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Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Posted by woodyoak 5 (My Page) on
Wed, Dec 21, 11 at 11:30

In the issue of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Garden magazine that just arrived yesterday, there was an interesting feature on a small (39'x 118') garden in London. One thing that particularly struck me was the lawn reduced to a broad curved path - without any wiggly edges to the beds bordering it! In most North American gardens, there seems to be an obsession with making wiggly curves as bed edges; I think long, smooth curves are so much better if you want the lines to curve. I thought this garden illustrated the impact of a smooth curve nicely.

I went looking for pictures of the garden since I don't think I can find or link the actual article here. I found a link to the garden on the designer's site, linked below. The last picture shows the curved lawn best I think. The article had a drawing that showed the whole garden - that doesn't seem to be on the website unfortunately. But the before and after pictures on the site were not in the article and are very interesting to see.

Here is a link that might be useful: small UK garden


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

The wide exuberant border plantings make the garden seem much wider than 39 ft.

I am currently trying to de-wiggle my yard. I originally did it in reaction against the previous owner's straight line mentality but over did it. Curves that the lawn mower can get to are my current goal.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 21, 11 at 13:01

We don't seem to see that preference for squiggly lawns borders here in the SF Bay Area so much. I would agree that a bold curve can have more impact, and certainly makes it easier to mow the lawn. Large lawns are almost a guilty pleasure here in California, where their higher water use compared to other landscaping make them a prime candidate to be removed if they aren't really needed for kid's play area. Here's a project where I did use lawn, but balanced it with a low water needs border of a California version of a perennial border.

In other gardens I've designed here, I prefer to replace the grass altogether, and use walk-on ground covers such as Dymondia margaratae or Ophiopogon japonicus or Carex divulsa/pansa. Same idea, however, bold smooth curves have high visual impact.

The garden posted certainly looks english with the plant choices and that exuberant selection of perennials. It also looks high maintenance with all those herbaceous perennials that need periodic dividing and seasonal cutting back. I also wonder what such gardens look like in the winter.

Here is a link that might be useful: A smooth bold curved edge at lawn


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Curved lawn without grass

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 21, 11 at 13:28

Another photo to illustrate the topic, but using walk-on ground cover instead of lawn. This garden is even smaller than the British one posted, only 15 foot deep by 50 feet wide, tiny! I didn't want the inconvenience of having to mow a lawn in such a small space, but providing additional area to walk on when entertaining outdoors was imperative here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Instead of a curved lawn


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

I agree a thousand times over...the simple, direct curves are not only bolder, stronger statements, but they just look better and more organized. I associate the wiggly edges (which, agreed, are rampant) with a lack of experience.

To my thinking there is a vast difference between garden design and landscape design. The fact that the two are lumped together in this forum automatically invites substantial disagreement. I wouldn't think that wiggly edges would be part of a landscape design, but that in a "garden" design they might be permitted. (I wish these two area of the forum were divided.)

Nice curves, David.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

How about these as some of the causes of wiggly edges?

= To expand on Yardvaark: gardeners whose inexperience makes them overly tentative: "Since I've never done this before, I'll keep it small: better a small mistake than a large one;" "If it's small, it'll be easy to change it back if I don't like it;" and "Maybe this year I'll make a little ring around that maple to keep the lawn neat."

Which leads us to:

= Cement edging with small-radius curves. It's not the gardeners' fault, it's the building supply company's fault?

= Because of cost and time constraints, many homeowners opt for small beds. Then, for example, rather than have a straight 2' bed along the front of the house, they add two or three 4'-diameter half-circles (or other types of wiggles) so the bed stays small but yet doesn't commit the sin of looking plain.

= A relative of perimeteritis: corneritis. (Hm ... I don't think I want to examine that one too closely. Anyway, those two corners were problems! And I hasten to add that neither new corner bed is a quarter circle or has wiggly edges.)

= Many people aren't good at math, let alone geometry. If they could draw the proposed bed with the wiggly edges on a piece of graph paper, perhaps they would realize the shape wasn't ideal? My father gave me good math genes; my mother taught me to plan furniture arrangements on graph paper -- but not everyone is so lucky.

