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inspiration

Posted by drtygrl (My Page) on
Tue, Aug 23, 11 at 16:47

What do you use for inspiration in your designs? At this time of the summer I start finding myself at a loss for new ideas; relying more and more on the same plants, combinations and ideas. When I get to that point I usually turn to books for inspiration. Two of my favorites are Archticture in the Garden by J Van Sweden and Garden Design Details by arne maynard but I have a really big library of books. I find online images less inspirational because a search results in such a mismash of useful and not useful results. But I do really love piet oudolf's website.

I try to do most of the design work in the spring, when I am more inspired, but there are always a bunch of fall jobs I didn't anticipate or jobs that include an increase of the scope of work. After working such long days for the short but intense season here I just cant seem to get a lot of great ideas without a little help!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: inspiration

One thing you might try is looking outside of your particular field of design into another design discipline or art form. You could find inspiration in music for instance or interior design. Interior design tends to be way more colour oriented than landscape design I guess because green is always a given. Photography could give you a new approach to light and shade, sculpture for its emphasis on form and so on.


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RE: inspiration

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 24, 11 at 3:13

I guess it really is a whole different ball game when you live/work in a four season climate. The pace isn't quite so concentrated here into a brief warmer season, and in fact October is the absolute ideal time to get plantings into the ground, and can continue all winter long for most everything except tropicals. I do get completely that long summer work days to take advantage of the evening light can make it difficult to do office/design work after a long day in the field. I don't think of August/September as being more limited as to plant choices,as the tropicals and subtropicals are really coming into their own this time of year. August is a month that always seems a little bittersweet, as the days are just so perfect this season here by the San Francisco bay, warm sunny days following early morning fog, and everything just growing and flowering so exuberantly, that I could even imagine myself back in Brazil.

To address your actual question, I try to get out and visit either our fantastic local Botanic gardens or nurseries, and/or pull out old favorite design books or old magazine issues of Garden Design or Sunset magazine. I might also make the 10 minute walk down to Berkeley's hip Fourth St shopping and browse the design books at Builder's Booksorce and just take in the great public streetscape landscaping. Other times I might choose to visit gardens I've designed previously to get the creative juices flowing when I'm feeling blocked, and take photos.


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RE: inspiration

Once upon a time you would have had more replies to your question and that would have been inspiring. Bahia has inspired me in the past to experiment more with plants. I live in an area that has only two seasons: Off and On. I pulled my hair out trying to design gardens that would be interesting in the Off period only to find that most people were not interested. When I instead concentrated on making the On season even more on I found a new inspiration. David talks about a lot of plants that would normally be considered house plants here but some will grow outside during the summer and adding Dracaena (for instance) as an annual to a shady border has an edge on more mundane and ubiquitous annual plantings.


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RE: inspiration

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 24, 11 at 11:24

It's got to be tough working in a climate where the "off" season is longer that the "on" season. The only similar experience I've had was working on a Saudi prince's palace in Riyadh. No one ever used/enjoyed the garden during the day except during the brief 6 week long winter when it would only get to 85f during the day. I couldn't at first comprehend why there was no emphasis on creating shade with structures or effective tree massing, and instead an emphasis on massively over lighted garden layouts. As I spent more time living there, I began to realize that Saudis for the most part only went into their gardens at night, in a culture where it was common for shopping centers to be open still at 3 am and see pre school kids out with their families in the middle of the night. Both culture and climate are strong components of appropriate local design.


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RE: inspiration

dyrtgirl if you want this thread to take off now might be a good time to add some input, know what I mean?


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RE: inspiration

I cant believe the amazing input you both have given me. I LOVE the idea of taking inspiration from other design fields. It actually is something I really never considered seriously before you mentioned it. I have been inspired by art in an incidental way in the past - but never really considered seeking it out as a source of inspiration. Ink, do you have certain artists or designers that you find particularly inspiring?

