Garden Blogger Fling 2013

I attended my first garden blogger fling in San Francisco and wow, what a great time. Gardens, people, and plant shopping – what more could a girl ask for?  My part of the weekend included a trip to Annie’s Annuals where I couldn’t resist a few purchases, the Wave Garden in Point Richmond and a private garden in Palo Alto.

I also got to take a morning photography session with Saxon Holt, landscape photographer extraordinaire. Now *that* was worth waking up at 6AM! Usually I’m just entering REM sleep at that time…

So, here are some of my favorite photos from the weekend…

Habitat Design Holiday Pop Up Shop

Looking for some great holiday gifts???  If you’re in Sonoma or just feel like being there, come join us for our 1st Pop Up Shop of the holiday Season.  BIG SAVINGS – we promise:)

  • WHERE:  514 Donald Drive, Sonoma, CA.  Map it
  • WHEN: This Friday and Saturday (Dec 7th & 8th, 2012)
  • TIMES:  10AM- 5PM (NO early birds, puleassse)


Name That eBook – WIN the Title Contest!!!

Posted on Nov 25, 2012 in blog | No Comments

Habitat Design is coming out with our first eBook so we need an awesome title.  We are turning to you, the collective creative minds out there, for great ideas.

So, here’s the deelio:

  • WHAT:  Submit as many possible names as you want
  • HOW:  Leave your ideas as a comment on this blog post, on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter
  • BY:  December 4, 2012 @ 5PM PST
  • WHO:  Bonnie & Jessy will choose the winning name.  The winner agrees to let us own the rights to the name of course:)
  • Read below for the eBook synopsis.  We love quirky/funny.

The Winner will receive a very cool Bird Cafe Feeder by Umbra.



eBook Opening Statement

Welcome, fellow garden lovers!

Let me guess. You want a beautiful landscape but don’t know where to start. Or maybe the last time you hired someone to landscape your garden, you were disappointed in the results.

I know just how you feel.  Before I became a landscape designer, I spent a lot of time and money figuring out how to turn my grassy front yard into a Mediterranean-inspired herb garden. Although I loved the results, it cost more and took longer than I expected.

I got to thinking about how I could have done things better. What could I do for my clients that I had forgotten to do for myself?

It turns out that in my eagerness to build my fantasy garden, I’d skipped over an essential step:  Planning!

The goal of these pages is to give you a better understanding of what you need to do before starting the design.  It’s especially important to have the discussion with your ‘other half’ when deciding goals and budget.

Throughout the following pages, we will look at three main areas to get you started:

  • Your Goals
  • Your Budget
  • Your Current Layout (Base Map)

After you finish reading this, you will be a big step closer to having your dream landscape. You will have a better idea of what you want and what it will take to get there.

After you’re done with the planning phase, go to to do your design.  The design process is easy, quick and affordable.  Most importantly, you make the design choices – your vision, your garden, our plan.  Your friends will think you’re a pro!


There you have it…name away…







3 Yummy Holiday Side Dishes – Bonnie & Jessy learn to cook!

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 in blog, Holiday & Gifts | No Comments

Oh no, the holidays are approaching and you have no idea what side dishes to make.  I know, this topic is keeping you up at nights.   Never fear, my sister-in-law invited Bonnie and me to join her for a ‘holiday sides’ cooking class, so now you can sleep well at night – we have 3 delicious and easy recipes to share.

We met at a private residence with the kitchen that had me drooling.  The focus?  Easy side dishes for the holidays.  A champagne toast and we were on our way….Great fun, great company, great food.  Here’s what we learned along with some really helpful cooking tips from Don, our chef and teacher.

Tante Marie’s Cranberry Chutney with Figs
I am not a fan of Cranberry sauce for the holidays, but this chutney is a winner.  I plan to make it year round.  Its not your ordinary red sauce that never gets eaten.  The ginger gives it just the right zip without overwhelming the taste buds.


2 12-oz pkgs. cranberries
2 oranges, chopped with skins, seeds removed
1/2 cup chopped red onions
4 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
2 sticks cinnamon, broken into 1″ pieces
1 tsp salt
3 cups sugar
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried Black Mission figs, halved
1/4 cup dark raisins


  1. In an enamel pan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and cook over moderate heat stirring often
  2. Stir until the sugar dissolves completely and the chutney comes to a boil
  3. Continue cooking until the cranberries ‘pop’. That’s when the skin on the cranberries split open

TIP: Don’t over-stir or over-cook to keep the chutney looking nice

Yukon Gold & Yam Mash

This dish was really tasty and easy to make.  The ricer was a great tool to get the mash really smooth.  I love kitchen gadgets…

TIP:  To keep potatoes from browning before you use them, immerse them in water with a little lemon added.  It’ll stop the browning.