= Not standing back and looking at the entire yard. Actually, it's a bit more complex than that. In some cases, the homeowner may not have a good location to view the entire yard, due to street parking, neighbors' trees, not wishing to stand on someone else's lawn or in the middle of the street, etc. In other cases, it never occurred to the homeowner that a distance view would be helpful. And many people simply have difficulty visualizing what's not actually there.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

David - I agree that your examples, especially the first one, give a similar 'feel' - with a plant palette that is totally alien to me! The article says the owner is a plant lover, so I assume that she's not bothered by the work involved in caring for the perennials. The article says this version of the garden evolved over 10 years. For the first 17 years there, the garden 'functioned mainly as a sports field for the children'. Once the children grew up, she wanted 'a proper garden'. Karin would be happy to hear that the process started with removing 'inappropriately large trees' :-)

The only part I didn't like was the meadow garden (the third picture down....) It seemed out of place and messy-looking.

Based on my experience with the shaped grass areas here, I'd guess that the shaped lawn area would keep it looking interesting even in winter. Plus given how early bulbs etc. can start blooming there, I'd guess the length of time that the garden is barren-looking is relatively short.

Yardvaark - how do you differentiate garden vs. landscape design? I consider myself a gardener but I consider the whole lot (and what is visible beyond the property lines) when planning/changing etc. the layout of the details of the garden. So where do you draw the line between garden and landscape?


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Woodyoak, to distill it down as simply as I can, in a garden, the plant is the important element. In a landscape, elements (plants or whatever) are not included unless it supports the overall goals of the spaces. The goals of gardening can often be at odds with the goals of landscaping. In many cases both are used in combination. I dispute neither the fact that the line betwixt the two can be fine nor that gardening can be a beautiful thing...but not always is. Much depends on the garden designer's ability to finesse. Generally, landscaping looks cleaner and more organized. Gardening tends to look busier and less organized. Landscaping incorporates fewer species...gardening, more species. The best looking gardens use principles of landscape design in their planning. Many Landscapes use garden features to add pizzazz. Most commercial landscaping is landscape without gardening. Most residential landscaping incorporates some gardening.

Regardless of what one has planted, they can maintain is from a garden point of view or a landscape point of view and the results will be very different. The landscape point of view probably would not like low tree limbs to remain in front of and blocking the view of important architectural details. The gardening point of view may assess the appearance of the tree nearly oblivious to what view it might be blocking.

Obviously, this subject could be an entire book, but that's a quick summary.

Here's an example of landscaping:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
By

Here's an example gardening:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
By

Here's an example of a combining landscaping and gardening:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
By


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Yardvaark - from the verbal description you've given, landscaping sounds dead boring to me and I'm happy to stick to gardening! But I don't think your pictures clarify the verbal description much so I'm not still not sure exactly what you mean. I'm curious - are you a L.A.?

The landscaping vs. gardening debate that pops up periodically always brings to mind the William Robinson vs. Sir Reginald Bloomfield debate (I've just been rereading 'The Wild Garden' and 'The English Flower Garden' :- ) Bloomfield's summary comment after the debate died down seems relevant still :'The gardeners said the architects knew nothing about gardening, and the architects said the gardeners knew nothing about design, and there was a good deal of truth on both sides.' That debate was largely about formal gardens (the architect's side) vs more informal/'wild'/ naturalistic plantings (the Robinsonian side). 'Formal' has fallen out of favor (the Jekyll-Lutyens collaborations united the two approaches beautifully, taking much of the heat out of the original debate) but the architect vs gardener divide lives on...


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

My take, for what it's worth.

Landscape design = skin & bones
Garden design = hair styling, make-up and clothes...

Because my analogies don't always need big words, lol.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

I think the division Yardvaark is discussing is academic. You really can't have successful "landscape design" without both aspects. Chicken or the egg?


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

It seems to me that 'garden design' and 'landscape design' are interchangeable as long as everyone knows what is meant. In the profession there has always been a struggle about what to call a designer as opposed to a landscape architect especially as this is a fairly new appellation. A garden designer in England deals with domestic gardens (a garden being what an American would call a yard) and landscape design is what it is assumed a landscape architect does as part of his overall job. Not so long ago there was no separate educational institution or qualifications for garden design and it was assumed a 'landscape gardener' did the job from start to finish. I was really confused when I first crossed the pond to discover that a 'landscaper' was someone who cut the grass in the summer and cleared the snow in winter and a 'garden designer' arranged the planting in a flower bed. What you call yourself arouses expectations in your clients, of interest is that Gertrude Jekyll called herself a gardenist.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Totally enjoyed seeing the garden from England. I loved the lushness of the planting. I would have appreciated seeing a scaled site plan because it appears much larger than what I think of as a city lot and I can't figure out where the meadow garden ( don't care for ) is located.

