No need to speak French to capture the gist of this particular landscape featured at this year’s garden festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire. The designer sought to create a living and evolving painting contained within what appears to be a traditional frame. As such, the visitor approaches a wall as if they (yes, we know this should be she/he here, but isn’t that just oh-so clumsy) were in a museum, only to find within it a three-dimensional landscape that will grow, evolve, and change over time, so that viewing the painting one day will not produce the same results if one were to visit on another day. Viewed from afar, the landscape appears two-dimensional; viewed from up close and you can perceive depth, height, and width. According to the designer, the color palette consists of a range of blues in order to ideally inspire daydreaming and to evoke feelings of escape, discovery, and travel within whoever is viewing the garden. A novel idea indeed.
There’s a line in Orlando that uses an allusion to weeds – or their absence – as a way of highlighting just how patrician the grounds of Orlando’s manor are: “Lying in bed of a morning on the softest pillows between the smoothest sheets and looking out of his oriel window upon turf which for three centuries had known neither dandelion nor dock weed, he thought that unless he could somehow make his escape, he should be smothered alive.” While not in any way a pivotal moment in the story’s narrative, the line says much – to a plant enthusiast – about weeds and the world humans have long lived in: weeds are not a 20th-century phenomenon; they’ve been with us for as long as gardens have been cultivated and lawns have been immaculately maintained. They grow with intent against what the gardener intently wishes would grow.
One of the biggest shifts in landscape design and creation in the past decade has been a move away from creating spaces that are exclusively for humans or exclusively for wildlife and towards making spaces that accommodate for both. Enter the bug hotel, or bug wall (shown above). These structures not only serve as sculpture and structure within the landscape but double as habitat for all manner of bugs, amphibians, and other little critters. They also give the effect of a new kind of human artifact that says much about the turbulent but hopeful times we are living in. For an exhaustive look at bug hotels around the world, click here. For information on construction, click here.
We’ve written so little of late. Moving to a new city is energy- and time-consuming. We are on the cusp of new work, focusing mainly on weeds. In the meantime, here is a little landscape postcard that arrived for us last week. This is the Joppa Avenue Landscape in full midsummer splendor. This is its seventh year in the ground. If you would like to see before/after photos that go way back, click here. This little landscape started off as little more than a patch of bare earth.
Plants emerging through concrete. Photo courtesy of Ugly Angel.
Our newest landscape-installation project will be focusing on weeds and will seek to involve anyone and everyone in the project’s evolution and data-collection process. You may follow the progress of the project on Twitter via hashtag projectweeds. We are partnering up with two Swedes and one Minneapolitan on the project in order to create a robust multidisciplinary team. The team thus far consists of Björn Wallsten, Anna Maria Larson, Shannon Farrell, and, of course, us.
In other big and exciting news, we are moving to San Francisco and the Bay Area starting this May.