A few years ago I read a paper about how grasses ‘moved’ to music, then I read about the effects of harmonious sounds on plant growth.
Why do I mention this, well a few weeks ago we were talking about Tesla and his discoveries, which led us to talking about vibrations, sound waves, force fields etc., then a strange thing happened.
Ann and I interviewed a wonderful lady landscape architect Jan Johnsen, about her new book “Heaven is a Garden” we talked a little about how at a very young age she discovered during a science fair competition – which against all the odds she won – the effects early morning birds singing have on plants. The sound waves, which are similar to a violin stimulate a plant to open its stomata taking in carbon-dioxide to help it grow quicker.
Jan has written a new book called Heaven is a Garden, it’s a really fascinating and informative read. Jan has ‘connected’ the dots so as to speak, between the natural world and our emotions. How the Four Winds are important when laying out a space,the careful use of curves, and my favorite Golden Rectangles and the Divine Proportion. – Phi is the mathematical proportion ( 1 : 1.618) we see in every natural form. Using this proportion ensures a sense of harmony in any outdoor space that contains it. I’ve always tried to use these proportions in my designs.
Jan then talks about Trees – natures rechargers as she puts it… The Celts called it shunnache, the Hindu tree devas, and Greek dryads…the Japanese consider the health giving properties of trees the basis of a medical therapy called ‘ forest bathing’ .
Jan then discusses the magnetic attraction in a Zen garden – rocks in these gardens reflect a deep understanding of the geomagnetic properties of stone and its impact on a place.
Ann and I are going to produce a series of short daily articles that highlight
“A rare moment of peace in the perfect haven of a garden brings us renewed harmony with nature”
Today’s is a roof garden.
Some years ago, well alright 30 years ago we were asked to design and create a roof garden for a packaging company,
We had always designed to a module which enables you to replicate easily. In this case we took molds of rock faces and made some fiberglass containers that were deep enough to act as planters. This extra depth enabled the plants to really take root and grow, it also prevented the roots from interfering with the roof’s drainage system
Ann and I were sitting down planning a new season of information shows, that we are calling ‘Gardenesque’ on our ‘Growing Trends’ podcast ( you can find us on iTunes) when an interesting question popped up.
‘How long should a garden makeover last?’
There are really two parts to this:
The first is how much durability should we design and build into a project?
I recall many years ago, when we first started our ‘Designer Drives’ division, using the now almost standard dry lay method, we consulted the manufacturers and settled on a standard that was expected to last 2 million yup 2 million axle loads – that’s a lot of traffic in case you wonder.
In the case of a brick drive as above, it would also depend on climatic conditions ( although this drive is built with an engineering brick so basically impervious to normal cold conditions), as well as vehicle actual weight ( again this drive should withstand easily a 20 ton load).
I think we had two occasions where a client called to ask what they should do because the drive had deflected about 20mm ( 3/4 inch) in an area, we simply lifted and relaid the area without charge for the client.
So for a dry lay paving the construction is likely to outlast the clients .
A mortared terrace like the first picture or a mortared brick area such as below is a little different.
The most likely area to fail first is the pointing, which by definition is a weaker area than the bricks, here we are using a 23kn second hard stock brick, with a 1:1:3 cement,sharp sand, soft sand mix. My feeling is that it should comfortably last 20 years. After which it might need some re-pointing.
This leads on to the second part.
After how many years would a project be considered old enough to change?
This timber step detail is definitely a point in case, being made from old sleepers that contain among other things tar – something to avoid in today’s garden landscape.
The answer would most likely be when the client wanted a change or a new owner was looking for something different.
Would this then mean completely changing the entire area, or perhaps utilising some of the materials in a newer look, particularly if they were ‘natural materials’ such as natural bricks, and stone which tends to last for a great many years?
This white trellis, terracotta pot of herbs and brick paving was completed 30 years ago, it’s not really that out of place today is it?
