Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Research Shows How Trees Affect Shopping

A multi-study research program has concluded that the presence of trees—particularly mature canopy trees—affects how people shop and spend.  While much research has been done on how interior environments such as lighting and music affect consumer preferences, very little hard research has been done on how exterior environments affect people’s behavior. 

Study participants reported they would be more likely to shop, pay for parking, and spend more in environments with large canopy trees.  Merchants often prefer smaller ornamental trees because they fear large canopies will block store signage.  The study emphasized how the co-design of signage and vegetation can resolve these issues. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Fashions and Trends are Good for Gardens

Tom Stuart Smith's award winning garden at Chelsea Flower Show
Last week I wrote a post about plants for spring 2011 that were “hot” or “not.”  In the post, I took a deliberately sardonic tone imitating the fashionistas I had just seen reviewing trends for the Academy Award show.  I knew I’d get some flak for that post, but was rather surprised by some of the condemnation I got for even paying attention to trends.  The reaction raised some interesting questions for me.  Should we pay attention to garden or design trends?  Are gardens immune to fashions?  One commenter wrote on another blog:

"Real gardeners don’t pay attention to which plants are in or out. I shudder to think about those that pay attention to such nonsense and am concerned about those that disseminate such marketing misinformation."


I wonder, who are 'real gardeners'?  One of my favorite bloggers, Nancy Ondra, wrote a rather compelling photographic response to my comment that Amsonia hubrictii was “out.”  Of course, I should have known better than to pick on such a beloved and versatile plant.  I still think it peaked out a year or two ago, but I must be honest: Nancy’s gorgeous photos of Amsonia through the year crushed my argument.  I know when to admit defeat.  By the end of her post, I wanted to run to my nearest nursery and buy 50 A. hubrichtii.

I rather expected good natured responses like Nancy’s.  What is puzzling to me is how strongly some readers objected to the very idea of trends in the garden.  One commenter rather eloquently wrote, “It is sad when we find the obsession with newness and being on-trend spilling over into gardening.  We need to preserve its value as essentially a slow process—the experience of designed landscapes growing and maturing and becoming more desirable with the patina of age.”  Another comment remarked, “I have to laugh, because there’s such a funny part of human nature, that when something becomes ‘too popular’ those who consider themselves ‘in the know’ are obliged to hate it.”  Both comments make some excellent points.  But I find myself having a very different reaction to trends.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Gardening Honeymoon by guest blogger Jeanette Ankoma-Sey

Honeymoon, noun: period of enthusiasm or goodwill.

As a gardener and designer, when we moved into our first home I had mixed feelings about starting my garden with my husband. It was August of 2007; it was a 100 sizzling degrees and when we pulled up to the corner unit we were surprised at the size of the yard that came with this tiny 1950's duplex. Yes, we knew the size and had walked the yard before we bought the house.  Living in an apartment with a shady balcony for 5 plus years, we always thought just a little more space would be nice, just a little bit more . . . So we committed to 4500 square feet of southern exposure (think zone 8b) and a wickedly sloping yard that begged for screening, greening, living. I warned my husband about the undertaking and ultimately we had no idea where to start with getting some green (and blues, oranges, pinks, purples) in our yard.

We are still miles away from having my yard the way I dream it could be. I envision a terraced heaven with a space to do yoga in the privacy of my lawn, amongst plenty of planted beds and garden rooms of sweet sounds, sights, tastes, and smells. Miles away I say.... BUT here is how we and a few clever plant/designer friends have fared with the budget garden challenge.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Favorite Native Plants

Check out today's posting on Betsy Franz's excellent site Metro DC Lawn and Garden.  I discuss some of my favorite native plants with Betsy and talk about how I like to use them in gardens.  Betsy's series on gardener's favorite natives is a great source of ideas and inspiration.  Plus, her blog site is an excellent source of news, tours, and garden information for the Washington, D.C. area.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring 2011: What's HOT, What's NOT

Image from Tom Stuart-Smith's 2009 Chelsea Garden.
The week after the Academy Awards, the internet is abuzz with fashion experts declaring who was the best dressed and who wasn’t at this year’s show.  This ritual is ridiculous yet captivating.  I yell, “Who cares!” at my screen, yet find myself clicking through the slide show.  The disasters are as interesting as the beauties. 
And then it hit me.  Why not do the same for plants?  When it comes to designing plants, I am as opinionated as any Hollywood fashionista.  And probably as obnoxious.  There are so many undervalued plants whose gleaming moment has come.  And then there are a host of other plants whose overuse of them has made them, to be honest, clich├ęd.  Gardens are not immune to fashion trends, otherwise why are you reading those glossy garden magazines?  So here it is dear readers, my recommendations of what will be hot this spring 2011, as well as a list of plants whose moment has passed.  Remember, just because a plant is on the “not” list, doesn’t mean it’s not a great plant.  It’s just not trending now.

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