Creating harmony, simplicity and peace in the landscape......

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.

Gardening is an instrument of grace. " - May Sarton


Monday, May 31, 2010

Grow a Pizza Garden this year


Pizza is the most popular choice on the school lunch menu in the United States. So why not grow a Pizza Garden? It can contain all the ingredients we find in a pizza pie.... Tomatoes, Onions, Peppers, Eggplant, Scallion, Parsley, Basil and Greek Oregano, among others.

Here is what you can plant:
All the photos below were taken from a wonderful Better Homes and Gardens article on a Pizza Garden
'Husky Red' Cherry Tomatoes
'Golden Jubilee' Tomato


Sweet Green Bell Pepper or Other Color Peppers

Hot Jalapeno pepper

You can also plant Greek Oregano, Parsley 'Italian Flat Leaf', Tomato 'Roma' ( small, oblong tomatoes with a thick meaty flesh), Basil 'Dark Opal', Red Leaf  Lettuce and Onion 'Spartan Banner' ...

The Pizza Garden can be shaped like a pizza.  Tie a piece of string to a center stake and mark off a circle with it. The radius can measure 4 ft. to create an 8 ft diameter circle (or it can be smaller).  Divide the circle into six or 8 equal wedges.  Plant a different crop in each one - the herbs can be planted together, if you like.
Remember it is all about the soil - so prepare the soil beautifully before you plant.

The Pizza Garden can also be rectangular....

The best part of all this is the idea that the kids get to make pizza in the end..

This photo is from a 4H children's Garden at Michigan State university

Now farmers are realizing this is a good way to introduce kids to farming so large scale PIZZA FARMS are croppin up all over the US and in other countries as well. The Pizza Farm website is a wonderful intro to the value of pizza farms...

So go out and plant that pizza garden now ...the mozzarella plant is hard to find but.....

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The 'Locavores' Save the World

(from Fast Company website)

My graduate degree is in land planning, specifically, 'urban and regional planning'.  A misnomer in my case since I was already, back decades ago, a devotee of E.F. Schumacher and his 'small is beautiful' ideas.

In 1955, the British born Schumacher (b.1911) accepted a three month assignment as Economic Development Adviser to the Government of Burma.  He soon concluded that the last thing the Burmese people needed was Western style economic develop­ment. He suggested that they develop a ‘middle way’ between the Western mode of increasing material consumption (satisfied by mechanised production) and the Buddhist ideal of satisfying human needs through dignified work (which also purified one’s character and was a spiritual offering).  He later coined the term ‘Buddhist Economics’ for a way of life that has respect for meaningful work and he urged industrial countries to scale down their ‘wants’ in order to meet their real physical and psychological needs.

The officials in Burma did not appreciate his report.  

Undeterred, Schumacher went on to extol the value of self sufficiency. He said fuel and food were the two basic necessi­ties for survival and sustainability and urged all communities and regions to be as self-sufficient as far as possible — otherwise they become economically and politically vulnerable.

He also became involved in sustainable agriculture. He spent much time in his organic garden, was President of the UK Soil Association and was an advocate of tree-planting and forest farming schemes wherever he went.

My devotion to Schumacher's ideas years ago did not fit in planning classes which emphasized transit, zoning and floor/area ratios.

( a Duany project in Fort Myers)

But now Andres Duany, the father and planning icon of the 'New Urbanism', is on the same page as me! At a recent conference he advocated that planners create a small-town America that more closely resembles pre-1850 America than pre-1950. 

YAY!!! I have been waiting for this....

Duany is looking beyond 'making the best of suburban America's bad situation' (which he has been doing for all these years with his firm) and is going headlong into agrarian urbanism.

(biz fizz photo from NEF site - see below)

Finally. Thank You, Andres Duany.

Agrarian urbanism is different from "urban agriculture" where we retrofit cities to grow food.

It is differnt from "agricultural urbanism" where an intentional community has a corresponding farm.

"Agrarian urbanism," Duany says,  "is a society involved with the growing of food."  AMEN.

This is not the official 'HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities' - which never once mentions growing food in its livability principles! It is not the intentional communities featuring golf course living, equestrian living, or the 'fly-in' lifestyle.... It is communities built for, as Duany says, 'locavores' or people who eat and produce their own food.

