What if?

inkognitoJune 20, 2012

Gertrude Jekyll had a radical idea when she designed her property as if it were a house in a garden. This is quite radical in the context of a discussion where 'foundation planting' gathers so much interest. Consider this scenario and then contrast it with: 1) take a plot of land and build a house on it. 2)realise that it doesn't look 'natural' 3)bring in some green stuff in the name of landscaping to 'anchor' or 'round out corners' to try to make the house look like it belongs there.

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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Unfortunately most of us are never going to be so lucky as to be able to start with the garden - or plan the garden and the house together before building the house (I would love to do that!!) Most of us start with the house as the 'given' and then create the garden. But the Jekyll model of a garden with a house in it was the goal I had for the garden here. I think it's a subtle but an important shift in emphasis/viewpoint but it's hard to describe exactly what the difference is. I think it puts more weight on planting combinations and the shape and linkages of the garden areas in a 'big picture' sort of way, while not losing sight of the house-oriented functional needs. I think the end point can be functionally similar to what could be created from the more usual house-centric approach but I think it would always be obvious that the end result was the home of a gardener! :-)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 9:25PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Although I've never considered it this exact way, I do have a "house in a garden". A couple of years ago I bought a very small house (about 900 sq. ft.) on an acre of untended rainforest and have been slowly breaking into the jungle to create paths and rooms and a garden. Next to nothing is planted up against the house -- it's better to keep the coqui frogs, geckos, and less appealing critters at a distance. All the planning relates to views from the house and paths, opening up, closing in, and opening up again. The house is minimal; the garden is the center of attention. Great fun.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 10:42PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

I had the rare pleasure to visit Munstead Wood in the 90's. It was the first time that it had been open to the public in many decades.
I arrived quite early and was invited to have lemonade and cookies on the front mound of lawn while the volunteers were setting up their tea and cookie stations. - they were delighted that a young american person knew who Ms. Jeckyll was and had traveled alone by train and hiking to come and visit her home.
During my waiting time I was able to scratch out a pen and ink drawing of the front and side entry of the house and the corner of the wood.
It is a marvelous house with a brilliant open courtyard ( u shaped ) on the side yard with a series of water rills flowing into shallow pools.
I was captivated by the brick and stone work, the lovely terra cotta planters and the sense of 'grand estate on a personal level'.
The house and garden were seamlessly integrated with one another.

It was the walk out to the woods that had me tapping my inner zen. Most people were milling around in the courtyard or trying to see thru the walled garden ( which had not been restored at that time ) . Her working barn was also a big attraction. I imagine it was also because tea was being served from there as well.
There were so many wonderful horticultural goodies in the woods. It was one of the days that you remember back upon + conjure up those images when you are feelng low to bring your spirits back up.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 2:46AM
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Of course Miss Jekyll had her own pet architect in tow as well, a collaboration that wrought some of the finest examples of designing house and landscape together. Michelle's reminiscence contains the secret disadvantage in the 'house in a garden' scenario and that is who keeps the garden from swallowing the house. Russell Paige was not a fan of the perennial plant style calling it "so much coloured hay" and without the full time attention that was affordable to Miss Jekyll I'm afraid this is an accurate description of neglect.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 5:10PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

It's not just perennials - and maybe even particularly not perennials! - that may result in the garden swallowing the house. It is very clear to me here that a year or two of neglect in this garden would see it (and eventually the house) vanish in a forest of ash (and other) tree saplings. Hay - even 'colored hay' - requires a sunny, open site. It's the forest that lurks impatiently waiting to reclaim its land that would keep hay's tenture brief in much of this part of the country :-)