So now the question becomes, over the past twenty five or so years what has really changed in how we approach a landscape project – is it just where we live and work?
Here we have what I would considered an ageless feature, which being in the UK is probably subject to a preservation order. I can only imagine how much this wrought iron and stone feature would cost to build today – that;s if you could find the wrought iron and someone to ‘lead’ caulk the uprights into the stone !
Is it the availability of skilled labour?
Or is it the availability of new tried and tested materials or methods?
This very old ‘knapped flint’ wall requires some age old skills to build, not least because it needs a lime mortar ( one that doesn’t contain cement) for it to work, this is because the flints are impervious to water and without some movement in the joints the wall would crack.
The flints are not really suitable for many of today’s landscapes as they are very sharp and likely to harm someone who casually ‘knocks’ against them.
One area that we probably do need to keep for many more years are mature trees, although I’ve seen some pretty large specimens moved.
I guess as always it is in the hands of the client as to what they would like to achieve, and for us to ‘solve the practical problems’ that may arise…
Which is why for almost 40 years I can honestly say it’s been really good fun……… what say you?
I’ve been really surprised at all the positive comments the site has been generating from everyone – Thank you all so much, it’s fun to write, improves my awful spelling, maybe my grammar as well ?
You can let me know on that one !
Some of you asked if I would make it possible to donate on this site, I’ve tried to avoid that, as well as adverts as I was trying to be impartial, with the content.
As you may know we do have a fun internet radio show, where we interview folks from around the globe about their Gardens & Landscapes.
When we started this radio show the aim was to find interesting people who had a passion for their Garden or Landscapes. Little did we know what would happen. In just a few months we have an audience stretching across the globe in 43 countries.
We soon added a web site www.grotrends.com to provide details of schedules, information on guests and sponsors, and a growing information area with details of techniques, ideas and examples of projects.
The show Growing Trendsconcentrates on the clients, the designers, the creators, the maintainers and the experts that help them, we would welcome any suggestions on who we should contact – the schedule is filling quickly, which brings me on to how you can help.
We have two one hour shows a day seven days a week, with a little funding help we can update the interviews more often, and tell the story of you, or your friends work, or your garden or landscape.
Can you help us in just a small way ? Contributing just $5 ?
Here’s the link to StartSomeGood the crowdfunding source we are using for this fund raising campaign
Growing Trends is fun, friendly, informative, interesting, amusing & entertaining.
This one acre pond has a water change almost once per hour !
A final interesting project from just outside New York. This fully structural gravity wall is almost 27ft high !
Note the access is less than 4ft !
We really would appreciate your support, so we can interview maybe you, or your colleagues or friends, across the globe – thank you all for your support & comments.
It’s been 40 years since I first grappled with a traditional planting plan. All those lovely latin names – like Fagus sylvatica, Fritillaria meleagris, etc.,
In the drawing office, it was a matter of using a thick graph paper so the electric eraser didn’t make lots of little holes in the paper as we repositioned plants, or corrected the many mistakes or changes in mind. Sometimes we used a plant stamp, then labelled by hand. As you can see interpreting the labels isn’t easy.
The whole process was time consuming, difficult to make into a quality finished drawing.
This next version once CAD was introcuded is a combination of hand drawn and CAD drawn, easier to interpret, but still not easy to set out.
On site, in those days these were cumbersome beasts, usually printed on dyeline, so it was dark, difficult to read with scribblings and such in the margin, fragile, and ruined once wet. Wrapping in plastic sort of helped, cutting into smaller sections then laminating was better..
Wielding one of these around on a damp morning picking out the plants, with the planting foreman, and then placing took for ever.
Trying to mark off those plants you had placed and then moving on to the next batch, with a few areas missing….
For some odd reason even though the nursery managed to price all the plants, they never seemed to be able to deliver them all to site completely in one go, or even to the company yard, so the whole process was both time consuming, expensive and worse annoying to a client who by now had had enough of three or five members of staff working in what was their space.
