Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Friend Flickr

I’ve been updating and redesigning the 2009 edition of my design portfolio. I needed to edit some images beyond the abilities of my very basic photo editor and I have absolutely no patience when it comes to photo programs. I wanted something simple, free and immediate, so I Googled ‘free photo editing program’ to see what was available and was directed to Picnik, which in turn lead me to Flickr. It was serendipity--I was able to continue with my Web 2.0 adventures and organize, edit, upload and share my images as another arm of my social media experience.

I’m not be the most organized when it comes to cataloging my images and I have amassed hundreds of photos over the years. Like many other landscape designers, the beauty shots of my work have to be taken during the height of the design/build season when gardens look their best. I usually don’t have the time or energy to catalog them immediately—I’m too busy running around hither and yon in May and June to do that too!

Now five years old and owned by Yahoo, Flickr can make a single image or group viewable by the entire web, to a pre-designated group(s) of viewers or to no one else but me. I am in the process of cataloging all of my images and uploading them in groups. It's a great project for the winter and will make it easy to direct a potential client to more than is presented in my portfolio CD.

Even though, Flickr makes image organization and editing a snap, what I think is really useful is the other ways I've started to use it. Right now all of my photos are available to everyone, but there are times when I want to make individual images available to specific people for a purpose. I can notate a photo explaining to the viewer what it is I want them to see. Here’s an example--the photo is unremarkable in every way and not something I would use for a portfolio piece; but when the notes are added it becomes a valuable tool for communicating with a client.
Click here.

Flicker enables me to create of sets of photos which I stream or upload to other websites, communities and within my own social media pages. Play with Flickr and see what it can do. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Flickr makes them worth even more.

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Last Minute List--Any Gardener Would Want These

My father loved Christmas, he believed in Virginia's Santa. When I was small he created magical surprises and taught me to find joy in the holiday. Every year he would wait until Christmas Eve to do his shopping and decorate the tree.

In that spirit, I'm offering my last minute list to Santa's gardening elves. To keep the surprise tradition, you'll have to go here to find out where to get 1 through 9, you already have No. 10.

I know I've been urging everyone shop locally, but these things aren't available locally--I checked. My list isn't a donate to your favorite charity, altruistic peace on earth kind of list--we all want that. It's simply things--small (a packet of seeds) and generous (a rain barrel) in the spirit of holiday wish lists. In the spirit of American consumerism, spend some money, let's get that economy moving!

1. An organic soil test
2. Compost tea fermenting kit
3. Certified organic seeds
4. Tools from Red Pig forge
5. Certified organic fertilizer
6. Recycled pimped out whiskey rain barrel
7. Rescued paper notebook (I'm giving some of these this year)
8. Haws watering can (I've wanted a big one for years)
9. A salvaged iron gate
10. Garden help for one day from each of you!

Happy & Safe Holidays to all. Enjoy you and yours...they're the greatest gift of all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Postcard Power!

Several days ago, two boxes, weighing 78 lbs were delivered to my studio doorstep. They weren’t holiday gifts--next spring’s postcards had arrived!

The 2009 Postcard is a departure w/a white background and new tag line

I have produced a postcard for all but one of the past six years. 2008 was the only year I didn’t use one because I flirted (erroneously) with glossy magazine advertising instead. It was not as successful as my previous postcard campaigns. Expensive lesson learned.

There are marketing specialists out there who say that postcard mailings don't yield enough results. I think it depends on the postcard. If it looks like just another advertising gimmick filled with too much information on too small a space--I agree with the marketers. Whenever I visit someplace new, I buy a postcard. When I visit a museum, I buy a postcard. People collect postcards. I try and make a postcard that people will keep.

Every year the choice of photograph is the most wrenching task. That photo will become the ‘face’ of my studio and the one I use on all promo pieces for that year. The 2008 postcard’s layout and graphics have been changed to be in visual sync with that on the website. Some of you may have noticed that all of my on line avatars are similar to the photo of the garden you see above. That isn’t an accident or me being lazy. Image/brand recognition is the goal.

I use postcards in a variety of ways—as direct mail pieces, as promotional pieces at events, as informational pieces at other businesses, as client leave-behinds, and as alternative business cards. Each of those functions is described below along with a gallery of prior cards.

