Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Whats in a Word?

On 11/21/06 I posted a short blurb about books for the laymen in reference to a short list of books for (what I consider) folks who want to design/garden their property. So I was using laymen as a term for someone who is interested in horticulture/gardening but in no way, shape or form receives money for their interest.

On Nov. 27th over at a blog called A Lake County Point of View, the County Clerk was kind enough to refer to another post of mine 27 Books every Landscape Designer Should Read. In this post he also mentioned the 11/21 post; inside that post was a comment about my referring to laymen, and referencing the word layman was a little pretentious-on my part.

This starts a little back and forth, and a question from me about what term should I have used instead of laymen? So today the County clerk post a long discussion (quite interesting) starting with an apology to me-which I didn't think was necessary, but it is accepted.

Now the good stuff, this is a great post on the English language and the importance of words and how they are used, or should be used. It is a fantastic explanation of connotation vs. denotation with a little classical music thrown in.

My point in bringing all this to the forefront? What have I learned? Well one thing I have learned from this Blog was that I needed to craft my wording so that others would understand my way of speaking/talking/writing. I had previously been published over 35 times (mostly trade journals) but always had the other set of eyes look at my writing-the editor. I was lazy, editors made it too easy for me. It was, "just give me the how-to's of the installation, I'll clean it up for publication".

Well that's not the case here with this Blog . . it's me. What I write here is what makes it out to cyberspace and the public world. I gotta tell you, I like it. I like the challenge - a lot. So when I am called out on something, something like this (the use of word laymen), I really don't mind.

I have gotten lazy with some words, for me laymen/layman had become the great catch-all. Laymen was easy. So I ask you this . . . what is a better way to describe those that love to garden? those that like to be out in their private spaces, to dig in the dirt, to nurture those plants? With no thought of monetary reward. To separate Professional from the strict amateur.

By the way A Lake County Point of View is a terrific read all the time, so many interest, so much thought. Heck, just go back and read last weeks entries about Walnut, you'll understand. Great stuff.

*Small confession: my wife has been known to log on here and do a little editing, she is terrific at catching all the typo's and stuff that I am good at missing. Many thanks Mrs. A.

*The above picture was taken at 9,000 or 10,000 feet in the Wasatch Mountains, east of Salt Lake City, Utah. It's worth the visit.

Monday, November 27, 2006

More on the Sandstone Bench

From the yard, a look before final facing
Comments, e-mails, even a phone call. Thought I would show a few more shots of this rather large bench. You can see part of the walkway, a combination of pavers, sandstone slabs, and wood for the bridge.

A look from top of walkway:
This is a look of the project/walkway in the fall, you can see down to the bench on the left. I was asked to create a pleasant walkway from the front of the house to the pool house.

The client was very adamant in her desire that the walk would be interesting, and those visitors getting out of their vehicles would be able to look over to a very pleasant scene.

The walkway is over 120 ft. long, and the width varies from 5 to 8 feet. All the rules for walkways were thrown out, rules for steps were thrown out, pretty much all rules were thrown out. In the end it was all about the aesthetic, the visual, the experience.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

An Appreciation of Stone 18

A Sandstone Bench
This sandstone slab is just over 9.0 wide and about 3.5 feet deep. We used a tractor with extended forks to set this slab. After it was set I did some facing on the stone to create that interesting edge.

The slab came from the discard pile at Briar Hill Quarries, which is located in nowhere, Ohio. It is truly out in the country very close to Glenmount, Ohio. The folks at Briar Hill are good people. If you call and get Rusty tell him Rick Anderson said hello.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A link kind of day

Some old Doodle:
A interesting article from Southern California about ripping out the yard and filling it full of plants.

Katie Campbell has written a book called Icons of Twentieth-Century Landscape Design, here's an excerpt:
In her book, Icons of Twentieth-Century Landscape Design, Campbell explores 29 sites, from Parc Guell, Gaudi's Art Nouveau extravaganza in Barcelona, to the stark landscape around the Jewish Museum in Berlin; and two Scottish gardens have made their mark on the international design scene.
This article goes into the thought process behind the book and what Ms. Campbell is hoping to accomplish, I look forward to reading this one.