David, you have really shown a thoughtfulness in understanding how the season works here; in a way that is completely different than in your climate. Perhaps your impressive experience in Saudi Arabia helped you gain that perspective. To be completely honest, I work 6-7 days a week from april to mid august and the weekdays tend to be extremely long days. So as I was considering your reply, I realize it is somewhat lack of inspiration, but probably a good part of exhaustion!

I appreciate the reminder to take inspiration from local public gardens and nurseries. Its pretty rural where I live and during a busy season it is hard to take time to visit gardens - but it is also a very important thing to do.

Its hard right now because there are so many reminders of the season ending soon - mums, sales, about 3 weeks left in planting season, all the summer people starting to leave, and school starting!

One other thought. My business has become very successful because of the balance I maintain between working efficiently and attention to detail. At this point in the season, after considering your responses, I realize I really need to slow down my pace to keep up the quality of my work. THe quality of my work is directly related to the future work I will obtain, so in both a design and business sense it makes sense to slow down and insure quality.


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RE: inspiration

In addition to fashion or other kinds of art, you might want to look at Art Quilting sites or magazines as well.

There is one, called Quilting Arts, that isn't the same old quilts that you've seen a thousand times. Some of the texture & color combinations might spark your creative feelings again. I used to quilt years ago & that was always an interesting read (nice eye candy).

It sounds like you really do need a break, too, though. And that will work wonders for you.


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RE: inspiration

"do you have certain artists or designers that you find particularly inspiring?" This is a very personal thing so I suggest you get yourself off to an art gallery (take a day off) as being in the presence of a painting/sculpture/quilt has a much greater impact than in a book or on a computer screen. For instance I had seen the work of Mark Rothko in books and I was far from impressed then a few years ago I visited the Tate Modern in London where one whole room was given over to his paintings. In a book you see black with a red stripe and you wonder what that is all about but when that same painting is maybe 14 feet by 10 feet and there are similar paintings of similar size all around you there is an overwhelming emotional impact. I have no idea why perhaps it is the spaciousness but the lesson I learned from that was to attempt to design for emotional impact, how do you do that?

As for designers the same applies and what turns me on may not work for you, having said that the first time I saw the work of Luis Barragan (in a book !) it brought tears to my eyes.


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RE: inspiration

Thats a really great point about the art, Ink. It never does appear the same in a book or on a computer. I guess the same holds true for landscapes - the photos never do it justice!
And how do you design for emotional impact? I design for visual impact. Emotional? IDK I dont think my designs make people cry!

A day off to go to boston and the BFA and Arnold Arboretum are going on my schedule, now.

Pam, you are right about quilts - the patterns are really incredible. I think I need to give more thought to translating the 2D designs into a 3D landscape. There are a lot of inspiring quilters in my area but I never related it to garden and landscape design.


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Luis Barragan

I searched his (Luis Barragan) architecture online and I am very inspired also. I have to say I was surprised a little bit, Ink, because i thought you were a traditional/English garden inspired person - but Barragan's amazing contemporary mexican design is a really different perspective on landscapes. Thanks for referencing his designs.


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RE: inspiration

I think there's a lot to be said about off-season interest. Half of the reason I got into this field was because I visited the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in the winter, and needless to say that inspired me greatly.


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RE: inspiration

Bahia, is there an old thread about that Saudi garden, or any links? I'm curious - how much did you pick up from local tradition? What about designing for night-time - I guess lighting is important, and scents?
Ink, I'm crazy about Barragan too, I'd really love to see these buildings up close but Mexico is becoming a dangerous place I've heard (true or false?)
Sometimes what limits our inspiration is saying "I'll never..." or in your case it might be customers saying "I'll never" - does it happen in your business, Drtygrl?


