Friday, March 26, 2010
I wrote this post a while back about the virtues of keeping garden design subjective. If you missed it, hopefully you'll go back to it and agree that it can be unfair to be too judgemental about a garden when as visitors, we don't always know the full story.
A couple of coincidental things have happened since that post - the photo above is my favorite fall beauty of 2009. And just after I found my love for this ornamental kale, and fall planters using them, I read something in a magazine describing my new fave as "common" (the biggest insult in my lexicon) and sarcastically poking fun at people who own them. Soon thereafter, I wrote this post about how I found a garden just like my new, brilliantly designed garden in the pages of a magazine!! Only...it was the "before" photo in a garden makeover.
I do generally consider myself a person of good taste. I can flip thorough a magazine or book and after a cursory look, instinctively tell you what's beautiful and what's more...common. I can definitely tell you what does NOT look so great - and on a good day, can point out ways to improve the design.
Here's the problem: in my garden, I'm a little more confused - maybe because it's so much more personal. I'm a little less confident. I hesitate. I'm proud of what I've done one moment, and embarrassed the next. Sometimes when I'm working in the perennial garden and a neighbor walks by, I think they're thinking, "Tsk, tsk, tsk, that woman sure is working hard on that f-ugly looking garden". But then I try to be more positive about it. The truth is, I am only a landscape architect in my dreams. I have a day job and I'm good at it. It took me a long time to learn it. Similarly, even in my dreams, I've been a landscape architect for only about 4 years. It takes time to learn how to work with plants, to design something that works at a real house with its real obstacles. There is simply no way around it. I will have to gain experience, and that just comes with time.
Last night, Joel Lerner, a specialist in landscape and environmental design came to speak at my Master Gardener class. I loved learning about some of the most important design principles such as balance, contrast, sequence, repetition, and proportion. I enjoyed viewing his "drive by" photos and critiquing them - I'm happy to know that my idea of good design matches the fundamental principles of good design. I'm happy to know that the improvements I would suggest are the improvements our expert would suggest. I loved that the successful expert was open-minded enough to invite critiques of his own work in order to encourage us to think about what has been done. What I loved most, was Joel Lerner's message about design that he repeated several times throughout his lecture:
Landscape design is an ongoing process...
As he put it, you'll try something seven or eight times, and then say A-ha! That's it!
What I don't quite understand, is how some people I've encountered in life and on the web can be so critical of the designs of other people, such that they'll laugh, make fun of, or shake their heads. Perhaps I'm being too Pollyanna, but as I heard from an expert, landscape design IS an ongoing process. I'm typically not lucky enough to get things done perfectly on the first try. Even if I did, I sure as hell hope I wouldn't be too judgmental towards people who don't. If I ever look at some one's garden design and laugh out loud, or shake my head, may Mother Nature herself strike my perfectly placed plants down.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Read and be grossed out...
Behold and be even more grossed out...
Why are these types of plants so funny?!
Monday, March 22, 2010
When spring fever hits, it's time to dip into the carefully hoarded personal days and go on a little trip. My husband and I didn't have to travel far as the United States Botanic Garden is just a short ride into the city. Having heard the very cool and funny Curator of Plants speak at my Master Gardener class just the night before, it was fun to visit the USBG for the first time and know some of the behind-the-scenes info ordinary visitors might not. Orchids were currently on exhibit. Part 1 of these 2 USBG posts include some of the fascinating orchids on display. Part 2 (as soon as I get a chance!) will include other interesting plants at the USBG. I hesitate to post so many photos, but I figure you will either scroll slowly if you love orchids, or skim quickly and pick out ones you like if you're not particularly a fan. I think there's something here for everyone! It's hard for me to pick a favorite, since I like the weird man-eating looking ones, but also enjoy something pretty and pink. The orchid above makes it near the top of the list though - the blooms look like prehistoric birds coming in for a landing. Which one is your favorite?
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Sunday, March 14, 2010
These are leftover pots from when I bought a gazillion a few years ago. When I run out, I will look into cow pots or another similar product made from easily renewable/sustainable materials. I love the size of these pots because they allow plants to grow for several weeks before having to pot up - and many times, they can go in the ground, as is, without have to pot up at all. These pots sit in plastic carry-out containers - a great excuse to order lots of Indian food in the late winter. I jest (sort of ), because these containers have been used for several years now, and will last many more. 6 pots fit perfectly inside the recycled container. The plant tags are 1/4 of a popsicle stick.
Below, the seedlings are covered with Glad Press 'n Seal (just about the only thing this product is good for!). Small vents are snipped in the top. The seedlings sit on a waterproof tray with a flat bottom so they can enjoy the warmth of the heating pad below. I will check on these every day to be sure they're not too sweaty underneath. If so, I'll make more vents or lift a corner. As soon as the seeds germinate, I'll take them off of the heat and put them under the grow light. The ones that haven't germinated will stay put (another benefit of separate pots in the cheap black trays).
This is how my seedlings are set up after they germinate (this photo is from the vault). I love using the separate square pots because I can move them around in different containers depending on how fast they grow, and how tall they get. The lights will stay in one spot, but I boost the short plants up with books so they can all be resting at the same distance from the light. It's not too perty, but it's works perfectly for me. I'd love to hear about your seed starting method too!
**A note on supplies: Space is maxed out at our house. The lights above are just cheapy lights that totally break down after the month they're set up on my piano. From there, the plants go outside to the pop-up coldframe (The Seedhouse), where they harden off. I will also often start some seeds in pots outside in this coldframe. It's sooooo not the cool coldframe complete with antique window that I would love to have, but the space outside is also maxed out and the pop-up coldframe folds into a serving plate-sized bag and hangs in the shed - the antique window doesn't.