A former member of the Arboretum Society’s Board of Directors, Jack draws upon his almost 40 years of gardening experience – including 12 years at Sunset Magazine – to provide this monthly feature. Included are, of course, tips and advice, as well as anecdotes and stories about gardening and gardeners. His website is: www.jackthegardencoach.com
I think it is time to cross a line. So far in my writing I have kept the subject gardening. It is time to talk about architecture. The difference is scale, level of responsibility and money. Architecture determines the cities, parks and corridors we use every day. We all make the decisions where we live and how they look and work. This months tips will be on taking part in that.
1. Our cities have the best land, the best water and the best climates around. This is why people are attracted to them. They can always use improvement in the realm of landscape architecture. Choices are made by elected officials as to how these improvements are made. Participate in these decisions, learn what is going on and stay appraised.
2. Many home owners are changing their landscapes to drought tolerant, sustainable, and productive use. Big lawns are perfect first steps in this conversion. Participate in encouraging park conversions and public areas to these new types of use.
3. Money is a big reason why landscape architecture is low on the priority list of city improvements. Encourage city governments to develop volunteer programs, consolidate resources, utilize recycled materials and plan in longer term incremental changes. Or, just spend more on landscape projects.
4. Encourage professionals to participate in design, construction and maintenance programs.
5. Educate yourself in landscape architecture. The internet is a great resource. Look into the ASLA American Society of Landscape Architects www.asla.org/. They can refer architects to talk to about changing on a big scale.
6. When you travel, notice the parks, streets, city centers and landscape architecture and take notes, photos and videos of what works for you. I found the Jardin de Plants in Paris an inspiration although there is way too much turf for our water situation to allow.
7. Encourage more plantscape and less hardscape in landscape architecture. What this means is less concrete and more plants, less paving and more flowers, less questionable sculpture and more plant sculpture.
8. Community gardens are becoming more popular as the slow food and eat locally movements are developing. The quality of community gardens and their programs can always use improvement. It is to every ones benefit.
9. Redesign your own garden to compliment the whole. I don’t mean have every yard identical. Be creative, innovative, expansive in your ideas and at the same time be intelligent and subtle. Blend in plant choices that compliment the neighbors while showing off your design talents.
10. Design your yard to be an example. Everybody is watching everybody else. Good design gets copied and bad design ignored. If you have an idea for an innovative landscape use, try it. Who knows it may make a better place for all of us to live.
11. Forward these tips nationally and internationally so everybody gets involved in improving landscape architecture.