This year I printed 6000 cards and will mail out 5000 of them in early April—hopefully to arrive on the first warm Thursday. Why a Thursday? I want potential clients to look at the card right before they start to think about using their properties over the beautiful spring weekend. This is late in my design cycle for the season, but I found that mailing any earlier in my zone 6 climate just doesn't do the trick. I invest in a well vetted demographic mailing list in addition to my own that will yield 50 phone calls that in turn will yield 4-5 projects. These projects help to fill up my summer and fall design calendar.

The 2005 postcard--this one generated some great projects

Now before you say, “That’s all?” I will also get calls next spring from people who have received previous year’s postcards and had saved them. People toss business cards and mailers, as I said previously--they save pretty postcards. I actually walked into two new clients' kitchens last year and each had multiple cards tacked up over a workspace or posted on the fridge. Next thing I know they’ll be selling them on Ebay.

At the special events I participate in, from flower shows to show houses to charity auctions, the postcards become a promotional piece. They are the souvenir visitors pick up when they tour through a show house garden. When tied to a trowel, the postcards become a gift certificate for a charity to be auctioned or raffled. Every time I’ve donated my services for a cause the purchaser of the item has become a client.

2006 Postcard--not as successful because it did really show a 'garden'--just plants. Did get a good project though...

I’m very lucky to have a local upscale garden center that doesn't provide design services as a source of referrals. I give them postcards each year in February—they in turn give them out to clientele who ask them for design service recommendations. I have through the years received more referrals from this than any other single source other than my website.

2007 Postcard--My least favorite because I succumbed to a cliched image--shame on me!

Not every new client has received a postcard, so when I meet with someone new, I hand them a postcard instead of a standard business card. The image on the postcard helps to clarify what they can have on their own property and they usually turn it over and read the laundry list of services. This simple process often that adds to their mental list of what they’d like me to do but maybe hadn’t considered.

2004 Postcard--the first one

So here's to postcard power--another useful landscape design studio tool.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Short Story...very short.

Last night is snowed a bit. This morning it misted. Before 6, it was warm when I went out to walk the dog. N0w, at almost 9, it's colder. Here's what happened.

Lacecap on Ice

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Web 2.0 Ballroom

Before I begin again, let me put some things in perspective. I learned to type on a typewriter--a manual one. I’m no more tech savvy than the average person who texts via cell phone, answers email and orders stuff I don’t need on-line. With each new Web 2.0 site I interact with, I have to take time to learn its nuances. I get cocky, make mistakes setting up my accounts and then have to spend more time trying to get them the way I want them. It is an evolutionary process, but the beauty is that once the work is put in, Web 2.0 takes on a life of its own. That’s why they call it viral. People have started contacting me via social media for information, the traffic on my website is up almost 40% over the same time as last year. The amount of time visitors spend on my website is longer and I’ve been able share my experiences with people active in other media. I’m learning a whole new way to roll out my welcome mat.

One of my life philosophies was summed up best by Kurt Vonnegut, “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” Well, I’m dancing. I am increasingly fascinated by my own Web 2.0 ballroom experience. This parallel universe operates in real time, in nano second time delay, and in its own time. As I’ve blogged, branded, talked and tried, I’ve developed new relationships with people—some of whom I actually know in real time. Even though it’s a massive cyber party, it’s still driven by and about people.

My new dance card partners are Twitter, land8lounge, and Flickr. Sometimes these three twirl around the ballroom together. If I load my photos from Flickr to my folio in land8lounge they will post to Twitter. Imagine one big social media dance with me in the center—the belle of the ball for just a moment.

Twitter is fun, fast and fascinating. I flirted with it briefly this past spring, but I just started using it with any regularity. I’m floored by the amount of information that streams through in small bites. Since I communicate via text with many of my contractors and clients anyway, I can now Twitter them from my phone and PC. I follow a few people, blogs and websites and am followed by fewer people. It sounds like it could be vaguely creepy, but its not. If someone wants to follow me, Twitter will send me an email to confirm and I can decide if I want them on my cyber trail or not.

