Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Not So New Idea

All this buzz about creating an ‘out door room’ is hardly new but the talking heads are making it out like it is the new trend for 2007.

Palladio ( b.1508 - 1580 ) would be hurling plinths of Carerra marble down from his outdoor loggia screaming at the top of his Paduan lungs “ I get ta no a respecta ! “

He would be joined by other early Egyptian , Greek and Roman architects and builders who had been designing , building and living in their outdoor living rooms since the discovery of dirt.

Let’s face it, Fred Flintstone probably had one of the first fire pits on his block and Barney Rubble one upped him with his new pergola made from T- Rex bones.

In the modern era of the 1950’s Thomas Church and his buds came around and through a series of books and magazines heightened the aesthetic sensibilities of the American public by proclaiming that the garden was an extension of the house that “ supplemented the activities of the occupants”.

Golly gee, who would’da thunk ? Outdoor living in outdoor rooms ? Revolutionary !

We all come from a wide variety of social and economic backgrounds .
What may be considered over indulgence for one may be de rigueur for another.
Whose to judge ?

I am of the philosophy, that as long as it is done in good taste and built within the desires and budget of the homeowner then good for you ! You are living your life to the fullest and enjoying every minute of it.

Below are a few outdoor rooms that my small design and build firm has crafted .

My own outdoor living room
This photo was taken while preparing the ‘room’ for a informal garden party.

Kids enjoying making S’mores over the firepit while the parents get the table ready for dinner.

A sunken conversation area adjacent to the dining deck.
Behind the fireplace is a grove of old growth redwood trees where we set in a hottub and seating area. This is a rather old project that stills receives a lot of use, proving that ‘outdoor rooms don’t go out of style’.

A simple bluestone and brick patio with a built in cooking area located on the side of a redwood forest hill side.

A rather grand outdoor living space built for a rather grand estate.
This room is adjacent to an olympic sized swimming pool and personal football field.
~ photography by Lee Anne White.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Suburban Front Yard Vegetable Gardening.

The abdication of sound landscape design practices does not have to come at the expense of installing a vegetable garden, especially if the garden is going to be placed front and center in a suburban front yard.

Good design can happen and an abundant vegetable garden can be attractive all year round.

It just takes forethought, a bit of planning and the desire for good aesthetics.

Basic landscape architecture 101 - Give your yard good bones.
If you have good strong architectural stature all year round your front yard vegetable garden will look good whether it is planted or not.

One achieves good bones by using both softscaping ( plants ) and hardscaping ( built structures) . Good bones creates order.

In my own front yard suburban vegetable garden I rely on a clipped boxwood hedge to frame and enclose my potager.
It is a small but prolific garden . It measures a mere 15 feet by 15 feet but in this melange I manage to grow a bevy of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.

A simple axial path bisect the plot into 4 quadrants.
A terra cotta pot sits in the middle of the quadrant surrounded by a circular path.
In past years I have had a lemon tree planted in the large container while other years I have opted for a topiary rosemary shrub or a lushly planted herb and flower scheme.

Winter time potager

potager with glimpse of center leading path

Orange flowers line entry to potager

In larger potagers that I have designed and installed for the suburban front and back yard gardens we have used low evergreen hedges of boxwood and pineapple guava to lend architectural stature.
We have also planted living walls of espaliered apple , lemon and fig trees as well as cordoned kiwi and grapes vines to create a sense of contained order.
In several potagers we have use deciduous blueberry, raspberry and rose bushes to delineate the structure of the plate - bande.

Arbor's , trellis’s, fencing and well laid out paths can impart good architectural bones upon a vegetable garden by providing structured permanence.

By giving your garden a sense of grounded framework you can fill in between the lines with ephemeral seasonal vegetables, flowers and herbs and when they have been harvested your garden is not left lifeless without substance of form.

small potager in a suburban yard

A terraced vegetable garden

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sizzlin !

Today while driving back from a new project I took a detour to see how one of our older gardens was celebrating the coming of spring in Northern California.

The Loropetalum chinense " Sizzlin Pink" was on fire !

View of the garden from the street side

Spring time in Northern California brings out the brilliant blooms on Loropetalum chinense.

The stone patio is Arizona flagstone, the walls are crafted from Utah ledge stone.
Other plants that are blooming : Camelias, Prunus ‘Snow Fountain’, Daphne, and Ribes.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The San Francisco Garden Show

All the worlds a stage and the stage sets were up an blooming at the San Francisco Garden Show.
Tops on my list for the most creative and best use of plants was the underwater fantasy sea scene created by Organic Mechanics .
A dining table surrounded by 4 oversized antique metal clam shell seats set in a swirling sea of sumptuous succulents, colored sea glass and a watchful red eyed octopus was whimsically quirky yet crafted to perfection.
It was amazing how such earth bound plants as aeoniums, aloes , agaves , echiverias and sedums evoked a truly authentic feeling of an underwater coral reef. I was expecting Jacque Costeau to float by at any moment.