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 5:24PM
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I think that's what I'm trying to *create*, but i'm calling it a 'house in the park'. Go figure.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 2:27AM
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The wish for "a garden with a house in it" is also a desire for solitude is it not? To see nothing but plants when you look out your window, that sort of thing? Whereas the "curb appeal" approach might convey concern for one's social status. Might we call this introverted vs extroverted landscaping?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 7:48AM
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Timbu, I think what you say is a POSSIBILITY, but not necessarily an accepted conclusion. If one is obsessed by loving plants to the extreme, it may be the best way they can display that intense love. It could well have the effect of attracting like-minded individuals so is not necessarily an indicator of introverted behavior. Also, the "curb appeal" approach has as much to do with a love of beauty, personal pride and the desire for organization.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 8:37AM
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That is an interesting way of interpreting it timbu with more than a little truth in it. There are, of course other ways of looking at it some, even with a psychological bent. Some with a more fairy tale approach: "come into my garden said the spider to the fly" would only work as an enticement if there was an "into". As would Tennyson's poem:

Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, Night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the roses blown.

Even Tennyson would struggle to make 'curb appeal' poetic I feel.

Here is a link that might be useful: come into the garden maud

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 8:58AM
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I have always secretly aspired to a hobbit hovel.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 11:50AM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

I hope you are not over and out on this thread.
I'm suprised that you bit at the bait on the foundation thread. You must know by now how it always turns out if you don't agree with the poster.
Its a given degenerate pattern, so why even bother ?

I must admit that I didn't buy my house and tiny sliver of property because I saw the potential for a garden. I scooped it up because it was at a reasonable price ( for Marin County ) that I could afford and it was located near my client base.
But I have enjoyed making my garden around the house.
The garden far outshines the tiny cottage and over the years the garden has inspired others in the neighborhood to do more plantings in their front yards ( with the exception of Hillbilly Bob my dead beat neighbor whose biggest contribution to gardening is letting his entire house decompose and compost into the earth )
So I can relate to Ms. Jeckyll when she set about making a garden around her oh so incredibly lovely house.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 2:55PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I think one thing that I don't like about how we usually discuss plantings around houses is that we talk about what "the house" needs. I even see myself doing it.

It is really all about what "the person" needs. I would landscape almost any house I lived in just as I have my current one, no matter what the house. Sure there'd be a bit of a different ethos with MCM vs. Victorian, but overall? I plant what I need, and that is what I think most people do - and should.

Cearbhaill's mom - that will be me in 20 years or less. And at that point, if I still live here I will convert everything back to grass and hire a mower. One with a rake.

Karin L

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 5:19PM
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karin: we have been thrashing this around for a while now but with your people vs house need theory you may have hit a nail on its head. There may be a grey area where what a person needs is to tart up the facade but generally speaking this (our landscape) is the place where we live and what we want from it is as variable as we are. What this means is that any formulaic house garden combination is a hit or miss affair.

I have had clients prepared to spend mega bucks on a garden they never intend walking into but want it to look like a picture from the upstairs window. And another who wanted to feel as though they were in an enchanted garden when they walked outside (their words not mine). And this is what a designer taps into. Obviously making your own garden is different yet the process is the same, if you start from "What should I put in my foundation planting scheme?" and then work backwards you are missing out on the magic.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 6:16PM
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As Woodyoak stated most of us don't have that luxury. When I grew up, homes were typically small but custom and the grandiose trees were incorporated with the placement of the house. Not only was this done to keep the cost down but also to have a beautiful mature tree.

In the city today, many of us are governed by water restrictions, electrical wiring, proper drainage, HOA rules and regulations, etc. Unless you are passionate about your yard enough to hire a designer or DIY if you have the expertise, what is often left is a ho hum yard.

My postage stamp front yard, though it gets oohs and ahs from neighbors, is what I would consider ho hum. The garden is built around the house. Besides the restrictve HOA rules, I had to contend with a fire hydrant and utility box in direct line of the front door. That coupled with a drop off that couldn't be lessened w/o rebuilding the house. It's pleasant but not the garden with the house placed in it.