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RE: inspiration

Speaking of inspiration... I added a new blog post about a recent visit to a place that wasn't really intended as a park, but a sort of a science museum:

Here is a link that might be useful: Tom Tits


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RE: inspiration

I think you are right, 'I'll never' does limit me a bit. My hard and fast rule is to not try out new species of plants in customer's yards, and I try to not plant things that I haven't had a lot of experience with. Most of my customers are not looking for landscapes that require a lot of work so any plants that are fussy, messy, difficult, grow too fast are also off my list. At this point in the season, after doing so much work, the same palette of plants seems a little limiting I guess. And of course I am limited by a difficult climate - Zone 4.

The most recent project I did was very limited by the customer's list of don'ts. Many of them were practical - as you can see from the pictures, it was an extremely exposed site with an amazing view. There are no other visible houses in the house's entire view except the immediate neighbor, who is a family member. The customer did not want anything to block any aspect of the view except the one house that is visible. Even the view from inside the pool was important to them- that was a tough one.

Also the wind was a huge issue- they were originally saying no mulch at all so it wouldn't blow in the pool. Then they realized the loam could blow in the pool also so they let me put down light mulch that we pressed down which will eventually be unnecessary as the ground covers will fill in.

I hope you like the pictures; they were taken the day we finished the project, so it will be good to see this site again when things have matured. Also my photography is not the best- sorry about that its just not my strength.

Here is a link that might be useful: pool landscape


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RE: inspiration

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sat, Aug 27, 11 at 14:53

A beautiful setting that pool terrace takes in, and I would have guessed that you'd use a lot of grasses in a hill top setting with lots of wind. The only similar climate zone here in California would be at altitude up on the Sierra Nevada mountains such as Lake Tahoe. I've only ever done minor design work up there, and winter interest from landscaping is pretty much limited to trees, as the winter snow cover builds up to ten to twenty feet deep by January, and doesn't clear off until late April or early May. Absolutely no point in designing for ground level winter interest in those conditions.

Too bad that Mexico gets such a bad rap in the world press as a travel destination, when it is really just the border areas adjacent the USA that have the majority of the guns and drugs violence. The parts of Mexico that feature barragan's classic works are perfectly safe, and you couldn't really imagine a more gracious and welcoming people than the average Mexican national. It is safer to skip the 100 miles adjacent the USA border, and avoid travelling at night by car on highways which are little trafficked, as much due to wandering cattle and poorly maintained roads as to possible problems from drug trafficking. Toll roads between major cities are a much safer option when traveling on your own, or buses or trains.

I don't want to hijack this thread re: Saudi Arabian palaces, but I have never posted photos of this project here or elsewhere as they are all 35mm slides which would need to be scanned first. Also, I unfortunately was not involved with doing the lead design work; only coming on to the project as it was winding down. My role was mostly about fixing problems due to construction impacts and trying to find suitable substitutions for plants/trees that had failed, or places to use the overflow of plants in the four acre on site nursery somewhere within the 12 acres of gardens. The designer was chosen based on a hotel landscape in Las Vegas which the prince had seen in his travels, while another part of the palace gardens were an exact replica of the Alhambra palace gardens in Grenada, Spain. All of the landscaping throughout Riyadh uses desalinated water piped in from the Persian Gulf, and the palace landscape was planted in a 1.5 meter deep layer of imported dune sand placed over solid limestone bedrock over looking a wadi, which is a large river carved canyon that divide parts of Riyadh from the time period when Saudi Arabia actually had seasonal rains and supported a much lusher vegetation. So, the short answer to whether that palace landscape had cultural resonance, I can o ly say both yes and no... Although perhaps Las Vegas and Saudi Arabia have more in common that one would assume at first glance. Certainly the royal family, numbering over 10,000 in number are not as pious or devout as the average Saudi citizen or imported Muslim laborer, and it was a real eye opener to find that drugs, alcohol, and illicit sexual liaisons are as plentiful there as the are here in western cultures. As just one example, drug and alcohol treatment clinics advertised freely in Riyadh, and while satellite television dishes were technically illegal, nearly every house had their own dish, and American and European television including soft porn were freely available, while a bare female shoulder or leg in magazines or newspapers would be inked out on newsstand copies on a daily basis. The Saudis are terribly afraid of losing their culture to the negative influences of western culture, but in my opinion, they can't win this battle, and their oppressive efforts to do so are counter productive. It was an interesting cultural experience, but I felt more respect for Islamic beliefs from my time spent working and befriending Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia...,


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RE: inspiration

Not a hijack David, the first chapter of your book maybe but yes a diversion.

