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.
Watering a gardening can sometimes be a difficult job. it easier for someone, here are some ideas for you. The modern gardener needs a way to know when and when not to water their plants and grass.
You absolutely need the right pants to be both comfy and protected during gardening. When I say protected, I mean like from mosquitoes or the happenstance of coming face-to-face with a very scared and mouthy chipmunk. Coziness and safety has to be shared with style, though. Just because there’s a chance of getting dirty doesn’t mean dumpy is the ideal direction for attire. This is true for the pants you wear gardening as much as it is true for yoga or running or even office pants. To help you give the gift of garment for gardening, I’ve selected a few brands that run the gamut of cost as well as looks. The goal is the same for all of them: give a gift that makes your loved one look great whenever outdoors.
Let’s talk jeans first. Italy has fine tailor suits. The Scots have kilts and denim is an American iconoclast. It’s had a huge rebirth over the last decade too with tons of new and old companies revamping blue jeans into denim. Jeans are always durable, though some brands are more durable and more sustainable than others. They range from affordable to omfg expensive.
We all know the feel of being too scheduled, under too much pressure or just having too much to do. With jobs, kids, marriages, schools, activities, smartphones, bills and millions of responsibilities, the modern world can be a world of tasks and worries without end. However, a growing trend within sustainability and landscape design called Shinrin-Yoku, or Forest Bathing, is showing us that getting out in nature is healther than you might think.
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.