Dallas, Part 1

I came to Dallas with few preconceived ideas.  I haven’t been here since 1978.  It’s changed a bit.  As I said last week, what I did expect was to be inspired by what I see and hear.  That’s happened already.  My first impressions are about the juxtaposition of materials in the gardens we’ve visited.  The attention to materials used in a pure way has blown me away.  Industrial with organic,  hard with soft,  fine with coarse are all part of the mix.

Equisetum, brick, aluminum, Buffalo grass, concrete
Stone, brick, stained glass, and wood
Tempered glass, aluminum, Buffalo grass, concrete
Bronze, mirrored glass, plants and brick
Pebbles, aggregate and smooth concrete
Soft turf and brick
Glass, stone, plants

There will be more on the gardens as soon as I have a chance to process everything and organize my thoughts.  It’s a whirlwind of input.

In my Reader…an itinerary

In what little spare time I have this week, I’ve been pouring over an advance copy of the itinerary and conference brochure for next week’s Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) International Landscape Design Conference in Dallas.

Conference Brochure

This will be my fifth consecutive year attending this particular conference.  What is the attraction?  It’s the dialog. There’s lots of conversation, but most important to me is the visual dialog between me and the incredibly high quality of the landscapes and gardens we visit.  Some are popular locally, but many others are never open to anyone.   In fact, we have been asked when visiting some gardens in the past to not publish photographs or write about our visits publicly to protect the homeowner’s privacy.  I learn from the discourse, the divergent experiences and opinions of my peers.  I learn by going somewhere where I don’t know the plants and can focus simply on the design elements.  I become a better designer through my participation.

Garden on APLD Dallas tour

The conferences are timed so that the landscapes and gardens we visit are at their peak.  Each location has been different–selected with the idea that there is something unique about the locale and its unique regional design sensibility. I’ve learned not to question why we are going to a particular place and instead trust that the designers who organize the conference locally will show me the best and most challenging outdoor spaces they have to offer.

Garden detail in Dallas

I will be blogging, tweeting and otherwise sharing my experiences both as will several of my APLD peers. You can follow along in your own reader,  on the APLD FB page or by using the #apld hashtag for Twitter.

Ultra modernist garden on Dallas tour

Garden Designers Roundtable | Follies

I have a taste for the absurd, the wildly impractical and the creative.  Add to that real or imagined historical context and VOILA! you have my favorite type of garden folly.  It’s really too bad that there’s little interest–both economically and aesthetically–in follies any more.  I love me a tumbled down ruin that really isn’t.  The Garden Designers Roundtable is posting on Renovation and Restoration today so I thought I’d take the contrary approach!

Yes, I did.

Build something that looks like it’s falling down–and has been for years, and years, and years.  Why?  Because it gives you pleasure.  We don’t do that enough in life.

Folly by master stone artist Dan Snow

Last Saturday I took some time and a 45 minute detour to visit my favorite folly.  The Ruin at Chanticleer is only ten years old.  It was built on what was left of the foundation of another house.  It is witty and intelligent. It is without a doubt one of my favorite garden spaces…ever. Chanticleer, a pleasure garden outside of  Philadelphia is a place of incredible imagination and  inspiration.  It is open to the public and if you are ever within shouting distance it is well worth the trip and the incredibly economical $5.00 entrance fee.

The ruin

On a small hill planted with Carex appalachia, the ruin begs further exploration.

The main entrance

And just inside the ‘door’…

A bit nutty...

There is so much to look at in the folly and so many convergent deas here that I’ve chosen to only feature a few.  It’s really one of those places that needs to be experienced in reality rather than via photographs and text.

The reflecting pool in the 'Great Room'

Espalier and succulents on the wall are reflected in a huge black granite sarcophagus like water feature.

Planting detail
Stone carpet

The library is adjacent to the ‘Great Hall’ complete with books…

A heavy read...

Through another opening is a slightly disturbing water feature with carved stone faces by sculptor Marcia Dohahue.

Floating faces

There are also planted fireplaces, containers,  gardens run amok and hundreds of little details.  No matter how many times I’ve visited, each time I could stay for hours.

