Fall and Winter Landscapes

If you haven’t done it yet, this is the time to fertilize and aerate your lawn; you’ll be rewarded in the spring! And getting those overgrown and/or diseased and dead trees trimmed now prevents the winter winds and heavy snows from breaking branches, possibly on your house.

But I don’t advise you to cut down all of the dead things in your garden. Winter can be a lovely time to view your garden with dried grasses standing and interesting seed pods, like those of the coneflower/echinecia which turn bold and black. Branches of redtwig dogwood add color, while evergreens and the many gray greens of our western plants, both annuals and perennials, add interest and additional color. Unusal shapes or gnarled branches, such as Harry Lauders Walking Stick give variety. Plan your garden for a seasonal interest and variety of textures and sizes. Even a small yard with spruce or small pine, juniper or broom,  redtwig, gambrel oak, Karl Forester Grass, Pyracantha or Cotoneaster, Coneflower, etc. can be lovely to view in winter, particularly if you have proper landscape lighting, so you can enjoy it from within your home.

And it is NOT too late to plant those spring flowering bulbs; they can be planted through November in most states. If you have voles/moles, you may wish to plant the bulbs in a underground “bucket” made of hardware cloth so the bulbs don’t get eaten.

At Breay Design, we know that your environment must fit YOU like your favorite shoes fit. Ask yourself, “Does the shoe…FIT?” If not, contact us. Sharon is an awarded, certified designer, speaker, and author on design. Also join us for further interior and yard-garden tips at http://www.facebook.com/breaydesignassociates.


Have you SWITCHED for the Holidays?

Tom and I just got back from SanAntonio. While there, we, of course, spent a lovely evening on the RiverWalk/Cruise again. We were a week too early to see the Holiday lights,but the gondola driver told us the city was installing three times the lights that they’ve had in the past.

Well, we all like festive lighting, but this certainly didn’t sound too environmentally based. ….Until he told us the entire lighting cost would only be a fraction of last years’ cost!  HOW?

They switched for the holidays! Today’s LED Holiday lights are reliable, fairly inexpensive and EXTREMELY economical to use. They will pay for themselves in a very short time, and continue to be economical to use for a long, long time, because they last much longer than any of our bulbs. Besides–there are no bulbs to break or go out.

L.E.D. stands for light emitting diodes; they are not bulbs at all, but produce a good white light (the current ones, not the earlier ones).

Although LEDs began being marketed about ten years ago, they were mainly used as novelty accent lighting for commercial buildings. As technology has progressed, LEDs are moving into offices and are just beginning to be seen in our homes. Recessed lighting seems to be the best interior method of handling LEDs at this point….in addition to strings  of light. They are the new lightinhg technology. Isnt it time to switch?

Remember your interior and exterior surroundings need to fit YOU like your favorite shoe fits you, in order to be functional and attractive. Ask yourself…..”Does the Shoe FIT?” If not, contact us; we are the experts in interior spaces and yard space. You’ll be glad you called or wrote us.

How about a Labyrinth in your Back Yard?

Ever heard of a Labyrinth? Webster defines it as an intricate structure of interconnecting passages which are difficult to find your way through. But for this blog post, I’m speaking of a garden labyrinth– interconnecting paths, that create a bit of a maze. Notice I said a “bit” of a maze. Nothing too difficult; this is a maze to allow us to relax and enjoy nature.

Recently, a client asked for some type of meditational garden space in their back landscaping. It was to be its own entity, but blend into the yard. We didn’t have hundreds of feet to devote on the labyrith. But we had enough to create a small version in approximately 30- 35 sq. ft. .

The whole idea is a bit like Zen, as you travel the paths of a labyrinth, walking in circles, or in this case, curved, organically shaped paths, you are to appreciate the beauty along the paths that take you to the center. By the time you reach the center, you are refreshed of mind and body.

In this narrow-pathed personal labyrinth, we still  had space to create along the way a shady garden strip, a hummingbird garden strip, a trellis garden strip, a water feature, a butterfly garden strip, a zen stone garden, and a small sculpture.  Both client and I loved creating it.

The labyrinth idea would not need to be circular in nature, but by doing so, it adds to the feeling of “getting away,” as you walk within the circle.  To be really effective, give it some low level night lighting.

Remember, your surroundings need to fit you like a favorite shoe fits you. Ask yourself, “Does the shoe….FIT?” If you need some help; contact us, Breay Design, the Space Specialists.


WHEW!  Summer is surely here, in all its exuberance! Many of you non-mountain dwellers have air conditioning or attic fans or “swamp coolers”—but it still seems hot! Aside from bathing, swimming, and drinking iced beverages all day, what is YOUR best method to create a cooling environment?  Please send in your responses, and I’ll share a couple of the best ones with our readers.

What do I do?  Well, I use a lot of my mom’s old techniques. I block some of the sunshine from coming into the house. It’s hard for me to live in a dark environment, but even simple sheers at the windows are a help. We have light-blocking top-down / bottom-up shades for the 6’ high bedroom windows, and set them to give us early sunlight only, while still having some daylight in the rooms through the entire day. It’s amazing how only 18” of opening in each window will give plenty of daylight in the summer.

Our mountain home doesn’t need air conditioning, but we do keep the hottest window exposures closed until evening. We’ve always planted or had a few shade trees in the yard, shading some part of the home. We save MUCH energy by these few tricks.

This is the time to get the cooler colored accents through the home, those in sky blues, ice blues, grass greens, mint greens, and purples and blue violets. Be sure to have live plants around, perhaps a water feature or two, and take the extraneous out of the space to give a spacious, airy feeling.

Have cooler-evening or under-shade-trees get togethers. Splash the table with bright, colorful summer prints and foods. Set a garden atmosphere. Again, have a water feature.

Summer is a wonderful time for enjoying our homes as havens of relaxation. Create the environment, and then give yourself a little down-time daily to enjoy them.  Remember–YOUR home should fit you like a favorite shoe. Ask yourself, “Does the Shoe….FIT?” And, give me a call if you need some help adapting your spaces to your lifestyle.

I look forward to your comments!–Sharon Breay, Breay Design   &   “Does the Shoe….FIT?” Workshops

A Light in the Garden


compliments of OutdoorLights

compliments of OutdoorLights

Once there was a poem about a light in the garden. Is “a” light enough? Probably not. Exterior lighting needs to be planned as carefully as we plan our interiors and our architecture. So often when I am looking out the window of a home in evening, all I see are the reflections of the interior home staring back at me. I see none of the lovely grounds beyond!  If this sounds like your home, here are tips to rectify the problem.

Yards are to be enjoyed in the evening as well as in the day, and from the inside as well as from the outside. A little string of low voltage or LEDs, or solar lights usually won’t do the job—not because of the type of light, but because of the straight line of lighting fixtures. Too much of a good thing becomes too predictable—and ultimately, boring. Nor will a huge sensor light over the garage door create the feeling of peace and mystique that are so appealing in a night garden. Nor will lighting up the yard like a commercial parking lot be appreciated by viewers, particularly neighbors! 

By mixing lighting heights and intensities, and what the light illuminates, we can create an interesting, unobtrusive night scene that can be enjoyed both from inside and outside. Think about the spaces in your yard. You will do well to provide some ambient, low level lighting for general visibility, some task lighting at areas such as steps, and some accent lighting to focus on a favorite area of architecture, or lawn ornament, or shrub or tree. The task lighting should be about twice as bright as the ambient light, and the accent light, which will only shine on one element of focus, can be 15 times as bright as the ambient light, for real “punch.” 

Next blog, we’ll discuss some methods of lighting the entry. 

See you then!—Sharon Breay