In regards to broad curved sweeps vs. wiggly lines : I think it depends on the lot size + layout , the planterly style of the garden and how the curve/ wiggly line relates to the structures in the landscape. There is 'good , bad and ugly' in it all.

Personally, I'm not bothered by being called a landscape designer or a garden designer or a gardener. I think that the majority of the public doesn't really care or finds the topic important enough to give the title much thought.
As long as I get the job done, am properly compensated and the client is happy , I'm good.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

"Yardvaark - from the verbal description you've given, landscaping sounds dead boring to me and I'm happy to stick to gardening! But I don't think your pictures clarify the verbal description much so I'm not still not sure exactly what you mean. I'm curious - are you a L.A.?"

Woodyoak, the last picture alone should clarify the difference as it's just about split vertically down the middle between the two viewpoints. In that picture, most of the plants seem not to acknowledge that the house in the background exists. The right half, more or less, does, and the left half, more or less, does not.

Yes, I am LA. But my getting there was a long trip through garden/horticulture land. I can easily see the claims made in in the debate you mention. I agree that many LAs do not have a practical understanding of plants & their maintenance. Sometimes their expectations of what plants can or will do are off the map. And sometimes their work can having a "boring" quality to it. But that can sometimes be the result of other factors. And it's not an automatic "given." It also has something to do with one's ability to finesse space. I also think that many designers who have a strong garden/horticulture leanings, impose vegetation into a landscape that ignores the larger goals. Sometimes, plants and plantings riotously compete for attention instead of becoming subordinate and supporting the space their in. We see that both viewpoints are appreciated to one degree or another in the commercial realm. There is room for everyone.

Drtygrl, I disagree that successful landscapes MUST incorporate gardening to some extent. I agree that in most cases--especially residential situations--the "garden" aspect is frequently a part of a successful design.

Ink, I think that "garden design" and "landscape design" are generally USED interchangeably, but to me this only serves to add to the confusion because divergent ends of the spectrum exist and are represented by these similar phrases. (I think, in general, the language used in the landscape and horticultural industries is atrociously inaccurate and seriously in need of cleaning up by a learned academic...and the problem is compounded further if we get the Brits involved! :) ) It would be especially useful if clients with a particular leaning (garden vs landscape) were able to search for designers who shared their love of it.


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  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 22, 11 at 15:13

I don't think I agree with Yardvaark's splitting of the landscape profession so neatly into two opposed camps either. I suspect he sees himself as a designer who bridges the two camps, as do I, but good design needs both structure and interesting plantings in my view. Good design should also be about respecting the conditions of the site, and relating to the context and climate with the planting choices.

I'm with Michelle about what I preferred to be called professionally. While I do love to garden, I think the act of designing gardens is more than being a gardener. And here on the west coast of North America, a landscaper is more typically thought of as someone who installs landscapes, rather than just maintaining them, unless referred to as "landscape maintenance crew".

In any case, it is a real pleasure to be able to practice this profession in a part of the world where it is valued and lucrative. The only thing better in my view would be practicing in a range of climates such as tropical, desert, Mediterranean, rather than merely imitating the look...


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

d-d - I don't think I could post the drawing that was in the article without violating copyright; the meadow garden was a small area on the right side of the lawn about 2/3 of the way along to the back, on the east side. If you can find a copy of the Dec. RHS Garden magazine the article is on pages 39-41.

I think all the fuss about what to call who does what/who's allowed to do what is all rather silly and somewhat amusing to watch/read (especially some of the historic debates...) While I only have 1/4 acre to garden on rather than the estate-sized gardens that were the canvases of people like Robinson and Jekyll, it is the spirit of that sort of gardening that inspires my efforts i.e. a passionate love of working with the plants, soil and site, a love of beautiful effects, a somewhat adventurous/willing to experiment to see what works for you approach to plants and their use, with both beauty and utility as key goals. Design, however you want to label things, is a tool to achieve the goal of creating a beautiful and functional space. As an amateur, it may take me longer to get things 'right' but I do make a lot of effort to understand the tools of design so that I can improve my garden. I visit/participate in this forum for that reason, and that is also why I've taken various LD courses at the University of Guelph.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Returning now to the simplicity of the OP is the difference between 'design' and not curved lines over wiggles?