Using Twitter yesterday, I recommended a book to a friend who Twittered that he was vacuuming and then I viewed and was blown away by two amazing photos by fellow APLD member Greg Corman. The photos were streamed to Twitter when he posted them on land8lounge—the first was of a forest of Dragon’s Blood trees and the second, a stone wall in Yemen. All of this happened in 140 character tidbits. Twitter is a rich and varied experience--a moveable feast. A new friend, Chris Heiler from, and I are both APLD members, have real time friends in common, yet we’ve never met face to face. We Twitter. When I post this blog entry, since I’ve figured out how to make one of those tiny url’s, I’ll Twitter.

Next on my dance card is land8lounge. It’s a hip, hybrid professional/social networking site for and by landscape architects and designers. The wealth of information, visual inspiration, advice and international content alone is worth the time spent setting it up fully. My folio page was up for less than an hour when two people I knew in real time found me. I set up a group for APLD in a snap, streamed Miss Rumphius’ Rules, and was discovered by other members. I suspect I will spend more in the lounge than in other places.

As far as Flickr goes, I needed to crop some photos into squares, my photo program stinks and wasn’t letting me do it. Flickr provided the solution with ease. I had previously tried Google’s Picasa and didn’t really like it. I haven’t been able to upload the photos to Miss Rumphius yet, I get a funky message that I’m doing something wrong on that score or else Yahoo doesn’t want to play with my Google based blogger. I haven’t done much more with Flickr yet other than to edit pix to use in my updated portfolio, upload to land8lounge and to create sets of photos. I needed to do that anyway since my photo files are a disorganized mess spread over 3 different photo programs and various CDs. The fact that others can see my photos is kind of like cleaning the house when company is coming. You want to put your best foot forward. I want to explore setting up group portfolios on Flickr for people I know from other places so we can share images, ideas and connect visually.

I don’t think all of this is for everyone and I believe that eventually I’ll find some things more useful than others, but right now I’ve stopped being a wallflower and I’m dancing along on happy feet with my Web 2.0 ballroom partners.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Under foot. A stone carpet.

A grey project for a grey day.

This is part of the project I've been updating here, it started with design work last spring and is now the last build of the season. The photo below shows a partially completed stone 'carpet' in the larger patio. What you see is a snapped salt & pepper granite ribbon border, random granite flagstone interior with a detail of 4 x 4 salt & pepper Belgium block. This is obviously before it's been cleaned up.

The stonework is taking a very long time due to the difficulty of working with the granite. It will be fits and starts now due to the weather window closing--rain and cold have dogged us all week long.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Further Adventures with Web 2.0 Marketing

As those who read my introduction to this subject on November 23rd already know, I am attempting to use Web 2.0 and social marketing sites as part of the marketing mix my landscape design studio uses.

The rest of the mix includes the website I've had since day one that has been updated every year with one major overhaul last year, participation in the regional show house circuit, past participation in the state Flower & Garden Show (too expensive), direct mailing of picture postcards, a CD portfolio given to every perspective client, and referrals from clients, local garden centers and contractors.

Boy oh boy, I didn't know what I was getting into with the cyber stuff. Not only does it take time, there's a plethora of options out there.

Firstly, I started writing regularly here again. I love to write so I don't count it as work.

I already had a Facebook profile, now I have a company page as well with 4 fans! I managed to create a live feed from this blog to my profile, but I haven't figured out how to get the feed to work on the company page. I posted some portfolio photos in both places and I joined the APLD group on Facebook, since I'm an active member of the association.

I now have a LinkedIn profile with 115 contacts, belong to several landscape design oriented groups including two additional APLD groups on that site. There's a live blog feed from here there also.

Landscapedia has been incredible. They listed this blog, making me a featured designer as well as having one of the funkiest forums around. My profile there has gotten over 450 views in the past week alone. Now you might say that's chicken feed, but its 900+ more eyes who've seen my name and work.

Now to support all of that, I've been working on updating my PowerPoint portfolio to upload to Slide Share and will make a PDF CD version to hand out to potential clients. I created a Flickr account to organize and share my images and registered with Twitter.

