Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Patio Puzzle

This week Studio Wildwood completed two Connecticut lilac flagstone patios in San Anselmo, CA.  The work is part of a larger garden project - rock walls, decomposed granite pathways, and plantings are also being restored.

The flagstone patio is one of the more challenging portions.  It is like a jigsaw puzzle that comes on pallets instead of a box.  And there is no guarantee that all the pieces will fit together!  With a little sawing of edges and corners, one can create a masterpiece.

The secret is to start at one corner and have all the pieces flow outwards.  The edge is set in stone - or is it?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Landscapes of the Future

Everyone is in a hurry - things must be done as soon as they are conceived.  No waste of time - too bad the clock clicks so slowly in a job that one hates.  Too bad for the repetitive and boring 8 - 5 existence.  Too bad the need to punch a clock.

Buy a new car, buy new clothes, buy, buy, buy.  Big corporations help you make decisions constantly, bombarding you with the sweet deals.  Stay young, no more aging - the pills you take will insure you of the youth of yesterday.  Careful, the pill will also give you liver disease, turn your complexion a bright pink and give you herpes.  But it doesn't matter, you will feel good and look young with a few ailments. 

The landscapes of today reflect the uniqueness of our life patterns.  The more popular ones are as follows.

The Far East influence:  Front yard, a large boulder place just so, the addition of a tree, preferably a Japanese Maple and one grass.  Placed in a triangle surrounded by 3/8 to 1/2" stone - no larger.  The two plants and boulder must be exactly 39 3/8 center to center - the spirit rises.

The Near East or Mid East influence:  Two tall and stately palm trees with a fountain.  Lined up to perform a precise uniformity.  Crushed rock is the soil of choice.

The asphalt concrete jungle:  The ultimate creation of people in a hurry.  A square home with siding and front steps to the front garden - several holes in a bed of concrete or asphalt.  Optional - live plants - too much work.  The plants need to be plastic otherwise a water system needs to be installed and they need to be trimmed.

The last landscape of choice is the lawn and foundation planting with one token tree.  Constant hedging, constant blowing of dirt and leaves.  An absolutely clinical yard.  The leaching of big box landscapes - cheap and non interesting.

Afterall, everyone is in a hurry.  Why spend time looking at a bunch of plants? Live.

Beautiful gardens exist for visiting in summer months.  Rest at spas in tropical environments.  Travel miles to see the spring or fall colors.  Take pictures of the marvels of mother nature and arboretums.

The beauty of plants is not taken home - a few pictures to show friends - memories to be cherished.  But we are too busy living the grand life to be surrounded by it.

The nursery industry follows along a given path.  Impact of color, new color, nothing old - freshness, a new hybrid.  It becomes a shoe sale every spring and fall.  There is new color, the riot of discovery continues.  We can not savor the old - new is what makes our environment today.

So we segue into a style of garden that refutes many concepts.  So many beautiful plants, from all over the world.  They are going to be introduced to each other.  They will live in harmony unlike the inhabitants of their world.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Gardening in Seacliff

Every now and then, I spend time working at other gardens around the San Francisco Bay Area. This past week, El Camino Del Mar in Seacliff was the location.

The owner has a front and backyard landscaped in a very formal French parterre theme.  It's a bit different than the look at Wildwood Farm.  The philosophy behind the gardens at Wildwood and the garden in Seacliff is similar though.  Both involve hand trimming and shaping.  Of course, boxwood hedges need frequent attention!

All plants respond better to careful shaping rather than indiscriminate razing with mechanical tools.  And keeping plants in check requires much more vigilance and skill than allowing a plant to mature to full height.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Raining Apricot Blossoms

If you eagerly anticipate the Cherry Blossom Festival, flowering apricots are sure to build your excitement.

Every February, this weeping apricot [Prunus mume] at Wildwood Farm bursts into bloom.  At 15' tall, the cascading pink blossoms look winter fireworks on a clear blue day.

