Tuesday, December 7, 2010
We've all had the experience of arriving at a special place and becoming overwhelmed with a sense of awe and wonder. What is it about this place that affects us so powerfully? Natural places such as a "cathedral" in the woods or a sheltered cove have been designed by natural forces, and most created or developed places have been designed. These special, designed places have been thoroughly thought out. What story do we want to tell? How many outdoor "rooms" do we want to create? Which views do we want to open up, conceal, or reveal gradually? How shall we guide circulation? How do we incorporate resting places or spots for triangulation? How do we want to use color to create moods? How do we make users feel safe? What is the existing language of the space and the surrounding spaces that must be respected to create this sense of place? A great designed space matters. So many of our clients tell us that before we designed their gardens they never spent time in the space, and afterward they derive great pleasure spending much of their time in the space. They now want to show it off to friends, and they now start planning activities around the space. A fellow designer compares good design with smoke. "You know what they are when you see them. But when you try to grasp it, sometimes you can't reel it in." Again, we have the feeling of the ethereal.
Clients are often thrilled when we hand them their final drawings after so much time spent thinking about the design. It is a tangible representation of this ongoing conversation about the creation of this new place. We take great pride in our drawings, but the cost of our design services is not paying for the drawing alone. It represents the many hours of training, specific research, developing and storytelling that is behind each pen-stroke of our drawings. Only through these less visible steps do we achieve a good design; and a good design creates a great place. Good design is intentional, purposeful, and defensible. When a client asks us why we placed that patio or tree as we did, our answer will always be much more than "because we thought it would look pretty there."
Landscape Architect Dan Kiley has said "The greatest contribution a designer can make is to link the human and the natural in such a way as to recall our fundamental place in the scheme of things." Each of our designs strives toward this ideal, as we work through each design in conversation with nature. Now that so very few people make their living from the land, this contribution is particularly in need. So many of us are obliged to be locked up in an often windowless room for 8 or more hours a day, we drive to and from this room on an asphalt road, surrounded by concrete, and by day's end, we find ourselves completely drained. As Jennifer Heath laments in her book The Echoing Green, "Cultural memory is quickly disappearing under the weight of television, shopping malls, and wanton destruction of Nature. Yet whether we realize it or not, each time we plant a seed, we are rebelling against materialism and the loss of Soul." Mass media has hijacked the cultural memory, and we yearn to reconnect individually and as a culture with the cycles of nature. The land upon which we survive literally "grounds" us.
Landscape designer Harry Schuster once commented, "All other things being equal, a well-designed landscape costs just as much to install as an ugly one. Why not make them all nice?" We agree! All should bring beauty to our spaces and shine beauty into our souls. We commend all of our lovely clients and friends who have had this foresight, and we encourage you all to spread the word. We are on a mission to spread this sense of place, and we'd like to enlist your help. And to all of our new friends, we invite you to join us.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
The Governor's Award annually recognizes outstanding grassroots organizations, and private and public agencies that creatively preserve and present California's historic resources, and make meaningful historical contributions by increasing public awareness, appreciation, and support for historic preservation. This prestigious award was presented at a special ceremony on January 20 in Sacramento.
"I want to congratulate The Alameda Business Association on winning this prestigious award," said Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio. "It has taken many years of dedication from volunteers and funding from the San Jose Redevelopment Agency to be able to restore and strengthen this amazing area."
As planning efforts proceed, improvements have already begun with the installation of the first of several historic gateways into the Shasta Hanchett neighborhood, just off the Alameda. We were so happy to join forces with the Alameda Business Association and the Shasta Hanchett Neighborhood Association (SHPNA) to develop this historic gateway. We volunteered the planting design and installation labor, working closely with Lorie Bird of SHPNA. This was a very rewarding project with many constraints, but we're so excited to see this installation in the spring, as the waves of color emerge. If you are in the neighborhood, do stop by. It is on the corner of The Alameda and Hanchett.
We are truly thankful to the many dedicated neighbors and neighborhood businesses who contribute their efforts to develop the beauty, comfort, and neighborliness of our dear neighborhood.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
When I’m in my garden, I surely talk to my plants. I refer to them as “he” or “she,” and I always inquire how they are “feeling.” When they are feeling unwell, I am pricked with the guilt of an inattentive caretaker, and I promise to be more attentive. In the presence of some plants, my heart races, others I find soothing. Old trees are wise, rambling vines are rascals who continually get out of control. And the Chinese Elm has always been a giraffe to me.
Many cultural tales speak of plants’ power to enchant, charm, or work miracles. Plants are believed to have spirits and souls, acting as metaphors for human feeling and behavior, and possessing powers of transformation when consumed or employed in specific ways.
