Posted tagged ‘structure’

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.



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!

Glowing Embers – A Winning Japanese Maple for Sun

May 3, 2013

As many readers know, a couple of years ago I had to take down a gorgeous crabapple tree in my front yard that was failing. And because I also had lost a 90-foot beech tree shortly before, on the other side of the front yard, the site had turned from shade to fiercely sunny.

In considering what to plant to replace the crabapple, I did some research and settled on a Japanese maple called ‘Glowing Embers.’  Usually you don’t plant Japanese maples in full sun – they prefer dappled shade. But this one is different – it takes full sun and high heat, and is a vigorous grower to boot. Developed by Dr. Michael Dirr, the dean of woody plants, ‘Glowing Embers’ received the Georgia Gold Medal Winner award in 2005. Ultimately it will reach 20-25′ high, a bit smaller than my crabapple was, but it will help provide shade to the eastern side of the house.

I planted it in November 2011, when all I could see to appreciate was its bark, which in winter has kind of a reddish cast to the branches, something I haven’t read about in online descriptions.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

Taken with my iPhone, this image of the tree with its branches tied up on its way to the planting hole shows a reddish tint to the bark.

I’ve even had one designer colleague ask me if this was a ‘Sango Kaku’ maple, which are noted for their red branches. It’s not that intense, but it’s pretty impressive.

I loved the shape of my tree in winter, and took this image of it during a light snowfall.

‘Glowing Embers’ in snow.

In spring and summer, this tree has lovely light green leaves (a choice I favored because my house is red brick and I wanted it to stand out against that background).

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers"

A close up of the leaves as the little “whirlybirds” (oops, technically that’s “samaras” to us plant geeks ) start to appear. (iPhone 5 photo)

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

Acer palmatum ‘Glowing Embers’  last spring. I gave it extra water during the summer.

But it was in the fall that I fully appreciated ‘Glowing Embers’. The leaves can turn a variety of shades on the same tree, which explains how it got its name. And from tree to tree, it can take on a different aspect. Here are two photos, one from my specimen and another from a ‘Glowing Embers’ planted in a client’s garden.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

A close-up of the leaves on my tree as they started to turn.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

A ‘Glowing Embers’ planted in a landscape client’s garden, showing a slightly different range of colors on the leaves in autumn. Some of the reddish leaves had a purple tone to them.

What will the future bring? I’ll close with an image provided courtesy of the Georgia Botanical Gardens, of a mature ‘Glowing Embers’ in the fall at its Callaway Building.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers,' Georgia Gold Medal Winner 2005

© Contributors to
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, 2007

I have no idea how long mine will take to get this large, but I hope it will be while I still call Thornapple Street my home.

The Hinoki Falsecypress – Gold for the Garden

April 6, 2013

Recently, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society announced its most recent Gold Medal Awards for garden plants. I was excited to see that my own excellent taste in plants had been validated by the inclusion of Chaemacyparis obtusa ‘Nana’, or dwarf Hinoki falsecypress.

Hinoki falsecypress, Gold Medal plants, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

My very own dwarf Hinoki falsecypress, about 12 years (I think) after planting. It’s in a sunny but occasionally windswept spot on the eastern side of my yard. (iPhone 5 photo, taken with Camera+ and captioned in Over app).

I fell in love with this shrub/tree during my education as a landscape designer. I love(d) its evergreen presence, the somewhat loose (but not out of control) way its branches and needles grew in a whorl-like manner, and the idea that you could include it in a mixed border or small garden and its slow-growing nature meant it wouldn’t eat the yard/house.

As both a gardener and photographer, I’ve found other aspects of it to admire.

Hinoki falsecypress, Gold Medal plants, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

A close-up of the foliage. This image (taken at the National Zoo) wound up being used as the front page of our landscape company’s brochure.

The bark exfoliates if the plant has been mislabeled (as sometimes happens in nurseries) and it’s not a ‘Nana’ after all. See this example from Filoli.

Hinoki falsecypress, Gold Medal plants, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

The bark of a non-‘Nana’ Hinoki falsecypress on the grounds of Filoli Gardens in Woodside, California.

And last but not least, it produces these adorable little mini-cones.

