Doing Garden Design, part 1: Analyze This

(a 6-part series)

1996                                                            2016

A garden constantly changes over time. So, too, does the gardener. And (lately), so does the climate. After 3 decades of tending my lush and ever-bearing yard, it was time to re-think its current design. There was little to limit my imagination except the limits of my physical ability and my time.

I approached the design similarly to the way I approach any architectural design project, with a progression of phases.

Phase 1. Identify Problems in Need of Solutions:

  • Some beds have become grass-and-weed-choked beyond repair.

this path (L) has become tangled up (R)

 

  • The shade from established trees has expanded.
  • I have gotten more measured in my energy expenditure as I age, and need to dial down the amount of high-maintenance plants.
  • The summers have gotten hotter and drier; some plants now wither where they used to flourish.

2015-08-29-14-38-43-hdr

this slope became too dry and shady for its plantings

 

Phase 2. Gather Facts About Prevailing Conditions.

Over the years, I have developed a head full of experience and opinions about this garden’s performance.

The hardscape (paths, stairs, retaining walls, and paved areas) has been developed over the years. It will essentially remain as-is.

I have noted plantings that have succeeded and those that failed. Some of them combine with others. Some are easy to care for. Some offer great rewards, such as long blooming time, delicious scents, beautiful colors, and/or striking textures.

On the other hand, others are short-lived, invasive, fussy, too chaotic, or I just don’t like them.

I made the following double-duty diagram.

new-plantings-exposure-1

sun/shade exposure        /        existing features, to remain

 

Examples of elements well worth keeping as-is:

rhodies

enormous old rhododendrons with 70’ tall Western Red Cedar beyond

grove

native ground covers within the rhododendron grove

flower-garden

sunny flower garden near house

 

Phase 3. Scheme, daydream, and imagine possibilities. Start wish lists, accompanied by deep research in books and on the web. Some of my lists:

  • Flowers I want.
  • Drought-resistant shrubs with “winter interest.”
  • Plants that will bring sparkle to the shade.
  • Plants (from small-to-large) with remarkable foliage.
  • Scented plants to locate near the path.
  • Evergreen ground covers, bedding plants, and specimens.
  • Plants with notable shapes.
  • And so on…

wish-list

I love the evocative names, and all of the promises they hold

At the end of this third phase, armed with information and ideas, I am ready to start drawing.

The next 2H Pencil post will be:

Doing Garden Design, Part 2: Plans

upper-plan-rendering_edited-1

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I invite your comments.

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Color Options

My client chose a particular rich dark green siding and black window trim for their Craftsman bungalow. I presented them with options for the remaining  trim and door colors. Then I made this quick GIF animation for fun.

laura_4

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I invite your comments.

 

 

 

 

Architecture Whisperer, No. 3

Behold, the building speaks! It says, “We are great and powerful. You are small and meek. Any questions?

italianbank_2259212b

At the end of piazza Salimbeni in Sienna Italy, the bank Monte dei Paschi stands like a fortress.  In 1472, this palazzo was converted into a bank; it is the oldest bank in the world.  The institution relies on its reputation for stability and security, which are embodied by the building. The façade wall’s upper crenellated edge was designed for defense. The single doorway within a Gothic arch, placed off-center at street level, is intimidatingly enormous and exposed.

bank door

Upon closer observation, the large-scaled pair of bronze-bedecked doors contain a single human-scaled door.  The imposing building has made a concession to its users, allowing them passage, but at the same time reminding them that The Bank is formidable, and controls everything that comes and goes from its premises.

Architects manipulate scale to influence perception.

Edith Ann

In relation to large things, we feel small and powerless.

img_half_scale_cars In relation to small things, we feel big and powerful.

 Comfort-Chairs-Created-by-Cate-and-Nelson-Photos8In relation to human-scale things, we feel just right.

1st image courtesy of The Telegraph, 2nd image courtesy of Gimbo, 3rd Image courtesy of the Lily Tomlin & Jane Wagner Website, 4th image courtesy of Harrington Group, 5th image courtesy of Cate&Nelson.

Feel free to share any of these images, but please provide a link back to 2H Pencil.

I invite your comments.