Posted tagged ‘hardscape’

Perfect Gardens in Virginia’s Piedmont Area

October 23, 2015

In mid-October, the Association of Professional Landscape Designers held their national design conference here in Washington, DC. In addition to a full day or more of sessions on sustainability in gardens, marketing, design topics and the like, the conference included three full days of visiting gardens, two in the DC suburbs and one in the Piedmont region of Virginia, outside Charlottesville.

I had been involved in helping select the Maryland and northern Virginia gardens conference-goers visited, so I didn’t sign up for those two days. But I was really curious about two gardens scheduled for the Monday ‘Piedmont region’ extension of the conference, and so joined a number of good friends for a day trip to see them.

Our first stop was Mt. Sharon Farm, in Orange, VA. Designed by landscape architect Charles Stick in collaboration with the owners (Mary Lou and Charlie Seilheimer), the garden sits on a hilltop overlooking beautiful vistas that Mrs. Seilheimer described as thinking she is “lucky to come home to” every day.

Association of Professional Landscape Designers, Mt. Sharon Farm, APLD

One of the views from a path at Mt. Sharon Farm.

The garden itself was begun in 2000 but feels as though it has been there for many decades, in part because of the massive boxwoods that help create several ‘rooms’ and which Stick insisted should remain (another landscape architect whom the Seilheimers interviewed recommended removing all the boxwoods on site; he was not hired). Stick designed the garden with the principle in mind that all aspects of it should relate to the surrounding views outward, and it shows, even in spaces like the rose garden and the adjoining boxwood parterres.

Mt. Sharon is probably at its loveliest in the spring, and occasionally has been open to visitors during Virginia’s Garden Week. For more images of it during that time of year, visit Roger Foley’s website or check out his wonderful book, A Clearing in the Woods, which includes a chapter on Mt. Sharon.

After a too-short stay at Mt. Sharon, our bus took us onward to Warrenton, where we visited Marshfield, a 40-acre estate whose 12-acre garden has been designed by C. Colston Burrell. The current owner’s grandmother, Mrs. Samuel Appleton, was a founding member of the Garden Club of America, and so the gardens have been named the Appleton Gardens in her honor. The modest brick house at the top of the drive is tucked in among old oak trees and Japanese maples, but it was Burrell’s magic farther away from the house that drew me and my camera. We had plenty of time here, and ate dinner outside in the outer reaches of the garden. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but this was for me the highlight of the trip.

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.

 

 

 

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.
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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.

Autumn Vistas at Dumbarton Oaks

November 15, 2014

One of the most amazing gardens in the Washington DC area is tucked away at the top of Georgetown. I’m speaking, of course, of Dumbarton Oaks, designed over a period of thirty years (more or less) by Beatrix Farrand. Farrand, the first woman landscape architect in the United States, worked with Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss to create an expanse of garden “rooms,” and designed every aspect of the landscape, from the plantings down to the finials and stone benches you find throughout. (For those of you who follow such things, National Geographic just ranked Dumbarton Oaks as one of the top ten gardens in the world.)

On the first of November, I went to visit the gardens. The last time I saw them, several years ago, I had been disappointed in the herbaceous borders. But this time the whole place looked spectacular; and there was a new “performance art” installation in the form of sound pipes in the Lovers Lane Pool, by Hugh Livingston. The Dumbarton Oaks website describes them as “an imaginary chorus on a watery stage.”

Dumbarton Oaks, Hugh Livingston, Lovers Lane Pool

“Pool of Bamboo Counterpoint,” by Hugh Livingston, at Dumbarton Oaks.

Livingston’s sound “piece” follows on other temporary art installations that have graced other parts of the garden in past years, including Patrick Dougherty’s “Easy Rider” installation in the Ellipse, which I wrote about in an earlier post.

After investigating the pool installation, I spent several hours in the rest of the garden – the weakening fall sun was low enough that photography was less challenging than I’d anticipated. Hope you enjoy the show.

Dumbarton Oaks is located at 31st and R Streets NW in Washington DC. From now until March 15, 2015, the gardens are open only in the afternoons from 2 – 5 pm and admission is free.

 

A Visit to a Memorial in Downtown DC

May 24, 2014

Several weeks ago, on a visit to the National Building Museum with a friend, I came across the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial for the first time. Located in the Judiciary Square area of downtown Washington DC (in the 400 block of E Street, N.W.), the memorial honors law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.

National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial

The memorial occupies a large plaza space in front of the National Building Museum and is reachable by Metro’s Judiciary Square stop.

The circulating pool in the center is a popular site for birds refreshing themselves, but the most striking feature of the memorial is two long curving walls of blue-gray marble walls, carved with the names of over 2000 officers killed in the line of duty (new names are added regularly).

National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial

A portion of one of the walls carved with names. Flowers are left as tributes, and sometimes photos.

From a design standpoint, the curving walls also provide a place for rest, reflection, and a respite if it is sunny thanks to the carefully pruned linden tree hedges that reminded me somewhat of the hornbeam hedges at Dumbarton Oaks. You can choose one side or the other of the plaza to avoid the sun if it’s very bright.

National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial

One of the curved pathways. There is a seatwall on one side of each of the paths on either side of the plaza while the other wall is carved with names.