Hinoki falsecypress, Gold Medal plants, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Look closely or you might miss the cones!

The PHS chose this plant because, as my friend and colleague Jane Berger wrote in her blog post announcing the awards, “it is sorely under-used compared to dwarf Alberta spruce”, which is planted in so many housing developments.” (Don’t get me started on Alberta spruces . . .). The wood is rot-resistant and in Japan has been used for building temples, shrines, palaces, Noh theatres, and goodness knows what else. But if you  aren’t in the market for hardwood to build with, plant it for its beauty. It’s hardy from Zones 5-7, and possibly into Zone 8A.

A Knot Garden at Filoli

September 22, 2012

When I was in the Palo Alto area in June this year, I visited Filoli again (as well as the Elizabeth Gamble Garden). It was blazingly hot, and I wasn’t sure I would get any good images because of the sun and time of day. So today’s post is sort of an ode to my B&W circular polarizing filter, as you’ll see.

I knew Filoli’s gardens were formal, for the most part. But on my prior trip I hadn’t ventured far enough to discover its Knot Garden. Located just beyond its rose garden area, this was no ordinary knot garden. All the knot gardens I had seen before were clipped boxwood shapes. The one at Broughton Castle was clipped and had roses inside the spaces.

Broughton Castle, Ladies Garden, English gardens

The walled knot garden on the south side of the castle, known as the Ladies’ Garden, was established in the 1880s on the site of the sixteenth century kitchen. The fleur de lys beds are planted with Rose ‘Heritage’ and Rose ‘Gruss an Aachen’.

Oh so tidy and veddy British, don’t you think? Closer to home, I’ve seen a knot garden at the National Arboretum, with its edging plants somewhat more loosely clipped.

National Arboretum, Knot Garden

A knot garden in the National Arboretum in Washington, DC

So at Fioli, I was delighted to come across a knot garden composed of barberry, lavender, santolina, and little rosemary balls trimmed like lollipops – all viewed against a hedge of copper beech. Originally planted in 2007 by a local garden club or two, I’m not sure its shape is as tidy as the original plan, but I absolutely loved the sweeps of lavender, just coming into bloom.

Filoli Garden, lavender, knot garden

A rosemary standard is silhouetted against a copper beech hedge and provides a formal contrast to masses of Angustifolia lavandula ‘Hidcote.’

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any elevation when shooting so the shape of the knot garden isn’t that evident from my photos. And the sun glared off the barberry leaves mercilessly.

Filoli, knot garden

Here you can get an idea of the sweeps of barberry, santolina and other plants used in the Knot Garden at Filoli, with the copper beech hedge in the distance. The sun’s glare on the barberry leaves is very evident.

Filoli, knot garden

A more tightly-cropped view of the same scene, with three of the rosemary standards visible from left to right, ending at an opening in the hedge.

Finally, I brought out the polarizer for my 24-120mm lens, and used it to cut the glare on the barberry shrubs. Here’s the result.

Filoli, knot garden, circular polarizer

Now the barberry leaves, while a deeper red due to the polarizer’s effect, have lost their glare. And I like the line of the plantings as they lead your eye back to that little rosemary standard.

For more information on Filoli’s Knot Garden, click here. I have to say I didn’t experience the layout as two separate shapes as shown in this description, but gardens change over time. And I loved seeing the concept updated for a California climate!

Goodwin’s Montrose Garden

April 6, 2012

One of the first famous gardens I visited after becoming a gardener myself was Montrose Garden, in Hillsborough, North Carolina. It was part of a weekend trip that included a visit to the J.C. Raulston Arboretum, Edith Eddleman’s own garden, and tantalizing stops at places like Tony Avent’s famed retail mail-order nursey, Plant Delights.

Montrose is a 61-acre property that was purchased in 1977 by Nancy and Craufurd Goodwin, who immediately began to expand the gardens substantially.  Neophyte that I was, I had no idea of how well-known or superb Montrose was when I first stepped off the bus that morning. Nancy Goodwin herself, along with an intern who was working at the garden for the summer, greeted us and showed us around. I saw Dianthus planted in gravel for the first time, was awed by a mature baldcypress tree that had been grown from seed (planted by the previous owner), and ended up at some long tables back behind the house that represented the winding-down of Goodwin’s own mail-order nursery efforts, where we bought some small plants to bring home. Goodwin spoke about how there is always something blooming, the thousands of snowdrops that have naturalized from the hundreds she planted, and then turned us loose for a little while to wander on our own.

