Posted tagged ‘Canon G11’

American University’s Summer Look

July 26, 2013

Last week, on my way to LPI from an early client appointment, I made a quick pit stop at American University’s campus. Although this time of year there are fewer students in residence than usual, the plantings, designed by AU’s resident Landscape Architect H. Paul Davis and his colleagues, looked stunning. I wanted to share a few with you, taken with my Canon G11, before I take August off to re-charge my creative juices. (I’ll also be getting to know my new computer, which finally arrived this week after the old one died over four weeks ago.)

So enjoy the photos, and take a trip to AU (4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW in the District) if you’re in the area.


Garden Shoots will be on vacation until September. See you then!

The Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian

June 2, 2012

Several weeks ago I was  treated to a small-group tour of some of the highlights of the Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art.  Before we began the tour, we took some time to admire the Arlene and Robert Kogod Courtyard that joins the MAA to its sister building, the National Portrait Gallery.

I wasn’t unfamiliar with the space. Back in my days as a lawyer for the Justice Department, I would meet friends in the courtyard for lunch. But what a difference between then and now. Then it was open to the elements, with just some tables to serve people enjoying lunch brought in from the NPG Cafe – so it could be too hot, or too cold, to use year-round. And while the buildings themselves are beautiful, I often felt the space could use some dressing up.

The Kogods must have heard me. Although technically the Courtyard isn’t a garden, but an interior gathering space, it has plantings (see below) and both its ‘floor’ and ‘ceiling’ spaces are something special. The ceiling, composed of countless glass and steel panels that undulate above the rooflines of the old buildings, supported by steel columns whose color matches the stone of the buildings almost perfectly. No two panels, it is said, are alike.

Kogod Courtyard, Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Norman Foster

Individual “tiles” of the roof of the Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art.

The patterns of the tiles allow light to play on the walls of the courtyard, lighter or darker depending on how sunny it is outside.
Kogod Courtyard, Smithsonian Museum of American ArtThe ground plane and “understory” areas of this urban landscape – as it might be characterized – were designed by Kathryn Gustafson, a landscape architect renowned for her inclusion of original “water features” in unexpected settings. Here, in the Kogod Courtyard, there are several rectangular water scrims that can be turned off and on, providing the sheerest of areas for visitors to explore (as long as they don’t run through them, asks the museum’s literature describing the area). Sometimes the scrims are turned off for maintenance (or evening events), and they simply disappear.

Kogod Courtyard, Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Kathryn Gustafson

One of Gustafson’s quarter-inch deep water scrims invites visitors to explore.

As for plantings, there are four large marble planters (also designed by Gustafson’s Seattle firm). The brochure at the Museum described them as containing two 32′ tall ficus trees (although I saw only one on my visit; perhaps the second one has not survived) and sixteen black olive trees, also called “shady ladies,” as well as a variety of ferns and tropical-looking plants. The planters are generously proportioned, inviting visitors to read or check  e-mail while perched on the planters’ edges (the courtyard has a wireless connection).

Kathryn Gustafson, Kogod Museum, Smithsonian Museum of American Art

A Courtyard visitor enjoys a quiet place to read on the edge of one of the marble planters.

In short, this place is a delight to visit. If you’re in the area, stop by – the Museum is open until 7 pm on many evenings (although you should check its website for updates). For more information about the design of the ceiling and the brilliant architect, Norman Foster, behind it, click here.

Wisteria – Wild or Wonderful?

April 21, 2012

If I had to name the plant I am most often asked to include in a garden design by a potential client, it would have to be wisteria (Wisteria floribunda, or Japanese wisteria). Sometimes, they don’t even know its name, but describe it in longing terms as “that wonderful plant that has long purple-y flowers that hang down.” I’m sure what they envision is something like this.

Wisteria floribunda, wisteria blooms, Brookside Gardens

Wisteria floribunda in bloom, draped over a lengthy wooden arbor at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton MD

Or this.

