Saturday, July 30, 2011

Site change

Hello all of my readers. I have recently renovated my website and would like you all to stop by and go for a tour. I have been updating the blog rather consistently on the web site.

Thank you for your interest and I hope you are happy with the new setting for my blog!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Good intentions make good neighbors? -I love my job

I am consistently reminded of how lucky I am. There is not much that I like more than making people happy. To inspire others into laughter and gratefulness, so they can live to their fullest and spread the power of kindness throughout their lives.

I recently was working in a small community of neighbors. There had been some discontent around a community park. Some of the neighbors wanted to remove a hedge and others were against it. The result was a sloppy execution of a hedge renovation and partial removal. It was ugly to say the least.

As various neighbors started getting involved and others grew increasingly upset one of them offered plants from there own garden to help fill in the space.

My co-workers and I moved about five evergreen Huckleberries that we had planted and maintained for the last five years. They were all healthy and full, standing three to four feet in height with a spread of at least twenty inches. We also moved in some vine maples in an effort to block a view from one neighbors front door.

This neighbor had been very upset at the hedge removal and the resulting view. When we had finished the small project of moving a few shrubs thoughtfully into place to screen the view we called the neighbor out to see. We just asked them to come out and see if everything was in the right place and if they were happy with the result.

They cried.
They were so touched that we had all moved such mature and full shrubs, placed them with such care, and made a hole in their view the future model for the rest of the remaining hedge. Most of all they were touched that we did what we said, when we said and that we did it with such thoughtfulness.

I had nearly nothing to do with the arranging of this project. I was just planting and placing the new shrubs. The reaction of the one neighbor was so dramatically different than what I had heard the tone of the issue had been. It was an enriching experience to be involved in and I was so happy to be part of it.

Good communication, patience and kind intentions go a long way!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Plant abuse

It's true; I ran over a whole row of Primroses, Hellebores, and Iris's with my Garbage can! I confess. It really wasn't the first time. Yes the Primrose and the Hellebore are in full bloom but they are almost finished.

Why I opt for functional designs to lifestyle and site. Function; most of us lead outstandingly busy lives. For many years I have kept very close account in my world to what uses energy and what is effortless. This is in part so that I can believe people are truly not too lazy by designing gardens that allow them to be. It gets tiresome returning to old gardens that I have created only to see that the owner didn't actually hand water the shrubs the first three seasons; or to find a pathway trod right through the garden bed even though the owners were sure one wasn't needed in that location.

In truth it is not the owners responsibility (initially at least). Given that every job in horticulture is an educational job it is the designers job to take the site and habits of the owners into consideration. If a path (point A to point B)is trod across a front lawn and the lawn comes out, regardless of the pathways that are installed, chances are the same path will be found and utilized.

Back to my plant massacre. I kill plants a lot. Who is it that said if you love someone set them free (aside from one of my ex-girlfriends:))? I love plants and try to plant them anywhere I can. My garden is full of plants that I have rescued from being tossed to the compost pile. Occasionally I will try to save one and it will sit in my driveway and slowly die because I do not have the time or room. It is very sad but at least it had one more chance. I will ask friends if they would like them and somtimes that works.

Then there are times when it's just shameless. I'm sorry Primroses!

Proper design would have my driveway about four feet wider (with a bench wall the entire length on one side and a low curb on the other side, all poured concrete with a cistern built underneath that channeled run off from the driveway and house!)
It's just not realistic for me too move my wife's car out to street in order to take the cans in and out. So for now when all else fails I take it out on the plants. And they still look lovely!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Allowing for maturity, whatever that may be!

Last Saturday my daughter and I went outside to get in a walk, and some much needed dinner supplies, in-between rain showers. The clouds were blowing high up over each other and capturing the early spring afternoon light. As I was locking up our house I reviewed Lila with her options of traveling; stroller, bike, etc. Declining all given choices she happily agreed to walk. So off we went holding hands much of the way, to the store; and me forgetting the stroller!
When attempting to manage shrubs/trees in the landscape, it is super helpful to step away from time to time and return with a refreshed eye that can make decisions the proper way. Low shrubs, tall shrubs, small trees, large trees; we are so clear about what these distinctions are as we stand in a nursery staring at the plant tag and even when we are planting in our garden. A few years following and we quickly lose track of how each plant was defined. Often times I'll see a garden and there is no distinction between plants, much less defined levels of canopy. The owners will say honestly enough,"that was only supposed to be 3' tall" or "...I had no idea that would get so large!"

On our walk that afternoon Lila had agreed to walk and me being preoccupied with other things forgot to bring the stroller for when she inevitably got tired. I realized this about half way there however didn't think much of it since I could easily enough carry her on my shoulders one way. To my amazement Lila had chosen to walk that afternoon because she wanted to and she did for the first time all the way there and all the way home! I had more or less been open enough to allow her the choice and not get stuck on her past routines so that she could casually say, "I just walked with my Daddy."

One of my favorite times in a garden is when the garden tells me that it is growing up. Maturing into a new stage. This happens when I approach a small shrub and that is competing with it's fellow small shrubs and as I clip a few branches I can see the trunks and they suddenly appear larger and more substantial without all the young twigs on them. So I lift the canopy and a large shrub becomes a small tree. Giving space below it's canopy and above it's neighboring shrubs defines them both in a new way.