The naughty school children from Arizona State University dissed the show at the last minute and the show director Kay Estay was caught in a pickle.
In a stoke of genius she called upon a true San Francisco landscape design professional, Davis Dalbok of Living Green Studio who saved the day with one of the most tantalizing exhibits of the entire show.
What that man can pull out of his arse in a matter of 5 days of notice is so far superior to most other attempts of strained mundane.
Davis designed his stage set around a pair of giant copper incised temple doors. They look as though they were liberated from the Mongol Empire and were surrounded by an exported South East Asian orchid jungle .

The Modern Martini Garden from the underwriters of Garden Design fell an olive short this year. They could have used a bit more top shelf gin to infuse their exhibit with some more pizzaz. A few good pieces of uncomfortable modern styled furniture, a hot tub, turf block and some muddy brown grass did not make an impact and will quickly fade from our memories until it resurfaces in the glossy pages of the magazine a few months from now.

There was however one very exciting contemporary garden that will not fade from our memories and that was the highly artistic stage set designed by McCloud Design.
Their open plane was minimally decorated but what they did choose to use was chosen with an eye to detail . A wide long warm patinated modern copper wall piece was inlaid into an earth toned wall. Juxtaposed in front of the wall was a small stand of white bark birch trees.
Off to the side was a simple gathering area around a hand crafted metal fire pit . Several planter boxes fabricated from raw steel and a cascading water feature made from woven metal completed the sensual vignette.

The San Francisco Bromeliad Society crafted a well packed subtropical inspired jungle and John Greenlee the Californian Grass Guru visually treated us with a pastoral wild flower and native grass meadow complete with a shiny classic old car plunked down in the middle of the field.

The giant plastic gold gilded trophy for the most ghastly gauche goes to Amy Kee and the American Institute of Floral Design.
OH MY GAWD ! , It was so bad that I loved it for its over the top garish tackiness.
Imagine a 4 foot tall cream colored poodle made out of chrysanthemum flowers floating in a tub of water and bubble wrap.
Brightly colored heart shaped floral wreaths hanging from tripods that one would see at funeral parlor proudly displaying a portrait of the deceased ringed the exhibit.
It was a hoot ! Now that was a exhibit that I won’t forget for years to come !

Monday, March 19, 2007

To a New Beginning

For our part, as a Landscape Design and Build firm, we have come to an end on this phase of the project and the property owners , along with their new garden will embark on a new beginning.

From concept to construction , another project comes to fruition.

Front Motor court entry

Water feature

Red pots

Entry into courtyard

Core ten steel arc and spheres

Bodacious Balls

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Open minded thinking

In 2005 my small design and build firm worked on a project in the Napa Valley.

Along with several other installation projects within this 70 acre property parcel we had the task of installing an artificial putting green that adjoined a combination soccer field and fairway as well as a bocce ball court and viewing platform.

When installing an artificial green we prefer to use a compacted class II permeable sub base with an extensive drainage system so that the aquifer is naturally recharged during our brief rainy season

On another piece of property we installed an artificial lawn on top of a hillside.
This artificial lawn was chosen for its rugged and safe durability as a playground surface.
It was also chosen because there is no water source up ontop of the hill and hauling a lawn mower up 50 stone steps was not the homeowners idea of a fun workout.

We considered other surface options prior to settling on the artificial turf, but its ability to stand up to the wind ( the wood chipped playground fiber would have blown away in less than a week ) and the marauding wild life had already caused us to build removable covers on the sand box, were nixed out of the equation.

We have another artificial turf installation slated to be installed this spring . The residence is a second home that the owners use predominately during the winter skiing season.
The surrounding native landscape that we installed last fall will adjoin the only flat usable space ( which will be used as a children's play surface ) on the steep mountainous property.
It is a study in contrasts but we feel we can pull it off aesthetically by carefully integrating large native granite boulders, randomly placed rough hewn logs, weaving in large drifts of wild flowers and native shrubs along with the children's play structure.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

mucho trabajo

Another day, another dollar and the project progresses towards completion.

The chilly gray rainy skies have finally blow over giving way to a much needed warm sunny work day.

The Big Blue Tarp was removed and another coat of red hot chilli pepper stucco was applied to the water wall.
The copper fountain spout and black ebony wood bench was installed today along with the 16 foot long core ten steel arc that sits in the interior sculpture gallery.

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We hope to have everything wrapped up by Monday or Tuesday... just in time for the clients big event.

whew !

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The 16 foot long core ten steel arc arrives.

We brought in the 16 foot long curved core ten steel arc today.

Within a couple of weeks it will morph into a lovely patinated red rusty skin leaving behind the bland dark gray metal that you now see in the photo below.

By tomorrow we will have the steel arc sitting down on the grade with its supporting legs securely anchored into their concrete footings.

The Buddy Rhodes cast concrete orbs will not be ready for another several weeks so in the mean time I purchased 3 resin orbs and started staining them today. They will work as temporary sculptures until the real deal arrives.

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