Nov 30, 2010

Making A List,
Checking It Twice...

i've checked out whose "naughty and nice".'s my must-have plant list for 2011.
1. Clematis x jouiniana 'Praecox'
BECAUSE as the BBC Plant Finder says
" it will happily scramble through borders...
and I need a ground cover that is unexpected and underused.
clematis x jouiniana 'Praecox'

2. Crocus sativus
BECAUSE saffron is the world's most expensive spice (by weight); you can grow it in the Northeast and its an autumn bloomer.  In the Spring, the plant sends up five to eleven narrow vertical green leaves; in autumn purple buds appear; in October its purple flowers develop.  A three-pronged style emerges from each flower, each prong terminates with a vivid crimson stigma = saffron.
crocus sativus
The saffron gatherer, reproduction of an ancient Theran wall painting (approx. 3600 years old) by Thomas Baker

BECAUSE the history of saffron reaches back more than 3,000 years.  C.sativus emerged late in Bronze Age Crete and you can still plant it in 2011.
geranium pretense 'Midnight Reiter'
3. Geranium maculatum 'Espresso'
Geranium pretense 'Midnight Reiter' 
BECAUSE I love dark purple foliage.  Fagus sylvatica 'Black Swan' does the trick when it comes to a tree, Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diablo' is a great shrub, and there are always the many heucheras from plum to dark burgundy that are workhorses in the garden.  But what if you want dark foliage in the sun, what then?  My answer:  Geranium maculatum 'Espresso' or Geranium pretense 'Midnight Reiter'.
4. Hakonechloa macra Nicolas
 Hakonechloa macra Nicolas
BECAUSE sometimes you want a waterfall and can't have one.  Hakonechloa is the plant that can cascade like nothing else and Nicolas can grow in the sun or so they say.  We shall see. 
 5. Scuttellaria incana
BECAUSE you don't see it very often; it blooms late in the season; the leaves turn purple in the fall; and nothing is more beautiful than its seed heads. 
 Scuttelaria incana

6. Echinacea tennesseensis 'Rocky Top'
 Echinacea tennesseensis 'Rocky Top'
BECAUSE even though there are many Echinaceas on the market and everyone is kind of sick of them, Echinacea tenesseenis is on the endangered species list.  The flowers always face EAST, not traveling with the sun like most Echinaceas.  In researching this little tidbit, I found out that this Echinacea can be traced back to the last Ice Age.
7. Phlomis tuberosa 'Amazone'
BECAUSE its easy to grow, has a beautiful structure, magnificent seed heads and it's a favorite of Beth Chatto.

  8. Amsonia hubrichtii 
BECAUSE although the willow-like foliage is great when contrasted with a heavier leaf, the real story is the golden bronze color Amsonia hubrichtii turns in the fall and I appreciate the fact that it is one of our native American plants.
My resolution for 2011:
I won't be crying or pouting, just digging in the soil.

Nov 23, 2010

The Tables Have Turned

Arbores Laetae (Joyful Trees) 2008
Diller, Scofiodio +Renfro
Installation:  Liverpool Biennial

I am always a little behind the times, but this time, it seems I missed Arbores Laetae, an installation piece by the Highline architects from 2008.  I thought it was interesting enough to draw attention to it.
"Dismissing the conventional distinctions between "nature" and "artifice" a brownfield site along a key route in the city center is the host of a new pubic park.  A small grove of hornbeam trees, some electrically-assisted, upsets the perception of a stable ground.  Three central trees are planted eccentrically and at a 10-degree bias in deep planter box turntables.  The three turntables are synchinorized to rotate slowly at slightly different speeds.  Changing orbits cause the trees to occasionally brush against one another or open up a wide void in the grove while the texture of dappled light and shade is in constant play.  The experience is disorienting.  From a vantage point on a spinning platform, the context appears to shift.  From terra firma, the trees uncannily animate around and past you. "
- Diller Scofiodio + Renfro
And don't forget to watch the video.  It gives some idea of what it was like to be there.

Also in a strange way, a related blog written by Paula Panich on November 22, 2010, entitled, Every Tree Tells a Story...If We're Listening,  is an interesting to compliment to the Diller Scofiodio piece.

Nov 17, 2010

A Walk On The Wild Side: Hidcote

"What he did was to sum up the English dream of the Italian garden." 
Ethne Clark

"...But perhaps our collective memory of this most beguiling and influential garden
has been playing tricks on us."
Noel Kingsbury
I am not a landscape historian.  You won't find me crawling around archival material, looking through old letters or diaries.  I prefer the art of projection and conjecture.
 My Window at Hidcote

In July 2010, I lived in the Manor House at Hidcote.  During the early morning hours, before work, I prowled around the garden.  Walking through enclosed rooms, wondering what was really going on in Lawrence Johnston's head.
 Walking through one of the garden rooms at Hidcote

The short and long of it is that Lawrence Johnston was a American expat, who created the quintessential English arts and crafts garden.  The idea that there is anything "American" about the garden, especially any Yankee influence would be pure heresy.  

