Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pierre Joseph Redoute Liliacees

In 1814 and 1816 Pierre Joseph Redoute prepared the water color drawings known as the Les Liliaceee’s .
The Empress Josephine paid 84,000 francs for the watercolors.
In a second account , it is said the amount was 25,000 francs.

Whatever the cost was, the watercolor paintings are breathtaking.

In 1985 the auction house of Sotheby’s printed the paintings in a folio and offered it for sale to prospective bidders .
I was given one of the Sotheby’s folios - ( the printed book , not a copy of the originals )

I have used the book to study Redoute’s breathtaking watercolor style .

I bring this subject up because there is going to be an exhibit of some botanical art work that will include Redoute at Eureka Books in Northern California - See for details.

Below are just three images from the book. One of the images is a centerfold
Unfortunately my scanner is not working so these are photographs taken of the individual pages.

Plate number 370 - Amaryllis de Josephine

Plate number 131 - Fritllaria imperiale

another plate

Monday, July 28, 2008

A David Feix designed garden - in the Oakland Hills

On Sunday July 27 the San Francisco Bromeliad Society hosted their annual Garden Tour and pot luck dinner.
There were 4 spectacular gardens on the itinerary this day.
I took a lot of photographs on this inspirational day and will do an individual posting on each garden.
I’ll start with a garden that landscape architect David Feix designed .
It is located up in the Oakland hills.
I was told that the garden had a great view of the San Francisco Bay but I was so captivated with the gardens that I never looked out to the bay views.

As one does a street side ‘drive by siting’ , this is the view that you see from your car :

There are two entrances to the garden. One is from the street and the other is from the motor court.
The photo below shows the path leading up from the street.
Lots of aeoniums, succulents, rare trees and palms , agaves and bromeliads.

There were several secondary paths criss crossing across the sloping site that interconnected the garden together.

A cluster of bamboo along one of the paths.

A Chinese banana in bloom - Musella lasiocarpa - this bloom will last 8 months.

This vignette is located directly off the front brick patio adjacent to the house.

In the back yard was another brick terrace where we found more great horticultural delights to view and discuss.

This is the first sight that you see as you enter into the side garden.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cotyledon, Aeonium, Marjoram

Zen Zane Floral arranging

For the last several months I have been bringing the altar flowers to my sangha which meets every Monday evening.
When I first started bringing my small token floral arrangements they were somewhat traditional but usually had a little bit of horticultural punch .
Lately I’ve been putting a lot of effort into the floral arrangement and have really enjoyed myself in this new found art form.

I had always admired a well crafted flower arrangement but I was never really WOWED and knocked off my seat until I saw the work of Daniel Ost.
This guy has inspired me to think outside the vase.

Suddenly something inside of me has awakened and now I can’t wait to get up in the morning to scour the garden for flowers, branches, fruits, lichens, mosses, seed pods and even parasite oak tree galls , all to be used in sculpting a floral arrangement .

Tonight for the sangha altar I used a black ikebano metal plate vase, stuck in three Cotyledon flower spikes and then puffed up the base with Aeoniums leaf clusters.
It was very contemporary looking and several people commented on how much they liked it.
I don’t have a photo of it because I gave away all the aeoniums leaf cuttings to my friends but I do have a photo of the cotyledon :

Two weeks ago I brought in a floral arrangement that paired Alstromeria and Canna Pretoria leaves together

I have been enjoying using foliage submerged into a glass vase to hide the stems of the plants.
I’ve used phormium leaves, agave leaves and bromeliad leaves.

I only have two Scadoxus blooming in my back yard right now but I was awfully tempted to cut them for an arrangement with these purple irs ;

Foliage has played a big role in this new found love of the arts affair.
This Acacia cognata has such wonderful angular qualities and its clear blue foliage is a eye catcher. I even love its seed heads.

Next I have to figure out how to do something wild and wonderful with the giant taro leaves !

and these savory sexy succulents too !

I’m having such a fun time !

Sunday, July 13, 2008

To the heart of a garden.

I strongly believe that gardens that resonate with emotion are those that radiate the personality of their owners.

This makes garden making fairly easy for someone who is building a garden for themselves but for garden designers it poses an additional rung on the ladder that must be firmly grasp and felt.

There is a lot of investigated site analysis that must be discovered and solved before a garden designer can set pencil to paper in preparation for the design.

After the technical challenges have been addressed then exploring what is going to create the heart and soul of the project begins.

This explorative process is a highly interpersonal relationship between the designer and the homeowner.
It takes a special set of skills to gently extract information without being intrusive into the life of your client.

Recently I had the honor to work with a homeowner who has an exquisite collection of fine Asian interior artefacts.
In our conversation together I found that all the artefacts had been passed down through the family over several generations.
Most every item throughout the interior of the house had deep personal emotional attachment and meaning.

