Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Curve your enthusiasm.

Any tool in the hands of an inexperienced beginner is going to be a challenge.

Remember the first time you had to set up your 4 point transit to shoot a grade?

I think I walked circles around the tripod for about a half hour trying to balance out the levelers. Don’t even get me started on calibrating a digital laser level !

So suffice to say that a beginner gardener using a simple convenient on site garden hose to visually assist in the preliminary layout might prove to be a little challenging.

But hey, it’s just a hose and eventually any moron can figure out how to work with one.

The tough part is not moving the hose , it’s understanding the aesthetics and function of line.

In my professional design business I’m not embarrassed to use any tool that can get a visual point across. If a hose is conveniently available on site I’m going to reach for it to help my client visualize a layout.

And I will encourage gardeners anywhere to try this visual aide. It’s cheap, easy and efficient.

Where the important aspect comes in, is understanding form, line and function.

You can be armed with a bucket full of wooden stakes or a digital laser , but if you don’t have an understanding of line, form and function, you’re just as useless whether you’re using a hose or a laser.

Below : A 3/4 inch pvc pipe was used to layout the curves.

From Before and After

From Before and After

While on site the first day with my clients I reached for a hose and laid out the curve.

During the actual site construction a 3/4 inch piece of pvc was used to layout the arc.

From R E D

Once again a hose was used to visually assist the clients on site when describing the layout of the curve.

Another use for a hose : a level.

Much to my chagrin, after purchasing a very expensive laser level the stone masons opted to use a simple clear hose to set the levels on all of the stone work.

Evidently , men with no formal education and little knowledge of the english language can actually use a hose ! - Imagine that. ( smirk )

From Outdoor Kitchens and Dining areas

You guessed it, that darn hose was used again on site to help the homeowners visualize the spatial layout. They actually bent down and moved the hose themselves !

See what a college degree can do for you ... give you confidence to move a hose.

From Beach House

Note digital level on site - not used for laying out the curves but for setting the grade.

Stakes used to layout the new deck and locate the edges of the bender board.

From Beach House

Once again, a convenient on site hose was used to visually assist in preliminary layout, there it is sitting there on the ground behind the table showing the layout of the new bar.

From New Album 12/7/09 12:51 PM

From portfolioMay08.jpg

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Your basic open wire fence.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we all could afford a beautiful well crafted artisan styled fence around our gardens ?

It would also be lovely if we could all travel around the world and have world peace too.

But reality being what it is, not everyone can flitter across the country on a fantasy filled whim or have a highly detailed fence built around their home and garden.

So what’s a middle class homeowner to do ?

Well there are plenty of cost efficient and aesthetically pleasing options to consider.

One of the least expensive style of fences to install is a simple welded wire mesh fence with metal or wood posts.

Because of the open weave the metal panels are virtually invisible when viewed from a distance

Below is a 70 acre property in Sonoma Valley surrounded by woven mesh metal fencing ( barely visible)

The metal weave is about 3 inches x 4 inches wide and stands 6 feet tall.

From Sonoma Valley Project

Same fence style seen up close :

From portfolioMay08.jpg

Another inexpensive fence to consider is an open lattice style .

In the photo below in the foreground we used 2x2 redwood for the in-fill.

In the far background of the same photo is the same fence frame but a metal 4 x 4 inch wire mesh was installed as the in-fill

From Alexander Valley

Another inexpensive style that might work with your exterior architecture is a simple picket fence.

In this photo below we extended the 4x4 posts and strung tension wire in-between the posts ( above the pickets ) to provide an extra 3.5 feet of height to the fence to keep the deer from intruding inside the vegetable garden.

It’s been working just fine for the past 16 years.

From Alexander Valley

There are a myriad of open weave fence styles to choose from and many can be very affordable.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A slow day at the office

It pains me to say it, but its been really slow around here for the last few weeks.
Most of the projects that we've been working on are being wrapped up and I'm getting
that anxious feeling.

In the past 27 years I've had more work than I could handle so this 'cup half empty' syndrome
is really unnerving me.

I suppose I could drive out to one of our installation projects and nose around, but it really
isn't necessary and it would just be wasting gas.

So instead I'm fooling around with the computer , which is just another way of stalling the act of cleaning and organizing my office, which I find dreadfully boring and uninspiring.

Well here's to all my old clients, Happy Holidays ! , ... and if you were thinking of doing 'phase II ' to your last landscape project, I'm ready , willing and able !

Cause this fooling around with the computer stuff is starting to become boring too.

Happy holidays to all.
And may we all have a creative and busy new year.

