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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at  gardengurumontreal.ca

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

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Entries in landscape design (9)

Sunday
Feb012015

The Flower Garden Style of Piet Oudolf

Image copyrighted by Scott Weber. Used with permission

Scott Weber, of Portland, Oregon, has been designing and planting flowerbeds around his property for several years. Above and below are two of the many stunning photos he shares with readers on his blog Rhone Street Gardens. The images of his mini meadow-like plantings always take my breath away no matter how frequently he posts. Scott once mentioned that Piet Oudolf inspires the spirit and design of his garden.

Image copyrighted by Scott Weber. Used with permission.

For over one hundred years, the English flower garden remained the championed design for colorful gardens in the Western world and I confess that it remains my personal favorite to this day.

Nevertheless, by the time the twentieth century began to overlap with the twenty- first, along came Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf to nudge that traditional style out of its spotlight. Today, when I combine some of his design elements into my English-style projects, the results are quite moving.

Many books and articles have been written about this extraordinarily talented garden designer and I expect that ongoing and well deserved worldwide tributes will continue for some time to come.

Garden design by Piet Oudolf. http://www.pensthorpe.com/norfolk-gardens/ Click on image to visit site.

Piet Oudolf has succeeded in replaced the traditional perennial garden with landscapes inspired by the chaos of wildflowers, the assorted textures of foliage and the ethereal movement of grassy meadows. Yet, there is nothing chaotic or wild about his gardens, even if he does include native perennials in his layouts. In fact, his unique gardens are the results of meticulous, intricately designed planting schemes which, when repeated over vast swaths of land, create mesmerizing rivers of lush plant compositions.

His strategically arranged garden blueprints are realized primarily with robust, broad and small leaved perennials, bulbs, and ornamental grasses - all placed into recurring matrices to create a blissful flow of colors, textures, flower shapes and plant forms. Tall species, as well, are incorporated into some of his flowerbeds so that visitors can feel enveloped as they walk under and through his compositions.

These design elements also include the structural skeletons and seed heads of plants that provide visual interest when gardens are usually dormant and bare in winter. In Mr. Oudolf's gardens, eye-catching details attract and engage visitors all year round.

The High Line, New York City, gardens by Piet Oudolf.

Some of Piet Oudolf’s works are located in private gardens and privately owned parks open to the public. However, his best-known and powerful creations are situated in the public spaces of large cities. These urban projects create stirs of excitement when they first open and leave an enormous positive impression on the public. The result is that he has become an iconic figure in the garden design community.

Salvia beds designed by Piet Oudolf at Lurie Gardens, Chicago

One finds these urban oases in some of the largest and most densely populated areas. Here, juxtaposed among concrete, steel and asphalt, are wild meadow-inspired flower gardens whose soft natural and seemingly random appearances contrast dramatically with the disciplined, sleek and hard surfaces of the city structures that surround. They serve as a therapeutic refuge from the stress of daily life.

Lurie Gardens, Chicago.

As a highly respected designer and mentor, he continues to influence the work of prominent landscape designers on both sides of the Atlantic and his philosophy inspires home gardeners, some of whom live in climatically challenged areas where native plants and grasses work better than other perennials, to create dramatic yet beautiful traffic-stopping gardens.

Oudolf’s designs are synergistic; the compositions are more sublime than the appearance of any one of his chosen plants when grown alone. In his gardens, we experience the exquisite beauty of nature that can transport us from demanding urban existence to a destination overflowing with spirituality and hope.

Admire twenty six completed garden projects by Piet Oudolf at his website http://oudolf.com/

Watch a video of his work for New York Botanical Gardens  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75C6xFCSu-A

Monday
Nov262012

How to Design a Garden for Health and Longevity; a book review.

Lifelong Landscape Design, Mary Palmer Dargen, Gibbs Smith.

When planning a residential landscape, the author of this well thought-out publication recommends we focus on the end-use for our garden. Her premise is that successful and effective outdoor living spaces are those that enrich our health and our longevity at each stage of our lives.

Suggestions to achieve maximum benefits from the land that surrounds our home have been shaped by the author’s 30-year career in landscape design and enhanced by over 200 beautiful photographic illustrations that blend perfectly with her text. The quality of her images is clear, clean, and inspiring.

Ms.Dargan submits that at each stage of life, as it is influenced by family, health, life-cycles, friends, and community, the purpose and usefulness of gardens change. Just as we continue to fine-tune our gardens as they grow and mature, similarly we need to make changes to our outdoor spaces to reflect our evolving needs as our families mature.

A young family will require outdoor spaces that allow children to play and have fun, while at the same time it offers opportunities for them to interact with nature.

Some homeowners need outdoor spaces for dining and entertainment, outdoor sports, or simply relaxing and experiences the fresh air. Here, nature serves as a refuge from the stresses of life as it supplies relaxation through a symphony of sensory stimulations affecting vision, hearing, smell, and touch.