Wisteria floribunda, wisteria blooms

Wisteria trained on an ornamental iron fence in northwest Washington DC.

Now don’t get me wrong – I think this is an extraordinarily beautiful plant in bloom. But I also believe that it only belongs in a garden IF (and this is a big “if”) the garden owner is prepared to support it properly, be prepared for a serious amount of maintenance work to keep it in check, and is OK with the fact that is potentially invasive – I saw it in masses when I visited Charleston in the spring in 2009, half-smothering live oaks, and even around here I see it weaving its way up tall trees on the edges of roadways.

Wisteria was introduced to the United States in 1830.  It prefers full sun but established stands of it will live and even flower in partial shade. Here in DC, the most well-known stand of it in a public garden is probably at Dumbarton Oaks, where you can see it throughout the garden, although always carefully sited on structures that can support its weight.

Wisteria floribunda, Dumbarton Oaks, Fountain Terrace

Wisteria supported by an arbor at Dumbarton Oaks' Arbor Terrace (with the Fountain Terrace in the foreground).

Dumbarton Oaks, Wisteria floribunda, Pebble Terrace

More blooming wisteria in the Pebble Terrace at Dumbarton Oaks.

So, take a close look at this photo from the Orangerie at Dumbarton, one of the first buildings you see on entering the grounds there.

Wisteria floribunda, Dumbarton Oaks, L'Orangerie

The trunks of these wisteria vines are attached to the brick front of the Orangerie with wires and strong rubber ring supports.

Here’s the size the trunks can become over time. No wonder the gardeners here prune the wisteria three or four times during the growing season.

Wisteria floribunda, Dumbarton oaks

Wisteria trunks at Dumbarton.

In the wild, wisteria trunks like this can attach to and ultimately strangle other trees. And if I find it wild in a garden I’m designing, I confess that I will do everything in my power to eliminate it (with the owner’s permission, of course). Still, its allure is strong enough that I have one client with a very shady garden who installed a wooden arbor just to support a volunteer, and this year (perhaps our mild winter helped), it has bloomed unusually well.

Wisteria floribunda

Wisteria blooming on an arbor in a small suburban garden in a shady back yard.

I have warned her that ultimately it may become too large and heavy for this support. But for now, she is happy. And this success inspired me to write this post. (For one last look at wisteria truly “gone wild,” although in a controlled environment, click here to see wisteria “tunnels” in Japan.)

What do you think? Do you love or hate this vine?

Ghost Forest

December 17, 2011

On my last day of vacation in England in August, it rained. The friend I was visiting had a morning appointment, and so I found myself dodging raindrops in dowtown Oxford, visiting museums rather than gardens. I left my D300 at home but packed along my trusty Canon G11. Sure enough, I found plenty to shoot, starting with “Ghost Forest,”  a remarkable installation  at the Oxford Museum of Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museum.

Ghost Forest installation, tree roots, Wawa tree, Oxford Museum of Natural History

The outdoor installation of enormous tree roots called "Ghost Forest" outside the Oxford Museum of Natural History. On the left is a denya tree, the largest specimen in the installation.

The artist, Angela Palmer, sourced the tree stumps on display from fallen rainforest trees in Ghana, which have been decimated by illegal logging over the years (Ghana, which supports the artwork on display, became the first African country to sign an agreement with the EU outlawing trade in illegally felled timber, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.) Palmer has put on display ten tree stumps from commercially logged areas in the Suhuma rainforest areas of western Ghana. Three were trees that had been felled, and seven had toppled over during storms. I couldn’t decide which was more impressive – their size, or their beauty. But why choose?

Ghost Forest, Oxford Museum of Natural History

The massive tangled roots of one of the trees from Ghana.

The installation has also appeared in Trafalgar Square and in Copenhagen for the U.N. Climate Conference. When I visited in Oxford, signage indicated the installation was about to close, but its run there has apparently recently been extended through July 2012.  For more information and extensive photos documenting this project, visit the Ghost Forest website or archived photos from The Guardian.

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