Designing Landscapes or Creating Gardens? (Part Two)

Kinetic V-Sculpture at InSitu in Redding, Connecticut.

Kinetic V-Sculpture at InSitu in Redding, Connecticut.

For many projects, we stay involved in the management of garden maintenance for years – adapting, adding detail, and growing the garden. We do not see landscapes as static. We are intentional about guiding change in the garden. My fellow principal Richard, as a horticulturist, is not limited by the same rules that constrain landscape architects. It has been refreshing to explore our different approaches. He learned plants, garden history, and the art of cultivating gardens. He has the horticultural self-confidence to select species that will thrive and to take calculated risks and introduce the unusual. Deep knowledge of plants means he can confidently create remarkable color and texture combinations.

Different focuses, different results

I was trained in the 1970’s when there was more focus on architecture, site planning, and people than plants or ecology. In fact, my program was in the college of social science. Designing for lifestyles, embracing modernism, and planning for leisure pursuits and new housing was the program’s focus. I studied plants and landscape design. The age of modernism had arrived and the simplicity of block planting styles using mostly native plants were new and progressive ideas. I studied historic landscapes but never really connected how styles and trends had evolved. Historic landscapes were the world of preservationists. Mostly my work was modern with strong forms and little embellishment. The focus was on the site structure, architectural elements, and clean forms defined by hardscape and bed lines.

For planting plans, the use of natives was considered the correct solution.  I learned the right plant in the right place wouldn’t require pruning; in fact pruning and using plants as architectural elements was discouraged and considered unnatural. Lines of trees defined spaces and simple planting palettes arranged in lines and masses were bold and modern. 

Design at Land Morphology

Espalier in Bellevue, Washington.

Espalier in Bellevue, Washington.

The gardens we design at Land Morphology consider style and have STYLE. We use plants in creative ways.  We are not afraid to espalier, train on arbors and trellises, clip, sculpt, or let plans run wild. We plant in blocks, matrices, and traditional patterns. We use plants as architecture and landscape.  We embrace a variety of design styles with a focus on creating emotive and memorable experiences.

Gardens: Obstacles and Opportunities

Building a garden takes time, trial, error, and adaptive management. Unfortunately, conventional construction and public contracting processes do not support the process of creating a garden. Bids are opened, the buildings constructed, and the landscape installed. Too often the season of installation is not ideal, the building contract cannot remain open for overseeing establishment of the landscape, and the use of bulbs may be precluded due to time of planting.

Publicly bid work requires the award to go to the low bidder, often a general contractor who may choose less experienced and less expensive sub-contractors. If the landscape architect is not vigilant and on site during construction, the existing features may not be protected, soils maybe improperly placed or amended, and drainage and irrigation may be improperly installed. All of these create problems that may not be immediately apparent and the landscape will not thrive. Substitutions of plants are common and owners approve to avoid delays.

Maintenance periods are limited. Money for maintenance and adjustments may not be available after the construction contract is closed. Garden maintenance is more likely to be done by a building facility manager versus people with horticultural expertise. After the warranty period, plants that fail are removed but often not replaced.

Private Residence in Bellevue, Washington.

Private Residence in Bellevue, Washington.

In summary, a landscape design gets installed but does not result in a garden. A garden requires cultivation and maintenance. Land Morphology’s goal is to bring the art of exquisite garden design into the public realm and commercial projects. We aspire to refine processes and find clients who see the landscape design as part of their brand and therefore commit to the resources needed to create and sustain exemplary places.

Landscape design for the BelRoy Apartments in Seattle, Washington.

Landscape design for the BelRoy Apartments in Seattle, Washington.

 

 

Sandy Fischer

Sandy has a career that spans over thirty-five years. As a landscape architect and community designer, she has focused on leading teams, advocating for livable communities, designing attractive places and shaping enduring landscapes. She has held senior director positions in local government, international and local consulting firms, and managed her own firm for twenty years.

Sandy enjoys collaborating with interdisciplinary teams on challenging projects and idea-driven solutions. Clients appreciate her ability to balance vision and pragmatism to produce plans and designs that are actionable and catalytic. Her community plans have effectively guided change in new and existing; rural and urban; local and international communities. She has worked with diverse clients on visioning, spatial plans, and policy frameworks.

Sandy has a diverse and award-winning design portfolio of built projects in the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest regions. She seeks to understand each site within a larger context of ecology, time, culture, and community values. Sandy often works with scientists, engineers, designers and artists to gain an understanding of and creatively express the unique character and values of the places she is entrusted to work.