View across the lawn

So next time garden restoration and renovation is a topic of discussion, why not take the opposing view and think about follies as a place of discovery and wonder.  Follies aren’t really a folly, they are a place to experiment wildly with the unexpected, the uncommon, and the undone.

The rest of the Roundtable posts can be found by clicking the links below.

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Carolyn Gail Choi : Sweet Home and Garden Chicago : Chicago, IL

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Rochelle Greayer : Studio “G” : Boston, MA

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA

Monday 33 | A Year of Mondays

Cool mornings.  Slow bees.  Long shadows.  I’ve always been interested in light and shadow in gardens and have never been able to master manipulating the experience.  I know I’ve said before that my favorite tree, the one I originally built the garden around, will have to come down next spring before it falls on the house.  This will be its last fall casting shadows so this image is a sort of memento mori before the fact.

No. 33

In my Reader…three books

It’s fall and I’m teaching two evening landscape design courses at a college near here.  I’m always looking for books to bring to class for my students to look at.  Last week it was Thomas Church’s Gardens are for People. Not one of my second semester students could tell me who he was…now they can.

This week two books will go with me to class.  The first will be the book I pull off the shelf when I need a quick push.  Often when I get stuck or need an inspirational boost I go to John Brooke’s Garden Masterclass.  I seem to reach for this book more often than any other when I just need some quick garden visual input.  I might then go and find another in my library, but this one is always first.

There are many, many more books in my library and all get used.   I don’t buy books anymore unless they have something to offer that another of my books doesn’t.  This year’s celebrated book The American Meadow Garden by John Greenlee with photos by Saxon Holt made the cut, is in my library and will also be going to class.

Sustainability and the ‘M’ word

Over the past weekend there has been much discussion in the garden and landscape community about sustainability, healthy environments and organic practices.  Both the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Garden Writers Association had their annual conferences and saving the planet through sustainable initiatives was high on each group’s priority lists.  The Association of Professional Landscape Designers is having theirs in two weeks and the message will be the same.  Everyone in the green industry agrees…almost.

For the past several years in private, at dinner parties and in my classrooms I have been having a similar discussion, but mine starts with the ‘M’ word…maintenance.Landscapes and designed environments are only as good and as long lasting as their maintenance.  How many people do you know with a garden/lawn care service?  I know many.  How many of those companies have embraced sustainable practices?  I bet the number goes way, way down.  Here’s the deal.  Until we  take a leadership role and give those who maintain what we dream up a way to make a viable and profitable living maintaining our projects sustainably, our efforts are for naught.  Great landscapes last beyond their designers.  They are a living entity that requires care.

We need pro-level electric or solar mowers that are rechargeable from job to job.  We need clean fuel burning trucks.  We need blowers that minimize noise and pollution.  We need to train people how to prune so that meatball pruning isn’t the norm.  We need training in organic and sustainable practices at the mow and blow level. We need to lead the way, but we have to arm those who follow in our wake or it’s all for nothing.

In my Reader…Gardens Illustrated’s Podcasts

Here’s an auditory post.  Most of us who are serious about garden and landscape design read Gardens Illustrated, the English garden magazine.  Both informative and beautiful, I’ve been reading it since I found my first copy on the newsstand many years ago.  I subscribed for years until I figured out it was less expensive to buy each issue than to pay for the additional overseas postage.

This post isn’t about the magazine–it’s about the fabulous podcasts the magazine posts and anyone can download and listen to for free.   As I write this I’m listening to (for the second time) Beth Chatto talk about her gardens, life and ecology.  The topics are wide ranging and eclectic and they don’t always focus on one person, place or thing.  Thes podcasts (available back to 2007) are not only informative they’re incredibly entertaining–take a moment and listen.

Garden Tour

One of my gardens is part of the Friends of Frelinghuysen fall garden tour on September 19th.  Registration for the self guided tour is open until September 15th and will feature 5 private gardens rarely open to the public in Summit and Short Hills.

The landscape and gardens I designed are a complex mix of distinct areas – not rooms.  Each has its own unique character and performs a specific function yet they all hold together as a whole.  The property, about 2 acres, was first landscaped in the 1920s when the original Norman style Tudor home was built.  The current owners doubled the size of the house and called me to design the landscape.  I love working on American Tudors.