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

  • Posted by tibs 5/6 OH (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 22, 11 at 19:12

I equate a landscape architect with a building architect. A garden designer with an interior designer.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Ink - I'm not sure I understand what your question is... I don't know where in the continuum of 'design' or 'not design' the shape of the edge of a bed (or whatever) falls. Maybe it's solely a personal preference sort of thing.

To me, wiggly lines always look unnatural and awkward. They seem to make the bed look narrower and shorter because my eyes can't seem to find a place to rest quietly or flow along - they move back and forth between the front and back of the wiggle and there's not an easy flow along the line of the bed. A smooth curve, on the other hand, draws my eyes smoothly along the edge in either direction, giving a feeling of a strong, quiet flow. It's a peaceful feeling whereas the wiggly line feels agitated and busy.

I don't quite buy the position that wiggles are OK if the wiggle is there to skirt around something in the landscape. I would prefer, wherever possible, to reshape the edge approaching and after the obstacle to maintain as smooth a line as possible. I always go back to the idea of what is the line your feet would naturally follow?; that is the line that, to me, looks and feels natural and comfortable. When you skirt around an obstacle, you usually start adjusting your path as you approach the obstacle and after you pass it such that your line of travel is as smooth as possible. If, for example, you are walking through something like a boulder field and have no choice but to follow a wiggly path, it feels awkward and tiring.

From a practical point of view, wiggly edges are longer lines than a smooth curve would be so that means more time spent edging and, often, a difficult line to mow. A landscaper/designer installed a new bed on the neighbour across the street's front lawn this fall. The bed borders the top of the ditch. There are large rocks near the ditch edge. The line of the bed edge is wiggly, with the wiggles being, in most cases, between rocks. Heaven knows how the neighbour is going to mow the grass in those wiggles! Not to mention, if they don't keep it well edged and grass grows around/under those rocks, it will be a mess pretty quick. The rocks would likely be an issue regardless of the shape of the edge but the wiggles add unnecessary complications and do nothing at all (IMO) to enhance the look of the space.

Do these issues fall into 'design' or not? I don't know what the right answer to that is but they are certainly issues for me as a gardener, both from the maintenance side as well as from a seeking-beautiful-effects side.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

I used to do a lot more on the history of garden design here woodyoak but there was not much interest but as you are interested I will point you in the direction of John Dixon Hunt, Dumbarton Oaks and the word 'serpentine' with its Chinese connotations. This should keep you occupied over Christmas, googling.

We had an unexpected snow fall today so it will be a white one after all, I hope yours is full of joy.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

The words "serpentine" and "Chinese" bring one infamous poster to mind, I really hope that's not what you're referring to and I'm not smelling broccoli... Happy Hogswatch!


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Thanks, Ink - I'm familiar with the name Dumbarton Oaks but not the details. 'Serpentine' makes me think of Hyde Park... I will check out the Chinese connection :-) Should be fun checking it all out!

Have a great Christmas - it's going to be a green Christmas here - it's been abnormally mild all this month (there are early, botanical tulips already 2-3" tall in the driveway border!)


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Bahia, I am not saying that that the landscape profession is "neatly split into two camps." I'm saying they exist, as does a continuum between them. They are sometimes at odds, often blended, best both understood to be used well and balanced in a proportion that suits the larger goals. To my thinking this means leaning much more toward landscape design--in a forum titled "Landscape Design" and less toward garden. One can enjoy garden design without understanding or giving a rat's petutti about landscape design. And the end result might be a great garden, but a bad landscape. If that's one's desire, it's fine. But that's why I think the subjects warrant their own forums. I'm just saying that I do not see these things as the same.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Merry Christmas Woody!!

Are you going to mulch the tulips? Cold weather is coming - we finally got some snow here! It was starting to look like we were going to have a white halloween, a white thanksgiving and a green christmas and then we woke up yesterday to a couple of unexpected inches of snow.

Hope you have a wonderful holiday all!


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

'Survival of the fittest' gardening here drtygrl. If the tulips can't make it on their own, they don't belong here, so no mulch... :-) We've not had any snow at all yet.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

P. S. Merry Chrismas to you too drtygrl - and to all the forum 'regulars'. (I was distracted by the oven timer going off when I was posting the earlier reply :-) Reveillon dinner is here tonight so lots of cooking etc. going on today...)


