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Posts Tagged ‘green’

I am so fortunate to live in the Bay Area and be able to get over to Filoli once in a while.  I realized last fall that I hadn’t been in a couple of years, and was determined to go again soon.  I’ve only visited Filoli in the Spring.  Not on purpose, simply because of the timing of house guests’ visits and their desire to see the famous house and gardens.  I intend to make 2010 my year of Filoli visits and to see it in as many different moments as possible.  This last week we were supposed to have rain all week and I waited (not so) patiently for a sunny day…which we enjoyed Monday through Thursday despite the wet forecasts.  I gave up my wait on Friday the 12th and drove over to enjoy the first day of accurate forecasting (rain!) with a few other early season visitors.  I enjoyed seeing things before everything begins the uber rainbow of Spring at Filoli in full bloom.   Despite the rainy day light (and my wet lens and cold hands), I snapped a few photos:

Notice how even in lousy light and with the deciduous woody plants being void of leaves, this garden is photogenic?  That it’s simple (especially at this time of year, before the flower riot is in full swing) the plantings are stunning, and how the structure of this garden – the layers and mass of its “bones” – support the flower beds.  When looking at the images, did you feel like it was not colorful enough?  I didn’t.  I love that evergreens and deciduous plants are together to support each other visually.  The evergreen plants are also a whole variety of greens – the Olive trees, Boxwood, Yews – all different.  The paths are simple, made of modest, honest materials, and support thousands of visitors annually.

Horizontal layers, vertical layers, plant heights and widths, and even the width of paths are all different.  In some places, the paths are a scant 18″ wide – enough for one person to walk carefully.  In other places, the paths must be 6′ wide or wider, but they’re always appropriate for the space they’re in.   What would be appropriate for your garden?

Horticultural side note:  These trees and shrubs are cared for and sheared with laser precision which is impressive all by itself, but notably (especially for modern gardeners who don’t get it), the shapes of the hedges are horticulturally correct.  They’re wider on the bottom, tapered to a slightly narrower top.  This supports the plant’s ability to maintain foliage at the bottom because those lower leaves can get enough light.  It also makes the paths comfortable to walk since there isn’t some big thing leaning at you – especially noticeable in the image of that dapper gentleman who is walking away.  Those shrubs are huge, but still not uncomfortably imposing thanks to this shape and the proportions of the garden as a whole.

I’m looking forward to going back in a month or even sooner – to see how this garden changes with the addition of hundreds of thousands of blooms.  Will it be necessarily better?  What do you think?

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Lawn daisies

Anyone who read this blog post on turfgrass lawns probably understands the arguments against turfgrass lawns.   So now what?  Do we all need to tear out or grassy swathes and put in wildflowers?  Not necessarily – there are TONS of turfgrass lawn alternatives, and so much documentation that it would be insanity to try to catalog everything without actually considering a career in publishing….go ahead, google it.

But this morning I was thinking about a mid-way point between eliminating an existing turfgrass lawn in favor of other groundcovers, perennials, or the extreme artificial lawns that seem to be gaining in popularity at the moment (due to extensive television advertising?).

I came upon the mixed lawn as a compromise / move in the right direction.  When I was little, the local library had tons of tiny daisies in the lawn which I thought were completely charming.  At our home, there was clover in the front lawn that I would sit in, pluck at the flowers, and hang out with the cat or bunny.  Even if you don’t go to the expense and trouble of removing an existing lawn regardless of its condition, simply overseeding with white clover can start a remarkable transformation.  Adding clover to your turfgrass lawn can begins the transformation of adding little flowers, benefits from nitrogen fixing, and gaining a more textured, greener appearance.   What can be a better solution in having a lawn than having one that eliminating the need and expense of chemical fertilizers, needs less mowing, uses less water, and it is prettier and greener as well?!  Sign me up.

Oh!  and by the way – an added benefit of intentionally mixing other plants in with your turfgrass is supporting bees in your area (they like clover very much) – and please don’t get me started on the crisis facing the bees in California!

It seems that Oregonians are embracing mixed lawns already, something I have yet to notice much here in California.  Hobbs and Hopkins in Oregon offers some clever seed mixes for more interesting and environmentally friendly lawns.  They include all sorts of things from clover to lawn daisies and dwarf yarrow.  Isn’t that so much more fun than plain ole turfgrass?!  Am I the only one who loves this!? Their photos look like exotic salads – not dull, flat green carpets.

As soon as it is released, I will have a copy of The American Meadow, a book that John Greenlee has been promising for a couple of years now.  It isn’t quite the same concept as mixed lawns, but maybe he will cover that in the book?  We’ll see when my copy arrives….oh, I am so excited!

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Why yes, yes I do thanks for asking!

I enjoy focusing on an esoteric subject, learn all I can, then keep it as a favorite topic but turn my focus to something new for a while. I do that with colors, plants, ideas…..knitting and pattern writing, quilting (including quilt AND paving pattern design – so many parallels!), and um…. you name it, please pardon the rotten sentence structure.

Two of my favorite things below: silver/gray foliage and green flowering bearded irises. See, I told you it was esoteric.

mosaic green irises
mosaic silver foliage 1

OH!  and many thanks to www.bighugelabs.com for their mosaic making thingy.  Very fun.

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The memory of that scene for me is like a frame of film forever frozen at that moment:  the red carpet, the green lawn, the white house, the leaden sky.  The new president and his first lady”  – Richard M. Nixon

Wikipedia defines a lawn as “an area of recreational or amenity land…that is maintained at a low, even height.”  Wikipedia goes on to describe the history, popularity, criticisms, maintenance, and various grasses for lawns and is well worth a read.  I am talking predominantly about turf grass lawns, not ‘alternative lawns’ of other plants and materials.  Lawn alternatives will be dealt with in a future post.

When asked about turf grass lawns, some clients feel that they should have one but cannot provide a particular reason.  “Because they’re nice” someone once said to me.  I don’t think that is reason enough if there’s no functional or aesthetic need for it.  If a lawn fills a particular emotional need or is meaningful in some way, that is a different story.  Unfortunately, the care required to keep them healthy makes turf grass lawns one of the least environmentally friendly growing things you can have.

Obviously, I have feelings about lawns; I’m generally not a fan.  Growing up, one of my chores was mowing – front and back, we had lawn to play on.  Ironically, I spent most of my outdoor play time in the sand box, stacking stuff up to make forts, and making up stories about things I found (read: not throwing a ball or running).  Our lawns weren’t really big enough for running and playing, anyway.

twin houses 1

Lawns are good for kids to play on, dogs to pee on, garden parties, and to give people something to do with their weekends.  Aesthetically, a turf grass lawn can be used as a visual contrast to other plantings.  A lawn can be a path or an area; it can reinforce a geometric design or be a place holder if you can’t decide what else to do.  As a designer, lawns do serve certain functions – I’m okay with that.  What I am not okay with is installing them for no particular reason, especially given the environmental and financial impacts.

I love this post on a NASA website which outlines research on the impact of lawns on the environment. We mow, fertilize, poison, water, and fuss over these flat green carpets as though all that stuff was fun or healthy.

Personally, if it was my garden, my money, my weekend time, my water and carbon footprint, I’d find something else to grow.

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I once said to a client that their plant materials would have foliage in different shades of green.  The husband looked at me like I was from mars, he thought that green was green.  Sometimes, it isn’t.  Oh, and by the way – that big gorgeous bearded Iris in the blog header is green, too.  It’s a lovely chartreuse in real life.

green foliage variety 1

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