Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Garden Lecture by Two Masters At The Horticultural Society of New York

Lecture at the Horticultural Society of New York

“Vegetable gardens make every property an act of eating”

Couldn’t miss landscape design icons, Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd, Friday, October, 30th at the Horticultural Society of New York (http://www.hsny.org/)

Joe and Wayne delivered a unique one-two punch of garden design inspiration from their remarkable portfolio AND a hands on working consultation.

Partners Eck & Winterrowd’s North Hill home and garden is a natural “muse” to their unique brand and philosophical approach to garden design.  

Joe and Wayne are adored, admired and respected for their extraordinary approach to landscape design.  They had me at “food” as in vegetables J, telling the audience they always include food as an edible garden design element.   The design duo noted, “Food is a primal pleasure” and opined that it’s really hard to be into gardening and not to satisfy that impulse.

From their creative, award-winning portfolio, the duo presented four garden design case studies that couldn’t help but ignite the attendees’ garden dreams.   According to Joe and Wayne, an overriding recommendation is to design a garden that embodies a “sense of place.”   I call this a horticultural DNA.   What does that mean?  “Essentially, if you live in area like the Hamptons, for example, where the Shingle Style prevails, it would be best not to introduce a style” that in Joe and Wayne’s perspective, “sticks out!”

Their pool design recommendation should most assuredly be acknowledged and considered:  rather than the ubiquitous Mediterranean standard of the turquoise-colored pool, homeowners should employ a violet or grey scale color for the pool lining.  Brilliant suggestion!

I noted the vegetable gardens they include in their landscape designs are extraordinarily beautiful; they employ a perfect pitch of texture, color and size of the plant to achieve enviable ornamental edible garden designs.  Their vegetable garden designs also ranged in size and scope from containers to the rather diminutive borders to the standard parterred potager to the sweep of orchards.  For example, Joe and Wayne showed a color-themed composition featuring gorgeous ruby rhubarb with a coral bark, clematis, and epimediums as the skirted ground cover.

“Vegetable gardens make every property an act of eating,” according to the design team.  Words to live by, I say.

The one-acre Rancho Santa Fe house and garden design demonstrated how they achieved a “sense of place” employing the Mission Style.  Part of a built, gated community, their vision was to “completely sequester” the property.  Their aim was to have visitors think this homestead was the original landowner who needed to sell off part of their land to maintain their “original estate” vs. the reality of this having been the last property available in the community complex.  The wink of the conceit succeeds spectacularly.  

The food terraces in one sloped area feature a Tuscany-looking citrus grove, figs, avocados, and macadamia nuts. Rather than mowed grass, there now exists, exciting and glamorous fruit trees.  The olive trees were planted on a diagonal with the last “row” smack up against the adobe wall.   They also planted a lot of rosemary so that it quickly – and oh-so-naturally began dripping over the adobe walls. 

Joe and Wayne also showcased the home’s “Gift of Gate or Donated Space.”   This is their thoughtfully designed garden “gift” to a homeowner’s neighbors and in less artistic hands might be referred to simply as “curb appeal.”   Here, the designers employed xeriscape, used native California plants and maximized the garden footprint to deliver a wowsy first impression for the homeowner’s guests.  At the same time, they provide a picture-perfect, good neighbor botanic postcard to all who pass by: Greetings!  Glad you are here…. J

The driveway they originally thought they wanted was illegal in California. No gravel… (What does that sign posting look like?  The European stop sign over stones?!)
In any event, they went back to the drawing board and got local river stones to characterize another overarching design principle they practice and that is to get inside the garden – to feel surrounded by it – as opposed to just looking at it. So they made a walking path through the olive grove they had planted.

Like all good garden artists, Joe and Wayne adhere to repeating planting for maximum effect – and here they planted 4,000 lavender plants! 

They proposed delineating the property, erecting a 15’ adobe wall around the property to give it the sense of place and enclosure. 

