Bardessono’s Compelling Courtyards

In the pouring rain, two garden design and writing friends and I made Bardessono our final stop on a whirlwind tour of Napa and Sonoma. I first wrote about this LEED Platinum certified resort/spa earlier this year in a post called The New Luxury.  I was surprised to find that it wasn’t out in the country, but smack dab in the middle of the charming village of Yountville.  The hotel/spa’s  website makes it look as bucolic as the rest of Napa and Sonoma.

Olive trees, grasses and rammed earth wall in the main courtyard

Even in the downpour, Bardessono’s landscape design did not disappoint.  Arranged in a series of individual spaces that flow around clean lined geometric architecture, each of the tree themed courtyards had unique yet related visual identities.  Richard Hestikind designed the stone and water features that are at the heart of the each space.  In his statement about the gardens, he says ‘At one time, years ago, a natural stream wound through what is now the hotel grounds.  The general goal of the water feature was to re-introduce emerging water into the courtyards in unique ways.’

The three primary courtyards:  Olive, Birch and Magnolia are distinct yet related via their tree themes and materials.

The Olive Courtyard fountain

The Olive courtyard fountain incorporates three stone olive grinding wheels.

The Birch Courtyard

A large circular pad leads to the bridges and winding path through the Birch courtyard.

The Magnolia Courtyard in bloom

The Magnolia courtyard was by far my favorite.  Sprial stone work on the ground plane juxtaposed with rough hewn basalt verticals, water and those blooming magnolias made the rainy trek so worth it.

The central spiral in the Magnolia courtyard
Spiral leading into spiral

Both of my companions for the day also wrote about this their takes at Garden Porn and Alice’s Garden Travel Buzz.  There will be some more from Miss R on this amazing day and other San Francisco Bay Area adventures next week.

Just a big tease…

I’m so happy that I have taken some time beyond the meetings I attended to do some limited exploring of the Bay Area.  It will take me a while to digest all that I’ve seen and to muse on the wonderful people I’ve met.  So until I do that here’s a wee wee bit of what I’ve seen so far.  I know, I’m just a big tease…there will be more in future posts, but for now I’m off for my last day of adventure!

Display at Berkeley's The Gardener shop
Euphorbia blooming in an IGA parking lot
The rainy hills in wine country

A Monday Away…

I’m away from my garden on this last February Monday.  A Year of Mondays will return next week, but in the meantime, I did see these wonderful dancing trees outside of Muir Woods in Northern California this week…oh and yes there were wonderful old redwoods too!

Dancing Trees
The Cathedral at Muir Woods

There will be more when I return east.

Off to the west…

I’m taking the show on the road again.  For a spring starved landscape designer, my trip to the San Francisco Bay area for the next week couldn’t come at a better time.  It is snowing outside here, but it will be spring there.

For three days I will be participating in meetings of various kinds that will help determine a bold and bright future for the Association of Professional Landscape Designers–I serve on its Board of Directors.

Adventure is planned for the rest of my trip with wonderful tour guides–a friend from high school who I haven’t seen since I was a resident artist at Peter’s Valley in the 70s–she still dances to the Grateful Dead, a new friend who I met via a project we coordinated together last year and who is hanging out in San Francisco for a bit, and two people –a landscape designer and a garden writer–who I have never met in the flesh but who have become part of my life over the past 10 years via various internet paths.  A different experience is planned for each friend–a walk in Muir Woods, a day trip to wine country and an exploration of the city.  I’m very excited to see the San Francisco spring and have the incredible good fortune to have great friends who are willing to show it to me.


In a previous professional life, I spent many hours  forecasting  fashion trends.  For me, this is still an integral part of what I do as a designer.  This week I’ve been asked to submit my ideas for 2010 landscape design trends for use in various ways (more on that at a later date).   Trendspotting might seem paradoxical to gardening–with its self image of dirty wellies and hands in the soil, but it’s not.

An accurate and viable trend forecast is not something you just pull out of your hat.  Forecasting is research based and takes knowledge and just more than a little bit of intuition.  A wide variety of influential sources are used to make trend predictions:  business and consumer trends, pop culture, lifestyle trends, what’s happening in other design disciplines, books people are reading, movies they are watching,  etc., etc., etc.

The example below is not a trend prediction, but these photos collected over the last year in my ‘idea’ file point in a direction that shows the trajectory of a possibly emerging trend for garden furniture and accessories.  The illustrations show one small idea in what could become part of a larger trend of looking to nature to inspire garden accessories and furniture.

A bird's nest

The next photo is known as ‘The Bird’s Nest’ and was not necessarily inspired by a real nest but it is its visual cousin and was seen by billions of people as part of the 2008 Olympics.  Hmmm.  Architecture and sports influencing garden trends?

Bejing Olympic Stadium

The DeCastelli chairs, ‘bird’s nest’ fence at Terrain and a firebowl from Anna Columbo all support this trend idea.

DeCastelli Chairs
Fence at Terrain
Core ten fire bowl

And lastly, the photo below is on the back cover of the current issue of Garden Design–note the name of the furniture- New Bird’s Nest…

Often emerging trends are alien looking.   We’re not ready for that yet.   Think about all of the times you have seen someone wearing something and you think to yourself ‘I would never…’ and then a year later you’re buying it as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.  That happened because the arc of the trend (sometimes years long) reached your market.

Below is a well researched trend report on broad garden trends for 2010 from The Garden Media Group.  Take a look and use your own powers of observation to connect the garden trend dots.

A feast of design at the Roundtable!

There’s a new band of garden and landscape designers who are blogging together on a single subject once each month.   I am really proud to be among this group of talented designers who write so passionately about gardens and their design.  The idea that each of us can take a single topic and bring something individual to it speaks eloquently about the diversity of design ideas that a landscape designer brings to the table.  (That pun was definitely intended!)

The Garden Designers Roundtable is going to be like having a great garden design magazine delivered to your blog feed each and every month.  All of the writers are professional, practicing designers from different regions who each have their own blogs.  It won’t be the same designers participating every month, since each has chosen a few topics that they’d like to write about during the course of the year.  There will be links on the roundtable blog (click above) to each participant’s thoughts on that month’s subject.

I participated in the first two topics, but will be sitting out the third –to be posted on February 23–in favor of blogging about color in March.  You can see the schedule of topics here and you can follow along with the group on the Facebook fan page.  If you Tweet, the hashtag for the group is #gdrt.

See you around the roundtable!

Textural Enhancement

It snowed last night.  The predicted 1″ is more like 4.  I was out early enough-before the melt and legions of snow blowers-to notice that many of the background textures of the gardens in my neighborhood were much more visible with their snow cover.

Structural players take center stage

Structure and texture are  not something I usually think about when it snows, so I was surprised by my own observation.  Background masses are suddenly front and center in the landscape.

Rhododendron sp.
Taxus sp.
Philadelphius sp.

I am wondering how to take advantage of this-even as I realize it’s serendipity-when considering winter gardens in my landscape design work.