Do you like maps? Do you know how to read a map? Some folks consider large landscape plan drawings-maps. Well I like maps and heck I can even read a complicated landscape plan. Here's a Blog that looks at the World of maps, strange maps to be exact.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Tree selection (follow-up)

I found another article on the trees for the WTC memorial. This article goes into a rather detailed explanation of the trees, selection, holding area, planting, and culture involved to make this work.
A interesting read.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

World Trade Center Memorial (tree selection)

From a article in the NY Times:

"This is the field where 380 swamp white oaks and 57 sweetgums — to be shipped in from nearby states — will be kept and cultivated before making one more journey in 2009, to the World Trade Center memorial in Lower Manhattan".

Swamp white Oaks in new York City, I find that very interesting. Now I am sure people much smarter than me have made this decision, and know what they are doing, but swamp white oaks?

I just have a hard time wrapping my head around this one. To me the cultural requirements just seem so opposite. It will be interesting to see how the prepare the for the planting holes and how much room they allow for root growth, water, oxygen, etc.

Again they are much smarter than me, so I am sure they have this worked out.

By the way this is Quercus bicolor from Michael Dirr's description:

  • Found in low-lying swampy situations.
  • moist bottomlands, along streams.
  • requires acid soil.
  • mixed news on transplanting ease.
  • normal color is yellow, he says he's seen red-purple.
  • Natl. champion is 120' x92' in Maryland.
It's closely related to Quercus alba which is a good-looking tree, one of my favorite oaks, but I understand a very difficult tree to transplant.

I wish all the best for the landscape design for this project, if any memorial was deserving of a contemplative place the World Trade Center is certainly deserving

In regards to the sweetgums, they are a beautiful tree, great fall color, good presence (straight trunks and all).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Books for the Laymen

Several weeks ago I posted a list of 27 books I thought were good books for the Professional Landscape Designer. I see that Joel Lerner has written a suggested book list for the home gardener.

If Joel suggest this list I am sure it is a good one. I've known Joel since 1989 and have a lot of respect for Joel and his wife Sandy, they are really good people and fun to work with. Joel is also the consummate professional, and well thought of in our industry. Joel also has several books to his credit.

Beyond that he was one of the movers and shakers who had a lot to do with the formation of APLD. APLD is the only professional organization that speaks as the international voice of Professional Landscape Designers.

Having said all that I am sure it's a good list.

Another top 10 list (that's a joke)

Ta-da! 10 tips for creating a beautiful landscape. Come on down you've won! Quick, neat, easy, no muss-no fuss. I am really tired of these list, they compete with HGTV in what annoys me the most.

The easy way out.

This kind of stuff does more to set us back than move us forward. See, what these list do is tell you the what, but in no way, no shape, no how!!! Nowhere in this list does it even begin to explain the how's . . . the real teaching that needs to be done, the real technique. Just follow this list blindly along and boom . . . . . . beautiful landscape.

So homeowners then become turned off by the whole process, the heartache, the backache! and the lost money.

We professionals then get called to solve the problems, of frustrated, angry, tired, sore, homeowners. At least these people have tried, and then realize they need professional help and call us. I actually feel bad for this group of homeowners as opposed to another type of homeowners.

The no maintenance crowd. Or the doesn't care crowd-because you/service are going to maintain. But that's for another day . . .

Desire Path ?

I have always been fascinated how; we, in the landscape industry use words. Especially how Designers use words to help describe what they are trying to design, to come up with a phrase that matches the situation or solution.

Have you ever seen a worn out path of grass in a lawn? Or a beat down path where people take a short cut? Well apparently there is a phrase for it, and it seems so simple, so perfect That i can't believe I haven't used this phrase before . . . desire path.

I know this will now become part of my toolbox of phraseology, how cool!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Does the Pergola fit the front entry?

Color rendering: markers, colored pencils on yellow trace
This rendering is another take on what we had discussed last week. Especially the talk about where does the fountain belong, or not belong.

This rendering shows the fountain a little further up the sidewalk with a pergola area further behind and to the right. Do they belong together? I'm not sure, but do Tom and Katie belong together? Not sure there but we are all giving it a shot.

It is important to remember in a conceptual that it is just that . . . . a conceptual. If you are going to critique something, or tear it apart, or move something around-now is the time. The client wanted to see if a pergola/gazebo would work, and where I would suggest it. My take is the structure belongs off to the right and back from the sidewalk.

