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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New Toy

A while back, when I taught art in a high school, I conducted an experiment in moving lines from the paper into the air. In the library, we researched and made line drawings of insects and other small creatures. The next day, using wire and pliers, we manipulated the lines in space. It was fun! The unclaimed 3D line drawings ended up on my mantle at home.

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I appreciate their embodied energy, and their economical structural integrity .

Bug 1

bug 2

Recently, I obtained a 3Doodler 2.0, a device which enables one to create lines in the air using molten ABS plastic, the stuff of Legos.

legos

In theory, this new toy presents a vast array of opportunities. In reality, first, there is a learning curve. I will have to internalize:

  • the rate of the material’s cooling.
  • the variable speed and thickness of the material’s flow from the instrument tip.
  • the strength and plasticity of the material.

Pyramids

My first efforts: pyramids. I’ve got a long way to go.

A recent review notes the following:

“Honestly, you’re not going to make many practical, functional, or truly useful objects with 3Doodler … it’s really just a fun artistic tool. If you’re looking for a legit 3D printer that you can make useful objects with, you should definitely look elsewhere…

That said, if you like the idea of drawing objects in three dimensions, without having to jump over all the hurdles that lie between ideation and creation (like software, computer models, and properly calibrated machinery) then the newest 3Doodler should definitely be in your artist’s toolkit.”

I look forward to making some objects. Perhaps they will be models of conceptual products. As likely, they will be one-offs. Or is that ones-off?

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Grotesques

This post is an answer to question posed in the previous blog post:

Q.  “Who are we?”

A.  We are grotesques, inlaid into the terra cotta floor of the Reading Room in the Laurentian Library, in Florence, Italy.

libreriaThe Library’s Entry Vestibule and Reading Room were designed by Michelangelo. They are notable because of the radical ways in which architectural elements are used without strict adherence to their traditional/ expected/functional roles. The tall vestibule, an interior room, is made to feel like an outdoor courtyard, literally outside-in.  There are large corbels (brackets) that don’t physically hold anything up, and window-frames surrounding planes of opaque stone rather than glass.

It is a prime example of the style called Mannerism. From Wikipedia, “Mannerism is notable for its intellectual sophistication as well as its artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities. Mannerism favors compositional tension and instability rather than the balance and clarity of earlier Renaissance (work).”

I had been taught that the Laurentian Library was both conceived of and fleshed out by Michelangelo. Because of this, I thought that the faces inlaid in the floor were made from sketches by Michelangelo. However, in a correspondence with Leonard Barkan, a scholar, currently at Princeton University, with many deep interests including Literature, History, Art History, Classics, and Meaning, I learned that this was not the case. He wrote:

The faces on the floor of the Laurentian Library are indeed interesting, in the fashion of grotteschi, which were a widely diffused style of decoration throughout the sixteenth century and beyond.  They probably don’t have much to do with Michelangelo himself.  The Library was realized from what appear to have been his very generalized architectural designs, but he seems to have had very little input as regards the details, since it was all done after he had definitively left Florence.  And the letters we possess on the subject suggest that he wasn’t very closely connected with what was going on in the construction.  The drawings for the floor were (we’re told) by Niccolò Tribolo.  For a brief account in English, see: http://www.bml.firenze.sbn.it/ing/tour_of_the_complex.htm

The inclusion of this assortment of cartoon-like heads in this stately space may have been done in order to include the wild, sensuous, and willful side of human nature along with the sublime, intellectual and religious side.

Grotesques are found in architecture throughout the world. The following Gothic examples are from the Bayeux Cathedral, in Bayeux France.

g3

g11g2g7

Bayeux images courtesy of  George P. Landow

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Print Making Venture

I’ve been enthusiastically making prints lately!  Please check them out at this link:

LK PRINTS

Umami 1

All Images courtesy of Laura Kraft.

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Untrue Colors

I’ve been going through the slides from my family’s past to figure out what to do with them and how to do it. My Dad was a diligent photographer, shooting quantities of slides, stills, and movies.  When I was a child, he had a darkroom for black and white processing.  I spent many hours in there with him and later, on my own. I remember well: “When the little red light by the entrance is on, don’t go in!” In the process of reviewing the slides, I am enjoying the opportunity to see the world through my Dad’s eyes– what interested him, what he focused on, what he thought was significant.

slidesWe’ve got a lot of slides.

My task is to cull the images that I think will be of significance to current and future generations, and to discard the others. Each slide will be considered in these terms.  The “keepers” will be digitized and stored on a dedicated portable drive, and then opened on my graphic design software, where I can quickly rotate, crop, and adjust the color, contrast, and/or brightness of each. I’ll figure out a way to present a streamlined version of the best images for my family members.  It’s a big job; I expect it to take a couple of years.

The batch I have been working with tonight are of a trip my parents took to Turkey in 1973. The 40-year-old slides have undergone some physical changes over time (haven’t we all!), and their color is uniformly distorted. I can correct the color when there are people in the shot.  However, in this batch of slides, most of the images are of scenery, buildings, and ruins. I’ve got no reference point about the “real” color except the software’s auto correct semblance of the actual colors, which is only a computer code-driven guess.

In their unretouched form, the color distortion makes the scenes surreal and compelling, perhaps even more so than what is “correct” or “true.”  It adds additional other worldliness to a world that is already “other” to me.

20The slide’s age turned the mosque this luminous purple.

maxfield-parrish-daybreak-78398The colors and the atmosphere in the mosque image are not so different from those above in “Daybreak,” by painter/illustrator Maxfield Parrish in 1922.

4Unretouched, exceptionally vibrant and emphatically colored shot, taken from a position seated on the floor.

3Cool car, interesting loose urban density, some expected colors, and some weird colors.

1cUnretouched image inside mosque.

1dColor adjusted to what might be “real.”

 1bColor correction by software to remove red cast of original.

1aManipulated, and starting to look like a textile.3aThis unretouched image of a ruin in an arid landscape is, in fact, upside down.

7Unretouched image of ruins, looking like a parched otherworldly landscape at sunset. the color palette reminds me of Pre-Raphaelite paintings like this one (I’ve only seen the reproduction, not the actual thing), in which color is used to evoke physical and emotional feelings:640px-John_Everett_Millais_-_Chill_OctoberJohn Everett Millais, Chill October, 1870

PICT0006Unretouched composition, with the base of a gold finial touching the frame at the top. Dad sometimes framed his shots with the tops of people’s heads or tops of buildings cut off, but in this case, it makes a great composition.  The negative space of the blue sky is lovely to me.

All Images courtesy of Alan Kraft, with interventions by me.

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