This grafted apricot was staked to reach it's full height and bent to give the trunk a slight curve.  If your garden calls for something more formal, [red] upright growing flowering apricots have a traditional tree outline .

Plant them with later blooming flowering cherries to enjoy blossoms throughout the late winter months.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Busy as a Bee

This is the time of year - flu is rampant - How about going to work in the garden when it's 17 and giving the plants a new lease on life?  Not to worry about ailments - just moving fast enough to keep warm.  Someone has to do it - maybe it can be a must, so that you don't have to sit in a hospital or receive shots or stay in bed.

The plants have gone through a banner year - they gave a bundle of fruit, the flowers were outstanding.  And all we did was admire them.  Now is the time to prune, to set up the pattern for beauty and bearing.  Pruning like many things takes a little practice. 

There are several schools of authority on the right method.  At the top of the list, we have the speed freaks.  The group that uses electrical tools and race about so they can go to the neighbor and race about there.  The plant goes from natural beauty and character to the look of a lollipop.

The second group is the traditional method. Pruning has been passed down from hamster to hamster.  If it was going for the forefathers in 10 B.C. it must work in the present.  Special warrior classes are going on in the near east, far east, and no east.  Every branch and root is examined.  A 15 minute task becomes a 2 day career class.  Result: a stiff plant with no personality.

The third group is the modern warrior - the slant of shears, the time of the day, or rising moon, no moon, or just forget it.  Training is self inflicted and professional.  Result: a slanted plant and hands on result.

The fourth group is the laissez faire - the group that I am proud of.  I have been trained by the historical masters and some of the modern ones.

Where are the lady landscapers in history - always men - curious.

I trained in the hair salon, cutting the locks of beautiful ladies, from vidal sassion to French masters. I went on to bolts of fabric.  I cut the 36" x 4 yds of cloth and assembled the pieces into a dress.  I sewed them.

I reached an endpoint - I walked outside and looked at the forest.  I walked closer and saw there were trees - individual trees - mother nature gave me a large group of individuals to study.

Mother nature was my teacher.  She didn't worry about crossing branches, broken branches, plants leaning or not leaning.  Everything was individual and had its own beauty.

The school of laissez faire was born

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mt. Tam's Cascade Trail

Day hikes are great mini-escapes from a weekly routine.  They offer so much - scenery, rejuvenation, and a sense of accomplishment. 

This time of year, hikes with waterfalls are a favorite.  There's something about the power of sheets of water crashing down that is so cool.  I love sitting and following the different paths of water as it jumps from rock to rock.  And the rocks are awesome too. With ferns and logs mixed in, I'm happy as a frog watching from the edge.

Of course, with waterfalls comes elevation change.  So, sitting and watching each pool and drop is a must! 

The Cascade Trail starts at Alpine Dam in Mt. Tam.  It is at its peak now.  Countless waterfalls entertain hikers as they walk through the redwoods to the upper meadow.  Great views of the coast greet you at the summit.

                                                               Happy trails.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wildwood Maples Winter Cleaning

These days, when it's rainy, wet, and cold, indoor tasks are more appealing.  So, we're devoting a considerable amount of time to improving

The page behind each tab on the homepage is getting a makeover.  The events page has more pictures and a listing of upcoming workshops.  The contact page should be easier to navigate!  About us is next on the docket...

We're a long ways from gamification, apps, and a platform for mobile devices though.  And maybe that's alright.  We think should reflect the physical space.  The last thing we want is a homepage that looks like Zynga's Farmville.

Now Patagonia's homepage, that's something to aim for.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Deere Loose In The Nursery

The layout of the nursery at Wildwood Farm has been unchanged for over 30 years. Paths wind around small display gardens and pass beneath large shade trees for the length of the property. The paths are great for people, not so much for heavy machinery.

It takes quite a bit of rearranging and moving to fit even a small tractor in the middle of the nursery. We wanted to rebuild a central overlook with large boulders so we made the effort.

All the boulders came from different corners of the property so they look right at home, moss and all, in their new location. We think the new vantage point improves sightlines at the nursery.

Come and see for yourself!