Here are three of the larger areas.  The first is a restored and augmented woodland.  We removed weedy trees and as much of the original pachysandra as we could and added a bluestone stepping path through it.  We also added ferns, dogwoods, Solomon’s seal and moved all of the shade loving white blooming and white variegated shrubs and perennials to this area of the property.  The woodland shields much of the corner view in and out of the house from the street and helps to create a sense of mystery.  There is an entrance across the lawn from one of the two adjacent streets through a mature row of hemlocks (all of which were exceedingly healthy).

Late spring woodland in Summit, NJ

On the opposite side of the property the renovation and expansion left a mass of exposed utilities adjacent the existing pool.   How pretty..not! I designed some simple trellis work and installed  it to complement the French style of the home and hide the eyesores.  I also enlarged the pool deck to allow for some furniture.  It had been 3′ wide with a 6′ deep rhododendron filled garden with no place to sit or entertain.

Pool deck and trelliage

A garden was created on the opposite side of the pool which is the primary view point from the home’s livingroom.  Large containers were installed and bricks were faux painted to match those on the house and a classic scheme of roses and hydranges interspersed with perennials was installed.  It blooms all summer long.

Roses and Hydrangeas

One of the most challenging aspects of this project was the front courtyard.  The renovation had used up most of the available impermeable lot coverage allowance and we used what was left for the pool deck.   The front door of the home is only used for guests so massive amounts of foot traffic wasn’t an issue.  There was broken bluestone left over from construction on site, so we created a ‘ruined’ courtyard complete with espaliered apple trees.

'Ruined' Courtyard
Espaliered Apple -polinator is across from it

Other areas not shown are a daylily walk and a circular garden that helps camouflage the family’s trampoline.  There are some beautiful specimen trees that were added to the exisiting mature red oaks. An old planting of hostas on the front slope of courtyard was also preserved and the original stone steps up to it were excavated and tied into the entry from the lawn.  This remains one of my favorite projects and I’m really proud to have it included on this tour.

Mobile Gardens

With the fall planting season in full swing here, I thought I’d share this uber-cool idea from Dutch based Italian industrial designer Gionata Gatto.  Called Urban Buds, the project should still be on view at Sotheby’s in London where it’s been on display and working since May.  Each movable, self contained garden unit has wheels and can be planted up in a very limited space making it perfect for courtyards, balconies or even a back alley.

Here are the original sketches (click to enlarge) via his studio website

And here’s two actual mobile gardens.  I think they’re great…I might even take up vegetable gardening again.

In my Reader…Slow Love Life

So many magazines that have disappeared in the past few years.  One of the ones I miss the most is House and Garden.  Dominique Browning was its editor from 2002 until 2007 when it was shuttered.  Her wonderful blog Slow Love Life is worth the read.  It’s a personal journal of savoring life and slowing down enough to enjoy and rediscover the things she likes, does and experiences.   There are thoughtful and intimate remembrances and ideas, beautiful images, and even recipes. I like the sheer joy (and sometimes sadness) of it.  Try it and see if you do too.

Some links to recent posts with an image from that post…

Floating Meditation

Farmer’s Market

Paradise Found:  LongHouse Reserve

Goodbye Children

So on this last official weekend of the summer I think I’ll try and capture some of my own slow love life.  Enjoy!

Horticulture’s Newest Contributing Editor…

I have a new gig–Contributing Editor for Horticulture magazine.  This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop designing gardens and landscapes, it just means that along with fellow APLD landscape designer Rebecca Sweet, I’ll be writing about design for this great American publication.  Did you know it’s been in publication for well over 100 years and has recently embraced the 21st century with a vengeance via great blogs like Kiss My Aster from garden designer diva, Amanda Thompson, and with topics like the  iPhone app review of Gardenista by Dee Nash, a gardener and writer whose Red Dirt Ramblings is one of my favs.

Horticulture Magazine (cover chosen at random)

Beginning with the February/March 2011 issue, I will be writing a new monthly column titled ‘Design Perspectives’ as the east coast based designer..Rebecca is the west coast designer.  We will be writing about garden design, plants and other topics from a landscape and garden design point of view.  I hope you’ll take the time to read it there and let us know what you think.