At the entrance to each of the curved pathways, there are sculptures of an adult lion protecting its cubs – symbolic of the protective service provided by law enforcement officers to the public.
National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial

National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial

The day I visited, there were flowers bedecking all of the lion statues.

The center of the memorial is a large plaza, planted with honey locust trees, which cast high, light shadows in summer – perfect for sheltering people walking across the plaza.

National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial

The center plaza part of the memorial.

The memorial is about three acres in size and apparently is filled with daffodils in bloom in the spring. For more information about its history and events that are held there periodically, please visit its website.

 

 

Iron in the Garden

March 28, 2014

I have a thing about ornamental metal work in the garden. I like it a lot, if it’s well designed and works with the space it’s in.

There are so many ways to use it – benches for a start. OK, so they probably aren’t as comfortable as wooden benches, but they can really smarten up the space. The Victorian style of this iron bench works well with the Ripley Garden.

ornamental ironwork, garden benches, Ripley Garden, Smithsonian Museum

A heavy, well-painted iron bench invites visitors at the Smithsonian’s Ripley Garden.

More commonly, you may come across beautiful garden gates and fences to add a special touch to the garden; to let passers-by look but not touch, or just to serve as a backdrop to a glorious planting area.

ornamental ironwork, garden gates, Charleston gardens

This circular design on a gate leading to a small garden in Charleston SC is inviting. I wanted to step inside!

ornamental ironwork, garden gates, Charleston gardens

Detail of an ornamental gate in Charleston. Love the brass insets in the shape of a star and flourishes.

garden gate, Corinna Posner, ornamental ironwork

A custom-designed iron gate in a northwest DC garden designed by Corinna Posner of European Garden Designs.

ornamental ironwork, fences, Magdalen College

A glorious iron fence with decorative panels at Magdalen College, Oxford sets off the herbaceous border in front of it with style.

ornamental ironwork, Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace’s gates are very grand and have lots of nice glittery gold bits.

Then there are opportunities to think outside of the box a little bit, either practically or to add a stand-alone sculpture to a space.

ornamental ironwork, Chanticleer Garden

A custom-made bike rack near the parking lot at Chanticleer – where form mimics function perfectly.

ornamental ironwork, Morris Arboretum

Another iron bike rack, this one at the Morris Arboretum outside Philadelphia.

ornamental metal sculpture, University of Georgia Botanical Garden

A freestanding metal sculpture (OK, probably not iron!) that would look right at home in someone’s garden. This, however, is found at the University of Georgia’s Botanical Garden (in Athens, Georgia).

What about the front garden, you say? Small space? How about an interesting railing or two?

ornamental ironwork, railings, Chanticleer Garden

Chanticleer’s magic includes a whimsical iron railing with supports that look like plant tendrils.

ornamental ironwork, railings, Georgetown gardens

Iron railings enclosing a front stoop in Georgetown are designed along a musical theme – a lyre.

For something really out of the box – if you have a sizeable garden – consider rusted ornamental orbs like these or commissioning something from Andrew Crawford’s ironworking shop in Atlanta. Or let me know if you’ve come across something in your travels you’d like to share, and I’ll add it to the list!

 

Powell Street Promenade

September 20, 2013

In July I headed to the Bay Area for a few days, camera in hand, to visit one of my sons. I had one full day, and several mornings, to devote to photography in and around where I was staying – the Union Square area of San Francisco. Yup, near all those “little cable cars.”

San Francisco, Powell Street Promenade

The cable cars’ routes include one up and down Powell Street, turning around at the BART station of the same name. iPhone photo via Hipstamatic.

I was planning primarily to shoot architectural sights while there (and some of those will be featured in a later post). Imagine my surprise when right outside my door was an innovative landscape project by Walter Hood, the Powell Street Promenade.

Underwritten by Audi at a cost of $890,000, the Promenade consists of eight six-foot-wide “parklets,” carved out of traffic lanes and abutting the sidewalk.  Given the huge numbers of tourists travelling Powell Street on a regular basis, having an attractive, protected spot to step out of the flow of people and chat with friends, sit down for a bit, or park your bike while you make a call or stop in a store is a great idea.

Powell Street Promenade, San Francisco, Walter Hood

These aluminum structures can be used as little tables for a snack or to rest your packages on.

Powell Street Promenade, San Francisco, Walter Hood

A bike rider takes a break to chat with a friend on the Promenade.

There are a few built-in benches, which always seemed in high demand.

Powell Street Promenade, San Francisco, Walter Hood

A pedestrian takes a break, out of the flow of the constant sidewalk traffic.

All of the structures are fabricated from aluminum, which forms “rail ribbons.” They include planters with narrow borders that can double as a seating area in a pinch (I recognized a few plants such as Mexican heather and Yucca, others were not familiar to my East Coast eyes), guardrails to protect against the busy Powell Street traffic, and the “tables” and lower versions that Hood has suggested could be used for sleeping as well as sitting benches. No advertising is allowed in the areas, which boast free Wi-Fi. (How very Silicon Valley!)

For more details on this project, check out this blog post from the San Francisco outpost of Streetsblog. And the next time you’re in the City by the Bay, in the vicinity of Union Square, be sure not to miss this innovative design feature on Powell Street!


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