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Quick Takes With: Taylor Palmer & Anastasia Sonkin

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Quick Takes With: Taylor Palmer & Anastasia Sonkin

July 7, 2024

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Above: Anastasia and Taylor (right) at their office.

Talc Studio‘s design aesthetic is the landscape equivalent of the perfectly mussed bedhead. Their outdoor spaces for clients up and down California are naturalistic and bordering on wildness, but at the same time highly considered and chic. “We are artists and designers that make gardens. We are gardeners that live and breathe art and design,” is how its founders, Taylor Palmer and Anastasia Sonkin, describe themselves. “Grounded in the arts and aesthetics, our medium allows us to explore the dense wonder of the natural world.”

Next up for the duo: “We are opening a studio space and a retail shop + showroom in West Marin (Northern California), right on the glorious Highway 1. Stay tuned and come visit us this fall.” We can’t wait! In the meantime, we’ll just soak up Taylor and Anastasia’s plant wisdom, shared below, on everything from the tree they always snap up to their surprising distaste for drip irrigation.

Photography by Jorden DeGaetano, courtesy of Talc Studio, unless noted.

Garden-related book you return to time and again:

Above: Landscape as Protagonist emerged from a symposium at Melbourne Design Week 2019.

John Greenlee’s The American Meadow Garden. Jason Dewees’s Designing With Palms. Landscape as Protagonist, from publisher Molonglo.

Instagram account that inspires you:

We try to stay off of Instagram, but when we are on it… @lucianogiubbileigardens: His gardens never get old and never go out of style. Endless inspiration.

@maryamnassirzadeh: Maryam’s style and point of view is authentic, free spirited and sophisticated. We want our gardens feel like her collections. She does everything so well.

Describe in three words your garden aesthetic.

Above: The pair at a wild iris meadow in Point Reyes.

Intimate, elegant meadow.

Favorite go-to plant:

It’s a tie. Pennisetum spathiolatum (we call her “spath” for short). Loves the heat, can tolerate a little shade, always reliable.

Banksia integrifolia. Our Banksia grower has us on speed dial for when a good-looking crop is ready because they know our love for them is strong. We believe they are the ultimate, under-used coastal California tree.

Plant that makes you swoon:

Above: Eriogonum nudum. Photograph by Taylor Palmer.

Taylor: Eriogonum nudum (naked buckwheat). I admire its independence, its resilience, and immense beauty. It has this remarkably long, drawn-out process of growing up and dying back for more than half of the year.

Plant that makes you want to run the other way:

Anastasia: Red/burgundy Phormiums…No, no, no!

Hardest gardening lesson you’ve learned:

Taylor: Sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye. Coming to terms with mortality. The ebb and flow of life and death.

Unpopular gardening opinion:

If this question refers to unpopular opinions that we hold, we are trying to eliminate drip irrigation.. all those plastic tubes!

Gardening or design trend that needs to go:

Above: Dense, naturalistic planting at a Talc project in Sebastopol. Photograph by Taylor Palmer.

Anastasia: Black mulch, plastic edging, planting in a straight line.

Old wives’ tale gardening trick that actually works:

Kitty litter in your gopher holes.

Favorite gardening hack:

Instead of buying hundreds of feet of plastic rolled irrigation tubing and risking carpal tunnel while you install drip irrigation, instead try overhead low flow spot sprinklers, or get intimate with your garden and hand water.

Favorite way to bring the outdoors in.

Anastasia: Cut flowers and foliage at the dinner table.

Taylor: Agreed. And don’t forget to light a candle.

Every garden needs a…

Taylor: Soaking tub (hot or cold or both). We just installed one in my home garden and its divine. I love soaking in my garden at sunset and watching the light shift through the plants. Good way to end the day.

Anastasia: Outdoor shower. Why shower inside when you can shower under the sky?

Favorite hardscaping material:

A redwood deck for a San Francisco client. The greenhouse is by Bay Area woodworker Nobuto Suga. &#8\2\20;We are so fortunate that we get to work with like minded artists, builders, and designers when making our gardens. The collaborative spirit is at the big heart of our little studio.&#8\2\2\1; See more of this project in Landscape Design Visit: &#8\2\16;Moving Art&#8\2\17; in a San Francisco Yard by Talc Studio.
Above: A redwood deck for a San Francisco client. The greenhouse is by Bay Area woodworker Nobuto Suga. “We are so fortunate that we get to work with like minded artists, builders, and designers when making our gardens. The collaborative spirit is at the big heart of our little studio.” See more of this project in Landscape Design Visit: ‘Moving Art’ in a San Francisco Yard by Talc Studio.

Stepping stones of any kind. Redwood boardwalk-style pathways.

Tool you can’t live without:

Niwaki shears. Tub trugs. Measuring wheel. Hats, hats, hats.

Go-to gardening outfit:

Taylor: I like to garden early in the morning, right after I wake up, with coffee and the local radio station on speaker. So that means in my stripe poplin cotton pajamas, rubber shoes (always rubber—Le Chameau or Plasticanas or thrift store scores), and whatever hat is lying around. In the summertime, often I am down to my undies and bare feet!

Anastasia: Button-down and short shorts.

Favorite nursery, plant shop, or seed company:

California Flora in Fulton, CA; Las Pilitas Nursery; Flora Grubb Gardens; Sierra Azul; Poots Cactus.

On your wishlist:

Bocconia frutescens. Bzippy pots. More vintage outdoor furniture. Go on a garden tour with Carolyn Mullet. Travel to a far out, faraway plant safari with Jason Dewees and Daniel Nolan. Or just go anywhere with Jason or Daniel.

Not-to-be-missed public garden/park/botanical garden:

The Highline. Abbotts Lagoon in Point Reyes National Seashore. Portland Japanese garden—their hardscaping and pathways are the ultimate. Tunnel Tops park in SF.

The REAL reason you garden:

Above: Taylor’s baby tending Salvia spathacea. Photograph by Taylor Palmer.

Taylor: The trance. There are no corners, there is no ceiling. Mental and physical health. Working so closely with the rhythm of nature has connected me to what is alive in myself. It will slow me down, other times speed me up. Morning light soak. Evening light soak. A place to show off your hard-earned work while you drink margaritas with your friends.

Thanks so much, Taylor and Anastasia! You can follow them on Instagram @talc.studio.

See also:

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