Why I Write This.

Yesterday I recorded a podcast about blogging with landscape designers and bloggers Chris Heiler and Rochelle Greayer who writes the wonderful landscape design blog StudioG.

Image via stock.xchng

That discussion made me think again about why I write this blog. I don’t follow the rules that most bloggers tell you to follow–I don’t write for an audience. Yes, Miss R does fit into a larger grand plan, but it’s not a commercial one. I write for me–Miss R is a way for me to quietly explore thoughts and ideas via the written word. I don’t interact with others as I do on Twitter or Facebook or even via email–I just write about whatever I’m thinking about–or that interests me at the moment–but always as it relates to my life and work as a designer.

There is a long and varied tradition of artists and designers who write. I’ve always read artist’s words in letters, journals, on canvases in or in books. I look at Miss R as a companion piece to the rest of my life as a designer–another form of expression. I’m honored that anyone wants to read what I write and that these words have value to others–but I’m not trying to create value or give advice. So, I’ll continue to selfishly explore my own thoughts here, but I also want thank you for reading and secretly hope that you’ll continue to do so.

Inspiration and Influence – Garden Visits

An old gate at Greenwood Gardens, Short Hills, NJ on its first Open Days day several years ago.
The gate is no longer there.

Today it’s grey and rainy. I’m dreaming of gardens. Yesterday, my 2009 edition of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Directory came in the mail. Its arrival made me think about how much I have been inspired by seeing gardens. Not only do I visit on Open Days, but the APLD annual design conference also incorporates amazing garden visits. There are some random photos of gardens which I’ve visited over the years included here. I appologize if some aren’t credited to their sources and owners as I rarely write down what I’m photographing as I go along.

The Grotto under the pool at the White Garden in Lewisboro NY, designed by Patrick Chasse

Observing someone else’s point of view, details, and planting styles have had a profound effect on my growth as a landscape designer.Over the years I’ve visited gardens large and small, good and not so good in many countries. All have had some type of impact on my design aesthetic–either as something to aspire to or something to avoid.

Michael Trapp’s Garden in Connecticut

When I was first starting out, I focused on all of the amazing plants that I didn’t know and dutifully wrote them all down. Now I walk with camera and sketchbook in hand–taking pictures and drawing small details as they strike me. Mostly I snap–sketching takes me too much time!

Robert Irwin’s Garden at the Getty Center, Malibu, California

I actually try not to analyze it too much when I’m there–I try to experience the gardens while I’m in them. Sometimes I’ll see something that I don’t like and that’s just as galvanizing as what I do.

Shape and texture on the California coast near Santa Barbara

Showhouse Season V, Issue 5–For the Birds

Many of the architectural details at the Sheep’s Run showhouse depict birds, so of course I have to honor that. The birds on the grill work shown below are typical of these formal early twentieth century details. They have been restored for the showhouse–some are black wrought iron and some have been re-gilded.

Turkey Detail on balcony

Peacock Window Grill prior to restoration

As the design for the garden has been revised and has continued to evolve, I’ve become increasingly interested in juxtaposing rustic elements typical of a farm setting within the confines of a formal garden. Originally I wanted a small fountain as the secondary axial focal point, but since that was nixed, I had to explore other ideas. A bird bath–too small, a sun dial–too mundane, an armilary–not appropriate for the rustic quality I wanted for the details of the space.

I wanted a bird. So I turned to Steven Snyder, a stone sculptor from Bucks County whose work I have used and recommended to clients before. Steven very graciously offered to lend one of his sculptures. Although he creates many other things, I love Steven’s birds. Shown below, the middle bird still in the studio, worked in terms of height and color, so it will be the new focal point.

Birds in Steven Snyder‘s studio

Showhouse Season V, Issue 4.1, The State of Things (con’t)

Every designer showhouse I’ve been involved with suffers from the same malady–too little interdisciplinary/committee/designer cross communication. Yesterday, my entire day was dedicated to solving issues with my garden space that could have been a non-issue had all parties worked with each other from the onset. Let me explain…

As you can see from the site map in Issue 2 of this series, my garden space is tucked away between two adjacent exterior spaces and two corners of the building. I used the consulting landscape architect’s site plan to create my original concept. I also checked the boundaries of the garden with his office as well as the appropriate committee members. No one told me that the boundaries of the large garden to the south and the large terrace to the east had changed from what was on the site plan.

Confused? So was I. Those perimeter boundaries were modified on two sides without my knowledge and last week when I videotaped the space it became apparent that what I had designed would not be able to be shoehorned into what was actually the space. ARGHH.

I try to be a team player when it comes to these things…but I am the only one being asked to completely revise my plan. It was obvious to me that the original design would have to be modified to work with the space’s new proportions. I didn’t radically alter the concept, but everything had to be on a different scale and slightly modified. The double axis would now dead end into the south garden’s hedge so that definitely had to go. Paths had to be made narrower, garden areas smaller. I was able to make all but one of the spatial transitions work and I can’t really spend any more time on the revision (read: I have paying work to do) so it will have to be resolved on site.

So here’s the revised design (click on it to enlarge). It doesn’t appear to be changed that much but everything is scaled differently. The good news is I’m going to use a fabulous Steven Snyder bird sculpture as a focal point. More on that next time…

Showhouse Season V, Issue 4, The State of Things

There was a big pow-wow between all of the landscape designers, contractors, and showhouse committee members today. I made some short videos of the garden space to share here. I have to make some design changes to create appropriate transitions from my space to the two adjacent ones…they aren’t making the changes…I am. I try to be a team player. Enjoy my bad videography.

Notice the portapotty, cherry picker and gravel that have been stored in the space. Hmmmm. Maybe I’ll re-name it the Johnny on the Spot garden!

The view out shows the new poolhouse and greenhouse which are still under construction. Major money is being spent to make sure it all looks as if it’s always been there. I’ll get some better images later.

This last one is really short and a bit mysterious because I could discuss the issues and film at the same time! We were trying to figure out how to make the new transitions work.

Spring’s Slow March

No pun intended in the title although after another dose of winter weather this week, those of us on the eastern seaboard might believe it.

Photo by Johann Dreo,via Wikipedia Commons

The coming of this spring’s season seems to be interminable. For a landscape designer in a four season climate, the approach of the ‘season’ is always a crazy mix of anticipation, relief and angst. This year, there is more of each since the economic climate chilled at the same time our traditional outdoor project work season was winding down so there’s no real gauge of what might or might not happen.

Just how different will this coming season be? In many ways, winter has been typical. Here and throughout much of the country, it has been a slower time, spent on design and planning, participation in workshops and seminars, and taking a much needed break. It has also been a time to wonder, just how will my design practice be affected by the current ‘no spend’ consumer climate?

Like each spring before now, I have decided to embrace whatever happens. I will work as hard as I normally do getting ready for the busy, busy, busy time. I will continue to try to improve my client realtions and give them an exceptional experience with their projects. They are the core of my business. That might take a little bit longer, but thankfully, the clock springs ahead a month earlier than it has in the past so I have more daylight to burn. On Sunday I’ll have more hours in each day as Spring finally ends its slow march and arrives just as it should.