Back to last week, I'm not any more sure about this idea than the other rendering I had up last week. I'll be real curious how the homeowners react to suggestions. I am pretty sure either solution was beyond their scope of visualization . . . this is not a bad thing or a offhand remark, it's just how these concepts work out.

When clients ask for paving, walkways, structure, classical fountains, driveways, and parking courts . . . it gets complicated. Heck, that's why I get called in.

A unobstructed view of existing front door
Well here it is. The entry is big, it's massive, it's imposing and it goes absolutely, positively nowhere . . .

Sunday, November 19, 2006

An Appreciation of Stone 17

Sandstone formation in Southeastern Ohio.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Plan View Rendering (fountain)

This drawing goes with previous renderings.
Okay all the hemming and hawing about the fountain and where it goes, what goes with it, or not with it, etc . . . . well here it is.

This is a photo that was shot off the drawing board right after I had finished this drawing. In the lower part of the drawing is the driveway for the garages, from there to the new parking court the height differential is about 8.0' foot.

Everything on the drawing would be new. There are no walls right now, no plant material of any kind, no walkway-nothing. That drive on the far right is there, the drive goes around to the horse barns, but we have to come past the utility boxes to start the new drive up to the parking court.

What does this plan view show us? A new entry drive, a parking court, a walk to the front door, a gathering place (where the fountain is), and how the beds for the plant material would/could work.

Now that I am showing this drawing does it make any more sense? Does it make any more sense to me? I am still not sure I like how this thing lays out, or the flow, but it is, what it is . . .

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Front Entry Fountain

A Fountain for nowhere, maybe?
This is the image I spoke of a few posts earlier. I took this right after I finished the drawing. You can see the tracing paper beneath and the original photo beneath that.

On the tracing paper is a sketch done in pencil, what I was after was a outline of the fountain and how it related to where I was guessing the end of the walkway would be-and it was a total guess.

The foreground is the parking court. I would call this an entry garden, or entry courtyard. The homeowners got themselves in a little bit of trouble here. They designed the back of the house to face the primary view (a 5 acre lake). The drive came into the side with a 3 garage door entrance, which wound up being an entire story below the main living level. And the grandiose front door??? Well here it is completely detached from the drive, the garages, the view . . . everything.

So they have lived in the house for awhile and have now realized why no one comes to the front door . . . no one can get to it!!!

So in order to get there we have to get a driveway up there, and we have to park the cars, of course, and then we have to be able to get folks from the parking court to the front door. While we are at it we might as well make the journey from the car to the door interesting. We also need to have a gathering place to say hello or goodbye.

They also need to add some plant material to transition from the house to the surrounding grounds. Right now there is nothing, zip, zada, zero! The softer perennial/grasses to the left act as a buffer zone between the parking and one of the retaining walls to be added.

Do I like the design? not sure . . . I can't decide on the fountain, it seems too exposed and it appears I have taken a very formal subject and placed it in a very informal setting. I'm just not sure it works.

As for the actual drawing . . . by now my loyal readers know I am never satisfied with those drawings, need to keep working on those.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ice-Cream Monster Toon Cafe

I am not sure how Alina came up with this name for her Blog, but hey it works for her which is all that matters.

Another great post of her fantastic ability to make a page come alive, she is so good with color. Plus this time she throws in a little philosophy. So I think I'll throw some in too.

"Farmer, pointing the way, with a radish" -Issa

Looking at the Urban Environment

A Blog that takes a unique look at the urban environment, the good and the bad, with the decay and the possibilities of all that entails.

The name: Walking Turcot Yards, it's worth a look.

Funny list at

They have a list over there for the top 10 jobs to get you outdoors, and Landscape Architect is on the list. I find this rather amusing, actually very amusing.

The LA's I know are chained to their CAD programs on their computer, while at their desk. They also have Botanist on the list, which I also found somewhat amusing.

Check it out . . .

By the way I am a Landscape Designer, not a Landscape Architect in case you were wondering.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Landscape Conceptual

Having fun with a rendering
I just realized as I get older my definition of having fun sure has changed. After a day of fooling around with this design I decided to take a couple of shots with the layers piled on top of each other. Woo! hoo! having fun now . . . .

Beneath the colored rendering is a pencil sketch rendering, and below that is th original photo of the entry which I print out in black and white. The black and white image is better for me to read in the sense that the lines are easier to read.

