Thursday, February 19, 2015

Adding the element of time to a garden design

A few weeks ago we went on cruise vacation that stopped at Walt Disney World's Castaway Cay. We'd been there before, but this time on the cruise, I attended a lecture by one of Disney's Imagineers – an architect by trade.

He gave two talks, one was on the Imagineer's process as they concept and develop attractions – whether it be a ride, store, hotel, transportation, or a new park.

The second talk he gave was about the revamping and construction of what used to be called Disney Village - an area outside the parks with shopping and dining options, as well as Planet Hollywood and the venue that holds Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba show. Disney Village is being rebranded as Disney Springs, and he is intimately involved in its concept and production – on all levels.

What I found interesting was that the concept for Disney Springs was to develop a town that started back when other Florida cities and towns were starting off in the late 1700s and early 1800s – and starting to designing from there.

Studying other Florida towns, and their development, led to thinking of the new and existing buildings as being built on a timeline, starting with older-style, more rustic-designed facilities, nearer what they deemed as the center of the village. Then outward from there would be buildings and infrastructure designed that would have been built over the next generations – more mercantile shops, buildings for an imagined fishing industry, with larger facilities being on the outskirts of this "town." All employing the design styles of their times (and plants and landscaping).

Palettes used as fences.
They even designed infrastructure that was once there and is only in remnants now – like an overhead train track whose "remaining" segments now serve as rest/shade areas and kiosks for retail.

Another feature are the parking garages that surround Disney Springs. They're massive, but by giving them the appearance of genuine orange processing plants found around Florida, they feel more authentic. And the orange groves planted around them only support the illusion.

Disney's Castaway Cay is done in the same manner. It has a fake history as an island that a shipwrecked castaway might have found. Most island "decor" and signage is of the found, re-used, re purposed variety. But over the (imagined) years it looks like it may have become a WWII airstrip for small planes – complete with small planes and scavenged plane parts (and an airplane gas pump) used throughout the island either as useful signage or decorative displays. All taking advantage of the existing small plane runway that was already on the island when Disney purchased it. It's actual history is a bit more sinister – the island was used by Caribbean drug runners and their small planes.

A plane tail grown over with vines.
I got to thinking about how, I would change my garden design now,m if I took the history of my house into account when designing, a real history, as well as imagined history. I know it was built in 1897, a fireman lived here, the garage was built by a past owner in the '30s, one resident went from living in this house as teen to gong off to WWII. Another past teenager used to put a plank between our attic window to the house of the teen next door's attic window and crawl across. There's writing and stickers in the attic warning girls to stay out of the for that is the inside of the house's turret in the attic. Another commemorates a dog. I know the woman and family that lived here in the 1960s. They have lots of stories too.

I now wonder if I built a timeline of the house, including the residents I know about, and major historical events that occurred over the last 120 years, what I would do differently. I would supposed whatever I came up with would "feel" more genuine to the house and neighborhood - it wouldn't be a potager garden, a hanging succulent frame, a marble carpet, an outdoor kitchen, hot tub, espaliers, a checkerboard garden, a rock garden, a coral bell fountain, a lightning shaped lightning rod – and certainly not a Harry Potter Garden!

It's just a mental exercise at this point, but If I ever had the chance to design a garden from scratch, I would add the aspect of time and site personality, history, and culture to the design.



Obligatory characters on scavenged ship equipment.
Wooden palettes as fences.
Guest cabanas designed to look like rustic shacks.

Most shops had dummy displays of stored wares.

Most signs were made from scavenged wood.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Portland's Boy's Fort - my new favorite garden store

If I could open up a garden store (and I can't), the kind of garden store I would open would be like Portland, OR's Boys Fort. It was the manliest store I've ever been in that had a large selection of garden supplies – and it even had a florist's shop!

It had a great mix of rough hewn and rugged, repurposed and worn home decor, furniture, and lighting that would be most appropriate for a, well, a boy's fort. Not even a mancave really. It had a bit more rustic and authentic, handmade, handcrafted vibe to all its merchandise, definitely curated to hark back to more juvenile memories. They call it "Manthropology."

C'mon, what guy wouldn't want the succulent planters above – I need a collection of these.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Taylor Falls, Niagara County

On this past summer's Open Gardens, an event of the National Garden Festival, I spent a day visiting the gardens that were open for free touring on Thursdays and Fridays. It's a bit tough to give up a work day to go on a garden tour, but I needed to visit these gardens – some of which have been on the Open Gardens tour for years. Helping to organize the tour, mostly
by promoting it, I felt it was important to visit some of these Niagara County gardens.

The front garden.
This one, the garden of the Taylors is in Lockport, NY. You can see from just the front garden that it was going to be something special.

