ISSUE 5  |  Pattern Language

Gardening 101: Pincushion Protea

February 02, 2017 6:00 AM

BY Kier Holmes

Pincushion Protea, Leucospermum: “Flower Power “

Let’s get straight to the point—or pinpoint in this case: If you live in a warm climate, you need to grow Pincushion Protea if you crave a low-maintenance and evergreen tropical shrub that produces exotic flowers for bold arrangements. As a garden designer, I hope my enthusiasm and deep devotion to Leucospermum will be evident, but just in case I proclaim: I love this plant.


Above: Photograph by Malcolm Manners via Flickr. Yellow pincushion protea blooms in its native environment at Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden in Cape Town.  For more, see 11 Garden Ideas to Steal from South Africa.

Now the bad news: on average this shrub lives only about eight years, but please overlook this fact and know that Leucospermums can be a dramatic and major focal point in your garden when in bloom.


Above: No explanation needed for how Leucospermum got its nickname, Pincushion Protea. But it just as easily could have been called Fireworks Protea. Photograph by Kier Holmes.


Above: Leucospermum saxosum grows in the wild in the mountains of Mozambique. Photograph by Ton Rulken via Flickr.

Cheat Sheet

  • Pair Leucospermums with other dramatic-looking tropical plants.
  • Extraordinary cut flower and long blooming.
  • Evergreen and low maintenance.

Keep It Alive

  • Plant Leucospermums in a sunny, frost-free and open spot—give it space for good air circulation. Pincushion Protea tolerates seaside conditions.
  • Needs well-drained (but not too rich) soil.
  • Drought tolerant once established.
  • Pincushion Protea needs no fertilizer. Another bonus.



Above: Leucospermum is a good companion to succulents. Photograph by Jean via Flickr.

While most plants are barely waking up from their winter’s nap, Leucospermums bloom in late winter or early spring and last for months. To prolong the bloom season, you can regularly remove faded flowers. Luckily, most plants produce enough glorious flowers so you can leave some on the plant and cut some for arrangements without feeling guilty (like I always inevitably do).


Above: All it takes is one stellar Leucospermum flower such as this ‘High Gold’ variety to make a bold floral statement. Photograph by Kier Holmes.

Many different cultivars exist, and because of increased popularity there are some serious breeding programs in South Africa and Hawaii now producing amazing hybrids with disease-resistant characteristics. Cultivars range from bold ground covers to large shrubs, all possessing exquisite flower power.

For more of our favorite tropical plants, see:

ISSUE   |  Children's Garden

10 Easy Pieces: Classic Doorbell Buttons

February 02, 2017 4:00 AM

BY Janet Hall

The humble doorbell button works hard and, in our opinion, needs to look good. After all, first impressions are everything. We’ve rounded up our ten favorite classic doorbell buttons with rectangular or round plates.

N.B.: Doorbell buttons do not include chimes or electronic bell wiring, but are replacements for existing buttons, and are wire ready.

Rectangular Plate Doorbells


Above: The classic beveled-edge Putnam Doorbell Button is made of solid brass with a choice of six finishes including oil rubbed bronze (shown); $29 at Rejuvenation Hardware.


Above: Above: The Convex Doorbell Button, shown in white bronze light, ranges from $132 to $167 at Rocky Mountain Hardware.


Above: A Rectangular Bell Push in a satin nickel finish is £25 from Willow and Stone.


Above: A Rectangular Contemporary Door Bell is available in two finishes; for information and pricing see Sun Valley Bronze.


Above: From Byron Doorbells, a Surface Mounted Bell Push Button is available in two finishes, brass (shown) and unlacquered braas, for from $37.50 to $40 depending on finish at ATG Stores.

Round Plate Doorbells


Above: A Round Contemporary Door Bell is available in two finishes; for more information and pricing, see Sun Valley Bronze.


Above: Baldwin’s Round Bell Button is available in several finishes including oil-rubbed bronze (shown); $31.98 from Amazon.


Above: A Doorbell Plate Made of Iron is €25.50 from Manufactum.


Above: A Beaded Round Doorbell is available in four finishes including oil rubbed bronze (shown) and is $14.95 from Signature Hardware.


Above: Above: The Doyle Doorbell is from Katonah Hardware; contact for pricing and availability.

For more ways door hardware, see:


Hardscaping 101: Built-in Barbecues

February 02, 2017 2:00 AM

BY Kier Holmes

Food cooked outdoors tastes better. And while the phrase “outdoor kitchen” can describe a setup as modest as a grill on wheels, a built-in barbecue is a hardscape feature that elevates the act of cooking outdoors to a pleasure.

When you design an outdoor kitchen with a built-in barbecue, it’s a good opportunity to create countertop space for prep and under-counter storage. Read on for everything you need to know about designing a built-in barbecue:


Above: The use of a single material—yellow cedar—on backsplash, under-counter cabinets, and a storage closet unifies the look in a San Francisco garden designed by architect Brennan Cox. For more, see Steal This Look: An Outdoor Kitchen Hidden from the Tourists on Lombard Street. Photograph courtesy of Brennan Cox.