The yellow and white weeping lantana that caresses their terrace wall design illustrated another key design principle:  Build a strong space with lots of muscle and definition and proceed to erase it.  Here, they even added a vine that turns crimson in the autumn for added color and drama – and to remind the Garden State couple that owns the home, of their wonderful New Jersey roots.  They both described their rush to add romance and exuberance to the hardscapes and pointed out this is a design philosophy espoused by the great English author, poet garden designer, Vita Sackville-West, who created her own gardens in Sissinghurst. (www.en.m.wikipedia.org: Vita Sackville-West).   So build strong walls, then “fluff it up” with lots of pretty plants, is advice to good too ignore. 

Joe and Wayne also use water features in the garden designs.  “It must be completely natural or completely artificial.”  They said.  Huh?  Either use containers or Chinese water troughs or recreate nature with a fishpond for example.  You can also provide water vegetables in the water gardens. 

Describing the eternity pool they installed to create a mirror-like affect “tickled the hell out of us.” And utilizing the “borrowed scenery,” they fueled the Tuscany-inspired look of the landscape. They created a sense of openness and enclosure. The walls and the house were cited so that you cannot see the other homes in the community.

The lecture also included a pre-Civil war home in Kentucky.  Located in Henry County, the home was part of the 1,000 acre working farm. Here too, in order to delineate the home space from the working farm area, they built wall – old-looking ones, and then created an arborvitae hedge in front that sloped away to one side ending in a grove.  The use of the grove terminates a hedge in a natural way.  Because the house used lots of bricks formed and dried on the property since it was built in 1830, they used lots of brick.  Remember, “Don’t stick out.”  In fact, all the material they used in the garden came from the property.  Limestone bluffs ring the area, so, you guessed it, they created a lush courtyard, brick and limestone paths, terraces.

They designed the vegetable and herb garden patterned off and hedged with box, which is ubiquitous in the South.  Again, they demonstrated how they employed the “borrowed landscape” with images that showed how the rolling farmland and hills beyond become part of the garden design.  And the daisy meadow they dreamed up is magical.

The final house and garden they toured as part of the lecture was near Louisville, Kentucky.  The surprise here was that they recommended not putting any garden around the house!  Just leave it pristine and undisturbed.
The wife loved an old tractor shed on the property located about 1,200 feet from the house.  Thus, they proposed, “Travel to the Garden!”  The next surprise is that they proposed using old corrugated metal for the garden walls.  But in fact, the design team offered that there was significant wisdom in using the idiomatic material.  The homeowners love Modern, Mid-Century fine art and the metal fit right in with their aesthetic.  Plus it took care of the deer problem nicely too.   The walls have achieved a splendid patina, and are now draped with those glamorous, romantic plants to fluff it up.  The contrast is high drama.  Walking to the garden it’s all sober and austere. Then the wide gates open up to a garden paradise.  They used gravel pathways punctuated by nepeta spilling over onto the walks for a rhythmic accent and to give form to the plant shapes.  The walks are almost erased by the end of the summer, joked Joe.  They created different grades or levels of garden within the paradise for added excitement.  The color gold was used in a major way here – in all its permutations – contrasting with the burgundy of a berberis or the grey of the gravel stone.  Gorgeous. In the middle of the garden is a formal vegetable garden – neat as a pin – that contrasts nicely with the romantic exuberance of the decorative garden surrounding it. 

Following the slide show and lecture, Joe and Wayne literally turned things around. After a short break, they conducted a working session, and took questions and design challenges from the attendees, providing garden solutions on the spot!  

This valuable lesson from two masters was deeply appreciated by all.

The all too short lecture at the Horticultural Society concluded with a book signing. Between them they have written six books. 
I bought two.  I finally got their recent, instant classic, “Our Life in Gardens” and the beautifully crafted “Illustrations and Elements of Garden Design.”   You can purchase all their books on Amazon.