Duany says these comunnuties would be committed to "hand-tended agriculture" in whatever form that takes. It would be part of the homeowners' association agreement. Instead of a strip mall in the town square, there's a "market square" comprised of green markets, restaurants, cooking schools, an agricultural university, and so on.
what?! no shoes?

Here is what an article in Fast company said about Duany's presentation:

"Duany conceded growing food is hard work, which is why his agrarian communities would still end up hiring Hispanic laborers to do the dirty work. But "you don't pretend they don't exist," he said in a particular utopian moment. "The people who grow the food must be known to the kids. And they're the ones who actually know what they're doing -- they know how to build buildings and they know how to grow food."

This brings up prickly social issues galore, I realize that. But the fact is - we need to get back to Mother Earth. Rooftop farming does not solve the issue - farming homesteads and villages do.

See the article from the New York Times 2 days ago on City Slickers Take to the Crops (click on the title for article). We are all heading toward Buddhist Economics.....

for more on this look at the New Economics Foundation website.

(this post is for my friend, Lynn)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Let's Colour!

Ah, Color! If you love gardens you are especially sensitive to color.

 So you will enjoy this wonderful global video that celebrates color made for the Lets Colour Project by Dulux Paint....
Grey is out. Orange is in.

Shot by award winning director Adam Berg over four weeks in Brazil, France, London and India, 650 people transformed their communities with vibrant color. The following locations were shown:
  • stairs in Lapa, Brazil,
  • a council estate in Aulnay-Paris,
  • a Virginia Primary School in Tower Hamlets-London
  • a boys school, main street and community center in Jodhpur-India
(The saris are as beautiful as the walls)

The people painting are not actors but residents and volunteers from the local areas.

The music track behind this film is 'Go Do’ by Jonsi  - a great song and a lovely call to arms for the world to start coloring.

It's a life affirming movement that anyone can join - click here to find out how you can be a part of it - website:

Enjoy this video and then go out and then plant sonething wildly colorful..

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Re-Re-Repetition in the Landscape

To make a point, repeat yourself...that is what the business coaches tell us... repeat it and maybe it'll stick.

So it is with landscapes...and art.

Walter de Maria, an Amercian sculptor (b.1935) uses repetition in his work. His '13, 14, 15 Meter Rows' (1985) highlights his interest in mathematical systems and features 117 solid stainless steel rods, each one measuring one meter long and having equal volume and weight. They are ordered according to precise calculations.  As Gagosian gallery describes, natural light floods the gallery space through the south and west clerestory windows allowing the viewer to experience the artwork differently according to the weather and the time of day.

(another sculpture by Walter De Maria)

All this lovely art derives from gardens, I am sure. After all, before art galleries, there were gardens!

So if you see your garden as an art gallery, of sorts, and your walkway as an art installation, you, too, can create a repetitive art piece based on precise mathematical calculations - or maybe just how you are feeling at the moment.

(The Japanese gardeners knew it all)

Repetition can be formulaic or it can be a pattern or it can be simply plants in a row. 

Deliberate repetition in a garden setting makes a visual point, creates order and, in the process, calms us immensely.

Ordered vs. chaos - most of us would choose ordered ...

(Elijah Blue Fescue in a row - Johnsen Landscapes & Pools)

The 'bosque' or gridded arrangement of trees so favored by the landscape architect, Dan Kiley, was used in the Pepsico headqquarters in Purchase, New York. There, a large grid of plane trees stands outside the modern building amidst concrete squares. It is 'ordered' to the hilt:

( trees at Pepsico World Headquarters)

I don't know whether esoteric formulas were the basis of the tree spacing (as in De Maria's work) but its ordered arranegement is someting to see - and anyway you must visit  Pepsico World Headquarters in Purchase, NY and see its amazing landscape. A must see for garden lovers. It was the winner of the 2009 Landmark Award by the American Society of Landscape Architects and the National trust for Historic Preservation.

And who says repetition has to be in the ground or can be how you arrange your outdoor seating for maximum effect! This is how a dear client of mine did it around her new pool:

(Johnsen Landscapes & Pools - all rights reserved)

So next time you are considering a change - try Repetition - (sounds like an ad)....So soothing and fun to do !