I hear a gentle nod of agreement or perhaps sigh of frustration?
It got so bad that we used to change our standard estimate to something like..
” To carefully prepare ground, incorporating peat and fertilizer at each planting station, to supply & plant in ‘xxx’ number of flowering & ornamental shrubs, carefully watering in on completion, then applying a 50 mm depth of planting mulch”
Here’s a plan without specifics..in this case a veggie garden area.
This gave us a contractual escape clause, but wasn’t what we wanted to portray to our clients. We even tried to restrict the planting selection to plants we knew we could obtain, but designers & clients have pet likes and dislikes being restrained to just a few varieties caused all manner of objections!
We even tried an even more generic look – with areas just designated for planting.
We also found most of our clients actually really wanted to do some of the work themselves, the idea of planting was often the most appealing, as the ground was prepared, the turf laid and all the ‘hard’ structural stuff was completed. The feeling was that just a bit of planting wouldn’t take long and they could then say ‘we did this ourselves’….
There was one small issue, understanding the ubiquitous planting plan. Setting out plants in the damp, with a tape, scale rule and a large piece of paper was a task best left to the experts.
We solved this problem with our Weekend Planting Grid. A really easy to understand ‘garden bedding system’. Today we even have this simple system patented, it’s even incorporated into one of the more easy to use CAD programs.
The system cuts setting out times in half, for anyone, acts as a landscape fabric or paper mulch, reducing weeds and watering and makes the whole process as easy as 1,2,3 ! – costing only marginally more than just a landscape fabric.mulch.
No longer do you need a setting out plan, just a plant position is all that is required.
It makes it very easy to place the plants in position, so now any combination of annual, bulb, corm, perennial, shrub, even tree can be used with little risk of them being placed incorrectly. In fact there is no need for a planting plan at all ! Just a series of grids will do. The fabric is left to act as a landscape mulch mat, preserving water and reducing weeds, all it requires is a 2 inch layer of mulch to keep attractive.
If you use the CAD program you can design your own arrangement , create them with photorealistic images and then print out their positions. The CAD program automatically generates the grid layouts, positions the plants, prints out a planting position list, even prints out a plant label with position for the plant pots, then generates a quotation and plant care notes – amazing really !
Difficult to set out designs are now easy…
Complicated Herb and Veggie gardens are a breeze. With positions shown on a simple patented grid system.
Even more fun is the simple PicaGardi that you can download and use it’s available on the iTunes store, Google Play and Amazon
We are planning a Growing Trends radio show just about design and designers soon, we would love to hear your comments, suggestions & ideas.
Today, I thought some technical stuff was in order.
I’ll try and make it interesting, no doubt you will let me know ?
I spent almost as much time as a Quantity Surveyor as I did a Landscape Architect & Contracts Manager… the worst part was as you grow a business you have to give up various aspects of the work, allowing others to do it instead.
The secret is always find someone better than you to do the job you are relinquishing…
Then catch them doing it right and praise them, whilst simultaneously stopping them from doing it wrong, without to much rancour.
Some years ago, just after I graduated I found myself working in the minor engineering and technical department for a large London Boroughs Parks Department – today you would be called a Landscape Architect, but in those days the Parks Managers wanted folks with hands on experience. This meant we not only knew how to design, but we also knew how to build and even better we knew how to manage the project, including the labour, right down to the work study times it took to build a specific item. We looked after Schools, Parks, Playgrounds, Golf Courses, Verges, Allotments, Open Spaces, Housing Sites and the odd Airfield.
I always wondered why we frantically completed a valuation of work ( right down to the allowed minutes of time each element took) every Monday morning , then rushed the ‘bonus’ sheets over to the treasurers department on Tuesday morning so the staff could be paid their bonuses on time each Friday – hourly paid staff were paid weekly in England ( us salaried staff were paid monthly, we even worked flexi time with every other Monday off, those were the days as they say !).
In later years these standard minute values that had so painstakingly been obtained turned out to be especially useful when pricing large scale contracts, as they were actual times not priced rates.
