Saturday, December 27, 2008
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.
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
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
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
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.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
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
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
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
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 delicous.com. 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
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
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
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 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
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
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:
Landscapedia 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
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
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
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.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
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
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
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
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
- 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
grown, the remaining 10% were grown regionally. New Jersey
- 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.
- 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
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...
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Friday, April 4, 2008
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
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:
Phlox subulata Emerald Cushion Blue
Festuca glauca 'Boulder Blue'
Teucrium hyranicum 'Purple Tails'
Sedums--Acre, rupestre 'Angelina', dasyphllum major, floriferum 'Weihenstepahaner Gold', 'John Creech', 'Czar's Gold', 'Vera Jameson'
Artemesia --whichever looks best at shipping
Aurinea saxitilis 'Compactum'
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
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I did order furniture for the dry garden patio.
Both are from Janus et Cie
The solar lighting scheme is inching along with some technical issues that are slowly getting resolved.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Here's two photos of the hens & chicks...It's a lot of motherships and their satellites! I love this tough old fashioned plant.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
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
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.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Setting temporary supports for the arch as it's built
The original support stone becomes the actual second stone