Archive for the ‘Landscape design solutions’ category

Cylburn Arboretum and the Vollmer Center

November 6, 2015

Several weeks ago, my friend Sarah and I drove up to the Baltimore area to visit the Vollmer Center at the Cylburn Arboretum and walk the grounds. (We were also there to take in an exhibit of photos by my colleague Roger Foley, from a recently published book called On Walnut Hill, about a private garden in Baltimore.)

Cylburn Arboretum, over 300 acres in size, is open to the public year-round, with an historic mansion (available to rent for events) and miles of woodland walking trails. There are some cultivated garden areas up near the mansion, including one small garden space with a gazebo that was serving as the setting for a wedding when we saw it. Cylburn Arboretum

There were also a number of beautiful old dissected Japanese maples on the grounds.

A shot from the inside of an area where four Japanese maples had grown up in a circular planting area, making them look like a single, enormous tree.

A shot from the inside of an area where four Japanese maples had grown up in a circular planting area, making them look like a single, enormous tree.

It was the area nearest the Vollmer Center (and the Center itself), however, that I found most appealing the day we visited. The Center, designed by GWWO Architects, is nestled down in the landscape below the Cylburn Mansion, built into a slope and boasting views into the surrounding trees that were nothing short of spectacular the day we visited. It is modest in both size and aspect but extremely well designed, and has a number of  “green” features, including geothermal heating and cooling and composting toilets. Hope you enjoy these photos of it and its surroundings, and do plan a visit if you’re in the area.

Stopping By the Chicago Botanic Garden

October 9, 2015

On the same July trip that took me to Chicago and the Lurie Garden downtown, I also made a stop at the Chicago Botanic Garden (no, not in one day!). For years this garden has been on my list of public gardens I really wanted to see. It’s huge – 356 acres spread out over nine “islands,” with 26 different display gardens. Even in a full day, a visitor couldn’t do justice to all of it. So in a post-flight stop of several hours before dinner, I barely scratched the surface of a few of its offerings.

First of all, I have to say that regardless of where I was, the container plantings were spectacular. Even those inside the administrative buildings were awesome.

Chicago Botanic Garden

Interior plantings in one of the administrative buildings at the Chicago Botanic Garden in a color palette that I loved.

My friend and I visited the Heritage Garden, modeled after the first botanic garden in Europe, in Padua, and dedicated to Carl Linnaeus. It was bustling with visitors and full of mid-summer blooms.

Chicago Botanic Garden, Heritage Garden

A view of one of the rills in the Heritage Garden

From there we discovered the Circle Garden, which is apparently regularly planted with unusual annuals, beginning with a display of spring bulbs and ending in October with masses of chrysanthemums. We saw it lush with dahlias and Verbena bonariensis, one of my favorite annuals because of its airy nature and tendency to self-seed (although not, unfortunately, in my own garden).

Chicago Botanic Garden, Circle Garden

In a small “side room” of the Circle Garden, four boxwoods are underplanted with a chartreuse sedum – a great color combination.

Verbena bonariensis dances in front of a fountain in the Circle Garden.

Verbena bonariensis dances in front of a fountain in the Circle Garden.

Chicago Botanic Garden, Circle Garden

Verbena and red fountain grass in a mixed planting along a path border in the Circle Garden.

After the Circle Garden, we walked to the Japanese Garden on a separate island.

Chicago Botanic Garden, Japanese Garden

The center hedge is of Hinoki falsecypress, the first time I’ve ever seen that tree used in such a fashion.

Chicago Botanic Garden, Japanese Garden

A view from the main island of the Japanese Garden over to a separate, smaller island not accessible to visitors.

By the time we left the Japanese Garden, I thought there could hardly be anything more impressive than what I’d seen, particularly since our next destination was the vegetable and fruit garden. (Confession time – I have never found gardens devoted solely to fruits and vegetables particularly visually appealing.) However, I was in for a real surprise. Known as the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden, the area features 400 kinds of edible plants that do well in the Chicago area. It offers family activities and educational programs. But it was the garden’s clever use of hardscape choices and designs (raised beds, decorative brick paving patterns, vertical surfaces for growing herbs and veggies) that took the garden into the realm of ‘art.’

Chicago Botanic Garden, Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden

The raised beds visitors see as they approach the Fruit and Vegetable Garden by bridge is spectacular.

So I leave you with a sampling of images from the Fruit and Vegetable Garden, and I urge you to visit the Chicago Botanic Garden when you can. I can’t wait to return.

