By Eric Herman
The combination of water and plant material is so pervasive and obvious in natural and man-made settings that it’s easy to take it for granted. In urban parks, rural settings and countless backyards, where one finds the blue, one also finds the green – and we all seem pre-wired
to feel at ease in finding ourselves in their interlocked presence.
That was why, when we started WaterShapes some seven years ago, I was surprised by the dearth of information dealing specifically with combinations of plants and water. There was plenty of information about garden design and lots of coverage of pools and spas, but the sublime and protean possibilities to be found in thinking about blue and green simultaneously were all but ignored.
Through these past few years, much has come along to fill that void, and some of garden texts in particular have focused on the use of water in landscapes. And I’ve noticed more and more designers who are deliberately working with both hues of this eternal tandem – people in the emergent watergardening sector, landscape designers who’ve fully embraced water and pool professionals who’ve moved beyond the water’s edge and on into the green. These intersections where water and plant life meet have indeed become fertile aesthetic and creative ground.
Time and time again, we’ve published work by watershapers and landscape artists who’ve made a life’s work of mastering the combination. In every issue we’ve ever published, our landscape columnist, Stephanie Rose, has sought to define the power and beauty of plant materials in aquatic settings, and her work has only increased in importance as the magazine and its readership have evolved.
As Spring approaches and the green reasserts itself, we’ve gathered a special set of three feature articles that lend Stephanie some unusually significant and direct support in approaching the blue/green connection from decidedly green perspectives:
[ ] First, frequent WaterShapes contributor George Forni profiles an expansive pond system set on an estate in the hills of California’s wine country (click here). As discussed in “A Crystal-Clear Mandate,” three lovely ponds and their streams and waterfalls are completely interwoven with landscaping amid a native stand of live oaks. A point of interest is that, even with the heavy bio-burden imposed by all the plants and without the use of chemicals, Forni was able to create ponds that boast swimming-pool-quality water.
[ ] Next, master landscape-lighting designer Janet Lennox Moyer tackles the immense subject of the lighting trees and foliage in “Shaping the Night.” In doing so, she opens our eyes to a distinct and largely unknown realm of client-pleasing possibilities and describes specific techniques she uses to define and maximize the beauty of plant material after the sun goes down (click here). It’s a challenge, she says, that requires an understanding not only of lighting techniques, but also the physical characteristics of individual plant species.
[ ] Finally, you’ll find “A New American Garden” by legendary landscape architect, author and artist James van Sweden (click here). Renowned worldwide for his sustainable meadow landscapes and for his striking use of water in garden settings, in this article he profiles one of the most significant of his recent projects, the renovation of the Grand Basin at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It’s a design that focuses on unfolding perspectives, beautiful materials and edge treatments that highlight the beauty and variety found on natural Midwestern shorelines.
There’s something special about this combination of articles, just as there’s something magical in the relationship between the blue and the green.