Modern Masters

Along the coast of Maine as we are readying for Christmas, our outdoor cultivation has come to a screeching halt as the ground is covered by a foot and a half of snow. To add emphasis to this being the time of the shortest days of the year, a half inch of ice fell the past couple of days, making a nice, preserving crust on the snow.

Ulf Nordfjells utstÑllning frÜn 2007 GîteborgFor a gardener, this is a time of planning, organizing, and preparation. For me, I am in search of a theme for next year’s garden designs at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. We are redesigning our entry walk, areas around our entry lawn, plus seasonal displays throughout the gardens. In looking for inspiration, I start running through the usual candidates: Victorian carpet bedding schemes, Beatrix Farrand with her free-flowing perennials, Roberto Burle Marx and his massive flows of bright colors, and Piet Oudolf’s visions of grass inflorescences dancing with salvias and alliums.

Ulf nordfjellThe problem is that all of this has been done before. Most gardens are looking to replicate one of these designers or some variant of their designs. Part of the reason I came to Maine was to be at a young garden where we could do things differently. Part of doing this is to learn which plants will survive and which plants will struggle. I learned last summer that tropicals that thrive in the south and mid-Atlantic, will sit around like a dozing dog all summer, only to peak in mid-September as the summer crowds have moved back to their occupations which afford them the ability to summer in Maine.

Long-story made short, I started thinking about what kind of home interiors I like the best and was drawn to the furniture of Hans Wegner. If money were no object and we did not have 4 kids, our home would be an assemblage of Scandinavian modern design. Aha, that is when I began searching for Scandinavian garden design. We share somewhat similar climates and short summers, I thought, so the plants and designs might be worth investigating.

2007 Chelsea

Right now, I am poring through the gardens of Ulf Nordfjell. Nordfjell has a simple aesthetic with clean lines and blocks of plants. The colors are subtle and used with restraint, when used at all. Like a Wegner wishbone chair, the look is easily understood yet relaxed and comfortable. Nordfjell entered gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show in London in 2007 and 2009. I saw his garden from 2007 in person and thought it was brilliant. All of the other gardens seemed to be competing with one another to have the largest structures and plants just appeared to be filling in the gaps. Nordfjell’s garden was structured around the plants. From what I recall it used green, white, and a bit of purple for color. Not the garish combinations of his competitors. He won a gold medal for this garden only to come back in 2009 to take a Best in Show award.

Ulf Daily Telegraph

The challenge in the coming weeks is to figure out how to take this inspiration and make it fit our existing context. The lines of our gardens are more organic and curving. Our guests are drawn more to color than shades of green, grey, and white. I will continue looking through his designs, reading about his inspirations, and then coming up with plant combinations that are our own.

How about you? How do you design? Who are your inspirational designers? What cool things are you thinking of trying to pull off for 2014?

-Rodney

Images: englishgarden.se, Shoot Gardeningtradgardsformgrysigurdsdotter

Robert Tatin Museum Normandy Francy by Julie Gibbons via www.studiogblog.com
Robert Tatin Museum Normandy Francy by Julie Gibbons via www.studiogblog.com I’m off this afternoon on a SouthernCalifornia adventure, but before I head out I have a something I have been meaning to share with you for a few weeks.

Robert Tatin Museum Normandy Francy by Julie Gibbons via www.studiogblog.com

It is the garden and outdoor museum created by artist Robert Tatin.   Located near Laval in Normandy, France, the place is open to visitors who want to explore the world of this noted sculptor.

Robert Tatin Museum Normandy Francy by Julie Gibbons via www.studiogblog.com

After a long career as a ceramics artist and decorator, Tatin started the project in 1962, at age sixty. For 21 years, he worked on the property, assisted by his wife Lise, to create an environment that reflected his life experiences and view of the world.

Robert Tatin Museum Normandy Francy by Julie Gibbons via www.studiogblog.com

Everything was created to share Tatin’s personal philosophies.  There are the Pipes of Reason, the Army of Souls and my favorite, the Fairie Queen of Creativity (I love that title and want to make it my own!).  The collection is quite extensive.  These images are all by Julie Gibbons on Flicker — she has many more in her stream that you can enjoy.  Additionally you can find out more at the museums website.

Robert Tatin Museum Normandy Francy by Julie Gibbons via www.studiogblog.com

images: trip advisor and julie gibbons via flickr creative commons license.

Please accept my apologies if this might be a bit too much to look at on a monday morning.  The idea of this art is just too cool though. I’ve mentioned a few times that I think that Grafitti is a bit of a trend for gardens – certainly is to the natural backdrop for many urban growers. (This post and this one are about the trend of grafitti).  Artist INSA has taken grafitti to a whole new level.  It is called Gif-itti.
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Gif-itti involves the artist painting the mural upwards of four different times, photographing it, and creating a .gif with the images — before he leaves the site with a final painting. (see above and the final below).   
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This got me in the mood for spring as much as the melting snow.  You may recall that I have been wanting to hire an artist to paint the garden side of my barn (something like this).  Well last night as I was pulling this post together…all this coolness prompted me to also contact an artist who might be able to help me….the ball is officially in motion.  I am so pleased!