That said, we have a large side yard (at least by city standards), that I designed what I call my oasis. Though it varies from 15-30' wide it will have about a 60' walkway. Since it will rarely/never be used in the winter, I have taken into account, spring, summer and fall blooms and colors. I have made sure there is wonderful scents to fill the air as much as I could. I am in the middle ground of a landscaper and gardener and believe both are very important to create a wonderful yard...This area will be a garden with a house next to it.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 8:57PM
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The quote from gertrude Jekyll does not say that the house has to be built after the garden or that the design has to precede the existence of the house. IMO its about the perspective from which you approach the design process. A house with a garden in it, prioritizes the garden, not the house. The garden is the focal point not the house.

Love the ideas of introverted/extroverted landscaping and focus on the person. In my work i think about landscaping as 'walk through' or not. 'Walk through' landscaping is the best, everyone should have a landscape that invites you to stroll through it. Some people just want foundation plantings though.

Can you have a garden with a house in it that is not sheltered from the street? Does it have to be private, or could your garden and house be right out there, shared with the world?

Thanks for starting a reasonable discussion about this topic Ink.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 8:45AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

drtygrl - While the quote re garden with a house in it does not say build the garden first, that is in fact what Gertrude Jekyll did at Munstead Wood! The property was acros the road from her mother's place. She created a garden for her mother while she was living with her mother and also developed the garden on the 15 acres she bought across the road. Her house came much later (10-15 years or so if I remember rightly...) When she met Lutyens, she first got him to build a small cottage she called 'the Hut', where she lived while Munstead Wood was being built. She called her 15 acre garden 'small'! And she had 14 gardeners working for her eventually. I often wonder what she would have thought about todays ultra-small gardens and find it very impressive that her color schemes and planting style adapt quite well to a garden scale that probably would have seemed ridiculous to her!

Re introvert/extrovert... I think you have to be careful not to take that analogy in the wrong direction. A garden that is worked in often is a great way to meet the neighbours! Any time we're working in the front garden, people walking by almost always stop to talk to us - and often end up touring the garden :-) So I see a garden that is a little out of the ordinary as an invitation to socialize....

I think our front garden looks so much better after we put in the 'moat bed' along the ditch. It made the garden feel like a separate space but we kept the plantings low enough to keep the garden visible, open and friendly-feeling. People will either stand on the far side of the ditch to talk to us when we're in the garden, or if they know us reasonably well, will cross the ditch and stand on the outside of the moat bed, not crossing into the garden until they are invited to do so. The best of both worlds....

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 10:57AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

For my own home and garden, the views from each room's windows is as important for my enjoyment of the garden as the actual spaces outside. Similar to Michelle, my lot is very small and garden space is at a premium. Even though I don't have the luxury of space between me and my neighbors,(4 foot wide sideyards and 18 foot front garden on a 40 foot wide lot), I've managed to give myself both year round garden views with privacy and not one curtain or blind to cover a window. Of course a traditional garden layout of lawn and foundation shrubs wouldn't give me the same liberty to leave the windows untreated...

I can't even imagine the type of garden design that might require 14 gardeners to maintain it, and the little I've read of Jekyle's gardening style made me realize it didn't resonate with my personal tastes; simply too fussy and labor intensive, too obsessed with flowers over structure in my view. On the other hand, I have immense respect for Russell Page's body of work, even though the scale and budgets for the majority of his clients is also hard to relate to.

Ultimately garden design is intimately tied to region, climate, culture and individual style; no one shoe fits all feet. This is as it should be, and probably why I resent other forum professionals claiming that there are universal planting design solutions. Simply a good indication of a closed mind in my opinion. It's been interesting reading this thread, perhaps I should give Jekyl another chance, as I do admire some of her more inspired planting combinations, but they don't translate well for year round gardening climates. Or should I just own up to the fact that I just don't like gardens full of winter deciduous plants/perennials, and only occasionally include them in my designs. I've come around to including substantially more summer deciduous bulbs/perennials/trees in my gardens as appropriate climatic zone choices, given our long summer dry season here in California. I've also come to appreciate subtropical trees and shrubs that go briefly deciduous in spring or early summer right before they bloom. Driving through the Mission District of San Francisco this week, the deep purle blooms of the Jacaranda street trees are all the more beautiful for the trees having dropped all their leaves in April/May. A characteristic of many subtropical Mexican/South African/Brazilian plants that more temperate climate gardeners might find disturbing.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 11:41PM
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I had this odd experience when stepping into the yard of a neighbor across the street: Whoa, I never looked at it from this perspective before! Thing is, both her and my gardens are well visible from the street (we're on a street corner), but once you're in the garden, it feels like a private, isolated world - I wonder what contributes to that perception. Canopy of trees? Details you wouldn't notice from a distance, and which direct the eye "inwards"?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 3:24AM
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"why I resent other forum professionals claiming that there are universal planting design solutions."

