Sunday, October 21, 2012

Garth Conrad: 1955 - 2012

My dear friend and colleague, fellow landscape designer, Garth Conrad, from MELA passed away Thursday. For once, dumb luck was on my side and I saw him a few hours before he passed away. Garth was a remarkable person: kind, intelligent, generous, modest and visionary. He was always leading us in the membership and on the board towards a sustainable future. I hope his inspiring life sustains his soul as it does the rest of us still in body.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Piet Oudolf's Dream Park

I've been meaning to report on the high point of our Swedish trip: visiting Piet Oudolf's Dream Park in Enkoping! The garden was even better than I imagined...and I loved it for years on the basis of the book illustrations I've seen.
The concept are these large, scattered, tri-part Beech hedges with organic paths throughout. Note the yellow plant: it is Ligularia. In the States, it requires so much water that it is sold as a shade plant. In this garden, it is out in full sun, so that tells us about differing experience with Swedish soil is that it also tends to be more acidic. This is near Stockholm which is Zone 6; Chicago is Zone 5.

One of the many things I found Piet did masterfully, is setting these white blooms out so they diffuse the light. Even though these photos were taken mid-day (you can tell by how washed out they are), you can see how the lower angle of the light makes plants sparkle. Here, in particular, note the Astilbe (lower right) and the gigantic Persicaria polymorpha (taller, shrub-like perennial mid-left to right of beech hedge with bench).
This bottom image captures the one plant that Piet seems to have scattered around the garden (not massed), it is a form of Sea Holly (Eryngium). The effect manifests in its jewel-like quality being repeated and knitting together the garden. Oh la la!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fabulous Ferns!

I learn something from every client (not always what I anticipate learning...), but I do have a few who are remarkable gardeners and have taught me much about plants. Just recently, I had the good fortune to visit one of these people and their garden on the south side of Chicago...that is to say: a very urban garden. Due to the mid-afternoon timing, my photos were not terrific; yet I have several to give you a sense of this wonderful space, mostly about the gardener's fern collection.
The garden is located behind a Victorian row house, next to an alley and underneath a large, mature Silver Maple which, if you've ever dug beneath one, you will remember for its impenetrable roots. Above, you can see the entrance path off the back porch.

Here the collector proudly shows off myriad spores on the fronds of a Japanese Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum). Below stands a glorious specimen of Remote Wood Fern (Dryopteris remota).Take note, Linda and Mark! These ferns are not typically found in our regional gardens. In fact, my client has had many adventures with ferns in far-flung places. While I cannot travel to all those spots, visiting his garden is a transporting trip and a worthy substitute. Mostly, what I enjoy is his never-ending enthusiasm. This interest by shared by the famous neurologist, Oliver Sacks. Look him up on-line with ferns and you will find many compelling documents including his Oaxaca Journal.