As I was developing the design for the outdoor terrace I had a distinct feeling that something was missing.
It occurred to me that this was the only room in the home that did not reflect any real personal history with family as did the rest of the rooms in the house.
My client and I discussed this sense of emptiness with one another and from this conversation came the realization that there was a deeply loved family buddha that could be sent from Asia to United States that could be placed in the garden to bring a sense of loving family memory into the garden room.

This is the heart of residential garden design, - getting to know your client on a level that you both feel comfortable with so you can help them emote a sense of personal expression.

detail of the interior light in the buddha niche

detail of the recessed strip lighting in the ipe wood molding

Hand carved Balinese stone pots at the corner that screen the low voltage lighting timer, irrigation timer, hose bib, and venting panel.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

5 Favorite Plants

It was difficult to narrow my choices down to just five of my favorite plants but that was the question that Elizabeth from Garden Rant requested.

# 1 - The Washingtonia robusta ( Mexican Fan Palm ) .
I love it because its wide ribbed palm fronds lend a tropical flavor to the garden and because it is a perfect armature for growing my bromeliad,-
tillandsia and orchid collection on.

which leads me to choice # 2
- The Bromeliad Collection. -
I have been attending the San Francisco Bromeliad Society meetings for the past year. Since attending the once monthly meetings I have learned an incredible amount about this curious looking plant family and my collection has grown substantially. I love that most all of the bromeliads that are in my garden have come from other society members . It is nice to look at a plant in your garden and associate a friend with it.

# 3 The Cussonia paniculata tree ( Snowflake Cabbage tree ) This Dr. Suess looking tress is absolutely fascinating to watch grow ! Its thick corky bark trunk is topped with a glaucaus blue mop head of snowflake looking leaves that can reach 2 feet wide

# 4 The hot pink huge Bougainvillea vine -
This huge brilliant fuchsia colored vine blooms 9 months out of the years

#5 - Aeoniums -
They are my ‘roses’ of choice. With their big leafy rosettes , saucy colors and succulent foliage they add Mediterranean pizzaz to my garden.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Edible Landscapes

Edible Landscapes

Planting an edible landscape is nothing new, it’s been done and done extremely well since the Medieval times.
One of the most beautiful representations of a Medieval vegetable garden was laid out in the 1930’s at The Cloisters in New York City.
Viewing this garden is a great education in understanding how good structural bones can aesthetically and functionally carry a garden through decades and still look as good as the first day that it was planted.

Good landscape architectural bones defines space.
When you think of planting out your vegetable garden it is essentially a garden made up of temporary annuals. When those annuals are gone, you are left with fallow ground.
To anchor your annual garden it makes functional sense to include some structural definition.
Structural definition can be as simple as paths, hedges, arbors and walls of various heights that can be sculpted out of espaliered plants or construction materials ( stone, wood,
metal ).

Below are a few photographs of some sensible edible gardens.

These first two photos show a simple edible estate.
The first photo depicts a garden of Olives, espalier figs, cascading rosemary, lemons and silver ground cover thyme.

This photo of the same property shows a raised vegetable garden specifically designed for a physically challenged ( a broken back ) gardener.

This old photograph was taken in the late 1980’s before I had digital camerea technology. ( apologies for the photographic quality)
We designed and planted this back yard potager. It’s outer frame structure is defined by clipped dwarf boxwood, variegate myrtle and rosemary topiary forms.
The back green wall is a connecting series of espalier apple trees. This garden provides food all year round for a family of 4.

In the 90’s we remoldeled a mid century modernist home. This is one of the raise stone vegetable/ herb/ flowers beds. Hand cut New England bluestone.

My vegetable / potager garden resides in my front yard.
Because of its front and center location I wanted it to look good all year round so I planned and planted good evergreen bones.

I’m glad that I had the foresight to do this because last year due to medical surgery I was not able to plant any annual vegetables.
It’s depressing enough to deal with failing health so the last thing you want to do is walk into your front yard and see a lifeless fallow garden. That’s not too healing.

This photo shows the front yard edible garden in its first winter - note the simple wire fence to help train the Jack Russell terrior from foraging in the garden

This picture shows the garden a couple of years later. The boxwood frame is taking shape and the Jack Russell terrior has trained me that he is going to go anywhere he wants in the garden. - gone is the simple barrier fence. He has me trained.

The garden in the late winter - lots of lettuce, peas, chives, and other winter vegs.

I took this photo July 3, 2008, the bones of the front yard vegetable garden are grown in and now it just takes a trimming twice a year to keep it in shape.
This summer I have tomatoes, squash, peppers, chives, sage, oregano, many types of basil and some medicinal herbs growing.

Not too far from my house is the Copia Institute in Napa Valley.
I am crazy over the front yard vegetable garden that Peter Walker designed.
He has said that Villandry in France was one source of inspiration for him when he tackled this design.

Mr. Walker utilizes stone walls, decomposed granit paths, arbors and strong axial vista ways to ground his potager garden to the architecture and surrounding environment.
His planting scheme is spectacular.