What was more interesting though was they enabled someone to build up a time and thus rate for all manner of projects. So we could accurately figure out how long a BBQ would take to build for instance, or how long 5 tonnes of tarmac would take 3 men to prepare, lay, roll and clean up.
When semi automatic pricing came along in the form of access based databases it was easy to ‘plug’ these times into the program to use for pricing projects.
This worked great for projects where you weren’t tendering for a job, as you were usually able to produce a fair price, quickly and accurately.
The projects that went out to tender were much more of a lottery, as depending on who was pricing and why, often dictated how the pricing went… No one minds losing a tender by say 1-2% and if everyone has a similar price. It would suggest that the bill of quantities , drawings and specifications are usually going to be an accurate reflection of the work in hand, without any unforeseen errors.
What is intensely irritating from a contracting point of view is when you carefully price a project and then lose by more than 15%, I’ve often wondered why during the assessment phase a tendering body doesn’t add up all the tender values, then divide by the number of tenderers and use that mean figure as the basis for the work – we found that more often than not when we did this in the parks department that was the final cost of the project. I believe the Dutch usually take the second lowest price as this makes it almost impossible to ‘buy’ a job by underpricing !
One of the early ‘tricks’ we learned, was how to be asked to price the better projects if we eliminated the ‘snagging or punch list’. The client put us to the top of their use list. More often than not our site staff ‘snagged’ as they went along, this saved us so much time we gave them a bonus.
Another trick was to put the projects up for a national award – we were fortunate to receive 17 national awards over the years, they were great for staff moral , even better for our clients who then asked us to price some fabulous projects.
We have always tried to be professional, to do the best job we could for a client, avoiding confrontation as much as possible, sure we negotiate hard, but not too aggressively. – the saying ‘Under promise and over perform’ is a great way to work.
The pointing above is typical of our approach, when it comes to the finish it is essential to maintain a clean consistent finish, it looks good, keeps everyone happy..
The real pearls of wisdom are ” Quality is remembered long after the price has been paid ”
Have you visited one of your old projects recently?
Ever wondered how a landscape project is conceived, designed, planned and then implemented?
We have created quite a few over the years, so we thought we would attempt a trial of one here that we did some years ago.
There is an ulterior motive for this, Ann & I would like to attempt to follow a project from ‘Concept to Completion’ on our radio show ‘Growing Trends’
This project started because the owners, a young couple, were starting a family, and wanted the swimming pool that dominated their back garden removed, partly for safety reasons and partly because as you can see it didn’t leave much space for a user friendly garden.
The first step was to survey the garden, in this case we needed to take fairly accurate levels to enable us to quantify the amount of work to do.
This has a number of benefits ;-
When working in tight areas , there was only a side gate access, it is very wise to design in such a way as the least amount of material is taken away or brought in to complete a project – all that hauling is wasting the clients budget.
Secondly it is jolly hard to accommodate too much material when the entire site is being worked on.
With such restricted access the design whilst needing to be imaginative, had to be practical and effective.
The solution was to use the existing access path level as the main level, demolish the pool surrounds, break out the base of the pool, to allow for drainage, then backfill in layers the excavated pool , paving and surplus material to bring the levels up to create a much larger patio.
We even salvaged some of the brick wall to mix in with the new london stocks to create the imposing planter that acts as a statement as you walk around the side of the house to the rear garden.
The new paving extends all the way around the house to give continuity, we added a stock brick edge to the paving so we could link the low black stained timber retaining walls, the raised patio diaz, and the black stained timber edged step to the rest of the garden.
The stained timber edge is protected with polythene sheeting and has a gravel pressure release drain set behind, to prevent water incursion onto the light coloured patio stones, which would stain very easily otherwise.
There is now a much enlarged patio area ideal for young children to play on, which is both safe and secure.
The step detail is modulised to provide continuity and ease of use when walking on, planting the edges will over time soften the strong straight lines and allow the planting to seamlessly flow into the step area.