For example, the ancient Greeks believed that the consumption of thyme brought bravery and life energy, while borage gave courage.
Native Americans have traditionally believed that yucca made into a hoop or hat can render the wearer invisible. Burdock, sorrel, and chamomile are thought to attract money.
In Medieval Europe, leeks were worn as protective amulets; and when bitten, leeks broke hexes. The Roman emperor, Nero, believed that leeks improved his voice, so he ate them before giving oratories.
The orchid, bamboo, pine, plum and chrysanthemum are considered by some Asian cultures to be lucky and virtuous. The plum is like a superior human being, undaunted and unobtrusive. The bamboo is gentle, hardy, flexible, straight and humble.
Orange blossoms recall the past. Cherry blossoms offer happiness and hope. An Oak is strong and enduring, an orchid infrangible.
Irises are said to free the soul from the body, and are thus popular in cemeteries.
Since the 19th century in
In the language of roses, pink is simplicity and happy love; red is passion and desire; white is innocence and purity; yellow is jealousy and perfect achievement.
In my own garden, I have found that I rarely fall in love with plants for their flower color or masses of flowers. More often, it is the persona-- a striking profile, a delicate leaf, an arching or crooked stem, its texture or a bizarre flower-- that speaks the loudest to me.
_ When hard freezes are expected, protect tender plants from potential frost by tenting with burlap, a blanket, or Easy Gardener’s Plant and Seed Blanket. Be sure to keep the cover off of the foliage to minimize damage to branch tips and flowers. Cloudcover, a polymer that prevents desiccation during frost, protects plants to about 28°F. Pull potted plants under the eves of the house and if you expect a big freeze run an extension cord out into your citrus and put a 60 or 70 watt bulb under the cover. Be sure to remove the covers first thing in the morning as temperatures rise.
_ If you haven’t done so already, move your containerized tender and tropical plants close to the house during the cold months.
_ Apply dormant spray to deciduous trees and shrubs if aphids, scale or whiteflies have been a problem in previous seasons.
_ Apply tri-basic copper sulfate or lime sulfur for peach leaf curl now into mid- February.
_ As camellias begin blooming, you may notice brown splotching on petal margins of open flowers, partly open flowers and flower buds. These are characteristic symptoms of camellia petal blight, a fungus for which there is no cure. Sanitation is the key to reducing symptoms: Remove infected flowers and buds and try to not let infected petals hit the ground. If they do, gather and place them in the trash immediately - do not compost!
_ Azaela flower blight has similar symptoms as camellia petal blight, but it can be controlled with a fungicide applied before the buds begin to show color. Use Rose Pride (Fuginex) or Garden Disease Control (Daconil).
_ Harvest citrus. 'Eureka' lemon, mandarins, 'Washington' navel orange, and several other citrus trees are producing now, so pick while fruit is ripe. If you have more than you can use, we at Botany gladly collect surplus harvest and distribute it to families who will make good use of it or donate the excess to a food bank (for a list, visit cafoodbanks.org). You can also contact the non-profit Village Harvest (888/378-4841) to send a team of trained and equipped volunteers to harvest and donate the fruit for you.
_ Pick up fallen fruit, remove dried fruit on trees (“mummies”), and rake leaves, placing all debris in the trash. Do not compost! Fruits and leaves may harbor overwintering insect pests and fungi. Removing both decreases the incidence and proliferation of pests and diseases the next growing season.
_ To keep fruit and shade trees, grapes, and berries shapely, prune them while they're dormant. It is advisable to use pruning shears to make cuts up to ¾ inch in diameter, loppers for cuts ¾ to 1 inch in diameter, and a pruning saw for branches more than 1 inch in diameter.
_ Prune evergreen perennials such as Penstemon, Chrysanthemums, lavender and Salvias now, if you haven’t already. If they’re still in color, you can wait to cut back absolutely no later than Valentine’s Day. Pruning your evergreens keeps them compact and dense. New growth makes the plant appear fresher. DO NOT prune lavender all the way back into wood with no leaves. It will not recover.
_ Ornamental grasses should have been cut back by now. Some gardeners appreciate the ornamental effect of the dried seed heads through the winter months and those can be cut back as late as Valentine's Day but no later.
_ Time to prune garden hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla). This species blooms on new growth from one-year old wood -- aim your pruning cuts just above the largest pair of buds on this wood. Hydrangea bushes often need to be thinned out by removing some of the old gnarly stems right to the ground. Each year one-quarter to one-third of the stems should be removed to permit new ones to grow. All stems pencil size or smaller should be removed. If powdery mildew has been a problem during the summer months, spray them with Microcop or Liqui-Cop after pruning as a preventative; and during the summer spray with sulfur if mildew appears.