What is a built-in barbecue?

A built-in barbecue—also known as a barbecue island—is a structure with a grill (and possible other amenities)  that creates an outdoor kitchen.

In the 1950s, custom-built barbecues were very popular before mass-produced charcoal and gas grills took over. Now, the look and function of a built-in barbecue is back in demand.


Above:Photography courtesy of Belathée Photography.

An outdoor kitchen in Seattle blends family entertaining with modern Scandinavian-influenced design. Outdoor kitchen appliances include an Artisan gas grill, U-Line refrigerator, and Broan hood. For more, see Sleekness in Seattle: Modern Landscape, Midcentury House.

Do I need a built-in barbecue?

A built-in barbecue can be expensive, so you may want and/or need this outdoor feature for a few reasons:

  • A sizable structure can be accommodated into your landscape.
  • You frequently barbecue and entertain so it will be well used and not become a spider hotel.
  • Extra storage and shelf space for prep, cooking, and serving large groups is one your “Need” list.
  • Adding value to your home is a priority.



Above: Photograph by Dan Wonderly courtesy of Kim Hoyt Architect.

A simple outdoor kitchen in this Brooklyn outdoor space designed by architect Kim Hoyt doesn’t distract from the garden. “We designed the grill so that it feels more like a potting table rather than the typical outdoor kitchen cabinet,” said Hoyt. For more of this garden, see Architect Visit: A Dining Room Wallpapered with Climbing Vines in Brooklyn.

What are the design guidelines for a built-in barbecue?

To start, the grill is easy (other than trying to figure out if you want propane, gas, or charcoal) because this unit you buy. The enclosure, however, is trickier because of all the design factors, rules and materials to consider when planning a built-in. Here’s some information to get you thinking:

Appearance: Consider the style of your house and your landscape. A sleek stainless steel island or a poured in place structure would blend nicely with a modern home and garden, whereas a historic home may work well with a brick barbecue island. Consider matching the masonry, brickwork, and colors to what already exists to create a cohesive design.


Above: Photograph by Matthew Williams. For more of this outdoor kitchen setup in the Netherlands, see our Gardenista Book.

Placement: Think about fire safety. Position your barbecue where it won’t pose a fire threat to other structures or plants, and think about smoke patterns so people outside—and inside—don’t get smoked out. Remember to create a comfortable buffer from any seating area to keep guests protected from radiating heat.

Tip: Check with the local authorities for fire code regulations before deciding on placement.

Maintenance: Design your barbecue for easy cleaning and repair. Plan ahead so that if parts need to be replaced you don’t need serious surgery to get pieces out.

Barbara Bestor + DISC Interiors, Los Angeles, Architecture, Photography, Design

Above: Photograph by Laure Joliet.

In this garden designed by Judy Kameon of Elysian Landscapes, Kameon’s design emanates from the threshold of the house, including a pergola with a sunshade and a patio large enough for an outdoor living room, dining table, and kitchen. For more, see Designer Visit: An Indoor-Outdoor Garden in LA.

What are other features to consider in an outdoor kitchen?

Amenities, amenities. You can go the whole nine yards by installing a refrigerator, sink with hot and cold water, multiple cabinets, and lighting for late-night cooking. I have a client whose outdoor kitchen even has a dishwasher. Serious stuff. How far you go is up to you, and your budget.

Tip: Most outdoor appliances cost more than the indoor version.

I can hear my devoted-to-barbecuing husband chanting, “Counter space, counter space, I need more counter space!” Remember that your cook space needs ample room for prep and tools storage.


Above: Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.

What materials are best for a built-in barbecue?

The materials you choose should be durable, long-lasting, and a match for the architecture and style of your house and garden.  A built-in BBQ, like an addition to your house, can be built with similar materials. Some examples are: concrete blocks faced with stone, brick, and steel.

For the countertops, a wide variety of materials exist but make sure your choice can withstand the elements and extreme temperatures. The same holds true for tile or brick surfaces.


Above: Photograph by Emma Cooper Key.

A rustic slate barbecue in a garden on the Cornish Coast. To see more of this garden visit: Landscape Designer Visit: Spirals in Stone on the Cornish Coast by Mary Reynolds.

Do I need a permit for a built-in barbecue?

You may not need a permit to install a built-in barbecue though any new gas or electrical lines will require permits, so please check with your local building department. Last, if you are installing utility lines seriously consider hiring a qualified professional.

Is a built-in barbecue a DIY project?

The construction of a built-in barbecue can be a complex process due to proper grading requirements and utility installation, so for safety and durability consider hiring a masonry or landscaping contractor with experience building outdoor kitchens. However, a quick but not inexpensive way to install a custom grill area is to purchase a prefabricated unit. Warning: if you don’t live near a manufacturer be prepared for a significant shipping bill.

For more of our favorite outdoor kitchens and cooking tools, see: