Category Archives: Gardens

Our Demonstration Garden

Come visit our demonstration garden at our Petaluma office!

The garden is still under construction and features constant additions. Below are a few of the landscape installations we are featuring now. The garden is open Monday-Friday 9am-4pm, stop by and see us or call and set up an appointment and tour.

Smart irrigation Controller: with easy to use Solar Sync sensor that monitors and changes watering based on weather conditions

-Water Features: Self contained and in ground water feature samples

-Materials: Flagstone pathways, redwood fences and arbors, deer fences, decomposed granite and more

Synthetic Turf: installation and material samples

DSCN0162sm.JPGNative Sod Lawn
DSCN0161.JPGCan reduce water consumption up to 50% over a traditional lawn

Underground Sod Irrigation

DSCN9942.JPG Netafim irrigation buried under the lawn, no more evaporation, no more over-spray, and some serious water savings

Vegetable Gardening
DSCN0158.JPG

Planters that are simple to install, easy to maintain and can produce a lot of food


Time for a Winter Garden Tune-up

Winter time is a great time of year for work in the garden, especially in California. While it can be a little cold and wet, winter time is a good time to work on the bones of the garden. Replanting can be done in needed sections so plants are well rooted for spring growth. Pruning and trimming is best done now, when plants are dormant and most are done blooming. Irrigation systems can be checked and repaired so they are ready for the spring watering season and leaks and alterations are made. Slightly later in the season is a good time to fertilize plants to give them the nutrients they need for spring. While the garden may be dormant, this is a good time for the gardener or paid gardening service to get in some winter time care.

Spring Maintenance

Spring is officially upon us and that means it’s time, for those inclined, to
roll up your sleeves and dig into the garden. One of the biggest items that may
need attention is irrigation systems that have been shut off for the winter.
It’s a good idea to check controller settings, watering frequency and duration.
A good way to find problems is to run through each station manually to make sure
everything is getting water and there are no leaks.

Sunset posts maintenance information each month online
with tips on what to do in the garden.

De Young Museum Landscape- Impressions

The new De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park is a bold new addition to a park that
is slowly reinventing itself. The De Young takes its place with the renovated Conservatory of
Flowers
and new sustainable model Academy of Sciences Building under construction, to
make the face of the new Golden Gate Park. The De Young is the new crown jewel
of the park, with its copper clad facades and controversial architectural
form.

Looking at the landscape setting of the new De Young is a bit of mixed bag.
Berkeley professor of Landscape Architecture Walter Hood sets the landscape as an understated
collaborating piece to the architecture that is the true focus of the new
museum. In some regard this is to be commended. The wild hills of poppies and
ferns along the rear of the museum blend well with the feel of a wild and
bohemian (under-maintained) Golden Gate Park.

Hood confirms this impression: “In a way the building [the new de Young
Museum] is so loud that no matter what you do in the landscape it’s not going to
be as loud as the building. At first I thought the landscape has to be its own
thing, but there’s just no way it can be. It’s not large enough; it’s working at
this in-between scale, in between the park and the building. How do you make
this landscape an in-between space?” [Pruned Blog]

There are interesting detail elements: stained black wood mulch, chips and
chunks of black stone mulch, a fence constructed of twigs and leaves. Inside the
museum is an intriguing fractured bluestone entry (by Andy Goldsworthy), and a sculpture garden (with
installation from light artist James Terrell) under the large cantilever of the museum
that projects to the west.

Yet, somehow the grounds of the new museum do not live up to the
architecture. Part of this may be remedied with time and growth. The landscape
and sculpture gardens do not have the same dynamic interaction, quality, and
balance of a museum like the Getty. This is hardly a fair comparison from a
monetary or spatial standpoint. Still, it seems the landscape could have been
used to better effect.

The sculpture garden seems too small, plant selection in places seems to be
struggling (Kafir lily, Camellia, and Ferns among others), and the landscape
area and fountain to the east side are much more pleasing in plan view from the
museum’s tower than they are on the ground.

In a park clearly showing its age and slowly being reborn, it will be
interesting to see how the new addition of the De Young landscape matures and
ages. Will it become like Union Square- a garish collaboration of materials with
little usability and durability. Or, will it mature into a graceful backdrop to
the slow patina of the new museum it seeks to dress- time will tell.

For More:
-The Hybrid Spaces of Walter Hood
Pruned Blog- “The Peacemaker”
Walter Hood
Design


Striking Images from Germany’s Duisberg Nord

Duisburg Nord is one of Germany’s groundbreaking parks
that took an old steel production district and transformed it into a park. The
juxtaposition of old hulking rusted equipment and new park features make for an
unique experience.

An overview from their website:
If you are looking for recreation, an
exciting experience, education or fun, the Duisburg-Nord Country Park is all you
need. At a site where the blast furnace heat was almost unbearable you can now
cool down and relax. Young trees and old furnaces overlook a park for everybody
and everything – and even more, as you can simply climb to the roof of the Ruhr
and enjoy the view, experience top events live in a factory building or track
regional history in a world of steel. Welcome to Park Land without
frontiers.

db1.jpg

db2.jpg

db3.jpg

db4.jpg

This park has served as an interesting model for other post-industrial cities
looking to redevelop their old manufacturing areas.

For More Images:
Visit our Great Garden and Parks Portfolio
Details from Gardenvisit
Land + Living Article


Rhododendrons from the Mendocino Botanical Gardens

Here are photographs of beautiful spring rhodys from a recent trip to the Mendocino Botanical
Gardens
. The cool coast air and moist climate make for beautiful
specimens. One other interesting specimen was a Coast Redwood at the gardens.
Redwoods do not grow well when exposed to salt air, and as a result don’t thrive
on the coast.

rh1.JPG

rh3.JPG

rh4.JPG

rh5.JPG

rh6.JPG

rh7.JPG

rh9.JPG
A Coast Redwood with stunted growth as a result of salt exposure near the
coast

rh8.JPG
The beautifully rugged Mendocino coast


Gardens of Kyoto- Nijo Castle

Final entry in this week’s series of features on the Gardens of Kyoto
from our Great Gardens and Parks portfolios.

Castles do not just grace medieval Europe. The Japanese
Castle
was a thriving architectural form in medieval Japan as well.
The most striking example of Japanese castle building is Himeji
Castle
a UNESCO world heritage site. Within Kyoto, Nijo Castle is another striking example of Japanese
castle construction. From a landscape perspective, the layout of Nijo’s gardens,
moats and impressive stone walls create an interesting contrast from the
multitude of temple and shrine gardens in Kyoto.

Nijo’s most striking aspect is the bone of most Japanese gardens, its amazing
stone work. Both the boulder arrangements and castle walls are amazing.

n1.JPG

n2.JPG

For More:
City of Kyoto Brochure for Nijo Castle (Part 1 & Part 2)
Jgarden.org
profile

Wikipedia article


Gardens of Kyoto- Daisenin

Continuing this week’s series of features on the Gardens of Kyoto from
our Great Gardens and Parks portfolios.

Daisenin is the more enigmatic garden counterpart to the clean lines of
Ryoan-ji. Another “Zen Garden” with its dry raked gravel, Daisenin has an
intimacy and series of boardwalks that give a serial, sequential feel to its
spaces. The piles of gravel in the main garden have the appearance of a hybrid,
somewhere between that of Ginkaku-ji perfection and Ryoan-ji gravel and
stones.

d1.JPG

d2.JPG

For more:
Great Analysis of the Garden from Jgarden.org
Japanese Based Page with good information on the
evolution of the Japanese Garden


Gardens of Kyoto- Ryoan-ji

Continuing this week’s series of features on the Gardens of Kyoto from
our Great Gardens and Parks portfolios.


Ryoan-ji (meaning “The Temple of the Peaceful Dragon”)
is the archetypal Japanese rock garden (read more about rock gardens in this
past Post). The small table top rock gardens that have
become popular owe their inspiration in part to the 15th century anonymous
karesansui masterpiece of Ryoan-ji. The garden has
a unique axial configuration, so that, from any fixed point on the ground, one
cannot see all of the stones in the garden. It is the ultimate rock garden of
contemplation.

rj1.JPG

rj2.JPG

For More:
Profile at JGarden.org
Article from New
Scientist
about Ryoan-ji’s appeal
Reflections on Ryoan-ji from Salon
Article about adding elements of Zen Garden design to
garden projects


Gardens of Kyoto- Kinkaku-ji

Another profile from our new Japanese portfolios of our Great
Gardens & Parks
features.


Kinkaku-ji
, or the Golden Pavilion is another of
Kyoto’s most famous historical pieces of architecture (in 1994 it was designated
a UNESCO World Heritage Site). It is interesting to contrast Ginkaku-ji, with
its large Silver Sea of gravel, with the layout and actual pond of the Golden
Pavilion.

The Silver Pavilion of Ginkaku-ji was an homage to the more elaborate Golden
Pavilion. Historically, however the Silver Pavilion holds significance as an
original structure, whereas the Golden Pavilion has been reconstructed after
being burned in 1950.

The fusion of architecture and the surrounding landscape in these temples and
shrines is amazing. It is interesting how Frank Lloyd
Wright’s
methodology of organic architecture parallels the incorporation of the
design and layout of the building to its surroundings in a similar way to these
Japanese pieces.

kkj03sm.JPG

kkj23sm.JPG

For More:
Kinkaku-ji official site
Wikipedia article


Gardens of Japan- Ginkaku-ji

We have posted new sections from Japan in our Great Gardens & Parks section of our
portfolio. Thus far there are six gardens from Kyoto. Here is a profile of one
of the highlighted gardens.

Kyoto the historical capital of Japan (prior to the move of power to Tokyo in
the 19th century), is a striking city full of history and captivating gardens.
One of the best preserved major cities in Japan (surviving World War II), it
features a wealth of shrines, temples and gardens.

The Silver Pavilion, or Ginkaku-ji, is one Kyoto’s most famous temples and
houses one of the city’s greatest gardens. The striking piles of raked and
formed mounds of gravel and stone are wonders to behold. The Silver Pavilion
itself is a rare original example of architecture from its period. Often temples
and shrines were burned by feuding Shoguns and many have been reconstructed
numerous times.

The entrance to the temple complex features a two story Camellia hedge,
precisely clipped and indicative of the meticulous nature of the gardens inside.
Once inside the Karesansui forms are like nothing else in the gardens
of Kyoto. The craft here is amazing, and the raked gravel takes on an appearance
of solid mass that should be impossible.

gk13b.JPG

gk29b.JPG

For More:
Check out the Ginkaku-ji Official Site (in English) with an
interactive map and detailed history of the temple
Details from Wikipedia
Jgarden.org index of Japanese Gardens


Garden Magazines- Be Careful What You Wish For

We receive several design and garden magazines in the office (Sunset, Pacific
Horticulture
, Horticulture, Garden
Design
, Landscape Architecture and Fine
Gardening
just to name a few) They are great places to get ideas and
see what is new and avante garde in terms of plants and hardscape features.
After reading through this month’s Sunset and looking at some of the Beautiful
garden samples, a reoccurring thought struck me- the garden I was looking at in
the photographs probably only looks this good 15 days out of the year.

This is a good thing to watch for when looking through these magazines. That
beautiful plant in the featured article looks great, but is it evergreen or
deciduous? Does it require low or high maintenance? Is it something that deer
find to be equivalent to caviar? Often the planting compositions are complex
blends of grass, perennials and annual flowers, that look great but require
heavy maintenance.

The same can be said for hardscape. It is my experience that expensive, large
projects photograph for print publication the best. Before you set your heart on
that 1000 square foot travertine patio with vanishing edge pool and outdoor
kitchen, take into consideration what it would take to install these type of
elements for your project.

A good example was a client who wanted Golden Barrel Cactus, similar to the
distinctive garden at the Getty Center, until we priced them out, and found that
the cactus alone would exceed their planting budget.

cactus.jpg
At several hundred dollars a piece these golden
barrels might break the bank


A Hefty and Winning Garden Retrospective

While perusing through Borders Books for a gift for a colleague I stumbled
upon Mick Hales, Gardens Around the World: 365 Days a wonderfully
photographed and comprehensive volume of gardens from, as the title says, around
the world. The book has distinctive photographs of gardens, which, as the
introduction points out, capture each garden’s essence well. As anyone who has
photographed gardens will know, this is not an easy task, especially in small
spaces. This book would be especially useful for those looking for inspirational
images to use for establishing a style of garden design, or as inspiration for
travel plans.

Plus, at the size of an oversized brick, this compact yet dense volume can
serve well if the reader is accosted by a dinner guest who has had a bit too
much wine.

gardens.jpg
Cover Image Courtesy Amazon

Find Ideas for your Landscape at the Local Winery

After spending part of this weekend visiting friends in the Healdsburg area
and visiting various wineries for the Russian River Wine Road Food and Wine Festival, I was
struck by what a good resource wineries are for landscape inspiration. Where
else could you find estate sized gardens, well articulated, with typically free
admission and free wine to boot? Now obviously for readers outside of a wine
region this may be less of a possibility. Luckily for Bay Area residents we live
on the doorstep of the great wine regions of Sonoma County.

Winery gardens vary in their scope and style, but many tend to be of
Mediterranean/Italianate villa inspiration and incorporate fountains, outdoor
dining areas, and a wide variety of plants and materials. For smaller residences
the budget may not be the same as a large winery, but cues for stylistic
elements abound.

For more:
Healdsburg Area Wineries
Sonoma County
Wineries Assocation

Posted by Michael O’Connell at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

Real Goods Solar Living Center

Below is a profile for Real Goods- A alternative energy center and
gardens located in Hopland, California.

Project Type:
Retail sustainable goods outlet/ Non-
Profit Institute for solar and sustainable technologies, 12 Acres in size

Designers:
Architect: Sim Van
der Ryn

Landscape Architects: Stephanie Kotin and Chris
Tebbutt
Completed June 1996

Contact:
Website: http://www.realgoods.com/
Address: 13771 South
Highway 101 Hopland, CA 95449
Phone: (888) 212-5640

Project Background:
The Real Goods Solar Living center is
the vision of John Schaeffer, the founder of the sustainable products company
Real Goods. Located about 90 miles north of San Francisco, the center
encompasses three distinct elements: The 5000 square foot Real Goods retail
store, the Solar Living Center- a non-profit educational and research division
of Real Goods, and Solar 2000, a 132 kilowatt solar array, which is one of the
largest solar power sites in Northern California. Real Goods is a mail-order
based company, which had over 18 million dollars in sales in 1996 when the
center opened. The project was built as a model for the use of sustainable
energy technologies, building materials, and a showcase for the company’s
products. The Solar Living Center manages the facilities and grounds and focuses
on educational workshops and continuing research. This includes the promotion of
sustainable building materials and techniques, permaculture, and sustainable
landscape design.

Project Design:
Sustainable design of both the
architecture and the landscape was of foremost importance for the center. The
site selected along Highway 101 in Hopland, lies in a 20 year flood plain and at
the time of purchase was a CalTrans dumpsite. The husband-wife landscape
architecture team of Stephanie Kotin and Chris Tebbutt transformed what was a
bare, noisy site into an interesting and lush oasis with as much landscape
meaning as interesting form. Solar energy panels are built into and featured
within the grounds of the center and incorporate the ideas of sustainable energy
use directly into the landscape. Distinct design elements such as incorporation
of the cardinal directions as distinct axis, a solar calendar, a central
artesian well and stream, and a large pond and wetland are all designed together
into an inclusive package, rich with symbolism and artistry. Throughout the site
individual design elements speak to the message and artistic quality of the
grounds. One poignant example of these elements is the Memorial Car Grove. The
grove contains old rusting muscle cars that have had holes cut in the roofs to
allow trees to grow through. Elements such as this show a rich synthesis of
message with form.

Sources:
A Place in the Sun– the book about the creation of
Real Goods
-Personal Site Visit

For More:
Review of A Place in the Sun

Solar Living
Institute

Van Der Ryn
Architects

rg1.JPG

rg2.JPG

rg3.JPG

rg4.JPG


Reflections on the Getty Center, Los Angeles

What would you do with a billion dollar building budget? That was the question administrators and architect Richard Meier had to answer when taking on the building of the Getty Center, an art museum and research facility in Santa Monica. The center whose architecture and layout was principally designed by Meier, sits on a majestic hilltop surveying the entire Los Angeles basin. The Center is mainly composed of a central group of buildings, and is complemented with smaller garden primarily designed by environmental artist Robert Irwin. While the Center constitutes a great endeavor as both a piece of architecture and as a museum, there is something missing, something that its billions could not buy.

This is not to say that the Getty Center is a failure or is not a great facility, for indeed it truly is amazing by any circumstances. However, having been to the likes of the National Gallery in Washington D.C. and the unparalleled Louvre in Paris, my expectations for the Getty were high when I visited one sun scorched afternoon. The main problem observed with the Getty is its inability to put its many and complicated parts together into an effective whole. Among the major observed problems were a lack of unity of buildings and a poor interrelation between the buildings and garden.

First of these faults is the poor cohesiveness in the built form. Meier’s architecture attempts to be overpowering and grandiose with its modernist and classical allusions, yet it lacks the bold vision that would have made it successful. Architecturally the buildings seemed to be too concerned with alternating forms and materials than in really making one statement. Meier has his buildings undulating and changing between a variety of different basic forms; this is in addition to changing materials between travertine rock and aluminum paneling, which is distracting and detracting. The result is a building that makes no clear statement, and whose facades look as if they were two designs melded together. It might have been better if Meier had gone with more modernist ideals of simplicity and purity in form. In this way the Getty Center might have had a more universal and powerful appeal.

The overall composition of the center also shows weakness in the relationship between the gardens and buildings. The gardens of the Getty make their own statement that intentionally veers from Meier’s vision. The designer of the garden Robert Irwin had many fights with Meier over form and relationship of the garden. Ultimately Irwin chose his own independent design vision. While Irwin’s garden by itself is quite impressive it fails to hold its own and blend successfully with Meier’s buildings. The gardens do not have equal footing with the buildings, and as a result the garden is put in a subordinate and not a complementary role. Its forms while interesting and effective, do not play off the architecture in an effective manner.

Overall, the Getty Center is an impressive complex and is obviously poised to make a huge contribution to the world of art. Yet from the standpoint of form and space it leaves much to be desired. It seems as if the Getty Trust tried to do a little bit of everything and lacked focus in making the place exude one expressive and unifying feeling. Unfortunately Meier could not do what I.M. Pei did for the Louvre. Pei was able to combine design theories, philosophies and histories, as well as differing forms into a bold and unique design expression. Meier and the Getty Center did not succeed to the same degree in their pursuits, and this lack of unity detracts from the Museum’s experience.

gc41sm.jpg

gc51sm.jpg

For More:
Getty Center Website
Richard Meier & Partners Website

Sources:

Perl, Jed. “Acropolis Now.” New Republic 26 Jan. 1998: 25+.

Beardsley, John. Earthworks and Beyond. New York. Abbeville Press. 1998.


The Irish Formal Garden: Powerscourt

Ireland is not usually the first place considered when mentioning outstanding
formal gardens. The gardens of Ireland are not regarded in the same light as
those of nearby England, or those sublime landscapes of the continent, such as
France or Italy. Yet, in this beautiful emerald isle lie some of the most
beautiful and interesting gardens to be found anywhere in the world. The Irish
garden is a compilation. Often employing English style, as the English occupied
the country and still exert their influence over the north to the present day,
the Irish garden translates that style, as well as those of other European and
international influences. Ireland has made these adapted styles into her own,
and the nature of the Irish garden has a distinction that differs it from those
of England or the rest of Europe.

The gardens at the Powerscourt estate embody many of these characteristic
elements very well. Powerscourt stands out by being different than many other
famous Irish gardens. The gardens are important in that the overall design is
very formal, they incorporate these formal traits in a way reminiscent of
Italian and French garden design, and they bring together all these varied and
complex traits into a cohesive whole.

Upon examining the typical Irish garden, it becomes clear that the Irish did
embrace the more pastoral romantic landscapes of England that began to develop
at the beginning of the 1700’s. These influences clearly had a great effect
especially on gardens of the ninetieth century, and it is this more informal
style that tends to dominate Irish landscape design of the most famous gardens.
It is this tendency toward the more organic designs of English style that causes
such a distinction and contrast in the fewer formal Irish gardens. This is not
to say that formal gardening was not a part of the design vocabulary of Ireland,
for it was. Victorian designers such as Sir
Charles Barry
and William Nesfield were using elements Italian style in
their garden designs as the backbone of their work. Yet those landscapes of
particular distinction and fame in Ireland follow the path laid by famous Irish
landscape gardener William Robinson. Robinson’s effect on the design
theory of Ireland was similar to the more famous English names of Wise, Kent, Brown and others who pushed the transition to the
Romantic, free-flowing, naturalistic garden. As a result the Irish garden, never
fully developed an articulated formal style that gained widespread recognition
like the more natural gardens that would follow. Still, there were exceptions to
this overall trend in development of garden theory, and the gardens at
Powerscourt are one of them.

Situated fifteen miles away from the capital
city of Dublin in Wicklow County, the estate was the home of the Viscount of
Powerscourt. Encompassing at its peak 36,000 acres, the estate was quite large
and provided great opportunities for building and landscape formation. The
existing estate was finished in 1770, (although the interior was burned out in a
fire in 1974), and from that point the rest of the grounds began to develop. The
sixth Viscount of Powerscourt began development of the grounds as a start of
their eventual modern form, but it wasn’t until his son Richard, the seventh
Viscount of Powerscourt, took over the estate after his father’s death, that
estate’s grounds really begin to metamorphose. Through a somewhat complicated
series of designers and incarnations, the grounds surrounding the Manor began to
take on the shape that they still retain today.