If you look a bit down and to the right you'll see links to my LinkedIn profile, Technorati favorite options for this blog, and an option to bookmark it on Do it all to help the cause! It's a good thing it's slowing down because all of this takes time, time, time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Design with Discipline, Plant with Abandon

I have always had a fondness for the clean lines of formalism. To my eye its geo-organization looks contemporary and fresh. I know there are a many designers who would rather die than design something with a formally organized space--they think it's rigid, unnatural and outdated. Worst of all, they think it's easy--just make a geometric shape, fill it with some flowers, and presto, it's a formal garden. That way of thinking gives these highly considered garden spaces a bad rap.

Clean lines and unexpected formalism out side of the education building
at the New York Botanical Garden

Formal gardens can be current, relevant and engaging. There are two schools of thought on traditional formality. One is an adherence to a classical garden style updated with a scale suitable to today's architecture and lower maitenance requirements and the other juxtaposes the reverse formalism of today's naturalistic planting style with formal structure to create something altogether different. Parterres can be filled with blowzy perennials which soften the hard lines of these gardens.

The second idea will be demonstrated in the design plan to the left. This garden will be installed as part of the VNA showhouse at Sheep's Run in Rumson, NJ in spring 2009, and has been developed as part of a much larger formal estate plan. This small niche garden will be viewed from a screen porch on the short side, a library and an expansive terrace on the long side. The other two sides open to adjacent the landscape. The axial pathways, circular resting places and focal points are extremely formal and geometric. The four enclosed evergreen parterres will be planted with very loosely structured perennials or annuals.

This type of garden doesn't work for every site, nor does it work for every garden owner. Depending on the plants used, formal gardens can be sustainable. For example, I have used low growing native evergreen grasses and other plants with a compact growth habits as a substitute for the ubiquitous clipped hedging plant. With careful planning, the maintenance of the geometric structure becomes less cumbersome, the garden's need for water can be significantly lowered, and native plants can be incorporated.

Following the same design idea, below is a different plan for an entry to a classic residence in Short Hills, NJ. The owner wanted something that would work with the traditional lines of the home yet echo her inclination to blend contemporary ideas within the traditional framework. The garden also had to be appropriate for a very conservative neighborhood.

The resulting garden (sorry no good pix yet) is deceptively simple. Rectilinear boxwood groups are staggered to provide planting pockets for naturalistic perennials. These informal cottage style perennials are planted in complete symmetry on either side of the entrance underscoring the geometry of the design. The Pennstemon digitalis 'Husker Red', Lirope muscari 'Pee dee Ingot', Veronica spicata 'Sunny Border Blue' and Alchemilla mollis are usually associated with more informal gardens and they worked to meld the two styles together.

This isn't to say that a more controlled formal style isn't also clean and modern. The photo to the right shows an extremely classical entry. The architecture and details are remarkably similar to the residence in the project above and both gardens have different takes on formality. The photo was graciously provided by Chris Heiler at Fountainhead Gardens in Michigan.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Very Cool Web Honor!

Landscapedia has been cool enough to make me their featured designer for December. When fellow APLD member, Michael Franklin, first asked me, I told him I was honored that he even asked me.

I first learned about this online community for gardeners and landscape professionals in summer issue of the 'The Designer', Association of Professional Landscape Designer's quarterly journal.

So, check it out let me know what you think!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kitsch and Pop Culture in the Garden

Manohla Dargis' review of Baz Luhrmann's 'Australia' in the 11/26 issue of The New York Times has got me thinking.

In her discussion of the director's style, she contrasted his work with "art world jesters like Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami, who have appropriated kitsch as a (more or less) legitimate postmodern strategy."

All of the artists mentioned by Ms. Dargis have achieved mainstream success yet, when the same postmodern aesthetic is applied to residential landscape design it is considered a tacky crime against nature. Here, in the northeast, where I work, much of the collective American garden memory is imbued in our colonial cultural orientation. The most common landscape design references are the European models of the previous centuries. Of course there are exceptions, but they are just that.

The idea of a postmodernism's free association and appropriation of ideas/images/icons doesn’t seem to sit well with when it comes to our own backyards. As landscape designers we appropriate ideas and vignettes and combine them all of the time--we just don’t do it with everyday elements of garden kitsch. Even mainstream advertising has embraced the most enduring of the garden’s pop culture icons. Travelocity has successfully used the garden gnome as an authority on world travel—although that concept was used before them in the film Amélie. That a garden gnome is an authority on the exploring the natural wonders of the world is surely, for us, a landscape design paradox.