(Jefferson's wall just keeps repeating and repeating...)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Great Lecture: Romantic Landscapes: Central Park and Frederic Church's Olana

A Great Lecture For those in the New York tri-state Area!
Wednesday  May 26 - 6:30 pm

A Great Morgan Library Presentation
- cosponsored by The Olana Partnership, Central Park Conservancy, and Foundation for Landscape Studies.
Great Romantic Landscapes: Central Park and Frederic Church's Olana

This panel of expert historians and historic landscape stewards will explore the relationship between two of America's greatest nineteenth-century Romantic landscapes: Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux's Central Park, and Olana, Frederic Church's villa and landscape garden.

Speakers include Sara Cedar Miller, Central Park Conservancy historian and photographer and author of Central Park: An American Masterpiece; Katherine H. Kerin, Olana Landscape Curator; Evelyn D. Trebilcock, Olana Curator. Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, President, Foundation for Landscape Studies, will moderate.

Tickets: $15 for Non-Members; $10 for Morgan, Olana Partnership, and Central Park Conservancy Members

The exhibition Romantic Gardens: Nature, Art, and Landscape Design will be open at 5:30 PM especially for program attendees.

for tickets go to this website :

Monday, May 24, 2010

Its all Connected...

"Its all Connected" - so says Stuart, a set designer turned landscape designer, he wrote this to me (sent from his iPhone) and I thought I would share the edited version with you ... 

When I saw your blog entry regarding 'black and white' it made me think of the time in landscape design class you asked me about set design...

What makes designing for the theater special is that for about two hours a number of people will congregate for an event in a finite theater space and see designs that ideally reinforce a well conceived text...a visually poetic expression of the text, or opera, musical.... you know, the narrative.

But 'narrative' is inherent in all designs.

It can be in the 'dialogue' between the colors and textures of plantings. Or, it could be the dialogue with a site's history or context... Every space has a story to tell in some way.

When you talked in class about going to a site and 'feeling the space',  it made me think of how Louis Kahn would famously ask his students, "what  does the building WANT to be"?   It's really one and the same.

(Louis Kahn building)

A little while ago I went to visit a friend who has a house in Upper Nyack. She asked me my opinion about some things in her garden. She has an old claw-foot bathtub that she reclaimed as a planter- and lo and behold she had planted the variety of very dark Coleus 'black magic' you had written about in the black and white post.

(Black Magic Coleus)

I told her about your blog and she wanted to look at it. She was going to pass it on to friends in her area who love to garden.  And then in another corner I spotted the Euphorbia 'blackbird'  that you also wrote about!
It all felt connected.

(Euphorbia 'Blackbird')

The endless world of plants can seem daunting, but it helps to re-encounter them as much as possible as they become a language.

Stuart, you are right  - plants are a language. The words they speak go directly to the heart.... and boy, do I wish I had a claw foot tub planter!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Help Rose Acevedo Fight Hunger

(Rose Acevedo of Hilo, Hawaii)

The Pepsi Refresh Project looks for people, businesses, and non-profits with ideas that will have a positive impact on their communities and funds them if they get enough votes from the public. 

My blogging friend, Noel in Hawaii, wrote about Rose Acevedo and asked us to vote for her idea ...she wants to have people help her harvest ripe fruit from people's trees in backyards in Hilo, Hawaii and donate them to local food banks and to the homeless.

She writes, "I cannot reach all the yards alone. I must have funding to organize a team, purchase the required tools, ladders and a vehicle to harvest as much fruit as possible. The Hilo community is depending on it."

I voted for Rose and now am asking you all to do the same if you like Rose's idea:

Here is what she wrote to Pepsi:

"Thanks to the sunshine, plentiful rain and the Aloha spirit there is an abundance of fruits and vegetables year round on this lush side of the Big Island. At times, too abundant.

For busy families and the elderly the amount of fruit produced from even one tree can be overwhelming.

The result: tons of fruit such as, oranges, tangerines, and mangoes are left unpicked or rotting on the ground.

Hilo, Hawaii  struggles with homelessness and hunger; it is heartbreaking to have hungry children in the classroom and then see healthy food wasted.

Seeing rotten avocados and tangerines in my neighbors' yards, stimulated me to take action..."

(Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi  - CEO of Pepsi - kudos to her for sponsoring this great initiative)
Rose Acevedo works with special needs children in Hilo, Hawaii and nurtures her love of nature as a gardener, camper and Sierra Club hike leader.  Her idea is a great one.
 When living in Hawaii I remember all the mangoes that would be left rotting on the ground everywhere and thinking, "boy, someone should harvest all those...well now, here is a way to do it  - Fruitbusters!