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Two local projects created by environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy.... who has a thing for the wiggles.

Located on the Stanford U. campus - stone

From bromeliad 2011

Located in The Presidio S.F. cypress forest - constructed from Eucalyptus tree limbs.

From bromeliad 2011


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Interesting... - particularly the first one, which immediately made me think 'scaly snake'!

Deliberate art for art's sake though is not what most people are aiming for when they do wiggly bed edges so I see those examples of wiggles as something different from the average wiggly garden bed edge in suburbia :-)


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Love both of those Michele! I think there is a functional part of ld, but there is also an important element of art. I mean, if its not expressive and not artistic why not just have grass or ground cover?

The first one is so hard, sunny and dry but its lovely how each curve relates to the next so the curves balance the materials and site. The second, so lovely in the shade, with its softness but less relation between each curve.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

The first picture is Andy goldsworthy's version of a 'crinkle crankle' (sometimes serpentine) wall. As well as being nice to look at it is practical as a wall like that requires no additional buttressing for support and within each scallop there is a micro climate.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Drtygrl,
I couldn't agree more with you when you mention the importance of having the expressive element of art in the garden.
Functional pedestrian safe design often falls into the boring white toast category.
It lives its life out quietly without causing a emotional or intellectual stir. Yawn .... followed by a dead fart that neither packs a pungent smell or gives us any humorous sound effects. how benign.

A design that was just installed in Sonoma last week by my small company.

From Hwang project

curving driveway in Sonoma

From portfolioMay08.jpg

The wave garden in Richmond CA .

From wave garden pt. richmond

From wave garden pt. richmond

Parc Guell in Barcelona - Antonio Gaudi

From Barcelona Spain 2008

Parc Guell

From Barcelona Spain 2008

Casa mila

From Barcelona Spain 2008

Casa Mila - Barcelona

From Barcelona Spain 2008


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

I have no quarrel with 'expressive element of art' in the garden, but getting back to my original issue of bed edges... I doubt that most people putting wiggly bed edges in place are thinking of them as art or patterns (some of those examples above bring to mind the patterns and/or colors of Victorian carpet bedding!) They think they are/aiming at creating something that looks natural. And that brings in the question of scale. A wiggly/waggly edge on a smallish bed is quite a different thing than long curves stretched out over a distance (but the driveway, wave garden and the Barcelona exmples above still feel 'tight' in scale to me...) I conclude (a) I'm not explaining myself well, and (b) my personal tastes are, as usual, out of sync with the majority!


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Woody, in following this thread, I have never really been sure what you meant by wiggly bed edges. Its probably impolite(to the person whose yard we don't like), but I would love to see a picture of what you are thinking is a "Don't".

Michele, I would love to see pictures of your new install - great design. How big is it? The photo examples of curves are terrific. Similar to japanese gardens, in which the curve and shape of the path slow the visitor down and shape the interaction with the garden, these 'wiggly' gardens do all that, and the curves become an artistic element in the landscape.

Ink, love the microclimate part. Working in a zone that is so limited by winter, microclimates are really important. 'Crinkle crankle'? Love those english garden terms. 'haha'


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

drtygrl - pardon the poor photos that follow...

This is a picture taken on zoom setting, from my front porch looking across the street. These people love to garden and grow great plants well - but the bed edges drive me crazy! :-)

Image Hosting by PictureTrail.com

I would make a smooth line that basically connects the outer edges of each wiggle. It would make for a nice, not 'busy' line, actually give them more room in the bed for plants and reduce the length of the line to edge. This is a very rough line on a scan of a very poor quality print of the above picture but I hope you can see what I mean:

Image Hosting by PictureTrail.com

And this is the bed at a different house. I referred to it somewhere above - you can see it's at the top edge of the ditch.
Image Hosting by PictureTrail.com
How on earth are they going to mow the grass in those wiggles (installed by a landscape/design guy...) while standing on the slope of the ditch?! (The angle of the picture foreshortens/flattens the upward side of the ditch and also makes the 'bays' look wider than they actually are...)

The house side of the bed edge, while not great, is at least somewhat easier to mow around. There is a bed facing this one closer to the house. It has wiggly edges so there's a lot of busy lines and the 'negative space' is a left-over mishmash whereas it could have been shaped to be a nice green calm space in the middle of interesting plantings. (This bed was just made this fall so it's hard to tell yet what the deciduous stuff is but it looks like there's probably some nice things in there.)

