Sunday, March 30, 2014

My favorite houseplant (this week)

It's my Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata). I guess it's not really a palm, but is actually in the lily family. An evergreen perennial native to Mexico, it is the perfect houseplant for me because it doesn't require frequent watering - or much watering at all. I've had it for about four years and it has grown to keep pace with the size of the planter it is in. I've seen (in Mexico) that were 15' or more tall.

It's bottle-shaped trunk is cool, and looks kinda' like an elephants foot. The bulbous end is where it stores its water. I like the hard strappy leaves. It looks like it's exploding. It gets a summer vacation outdoors and ends up in the Harry Potter Garden because it's an odd looking plant and that's where they go to hang out with each other.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sagrada Familia, an indoor forest

Barcelona's Sagrada Familia, the Catholic basilica, designed by "God's Architect" Antoni Gaudí, is unlike any other man-made space in the world, let alone other churches.

Gaudí's influence was always nature, whether it came to decoration, engineering, or symbolism. And it is most obvious from the interior of this church.
The lighted "knots" way up on the columns mimic healed
wounds on a tree when a branch is pruned close to the trunk.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sagrada Familia, nature in a church

The Sagrada Familia, a church in Barcelona Spain, by "God's Architect" Antoni Gaudí is a man-made marvel of nature. Started in 1882, it's expected finish is somewhere between 2030 and 2041. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's construction got a major boost when the 1992 Olympics were held in Barcelona. Funding comes from its donors and visitors.

The central tower, which is not yet built will poke out of the center of the church in the photo above. It should be taller than the tallest crane you see in the photo – just under 600 feet tall. It will hold a four-armed (three-dimensional) lit cross, the highest cross on any church in the world.

There is just so much to this church, which was consecrated as a basilica in 2010, that I could never give it its due. In order to appreciate it, you have to stand inside it.

It makes my gardening blog because of Guadí's influences in its design – nature. There's an exhibition within the church showing Gaudí's organic architectural inspiration in seedpods, leaves, fruit, minerals, vines, tree knots, tree branching, honeycombs, oleander branching, basil growth patterns, passion fruit, buds and spikes of cereals and grasses, the fruit of the cypress, and dozens more. They can be observed both blatantly and subtly, as well as unseen – the structural engineering of the church incorporates engineering Gaudí also found by studying his natural surrounding.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Parc Güell, Barcelona

Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi had a great patron and advocate in Eusebi Güell (pronounced guay). The two of them hatched a plan to build an upscale English-style housing development in the Gracia District, just outside of Barcelona (radical in 1900) that included a park and 60 plots intended for building homes. Only two were ever built – but so was the park. And it is the park that has endured and enveloped by the city of Barcelona. It was taken over by the city of Barcelona in 1922. It is now one of the top five tourist attractions in Barcelona. It is now also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The property is on the side of a hill and Gaudi laid it out with curving paths that followed the land. The park has viaducts, colonnades, fountains, a winding staircase, a large open pubic area, garden areas, picnic areas, performance areas and much more.

Tradesmen working on Gaudi projects throughout the city were encouraged to collect bottles, plates, glass, porcelain, and anything ceramic, in order to create the winding benches that surround a wide, level performance area. The bench is said to be the longest bench in the world.

Two fantastic tile-roofed, gingerbread-looking gatehouses open to an immense tiled stairwell complete with built-in planters, fountains lead to a roofed area with 100 columns supporting the large performance area above it.

The tile work throughout, with broken plate and tile  fragments is called trencadis and is considered a Catalan Modernism style of working with tile. It's also called pique assiette. Parc Güell is the first extensive use of this style of tile work.

I will definitely be looking to add a broken tile project to my garden this summer. I need some Spanish influence on my garden, and who better than Gaudi to provide it?


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