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Showing posts from 2017

Christopher Alexander - A Pattern Language

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illustration of Christopher Alexander's 'Positive Outdoor Space' by Matt Noiseux
One of the books I used in my Landscape Design Studio class in Columbia University is the classic, 'A Pattern Language' Towns- Buildings- Construction by Christopher Alexander and others. 




It offers 'patterns' as basic design templates for you to follow. 


These are principles of  design that are founded on common sense as much as anything else. 

Alexander says his design language  is based on human and natural considerations.

Adding to the delight it that they are numbered for easy reference in the book:  

'Accessible Green' is # 60.    'Quiet Backs' is #59. 
One of the more elusive patterns is  #106 Positive Outdoor Space.It is a favorite of mine.

 It talks about manipulating outdoor space and refers to space as being 'negative' and 'positive'.
 Yin / Yang anyone?


The gist of this pattern says that there are two fundamentally different kinds of outdoor sp…

Oak Trees and Einstein

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Why do certain tree species evoke the same response from all people? 

The Oak, for example, was considered  by the Celtic Druids to be the 'King of the Greenwood' . To them, oaks represented mighty and enduring power.  

The ancient Greeks also revered oaks - groves of them were deemed sacred territory.   And Native Americans viewed the oak tree as a symbol of strength with supernatural powers. In fact, the tradition of “knocking on wood” is said to be of Native American origin  - they would knock on an oak tree in order to avert the failing of a hopeful prediction.

This similarity is true for many other trees from Ash trees to katsura trees to maples.... So why do disparate cultures see tree 'personas' similarly?  
I think Albert Einstein figured it out.

  In  1905, Einstein, a young patent inspector in Switzerland,  came up with a simple equation that challenged the way we in Western society saw the  physical world:

Few people, at the time, realized what this mix of numbers …

The Key to Design Perfection

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A designer knows he has achieved perfection  not when there is nothing left to add,  but when there is nothing left to take away.   

 -  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Meet everyone and everything through stillness

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Meet everyone and everything through stillness rather than mental noise.
 ~ Eckhart Tolle

I like to create  'stillness' gardens.

These are outdoor spaces where 'mental noise' may cease, if only for a while.   In this tranquil atmosphere, forgiving thoughts take root....and healing begins.


Cascade by Johnsen Landscapes










Forest Therapy - A walk a day keeps the doctor away....

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I often take a walk in the woods near my house.
I walk on paved streets to reach this forest trail, taking rapid strides and often breathing  in chilled morning air. I catch the early sunlight through the trees. It is such a wonderful time and I feel calmer and more centered.

My little morning reverie has a name: ' forest bathing' or, in the original Japanese, 'Shinrin-yoku'.  
This arboreal therapy, the Japanese tell us, literally instills peace, calms us and promotes immunity to disease! 

Like a walking healing meditation, "forest bathing" coordinates breath and movement in the presence of the scent of forest trees to uplift us.
Ever since a Japanese government agency coined the term, 'forest bathing'  in 1982, 'shinrin-yoku' has slowly made its way into the vernacular in Japan  It has a great many Japanese fans who now can visit forty two'forest therapy' parks for stress relief. 

Their goal is to set up 100 within the next decade.

The phra…

Happy Harvest Moon!

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Happy Harvest Moon! It is the full moon that is nearest the start of the autumn equinox and this year that is October 5th.
It is a significant full moon because near the fall equinox the moon rises soon after sunset and thus shines bright early in the evening. This helps farmers to harvest crops in the light of the full moon.

.  Additionally, it appears to rise the same time each night for several nights (about 25 minutes later) while most full moons rise about 50 minutes later each night in the US and southern Canada. In more Northern areas the Harvest Moon rises only 10 - 20 minutes later each night.  This is a great benefit at sunset for farmers.







An interview with Kim Wilkie, Land Sculptor

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Kim Wilkie is one of my favorite landscape artists. Hailing from England, he studied at Oxford University where he discovered that there was such a thing as ‘landscape architecture’ in his last year of pursuing a history degree. Wilkie says discovering this profession “came as a thunderbolt…” and his captivating book, Led by the Land (Frances Lincoln Limited, © 2012), reminds us that landscape design delves as deeply into our psyche as any other of the arts.
 I saw Wilkie speak at New York Botanical Garden a few years ago.  I learned then that he is a man of deep thoughts with a solid terrestrial connection.  From the elliptical pool that he designed for the Victoria & Albert museum to his grass amphitheater divided by a zig zag path at The Holt,Wilkie exhibits a contemporary sensibility using earthwork, shape and line as his palette. His symbolic landscape at Boughton House is a perfect example of this. This memorable landscape is described by Wilkie as  “a garden of land and water;…

The Trends in School Gardens

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When school gardens were first established, it was often to provide extra produce foo school cafeterias. They wanted to encourage kids to eat fresh food and to expose them to new tastes and types of fruits and vegetables.
          That original goal has expanded.  Now educators across the country realize that school gardens offer a unique learning laboratory for students. 


A school garden allows kids to study the natural life cycle of the vegetables—from seed to harvest. They  also provide a hands-on approach to learning about  nutrition and health. 

And school gardens also show children that what you eat can be a product of your own work and design.  

Over 7,000 American schools now have school gardens, where kids and teachers collaborate on design of gardens, nutrition information, the science of plants, harvest, and more. This graphic is inspiring and I hope leads to more school gardens!














Jewel Tones in the Garden

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I love the term 'jewel tones'.  It sounds like crystalline music: "the singer's jewel tones soared through the atmosphere..."

Jewel tones are rich colors with a high level of saturation. They are bold and their vibrancy resembles the color of gemstones, such as emerald green, amethyst purple, ruby red, topaz yellow, sapphire blue, tourmaline green, and turquoise blue. Many artists like these saturated colors.


In fashion, jewel tones never go out of style..they are the clear, pure colors that people with a 'winter' skin coloring should wear. Some folks just look fab in purple, magenta and royal blue.



Gardens featuring jewel tones are alluring but be careful : rich colors must be used in moderation or your garden can become an overbearing cacophony rather than a scintillating song...


But done right, clear, vibrant color is a winner. Even in a quiet Japanese garden this violet/magenta azalea looks great! photo by Mark Windom.


A swimming pool in full sun in mid-…