Does that help at all with understanding what my issues are...?


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Here's a few examples of wiggly edge beds that are "over the top" for me. While I don't think of them as eyesores, I think that they are not nearly as attractive as they could otherwise be... if they were smoothed out into long, sleek curves. To me, these wavy edges seem less classy. Also, I see them as different from "art" which intentionally creates a repetitious wavy edge. The above mentioned landscape bed edges seem to be striving for a "naturalistic" character. I think, instead, they achieve a "contrived" one.


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That's it!

Exactly Yardvaark! They're the sort of thing that drives me nuts - you can't focus fully on the plantings and larger scene because those edges draw so much attention from your eyes.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

I concur. These wavy edges drive me nuts, too. I don't think they look classy...though they can look very expensive... as if people like the Beverly Hillbillies just got their yard done up.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Mind you, there are differences between some wiggles in the garden and others...


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Adrienne - that first snake picture of yours was what the stone crinkle crankle d-d posted reminded me of! Fortunately, we don't have any such residents in our garden - that we know of at least :-)


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Wow, those are some bad wiggly edges. Woody, that definitely helps me understand what you mean. And I can see the contrived look of the pics Yard posted but it leaves me wondering where exactly is the line? What is the difference between what works and what is distracting and annoying?

So in thinking this through, wiggles can be functional, artistic or enhancing of the overall design. Or a combination of those.

By functional I mean that the curves serve a purpose. For example my front bed at my house has a big wiggle in it (not sure, you may see it as a sweeping curve). About 2/3 the distance across the front of my house the 6 foot wide bed narrows to about 1.5 feet for the distance of about 4 feet. I don't have a great picture of it, but I think the attached gives you an idea. The functional reason for this narrowing is a 3 foot wide heating vent on the front of the house that blows out very warm air in the winter. The vent prevents the ability to grow anything in that area except for day lilies. The bed widens again after this point because of a 40 year old lilac on the corner of the house (we know the original owners of the house who told us about planting it. I actually climb on the roof of the house to cut lilacs in the spring!) Even though it has a functional reason, it may still look contrived to you. I was just happy to have a solution to the heating vent problem that would not result in any further plant death :)

Is the key that the curve needs to enhance the overall design, regardless of functionality or artistic expression?
Photobucket


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

I love the color of your house drtygrl! The style too - what can be seen of it - is very pleasing. It all reminds me of a historical home that has always appealed to me in our town - same colors; same style.

From what can be seen in the angle of the photo, I'd put your bed in the pleasantly curved category. I've been thinking more about what makes the unpleasing curves unpleasing and why... I think it has a lot to do with the fact that our brains seek out and try to find meaning in patterns - even when a pattern doesn't really exist (e.g. a gambler on 'a lucky streak' :- ) So, the examples of annoying bed edges above (mine + Yardvaark's - and even some of d-d's non-bed-edge curves) that particulary bug me do so because they have such strong - real or implied - patterns that the pattern-seeking part of my brain is telling me I MUST focus on the line because it's probably significant. But the rational, conscious part of my brain is saying what's significant is the content behind the bed edge line and the larger scene around it. So it sets up, I think, an internal conflict that is annoying and distracting.

Obviously, that pattern-seeking mental behavior can be used - as the artists in d-d's examples have done - to make an intense experience for the viewer by giving them a very strong pattern to look at and seek meaning in. But, from a garden perspective, it's the content of the bed that's important, so you don't want to do something with the edge that forces the viewer to look at the edge more intently than the rest. From the landscape perspective (in Yardvaark's sense of the word), the wiggly edge also dominates and distracts from whatever effects you were trying to achieve in the larger picture - unless you deliberately wanted to direct attention to that particulary pattern of line.

Since I can still easily see/focus on the details in your bed, dirtygrl, I conclude that the line of the edge is fine :-)

My issue with the bed with the rocks and wiggly line at the top of the ditch is largely a functional one. There are enough other strong competing elements there (the rocks; the strong straight line of the ditch itself) that the wiggly line doesn't set up such a strong, demanding pattern. That allows me to focus on the functional problems and the missed opportunity to make the negative space into a pleasing element rather than just a 'nothing'.