Lawrence Johnston, plant hunter, plant explorer, garden designer, Anglophile, couldn't escape a childhood memory of something much more unfettered, less controlled, more "American".  Hidcote, may be an iconic English garden, but does it have its origins in its creators wide open country?

That is my theory.  But I needed some back-up.

I consulted a psychoanalyst, not a therapist, to find out if the basis for believing our earliest memories of landscape consciously or unconsciously, influence the gardens we create.

I took myself as a case in point.  I grew up in a middle class neighborhood, where every lawn and backyard looked like hairspray had been applied to all things green.  My father, had an affinity for open spaces, particularly the White Mountains of New England, the Grand Tetons of Wyoming and the Alps of Switzerland.  He threw a monkey wrench into our subdued, acceptable garden by planting dahlias in outrageous colors, tulips in the wrong places and tomatoes next yews.  He erred on the wild side.

Thinking about my own garden predilections, I have been reflecting on their origins.  It would be comforting to think that the gardens, I have created, are the result of schooling, reading, traveling and conversations, but I have a feeling that something more elemental is at work.

It's not the place, the size, the flowers or shrubs.  It's something metaphorical.  It's practically indefinable.  What has formed a good part of what I "like" in a garden - or what I respond to or what I want to make is a walk on the wild side.

for roz & paul


Nov 12, 2010

Space Unfolding:
Paula Deitz

and that is the title of her new book.  A well-known fixture in the garden writing world, Ms. Deitz's academic background distinguishes her from others in the field.  Where she sees an open vista and is reminded of a Frederick Church painting, another might see a meadow filled with drifts of echinacea and monarda.

"The moment has to be right, a little after eight o'clock.  Suddenly moving slowly up and down both sides of the center islands, school buses and taxis fill the slick dark avenue with chrome-yellow shapes that gleam in the rain.  I move away for an instant, then, when I look again, this world in a mist seems transformed into a stream in an old Kyoto garden where golden carp weave in and out of dark waters, their backs glistening as they turn." excerpt from A Winter Garden of Yellow, New York Times, February 27, 1995 collected in Of Gardens.

Ms. Deitz spoke to a packed house at the Annual Meeting of The Horticultural Society of New York on Thursday night.  Her topic The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden on Mt. Desert Island.  As one expects from a landscape historian, Ms. Deitz began with a 19th century map of the island and the origin of the name.

"Some natives stress the second syllable (de-ZERT), in the French fashion, although many others pronounce it in a fashion similiar to the English name of a landscape devoid of vegetation (DEH-zert). French explorer Samuel de Champlain's observation that the summits of the island's mountains were free of vegetation as seen from the sea led him to call the island "Ile des Monts Deserts", or island of the bare mountains."

Ms. Deitz spends her summers in Maine.  Her relationship to the Rockefeller Garden at Seal Harbor is part neighbor and part historian.  This personal relationship to the past and present owners give her unique access and perspective.

The Rockfellers were inspired to create the garden at Seal Habor after a trip to Peking for the opening of the Peking Union Medical College.  What was it that inspired them to take a rugged part of the Maine coast and turn it into an Asian garden?

Ms. Deitz alluded to the answer.  Mrs. Abbey Aldrich Rockerfeller had a predilection for quiet spaces and saw the opportunity to turn her Maine property into a refuge.  Mrs. Rockefeller is quoted as saying
"only gardens know how to yield such happiness."

After working at Hidcote this summer,  I wondered if Lawrence Johnson, the creator of Hidcote, was influenced by his passion for all things English or if there was any remnant of his American childhood that influenced his building of the gardens at Hidcote. 
For me, gardens can yield happiness, but also sleepless nights.  In the case of the origins of the  garden at Seal Harbor, Deitz provided me with a good night's sleep.

Track Your Happiness

 How simple and frugal a thing is happiness:
a glass of wine, a roasted chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea...
All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple frugal heart.
Nikos Kazantzakis

In a follow up to the blog I wrote two days ago about Nordic Designers, especially Nille Juul-Sorenson and his remarks on the iphone's ability to become individualized. 

Others have found an additional use for the iphone in the world of scientific research. It seems psychologists at Harvard have figured out how to do a scientific study by developing an iphone app.  No need to enlist people to become part of a study.  This study simply asks people all over the world to upload the app:  Track Your Happiness.

It seems we are happiest when we are in the moment, when we focus. 

Nov 11, 2010

We're Farmers...

"We're farmers, we don't talk much, we do things."
Nille Juul-Sorenson
partner in Arup

Matilda McQuaid, Deputy Curatorial Director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum gathered together a panel of Scandinavian designers on Wednesday night to discuss Social Awareness & Sustainability.  Every country in Scandinavia was represented by leading Nordic designers.  