The narrow side yard was very nice and led to "Taylor Falls" - a man-made "hill" incorporating a stream and falls. It was very hard to photograph, sorry about that. It was difficult to convey that it is very tall, sort of wrapped around a tree, and had a walkway that led up towards the top of it, offering many vantage points to see the stream. The stream looked like a squirrel-sized flume ride.

The whole thing was quite the engineering marvel. It took ten years to plan, three years to build and 22 tons of stones to complete.

The lush plantings throughout the patio area where the falls stood was shady and quite pleasant on a hot day. Just beyond that are was a filed with a spectacular long border of flowers going off quite a ways into the distance.

And, on the wish list of most gardeners, but a reality here, was a test garden of plants that the Taylors pick up and plenty here for a season or two to see if they take to the soil/sun combo of the property. If they're there for a couple seasons and like it they get divided every year and once worthy, get moved into the large border of plants stretching along the property line. A test garden is a luxury we small-space urban gardeners just do not have. I'm also too impatient for that - I'd need some immediate gratification. And lots of it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Multnomah Falls, Six Falls in Six Miles


Our trip out to Portland, OR this summer had us visiting and hiking Multnomah Falls, one of the area's attractions just outside Portland. The Falls are on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge along the Historic Columbia River Highway. The feature is obviously the 620 feet (189 m) falls that can be seen from the road, but there are hiking trails into the hills with many more falls and elevation drops. The six mile-long Wahkeena Loop Trail is up three miles and then down for another three. And gorgeous. You'll pass by six different falls. I think only one of them has a name, Fairy Falls. If you're in the area it should not be missed.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Back in the Garden Poster Business

After having run out of my "Hearts in the Gardens" posters more than a year ago, I had more printed this past Fall. Not only is there a reprint of the heart-shaped leaves on a black background, but I did a run of posters with a two-tone mottled green/ivory background. Some had said they liked the posters but the stark black was a bit severe for some people's décor.

So I now have them for sale on my website, JCharlier.com (once on the site, click on JCharlier Store). While you're there you can check out some of the other design work I do – the paying work – logos, ads, annuals, books, collateral, ad campaigns and more.

The posters are 18"x24" (a standard frame size), are printed on a 65# Royal Sundance Felt Cover stock. Posters are printed in balmy Buffalo, NY, and are shipped rolled. Posters are $24.99, plus tax and shipping.

They make a great Valentine's Day gift!

Which one do you like better?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gardening Wright (VIDEO)




Not necessarily a gardening post today – although it's not necessarily NOT a gardening post. I created this video for Frank Lloyd Wright's Graycliff Estate.

The original Graycliff landscape plan, as drawn by Frank Lloyd Wright.
I am on the executive board of the Graycliff Conservancy, the organization that runs the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Graycliff Estate. It was built in the late 1920s for Isabelle R. Martin, the wife of industrialist Darwin Martin, as a summer home. She was Wright's client for this project. Their city home, also designed by Wright, is the now the Martin House Complex, a spectacular example of Wright's Prairie-style architecture, and a building (actually a campus of buildings) he considered his "opus."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Alzheimer's sucks. Gardens don't.


Binghamton NY, is New York State's fifth largest city, nestled on the Pennsylvania border, about an hour and a half south of Syracuse. It's half way between Buffalo and New York City. It's also where I grew up.

It also has a botanical garden. The Cutler Botanical Garden. It is cared for by the volunteers of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in the area, which is right next door.

I never even knew it was there. It was there when I was growing up, having been started as early as 1972 (I started only about ten years earlier than that). I lived just a few miles from it, up on a hill. I probably passed it by thousands of times in my first 17 years.

My mom moved into a small house just across the Chenango River from it – and I still never knew it was there. Well, now my mom has moved in right across the street from it, into an independent living senior apartment. I still might not have known if I had not read this post by Swimray of A Leafy Indulgence, an Alexandria VA garden blogger – also a native of the Binghamton area.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gardening in winter in Buffalo

I haven't posted in a while - there's not much to post about around the garden this time of year. Other than south of Buffalo getting anywhere between four and seven feet of snow (at my house we've had just six inches so far this season), there's not much to write home about.

Can you see it?
Above is the area I've laid out for the "Potter Potting Shed" I'll start it in the spring. Seeing how close it is to the fence on the far side, I will be altering the exterior a bit. I can still add shelving on the exterior back there for pots and stuff, but there won't be room for a potting bench. I may lay a course of stones back there for a path. The Harry Potter Garden will go back in on the left near the driveway, basically where it was before.

This winter I'll be hunting down salvaged and used parts from my own house and a local reuse/salvage store.