I'm not sure if all that helps anyone else to see what I see, but that's my analysis of why wiggly lines bother me! :-)


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

If you look at this image you will see quite clearly why it works as the lines are strongly geometrical I think it is the lack of geometry that explains why some wiggly shapes don't do it. Almost every landscaping article in popular magazines advises the use of a garden hose for shaping beds and a better way to layout wiggles has yet to be found.

Gardeners have an odd fixation on avoiding straight lines which leads many to the most bizarre non straightness. A straight edge to an herbaceous border won't be straight for very long but offers a strong frame.

Walkways are different in my opinion because we have tendency to walk in a straight line and if you want to avoid this then it requires work and imagination. It is said that it is possible to find humans living in the jungle because tracks are cut straight.

Blasen Gardens modern landscape


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Ink - I'm afraid that one still bugs me because the line of the edge dominates the scene and distracts me from seeing the interesting things in the rest of the view. Perhaps my poor damaged brain just sees things differently :-(

I do agree with you re walkways and the human tendency to want to walk in straight lines. And I also agree that todays gardeners seem to have an odd aversion to straight lines. Straight lines are such powerful things and I think many gardens would be better-looking if there were straight lines used to good effect in them.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

How serendipitous that this should be a recent topic when I happened to check the forum tonight... We are in the process of revising our landscaping, and I am currently unhappy with our garden bed lines in the front yard because I think they are too squiggly!

I gave our landscape designer a concept plan for the front yard (where we're widening what used to be narrow beds and reducing turf grass), which showed how I envisioned the garden bed line gently sweeping up along our driveway, across the yard in front of the (straight) raised bed along the porch, and then back down along our entry walkway. She basically took the line on my concept plan and squiggled it. I told her I wasn't sure I liked the squiggles, but after a couple more drafts that I wasn't crazy about for other reasons, I decided her first attempt wasn't bad and maybe the squiggles would "make sense" after she plugged in suggested plant material. We were approaching 50% over her estimated design time on our overall design at this point (after spending most of the time on the backyard design), so I guess I just decided it wasn't worth the extra design money to nit pick over a few squiggles in the bed lines.

I "get" the curve she placed around where there is a new tree planted, but the bed widening is now complete in the front yard and I'm just not warming up to the gratuitous curves. They're not *nearly* as extreme as the super squiggly examples above, but they are a little past my comfort level with curves "just because". I'm planning on going out this weekend to dig out and adjust the edging and reduce the slightly overzealous curves that don't make sense to me. Hopefully the grass I have to remove to adjust the curves will be enough to fill in the areas where more grass will be needed, but even if not I'd rather have some bald patches that will fill in eventually than curves that will irk me. My husband thinks I'm crazy and that the lines will look fine once stuff is planted, and maybe he's right, but I know myself too well ;)

I like gentle sweeping curves, and don't mind more accentuated curves where they make sense; around trees and large shrubs or other objects/areas, for functional purposes, artistic purposes, etc., and I absolutely love meandering pathways. But I'm not a fan of curves just for the sake of curves.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

I'm sure some math genius already has come up with a formula, maybe "curve radius should be at least 1/10 of the width of the garden space it is in" (fill in desired numeric value) - or "curve shouldn't cover more than 1/4 of a circle". About Ink's recent picture - something else beside the curve is bugging me when I look at it: the wall appears too close to the tree and seems to "cut" through tree roots (invisible, but present in the picture in my head) - I had a similar situation in my own yard where a stone edge was so close to a tree it was painful to see. Relocating the edge was a big improvement. Purely design-wise, the curve is OK - but plants are treated as inanimate furniture in this scheme. Am I being too harsh now?


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Woody: the bench and wall dominates the photographand is only a vignette and since the photograph was taken to showcase the bench and wall...there ya go.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Ink - I noticed the quality of the stone wall - especially how neatly it deals with the grade change. The bench base is interesting (is the bench stable - i.e. how are the base and top connected to ensure the rock won't tip off the base?) but the regularily of the curves (although I do see the geometry of it all) is just too dominant for my taste. Sorry... :-)


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

  • Posted by tibs 5/6 OH (My Page) on
    Sat, Dec 31, 11 at 16:34

I read in a garden design book of the early 1900's not to fight the grid pattern if you live in city/suburb. Go with the straight line or gradual curves. The curves of my beds were made by telling He-who-mows to mow the easiest line for mowing. Looks right - and he appreciates the less fiddling mowing that my gardening once caused him.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Timbu,
The math genius that just might blow your mind : Fibonacci

Fibonacci - golden ratio.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibonacci_number

another who was less mathematical and more poetic :
William Hogarth
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_of_Beauty

and how Fibonacci inspire a project - a motor court :

From random photos

From random photos

From random photos


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Too cool. And what happens when you reach the inner circle?


