Monday, July 16, 2012

"Cottage Garden, American Style," featured in The American Gardener Magazine

Can the British cottage garden style be adapted with American native plants?  Absolutely!  To find out how, check out this month's (July/August 2012) issue of the The American Gardener Magazine, featuring a full-length article that I wrote addressing this very topic.  "Cottage Garden, American Style," explains the design principles behind creating cottage gardens and includes lists of native plants best adapted to give it that unique look.  As a web special, The American Horticultural Society included my list of native cottage garden plants organized by regions of the country

The article expands upon a post I wrote on this blog called "Native Plants for the Cottage Garden" back in 2010.  The American Gardener Magazine is the official publication of The American Horticultural Society.  A subscription to the magazine is available for a very reasonable membership fee. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why I Don't Believe in Low Maintenance Landscapes

The American obsession with low maintenance landscapes is a problem. Here’s why.

There are several phrases I’ve learned to dread from clients. “I want to swim by Memorial Day,” is always a heart-stopper, particularly when you were hired in March to design a swimming pool and garden. “I want this garden to look perfect for my daughter’s wedding,” is perhaps the most dreaded phrase of all. If you ever hear that one, run far away. But the phrase that makes me cringe the most is a phrase I hear all the time: “I want this to be low maintenance.”

A low maintenance landscape is a rather innocuous request. It is also, of course, an absolutely sensible one. After all, who has the time or resources to pour endless hours into a landscape? Plus, traditional maintenance often focuses on chemical inputs and gas-powered machinery, all of which are bad for the environment. Perhaps low maintenance landscapes are both good for people and the environment, right?

Yes and no. “Low maintenance” is not just an idea, it is an ideology. It is the promise of more for less. As Americans, we still believe cheap, fertile land is our manifest destiny. We deserve bounty without labor, satisfaction without commitment.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Garden Like You've Never Seen It Before

The magical photography of Magdalena Wasiczek

The first time I saw a photograph of Magdalena Wasiczek, my heart hurt.  It was an image of Heleniums, but it took me a moment to recognize the flowers.  The image focused on three sculptural flowers with planet-like orbs in the center.  The color of the flowers were muted, yet intense, like the last moments of a sunset.  The flowers floated on this turquoise-black background that conveyed an endless depth and all around the flowers. Dust (or pollen? or water? or fairies?) twirled around flowers, animating the image like a constellation in motion.  I tore the image out of the magazine and took it with me to work. I tacked it next to my computer screen.  When I look at it, I feel energized yet calmed.  I imagine that this is what God sees when he looks at Heleniums. 

Summer in Rain, on right, the image I referenced above.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Most Ambitious Public Planting Ever?

London's Olympic Park brings together three of the most innovative plantsmen in the world.  Will the results live up to the hype?

Not since the Victorian era--at the height of the British empire--has a park been created with as much ambition or swagger.  The London Olympic Park, a 247-acre "park with venues," is the largest urban park developed in Europe in 150 years. 

Professor Nigel Dunnett standing in one of his annual meadows.
The master plan for the park was developed by American landscape architecture firm Hargreaves and Associates together with British LDA Associates.  Hargreaves Associates is known for their sculptural treatment of large, post-industrial sites--an appropriate choice for this former industrial site at Stratford in east London.  But for once, it is not the architecture of the park that will take center stage, but the planting instead.

The planting was lead by  two of the most innovative, cutting-edge plantsmen in the world: Professors James Hitchmough and Nigel Dunnett of the Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield.  Their research-based approach to planting has produced landscapes that are both ecologically funtional and jaw-droppingly beautiful.  Hitchmough and Dunnett pioneered a unique approach to urban planting, which combines native and non-native plant species in low-input systems based on semi-natural vegetation types, such as meadows, woodlands and wetlands.  This approach has come to be known as `The Sheffield School´ of planting design.  The two men bridge the gap between ecological restoration and horticulture, creating landscapes that address urban ecology and beauty.

A 'pictorial meadow' in South Park developed by Dunnett/Hitchmough.  Photo: Dunnett

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