_ Wisteria should be pruned before it blooms; cut the new whippy, vegetative growth back to within two buds from the main stem. Be sure to leave the fat, elongated buds that will produce flowers.
_ Roses should also be pruned now. If you wait until later the plants have often started to sprout out lots of new growth. The main purpose of this pruning is to clear away diseased material. Dead leaves should also be picked up and the ground covered with a fresh dose of mulch to seal in the fungal spores. As much of the introduction of the disease organisms to the plants comes from splashing raindrops, cleanliness matters for the more disease prone roses. Try to refrain from any pesticide or fungicide spraying unless the bugs are just too thick for the plants to survive.
_ Look for broken and torn branches on trees after storms. Prune to healthy tissue, using heading cuts if parts of branches have broken or torn and removing entire branches if needed. Consulting a simple, informative book such as Ortho’s All About Pruning will help you determine where to prune and how to make the proper cut. If severe damage is done to older, mature trees, we strongly encourage you to seek the services of a certified arborist. While you may pay more for their work than you would for a non-certified pruner or gardener, you can be assured that the health and longevity of your trees will not be compromised by poor practices such as topping and incorrect pruning cuts.
_ To intensify the blue or pink coloration of garden hydrangeas, apply aluminum sulphate (for blue) or Oyster shell lime (for pink) in December, January, February, and March. Use oyster shell lime, which contains calcium carbonate, an excellent addition to our soils. Dolomite lime, on the other hand, contains magnesium, of which we already have plenty in our native soils.
_ Consider planting cover crops in unused garden spaces. Cover crops keep soil from compacting during winter rains and add much needed nitrogen to the soil when turned into beds in the spring. Popular cover crops include fava beans, which are also edible, and strawberry or red clover. Winter Cover Crop Mix, available at garden centers, which includes bell beans, magnus peas and purple vetch is another good selection. You can also plant dwarf snap peas from cell packs about nine inches apart. The peas can be harvested and eaten and still provide all the soil benefits listed.
_ To find out how to compost in Santa Clara County contact the Master Gardeners of SantaClara County at (408) 282-3105 or online at http://www.mastergardeners.org/scc.html.
_ Clean and service lawnmowers.
_ Consider watering indoor plants with 2 tablespoons of vinegar per 1 gallon of water once a month to reduce salt-build-up and to lower pH.
_ Tune up your house plants a couple of times a year. Wash dust and dirt off the leaves, check for bugs and flush the soil by running one or two quarts of water through the soil.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
As you'll note, much time has passed since our last posting; and as determined as we are to regularly update you all with our current events, the times does always seem to slip by... For now, here are some updates, and plans for the future. Please do keep in touch!
Well, 2009 has come to an end, and what great memories we have created together! We wanted to share with you, our lovely friends and clients, what we’ve accomplished together this past year, and to give you a glimpse into what we’re planning for the upcoming year. We’ve created healing gardens, we’ve expanded our xerophytic landscapes, we’ve created gorgeous gateways, we’ve struggled to bring parks to the neighborhood, and we’ve designed and installed a permeable space on our roadways. A downsized budget lead to a flourishing dry streambed garden with so much rhythm we gasp each time we see it. We’ve had so much fun creating container gardens, and we’re even working on a fantastic vertical garden.
Each year we feel so fortunate to have made so many new friends, and it is wonderful to be a part of your lives. Truly, each garden is a metaphor for the evolution of a life. We see it happen so many times to so many of our lovely friends and clients, and we are so happy to be on this journey with you. We thank you for this partnership, and we are eager to transform more lives, one garden at a time. In the upcoming year we plan to expand our planting installation services. When a garden has been designed and planted by Botany, we are always so pleased by the outcome. We also intend to do more fine gardening. We often have clients contact us when their beautiful new garden is struggling because of a maintenance disaster. Sometimes it takes a visit or two to bring back the beauty to the garden, and sometimes a little more work is needed, but it is always gratifying to etch out the beauty lying within the poorly maintained garden. Vertical gardens are all the rage, and we intend to do more—please do contact us to learn more about this striking and fun new twist on gardening. We’d also love to get more large pots into your gardens— we’ve never had a disappointed client after we convinced them to go with large pots! We’re working with a lot of new texture and form ideas; a garden with great texture and form calls you to come closer and experience the garden more intimately. Several new services are on the horizon, so keep your eyes open for these. Most importantly, we hope to keep adding beauty to the lives of our friends, old and new. If you or a friend might benefit from a lovely new garden, please contact us soon. This is the best time to plan for a beautiful new garden to enjoy in the spring or summer of this year. And if you already do have a beautiful new garden that we’ve designed for you, please get in touch with us and let us know how you and your garden are doing! Best wishes for the new year from your friends at Botany of Design!