Pumpkin ‘bowls’ atop the Roost Wood Pedestal Tray


1 lb yams, peeled and diced
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
kosher salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, diced
4 oz creme fraiche
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tsp whole grain mustard
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp freshly ground pepper




  1. In a large saucepan, cover potatoes and yamsin water with 1 tbsp salt.
  2. Bring to a boil and simmer 20 – 25 minutes, until the potatoes and yams are tender
  3. Drain in colander and return to saucepan
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and mix well
  5. Use a rice to get a smooth to get the mash smooth and creamy.
The pans looked like big medeleine molds

Corn Sticks

Arriving to a party starving is never a great idea, but Don feted us with these tasty and fun shaped cornbread sticks.  Needless to say, these go fast so make a lot.  Don mentioned that you can get creative with these by adding bacon, scallions or chilies to the batter.  He added some fresh corn which added a nice texture and taste.

Listening intently to the chef


1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose
2 tbsp sugar
1.25 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp milk
1 egg, separated


TIP:  Eggs separate more easily when still cold, but make sure they are room temperature when you use them to bake.

  1. Preheat oven to 450
  2. Lightly brush the corn stick pans with oil, place in hot oven, and heat until very hot and oil sizzles, about 15 minutes
  3. Place cornmeal in a large bowl and sift together the dry ingredients into the corn meal.  Make a well in the center
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, cream, milk, and egg yolk.  Add to the dry ingredients and gently fold together
  5. In a small, dry bowl, whip the egg white until soft peaks form.  Fold into the batter (P.S. – we didn’t beat whip the egg whites, we were lazy!)
  6. Remove the hot pans from the oven and fill the molds 3/4 full.
  7. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown around the edges

Fun Things to Do After Thanksgiving

After you’re done with the Turkey stuffing (I’m not talking bread-stuff), there are some fun things happening around the Bay Area:

Photo via

Holiday Traditions @ Filoli:  Check out Filoli’s annual ‘magical showcase of holiday decorations, holiday merchandise, gifts and exceptional personal and household items.  Kicking off this 9 day event is the Premier Access Shopping Evening.  Enjoy a leisurely stroll and see the decorations while listening to music, drinking wine and eating hors d’oeuvres.  There’s good shopping too!!!

For more info, go to

Photo via

Succulent Gardens – Make & Give: Choose from one of three dates to participate in this free session, hosted by one of our favorite nurseries – Flora Grubb in San Francisco.  They have lots of free ongoing workshops and this one looks cool.  Their garden design specialist, Patrick Lannan, teaches you how to create a beautiful succulent garden.  And he even teaches you how to take care of them!

For more info, check out

Thanksgiving Recipes

Posted on Nov 16, 2012 in blog, Holiday & Gifts | No Comments

We have three yummy recipes for you for Turkey Day – they’re easy and quick and they are family-Gemmell-approved!!!  We love starting with dessert, so here goes…

Photo via

Jack Daniels Pecan Pie – This was Bonnie’s Dad’s favorite!!!


  • 2 large eggs slightly beaten
  • ¼ cup dark Karo syrup
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • 4 tsp. corn starch
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup of Jack Daniels
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet or dark chocolate
  • 12 ounces pecan halves

Pre-heat oven to 350

1)   Mix the eggs and Karo in a large bowl

2)   Combine the sugar, corn starch and add to the egg mixture

3)   Melt the chocolate and butter and cool.

4)   Add the Jack and combine with the egg mixture.

5)   Beat together in mixer on low speed.

6)   Pour in a 9” unbaked pie shell. Lay the pecan halves on top in a circle so it looks like a pro!

Bake on cookie sheet for one hour. Pie should be firm and will set-up while cooling.

Photo via

Baked Ham with Brandy Sauce – An old Ohio tradition


  • 12-14 lb. choice ham with short shank (the kind that has the fat all over and is not the modern day looking ham!)
  • 6-8 Cloves
  • 1 pound Brown Sugar
  • As much Honey as you would like
  • 1 pint apple juice or cider

1) Soak ham overnight in cold water, drain, and re-cover with fresh cold water.

2) Bring to boil and simmer until tender. (aprox. 2 ½ hours)

3) Remove rind and some of the fat.

4) Make a series of cuts across the remaining fat, forming squares or diamonds about ½ inch in diameter.

5) Put in a roaster, stud with cloves and cover with brown sugar and honey.

6) Add apple juice or cider over top.

7) Glaze in a hot oven, basting frequently until is has a lovely color to it. (that is how my grandmother did it—you just know when its ready!

Brandy Sauce

Bring to a boil:

  • 1 quart apple juice or cider
  • 1 pound brown sugar
  • 6 cloves
  • Juice of 2 oranges

Removes from stove and add 4 ounces of brandy.  Serve with the ham and enjoy!


Photo via


Kentucky Christmas – but you can drink it at Thanksgiving too!