I wasn’t really a photographer at the time, but I did have a camera along, and captured a couple of shots of the Lathe House, which I’m sharing today. I was inspired to write this post because of an article in the New York Times I came across in digital form the other day, testifying that the garden is still going and open to the public by appointment. Goodwin and her husband have made provision for it to become a preservation project of  The Garden Conservancy.

Montrose Garden, Nancy Goodwin, Lathe House

The interior of the Lathe House at Montrose Garden, c. 1992 (maybe)

Montrose Garden, Nancy Goodwin, Lathe House

Seeing through the Lathe House

If you have a chance to visit, don’t pass it up. If you want to learn more about Goodwin and the creation of the garden, she has written two books, both of which I can recommend: Montrose: Life in a Garden, and A Year in Our Gardens: Letters By Nancy Goodwin and Allen Lacy.

“Hotel” Gardens in Paris

September 24, 2011

While in Paris in August, I stayed in an area called the Marais, which straddles the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Scattered here and there, within easy walking distance, are buildings called “hotel particuliers,” many of which have large, imposing facades fronting on the street. For example, the Rodin Museum, subject of an earlier post, is housed in the Hotel Biron.

Behind their facades, most hotel particuliers have a courtyard, and sometimes, like at the Rodin, a garden behind the building.  Closest to our apartment was the Musee Carnavelet, two “hotels” that now serve as the museum honoring various periods of Paris’s history. Passing through the outer gates, I found a courtyard embracing a statue of Louis XIV, and the entrance to the museum. Cretin that I am, I breezed through the museum in record time, in search of the “garden” of the hotels, which I had seen in a book before I left home. Le voila!

Carnavalet Museum, Carnavalet gardens, hotel particulier, Marais, Paris

A view of the garden of the Carnavalet Museum in Paris, from above. The French do love boxwood parterres. There is a second, smaller vegetable garden area, in a different part of the site.

Carnavalet Museum, Carnavalet Museum garden, Marais, Paris

Summer annuals softening the boxwood parterre plantings.

I liked the way the summer annuals helped brighten up the otherwise very formal boxwood parterres. I’m not always a fan of a mix of really strongly-colored plants together – but in this case it worked.

This approach was also in evidence when – earlier in my stay – I visited the Hotel de Soubise during a walking tour of the Marais. Formerly the residence of French dukes and princes too numerous to count, it’s now the Museum of French history.  The courtyard, or “cour d’honneur,”  somewhat stark in the winter, sported brightly blooming swaths of summer annuals when I was there. The Verbena bonariensis was an especially nice addition.

Hotel de Soubise inner courtyard

The Cour d'Honneur of the Hotel de Soubise, with the ubiquitous yews and swaths of annuals

Hotel de Soubise courtyard, Paris, Museum of French History

Verbena bonariensis contrasting with other annuals in hues of yellow, red and orange

The one other “hotel” garden I visited was that of the Hotel de Sully (also in the Marais).

Hotel de Sully facade, Marais, Paris

A portion of the facade in the first courtyard of the Hotel de Sully, with beautifully intricate carvings.

Unlike the Soubise or Carnavelet sites, here I found no annuals to liven up the conical yews and boxwoods. But in their place, something even more interesting: in a classical formal garden, a freestanding stone lattice on the right side as you enter,  and a “sculpture” of a mole (or badger?) encased in soil. There was no sign or any kind of information about the piece, which I can only assume is temporary.

Hotel de Sully orangerie, Paris, the Marais, hotel particulier

The circular lattice and the earth-bound mole (?) in the Sully's orangerie.

For a look at another art installation in this garden, called “Bee’s Dance,” which apparently I missed (more’s the pity), click here. And be sure to explore these hidden gems if you’re in Paris in the spring, summer or fall! Next post – on to Oxford.

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