If you are designing landscapes in a zone that only really supports a few species reliably then imagination comes to the fore. Up here most spiraea, some cornus and what is commonly known as 'cedar' do well and a line of cedar with the other two dotted about in front with a few Stella d'oro and a mass of impatients for the summer is what passes as 'landscaping' a lot. Using those same plants creatively is another story, perhaps this could be a challenge for designshare but as David will agree it is the restrictions that make you work hardest and often produce the best work.


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RE: inspiration

"perhaps this could be a challenge for designshare"
I enjoy it.My cantrip hit ink,I am a focus in many thread.
drtvgrl:every times,every place cultural relic give me inspiration.they representative all inspiration.


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RE: inspiration

I have really tried over here china girl but you have to meet me half way. I can quote Lau Tzu but we don't need anyone to tell us how ego can stand in the way.Please don't let your immaturity deny us the wisdom of your culture. But like I said this is the one.


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RE: 7inspiration

You are same with a grandmother,come from Canada.
I am from Buffalo NY,but my inspiration come from multiculture.
A baby give me nature inspiration too.


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RE: inspiration

What would a thread on garden web be without some pictures, the first chapter of davids book, an argument between ink and designshare and lots of tangents! :)

That is a truly amazing comparison between saudi Arabia and Vegas, at least in terms of landscaping. Very interesting commentary on the culture, also. That must have been an amazing experience. I would love to read the second chapter too.

I have been to tahoe, and the landscaping situation here is pretty similar for winter because we always have several feet of snow cover. The trees there are truly fantastic in the winter, and the views of the lake are really all one needs on top of all that fantastic skiing!

On of the considerations I forgot to mention about the pool landscaping are those horrific retaining walls. I was not involved in that stage of the planning, and while I have seen worse, I would have encouraged some different choices. In my experience, shrubs and trees need to be unbelievably tough to survive in those situations because the terraced stone increases the exposure of the roots to extreme temperatures. Air temperatures here usually reach -20 several times a winter, and since the stone wall exposes the planting area it is a much more difficult site for the plants. That's why I used choices like spire, spruce and juniper, hemerocallis grasses and sedum. My neighbor has a similar site for their pool and burning bush- which is now an invasive species in new Hampshire - did not survive. They ended up replacing it with juniper, but we are probably going to re do their landscaping next spring as their landscaper really missed the mark.


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RE: inspiration

Very, very off topic but: drtygrl, do you happen to run a business in the Forest Lake area, in Minnesota? There's someone that literally lives down the road from me with "dirtygirl landscaping" or something like that on the side of her truck. I walk by it often.


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RE: inspiration

No - I dont. but there are a lot of dirty girl and in my area even a dirtyboyz landscaping companies.
Its a funny name on here - but probably not the professional image I would like to project for my business. Although we do joke about it a lot. Especially company mottos - "who else would you want in your bed?" "Dirty girl landscaping - a passion for gardening" that sort of stuff that is probably a whole lot funnier after you have been sweating for 8 hours planting and mulching!


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RE: inspiration

The more I think about it the more I am inspired by a push up bra although if I was honest it would be the contents more than the thing itself that did it but a reinforced custom made contraption is too much even for my evil mind.


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RE: inspiration

Custom fit push up bras... perfect way to end the dirtygirl discussion of inspiration. The girls gotta look good...


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RE: inspiration

They sure do!


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