 

 

 

A Visit to Chicago’s Lurie Garden

September 25, 2015

In late July, I made a short visit to some friends in Chicago whom I hadn’t seen in many years. High on my list of sights to take in were two iconic but very different gardens – the Chicago Botanic Garden about twenty miles north of the city, and the Lurie Garden, sited downtown on the south side of Millennium Park. Happily, I was able to work in a visit to both, but let’s take a look in this post at the award-winning Lurie Garden, built about ten years ago on top of the Lakefront Millennium parking garage – right, a parking garage – smack in the middle of downtown, next to the Chicago Art Institute and a stone’s throw from the famous “bean” sculpture.

Visible from the second floor of the new modern wing of the Art Institute, the 3-acre public ‘botanic garden’ adjoins a bandshell ‘headdress’ sculpture designed by Frank Gehry that anchors the Great Lawn, a public venue for concerts and other events. The garden is divided into ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’ Plates, separated by what is (somewhat preciously) called ‘the Seam,’ a boardwalk boundary between the two.

Lurie Garden

A view of the Lurie Garden’s Light and Dark Plates, separated by the Seam, from the modern wing of the Chicago Art Institute.

Two outer edges of most of the garden are visually enclosed by what is called the ‘Shoulder Hedge,’ taking its name from the Carl Sandberg poem which referred to Chicago as the “city of big shoulders.” The hedge is big indeed, fifteen feet high (there are metal girders that act as frame and guide for pruning) plantings of dark evergreens, designed to protect the lower perennial plantings from visitors leaving the Great Lawn after events there. When I visited, mid-summer plantings of ornamental grasses, Amsonia hubrechtii, coneflowers and daisies were in full bloom in the Light Plate area.

The Lurie Garden won the 2008 American Society of Landscape Architects General Design Award of Excellence, honoring the Seattle landscape architecture team of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. and the planting genius of Piet Oudolf (who was responsible for the perennial planting design). The following description of the garden comes from the ASLA website:

Chicago built itself up from marshy origins and continues to rise ambitiously skyward. A refinement of nature and natural resources has accompanied Chicago’s willful development. Similarly, the site of the Lurie Garden has been built up over time. It has been elevated from wild shoreline, to railroad yard, to parking garage, to roof garden. Lurie Garden celebrates the exciting contrast between the past and present that lay within this site.

The strong grid layout of Chicago’s streets highlights striking physical features that are not orthogonal. Railways form sensuous braids that merge and swell through the grid. Angled roads radiate out of Chicago like crooked spokes from Grant Park’s location in the center of the city. The paths and other forms of the Lurie Garden, and their relationships to the formal grid structure of Grant Park, are inspired by these patterns and by the strong forms of Chicago’s bold, urban, and Midwestern landscape.

Although I visited in mid-summer, the garden’s website photographs demonstrate clearly the beauty of the landscape year-round. If you’re visiting downtown Chicago in the coming year, I urge you to stop by the Lurie Garden and experience its pleasures for yourself.

Hoorah for the Blue Danube

June 26, 2015

Last year most of my hydrangeas were no-shows (or no-blooms, to put it more accurately). The culprit was a late spring frost which did in any hope of flowers from my mopheads (the H. paniculata ‘Limelights’ were fine).

This year I am overwhelmed with hydrangea blooms. And although I do love my ‘All Summer Beauty’ hydrangeas,

Hydrangea macrophylla 'All Summer Beauty' , Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘All Summer Beauty’ flowers next to variegated Hakone grass foliage in my front yard.

my favorite mophead is Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blue Danube.’

'Blue Danube 'in bloom in 2008 in my back yard, before I lost the wooden arbor at left.

‘Blue Danube ‘in bloom in 2008 in my back yard, before I lost the wooden arbor at left.

I probably bought this variety of hydrangea over ten years ago, by order two gallon-sized shrubs from an online source, Wilkerson Gardens, which apparently no longer offers them. Several years later, in a fit of horticultural ingenuity, I read an article on how to grow hydrangeas from rooted cuttings, and voila – I had two more ‘Blues.’ The photo below shows one of them growing next to an ‘Endless Summer’ – if you look carefully you can see the difference in leaf texture as well as in the appearance of the blooms. Although the web descriptions of this shrub describe it as ‘compact’ and good for containers, my experience is that it becomes fairly large (although not as large as ‘Nikko Blue’ or ‘All Summers Beauty.’)

