Amazingly, Design Is Design and DAFFODILS

February 20, 2011

Rain, rain and more rain today. On top of all the melting snow, sheets come down all day and we even get a burst of thunder. Quiet Neighbor is flooded and there is so much water that the mulch path cannot drain; there are puddles sitting in the low areas. Everything is sodden and soaked.

EXCITEMENT!! The first tiny bits of daffodil creeping up in the front bed – it’s TRUE! Oh HOORAY! Spring is really and sincerely on its way. The rain rolls down my arms and back, but I can ignore it, knowing that these flowers are ready. They’ve had enough! Warm weather and green, green, green is on its way!

Friday, our Master Gardener class instructor was a very renowned landscape designer. He has designed for public institutions, private estates and competitions. We received an email preparing us for Greg’s arrival – a very big deal was made out of his presence.

To begin, he spent a great deal of time telling us about his creative life, his creative daughters and his creativity, all the while urging us to recognize that he’s just an ordinary guy. It was blindingly obvious that we were not really to think of him as ordinary in any way.

His power points were filled with lovely examples of landscapes – formal, informal, Asian, English and more – all shapes and sizes. He showed us before, during and after photos, explaining a bit of the philosophy behind a few of them. They were simply beautiful – inspiring desire for clipped hedges, regular patterns and charming seating areas.

He did not talk much about balance or unity or repetition. He talked about scale for a bit, and spent a lot of time on shapes, both negative and positive. He talked about how the shape of your “leftover” turf is just as important, and in some cases more important, than the shape of your beds. Interesting…never considered it for landscape and I think about it every day for graphics because it’s vitally important.

He talked about having enough benches in a garden, using them as focal points. I liked that idea – more places to sit means more places to enjoy, take a moment, look around at what’s growing. Definitely something to implement this summer.

At lunch, he chatted with Autotroph Woman and the Autotrophettes. They have taken his classes at JJC and absolutely worship him. It was quite apparent that he believes this is completely justified.

He handed out a grid and carefully explained that each square represented 2 feet in a landscape, and asked us to draw a 4 foot square table. He went around the room checking that we’d drawn it in correctly. He asked us to draw a car, 8 feet by 16 feet. And went around the room again, checking. Many people were confused – and I was so confused by that.

It was then that I realized my art degree and my work gave me a thorough, instinctive knowledge of these concepts. I’ve been working in grids for decades (god, has it been that long?), daily plotting in proportion, planning negative and positive spaces, considering form and texture and balance and repetition and color. A switch flipped – transfer my experience in graphic design to plants and beds and I could nail this thing. Wow – I’ve been really dumb about this for a really long time.

Greg talked of workshops in New Harmony, Indiana and in Rome, where only gourmet food is served and where the most creative people partake in his glorious wisdom.

Yeah, I’ll take a pass on that.

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