Now I’m not proposing that every garden has a wishing well, a donkey planter and gnome, but I find it fascinating that we are willing to accept these images in other forms but not in our own. Is it because we are so very serious? Maybe it’s time to lighten up a bit. Maybe our own backyards should help us smile.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Landscape Design as a Second Language

Years ago I lived in France. When I moved there I thought that my high school French would be good enough—until I tried to buy something from a local merchant. I soon discovered that I didn’t speak French at all and that I was excluded from really joining into as much as I wanted to because I didn’t understand the nuances of the language. I very quickly improved my French.

Landscape design has a multi-layered nuanced language of its own complete with colloquialisms and slang. It’s much more than botanical Latin. This language encompasses the technological terms that landscape designers need to communicate to effectively to clients, nurseries, contractors, engineers, and a host of others we interact with on a daily basis.

In the early stages of my landscape design career, I would go enthusiastically to seminars and trade shows and come away shell shocked. There was so much to learn, so many interconnected disciplines with so many terms I didn’t understand. What did B&B mean? What was an ogee? What was rise and run? What does GPH have to do with the waterfall I was designing? That beautiful plant was a Rhododendron what? What do you mean ‘green side up’?

When working with a woodworker on-site the other day, I realized that I had once again, become fluent in another language. I was discussing the construction detail of a pergola using words like ogee, facia, stringer, mortise and header. Then I moved on to the planting crew and at the client's request asked them to order additional plants using the botanical Latin names that now flow easily in my conversations about plants. After I had finished, another contractor, who had been eavesdropping while waiting for me to talk to him, approached me and asked…’How do you know all of that?’ I answered, ‘I have to I’m a landscape designer’.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Current Project Update

Another work in progress—probably the final one until the thaw. The plan, originally included in my 8/27 post, is below and is largely unchanged from the presentation drawing you see below. I used Dynascape color for a down and dirty rendering. I’m not overly fond of the color module of Dynascape despite its ease of use, but clients love the drawings. I can save them as a PDF and email them or print them out full size. Even a very detailed drawing takes less than an hour to color up with this point and click program. I still prefer the look and feel of hand colored drawings, but they're more cumbersome to deal with electronically.

This particular project has been challenging due to the laundry list of elements to be included as well as the stone that we finally chose to use. Since bluestone was not an option, we settled on local granite that is quarried in upper New York state. It's got lovely texture and color and is available both as wallstone and flagging. Below is a photo of the patio seatwall, firepit and stone carpet in progress.

The patio is raised one step up from grade to create a better transition from the house to the steps I'm stood on to take this photo. We ordered custom salt and pepper granite curbing to create that transition. Each 8" wide and 8" tall piece was snapped on three sides to work with the rusticated look of the stone. The dark spots in the photo are dirt...not defects.

I'll continue to post on this one as more progress is made.

Monday, November 24, 2008

After the Fall...

It seems an appropriate title for today's musings. Leaves and the past few days' temperature have fallen as rapidly as the collective psyche's confidence in consumer spending.

Now that the depressing news has been dispatched, I'm moving on to proactive and positive news.

I'm going ahead full throttle with my foray into Web 2.0 marketing techniques. I don't have any expertise and there's a lot out there to learn. I'm a bit late to the party, but the party is still going strong. Like anything else, all of this takes time to set up, become fluent with and maximize for its full potential.

Here's a great tool for landscape designers and anyone else who loves gardens to discover, use and connect with each other:

is an online community, developed by fellow APLD member, Michael Franklin. It has plant databases, portfolio and project development, communication and management tools, a professional directory and lots of cool features for landscape designers to explore and use. It's one of the top 10 applications for the iPhone so you can take your projects with you...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thoughts, ideas and Web 2.0

Like many others, I'm wondering what is next for my small design studio. Although we're successful, I wonder how many people will be wanting new or renovated landscapes next spring.