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

I often find "wiggles" to be unpleasant, but there are places where they seem to fit. The subject brings to mind the sand bunkers of the golf courses of Hot Springs village.

Golf course design is a specialized niche of landscape architecture. Eight of the courses at HSV were designed by Tom Clark of Ault, Clark and Associates of Kensington, Maryland. Four of the eight are rated in the top ten golf courses of Arkansas.

A number of the larger sand bunkers have wiggles on the high side, as can be seen:

The people who had to construct these "wiggles" and those that must maintain them don't much care for the design. But on the ground it looks good.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Not to mention that those wiggles SUCK if your golf ball is stuck in the sand trap.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

That's why they call them championship courses.

Not all Mr. Clark's bunkers are wiggles. He seems to know where to do it and where not to. For that he gets paid the big bucks.

I thoroughly enjoyed working with the man and learned a lot.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Not being a golfer, I have no opinion on wiggles in regards to sandtraps :-) (The aerial view makes me think of popcorn! :- )

d-d - I love your Fibonacci motor court! I do like interesting patterns in places like that.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

I don't want to steal Michelles's thunder as that is such a beautiful concept executed well (do you still have the same crew m?)but if anyone wants to try this at home the attached is a good explanation of the Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Mean.

Here is a link that might be useful: try this at home


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden P.S.

P.S. d-d - I haven't read Hogarth on the Line of Beauty - I'll add that to my winter reading assignment from Ink re Dumbarton Oaks, and serpentine.... :-) A quick thought though from looking at the Wikipedia link you provided: One of the illustrations on the right side shows the line of the spine of the artist. The artist has a rather exaggerated bend at both his knnes and back; leaning precariously backwards! The line of the spine in a normal upright stance would be curved but considerably less so than that example. And to make the line of the spine a more pronounced serpentine, you are condemming the poor owner of the spine to an extremely painful disability! So, it seems to me - based on that quick scan of the wiki entry - that the line is most beautiful if it only deviates a small amount from the straight line that large deviations could well result in the painful opposite of beauty! So I think the amplitude of the curves and the distance they cover must be important factors in whether the curve looks attractive or not.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Tony thanks for the other link to Fibonacci.
I appreciated it for the nautilus image that was shown.
It brought back memories of just 2 years ago during the toughest time of the recession when I took on a part time job as a studio sculptor.
The company that I worked for , Interplay Studio in Vallejo CA, designs and builds beautiful sculptural play structures.
While there I used the Fibonacci sequence when laying out the design for a nautilus that was embedded in an interactive water feature.
I think you might find it interesting.

From Interplay Project

A total of 4 to 5 artisans worked on this piece for about a month. From the framing with rebar, applying the mesh and cement matrix, sculpting the medium and then laying in the mosaics. It is located down in a playground in Southern Ca.

From Interplay Project

From Interplay Project

- yes , still have basically the same crew.

- Pls8xx - thanks for those images and the description of the project. The traps remind me of Joan Miro's work.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

There are endless examples of the Fibonacci sequence in nature Michelle, have fun with this.....

I'll bet that was a good experience in spite of the circumstances, I hope you didn't have to cut back on the margaritas!

Here is a link that might be useful: rule of nature?


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

Nice link, Ink!


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

  • Posted by tibs 5/6 OH (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 3, 12 at 9:09

d.d's a motor court - had me humming "We're off to see the Wizard" -all it needed was yellow bricks.


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

I'm just bringing this to the top again because it relates to the Hogarth/line of beauty thread I just posted....


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RE: Curved line not wiggles - interesting small UK garden

drtygrl wrote:

The functional reason for this narrowing is a 3 foot wide heating vent on the front of the house that blows out very warm air in the winter. The vent prevents the ability to grow anything in that area except for day lilies.

Definitely off topic but I noticed this statement as I have a similar situation and I would have thought this was going to be a problem for my plants but 5 years ago I went ahead and put in a climbing rose and a clematis right next to this vent and I have had both plants thrive in this location. I wouldn't have thought this but in my real world it is true.


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