INSA grafitti art

This piece (above and below – which covers the entire exterior of XL Recordings) is a collaboration with artist Stanley Donwood called Hollywood Dooom to celebrate the release of a new album for Atoms for Peace.   From INSA:

My challenge was to take two very static items, a beautiful lino-cut and a less beautiful box of a building, and bring them to life. After a week of sweating in the Los Angeles late summer sun re-painting the whole building several times I got there. Animated as a continuous GIF it may only live online but some would argue that is where most now live there lives…

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You can see more of INSA’s gif work and other pieces on his blog.

images from INSA

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I find the idea behind Jerry Sohn’s desert garden rooms unbelievably inspiring.   Wanting a place in the vast landscape of the Mojave Desert  (where he owns a small house),  he commissioned Architect Arata Isozaki to create rooms in this place — one for each season.

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Jerry likes to sleep outdoors with his family and enjoy the night sky and coolness of the evenings in the desert.   So the project started with the idea of creating a place where they could enjoy the landscape but be up and away from snakes and other wildlife.  What evolved was three ‘rooms’, one each, for Summer and Winter, and then a Third to enjoy the Spring and Autumn seasons.

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Each of the ‘rooms’ is designed to highlight the Sun and Moon at that time of the year, as well provide the best accomodation for the season.  The winter room is enclosed in glass to protect from the elements and the summer room is a beautiful and sculptural open concrete platform.

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In addition to the rooms, the garden has other artistic installations (Jerry is an art Collector) — this one, Circle of Japanese Fishing Floats by Richard Long is my favorite.

japanese fishing float circle landscape art by Richard Long
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Read more about the design here: Domus.

images from Domus and Iwan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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I have some interesting tidbits to share with you this morning.  About a year ago I met a woman who works at a local university who is a seed hunter.  I was instantly entranced by the way she talked and the wonderful plant hunting adventures she undertakes.  Her planting hunting awesomeness infused everything she did…and she frequently said things like ‘blah blah…”when I am on expedition”…blah blah’ and to be honest (as much as she had perfectly interesting other things to say), all I kept hearing was ‘seeds….on expedition…seeds….on expedition…’.  At some point my travel lusting self actually came right out to this new person and (probably inappropriately) asked her if I could come along sometime – I just couldn’t help myself.  She graciously kinda-sorta said maybe and I have clung to that one-day hopefulness since.

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On a separate note…have I ever mentioned that I have a Martha Stewart Magazine collection whose origins predate all the other significant relationships in my life.  The collection has travelled to England with me (and back – do you have any idea the cost of international shipping?).  It is excessive and I know it…but even though I don’t currently subscribe (I read it at the library), I can’t let these oldies but goodies go.   I know it is a little weird but I had a huge Martha Stewart fascination when I was a teen and young adult and the things I learned from those pages still inform some of my design and living choices today.  My magazine subscriptions moved on…but my Martha marveling never really ended.

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Have you ever read Tomorrow’s Garden: Design and Inspiration for a New Age of Sustainable Gardening (by Stephen Orr)….It is definitely on my list of  top 10 garden related books in the last 10 years.  Stephen is a great garden writer and thinker whose work I greatly admire.

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Lest you think this post is just a bunch of random thoughts…(this all comes together, I promise)…you can imagine my enthusiastic response when the Martha Stewart magazine people asked if I wanted to share a recent story that they put together for their January issue.   It is about Dan Hinkley – the pre-eminent living plant hunter and his garden, Windcliff,  in Indianola, Washington.  Stephen Orr wrote it.   And it is all you might expect from Martha’s team; great writing, interesting subject, gorgeous photography , fantastic magazine layouts, and bottom-line-better than all the rest classy style.

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These are just a few of the images but if you, like me, want to know more…you will have to get your hands on the January 2013 issue.  In the mean time I am pinning my favorites (that pale-purple Verbena bonariensis with bold stands of red cannas is going straight onto my Pinterest board called Breathtaking Plant Combos) and I am lusting after those Rosa sweginzowii hips and researching some of Dan’s latest introductions to see what might be exciting additions to my own garden.

january 2013 martha stewart living cover

images by Peden + Munk. Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living magazine. Copyright © 2013.

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This short video about design really got me thinking…about design, my garden, and just about everything I do.  I thought it particularly good for garden-makers. (p.s. the best parts are in the second half)

scorched wood art from Stuart Frost

I seem to never fail to find so many works of Environmental Art to be supremely inspirational.   Stuart Frost has created a series of works across the globe with some in Albuquerque, NM, some Taipei and this one (above) in Denmark that are so exciting for a pattern lover like me.

The works are created by scorching the wood of un-living trees.  These Elms, Cottonwoods and even bamboo are adorned with stunning patterns that are eye-catching yet perfectly at home in their surroundings.

I can’t begin to imagine the technique that must go into creating such masterpieces, but the idea of scorching patterns on fencing, wood benches, or other garden elements is swimming in my head.

cottonwood tree scorched wood art from Stuart Frost

scorched bamboo art from Stuart Frost

See more in the gallery as well as make a visit to Stuart’s Website where more of his amazing environmental artwork can be enjoyed.

Images from Stuart Frost.