Vertical Gardens

Heronwood

Instead of writing about a particular plant or plant group, this week I thought I would talk about one of my favorite horticultural pruning techniques. The first time someone mentioned to me an “aerial hedge,” I envisioned puffy clouds of boxwoods floating through the air. But that would be weird and strange (like this week’s episode of Mad Men – yes, I am a big fan). Then, on a trip to Hampton Court, I saw a screen made from a quadruple cordon of hornbeam trees. A cordon is literally “cable” or “line” in French. It is also a horticultural term for a horizontal line of a topiary. As for these trees at Hampton Court, the hornbeam trees were growing out of a hedgerow of Taxus. The hornbeams were trained into four cordons and then tied together to make a big screen around the parking lot. It was beautiful and precise. Right then and there, I fell in love with the concept.

aerial hedge versailles

Years later, on a visit to France, a group of us visited Versailles. It was there that I saw miles of trees pruned into hedges. In some spots, the trees were limbed up from the ground so you could see across the plane but the tree canopies were pruned into long rectangles. Aha! This was the infamous aerial hedge. If you look at the competition gardens at the Chelsea flower show, one designer always goes for the aerial hedge. Maybe it is a European thing (like the man-purse) but aerial hedges never seem to catch on here in the US. I, for one, really dig aerial hedges (and messenger bags but not man-purses) and wish that more gardens would include them. Yes, they take time and someone has to work for years to prune and shape them but the resulting form is fun and really defines a garden. I can count on one hand, the gardens that I have seen in the United States that feature aerial hedges:

- Longwood Gardens (Tilia or little leaf linden)

- Dumbarton Oaks (Carpinus or hornbeam)

- Old Westbury (Tsuga or hemlock)

- Lotusland (Pittosporum)

- Heronswood (a really awesome, arching display of trained hornbeams)

Living-walls-Pleached-trees-Marianne-Cannon-

There have to be other gardens that I have missed. Are there aerial hedges that you recall seeing here in the States? Why do you think that they have not caught on here as they have in Europe? If ever given the chance to design a Chelsea garden, I would design a satirical garden featuring an assortment of aerial hedges using plants that one would never expect to see grown this way.

-Rodney

Images: The Creative FluxJan Henry, Garden Drum

beantunnel1

I found this really sweet bean tunnel over the winter and I’ve been dying to make one of my own ever since! April from Wahsega Valley Farm has an incredible backyard vegetable garden, and as soon as I saw this bare garden structure, I knew it would be a even cooler once the vines started to grow.

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Our horticulture team at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is working on a new vertical wall idea for the summer of 2014. Today, we were brainstorming which plants to use in the vertical panels. Someone mentioned Sedum ‘Angelina,’ another idea was Lysmachia nummularia ‘Aurea,’ and then I remembered Joseph’s Coat or Alternanthera ficoidea. Alternanthera is a tender perennial (hardy to USDA zone 10) native from Mexico to Argentina which is primarily grown for its foliage. The leaves on the plants are small and vary in appearance from being an inch wide to some cultivars which have thread-like foliage.

Alternanthera Red Carpet

The Alternanthera would work in our green wall idea because it would provide us with some interesting colors in a fast growing plant. In our zone 6a gardens here on the coast of Maine, we would need to start the plants in late April or early May in a greenhouse to get them rooted in and growing. Probably in mid-June, we could place the vertical panels out into the garden. In order for Joseph’s Coat to continue growing successfully, the temperature needs to be consistently above 55-60 degrees. As summer goes on, the warmer it gets, the stronger it will grow. By mid-summer, each plant should be around a foot wide and could be a foot tall. The great thing about Alternanthera ficoidea is that it can be sheared into a tight form. Many Victorian gardens utilized Joseph’s Coat as a tightly clipped annual in bedding schemes.

Alternanthera

Joseph’s Coat grows best in full to part sun, in acidic, moist but well-drained soil. In warmer parts of the country, you might want to double check if you can plant Alternanthera. It is closely related to the noxious alligator weed. In warm areas where alligator weed is a problem, different insects that feed on it have been released to try to control its growth. These insects might go after the ornamental Alternanthera as well.

Some of the more popular cultivars include: ‘Party Time’ – a tricolor selection with white, red, and green colored leaves, ‘Red Threads’ – a dark red, finely leaved selection, and ‘Yellow Form’ – a chartreuse colored form. We will probably use ‘Yellow Form’ on our wall because of the pattern we are trying to paint.

Have you grown Joseph’s Coat in your garden? What was your experience with this plant?

