Same As It Ever Was. Renewing the Landscape…

A major rap against landscape architects is simply that they don’t know their plants. They may be able to devise landscape spaces but don’t let them pick the plantings to go with those spaces. Can’t say I disagree with this line of thinking in many cases for LAs often cram together selections that quickly bump into each other, or can’t tolerate the dark, the dank or the blistering heat conditions they’re put in. So plant lovers are often swayed toward the design of gardens by horticulturists whose very training is the understanding of plant requirements for proper growth, seasonal diversity, longevity, etc. Yet many horticulturists build a garden lacking context of a site and solely around plants, often times around …

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Designing With Sustainability In Mind

Each new year is full of good intentions although I hesitate to call them resolutions. I will be more punctual this year. I will exercise more and eat healthier foods. I will start all my favorite vegetable plants from seed. I will not let the weeds get ahead of me – both in my own home garden – now occupied by non-gardener renters — and in the vast landscape gardens that I tend in my job as a resident caretaker of a large estate. I will sustain my gardens and they in turn will sustain me.It’s a challenge to properly care for any garden. But especially middle-age gardens such as the ones I care for. The job requires understanding the

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Oiling a Slippery Slope Toward Economic Ruin or Turning Suburbanites Into Farmers?

I’ve been doing a lot of driving these past few months, after not driving at all for several months. Driving a pickup truck – without hauling goods – and using it like a passenger car is ridiculous and expensive. I’m not the only one weaned on cheap oil. For the past half century Americans fell in love with their pleasure vehicles as rural countryside was transformed from farmland into a landscape of suburban and urban sprawl crazy-quilted together with roadways and super highways. Along the way we’ve gotten lazy, fat, and now suddenly poorer. Goods and services once deemed essential (listen up landscapers) to our personal lifestyles and the economy are becoming unaffordable non-essentials. When W took office a barrel …

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Where Do We Go With What We Have?

“Opinions are like assholes…everyone’s got one” is a saying that rattles around my head constantly these days. I’m not really sure why, for it’s an old familiar quote that I can’t attribute to anyone in particular, though I first heard it perhaps twenty or more years ago while working as a contractor (btw: contractors have more witty and poignant sayings than philosophers, politicans and educators combined): maybe because it’s an election year…or because the war continues to drag on…or because the economy is flailing, like some kid learning to swim in the ocean against the tide…or because the New Jersey Giants beat up on the New England Patriots…or maybe because I have just returned from a winter-time conference listening to …

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A Sense of Wonder: The Season of Winter is the Time to Plan for Making a Green Thumbprint!

“It’s easy to describe the leaves in the Autumn, and it’s oh so easy in the Spring, but down through January and February, it’s a very different thing… ”
– Van Morrison
crack in the iceGardeners and designers tend to have an appreciation of nature and in turn have a greater stake in the future of our environment. With all the development around us, and the general mass consumption of resources, more than ever, we must think globally and act locally and thoughtfully, and put into our daily lives a way of designing green landscapes with lower environmental impact.
One such simple way — in the warmer months — is to plant trees. Trees are the lungs of the planet. What we breathe

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Gazing Into the Crystal Ball: Are We Serious About Sustainability and ‘Going Green’…or Just Paying Lip Service?

There appears to be a growing fervent desire, even within ‘mainstream circles,’ to rid oneself of conspicuous consumption, and attempt to live a more austere lifestyle. Perhaps you have a friend who decided to forgo Christmas-time gift-giving, or even displaying a Christmas tree…or know someone who rides the bus or a bicycle to and from work (toting their lunch to boot!), lives in a downtown urban core, or nor matter where the locale, is espousing the virtues of voluntary simplicity — a life free from clutter and ‘things.’ Perhaps not since the days of Henry David Thoreau, or the 1970’s back-to-the-land movement, have some people expressed such deeply felt environmental convictions.

city streetsSome of these convictions, cynics (conservative-government soothsayers) point out …

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Raving Against Paving

“To build a road is so much simpler than to think of what the country really needs.”
– Aldo Leopold

Our yearning for ‘hitting the road’ and exploring new terrain is an American obsession that predates the invention of the automobile. Early settlers moving westward via animal power established trails and encampments that spawned our culture’s unending desire to experience new places, see new sights, exploit resources and impose changes in land use patterns.

The introduction of the automobile, the development of suburbia and a national highway system gives most of us freedom and mobility to move as we choose but at what cost? The typical car commuter spends upwards of 90 minutes per day getting to and from work. …

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Preventing a Garden

In the November 2007 issue of Garden Design Magazine, plant guru Dan Hinckley wonders if he “is just another angry white gardener. You know the type. We are irate in general but don’t know exactly why or what for. We don’t like to look too closely at the basis of irritation for fear we are ourselves at the root.” I roared and snorted a bit out loud as I read his piece while crammed into a busy Amtrak train car, startling my seat mate who raised her head and rolled her eyes at me, as if waiting to see if I was drooling or sputtering uncontrollably. I felt my face redden a bit, nodded politely at her and slunk …

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Lawns, Steroids and Roger Clemens: Reclaim Your Turf — Reassessing America’s Past Time!

Lawn grass requires an inch of water a week – a 25’ x 40’ lawn needs about 10,000 gallons per summer.

Americans are passionate about grass…and baseball. After today’s release of the George Mitchell report, American baseball fans are reassessing the merits of Roger Clemens’ long standing achievements and baseball’s abilities to deal with its own turf. Though it is almost winter, and a winter storm is bearing down upon us, and gardening minds here in the Northeastern United States are far removed from the boys of summer and lawns, it seems as appropriate as any time to reassess the lawn. I may have raved against paving but nothing gets me riled up as much as the American lawn…

Americans …

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Anyone can sell a good product, but to sell a piece of crap, now that takes real talent.” Is ‘Design’ and ‘Handwerk’ increasingly less valued?

There appears to be a growing misconception in mainstream America about just what exactly is ‘design,’ its value to the individual, and the culture at large. Big-box stores, mass media outlets, educational institutes and even the “design disciplines”– to name just a few entities – can share the blame for muddying the term. In many circles design is a commodity, produced by a recipe, cranked out, apparently, by anyone. In this line of thinking – propelled by mass-marketing forces – there is no such thing as ‘bad design’ …and very little ‘site-specific design.’ This ‘one size-fits-all, rip and read’ approach to design has produced another disturbing trend: an increasing de-valuation in ‘handwerk.’ And begs the question: just what does distinguish

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