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Feeling Right at Home

10-year logoBy Stephanie Rose

‘My daughter and I just returned from our annual trip to visit family in Connecticut and used the occasion this time to travel all over the northeast,’ wrote Stephanie Rose in opening her Natural Companions column for November 2004.  ‘I’m never disappointed by the beauty I find in that part of the country.’

‘What I find most beneficial in travel of this sort is the opportunity to get out and see the way things are done in other parts of the country.  The exposure to new things and the contrasts between regions always causes me to focus on the ways I think, plan and design and, I believe, enables me to add new dimensions to my work by providing me with a perspective I couldn’t ever gain by staying in familiar climes.’  She continued:

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‘When I’m back east every summer, I marvel at the differences in planting styles as well as the workmanship and what people see as appropriate for the area. . . .  In southern California, for example, we can plant year ’round.  Annuals that are available to us in the winter aren’t ready to plant in the east until April or May, while the herbaceous perennials we plant in Los Angeles are annuals in Nantucket.’  

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‘From the plants we use to the masonry we build, everything looks different, is cared for differently and is designed differently.  What is an “appropriate” style for one region is not necessarily appropriate for another.  And all I can say is, hooray for the differences – and thanks for the lessons I can apply in my own work.’

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‘As I think about all these differences and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of working in these two geographies, I find myself envying my eastern counterparts – and wondering why I feel that way.’

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‘My favorite when it comes to discussing differences in style is masonry.  Granted, building codes probably dictate some of these distinctions, but I consistently noted the superior quality and appearance of the masonry walls throughout Connecticut as compared to Los Angeles.  That’s not to say we don’t have good walls here, but the attention to detail I see on the residential walls in Greenwich and surrounding areas recalls the skills of classically trained English stonemasons.’

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‘Beyond the masonry, the most notable differences in landscape design have to do with the placement of plants in eastern gardens.  While traveling in the east, for example, I consistently saw plants placed in consideration of their mature sizes.  Whereas I will fill up a border with plants that will collide with one another in a couple of years, most gardens I saw on the east coast had their plants placed farther apart.’  

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‘It’s as though eastern gardeners have a stronger sense of permanency in their gardens than western gardeners.  . . .  There is also what I would describe as considerably more formality to designs in the east.  Everything seems to be based on tradition, history and time-honored practices and values with an eye to permanence.’  

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‘The irony is that I think the west started out with the intention of maintaining its gardens in line with the grand traditions of the east (in fact, quite a few historic gardens survive in the area), but I think we have been lured off track by climate and year-round growing capability.  It’s given us a conviction that gardens are temporary and can be played with and rearranged endlessly.’  

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‘I for one,’ Stephanie concluded, ‘would love to have clients who were willing to experiment with a greater sense of permanency in their gardens at the expense of the quest for “lots of color.”  So far, however, I’ve found few signs that very many are willing to buck the trend and think in longer terms.’

What’s your own experience of the differences in regional garden styles and what have your learned in traveling or working from place to place?  Is Stephanie on target with her “permanency” argument as a key distinction, or do you see something else you’d like to offer by commenting below?

 

Stephanie Rose wrote her Natural Companions column for WaterShapes for eight years and also served as editor of LandShapes magazine.  She may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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