The steep banks are now lost in the planting, supported by the low stained timber wall, creating a feature rather than an aftercare issue as before.
The completed project, is much easier to maintain, has a huge amount of safe space, opens the garden up, into an interesting useable space, for play, entertaining , whilst giving more light to the inside of the house and a feeling of spaciousness.
You can hear Ann & Chris talking to garden owners and the experts that help them on Growing Trends ( just click this link) it will send you to our internet radio show.
If you have an interesting garden or story to tell do drop us a line, we will get back to you in a few days.
We would love to hear from you..
Ann & Chris
Alternatively take a look at our web site at www.grotrends.com it’s packed with helpful hints.
There are a number of reasons why, let’s start with this picture of a French Restaurant not that far from Lyon.
Natural materials, always weather well, they tend not to lose their colours so quickly, being much less affected by UV light. The wood for instance changes colour slowly, blending into the other colours, with a softer patina. The natural stone stays basically the same colour apart from the addition of dirt and moss etc., the rendering isn’t really natural, it was something started in the 1950’s for some reason in villages throughout France, some have returned to a more natural stone look by hacking the rendering off, others as here have allowed the rendering to weather and blend in.
Of course it helps to have the walls half covered in virginia creeper, with the windows festooned with trailing geraniums. The over all effect is soft on the eye and pleasing.
When selecting materials for a project, it’s always a good idea to see what natural ones are available first.
All the materials in the picture above are ‘natural’ as you can see they have a softer look to them.
They ‘weather’ in much better and seem to last longer.
This beautiful driveway was constructed with natural bricks to form the rain water gulley run offs – it actually took three bricks to form the channel.
The top wearing surface is a double coated natural dried Pea Gravel that has been applied with fibreglass rovings and a special binder to form an impervious surface. Surfaces like this need to be re applied every 5 years or so to keep up appearances.
The beauty of such a surface is that the gravel isn’t likely to ‘fly around’ much, and the surface lasts longer because it is more or less water proofed.
This attractive Gravel and Granite surface, will basically never change colour, it will always looks warm and inviting, sure it will need some aftercare to keep weeds and encroaching plants at bay, but it will be the same in twenty years time as it is today.
This secret garden, is really easy to construct, its basically larger gravel rolled into the soil, with stepping stone flat rocks leading to a a stone bench with a small statue acting as the main focal point… a great place to listen to Growing Trendsour downloadable internet radio show.
Here we used a low natural stone rockery with a low bridge across a pathway around the garden, as a starting point for an artificial stream, adding differing sized stones and rocks into the stream bed to create a natural appearance.
We will be having an interview with an ex Head Gardener of one of England’s great Estates shortly.
Do listen to Growing Trendsand let us know what you would enjoy hearing about.
When Ann & I started ‘Growing Trends’ the web site, blog and radio show, we weren’t sure how to engage all of you. It seems a little wit, the odd anecdote and should I say a touch of knowledge has helped us enormously.
In a very short time we have built an audience of readers, listeners and fellow Horticulturists, they have come from :-
United States, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, Columbia, Germany ,United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Hungary, Denmark, Romania, France, Netherlands, Jamaica,Barbados, Egypt, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Republic of Korea,
We are just stunned… thank you all so much. Please if you have time send us a picture of your favourite space, garden or landscape with a few notes, we would love to hear from you.
Today, as we have a holiday weekend here in the USA, it seems that our blog should be a little in this spirit, so I’m going to try and find a bunch of pictures of projects we’ve completed along with pictures of unusual items used in the urban landscape that perhaps some have not seen before.. hope you enjoy them..
So let’s start with a really big tree being moved, it was one of many on this site, weighing some 600 tons and approximately 60ft tall!
One of my favorites a flower clock in Geneva, Switzerland.
This one was ‘snapped’ in Amsterdam, it’s an old cannon, now serving as a vehicle bollard !