Rodney

Images: HMA Plants, All The Plants.com

geranuim garden shelves by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com
A couple of months back I was chatting with a new garden friend when she openly wondered what the next big garden trend will be.  I have to admit — while I look for design trends all the time…I hadn’t thought much about the big arcs of our collective garden specific tastes.  I think it is fair to say that vertical gardening isn’t the new kid on the block anymore.  It’s here to stay, but you can’t be new forever.  So what next?

rustic wabi sabi garden shelves via www.studiogblog.com

I think that the answer to her question might be a twist on the idea of vertical gardens — Shelved Gardens.   They are kind of like vertical gardens (in that the point is to fill a vertical space with plants) but different.  Admittedly, the idea of putting plants on shelves is not new…but doing it outside of the retail environment or for any other reason than purely for the sake of necessity is (at least a little) an original twist.

rustic wabi sabi garden shelves via www.studiogblog.com

Will we soon be combining the succulent trend with ever more interesting containers and then combining the containers to create ever more  vertical visual appeal?

garden shelves by fabulous minds blog via www.studiogblog.com

Tiered plant stands had a moment when I was kid (I remember seeing them in many friends homes in the 70′s) – but like all good fashion…they went out at some point but I think are now on their way back in but with new and refreshed style.

garden shelves by Borella Design via www.studiogblog.com
garden shelves by Borella Design via www.studiogblog.com

The variation and style choices are endless.   The shelves, the containers, the plant choices and how you mix and match them together, provide infinite options for self-expression.  These are just a few that have caught my eye recently.  The one above perhaps being my favorite — it looks like it takes some inspiration from a library…and the idea of having a library of potted plants sounds good to me.

So, do we have the making of a big new garden trend?  Shelved Gardens?  What do you think?

images: top to bottom – rochelle greayer, littleyard, fabulous minds, and AT casa

 

 

Garden  House by Ryue Nishizawa
How about this little slice of inspiration for monday morning.  Landscapers are always trying to get architects, homeowners and builders  to involve them earlier and more holistically into the process of site design and construction….and it often doesn’t happen.  So this notion of integrating gardens and greenery to an even greater level seems particularly  remarkable. I do hope we start building more homes like this — if you were a green-starved city dweller — wouldn’t you like to live here?
Garden House Tokyo japan

This Tokyo townhouse was designed by Japanese architect Ryue Nishizawa.

images from iwan.com

urban plant modulesI love coming across ideas that inspire new ideas.   These urban garden plant modules made simply from hoses, fiber-cloth and fertilized soil – and hooked up to downspouts – seem to me to have all the potential loop-de-loop design interest of a hose laid with flourish (and in my book – that is a lot).

fiber cloth urban planter

Seeing these, I suddenly have all sorts of ideas for draping these over and around things, creating instant labyrinths in the middle the shopping mall parking lots, and  planting extraordinary mixes of plants in the most preposterous of places.

Is this inspiring to you too?

Here are the directions for pulling this together.

urban planters

images from here.

Hundertwasser house in vienna austriaCatching a glimpse of this picture on Pinterest, I was immediately inspired to learn more about the building and artist who created it.  What a find to learn about architect -artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser and the Hundertwasser House in Vienna, Austria.

As a child Hundertwasser and his mother (who was Jewish) posed as Christians to avoid persecution in the time leading up to WW2.   As a result he later developed an anti-totalitarian position and art historians postulate that an early fear of square marching battalions may have led him to oppose any “geometrization” of people and their architecture.

I find this kind of influence on an artist fascinating.

underground highway
Some of his designs (like this one for an underground highway that’s aesthetically pleasing in addition to being quiet, maximizing land use, and providing trees to filter out noxious chemicals) are remarkably thoughtful and inventive in a modern context.

hundertwasser house plan

But what inspires me most about him is his environmental activism and creative conviction. His Mould Manifesto laid out two things:  ”Your window right — your tree duty.”  He believed that planting trees in an urban environment was to become obligatory: “If man walks in nature’s midst, then he is nature’s guest and must learn to behave as a well-brought-up guest.”   The Window Right stated that : ‘A person in a rented apartment must be able to lean out of his window and scrape off the masonry within arm’s reach. And he must be allowed to take a long brush and paint everything outside within arm’s reach. So that it will be visible from afar to everyone in the street that someone lives there who is different from the imprisoned, enslaved, standardised man who lives next door.’”  (he is man after my own HOA-hatin heart)

I also find it both heartening and dis-heartening to realize that greener buildings, vertical gardens and vegitecture, and the ideas behind them are not all that new or trendy.  I sometimes have such optimism that as designers we are beginning to address environmental challenges, but then when I realize that colleagues from 40 or 50 years ago were also doing the same (in this case, planting trees in buildings!) I wonder if we are making actual progress or if it just feels like it?  What do you think?

- Rochelle

Images from wikipedia, Tinas blog, and exchange connect.