Aug 19, 2006

Indoors vs. Outdoors

So I've moved into a new office, which has pretty much everything I could want: a big sunny window, a prestigious address, the aroma of fresh espresso wafting through the windows, even public art on the wall downstairs. However, it is lacking one thing:


And I'm realizing that, as deftly as I can (sometimes) organize outdoor spaces, i don't have a clue when faced with this blank slate of a room. Where should the drafting table go, to get good light without glare or shadows? How do I want the computer desk to orient to the drafting table? Where should the peripherals go? The bookcases and materials library? And so on and so on.

I am finding some interesting ideas on office design: analogies between neighborhoods and workplaces, thoughts on office utopias, even an essay on why cubicles are evil. But my problem is a little different: I don't have to coordinate workgroups, or facilitate interdepartmental flow; I just have to feel inspired and efficient in my space.

Any suggestions or insights are welcome...

Aug 11, 2006

Everyone Loves Lawn

In the recent article from Scientific American titled Landscape Influences Human Social Interaction, one study posits that we are more "neighborly" when our yards are covered with lush lawns, not waterwise plantings. But I'll add my own *asterisk to the findings. Because I can't tell you how often I have been out working in our own, non-lawn, garden and been engaged in conversation by neighbors and passers-by precisely because the garden isn't the typical suburban patch of green. Comments usually start along the lines of, "Looks good!" and evolve into "What is that (plant)?" or, quite presciently, "Are you a landscaper?"

So I will say that yes, landscapes do influence socialization. But I'll wager that it's the quality of the garden, not the content, that impels us to be neighborly.

Aug 1, 2006

How Good's Your Gardener?

One of the biggest challenges I face is keeping the beautiful gardens I design, beautiful. Once the plans have been installed, I'm no longer needed, and all I can do is watch from the curb as my so-carefully-considered perennials turn into shaggy messes... shrubs sprawl… and roses blow their brains out in the heat of summer. Even though I tend to emphasize waterwise, low-maintenance gardens, I just never know how much TLC they'll actually get.

That's why one of the first questions I ask a client is, "how much do you intend to spend on a gardening service each month?" If their answer is "nothing, I'll take care of it all," I know we're in for a rough ride. On the other hand, if they say, "oh, a few hundred or more," then I know they're more realistic about their abilities and their garden's needs.

The best recommendation I can make is to hire not just a lawn-mowing service (and if I'm designing your garden, you won't have much of a lawn to mow), but a fine gardener: someone who knows (or will learn about) your plants in detail, who will prune them when they should be pruned… feed them what they love to be fed… and even evolve the design over time with annual color and replacement plants that enhance the design.

The best fine gardeners aren't cheap -- $75/hour is possible -- but they are so worth it when your garden blows away anyone else's in the neighborhood, every day of every season of the year. A good design with a great gardener? Priceless.