The next is fairly common – creating a bubble fountain using an old natural millstone wheel.
This method completely softens a brick pier and makes it look ageless – we used a single canted brick on each corner, and added a double layer of tiles ‘Creasing Tile’ before the soldier course, the resultant ‘shadow line creates interest and helps the wall to ‘weather’ much better.
This one is much harder to do, it’s a circular patio of natural setts – they tend to be slightly different sizes. When laid like this, in a circular pattern creates a feeling of movement and space, in what is a fairly small area.
When you have a natural random wall it is always hard to create a ‘finish’ , we solved this by bonding a brick coping to match the drive brick edge.
What is really interesting is, if you look really carefully you can see the brick coping running into the driveway as the wall ends, this looked so good, the red tarmac ( which is quite expensive) helps with the overall effect.
Many years ago, we needed to find away to create ‘Raised planters’ on a roof that were exceedingly light weight, contained and yet attractive. We think we succeeded with these specially made by us artificial rock faced grp planters. – we won an award for the project , which was fun !
Some 30 years ago we started building gravity walls with ‘TimberGrid’ , then we thought let’s add some plants, it worked great..!
It wasn’t long before they started to ‘Grow’ well you know if you try hard enough it becomes a ‘Trend ‘
Sometimes it’s fun to experiment, so here we came up with a ‘curved’ wall
The Victorians, were an inventive bunch, they invented and developed so many things, today we seem to spend more and more time with new technical inventions rather than try and solve the many issues facing us with the environment.
Perhaps its simply we do not spend enough time outside to enjoy the sun, stars,landscape and the water?
Going back to the Victorians, they have been credited with developing the regimented summer bedding displays, they developed huge estate layouts with ponds or should I say lakes, they were instrumental in cut formal lawns, I think Ransomes was one of the first with a horse drawn mower?
What they also did was include vegetables within the garden landscape,as did the Germans and French, it’s a great way to grow veggies and herbs as it is almost invisible, yet so effective and pleasing to grow your own.Plus invariably the food is both fresh & free of those pesky pesticides.
Have you included herbs & veggies in your design? – a question for your landscape designer perhaps?
Our first interview for our Growing Trends radio show,was with a couple that do just that, – we are due to return shortly to see how the fruits of their labour has gone..
Their garden has between 350 – 400 Trees,Shrubs, Perennials, Annuals, and at least 75 Herbs & Veggies. It still has this beautiful pool to relax in !
Even if you only have a small area it is very beneficial to grow say just a pot or two of herbs, not only are they fresh, they keep on producing throughout the season, (saving lots of money) all you need to do is water, and take any seed heads off as they form.
For the more adventurous a larger area can be created, this requires more commitment, the rewards are much greater with more produce grown and the satisfaction of growing your own food.
Of course you could get completely carried away, employ a full time team and develop a world class garden, that attracts thousands of visitors a year.. feeding an awful lot of folks into the bargain !
How do I start ? I hear you say. Well the best way is always start in a conservative way, the easiest is probably to start with herbs, which will grow throughout the growing season, once thats mastered, try a quick growing veggie such as lettuce, it has a short cycle and is relatively easy to grow. If you don’t want the hassle of growing from seed initially, it’s possible today to buy ‘plugs’ that are pre started and likely to produce quite quickly, then progress from here, adding interesting varieties of say garlic, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes….
This garden was planted just 2 weeks earlier with pre started plants. The trick if you haven’t grown many plants yourself is to start small, then as you find that the weather and conditions are unpredictable, you can try a more adventurous approach. Remember though that even hardened gardeners find that some plants some years just do not flourish as expected.
The rewards are so worth the effort, producing your own food, saving money and having a healthy outdoor activity.
Ann & I will be talking to some new gardeners, along with some seasoned,experienced gardeners in the next few weeks… the trick is always to have fun and experiment just a little !
We would love to hear your suggestions, comments or requests….and we would really appreciate a like on Facebook !
Ann & Chris
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