Well, I've never been one to wait for the other shoe to drop without doing something, I've decided to turn to social networking to promote my 'brand' through the winter months. Because of that decision I've spent the past day or two entering passwords, tags, info and posting photos. I've also reconnected with people--that's the fun part of it all.

So today, I have a Facebook profile page and my business has a separate page. I'll report back on this later when I've figured out how to link to my blog from that page.

So much cyberspace, so little time...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Project Updates...almost...

It's been a while again...actual 3D flesh and blood life takes precedence over blogging...

I've been working on the project I last blogged about. It will be the last one that gets built before the deep freeze. I've been lax about taking photos. Anyway that's not what I wanted to talk about today, but the subject is related.

Being a creative nutcase, I go through periods that force me to evaluate where I'm at and where I want to be. Anything can set off these re-evaluative creative but not necessarily productive moods, and this time it was the rapid fire changes in my personal and professional lives the past three months. Empty nest, empty wallet (related to empty nest by virtue of tuition), and empty retirement account. Add to that nasty stew exhaustion from a very busy season and I came to a semi-stop.

Well I'm back and inside so it's time to blog again and do all those other things that will help move me and my design studio forward.

Talk to you next week some time.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Choices--Stone

Met w/client today to make some final decisions on the stonework for the project I've been blogging about. Here's the decisions for the walkways, patio floor and the seatwalls and garden wall. The details will be charcoal granite cobbles and treads.

Patio floor & Walks (that's Harry the dog's head)

Seat wall and garden wall

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bucking against the bluestone standard

The client for the project mentioned in my previous post hates bluestone. Bluestone and brick are the standard for patios in this area and I've not run into anyone who hates it before. This client wants an antique look for his patio and garden. I went to two stone yards yesterday with this in mind to photograph ideas for him to look at. Here are some wonderful solutions. All are locally sourced, very rustic/antique looking and relatively easy to work with. We are going to be using a 4" cobble detail similar to what is shown in the bottom detail through out the project to define lawn areas, stone 'carpets' and lawn markers in the 'playing field'.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sports from a non sporty designer

I've been working on a challenging project for the past several weeks--a back yard play space/entertaining space/adult enclosed garden for family with 4 active, sports addicted boys. The owner wants everything to look 'old' as if it's been there for a long time. We'll be using repurposed and refinished architecturally salvaged ironwork through out, dry stacked walls and a still to be determined paving stone--he hates bluestone.

I did a down and dirty color rendering. It's not very high res so the detail gets lost. There's a large patio/pergola area that is connected by a walk from the driveway, a formal(ish) sculpture garden and a huge playing field for the boys.

The great news is that I'm working again instead of just pretending to work...I guess the slump is over.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Working through the slump

Having dealt with the designer's version of writer's block off and on for years, I know that the best way for me is to work through the slump. When I'm in this state I'm easily distracted and it takes a while to find the flow. Too much going on around me all the time and major life changes are not helping the distraction/procrastination levels. Work it, that's the only way through the tunnel.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Where have I been?????

I haven't been here, that's for sure. I've been struggling this year with creative angst, a looming empty nest, health issues and life at large. I think I'm coming out the other side now minus a gall bladder, soon to be minus a teenager, and still struggling with the angst. Oh, well. I'll post soon with something much more charming...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Flip Side

Here are some photos of an almost finished project that was started last October. We were lucky with this year's mild (enough) winter and were able to work through much of it.

Views from upper deck kitchen area to lower deck and back again
Mahogany column on bar arbor

This is definately not a sustainable project. The stone deck replaces a wood deck. The project went through several incarnations to get to this point. The kitchen and the firepit (remote controled) were added after the project started. Plants will be in containers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

#24--Last day to finish

We started first and are finishing last. For the past week there's been little but this crazy sprint to the end.

The almost completed rockery

There have been soooo many issues this week that it's hard to even recount them. The most major was the pond builder hurt his back the day before his installation. Our choice was to fill it in or build it ourselves--which I'd never done before. We built it ourselves yesterday and will finish today. I had to go to a pond supplier last night and get some additional supplies--there's a world I know little about!

Others include a tabletop that doesn't fit the base, a light pulled out of it's location for no apparent reason, wires which weren't buried by the lighting installation crew, etc. etc. etc. We'll finish the pool today, clean up and return for special events. It will be good to get back to regular work.