On some trees I will often leave lower branches on for a very long time. For sculptural effect, to fill the space or to block a view. It is great when after so long to be able to look a tree differently to listen to it telling you that it is ready for a new role.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Garden Combinations #101

Here is one of my favorite photos from my own garden. I like it because it shows the fun of repeating forms. The cones from the Allium sphaerocephalon, foreground, are repeated in the rudbeckia 'green wizard', background. Each one works beautifully in to it's own setting, plug for the Rhubarb 'Autropurpureum', and yet because of their similar enough forms they tie the garden from front to back visually. This combination also works wonderfully throughout the year. The Dapple Dawn Rose has full red hips starting in mid summer if I let it which contrast well with the black of the Rudbeckia. The Allium and Rudbeckia can stay all winter providing form to the eye and food for the birds!

What images come to mind when you think of spring?

I know of a few things that come to mind when I think of Spring. Bluebells, Dogwood flowers, Meerkerk Rhododendron Garden on Mothers Day or a friends house that we visited for my wife's birthday, all visions that come up with the idea of Spring. With each of these memories are associated events such as birthdays, moments in a park with certain friends, laughing with little kids. In turn each of these recollect a time in my life and their associated emotions; excitement when my girlfriend (wife to be) moved to Seattle, pleasure at sharing my garden with our friends families our kids collective first birthday party, love for my wife on her birthday when I surprised her with a bouquet of dogwood flowers on the counter and the whole tree in the garden.

I guess it is through many of these multisensory memories that I measure out my life and in turn my success and happiness. I track events and frames of my life through this blend of seasons, family, emotions. At times it is even the lighting alone that will create a memory and a scene of my life.

I know that these events will begin to fade and new ones will have less clarity due to age and the overall amount of thoughts and information my brain will be responsible for.

That said, I wish that I may continue to capture these moments by using the seasons and their coinciding elements to trigger my mental lens to click and saveur the light, the smells, and the people that make my life so rich.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Northwest Flower and Garden Show 2011- In Review

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show just finished its second year under new ownership by O'Loughlin Trade Shows. With sixty years in the trade show industry and twenty-five years based in Tacoma, they slipped in seamlessly. Maintaining the familiar friendly faces of Linda Knudsen, Cyle Eldred and Janet Endsley certainly didn't hurt! I was impressed this year by the fabulous marketing that went into the show. I followed Janet on Twitter (@nwfgs) and on Facebook and felt consistently informed on updates and schedule changes throughout the planning and building of the show. Five stars on PR this year!!

The gardens had something new going on with them. I've described it as approachable, simple, refined. They seemed to have lost the pretentiousness that has often plagued the garden show. Perhaps it was the theme, "Once upon a time..." but I felt welcomed in to many of the gardens. As though each was a friends backyard or a project that I helped create (well I did help with one a little...)

I definitely did notice the lack of patio tables and chairs with staged wine bottles and glasses half full. A few years ago so many gardens had these that I wondered what they were trying to sell, furniture or landscaping???

Here is the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association's Gold Medal winning garden, designed by Kate Easton, Kirsten Lints and Megan Pulkkinen. As usual, WSNLA has slammed the space full of stunning plants. I must say that they pulled it off real well in this garden. It wasn't too confusing to look at. The foliage variations played very well together in clusters, and similar tones drifted from foreground to background as your eye made its way into the giant tree ferns and bamboo. A thoroughly understated water feature had many admirers watching the little coconut shell float in the stone without falling out.

I also enjoyed the garden by the Arboretum Foundation. Designed by Phil Wood, Bob Lilly, and Roger Williams, it won a Gold Medal and the Pacific Horticulture Magazine Award. It was a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Japanese Garden at the Arboretum. Lovely, simple path and bridge with an elegant entry gazebo. Extreme awareness of the composition and design elements made this garden stand out to me even when it was just getting started.

A Wrinkle in Time garden had a great balance of simplicity and grandeur. The crystal ball fountain was an eye catcher at twenty four inches diameter, almost clear acrylic with water flowing down over it in the middle of the pool. Beyond that was the stunningly massive yet open shelter built by B.Bissell General Contractor, LLC. The garden was designed by Karen Stefonick Design who took home the Founders Cup Award for the second year running!

All of the gardens were created thoughtfully with respect for the materials and the planet. Every garden used reused materials or natural building elements. In a boost from previous years I enjoyed seeing these incorporated more into an actual part of the gardens not only as focal points and eye candy, but integrated in more functional and creative ways.

I enjoyed my day and listened to a few of the seminars. A talk by Lucy Hardiman on "The Art of Transforming your Garden" was entertaining and insightful. I managed to forget a pen or pencil, so I relied on tweeting my notes throughout her talk. She presented her garden in addition to a couple of others in the Portland area.

Kate Frey gave a no-nonsense talk on "Gardens that Give--Creating Sustainable Gardens that Sit Lightly on the Planet." She went right down the list from the gallons of fuel consumed by lawns in the US to the very few plants that bees can actually feed from in the typical landscape. She inspired me to further my commitment to habitat space in the garden and the importance of permeable surfaces, both of which I incorporate whenever possible. However, it's great to be encouraged!

The list of things goes on but so does the time! I enjoyed the show and thank the producers and volunteers as well as the garden creators!

Next years theme was just announced: "A Floral Symphony--Gardens Take Note."
I'm not entirely sure where they will go with that, but it's nice to have a heads up. And they say they will provide details soon!