With my latest edition of â€œGarden Designâ€ in hand and another beautiful spring just begun, IÂ thought Iâ€™d let you know about this exciting magazine and share some ideas and finds that I hopeÂ will energize and enthuse us for many months to come.
(Pitcher Sage in full glory at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden)
After a break of several years, Garden Design has been re-launched in a much improved version. The sheer volume of the latest and hottest plants, examples of contemporary outdoor furnitureÂ and amazing garden art, must-reads about design- or plant-related literature, fascinatingÂ interviews with design experts and beautiful photography makes me enthusiastic about myÂ profession, and many ideas in this magazine can be applied in the garden or spring landscape. Here are a few that IÂ picked up this time:
(A working concept drawing)
Landscape designer Rob Steiner muses about the â€œRules of the Gameâ€ of garden design. HeÂ makes the point that although we all have very individual ideas of what our dream garden shouldÂ look like, and that although one could assume that garden design is too much a personalÂ expression of oneâ€™s likes and dislikes, there are fundamental rules of how to organize the space,Â enclose it, find the right proportions, determine the right size of plants, and take intoÂ consideration that gardens evolve.
Although I myself was taught these rules, it is easy to treat them in a theoretical way, orÂ assuming that we can tweak or ignore them, and so itâ€™s helpful to reflect on them again once in aÂ while.Â His first rule is â€œObey the â€˜lawâ€™ of significant enclosureâ€, and he calls it not only a rule, but aÂ law: It â€œis absolutely critical in creating a sense of refuge and of feeling oneself within natureâ€™sÂ embraceâ€.
(A working concept drawing, in colored version)
For me, this rule is very important as itâ€™s rooted in my personal experience: It was in the tall hedgedÂ seclusion and privacy of my parentsâ€™ garden that I fostered the deepest emotionalÂ connection with nature that allowed complete abandon to a fantasy world.
Rob goes on to postulate that â€œwe feel enclosed when the vertical height of an elements is at leastÂ one third the length of the horizontal spaceâ€. He then describes how he applies this rule to a patioÂ that needs screening from a play area: As the patio is 17 ft wide, he determines that the screeningÂ hedge needs to be at least 6 ft high.
Another few pages that I flagged in the latest edition showcase â€œGreat Gardens AcrossÂ Americaâ€. Here I find plenty of examples of contemporary design style: Outdoor spaces used asÂ extensions of the home and seamlessly connecting them; â€œsimple and refinedâ€ spaces; emphasisÂ on beautiful accents and details, in materials and garden art; distinctive and unfussy furniture andÂ accessories, and successfully blending different styles.
(Great flowering meadow at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden)
For those shopping for exceptional, modern, perhaps whimsical furniture, there are plentyÂ pictured here: The almost retro-looking /mid-century modern chaises by William HainesÂ Designs; also Hive Modern; or Design Within Reach.
I also enjoy the â€œunfussyâ€, succinct interviews with designers from different parts of the countryÂ who talk about their design inspirations and share their favorite new things, what to read, orÂ whatâ€™s going on in their part of the gardening world.
Thereâ€™s an Earth Day at Descanso GardensÂ in La Canada Flintridge on April 25; thereâ€™s the Butterfly Festival at the Water ConservationÂ Garden El Cajon on May 9; also the Spring Garden Festival on April 25 at Cuyamaca CollegeÂ across the street.
Over 40,000 blooming bulbs will be on display including Allium, Camassia,Â Cardiocrinum, Cyclamen, Muscari and more at the Blooms and Bulbs Festival in Salt Lake City,Â UT, April 10-26. These are only a few picks from a much longer list of fascinating events in theÂ design and gardening world.
To me, most thought-provoking in this edition was the article, â€œProfessor of Biodiversity; DougÂ Tallamy teaches America how to restore habitat for wildlife â€“ start in your gardenâ€. Â The main photo shows a sun-lit pond where the surrounding trees and wildflowers at the waterâ€™sÂ edge are reflected. This is a scene in Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, where Doug Tallamy hasÂ created a habitat for wildlife.
Trees of varying heights create a protective, delightful canopyÂ under which chairs have been placed, in viewing distance of the shore, where water tumbles,Â through a stone bed, into the lake, past stands of wildflowers and patches of meadow. The handÂ of the designer is definitely visible, but the setting is so carefully created that is feels like eachÂ design element has been carefully investigated before execution to assure the least interferenceÂ with nature.
(Beetles on California native milkweed)
Here, Mr. Tallamy has restored several acres to their natural beauty, by removing all â€œaggressiveÂ alien plantsâ€ and replacing them with local, native trees, shrubs and wildflowers that, within aÂ decade, have lured back a thriving population of graceful, boldly striped swallowtails and nativeÂ birds, their songful predators that in our traditional gardens, filled with many exotic and nonnativeÂ ornamentals, provide neither food nor shelter for animals.
(A bird perched on a branch of Rhamnus Redberry)
The message is clear, and Mr. Tallamy repeats it on lectures and even in his writing: You can doÂ a lot to conserve and restore biodiversity in your own garden.â€ The secret is the recognition thatÂ it is the native plants that are eaten by the local native insects, and once their food sources haveÂ been restored, the birds will follow!â€
Mr. Tallamyâ€™s current research focuses on the â€œimpact ofÂ non-native plants on the terrestrial food chainâ€, quantifying how much alien plant species areÂ reducing populations of native insects and the creatures that depend on them. â€œGrow the nativeÂ plants that insects in your area depend onâ€. (See also his book â€˜The Living Landscape:Â Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Gardenâ€™, Timber Press 2014, co-written byÂ Rick Darke).
(Bee on Live Oak flower tassel)
(Monarch Butterfly on host plant)
His ideas make complete sense, and I feel motivated to make my message about designing withÂ California natives stronger and more convincing. But thatâ€™s food for another article.