The gardens owe they’re splendor and grandeur mainly to this principal
patron, Richard Wingfield the seventh Viscount. His travels to the gardens of
Europe, especially those to Versailles, Schönubrunn, and Schwetzingen, had a
profound impact on the overall form of the garden. It is because of these
travels that the gardens at Powerscourt show such interesting similarities with
these more mainstream gardens and their design elements and philosophies. The
gardens at Powerscourt, like Irish gardening in general, incorporated all these
influences while maintaining an individuality that gives the grounds a
uniqueness and overall sense of place.
The actual design work of Powerscourt
was done by a number of designers starting with architect Daniel Robertson. It
was Robertson’s overall vision that would set the backbone for what Powerscourt
would become. Robertson worked for the sixth Viscount and although he and the
Viscount would die before they’re plans were realized, the foundation was set
for what was to occur next. Robertson was responsible for the layout of the
rounded series of terraces and the incorporation of the existing water elements
in the overall design. Robertson also was responsible for the formal Italian
design of the gardens that he supposedly emulated from the Villa Butera in
Sicily.

The transition in designers following Daniel Robertson’s death meant a
fourteen year reprieve from development and it wasn’t until 1854 that the
Viscount’s son and Scottish gardener Alexander Robertson (no relation) would
team up and continue development of the estate. Alexander Robertson continued
and adapted the vision of his predecessor and development progressed. It was
under the steady hand, and bold vision of the new Viscount that work continued
although Alexander Roberson also died in 1860. The Viscount then entertained
plans from four other designers, and the combination of their work continued to
develop the project and its specific details. The first of these was James Howe
who continued to develop the semantics of the terraced gardens, and who
unfortunately died a year after his Powerscourt plan was created. Later
designers followed including Broderick Thomas and Lord Powerscourt’s neighbor
Sir George Hodson. These designers continued to articulate the gardens as the
design process foraged on.

The result of these no less than six designers and the two lords was nothing
less than fabulous. Through its development, Powerscourt developed into one of
the most distinctive and interesting gardens in Ireland, and for that matter in
Europe in general. The site was a microcosm of European design styles, yet with
the unique setting of the rich chromatic green of the Irish landscape, and the
backing of Sugar Loaf mountain in the distance the estate achieved something
more than its individual design elements could ever achieve alone. Distinctive
elements of the formal gardens include a beautifully constructed perron designed
by Francis Penrose. The perron evokes visions of Italian designs in its style
and beauty, using scores of small stones of black and white set eloquently into
the terraced steps. This and other elements enriched the gardens’ already strong
formal European feeling. Copies of many famous statues like the Hellenistic
Greek statue of Laocoon, ornament the many terraces of the grounds and give the
gardens a very continental flavor reminiscent of other famous formal gardens
such as Vaux le Vicomte.

Detail is present everywhere in the site, from the beautifully crafted
statuary to the magnificent intricacies of contorting wrought iron shaped in a
multitude of elegant forms. Two bold statues of the winged horse Pegasus accent
the central pond and are very distinctive in design and have their origins in
the Powerscourt coat of arms. Beauty abounds and there is a good cohesion in
site between built form and landscape. The landscape functions well as an
overall setting and extension of the manor.

Here at Powerscourt is the
unheralded Irish formal garden in all its glory. It is this somewhat unique
niche of formality that gives Powerscourt its distinction and importance. The
garden succeeded in creating a formal atmosphere, and yet with additional
gardens such as a Japanese garden addition, and a flawless integration with the
more informal countryside and other informal gardens, there was a creation of
something larger. With its unique setting and properly fit elements, Powerscourt
transcends the ordinary; and when on site or looking at photographs it can
become an almost surreal work of art.

The gardens succeed in carrying on the tradition of the Italian Villa and
French Chateau. Renaissance architect Alberti would be proud, as the estate
conforms wonderfully to his guidelines for villa planning that a site should be
oriented towards “familiar mountains”, such as are found in Sugar Loaf looming
picturesquely in the distances that lie beyond as Alberti put it, “the delicacy
of the gardens”. It has the open feel of Versailles while at the same time
combining the curvilinear themes of the romantic pastoral English designers
using its contextual setting. It is a work of combination, done perfectly to
create something that is more than its individual styles. The gardens don’t have
their own distinct style, and yet they do in their inclusion of all the
aforementioned elements. It is in this characteristic that Powerscourt achieves
greatness. It is the unlikely formation of a great formal garden in a country
not known for its articulation in this aspect of garden design. This contrarian
gesture of design against the popular preconception of the Irish garden is what
makes Powerscourt grand.

