Designing Landscapes or Creating Gardens? (Part Two)
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
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.
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.