Here's the good news--What makes the rockery 'GREEN'...

Use of recycled materials:

  • All of the boulders were on site and recycled from the original rock garden.
  • Two architectural elements from Fro Heim’s legendary Japanese garden were found in the rock garden and recycled into the patio.
  • Fill for the garden was brought from a local site where a swimming pool was being dug, eliminating the need for that fill to be dumped.
  • All organic waste material from garden construction was taken to a local commercial organic waste recyclingcenter.
  • Pea gravel is used as mulch and does not need to be renewed annually. It also helps to keep the plant roots cooler in the hot sun.
  • Stone dust, a quarry byproduct has been used as pathway material.
  • Stone used to build the reflecting pool was reclaimed from a demolished bridge in Newark.

Reduction in energy needs of a traditional garden:

  • All materials have been sourced locally reducing the need to ship them over long distances decreasing the use of fossil fuels necessary to secure materials.
  • 90% of the plants in the garden are New Jersey grown, the remaining 10% were grown regionally.
  • Plants have been chosen that will thrive in the hot sun with low water requirements.
  • A solar panel provides energy to illuminate the garden at night powering 30 LED fixtures.

Environmentally sensitive construction techniques:

  • When building the garden, the area around the Rockery was left undisturbed. Areas of disturbance were limited to a narrow perimeter around the site.
  • Use of machinery was kept to a minimum and machines were not left running when not in use.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

#23-- Four Days and Counting

The deadline for completion of the gardens is Thursday. Today, hopefully, the pool is being installed in the patio. This week has been so stressful because every hour I spend on this project is an hour that I'm not doing other work (read paying). There's probably a 1/2 day's work to go other than the round reflecting pool.

Other issues this week have included a cracked tabletop and scheduling issues for everyone involved. Overall, the project probably took 6-7 days to build, but it's been done over a 6 week period which makes it seem like FOREVER.

The good news is solar lighting works and we're going to adjust it tonight. The bad news is that all of the pea gravel mulch has to be adjusted around the plants and it hasn't rained in 2 weeks.

Here's an image from yesterday--it really is almost done...

The rolled stone dust path before rolling and the guys working on the patio

Saturday, April 12, 2008

#22--Solar Tower of Power

Today, Michael Deo and crew installed the solar panel and battery that are going to power the lights. In other electrical news we 'found' and unmarked live electrical line while digging for trees. UGH. Here's some not so great photos from today...
The panel being hoisted into its new home.

There's got to be some kind of paradox going on here between the 'green' technology and the cigarettes...

The panel almost set in place. It's actually pretty well concealed by the stone. Some plants will be added next week.

Friday, April 11, 2008

#-21--12 days and counting

With less than two weeks to go, the major boulder work is complete and many of the plants have been purchased and placed. It is becoming a marathon of fits and starts due to the weather and trying to coordinate people to work. The solar equipment is going on top of the mound where it will be hidden from view. The rest of it will be under the still to be constructed patio. There's probably about 2-3 full days of work to go...

Partially planted, the solar tower of power--also known as 'That's a big pile of boulders!'

The nursery shorted us about 60 grasses and other plants so now I have to go on a major hunt to find substitutes. Nothing is ever easy. Here's what it looked like when we were almost done today. The planting is very slow because everything has to be tucked in here and there.

Friday, April 4, 2008

#--20 Fifteen Minutes of Fame?

Even though it's too small to read here (you might be able to click & read though), a regional bimonthly, The Black River Journal, features an article about the Mansion in May showhouse with a sidebar article about the focus on sustainability of the rockery. How cool!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

#19--Muck and Mire

We went back to work today for a bit. It was a muddy mess. I had to give Harry the dirty dog a bath immediately upon return home. There's three weeks to go and actually we need to be done in advance of that.