  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • ¼ ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram (rum spiced allspice liqueur) – get this @ BevoMo
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon honey mixed with 1 tsp. water (orange flower honey is the best)
  • Dash of angostura bitters

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all of the remaining ingredients and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and enjoy. Decorate with a slice of lemon.   Now DRINK!!!

Bonnie’s Picks: Fun Fall and Halloween Home Accents

Posted on Oct 12, 2012 in blog, Bonnie's Pick, Holiday & Gifts | No Comments

Judging by the falling leaves, the smell of fireplace smoke in the air and the crisp evenings, I would say fall is in full swing! Time to bring out the Halloween and harvest-inspired home accents.

Here are some of my favorite this season:

Skull Place Mats



I love that these place mats by Belle Banquet feature black and white engravings from Dr. Prichard’s “Natural History of Man,” published in London in 1855. They’re what I call spooky-chic. Plus, they’re made of recycled paper and have a high-quality, water-resistant coating. Get yours here >

Branchy Bowl


Available in our online store, the Branchy Bowl is creepy and elegant at the same time. It’s perfect for holding your trick-or-treat candy, some small decorative pumpkins and more — the options are endless! And it’s made of cast iron so you know it’ll last. Get yours here >

Mums Hand Woven Coconut Fiber Doormat


This doormat features my favorite fall colors in a modern, friendly way. I love the floral design and the fact that it’s been printed on all-natural coconut fiber.  Get yours here >

Bonnie-Gemmell-Habitat-Design This article was written by Bonnie Gemmell, co-founder & Style Curator of Habitat Design. Habitat Design provides full-service online landscape design planning for small and mid-sized gardens, & an online store of unique garden & home furnishings — all at an affordable price. Bonnie believes that beautiful gardens should be accessible & affordable for everyone. Check out Habitat Design >

Create a Fall and Halloween-friendly Container Garden!

Posted on Oct 11, 2012 in blog, Garden wisdom, Holiday & Gifts | No Comments

Halloween is coming up in less than three weeks, which means that now is the time to start decorating!

In addition to the usual carved pumpkins and spiderwebs, why not create your own fall-inspired container garden that will last all season — and beyond?

I put together the arrangement above fairly easily, and love how it complemented my other Halloween decorations.

To create a fall feel, I used just a few basic colors: orange and red (like you see on the trees as they change colors), magenta, and lime green for contrast. These colors are part of the ‘Hot’ color palette (see examples of this color palette here).

By adding a creepy spider on the side of the planter — voilà! — we’ve got ourselves a Halloween container garden that pops!

And once Halloween passes, make a swift transition to Thanksgiving by switching out the creepy crawlers for gords, dried corn and other harvest elements (see above).

How to create your own:

  • Make sure you have a partially sunny area to place your arrangement. These plants prefer shade to sun.
  • Go plant shopping! Pick up the following plants (numbers correspond to the photo above):
  • 1) Coleus ‘Merlot’
  • 2) Coleus ‘Rustic Orange’
  • 3) Ipomea batatas ‘Sweet Caroline Light Green’
  • 4) Chrysanthemum ‘Red’
  • 5) Nephrolepsis exalta compact selection
  • Bay Area resident? Pick up your plants where we got them — at Roger Reynolds Nursery — a great local nursery in Menlo Park, where the plants above cost us only $15 total.
  • After planting, add some final Halloween flair in the form of a giant spider, light-up pumpkin or mummy hand. Have fun with it!
  • When your Chrysanthemum flowers begin to fall off, switch it out for a similar color flower.

Jessy-Berg-Habitat-Design This article was written by Jessy Berg, professional landscape designer & co-founder of Habitat Design. Habitat Design provides full-service online landscape design planning for small and mid-sized gardens, & an online store of unique garden & home furnishings — all at an affordable price. Jessy believes that beautiful gardens should be accessible & affordable for everyone. Check out Habitat Design >

This Week in the Bay: A History of the Native Plants and People of California

Posted on Oct 8, 2012 in blog, SF Bay Area Events | No Comments

If you love history and gardening, this will be the perfect event for you!

Photo via

Taking place this Sunday at Gamble Gardens, Frank Niccoli — owner of The Village Gardener — will be speaking about the relationship of endemic native plants to the first people of California. You’ll learn how plants were used as food, medicine, and materials for everyday life.

The event is $25 for Gamble Garden members, and $35 for non-members. Register here >

Photos: Plantspotting in Kauai

Posted on Oct 4, 2012 in blog, Garden visits | No Comments

I’ve been on a little vacation in Anahola and Poipu, Kauai this week and thought I’d share some photos with you. It’s so refreshing to see some new plants that you don’t find on the West Coast very often!


PS: The vacation home I stayed at in Anahola is called Kauai Gardens (I highly recommend it, but beware — no A/C). For more information, click here.