…. a few of my favorite succulent images

© 2013 | Haley Sheffield | www.haleysheffield.com

© 2013 | Haley Sheffield | www.haleysheffield.com

A small succulent garden in my favorite color pot, turquoise! From my post on How to Rehab Your Succulents.

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If you want to make a big impact, more is more! I love all of the varying colors and textures. From my post DIY Succulent Garden.

Hello, Atlanta friends!

This Saturday I will be at The Home Depot in Midtown at 650 Ponce de Leon Avenue. Grab some containers and come get your hands dirty with me for some good old-fashioned gardening fun. As an added bonus, you will leave with a gorgeous spring container garden that will make all your neighbors super jealous.

See you there!

Happy Spring from The Home Depot

Flowers and fashion–what’s not to love? That’s exactly what artist Anna Kincaide offers in her latest series of paintings. We found Anna via Gallery Orange, a contemporary art gallery in New Orleans owned and curated by the fabulous Tracy Gielbert. When we saw ‘Dreaming with You’ it stopped us in our tracks!

Artists We Love: Anna Kincaide and Our Love Affair with Hydrangeas 1

‘Dreaming with You’ by Anna Kincaide

Gorgeous, right? I am head over heels in love with the hydrangeas.

In her latest ‘Avant Garde’ series, Anna combines high fashion with vibrant flowers, and the result is nothing short of spectacular. She brilliantly captures the timeless, couture feel of the Cary Grant era, while also cropping out the subject’s face to enable viewers to better identify with each painting.

Artists We Love: Anna Kincaide and Our Love Affair with Hydrangeas 2

‘Take Me to Paradise’ by Anna Kincaide

A lot of Anna’s works feature hydrangeas, which just happen to be my favorite flowers. I frequently plant limelight hydrangeas in both clients’ gardens and my own because they have beautiful green and white blooms, which is also a favorite color combination of mine. Limelights can handle the full intense sun–perfect for summer! Hydrangeas are also perennials, so when you cut them back in the fall they will come back bigger and even more beautiful in the spring.

Artists We Love: Anna Kincaide and Our Love Affair with Hydrangeas 3

Hydrangeas in full bloom in my yard last summer.

Hydrangeas are also perfect to cut for flower arrangements inside of your home. With such big, beautiful blooms, you only need a few stems to make a big impact. Here is a simple arrangement in my sunroom right now.

A simple arrangement in my sunroom.

A simple arrangement in my sunroom.

Tip: Zip tie your blooms together to keep them standing nice and tall in the vase!

Like any great accessory, you can dress a hydrangea up or down. We recently worked with a bride who wanted a glamorous, Gatsby-esque wedding. An all-white color palette featuring hydrangeas was the perfect backdrop for the glitzy affair. Just add some crystals and you have an elegant look your guests will never forget.

Arrangements from the Flandry wedding

Arrangements from the wedding

Arrangements from the Flandry wedding

Arrangements from the wedding

Arrangements from the Flandry wedding

Arrangements from the wedding

If you are a lover of hydrangeas, or if you would like help choosing the perfect flowers for your special day, be in touch–we would love to help!

Wedding photos courtesy of: Eliza Morrill Photography