By Bruce Zaretsky
In discussing my role as a “forensic landscaper” a few months back, I expressed my disappointment in the quality of some of the work I was seeing in my local marketplace – and if the e-mail I’ve been receiving is any indicator, I am not alone in this experience. Indeed, questionable workmanship may be more prevalent that I ever could have imagined.
As a result of this revelation, I will be using this space from time to time to demonstrate the fact that failure is often a better teacher than success and that, by exploring the nature and causes of failed projects, we can all come to a better understanding of the principles and practices that lead to good results.
Before I begin, however, I’d like once again to salute
By Stephanie Rose
Labels are often deceiving: They don’t always tell the whole story.
In the green industry, for example, most of us identify ourselves as either designers or contractors, but after 18 years of landshaping, it’s clear to me that a majority of us are really to varying degrees both designers and contractors. The very best designers understand
As landscape professionals, most of us seek not only to innovate and drive the industry to new levels, but also endeavor as necessary to learn about basic design principles and styles that have inspired and ignited design movements in past centuries.
By studying the range of architectural and landscape styles that have gone before us, we learn to use historical cues to guide us in our current tasks. At the same time, our knowledge of what was done in the past positions us to develop variations on themes and do things
Conserving water in a serious way is something many of us have had to do at one time or another. Whether it has resulted from drought or some other condition affecting local supplies, we know that any sort of shortage has significant implications not just for us, but for our communities, clients and landscapes as well.
In those landscapes, water conservation is about finding ways to reduce water use and coming up with more efficient ways to use it. This is essential to ensuring the survival of plants (and our livelihoods) and has to do with giving gardens the amount of water they need to thrive: Too little, and plants will shrivel up and die; too much, and many will drown just as surely.
For the most part, what landshapers encounter is the need to cope with shortfalls and pronounced dry spells rather than floods, which is why most professionals install irrigation systems that make it easier for
For many years, I sat on the sidelines and watched others learn to use CAD to their professional advantage.
I’m a fine artist by background and training and have always had great confidence in my ability to draw freehand. But I also yearned to become proficient with computers because I was convinced they’d streamline my work, offer me additional tools that would facilitate expansion of my business and, overall, make me a better landscape architect. I was completely
It may seem an odd source of inspiration, but I’ve always been interested in retaining walls.
Even as a child, I’d see photographs of terraced hillsides rich with crops and wonder, “How did they do that?” I’ve since done my homework and have found historical evidence indicating that the skills needed to build these structures goes back many hundreds of years. I’m now applying those same skills today in devising soil-retaining systems for my clients.
Whether it’s farmers creating flat spaces on which to
In my years as a practicing landscape architect, I’ve found that designers love in particular to borrow elements from the Spanish Colonial style of architecture. In fact, it has become one of the most important and influential of all architectural forms.
This archetypal architecture flourished between the 16th and early-19th centuries in the New World and is based upon historical models established in
By Maria von Brincken
As is true of many things we savor in our lives, our perception of texture is filled with subtlety and nuance.
This is particularly true in gardens, where space, form, color and texture dance together to create our experience of a living entity and, for designers and installers, of the envisioned entity as well: We start by defining the entity’s function and style – make it an outdoor room, a neoclassical knot garden or a meditative space – then layer hardscape and plant materials to engage the five senses one by one or all at once.
Texture plays a large role in creating this sensory engagement: It’s the lure that invites observers to pause and linger, to breathe deep and compose themselves within the environment. In that sense, texture is the twin of form and the companion to color in the triad of basic garden relationships.
Texture also involves an
By Bruce Zaretsky
When someone calls and asks you to “landscape my home,” what does it mean?
Are you going over to put plants and trees in the ground, or will you be rolling in with backhoes to install a pond? This initial uncertainty is why, before any project begins in earnest, there are questions to be asked. It’s also why there are measurements to be taken, elevations to be shot, sketches and more sketches to be drawn, meetings to schedule and plans to present.
Then, maybe, a working design will develop and then, maybe, construction will start.
Gathering information and doing the foundation work on a design takes research, patience, experience and time, and it’s never
By Stephanie Rose
With a first glance at last month’s cover of LandShapes, a colleague of mine said he thought it more properly belonged on the cover of an architecture magazine instead of on my landscape publication. It was beautiful, he said, but he felt that the dominance of the wall in the image made him wonder if he’d received the right magazine.
In defending the choice of this photograph, I found myself flooded by all sorts of thoughts and considerations, many of them having to do with
By Tim Lindsay
A well-conceived garden that has endured through many decades can teach us all a multitude of lessons. In the case of the Virginia Robinson Gardens, however, even getting to the point where those lessons might be recognized and appreciated has taken years of research, study and painstaking restoration.
In the nine years I’ve been associated with the gardens, I’ve done all I can to determine the original design intent of those who owned and established it, stripping away generations of alterations, additions and miscalculations while interpreting the site and uncovering clues that point to the sense of mission and the creative spirit that influenced its creation and further development early in the 20th Century.
I’ve done so with a recognition that the Virginia Robinson Gardens are important as an emblem of southern California history and an era gone by. I’ve also come to perceive the complexity, artistry and beauty of the space, seeing it as a blueprint that, examined closely, can serve to inspire and inform the work we all do today.
The current gardens occupy most of the grounds of the former estate of Harry and Virginia Robinson, heirs to a department store fortune. My charge has been to restore and manage these six-and-a-half acres in the heart of Beverly Hills, Calif. – a graceful setting in the midst of
Garden historians tell us there is evidence that pergolas and other shade structures were common features of Egyptian, Greek and Roman exteriors. They further suggest that they were normally situated on north sides of residences and were covered with grape vines or matting.
Not much has changed through the centuries, although these structures are now found in all directions around homes and as free-standing features in residential designs around the globe.
In modern times, these structures are used for almost every conceivable purpose – dining, cooking, fireside relaxation, parties, weddings, photo shoots and, most important, spending time with friends and family. They offer welcome retreats to those wishing to enjoy outdoor spaces on hot days and are increasingly becoming focuses of activity even in the middle of
A rainstorm is a good thing: It gives us water, fills our lakes and streams, feeds our crops and landscapes and arguably makes our way of life possible. But if there’s too much of that good thing, it can also irreparably damage homes, roadways, curb and gutter, crops, landscapes and other elements of the environment, particularly when we’ve altered the topography to suit our own purposes.
The importance of erosion control and the need for including it in any land-altering project has been underscored through the years by numerous disasters, including landslides that have resulted in property destruction and even