Empty-nesters and retirees, looking forward to spending more time in their garden, will be pleased that the writer has given special attention to homeowners who are about to enter their golden years.

Readers will be introduced to the holistic design process of resting lightly upon the land, an approach that relies upon the principles of sustainability for site development. Recommendations are made for designing gardens that encourage social interaction and outdoor sports.

Ideas are offered for aesthetically integrated kitchen gardens, dynamic access pathways, peaceful enclosures, and for creating stress-reducing environments. Even the strategic location of pools, paths, decks, outdoor furniture and BBQ pits merit discussion here.

It is suggested that the friendships we build within our communities – especially when they are born out of a shared love of gardening and nature – help to improve the quality of our physical and emotional lives.

The essence of this publication, therefore, is that a successful landscape design creates an environment that allows us to connect with nature, family, and friends. Such an outdoor space encourages a healthy lifestyle through physical mobility and social interaction and provides a refuge to sustain both body and soul.

Anyone planning to landscape a residential site, or considering redoing an existing one, will surely benefit from the cornucopia of practical health-enhancing ideas found in this book.

                           

Wednesday
Feb152012

A "Renaissance Man" Writes About Landscape Design

Envisioning the Garden, Line, Distance, Form, Color, and Meaning, by Robert Mallet, Norton & Co.

This is no ordinary book on landscape and garden design. The author’s sublime, poetic writing takes this publication out of the mainstream and raises it into a class by itself. What also makes the work exceptional is that Mr. Mallet has successfully integrated several disciplines of study to create one inspiring work.

In a friendly style, reminiscent of the passionate English garden writers of the first half of the twentieth century, the author introduces the reader to the primal significance of good landscape design, with references to the physics of optics, the anatomy of the eye and brain, the psychology of perception, and the fundamentals of pure design.

Mr. Mallet’s multi-discipline approach is reflected in the book’s original French title: - Optics of the Garden; Enlarging Space and Liberating the Spirit.

An illustration from the book: Staircase with Campanula porscharskyana.The author elaborates the details of his thesis in seven chapters in which he discusses lines and punctuation, scale, distance, forms, textures and lighting, colors, other senses that have an impact on a garden, and the search for meaning in landscape design. The book concludes with a short, inspiring summary of the author’s philosophy on the subject of gardens.

An illustration from the chapter A Search for a Meaning.To illustrate the breadth of the author’s intellectual horizons, consider an excerpt from a chapter on scale.  When discussing miniature gardens in a paragraph titled “Elasticity of mental markers; bonsai gardens”, the author reports: - This representation on a smaller scale of a much larger natural world is intended to liberate us from our everyday environment and to allow us to escape into an idealized world. It can even serve as real therapy for people who are trapped inside their own mental universe.

Illustration from a discussion on distance and perspective.On each of the 143 pages, Mr. Mallet shares fine details of landscaping concepts that are sometimes overlooked by other writers. For example, he elaborates on the art of lopsidedness, illusion and staged effects, false perspectives, verticals in front of horizontals, shadows, placing jagged forms in front of ovals and rounds, nuance rather than contrast, placing cold colors in front of warm colors,  proprioception - a sixth sense that improves how we see by using sound and smell - and the emotional dimension of a garden.

Few books on the subject of landscaping touch the soul of the reader with the depth of meaning that Mr. Mallet has successfully imbued in his writing. While many of the examples, diagrams, and illustrations are drawn from large estates, the fundamentals are universal and applicable to gardens of all sizes.

Reviewed for Bookpleasures.com

                             

Tuesday
Oct042011

Upscale Gardening with a Mass-Market Manual, a book review

Plant Combinations for Your Landscape by Tony Lord, with photographs by Andrew Lawson, Published by Creative Homeowners.

A prominent garden designer and a garden photographer have put their names to a mass-market how-to garden book. This attractively priced, lavishly illustrated, and dwarf-sized publication measures only 5.5 x 6.5 inches. However, it is no less important than more elaborate and larger-sized volumes selling at three times the price.

The conciseness of the gardening advice is as compact as the book itself, yet it contains everything a new gardener needs to know about plants and how to combine them in the garden. The author has divided the manual into six clearly defined topics plus an invaluable introductory chapter. These preparatory pages instruct the reader how to use the guide effectively and how to interpret the short hand symbols; it also clearly explains concepts that are fundamental to garden design.

These concepts include the value of light, bedding and borders, the importance of color- repetition- balance, the role of containers and hanging baskets, meadow planting, the June gap in the flower garden, the late spring shearing of tall summer plants, late summer color, bulbs, and climbers. Distilled into twenty tiny pages, this treasury of basic information, fundamental to garden design, can be read in a flash.

The opening chapter instructs the reader about the essence of a garden’s basic structure, namely shrubs and small trees. The list included no less than sixty-five plants. The next chapter introduces forty-two climbing plants that add a vertical dimension to a garden, followed by a chapter discussing sixty of the most versatile of all plants, the rose.