Yesterday, I went to a favorite perennial grower yesterday in the rain to choose some of the plants. It's odd, but when I design a project for a client I don't have any problem deciding on which plants to use, but for me--I go round and round and round. I did see and buy some great plants. Some are native, some are not. I deviated a bit from my original plan, so here's what I bought:

Ameria rubifola
Euphorbia palustris
Phlox subulata Emerald Cushion Blue
Eragrostis spectabilis
Festuca glauca 'Boulder Blue'
Teucrium hyranicum 'Purple Tails'
Salvia argentea
Aethionema coridifolium
Pycanthemum muticum
Sedums--Acre, rupestre 'Angelina', dasyphllum major, floriferum 'Weihenstepahaner Gold', 'John Creech', 'Czar's Gold', 'Vera Jameson'
Artemesia --whichever looks best at shipping
Mixed thymes
Aurinea saxitilis 'Compactum'
Veronica repens

They also had some beautiful Yuccas...I forgot the Dianthus--damn!

Here's two photos of the 2nd emerging rock pile that will have solar panel hidden from view (by virtue of height) on the top. This one is eliptical in shape and stands about 5' tall. This and a smaller circular pile will look vastly different when they're planted. I hope we have enough stone. The patio stone is arriving on Thursday. I hope it's not raining.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

#18--Stoned Again

A trip to Wicki Stone in Great Meadows today yielded the tumbled flat bluestone for the dry garden as well as stone for another project we're working on. That way we were mixing business with pleasure...

Frank (shown for scale) tagging a 1.5 ton pallet of tumbled patio sized bluestone.
It's not easy to find pieces this size that are tumbled.

These big bad babies will be set in pea gravel to make a random level walking surface.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

#17--Slow Progress with 1 month to go

Projects like showhouses can be of great benefit to everyone involved, but they demand a financial commitment of either hard cash or time. We were supposed to work today getting the vertical stones in place, but paying work has stalled that effort. We still have plenty of time but I don't want to get caught in the last minute rush to finish.

I did order furniture for the dry garden patio.

The top photo shows the table and the bottom the chairs.
Both are from Janus et Cie

I have always loved faux bois furniture and garden elements. Probably not what most would choose, but it's my nod to the Edwardian gardeners who first built the rock garden. I think it will add a softer element the environment while still being rustic. Plants will add to that soft quality. I also ordered some recycled glass boulders to play with.

The solar lighting scheme is inching along with some technical issues that are slowly getting resolved.

Monday, March 17, 2008

#16--Greenhouse crawl

Early this morning I went to one of the local production greenhouses to see what he's got growing for spring. This particular place is $1.00 cheaper per gallon pot than anyone else. He's got some specialties--rosemary, sempervivums and sedums in particular. He's not real big on labeling so you have to kind of know what you're looking at. Things get labeled when they're big, so the plug trays aren't necessarily labeled. It's a wild place where you walk in, pull your own order and if everyone is busy you count it up and leave a check. Not many folks do business like this anymore.

Here's two photos of the hens & chicks...It's a lot of motherships and their satellites! I love this tough old fashioned plant.

Notice not a single label anywhere...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

#15--Creative Angst

I know myself well enough at this point to understand that part way through any project is the most difficult time for me creatively. I begin to question my original decisions and look my work with a harsh critical eye. The project at the Mansion in May is no exception. I am currently agonizing over the remaining rock placements, the path, the dry garden, the furniture choices, the lamp choices and the plants, plants, plants. This is part of my process, I understand that, but it doesn't make is any easier.

I got a boost from the press preview because all of my peers were definitely intrigued by what we had done so far. There weren't many press, but many of the other designers were there.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

#14--Rock Star

The arch was finished today in anticipation of the 'in progress' press junket at the show house tomorrow. Many people were working today trying to get something done for the press to cover. We've been kind of on our own for the past few days and we're the only landscape design group with anything major done. It wasn't really planned, it was just when we could get everyone together to do it.

We also started the secondary stonework but didn't get as far with that.

Here's some photos of our rock stars--the arch and its creator, Dan Lupino.
Adjusting the keystone before dropping it into place
Dan, knocking out the temporary supports as his heart beats faster and faster.
Rock Star!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

#13-- Rock On

Dan Lupino started building the boulder arch today with Frank Scheppe's crew. It's a big statement and we wanted it done before the first press junket on Friday. Here's some photos...more as things progress.
Dan setting the first support stone--this was ultimately switched out for another

Setting temporary supports for the arch as it's built

The original support stone becomes the actual second stone

The arch by afternoon