The panel was reserved.  The vibe was definitely low-key.  It seems this group of Nordic designers are well-fed, in fact, their physical needs are so well taken care of by the state, they have time, energy and the desire to concentrate their artistic efforts on objects that solve human problems.

NILLE JUUL-SORENSEN (Denmark) was definitely more voluble than his fellow Nordic designers.   He told a good story.  "People come to my house and admire the "design" objects in my apartment.  But we never think about "design, design."  We don't buy anything just for fun. We buy for function.  We like the fact that our plates are all the same size, that way they can be stacked.  It saves space."

In discussing craft and the loss of craft.  Mr. Sorenson continued.  "All the good craftsmen are pensioners.  We will have to wait another generation, for perhaps good craftsmen to produce objects."

Lavrans Lovlie, Director of livelwork (Norway) discussed the change from design object to design service.  What is it? ZipCar, it changes the business model from a buying a car, which is business to a service.  It's another type of solution.

As an example of a design object that is mass produced, yet is individualized: the iphone.  Again, Mr. Sorensen spoke up "My iphone is different than your iphone."

Perhaps, that is the paradigm of the new design object, a billion on the planet, but each one different from the other.

The Zen calendar for 11.11.2010
Through enlightment I acquired nothing.

Nov 6, 2010

Seizing The Worst Part of the City: Carol Franklin

"a common field grass, is one of nature's remarkable adaptations to stress an change. 
Wherever landscapes are disturbed, andropogon is one of the first field grasses 
to colonize the ground, providing a self-sustaining cover for the gradual return
of native forests."
from the andropogon website.

The times they may be changin' but for Carol Franklin the times have finally caught up with her ideas.  On October 25th at the Manhattan "satellite campus" of the New York Botanical Garden,  Franklin gave an impassioned plea for finding unused pieces of land and making them into healing ecosystems.

Rooftop gardens, rain gardens. school wetlands, bio ponds, forest restorations and green streets are the trademarks of Franklin's firm, Andropogon.  Their projects are wide ranging. Yet, Franklin is an advocate for an inclusive landscape architecture.  "It is the fusion of all flavors that make a great stew."

Franklin came prepared with a power point that included number of gallons of water stored, detailed percentages of soil mixtures, and figures on raw sewage filtered. And although all of this had some interest, it was not the real point.  Franklin has spent a lifetime arguing for a holistic vision of man and nature.  Her devotion to the earth hasn't changed in the last forty years: what has changed is the technology now available to implement her ideas.

Carol Franklin keeps on truckin' with enthusiasm. I hope I feel as passionate as she does about my profession 4 decades into it.
Carol Franklin
Landscape Design Portfolio Series 2010
New York Botanical Garden

October 25

Nov 4, 2010

Making A Canvas For People To Walk On: Bridget Baines of GrossMax

Piranesi drawing provides inspiration for fire escape garden
Drawing by Mark Dion of fire scape garden
Fair Street Housing Association

The installation is composed of fire escapes alongside a gable wall whihc utilises this three dimensinal structure as a support for a vertical garden.  The various plantings represent diffeerent conditions of London.  The plantings also include reference to the local breweries:  hop will wind up the staircases.  Other plants represent the import herbs and spices, historically shipped to nearby docks. 

Bridget Baines of GROSSMAX
is interested in Stitching THE CITY Together 
by whatever means possible. 

Drawing inspiration from a Piranesi drawing, working with Mark Dion, mining the history of Kew Gardens, or thinking about genetically modifying plant material are all ways of animating space for GrossMax.  

On Monday, October 18, Bridget Baines animated the room at the first lecture of the New York Botanical Gardens Landscape Design Series.
 Garden For A Plant Collector
GARDEN FOR A PLANT COLLECTOR:  The plants in each greenhouse are the same,
but the glass is a different color in each box.

Most landscape architects don't like competitions, but not Bridget Baines.  Her firm looks for competitions. "Competitions allow us to work provactively: to experiment and push the boundaries."  GrossMax starts with conceptual images and these concepts become the touchstone for making gardens
that tell the story of a place.  As Baines said she is making a canvas for people to walk on.
A Maternity Hospital was torn down to build the current park.  The hospital was an important landmark in the community.  People were connected to it.  GrossMax saved some of the stones from the hospital to incorporate them into this wall in the park.

Research and History seem as important to Bridget Baines as plants and topography.  
Conceptual starting point for Potters Field Park.  Reconnecting the site with the past:  the pattern of the fence relates to the history of the place.  English Delft tiles were made in this community.
The Reality

Baines' interest in art and how artists think about space is evidenced in all GrossMax's projects and conceptual drawings.  Referencing the comment by German aritst, Joseph Beuys in the film Dutch Light, that the Dutch had lost "their liquid light,"  Baines has certainly not lost hers.  
Bridget Baines
Landscape Design Portfolio Series 2010
New York Botanical Garden
October 18