I have kept busy with meetings on garden things. Garden Walk Buffalo is taking on the responsibilities of the National Garden Festival. Garden Walk Buffalo, the two day tour will remain the same, but the group will also work with the volunteers of the National Garden Festival to make their bus and bike tours, garden art sale, educational events, Open Gardens throughout the area, public space makeovers successful (and profit-generating!). We'll also help the other 14-16 garden tours in the area promote themselves. And put on an art gallery exhibition of works created in gardens last summer. There's never a lack of things to do garden-wise in Buffalo, even in the winter. Just not all of it is in the garden.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Pilgrim's garden



 NOTE: This is a repost from 2011...

Back in August, we visited Plimouth Plantation, a recreated village representing how the Pilgrims lived when they first came over on the Mayflower. I posted a while back about the gardens of the local Wampanoag Nation. Here's the Pilgrim garden post.

The deeply religious Pilgrims did not show skin and thought of the Wampanoags as ignorant and child-like in their skin-exposing clothing. Can you imagine gardening in the hot sun dressed like this?

Men planted fields of wheat, barley, peas -- all from seeds brought over from Europe. They also planted new plants the Wampanoags introduced to them -- corn, beans squash and pumpkins. Fields were outside the village and where men would go and spend their days. The Wampanoags also helped show the pilgrims when to plant and how to plant seeds in poor soil by burying seeds with fish to decompose & nourish the soil.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Potter Shed planning

The design inspiration. That uppermost
round-topped window is being replaced.
The one you see here will be used in the shed.
In order to create a list of materials needed for the "Harry Potter Garden" shed I'll be building in the spring, I have to have better plans than the sketches I posted previously. I'm only a "weekend carpenter" and have never tackled a project this large.
Fortunately, I am an art director and know my way around measurements, scale, color, production – and softwares that help me put it all together. Here are some "drawings" I made in Adobe Illustrator. The file is in layers – so that the actual frame drawing below is underneath the color illustrations in my file. I did it to a 1"=1' scale in my original drawings to make my life easier. Now I have a better idea of how much, and what size, lumber will be required.

I plan to use as much used and repurposed items as possible. I've taken measurements of the doors and windows I already have that are either coming off my house, or were here in the garage or attic when we moved in (14 years ago!). I also have a pile of scrap lumber left over from the jungle gym that was in this spot previously.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's beddy-bye time


The leaves are raked, chopped and composting or laid in beds. The grasses are cut. The furniture is put away. The pots are in the garage. The tubers are in storage. The burning bush is burning. Time to say goodnight to the garden for the winter.

Having had a spectacularly decent and long Fall, we're ready for winter to finally hit this week – with temperatures in the mid to high 30s, and even possibly a little snow.

Now that I see this picture at the top though, I see that I still have to pull the annuals out of the upper window box. I usually put any extra pine boughs in the box when we get our Christmas tree.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Potting Shed Plans

So this is what I'm thinking. I not only want a potting shed, we need one. Our garage is getting just too crowded over the winter. The car barely fits in there. There's just room enough to get in and out of the car. Outdoor furniture, overwintering large planters, tools, planting supplies, bags of mulch, fertilizer and more, a table saw, bikes, scrap lumber and much more all find the garage for their winter vacation.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Out with the old, in with new garden space...

So I tried to give away the jungle gym/swing set – first to the neighbors on the block club email list. One neighbor stopped by to check it out, but it was too big, and too big a task for them to take it apart and reassemble it. Little did I know how right they were.

It was a nice dry Fall day. Perfect for leaf chopping.
I spread compost from the composter and refiled it
with chopped leaves. plus dressed most beds
with chopped leaves too.
Then I tried Facebook. A couple people took interest, but no takers there. It is old. And it would be a lot of work to carefully disassemble and reassemble elsewhere.

So it was up to me to do the tear-down. And I vastly underestimated how much work it would be. I tried to save as much lumber for future projects as I could. The whole thing was put together with screws. Rusty, stripped screws that had been there for the 13 years we've been in the house – in  addition to how many years it was here before us – probably another ten or more.

After futzing for a bout an hour-and-a-half with trying to unscrew the thing, and only getting about a dozen screws out (of hundreds), I decided it would be much faster with the chainsaw. And it was. I still tried to save as much wood as possible – it's mostly 2"x6" planks of pressure-treated wood, with a few 4"x4"s and 2"x4"s thrown in. But with a chainsaw and circular saw, I had the thing down in just a few hours.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A spooktacular garden visit

I saw this garden over the summer and have been waiting until today to post about it. It was a phenomenal garden (to me, anyway) in that it was so large that there were many areas of interest.

It had a verdant front garden putting other suburban foundation-hugging shrubs to shame; an envious back patio brimming with creative ideas; a comfortable, woodsy area (fire pit and a dozen or more Adirondack chairs); some super-creative oddball ideas that look like they came from a Pinterest post (moss covered picnic table anyone?); and some just whimsical ideas – like this semi-cemetery of crosses, gargoyles, and hostas.

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