That's an interesting tactic. Put words in someone else's mouth as though they've said them... and then react as if you're in opposition to those ideas... the ideas that you have created and attributed! That's skilled manipulation! A bit "high school," but skilled.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 8:32AM
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WHAT IF...just once there was a thread on the landscape design forum that Yard didn't comment on?

(What if, just once, I could ignore rather than take the bait?)

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 9:21AM
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What a snide, immature comment to make drtygrl.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 9:36AM
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Oh, I am glad you picked up on the snideness, I wasn't sure it came through.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 10:14AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Bahia - do give Jekyll another chance :-) She's an absoltutely fascinating person. A good book to get is 'The Gardener's Essential Gertrude Jekyll' which is sort of a cross between a biography and a collection of some of her writings. She was indeed very plant focused in a way that, as you say, isn't perhaps approprite to your climate or style. But there's more to her than that.

She was remarkably skilled in a wide range of arts and crafts - the very epitome of the Arts and Crafts movement! She had extremely bad eyesight (natural focal distance was apparently 2"!) so what she achieved in her time, and her lasting impact on gardening is pretty amazing. She didn't really switch her focus to gardening from other arts until middle age, but still was involved in designing something like 350 gardens and wrote more than a dozen books before she died at 89. The book conveys her unique 'voice' and you get a very clear impression of a strong, opinionated, class conscious, somewhat snobbish garden-obsessed perfectionist. She was both a woman of her times and a woman ahead of her time - many of her opinions reflect the Victorian class system and her training as an artist e.g. 'And when one hears the common chatter about 'artistic colors', one receives an unpleasant impression about the education and good taste of the speaker.' Highly unusual for her time, she was an unmarried woman who was independent, financially successful, famous and respected in her lifetime for her own skills and knowledge. Even if you don't like her approach to gardening, she's one of those characters that is well worth 'meeting'. :-)

Yard - can you work on growing a thicker skin please? :-) It can be difficult/jarring to see ourselves as others see us - I have certainly had that sort experience both here and elsewhere. But I have come to see that one can't argue others into seeing you more like you see yourself. You just have to continue to contribute your views when you feel they might have value and let people get to know you better that way. Of course, the occasional 'meltdown' happens from time to time for various reasons (some of which may be unrelated to the specific trigger on the Forum...) but regularly repeated meltdowns do get a bit tiresome :-) You have become a recognizable 'voice'/character on the forum but it would be nicer if you could learn to ignore most of the perceived slights....

Here is a link that might be useful: The Gardener's Essential Gertrude Jekyll

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 10:40AM
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Woody, I appreciate your views on the problems that occur on the forum from time to time but disagree with your analysis that it has anything to do with the thickness of my skin or that I'm the cause. The nastiness is not coming from me. Drtygrl's rude comment is only example. There are others above hers. There's no cause for anyone attributing thoughts, ideas and claims to me unless those things come from me. There's a campaign on now claiming that I'm "demanding" others agree with me. But in fact no one could ever find and quote any statement from me along those lines. I'm sure it's easy for you so sit to the sidelines as long as you are not the subject and tell someone else to allow others to do have their way, but my experience on this list is that letting it slide, helps nothing. To the contrary, it encourages it. If you want to tell someone to chill, why don't you say a few words to the ones spewing nasty, false comments?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 12:24PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

She was also a 'cat lady', and I find the digressions about kitties and tea parties rather quaint. Definitely a personality, though perhaps a bit too much of the stereotypical maiden aunt.

