Singularity is Near

When my neighbor’s Queen Palm died, they decided to cover the remnant stump with a steel wireframe version of a palm tree… this thing is even equipped with solar lighting!

I really hope this is not an indication of the future of landscape architecture. I’ll place my bets on living plants;  they have the regenerative capabilities which manufactured objects can only envy… for now…

August 9th, 2011 | Comments Off on Singularity is Near

Small Garden, Big Fun

Play lawn, kitchen garden, cutting garden, built-in bar and bar-be-que, fire pit, green walls, lounge and dining area… yes! You can have it all in 600 square feet.

The secret here was to first relocate the rear gate in order to minimize circulation paths and keep larger function areas from getting chopped up by pathways. The same way you might want to minimize hallways in a house– by aligning pathways with compatible functions, we were able to maximize our available square footage. By using concrete steppers through the lawn, we were able to make the lawn feel larger but still have an all-weather pathway. Near the rear gate, bar stools are allowed to encroach into the pathway, but can easily be pushed aside for intermittent access.

A small space can also be maximized with multi-use and built-in furniture. A built-in bench seat means you don’t need room to pull out chairs or walk around them and results in a smaller space requirement for the dining area. The built-in bench seat can also quickly transform to a second lounge area by sliding the table away and replacing it with a portable fire pit. Instead of having a full chaise lounge, use a chair and ottoman combo so you’re ready for sunbathing with a friend or a fire side chat for two couples.

When finding the perfect spot for all your favorite amenities, don’t forget to save that sunny spot for your raised kitchen and cutting garden. Vertical plant and architectural accents complete the privacy requirements and this backyard is ready to host a party!

May 21st, 2011 | Comments Off on Small Garden, Big Fun

Trend Alert: The Classic Rose

If one theme has remained constant throughout my recent projects, it’s been the demand for roses in the residential garden. The projects have covered the spectrum, from California Ranch to cutting-edge modern, tropical to succulents, rural acreage to urban backyard. Each time, the client pulls me aside, and confesses, “it might not match the design style, but please make a space for my roses.” By the third time hearing this request in less than a month, they’ve finally grabbed my attention.

The ubiquitous rose… once associated with your grandma’s cottage garden and high maintenance is now recognized for its countless, timeless benefits. It’s actually a lie to call this a recent “trend alert.” The classic rose has been around for ages and has so very much to offer… beauty, durability, versatility, cutting flowers in hundreds of colors and varieties, the champion of scented flowers, medicinal uses and secret recipe ingredient. All these benefits come in a multitude of convenient shapes and sizes… sprawling vines, groundcovers, shrubs, and more. There really isn’t any other plant that comes close to providing in so many ways.

And in regards to maintenance– I snapped the above photo from my own backyard, which I haven’t set foot in to maintain or water since the first trimester with my 9-month old son. They are a remnant from the previous homeowner and I was considering having them removed. I was concerned they made my backyard look like grandparents lived here. I may have to reconsider…

April 23rd, 2011 | Comments (2)

My Aunties’ Kitchen Garden

I grew up maintaining rental properties, so I know a thing or two about durability and low maintenance. If you feel the need for a kitchen garden, but can’t be bothered to keep up with the seasons… or regular watering… or what to cook up with 20 pounds worth of produce, then keep it simple and start with just Rosemary and Chives. I prefer Rosemary ‘Tuscan Blue,” for the long, straight stems. Perfect as spears for seasoning meats, or chop the leaves fine for limitless uses on a variety of potato and poultry dishes. (Thanks Auntie Zina for that simple rosemary garlic potato recipe I use nearly every week!) Chives are another tough staple. They’ll do fine in any small pot and still be green weeks after I remember that they’re in the backyard and might need some water. Just grab a handful and dice up those babies to add to meals during any time of day. That touch of fresh green makes you look like a pro in the kitchen and adds a welcome bit of deliciousness to egg and pasta dishes. (Thanks Auntie Eva for revealing your secret go-to herb… even though I know I have a lot more to learn before I cook up quick, gourmet meals like you can!)