pc.jpg

Sources:

1. Hyams, Edward. Irish Gardens. London: Macdonald, 1967.

2. Malins, Edward, Patrick Bowe. Irish Gardens and Demesnes from 1830. New
York:
Rizzoli,1980.


The Allure of the Japanese Rock Garden

For people outside eastern cultures there is a certain allure, especially
from those who appreciate gardens and landscape design, in the Japanese rock
garden. In its stark simplicity, the Japanese rock garden is easy to behold. Yet
it is its deeper meaning that gives it the aesthetic qualities and universal
appeal that many people find so attractive. The rock garden is a highly
spiritual statement. At first glance it may seem as merely ornamental style, yet
a deep significance lies in its form and layout. The rock garden is a metaphor
for something greater. The garden is a microcosm and distinct statement about
life. It is a minimalist reduction of clarity and purity. The gardens at Ryoan-Ji are probably the most famous and noteworthy of
these qualities. Strength and appeal lie in their mystery and their pervasive
simplicity.

The Japanese rock garden is like a poem, free to interpretation by anyone who
cares to venture an opinion and in this aspect lies part of its strength. A
child may see a sandbox, an intellectual, the metaphor for perfection in the
universe, the Zen philosopher may see just rocks. Most critics consider Ryoan-Ji
as the prototype for the rock garden. All of 15 rocks and 330 square meters
create the masterwork of Japanese Kare-sansui, or dry gardening. This reinforces the fact
that Japanese rock gardens are not gardens of massive size or physical
complexity. Their overall significance lies on a transcendental plane.

The contrast to western styles and meaning may also shed some light as to
their popularity. The typical garden design philosophy of most western gardens
is that of central meaning and conceptual philosophy. The Japanese garden
reflects more of cryptic and deeply philosophical thought. There is no greater
statement than saying nothing at all, for it allows the mind to complete the
scene. The rock garden is an allegory, yet one with a meaning that is as elusive
as the meaning of life itself.

Another interesting caveat in Japanese rock gardening is the symbolic raking
of sand as a symbol for water. This aspect has allure in its interactivity and
in its interesting patterning. What’s particularly interesting about this
element is its entry into American culture through small Zen rock kits. A piece
of cardboard, some sand, a few small stones, and a rake is all that is needed to
achieve ones own inner enlightenment. While there is commercialism and often a
lack of full understanding that often accompanies the use of these kits, they
show the general appeal of the concept and basic philosophy.

The rock garden then is a place of thought and a place for reflection and
meditation. Through its simplistic forms it provokes thought, reflects the
design concepts of an entire genre of gardens, and gives a clue into Japanese
Zen and naturalistic philosophies. Dynamic yet simple, full of contrast, the
rock garden speaks volumes with every grain of sand. Unique in character and
quite recognizable, it has maintained its appeal as garden form, and continues
to fascinate people, as it will for generations to come.

Kyoto’s Famous Ryoan-Ji
r1.JPG

r2.JPG

r3.JPG

Sources:

Moore, Charles, William Mitchell, William Turnbull Jr. The Poetics of
Gardens. Cambridge. MIT Press. 1988.

Bring, Mitchell, Josse Wayembergh. Japanese Gardens. New York. McGraw-Hill.
1981.


Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma

Cornerstone Gardens is a good resource for those looking inspiration to
incorporate a sense of the modern avante-garde into landscapes of a residential
scale. The Gardens, located just south of the City of Sonoma, feature the works
of 20 well known landscape architects. These gardens truly seek to develop the
landscape as art, making bold visual statements.

Visit Cornerstone’s Website for more information on the Gardens and their
designers.


Newly Expanded Great Gardens and Parks Portfolios

After much work and web toiling, we are happy to present our newly expanded
Great Gardens and Parks portfolios. Here you will find
gardens from California and the West, and Western Europe.

In the California and the West Galleries there are 15 galleries from gardens,
parks and city spaces from British Colombia to Southern California. In the
Western Europe Galleries there are over 20 galleries from 7 countries.

We hope that these galleries can serve as an information resource, and that
they will be enjoyable to browse through. As with any web based project there is
more on the way from Western Europe, and eventually from our travels in Kyoto
Japan and surrounding areas.


Prado Museum Botanical Gardens, Madrid

The Prado Museum hosts one of Europe’s great art
collections. It is renoun, for its collection of Spanish Masters Goya, El
Greco
and Velasquez. In addition to the museum there is also an
interesting botanical garden on the grounds. The Prado was originally
comissioned in the 18th century to be natural science museum, which accounts for
the botanical gardens, but by the time of its opening, it was used as a showcase
of art from the Spanish empire.

