Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Entropy

“Just as the constant increase in entropy is the basic law of the universe, so it is the basic law of life to be ever more highly structured and to struggle against entropy. “ – Vaclav Havel

I think this photo of my side yard illustrates Havel’s point pretty well:

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After I smothered the turf from my side yard (on the right) and began planting a slightly messy mix of shrubs, perennials and groundcovers, my neighbor promptly planted a soldier-straight row of crape myrtles and Japanese holly, butted right up against my plantings. Between the hollies there is a layer of mulch about ten inches thick, which he refreshes and fluffs regularly. [Read more...]

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Two Maintenance Ideas

"That a-hole designer said these would be low-maintenance."  (Nick Daley/DigitalVision/Getty Images)

“That a-hole designer said these would be low-maintenance.” (Nick Daley/DigitalVision/Getty Images)

True story: last week, while waiting to get a haircut, I flipped through a local home and garden magazine and stumbled upon an article about garden maintenance. Mostly I skimmed it, but then my eye caught a quote from a landscape designer based at a local nursery. He said, “If a landscape is designed right, there should be NO maintenance. None at all. That’s what a designer is for.”My jaw dropped. No maintenance at all! See, if you hire the right designer, you’ll never have to so much as pluck a leaf off of your zero-input lawn! Apparently this guy can even design it so all the leaves from your trees blow into your neighbor’s yard, too!

I almost wanted to stand up right there in the hair salon and be, “ya’ll won’t BELIEVE what I just read here in this magazine, ladies!” but they probably would’ve thought it was some juicy sex tip from Cosmo and been disappointed when it turned out to be faulty landscaping advice — shocking though it was!

[Read more...]

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Transitions

One of Beatrix Ferrand’s most famous projects is the garden at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC, which is known for its lavish garden rooms and magnificent attention to detail.   As you can see in the map below, each garden “room” has its own name — Rose Garden, Urn Terrace, Pebble Garden, etc. — and each room is masterfully designed and delightful to experience. [Read more...]

Capability Gray

I may not be installing giant lakes, building fake temples, or displacing villages full of peasants, but I have been improvin’ my landscape lately, indeed I have.

First, an update on the play structure thingee I started building in February.  To refresh your memory, here is what it looked like several weeks ago:

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[Read more...]

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Mistakes

“A man’s mistakes are his portals of discovery.”

–James Joyce

13retain1_lgThen again, Joyce was a man of ideas.  I’m sure no contractor ever said to a client: “Oh, that retaining wall I put in last fall is collapsing now?  But of course!  How could something so bourgeois hold back the anarchy of our modern age??  Don’t you see??  It was futile from its inception!!!”

Anyway, it only took me a few minutes to compile a long list of mistakes that I have made over the course of my study of landscape design.  Here are just a few:

1. Giving landscape design advice to people who didn’t ask for it.  You might think that this would be obvious, but when you’re a new landscape design student all super-excited about what you’re learning, like I was, sometimes you can go a bit overboard.

[Read more...]

Is Designing Solo the Best Way?

Photo Credit: US Mission Geneva

Photo Credit: US Mission Geneva

In the Final Comprehensive of my Landscape Design Course, we had to work in teams of three. I was in a group with two other talented people (both professional designers), and our task was to redesign a small park on the campus of GW.

We brainstormed. We sketched. We had meetings — many, many meetings. We discussed. We argued. We tried to change one another’s minds and we attempted compromise.

[Read more...]

HGTV 2013 Dream House Has Lots of Plants!

It’s a bit premature to make a final judgment, but it looks as though HGTV’s 2013 Dream House  — located on Kiawah Island, South Carolina — might actually be worth cheering for!

[Read more...]

Landscaping a School Sign

The high school where I work just built a new sign at the entrance from the main road.  Within days of being built, it was vandalized.  So last week my principal asked me if I could suggest some landscaping for around the sign that might discourage hooligans from getting up close to the sign and defacing it.

Of course, I had already been landscaping the sign in my mind since the beginning of the school year, but now with the principal’s specific parameters, I am ready to offer a real plan.  Any ideas, readers? 

It is full sun (sign faces east/west), crap soil, no irrigation.  The plants have to be fairly low so that the sign stays readable.  I like the idea of some natives.  I am specifically struggling with how to shape the bed, and with what to stick between the sign and the sidewalk.  Here’s a picture:

Readers who suggest something that actually gets planted will receive a jar of my special homemade Black Walnut Chutney.  Not really, but seriously I will be grateful for your suggestions!

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