February 28th, 2011 | Comments Off on My Aunties’ Kitchen Garden

The Baby Effect

baby effect

What is it about babies that immediately cause people to slow down, smile and lend a helping hand? What can I learn from these little beings who so easily create an environment of peace and understanding?

Is it because they are small and cute? No, that can’t be it. Whenever I have “small and cute” plants installed on landscape projects, clients are typically disappointed and wait impatiently for fast and furious growth.

Is it because they represent pure innocence? They are completely unbiased beings interested only in their most fundamental needs for survival.

Is it because you have no idea what they’ll do next? Just tiny little morsels of entertainment… with kicks and flailing arms and laughs and cries.

Or is it because the future is in their hands? Instilling hope for a future where they can grow and prosper.

So how might the secret power of babies be put to use in landscape architecture? Designs must meet fundamental needs for survival, allow for the unexpected and instill hope.

November 8th, 2010 | Comments (2)

Get some green in your life

add-some-greenI’m talking foliage, not benjamins. When you look outside your window what do you see? If it’s a blank wall add a tall shrub. If it’s a blank fence, add a trailing vine. If it’s a dirt lot add some groundcovers.

Now tell me, how does it make you feel? Can you feel the life it breathes? Can you anticipate how the light, wind and rain will shape it with every passing day?

Get some green and breathe easy.

October 19th, 2010 | Comments Off on Get some green in your life

Still Fascinated

vietnam memorial

I first visited the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in 2000. Now, ten years later, I am still fascinated after my most recent visit. Along a super shuttle ride from Dulles airport we drove along the northern perimeter road of the mall. “There it is, that’s the Vietnam Memorial,” though all you could see were people and not a memorial at all… just crowds of people, but people at different levels of exposure… a cluster of heads, then torsos, then legs, then even larger groups of people just beginning their descent. That was it. The people make the experience. This is in such contrast to the impossibly scaled, ornate and exposed settings of the typical monument or memorial. And, even once present before the memorial, you are again reminded of the visitors, as glimpsed across the polished black marble. Their subtle movements only enhanced by the overwhelming number of names, in such small print which fill the wall from end to end.

In moments meant for great reflection and memory, I believe the true power is exposed through people themselves and how they experience the space that is created.

September 23rd, 2010 | Comments Off on Still Fascinated

Just Add Water

just_add_waterIf the success of a landscape architectural project relies on the presence of a diminishing, natural resource, does that make landscape architecture the most critical profession of our time?

Or the most criminal?

August 31st, 2009 | Comments Off on Just Add Water

More than just cake frosting

More than just the pretty, yummy decorations– Landscape Architect’s are responsible for the complete party experience. The cake frosting may be simply one focal feature in a grand master plan. We’ll still need to select the plates, the spoons… or does the client prefer forks for their cake? Then we’ll need to select napkins, cups for drinks.. and how shall we serve the drinks? Champagne fountain? 5-gallon jug? Or a simple bowl and have someone spike the punch later to take the party up a notch? Or is that inappropriate?

Once all the components have been discussed and approved, then the material construction is determined. Should the utensils be reuseable silverware?  Keep it simple with disposable plastic? Or source the compostable corn-derived products? These are just a small sampling of the responsibilites and considerations of the landscape architect…  designing and planning for the complete experience.

May 17th, 2009 | Comments Off on More than just cake frosting

Fear, Self, Public Domain

Self-perpetuated fear becomes difficult to extinguish once it becomes a self-perpetuated truth. Over time, a minute disagreement or simple miscommunication becomes a threat to your beliefs. Once an individual becomes crippled by the role of self-perpetuated truths, then everyone and everything within their public domain is at risk.

The surrounding public domain unknowingly becomes a constant reinforcement of self-perpetuated truths. (Undoubtedly, it is easier to accept clues which support these so-called “truths” as opposed to those that negate them. ) This results in  the constant cycle of fear in the landscape. Fear becomes prevalent through stereotyping, profiling and the finite user experience that is based solely on historic disagreements and miscommunication.

The hope is that great design can challenge and heal, not threaten or infect.

May 13th, 2009 | Comments Off on Fear, Self, Public Domain