“A man’s mistakes are his portals of discovery.”
Then 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.
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.
More good news for those of us living with Juglans nigra! In his new book The Layered Garden, David Culp describes several genera that he has grown with success beneath these anti-social trees, including:
Smilacina — (Smilacena racemosa — False Solomon’s Seal — an interesting perennial with white flowers in spring followed by green/red berries).
Asarum — (cute little gingers!)
Aucuba — (Evergreen, Gold Speckles. Reminds me of the upholstery on the couch from my childhood family room, circa 1976. What’s not to love?)
Pulmonaria — (I am always reading about how great these are — why don’t I grow them?)
Convallaria — (I actually have Lily-of-the-Valley growing under a Silver Maple, which means they will officially grow anywhere.)
Finally, the candidates discuss the real issues. And just in time for election day, too!
(Oh, I guess I should mention the candidates’ actual words are in white and my very slight modifications are in yellow.)
What’s the difference?
I ask because I came across this quote from Teddy Roosevelt when I visited Roosevelt Island this weekend:
“Conservation Means Development as Much as it Does Protection.”
Coming from the man who established the National Park System, I raised an eyebrow when I read this. These terms — conservation, preservation, protection, etc. — are pretty slippery. When you’re talking about actual environmental policy, these words have no concrete definition. Which, come to think of it, is probably why politicians like them. Politicians are just nuts about abstract language.
If you had to choose one place in the United States that you felt all Americans should visit, one landscape or landmark representative of the “American ethos”, what would it be?
I started pondering that question last week after reading a piece in the great gardening e-mag Garden Drum. The article’s Australian author, Catherine Stewart, writes of her pilgrimage to Uluru (more familiar to us as Ayers Rock), the giant monolith located smack dab in the middle of the Australian continent.
Susan Abraham of Lush Life Landscapes
For this month’s GDRT, I had the the pleasure of interviewing Susan Abraham, instructor of Landscape Design at GWU, and founder of Lush Life Landscapes, a garden design firm based in Northern Virginia that is devoted to native plants and “ecological artistry.” I love that term! I also love her website, which does a better job of presenting a philosophy of sustainable garden design than any other other design site I’ve seen. It’s eloquent, informative, positive, and totally avoids the kind of preachiness that is all too evident in the world of green design. Enjoy getting to know Susan!
MG: Where do you think your interest in ecological garden design originated? Did you have a different career prior to becoming a landscape designer?
SA: My interest in ecological garden design originated in Southern California as I tended my garden. Water shortages began in earnest in the region, and I noticed information available at local nurseries about xeriscaping using Mediterranean plants suitable to the local climate. This piqued my interest in the variety of native plants thriving in open areas, and led to an interest in historic techniques used to capture, store and use rainfall in irrigation.
La Siesta, by P. Picasso
All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
One of the more frustrating aspects of teaching school is being party to a system that drives the joy out of learning for probably nine out of ten students. By the time students get to high school, they have had their “skills drilled” and their “proficiencies assessed” so often it’s no wonder they finish out their secondary education in a cynical haze so thick that neither my most inspired lessons nor my most intimidating deathstare can penetrate it.
In American classrooms today, there is so little opportunity for personal expression and genuine exploration it is almost laughable.
Except it’s not. It’s tragic.