Welcome to our June edition and to the summer season. Summer is typically the fun season when families go on vacation, be it camping or flying to distant locales. For those of us in landscaping, the warmer days keep us on a “diet plan,” so that by the end of summer we are fit and trim.
Before getting started with this month’s article, let’s do a little review. In last month’s article we discussed the importance of working within the context of a theme. A theme is “a distinct, recurring and unifying quality or idea” that guides our selections, from hardscape shape and color, to the tree and plant selections. Without a clear theme, it is hard to unify the landscape. When doing renovations, the theme facilitates decisions about what will remain in or be removed from the yard, ensuring that money will be spent wisely.
For new landscapes, working with a theme is just as important. As an example, I just received a set of detailed plans from a friend who designs, but does not install. I was grateful for his trust and for the referral. He gave me permission to change the plan where needed, and to determine the theme in conjunction with the preferences of the clients. The plan is very detailed having seat walls, sidewalks, a water feature and a patio. Still, the finished look, which is determined by the theme, was undecided. Without establishing a theme, it would be hard to do an accurate estimate, and the finished landscape would not be a personal creation reflecting the owner’s personality. I believe this is where many jobs go astray, and where client and contractor have a falling out.
In addition to keeping the client and contractor “on the same page,” a theme also helps with making choices that can save money. If, for instance, the drawn plan is outside the budget, knowing the theme allows me to change out more expensive material for less expensive, yet maintain the desired look and feel. So once I explained all this to my new clients, they could see how a theme keeps the design elements cohesive while personalizing the landscape and respecting the budget. With that in mind, let’s discuss the landscape at hand.
The landscape in view has an Asian theme. Because we offer a quarterly maintenance service, I am able to stay in contact with our clients and watch as their gardens mature. I just visited these clients in May, so the pictures are current. The growth between the initial installation in October 2000 and today is quiet striking. The garden has really come into its own. Because we space plants in a way that accommodates their mature size, it takes three years of growth before it fully reflects the original vision.
As we look at this landscape, let’s discuss the hardscape first. Remember, the hardscape selections need to tie to the theme. Asian hardscapes have subdued colors—a lot of grays and blacks, often contrasted with cream colors, such as cream colored gravel against gray or black flagstone or statues. I have found that this look is often too stark for American tastes. So part of my job as a designer is to adapt themes to fit into our culture. Here I have used the classic Asian hardscape colors as accents, as with the rock spire water feature. Elsewhere, I have introduced more color without compromising the overall feel. For instance, the cement patio is a tannish color that compliments the strong contrasting colors of the selected flagstone, which has grays, burnt oranges, and dark browns. It’s a darker, stronger colored stone, yet it has more warmth and visual appeal than a mono colored stone. The cement stepping stones serve as a transition from one patio to the next, breaking up the space.
If you are familiar with Japanese Ikebana (a minimalist form of flower arrangement), you know that the Asian aesthetic is to do much with little. One of the ways this is expressed is to change the shape or usage or the same material. As an example, Bamboo can be used in the landscape as a plant, the canes can be made into a water feature, or can be used to transition from one landscape feature to another as we did here in combination with lilies, grasses, gravel and boulders. The rock spire fountain is a dark, smooth stoned fountain with some defining lines that blend nature and order. The pots (viewed in “If Plants Could Talk”) are a dark matted color (as opposed to glossy). They keep the mood while softening the hardscape. The other features, a waterfall and a dry stream bed, are assets in any landscape, not just in one that is Asian themed.
Next month we will discuss the plants, my favorite part of each and every landscape we do. Lastly remember to get your garden in, and plant aphid prone vegetables, such as squash, next to herbs or green onions. The scent helps ward off the aphid. Until next month – Good Gardening.