From New Album 12/7/09 12:51 PM

Friday, December 18, 2009

Planting at the beach.

It was like summer at the beach today . A mild windless brilliant sunny cloudless day with temperatures in the low to mid 60’s.

Most of the plants had arrived on site and were ready to be placed for planting.

From Beach House

But before any planting could commence we needed to craft gopher protection cages for the plants lest we treat the gophers with yummy root salads.

From Beach House

This particular piece of property has a history worthy of a Caddy Shack movie award for its active population of gophers.

Everything and every place within the garden required heavy duty galvanised half inch hardware cloth ( it’s called hardware cloth but it is actually wire ) . We installed it under the dry lay flagstone, the soon to be seeded Eco lawn and under all the decomposed granite pathways.

From Beach House

In the picture above you’ll notice a couple of missing bluestone pieces. Those locations are going to have carved flat stone fish inlaid into the path.

We’re doing this to mark the locations of the septic system clean out valves.

One of the guys tried his hand at doing a fish cut out. Not bad but it’s a no go. I made a template for them to use and they’ll use that. But this cut out can be inlaid in the childrens vegetable garden or in the fire ring area.

From Beach House

I found some pretty nice looking plants for the garden.

We’re especially pleased with the Arbutus marina trees that will be about 7 to 8 feet tall once in the ground and about 3 feet wide.

From Beach House

We’re using a lot of Austrailan and South African plants such as Banksias, Leucadendrons,

Proteas and tons and tons of succulents

Photo of the flowers on Hakea francisciana

From Beach House

Some of the succulents will be cut from my garden and planted as cuttings

From Pina Colada

During the upcoming Christmas break I will be working with the 2 children who will play in this garden. We will be making our own ceramic tiles for a mosaic band that will be installed at the entrance to the fire ring sitting area. I’m looking forward to this and can’t wait to see what the kids come up with !

I’ll post some photos of their art work and the finished mosaic work when its done.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Digging Deeper

The act of design is many things.

On a purely pedestrian level it is about addressing and solving tangible problems.

But from an artistic point of perspective it is more than problem solving, it is about creative expressionism and the ability to inspire.

In its most basic mundane expression a retaining wall is designed to hold back or retain grade.

With an element of creative expression it can transport the imagination of those who view it.

From portfolioMay08.jpg

The above photo shows a 14 foot tall retaining wall designed for a wine merchant living in the suburbs .

The faux doors imply that a wine cellar lies behind the doors, thus transporting the dreams of the client.

Another retaining wall design addresses the need for creating flat usable space while crafting a unique way for children and adults to use their yard space.

From Kids Play Space

From Kids Play Space

From Kids Play Space

A motor court or driveway can be a dull uninspired stretch of concrete that does nothing to enhance the sense of entry to your house.

In the photo below this entry motor court was designed to keep vehicles from parking directly adjacent to the house by using texture and pattern to delineate the space.

From portfolioMay08.jpg

A drainage v-ditch does not have to be a trench lined with uniformed sized rocks. It can express itself as a natural dry stream bed.

This drainage swale prevents this property from flooding, which it previously did before the design intervention.

From portfolioMay08.jpg

A heavy duty umbrella stand for a beach side public park doesn’t have to be a staid metal pole rising from from the ground.

Instead it can reflect the genus loci of the site by playfully engaging those who take shelter under it.

From Interplay Project

From Interplay Project

The green sea kelp washes across the armature as a band of colorful mosaic glass floats between the kelp. Sea urchins, shells and a nautilaus ride the waves of the armature .

From Interplay Project

The above sculpture was designed and crafted at Interplay Design Studio.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The ultimate green holiday tree.

They weren’t kidding when they stated on the box (below) that this Christmas tree will provide “ years of use”.

From New Album 12/7/09 12:51 PM

At the very least it’s been going strong for over 40 years and quite possibly will hit its 50th year soon.

This is the ultimate of ‘green Christmas trees', though it is stainless foil silver.

My partner had this tree set up for christmas during his youth. And being the ever frugal Irish that they were, they lovingly repacked the tree at the end of each holiday season, in its original box, and stored it away until the following year.

They just don’t make christmas trees like this anymore.

From New Album 12/7/09 12:51 PM

To top it off my partner still has the original ‘tree motor base’ and 'rotating color wheel' - and they work !

The tree actually rotates ! After a glass or two of spiked eggnog it becomes quite entertaining because towards the end of it’s full rotation the tree kind of hits a mild shaky kink and all the ornaments jiggle.

If you are inebriated enough it looks like the nut cracker ornaments are coming to life to get you.