'Blue Danube' is on the left, with 'All Summer Beauty' on the right. The latter's flowerheads have smaller flowers and in my experience are less likely to color pink in my soil.

‘Blue Danube’ is on the left (flower buds not fully colored), with ‘All Summer Beauty’ on the right. The latter’s flowerheads have smaller flowers and in my experience are less likely to color pink in my soil.

I think I love this variety so because of the strong purple-blue and purple-pink hues that the flowers have (at least in my garden). ‘All Summer Beauty’ and H. macrophylla ‘Nikko Blue’ have softer blue blooms.

'Nikko Blue' in my side yard

‘Nikko Blue’ in my side yard

‘Blue Danube’ has colors that can’t be ignored.

That may also explain why it’s my favorite hydrangea for cutting – and for photographing when cut.
Blue Danube Hydrangeas1_20130708002

If all this has whet your appetite for a ‘Blue Danube’ or two of your own, I’m happy to report that Hydrangeas Plus offers them for sale online.

The Guests That Won’t Leave the Garden

June 12, 2015

Now that I can work in the garden again, I am overwhelmed. Spring’s abundant rains here have encouraged lush new growth not only of hydrangea buds (which were sadly absent last year)

Hydrangea 'All Summer Beauty,'

Hydrangea ‘All Summer Beauty’ began to bud last week.

but also of what I call “garden rogues” – plants I planted in small numbers (or not at all) which have become travelers all over my garden. There used to be a modest bed in my side yard between my arbor and a thriving Styrax tree, originally planted with selected shrubs and hostas, Carex, a few Heuchera, and a couple of toad lilies purchased from a local nursery. The other day I photographed it stuffed full of those plants and a million ‘volunteers.’

Mayhem in the borderl

Mayhem in the border

The toad lilies have gaily seeded themselves everywhere, as have a species Geranium (G. maculatum). Both have the good grace to be easy to remove (once the temps drop below 92, I’ll think about it . . .). What bugs me most is the constant proliferation of spiderwort (Tradescantia), which spreads by runners all over the damned place. It’s the blue-flowered perennial below. You can’t get rid of it without digging out the roots, which is an almost impossible task. I’ve settled for cutting it back at the base, knowing it will come back.

Tradescantia (spiderwort) and Indian pink have spread in this border without any encouragement from me.

Tradescantia (spiderwort) and Indian pink have spread in this border without any encouragement from me.

I’m happier about the spread of the Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica), shown above with the red blooms. I ordered three plants of it many years ago from an online nursery. Today I find it throughout the garden. It likes shade – what a surprise to see such a strong red color in a shade garden!

Felix-femina 'Lady in Red'

‘Lady in Red’ fern has red stems.

Another perennial with a little red in it that has spread unexpectedly in my garden is the fern ‘Lady in Red’ (Athyrium felix-femina ‘Lady in Red’). It was a new introduction when I splurged on it (having lots of deer who wander through the garden has increased my interest in and respect for ferns, which they avoid). But now I’ve found it a hundred feet away from where I first planted it. No problem for me.

Other plants I’ve been happy to see self-seed in my garden include dwarf goats-beard (Aruncus aesthusifolius), another stalwart for the shade, and – to my great delight – the lacecap hydrangea H. macrophylla ‘Blue Billows,’ which has appeared in two locations other than the two where I originally planted it. Now there’s a real bargain.

 

Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Billows'

‘Blue Billows’ in my back yard, with ferns and a variegated boxwood in the background.

 

Green Screens for Small Spaces

March 7, 2015

Garden Shoots is on a hiatus while I let my left hand heal. . .  Until I can type again with both hands, I hope you will enjoy one of the blog’s 
most popular posts from the past. Hope to be back in action sometime in April!

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One of the requests I hear most frequently as a designer who lives in a suburban area is for screening plants. Maybe your neighbor’s house is a McMansion, or perhaps you just don’t want to look out your porch or the dining room window and see the street or – whatever. If you’re lucky, you have a large enough yard and enough sun that you can accommodate a mixed grouping of trees – some conifers (no Leyland cypresses, please!), a holly or two, and some deciduous but ornamental trees mixed in.

In some cases, however, the space available is more limited. Here is where I make a pitch for a tree that may not be as well known as the American holly or even the Japanese cryptomeria. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata,’ or the fastigiate hornbeam.

