Friday, February 18, 2011

Dan Pearson and Insightful Garden-Making

I went to see Dan Pearson's lecture in San Francisco last night. Hosted by The Garden Conservancy and the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, he spoke to us about some of the gardens he has created.


He lecture was very informative and inspirational and gosh, he seems like a great guy. It was clear in the way he spoke about designing his gardens that he puts his soul into them. Much thought is given to the "sense of place" and what effect the landscape needs to perform in each situation. Calm and soothing in the Maggie's Centre garden, a support organization for those with cancer; thought-provoking, wild and engaging in the Millennium Forest, a very large forest and garden devoted to raising awareness of ecology and conservation in Japan; to experimental, rejuvenating and treasured in his own garden in the middle of urban London.

It was wonderful to hear him speak in-depth about some of his projects as well as to see additional images of them. It was also very nice to hear him speak so fondly of the gardeners who take care of his particular projects. He seems to highly value those that continue to uphold the spirit of what he has created, since he out of necessity has to leave those creations at the doorsteps of others, so to speak.

He also raised the idea of randomness in plantings. He worked very hard to achieve a method of random planting at the garden of the Millennium Forest. And the results I have to say, were beautiful. Very wild and natural, well suited to the sense of the place. But it had me thinking, all my years of studying garden design I have focused on learning about repetition, pattern and creating a sense of order. Even in my loose planting schemes I try to create a rhythm that ties it all together. I've been taught that the eye needs a formula or pattern to follow or the eye can't rest and is just exhausted by the chaos. But his gardens had no conceivable pattern or rhythm, yet it was soothing and chaotic at the same time - fun chaotic, not maddening. So, how to achieve this randomness? In his design, the plant palettes seemed limited to a certain number of well-combined plants and the garden spaces were large. This technique is not going to work in a narrow border around someone's backyard. This type of planting is going to need a grand scale, a scale that can really invite nature in.

So does this randomness on the designer's part allow the subtle pattern in nature come to light? That idea brought to mind a couple of books which I dug out to re-read for future investigation- Li: Dynamic Form in Nature by David Wade and Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers by Leonard Koren. When I design, I'm going to give more thought to the idea of loosening up that grip of control and definition and see if I might lighten the designer's mark upon the garden. (Not that I'm designing Italianate parterres, or anything.)

nature pattern books

And I hope to someday get the chance to travel to Japan to see the Millennium Forest. Indeed, I would love to spend an entire year there working in the gardens, watching them change through the seasons. But anyway, with no trips to Japan on the horizon, it was a lovely lecture and I'm glad I got to attend.

When he began speaking I was surprised at how deep his voice was. He seems so boyish, I didn't expect it to be so deep, but it now seems appropriate. I look forward to reading his next book Home Ground: Sanctuary in the City. Another of his books, Spirit: Garden Inspiration has become one of my favorite gardening books, discussed here. I'm hoping he is back for another lecture tour for his new book!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February Foliage 2011

I love the silvery foliage of Dymondia margaretae. It makes a fantastic drought-tolerant, no-mow lawn substitute in frost-free areas.

side garden

It might be the last year for my Trichodesma scottii, it's getting to be a bit big and is overgrowing its neighbors. It has really unusual flowers and is very drought tolerant; maybe I can try cutting it back hard and see if it can deal with that.

trichodesma scotii and agave attenuata

The Puya coerulea is dealing with the shade surprisingly well, I love the Euphorbia characias 'Dwarf' so much this time of year and the Aristea inaequalis and Graptopetalum 'Pinky' make great partners in my parking strip.

puya coeruleaeuphorbia nodeuphorb coming uparistea ineaqualis and graptopetalum pinky

The Geranium maderense 'White' foliage is certainly nice but I sure hope they bloom this year.

geranium maderense white

My Aloe marlothii is certainly prickly. The Leek foliage makes a nice spot of blue in the front, I'm going to let them bloom just for the heck of it. Phlomis aurea never photographs as golden as it really is. The Nasturtiums are starting to pop up here and there. I'm looking forward to adding the flowers to my salads again.

aloe marlothiifront yard veggies etcphlomis aureanasturtiums in rain

I'm glad we saved a spot for all my pots against the old carport door. This area had a roof when we bought the place. We took the roof off to turn the carport into an arbor. It's been nice to have the extra garden space.

carport arbor

Anybody know what the succulent is spilling out of the top container? It's one of my favorites.

mystery succulent

Miss Angelina and Mr. Adolph (Sedum 'Angelina' and Sedum x adolphii) are favorites too. They've become well-loved friends in the garden.

sedum angelinasedum x adolphii

Check out more great foliage this month at Digging!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 2011 Bloom Day - Hellebores and Aloes

Two plants that seem totally different in my mind always bloom together this time of year. The Hellebores are blooming shyly in the shade while the Aloes extend their flashy orange blooms like flags in the bright sun.

My hybrid Helleborus x sternii shows variation between the 3 or so plants I have. Two have tall pink-flushed flowers, while one is compact with solid green flowers, showing the H. argutifolius parentage. I like them both. The small green is the H. argutifolius I've always wanted - small and well-behaved with bright green blooms.

helleborus x sternii blooming

helleborus x sternii bloomshelleborus x sternii tops of bloomshelleborus x sternii greener flowershelleborus argutifolius

My Aloe marlothii looks like it is blocking most of the path on the way into the house but it is just the angle I took the photo at, although it has snagged a few people that stray too close. I probably should have planted it further back into the bed. Oh well, I'm not moving that thing now!

aloe marlothii

aloe marlothii budsaloe vanbalenii bloomingaloe vanbalenii flowersaloe vanbalenii spikes

I love the green stripes in the Aloe vanbalenii flower tips. The color combination reminds me of striped fabric used on beach tents. I'd love to have some chairs upholstered in that color combo too.

And the buds of the Aloe greatheadii davyana are so elegant with their elongated sepals. The Aloe plicatilis buds are elegant and simple too, not as flashy as other Aloes.

aloe greatheadii davyanaaloe plicatilis

The California native Ribes sanguineum glutinosum is also blooming right now. It has grown all the way up to my son's second floor bedroom window. He can sit and watch the hummers sip from the blooms (not that he ever sits still) but he does consider the hummingbirds his personal friends. He must see them as kindred spirits.

ribes sanguineum glutinosumribes window

Check out what is going on in other people's gardens this month at May Dreams Gardens!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wormy Wekend in the Garden

Yesterday morning I was helping some friends out with their garden when their son found the biggest worm anyone of us had ever seen - nearly 1/2 an inch thick when contracted and 9" long when stretching.

will and the worm in hand

will and the giant worm

Later back in our garden I finally decided to rip out our long time garden resident, a worm-like Seseli gummiferum.

parker and the wormy plant

It must be nearly 6 years old and has never bloomed. I stubbornly kept it in the garden, protecting it from my husband's threatening shovel, because I was determined to photograph the flower. But enough's enough, time to let it go. And maybe try planting one on the sunnier side of the house.