Winter's not the traditional time of the year to enjoy perennial gardens, but I think that it's perfect to see native plants in a new light. Picturesque snowy landscapes are usually dominated by images of spruce and pine, but there’s room in the ice experience of January for less evergreen plants. You don’t need foliage to set a space on fire. A couple of weeks ago, I snapped a few images of the Rain Park under a blanket of snow. I felt it is already transforming the feel and dimension of the place. Below are four images I took when it was just above zero outdoors.
You can find more photos from my outdoor adventures on instagram.
This is a little update from the post about the Rain Park going up in South Orange, NJ. The last post only shows the rendering of the “Future Look” without a before shot. So, thought I would add a before and after shot in a new post. Enjoy!
Check out the different plants to be used at the Rain Park after the Break.
Very excited about a project that is coming more and more into focus as we get closer to spring 2018. A little less than a year ago, we were awarded a grant from American Water to build the first-ever Rain Park in South Orange, NJ.
The initial construction of the project was completed at the end of Oct 2017. Though we were scheduled to plant it with lots of amazing native plants, it was a little too close to the first frost date in New Jersey, so we opted to way until April 2018 to actually do the planting.
That said, I completed some graphics for the project and wanted to share them. This first is a site plan that shows were the Rain Park is in South Orange, NJ.
It’s nearly June and gardening season is in full swing. Spring is a great time to consider two really important points for a fully contextualized planting bed. First, there are the flowers themselves. Flowers are the aspect of most people know and desire for a space. The second element however, is how to frame the flower so it is more alluring and compelling. The bloom of a flower needs to be accompanied by fullness: this is important to create drama as well as to have a full garden before and after the bloom. In my opinion, this is critical to a successful planting. For the bloom to take on a dramatic character where the colors and shapes are magnified, the garden needs to be a stage for the flowers to shine. With the right background for your flowers, they transform from simple plants into a heroic protagonist of nature’s theater. You get what you want with more intensity and beauty.
Over the winter, I worked with a bunch of incredible people (from the PTA to the recess committee to teachers and the principal) of the South Mountain Annex Elementary School in South Orange, NJ to create a master plan for the entire property. The master plan was developed to do three things: address water issues onsite, create learning opportunities for the students and to bring nature back into the space.
Here at chambersdesign headquarters, we got some great news this week. Our concept of Rain Parks has been accepted as a poster topic for the World Green Infrastructure Congress 2017 in Berlin, Germany. We are super excited about the opportunity to showcase the idea of Rain Parks to an international network. This is only the beginning!
Our yards can be wonderlands of discovery for kids. They can be a world of natural beauty too. So often though, the landscape around our houses is void of life and is setup to fight against learning and play. The great thing is that it doesn’t have to be that way. We have real opportunities to introduce our kids to nature right outside of our front doors.
I thought it was time to do a little update about my project with South Mountain Annex in South Orange, NJ. The whole thing started when I helped get an outdoor classroom created for the school. After that, several of the parents at the school and I started talking about how to really reimagine the space and address some of the challenges on the grounds. I suggested we do a master plan for the property to create a concept and look at options for what could be created. After that, we could narrow-in on ideas that were exciting for installation.
We think of plants by what we see, but flowers and leaves…stems and seedheads are actually the expression of what we don’t see – roots. A few days ago, I found the diagram shown below that compares root systems of native plants in comparison to turf grass. It was wildly exciting to find, because in a simple, straightforward way, the diagram makes obvious several things that are always hidden…i.e., roots.
The act of sowing seed and growing food is a defining characteristic for us humans. Farming is one of the reasons cities and societies developed. Yet, it has become a lost art for most of us. It would be impossible for most of us to harvest a crop we planted ourselves. Yet, many people that live in suburban areas are finding a new desire for super local food grown right in their yards. How does one go from not knowing the first thing about farming to becoming a suburbanite with a green thumb?
Winter gardening needs two other ingredients to look and be awesome. One is a density of plants that fill the landscape throughout the year. The other is, simply, time. It takes time for new plants to mature, bloom and establish themselves. Unlike, say, a bathroom renovation, that is completed once a contractor has finished painting the walls. Landscapes are more flexible and want to be engaged long after the last perennial is put in the ground.
Winter interest isn’t just about looking good. It’s about being more ecologically enriching and more sustainable than conventional landscape design and lawn care. The use of native and adaptive plants has huge positive impacts on nature from being habitat and food sources of bees, birds, butterflies and other animals. But more than anything, designing a four-seasons landscape means establishing groundcover. Groundcover may sound kinda boring, but it is one the cornerstones for an ecological community.
This is going to be a super short post. I just wanted to get a few pictures up to show the beginnings of an outdoor classroom at the South Mountain Annex in South Orange, NJ. South Mountain Annex is a public school of kindergarteners and first graders. I recently wanted to get involved with the school because my oldest son just started kindergarten there.
This is the second post in my series about designing four-season landscapes and winter gardens (you can read the first post here). All of the beauty in the after comes because a few major elements incorporated during the design process. First, a focus has to be put on the cycle of life for the plants to be installed, how they change each season and what plants can be coupled for the best result. Second, (and this is a little more technical), you have to make sure the new design uses the right plants to completely cover the ground so no bare soil is exposed. Third, you really need to make sure that the different plants selected (and how many are used) will create the desired density. Density is what gives the space its sense of fullness. Lastly, time is your friend. The best four-season gardens change over time and offer playful ways to add and subtract plants each year. This post is covering the first point about the dynamic nature of sustainable plant selection.
I’m totally jazzed about how incredible gardens can look right now in early January. I'm so jazzed that I wanted to do a series about the topic and get into some of the details. Over the next few days, I'm going to post three other blogs on the topic. I love creating these ecological jewels with clients.
The goal is to make this blog a resource for helpful tips and sustainable ideas. I create original content that shows projects in progress and the behind-the-scenes of installation. And, I try to have as much fun as I can doing it.