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 mind-numbing collections of flowering plants or tightly clipped evergreen hedges. These gardens may wow us at brief times but more often than naught lack interest during the leaf-less months of the year — a considerable portion of the calendar year here in the Northeast. Further, these ‘spaces’ can be tricky to maintain properly: witness the degradation of so many residential landscapes by the ‘mow and blow stewards’ hired to care for them.
Well the groundhog saw his shadow recently and there are weeks of winter left before the ground thaws and many of us venture back outside again to enjoy outdoor living. Heck, it’s snowing as I write this: a perfect time to contemplate what’s wrong with our landscapes…(and ourselves). Maybe we need a new way of thinking…about combining spaces and plants…to create unique, soulful, site-specific intentionally designed landscapes. Fear not, if you search in the right places (hint: it’s the start of “Flower Garden show season” here in the Northeast but don’t look for inspiration there!) you’ll find clues for how to do just that — no matter where you live and what you love…we’ll help you along the way in these pages by spotlighting designers who know design and plants. In the meantime contemplate these words by landscape designer Edwina von Gal:
“I think a lot of people should be forced to give up flowers for
awhile and create a landscape…people get distracted by flowers…they are just the pillows and the ashtrays…people don’t stop to think what makes a garden last year round.”