The subsequent chapter discusses perennials, the herbaceous plants that play an essential role in designing and filling a garden. Here, the reader will discover seventy-eight of them. Twenty-six attractive bulbs are also included in this book because of their ability to grow through layers of other plants. Finally, the book ends with a chapter discussing sixty-four annuals. This topic includes biennials, frost-tender perennials, and vegetables with ornamental foliage.

Each of the chapters begins with an introduction and overview of its topic, followed by a short summary about each plant. The summary divides into two short paragraphs. One, titled How it Works, is a concise explanation of the growth habit and appearance of a specific plant. Another paragraph, titled Recommended Partners, lists additional plants that combine successfully with the featured one in order to enhance the garden.

Because it prevents the reader from feeling daunted by the subject of garden design and plant combinations, this book is important for first-time gardeners. If one uses the structure of the book itself, the undertaking will be easy to accomplish.  By reading about one component of design at a time, at one’s own pace, one can easily build a garden in stages. The trick is to follow the sequence of the chapters. It’s that simple – that’s what manuals are intended to do – and Mr. Lord and Mr. Lawson accomplish that task admirably.

This review is also posted to Bookpleasures.com

 

                                           

Monday
May232011

When Color Becomes the Essential Ingredient in Garden Design; a book review for Bookpleasures.com

Contemporary Color in the Landscape, Andrew Wilson, Timber Press

Each new era brings a shift in garden design trends while introducing novel ways to use color in the landscape. Previously, generations of gardeners planned functional designs with polite color schemes. These landscapes served specific purposes for rulers, landowners, parks, and residences. Today, it is mostly homeowners who continue to recreate traditional gardens using long established, safe color palettes. Contemporary designers, by comparison, are not remaining cautious. Contracted to handle large expanses of land, both public and private, they are turning instead to a newer and more dramatic use of color in landscaping; one that is based upon a personal concept of the designer. The author’s goal, which he achieves admirably, is to explain how a designer’s inspiration may come from an idea, a feeling, or a mood and he demonstrates how that inspiration influences the final appearance of a landscape. This contemporary philosophy of garden design is known as conceptualism and its essential ingredient is color that is used in a most innovative manner.

Conceptualism refers to a designer’s original idea, or concept, that inspires an overall design. It may be a reflection of a personal response to the garden’s physical location which, according to the author, may appear spiritual, sinister, fascinating, or sensuous. It may also reflect the political or social history of that location. Using plants, stones, wood, metal and resins, the conceptual garden is a creative expression realized through a depiction of warmth, coolness, depth, infinity, brilliance or contrast. All of these aesthetic notions are established in the garden by the use or absence of color in both architectural and plant materials.

Conceptual garden designers work mainly with perennials and ornamental grasses, whose palettes range from monochrome and muted to rich, vibrant, and bold. Similarly, where once the brick, stone, and natural colors of walls and hardscapes supplied a neutral setting, contemporary designers are covering surfaces with tropical colored paint and are using construction and decorative materials, both organic and synthetic, in vivid and heavily saturated tones. The resulting gardens may be hauntingly serene or electrifying.

Mr. Wilson’s exposition begins with an overview of the science that explains our interaction with and the relationship between colors. Gardeners who are not scientifically inclined or who prefer to experiment with color rather than read about it, might skip this portion without diminishing their appreciation of the book. The author’s work is enriched by lavish illustrations supporting color theory, which are quite powerful and instructive on their own. There is a lot to learn simply by studying the images.

Beyond the introduction to color and its effect on people, Mr. Wilson develops his theme with demonstrations that rely on copious images of gardens created by influential contemporary designers. These spot-perfect pictures help the reader understand a garden designer's personal response to color, how color can be manipulated, and how contrast between colors ignites energy. They also help to explain the emotive qualities of color in landscaping. The author includes a fascinating discussion on how the use of a restrictive palette can maximize visual impact and demonstrates, in an eye-opening report, the visually riveting gardens that result when rules about color relationships are ignored. He concludes with a chapter on the colors found in nature and how they inspire designers and become part of a landscape.

The dramatic works of the cutting edge designers, surveyed in this publication, may jolt some readers. It is a reminder that even hobbies and professional skills that are usually rooted in tradition are not immune to change. Historically, gardens have reflected the cultures that created them. Therefore, it is understandable that they should also reflect changes in society when they occur.

While traditionalists may consider this modern philosophy to be audacious, forward thinking gardeners will find it inspiring and exciting. This publication confirms that conceptualism results in exceptionally entertaining and moving landscape visuals. One cannot remain indifferent to them. Perhaps that is a reflection of the times in which we live because concept gardening seems to echo the current generation’s preoccupation with visual technology. By demonstrating how contemporary ideas push boundaries, this book will rock your boat. Welcome to a new millennium of garden design.