Between you and me I'm not really sure I like this design, I never was one for just having some fountain floating by it's lonesome, these clients seemed pretty adamant about having one however, and trying to find a good spot for it has been driving me crazy.

More on this job, and drawings this week, though the closer we get to the Ohio State ////M*ch*gan game (Columbus has gone crazy), the more difficult it will be to concentrate on such mundane matters as this Blog.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Garden Theivery

Okay, now I understand someone stealing an occasional lawn mower, or barbecue grill. I mean you can sell the mower and you got to eat. But stealing the furniture? Stealing the flagstone? Stealing the Koi? Then stealing the pond . . . . ?!??!?!? What the heck is going on.

It appears there is a major garden crime wave in Great Britain, and the thieves are busy, really busy.

I have not seen anything like this here, in terms of these types of numbers. If anyone has seen some numbers please pass along the link. I would appreciate it.

I do remember back in the mid-90's when I lived in South Carolina there was a brand new upscale neighborhood where there were several installs and that 1st night a gang of crooks would dig up all the newly planted plants, stripping the landscape bare. This went on for several months and no one was ever caught.

A Chinese Web-site

I recently came across this web-site in China with this one page in English. It talks about the state of Landscape Architecture in China. There is also a lot of discussion about all the growing pains the Chinese are going through.

I have been to China, would love to go back, and know that all these problems are real. The Chinese people are great, everyone I ran across was engaging, fun, interesting, and curious. What I came away with was that the Chinese people aren't much different from us, shocking, and just want to lead a decent life with family and friends, have a decent job, and be consumers-just like us!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Evolution of Landscape Rendering Presentation

The original: shown to client

2nd Attempt: on trace, or as I like to say trash

Later attempt: evolved drawing style on Vellum

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Backyard Patio story continues.

Single water falls, and tan sandstone walkways
More on the previous post. This was the 1st plan view color drawing that was shown to clients. Take notice that in this conceptual drawing there is only one waterfall, and the walkway is tan in color. the homeowners looked at this drawing and were very impressed.

I then remember them . . . starting to study the drawing and going over ever detail. It was decided pretty quickly they didn't want brown sandstone for the walkway-they were positive about this.

2nd they were very concerned that the one falls would not make enough noise to screen out the eat of the neighborhood noise, and would only one waterfall be loud enough to hear in the kitchen, and breakfast nook.

Normally, I would just show them a different color of stone (actual stone piece), and take some overlay paper and draw the other falls in the hillside. That wasn't going to work here, they wanted to see another drawing (specifically the wife).

So, I called the contractor and said I had to do another drawing for the homeowners, for x amount of hours to do the work (which he hadn't agree to pay me for). He asked me if they were excited about the conceptuals and were they close to jumping in?

I said; heck yeah, they're ready! . . . .

So the previously posted drawing is what they looked at, and of course they jumped in, over original budget request . . . because it was everything they wanted, in a logical layout, and the best parts could be enjoyed/viewed from inside the house.

Color rendering of pond and fire ring
Along with the plan view rendering, I showed the clients this conceptual rendering of how this area would relate to the new kitchen addition.

The addition is shown only in black line. I was trying to present the landscaping to add to the backyard, which is why my stuff is in color. We needed to excite them about tha landscaping, Heck they had already agreed to add the kitchen-no need to promote that.

I did; however, have to show how the new landscape would relate and enhance the new space. This rendering does a much better job than anything I could have done on a plan view drawing.

This drawing was the deal-clincher for this side of the backyard. I basically laid this on the table and it was over. Let's go, let's put it in, we can't wait . . . those were the comments.

I've said this before, and will say it some more (hey, I'm a poet!), if you design hardscapes, structure, level transitions, etc . . . you must render. This is the only way to really communicate what you are trying to achieve to the client.

Has for this drawing, I'll have more on my evolution as a designer . . . tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Color; Plan View Drawing

More on yesterdays Hardscape Plan
Now we can take a look at where that sandstone walkway goes to. The bridge leads directly to the fire pit area, in a very enclosed area.

Just above the fire pit is the mound with boulders and plantings. To the bottom side the pond surrounds the fire pit. I was trying to create this very intimate space for those who wanted to wander over to this area. While the paver area was more of the public type area.