On Jekyll's recommendation, I have gone out into the garden and taken my glasses off. While I'm not nearly as nearsighted as she was, it does turn the garden into an impressionistic mass of color blobs. So color becomes the overriding experience, over texture or any other attribute.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 12:32PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Yard - believe me, I've been 'there' too... (my first experiences on this forum were as contentious as yours...) Part of my 'reputation' here is that I'm the flower-nut and flowers are - to put it mildly at times - undervalued here. Sometimes belittling comments on the unimportance of flowers can feel like a personal comment on the value of my contributions here. Sometimes I rise to the defense of flowers :-) but usually I don't bother anymore. Part of my motivation above re the information on Gertrude Jekyll is to say yes, she was a flower/plant-centric person and that's largely fallen out of favor with design-types these days, but that she was a fascinating, complex person well worth learning more about before dismissing her as a cliche. Maybe a few people might be intrigued enough to learn more; many will not. Their loss....

The more you rise to the bait, the more people will tune you out - and that, presumably, is not what you want from participating here. (Repeat after me: 'sticks and stones ...')

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 12:46PM
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Woody, I see that advice as more reasoned counsel though I can't claim that I'd be willing to let anything slide. Concerted attempts to create a false notion about what a person has said cannot go unchallenged. I don't see behavior on the forum any different from the rest of life. A person can't go around aggressively starting fights; but neither can a person refuse to defend themselves if and when the need arises. I am not the originator of fight-picking comments that occur on threads. Certain others habitually post such comments. You'll note, I'm sure, that their claims never use quotes as it's an attempt to CREATE an image out of thin air. I'd think that innocent onlookers would be more inclined to say something to the aggressors instead of the other way around. Then again, it is THAT forum which seems to have earned a somewhat negative reputation in the way some people behave.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 1:36PM
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Much of the negative regard for this forum is unwarranted, methinks. It just happens to be the polar opposite of some others where never is heard a dissenting word. The occasional crossovers from elsewhere will drop by here, get in their licks, and disappear back into happy happy happy.

There, I've dissed other forums. But I don't participate in any of those because I can't like bad art even a Southwestern Motel 6 wouldn't hang or discuss the many placement options for the pleather barcalounger or immediately tell the nuanced differences in ivory paint chips. And I'm not a snob.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 4:11PM
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I was enjoying this discussion. Until someone came in and stunk it up.

About that quote pointed to by Yard, "why I resent other forum professionals claiming that there are universal planting design solutions."

For myself, within the context it was said, I took it as a concept, not pointed at any particular person. But Yard couldn't resist running in, snatching that shoe up and putting it on his own foot.

Yard, everything said here is not about you. I think you have a vastly overrated opinion of your status on this forum. You say that words were put in your mouth. Not so. You weren't named and if you do not endorse universal planting design solutions, how could you even think the statement referred to you?

Yard, your problems here stem from your own actions. It's the chip you carry on your shoulder. I point to your words:

".... though I can't claim that I'd be willing to let anything slide."


"Concerted attempts to create a false notion about what a person has said cannot go unchallenged."

[emphasis added]

I wonder how you would like it if everyone adopted the same attitude toward you. My first thought was to go find your every post, find the exception (and there are usually exceptions to everything), and throw it back in your face.

If you want to challenge everything, expect to be challenged. I can't speak for others, but if you continue to stink this place up you are going to get my attention.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 10:42AM
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Gertrude Jekyll gave inspiration to and in turn was inspired by Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens once said something that I to found inspirational he said "A garden scheme should have a backbone - a central idea beautifully phrased."

It is a quote that is suitably vague so that we may all decide what he meant. I think he meant that the design should take its motivation from a dream/idea/imagination and be guided by that throughout the process. It is a designers job to turn that idea into a practical reality that is "beautifully phrased". Where does the idea come from? It comes from the place and its owner mainly making for an individual garden that is built outwards from the person.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 11:00AM
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