And the color wheel. Yup it still rotates too. The stainless steel foil tree reflects the 4 different colors and turns from silver to green to blue and red. More entertainment for the intoxicated !

From New Album 12/7/09 12:51 PM

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The incredible Mr. Limpid

It's limpsville here.

It looks like someone took a blow torch to the Pina Colada garden .

We’ve had temperatures in the low 20’s for the last couple of nights and the subtropicals are pissed off.

A once full and blooming 14 foot tall Brugmansia is now reduced to a melting skeleton.

From Pina Colada

Iochromas are totally curdled along with the Tibouchinas, Alocasia, young Bougainvilleas and a variety of succulents, especially the aeoniums.

The Heliconias are blackened. They are Toast.

Even the high altitude subtropical Cantua buxifolia, Flower of the Incas , is looking death in the eye.

From Pina Colada

Come this spring I hope that we’ll see new growth from the root stock of many of these plants , but until late March or April it is going to be a sad looking winter time garden.

Even much of my winter color was fried. Good by Shirley poppies and Cinerarias.

Buxsom Bottom Busty Betty, the ficus pumila topiary with echiveria nipples is frigid.

From Pina Colada

A thick blanket of white frost covered the small front yard lawn

From Pina Colada

Monday, December 7, 2009

Following Rules .. or not.

There was an interesting article written on the blog ‘Blue Planet Garden' :
http://garden-chick.typepad.com/ , about practicing what we preach in regards to garden design rules.

Most of the garden designers who responded to the essay mentioned that they in general have some form of rules or guidelines that they follow.

When thinking of this querry, I replied that I don’t follow any designated set of design rules. In fact I think they are limiting and have the potential to stifle innovation and creativity.

My philosophy and theory on design can be summed up by a quote by Walter Benjamin :
“In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it.”

I’ll say it a bit cruder than Benjamin that to self sanction our ‘designing’ selves with rules is to stifle the process of discovery.

To my minds eye, in specific regard to art and design, “rules engage constraints , constrainsts can limit our possibilities and the lack of possibilities possess the ability to stifle innovation”.
That is the antithesis of the discipline of design.

That is why , as designers I feel it is more important to keep an open mind and listen rather than to instill a set of static tenents.

If as designers we invoke these self imposed ‘rules’, then there is the potential of unwittingly forcing the rules upon our client that they do not necessarily desire or find important to their lives.

I like how Scott Hokunson of Blue Heron ( http://bhld.wordpress.com/ ) described his perspective on practising what you preach when he quoted the Pirates Code , “ is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules”

Below is a path design by the firm Suzman and Cole.
If they stayed true to the rule that paths should be a minimum of 4 feet wide do you think we would have such wonderful innovation ?
From New Album 12/7/09 12:51 PM

Or that all gardens should have comfortable seating ?
In these gardens pictured below it isn’t about providing comfortable seating it is more about viewing the garden and or working in the garden

Design by David Feix
From david's garden photos

Design by Topher Delaney
From New Album 9/26/09 8:37 PM

Friday, December 4, 2009

Brugmansias still a bloom'in

A few more photos of the Pina Colada garden before the really cold night time winter weather curdles the subtropical flowers and foliage.

Most of the brugmansias were in bloom with the exception of Pink Frost, during the visitors visit.
The B. Charles Grimaldi was heavy with scent and bloom
From Pina Colada

And the whites were also a crowd pleaser
From Pina Colada

I had a carton of a half dozen brightly colored round paper lanterns hanging around and hung them from the branches of an Acasia cognata tree. They remind me of Christmas decorations with a subtropical vibe.
From Pina Colada

I had the buffet table set up yesterday too.
I didn’t get a good shot of it then, but here’s an older pix from this summer.
From Pina Colada

Happy Holiday Seasons to All.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Pina Colada Garden gets a visit.

The Pina Colada had a couple of really nice visitors today.
In anticipation of their arrival a few tastey treats were set out for all to enjoy.

I was particularly giddy with delight to use the antique Fiestaware ‘berrybowls’ that I had just received from Patrick .
Aren’t they stunning. I just Love them !

From Pina Colada

The centerpiece is a 4 inch pot of Campanula surrounded by mini oranges. Cute !

It’s almost impossible to see in this photo but there is a simple metal chandelier above the table festooned with tillandsias.
From Pina Colada

From Pina Colada

A day bed to take a nap on.
From Pina Colada

And another small sitting area to rest in
From Pina Colada

Not much resting or napping done today. The visitors who came today were checking out the garden for a potential upcoming article for a magazine.
I hope the garden makes the cut.