The garden itself has a characteristic Spanish quality of being relaxed and a
bit wild and overgrown. This is true of many of the other parks of Madrid that I
visited. Below are some photographs-

prado1.JPG

prado2.JPG

prado3.JPG

prado4.JPG

prado5-2.JPG

prado6.JPG

prado 7.JPG

prado8-2.JPG


Keukenhof Gardens

In the process of moving to our new office, I was reviewing some of my
photographs of gardens in Europe from 2003. One of the most striking of all the
gardens I visited there was the famous Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Holland. Of course, the
Dutch are famous for their flowers, especially their tulips, and the gardens did
not disappoint. There are acres of beautiful gardens that should be a must on
any Netherlands visit.

As far as floral displays, from my travels these gardens may only be rivaled
by the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Colombia.

Below are some of my favorite photos from the gardens:

kuken1.jpg kuken3.jpg

kuken4.jpg kuken6.jpg

kuken9.jpg

kuken5.jpg

kuken8.jpg


Good Garden Quotations

In the process of our move to our new office, as I was filtering through some
books I stumbled up Maria Polushkin Robbins’ book A Gardener’s Bouquet of Quotations, and I wanted to
share a few of my favorites.


A Garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever.


-Anonymous

Nothing is more completely the child of art than a garden.

-Sir Walter Scott

I don’t know whether nice people tend to grow roses or growing roses
makes people nice.

-Rowland A. Browne

The great challenge for the garden designer is not to make the garden
look natural, but to make the garden so that the people in it will feel
natural.

-Lawrence Halprin

But a weed is simply a plant that wants to grow where people want
something else. In blaming nature, people mistake the culprit. Weeds are
people’s idea, not nature’s.

-Anonymous

Again rejoicing Nature sees
Her robe assume its vernal hues
Her
leafy locks wave in the breeze,
All freshly steeped in morning
dews.

-Robert Burns

As is the garden such is the gardener.
A man’s nature runs either to
herbs or weeds.

-Francis Bacon

The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.

-Franklin D. Roosevelt

Unless you take care, the sun will pin you down. Put a hat on that
foolish head of yours when you go out into the fields.

-Farmers
Almanac

He who plants a garden, plants happiness.
-Chinese
Proverb

There is nothing pleasanter than spading when the ground is soft and
damp.

-John Steinbeck

What I enjoy is not the fruits alone, but I also enjoy the soil itself,
its nature and its power.

-Cicero

We collect great garden quotes, let us know some of your favorites.

If you are looking for more good quotes try:
Wisdom
Quotes

Quote Garden



An Interesting Japanese Garden

There was an interesting article about Japanese gardens today in the San
Francisco chronicle. Osmosis, a Japanese Spa retreat in Sonoma County has
some beautiful Japanese gardens created by Osmosis founder Michael Stusser after
a garden apprenticeship spent in Kyoto.

For good local examples of Japanese gardens this may be a good place to
visit. The garden is only open to spa guests, except when they have special
events, such as concerts- check the Chronicle Article for more details.

Making an authentic looking Japanese garden is not an easy task. I took a
trip to Kyoto in 2001 and after seeing the real thing it is easy to spot
imitators. You can view two of the better examples of Japanese Gardens in our
Great Gardens portfolios for the Portland Japanese Gardens, and the San
Francisco Japanese Tea House
in Golden Gate Park.


Filoli

I am on my way today to Filoli, or Fight Love and Live. It is a renoun garden on the Peninsula founded by gold mining barons. Filoli is a compound version of owner William Bowers Bourn II motto “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.” Find out more about Filoli at their website http://www.filoli.org/. I will post pictures in our Great Parks and Gardens Section of our portfolio upon our return.

Filoli Visit

Upon returning from Filoli today in Redwood City the trip was well worth the visit. The estate is well cared for especially considering that it is maintained by the State. There was plenty of staff making sure the garden looked its best.

The estate itself is a Georgian Mansion, which to me did not jive with the mixed Oak Woodland of the peninsula where it is located. But I was not there to see the Mansion.

The garden was a great mix of plantings, hardscape and water features and I would recommend them to anyone wanting to visit a great garden in the Bay Area. It is clear why Filoli is considered one of the great estate gardens of California.

Filoli http://www.filoli.org

filoli.jpg

filoli3.jpg

filoli4.jpg