The homeowner had specifically asked for two separate areas so the adults could gather in one and the kids in another.

Everything was designed with this thought in the back of my head, remember the view from the new kitchen addition . . . remember the view from the new kitchen addition. You can see the breaks in the house line where the windows were being placed . . . there are a lot of them, and we wanted something interesting happening wherever you looked out.

This was taken the 1st winter of the garden. I took this photo with a zoom lens while standing inside the kitchen. Where the window is rounded off they have a breakfast nook set up there.

I think it's a pretty nice look while your sipping on you morning cup of joe, and having a bowl of Cheerios. What do you think?

The falls originate in bio-falls boxes, and I always used 45mil, EPDM liner, covered in stone-usually 3-5 different sizes. I believe this helps with creating a more naturalistic waterfeature. One other thing about siting waterfeatures . . . I like having some sort of evergreen back drop for my falls. I think a good solid screening backdrop helps with selling the realism of the waterfeature.

I am also a sucker for low weeping plants around streams. Plants the branch out over the water, or crawl down into the waters edge. It's more of the blending between land and water to create a; sort of, seamless edge.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sandstone Walk, with Paver Patio, the drawing

Color Landscape Rendering
(This drawing goes with last weeks photos)

This was the plan view drawing that was shown to the client. to help finalize how the design would work, and how we could make the patio space work with the new kitchen addition.

The hardscape is so overwhelming here it was really important to get it right on paper. We all wanted the clients to be happy with this layout, and by giving them a precise scale drawing the contractor was able to give the client a very good, and accurate estimate to install the project.

I had been requested by the homeowner to stay within a range of numbers after we had looked at several sets of conceptual drawings. These early conceptual's had rough numbers attached to them, so between those numbers and the rough landscape drawings we were able to come up with this plan rendering.

I was hoping to post some of those rough conceptuals, but, dang it! I can't find them.

Anyway take a look at the drawing, (if you click on it, it enlarges). Then compare to the actual install of the project. I think you'll agree we came pretty close.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

An Appreciation of Stone 16

A Babbling Brook
This is part of a series of small falls, that tumble down a 6 or 7 foot embankment. The stone used is a West Virginia fieldstone. A nice gray color with some mineral veins running through the stone to create some real interest.

Because fieldstone is aged, tumbled, rough it makes great stone for waterfeatures because it shows that aging that you are hoping for to sell the naturalism of the waterfeature. To give it that; hey it just might be real.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Sandstone Walk, with Paver Patio

The journey continues, from Yesterday
Coming off of the Paver patio the walk through the garden continues on the sandstone walkway. To a bridge made of antique curbstone. Pond is on far right. Fire ring area is across the bridge and double waterfalls are on the left.

That mound is artificial. It was built for falls and streams and to add sense of enclosure to the seating area. More on this later.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hardscape Design

Continuation on Monday's post
This image is just a pull back from Monday's post and gives you a better idea of how that smaller circle works. The sandstone slabs in the foreground continue to where the gate opening is to enter this garden.

What we are looking at here is what you(the observer) sees when 1st entering this garden space.
A few more steps and a look to the right is where the double waterfall, stream, pond, and fire pit are located.
The direction we are looking back to is where the 1st photo was taken from. I would say we can now appreciate the size of the main circle. This patio space had to be large enough to hold a 6 seat table, a couple of small benches, a chaise lounge or two, and a grill whew!!! A lot of stuff.

Plus enough room to navigate around all this stuff without feeling pinched in, cramped, stumbling over each other.

Right at the very bottom of this photo you can see a different color of brick. This is the landing step coming out of, or going into the kitchen. That brick work is all mortared, and the patio is dry-laid on limestone stone dust.

Ohh, one other thing, see that little bit of sandstone to the bottom left, that was specifically designed as a space for the grill. Convenient to the kitchen access, but completely out of the way of foot traffic and other patio furniture.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Botanical Space Invaders

So how about Mad Dogs, Englishmen, and Hogweed fields, Hogweed fields ??? Yep, it appears to be one of many that got away.

How do I find this stuff anyway??? Don't ask . . . ..

Rock Piles in the Woods

Rock Piles, that's right, rock piles. This is a Blog about some guys who find strange rock piles in the New England area. Their goal is to promote the sites but at the same time keep them secret.

Give them a look they're worth it!