Before looking at the slimmed-down version, the straight species deserves its own moment of glory. I first encountered Carpinus betulus on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate outside of Asheville, North Carolina many years ago on a glorious early autumn day. Although the fall color is only hinted at in this photo, it’s a glorious golden hue and a real plus.

Carpinus betulus, European hornbeam

A mature Carpinus betulus starting to show fall color on the grounds of the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, North Carolina

At the time, I didn’t know what kind of tree it was, but I made it my business to find out later. Since then, while I haven’t had clients with the kind of space needed in their gardens to plant one of these “regular” Carpinus, I’ve discovered the merits of its smaller cousin.

Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata'

Young Carpinus betulus

Fastigiate hornbeams (‘Fastigiata’ or a supposedly even narrower version, ‘Franz Fontaine,’) have a branching structure that is so tight it stops the eye, even when the tree isn’t in leaf. I’ve seen them planted as close together as 4′ on center, although I prefer to space them out six to seven feet apart (measured from trunk to trunk). This photo shows three ‘Fastigiata,’ planted along a six-foot fence in a back yard in the District of Columbia about seven years ago. Today they are fully grown together, about twenty feet high, and the garden owner loves them, especially since she can no longer see the car parked in her neighbor’s back yard.

I have seen them planted more formally (and seemingly “topped”), as a backdrop for a parking area at Muddy Rugs in Connecticut last August on a Garden Conservancy Tour.

Carpinus betulus, fastigiate

Fastigiate hornbeams, looking like lollipops, screening a parking area at a Connecticut house.

They can be kept relatively short and used as a hedge in smaller suburban spaces between houses, although I’m not sure how attractive I find them when treated that way if the height is seriously curtailed.

Carpinus betulus, hedge

These fastigiate hornbeams have been clipped into a kind of hedge between two new houses in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

(Of course, the Ellipse at Dumbarton Oaks is the most famous use of a clipped hornbeam hedge that I know of, but there the height at which the trees are kept is probably closer to 30-40 feet.)

Dumbarton Oaks, Ellipse, Patrick Dougherty

The hornbeam hedge at Dumbarton Oaks (shown here with Patrick Dougherty’s  ‘Easy Rider’ installation).

So you probably get the picture. The added bonus is that hornbeams can “take a little shade,” as designers like to say. That allows them to be used in less than ideally sunny sites, either mixed with other kinds of screening trees or on their own. And the fastigiate varieties can be utilized where space is very tight (a narrow space between two houses, for example); over time you can limb up the lower branches so that they can clear a low fence, or prune them to keep them tight.

But truthfully? I prefer situations where you can give them some breathing room, even when using them for screening. Here’s a perfect example, where local landscape architect Guy Williams has used matching pairs to great effect on one side of a somewhat formally designed back yard, both to screen the house next door but also to set off the space with grace.

Carpinus betulus

Four European hornbeam trees act as a screen but also as a focal point in this garden.

So the next time you’re contemplating how to screen a view – or just add some beauty to your garden – give some thought to a hornbeam. You won’t regret it.

Garden Shoots will take a brief holiday break over the Christmas weekend. See you in the New Year!

Discovering Long Bridge Park

January 9, 2015

Last summer, as I was nearing the end of my photo-a-day project (or rather, its extension after the workshop ended), I ventured across the bridge to Arlington, Virginia with a friend from the class. We were exploring the Crystal City/Rosslyn area, which consists primarily of large office and apartment buildings centered around the Crystal City Metro stop. Sarah wanted to check out some galleries, but afterwards we walked around and eventually stumbled onto the Long Bridge Park area.
20140729_0020-web

The park, which has three full-size, large athletic fields and an elevated walkway planted on either side with native perennials, is near I-395. The walkway offers views of the Potomac River and flights taking off from National Airport.

The walkway over Long Bridge Park offers views of the National Monument.

The walkway over Long Bridge Park offers views of the National Monument.

Long Bridge Park

Joe Pye Weed and other native perennials line the walkway, which also serves as a running destination for local residents

County residents have authorized a bond offering that would help fund a large aquatic center, but the County Board recently shelved plans as construction bids came in too high. Nonetheless, the athletic fields apparently are quite popular. And as we wound up our walk in downtown Crystal City, we found the other end of the Park’s offerings, a beautiful ‘water wall’ installation that helped cool us off on a hot July afternoon.

Long Bridge Park

These water walls and plantings (looked like feather reed grass to me!) in the downtown area of the park help provide green space for all the surrounding office buildings.


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