Simple compositions of plants and stone

bahia(SF Bay Area)May 31, 2011

It suddenly dawned on me after looking at this particular composition again recently that it is another example of being influenced subconsciously by the Brazilian master landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. While he wouldn't have been working with these same plants in combination,(not culturally appropriate for tropical climates), the sense of flowing masses of contrasting foliage colors and textures in conjunction with stone are very much a tribute to his genius. Does anyone else see this? I think it really only came to me after I saw this linked on a graphic designer's flickr favorites along with art that reminded me of Burle Marx's own art, or looking down on one of his roof top gardens in Rio de Janeiro.

Here is a link that might be useful: Burle Marx influenced?

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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Your mention the Burle Marx person a lot; I'm not familiar with his stuff so can't respond on that basis. But I do like the stream of blue whatevers :-) Almost all of those plants are unfamiliar to me. I love the spiral aloe - that's a fabulous thing! Questions - How big is the lot? It looks tiny; if I had a tiny lot, I too would go for maximum plantings with just enough clear space for sitting, moving through the garden, and outdoor dining! Second question(s) - how much time does it take to water all those pots and hanging baskets? Is there an irrigation system for them? I try to minimize the use of pots here because dragging hoses around in the heat of the summer to water them is a PITA! Since all the pots get moved into the garage, a couple into the basement, plus houseplants vacationing outdoors for the summer go back insde for the winter, I'm not sure how the ease of doing that would be impacted if I tried some sort of watering system for them.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 9:33AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

I might not have instantly made the connection of a direct influence, but the overall look of the garden is congruent with his own house and garden. If you expand the scale and substitute bromeliads of varying sizes and colors, it would be instantly recognizable.

I had the good fortune to visit Sitio Burle Marx in April 2010, and can say without reservation it was the highlight of the entire week in Brazil. While his public gardens are often very tightly geometric and controlled, large sections of his own garden were more flowing and naturalistic, but the massing of similar species still predominated. I was so impressed by his use of Sansevieria along stone ramps. The ramps criss-crossed their way up a steep hill, and the beds of sanseviera imitated the pattern with masses of slightly differing species planted in long narrow triangles, wider-leaved plants contrasting with narrower-leaved plants, just brilliantly done, yet so subtle that I think many visitors didn't consciously see it.

While I don't have the means to produce anything so elaborate as his sunken garden pond with it's fabulous salvaged stonework, I'd like to bear his designs in mind when developing my Hawaii garden. I've done some massing of bromeliads and orchids already, but am not altogether satisfied with the results. Time is required for the garden to mature, and discipline and editing are so important to preserve the look.

Back to your initial photo, those stone steps are so reminiscent of a similar stairway at Sitio Burle Marx, but between the steps are green leafy vines or mondo grass.

For those curious about Burle Marx, some photos from the trip are in the attached link; be sure to scroll to the bottom of the thread for some of the better photos. (Not my photos, I had camera issues that day.)

Here is a link that might be useful: IPS visits Sitio Burle Marx

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 1:44PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Woody, this garden is extremely compact compared to your own, the overall dimensions of the back yard portion of this garden on two levels is 40 feet across by 15 foot deep at the upper level above the house, and another 10 foot deep adjacent the rear of the house where the patio/arbor with hanging baskets are. This being California, and my clients working 10 to 12 hour days, everything is on automatic irrigation, with the pots on their own individual valve. The design is exactly as you've expressed; carving out just enough space for a raised terrace for seating/dining/viewing at the upper level, limited pathways for access, and packed to the gills with plants. Plants were chosen that would keep their relative height relationships over time, and layered to give depth without the need for perpetual thinning/pruning to keep it visually coherent.

Kim, thanks for linking to those IPS field trip photos to Sitio Burle Marx! I assume too much I guess when I think that anyone interested in landscape design would have at least passing familiarity with one of the most well known landscape designers of the 20th Century. Roberto Burle Marx was perhaps the most designer most responsible for modernism and a painterly approach to planting design, and is considered a true innovator amongst landscape architects and city planners. I think his influence was more seminal than the American Thomas Church, who worked with similar themes with a more temperate plant palette. Burle Marx was part of a team that helped remake the face of the waterfront along Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, and the southern beaches of Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. Anyone who knows the history of this urban redesign also knows that he wasn't singly responsible, but his name is the one that gets all the credit these days.

I enjoyed the trip down memory lane revisiting Sitio Burle Marx, as I had the luxury of spending a Sunday afternoon back in 1980 at one of Roberto's weekly Feijoada sit downs, as well as an accompanied tour of the gardens, a tour of his art studio and current paintings, and hearing him belt out a few arias while he accompanied himself on the piano.

I'd agree with Kim that the pool area behind the house with that reclaimed architectural ruins wall planted to bromeliads was one of the most stunning pieces of the garden. I think we all owe a huge debt to Roberto for pointing landscape design in new directions that were/are both more visually related to modern art, plant oriented, and cognizant of using plants ideally suited to their intended use. Burle Marx was a master at using plants in mass for color and contrast at a distance, as well as giving them prominence to appreciate their features up close. I think his mastery of planting design came from his love of plants, and regular trips across the vast territory of Brazil to appreciate how they grew in habitat.

Kim, it must be exciting to have two completely different gardens to be working with at the same time, and I've enjoyed seeing your initial planting layouts at the Hawaii garden. Working with bromeliads in particular is always liberating for me, as they are so easily moved, split, divided and replanted. All those Aechmea blanchetiana's in particular are a species that I would love to design around, but they just don't like a SF Bay Area winter...

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 4:15PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

While I have heard the Burle Marx name and have a vague sense that he was important in 'modern', I think the reason he doesn't come up in my garden-related reading etc. is that he's so tropical :-) When the warm west coast people start rhyming off plant names, you're talking a foreign language. When I look at your pictures - or the ones on catkim's linked thread, the plants are so exotic that they take all the attention. While there may be universally applicable design issues/techniques being illustrated, it takes a lot of effort to try and sort what those are when you're being dazzled by all the exotic plants. If you know little to nothing about what the plants' growing condition requirements are or what the climatic, soil, and even social conditions the garden exists in are, it's hard to get beyond a superficial response to what you're seeing.

When reading about or viewing (in person or via visual medium of whatever sort) the work of more northerly designers, there is a familiar context that allows me to 'see' more details of what (in addition to the plants)went into the making of the garden. Some of the plants may be unfamiliar in those cases but most I have at least passing knowledge of even if I might not have personal experience with them.

I suspect sometimes that the lack of response to the pictures of your work is due, at least in part, with how unfamiliar it all looks. It seems like a different world and not just your average suburb, or even urban, house and garden with a few unusual plants around :-)

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 4:50PM
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My "take away" from Burl Marx is to use what you have, what grows well in your climate.

He took Brazilian landscaping out of the idea of pampered European species to something that was unapologetically BRAZILIAN! with Brazilian flora and accepting the rampant nature of the growth. and enjoy!

I love this:

And copy the concept with local plants ...

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 6:33PM
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