2017, Uncategorized

2017

Untitled_ArtworkAs 2017 is about to draw to a close, and 2018 is waiting to take its place, I thought I’d take a moment to put together some pictures of some of our favorite projects of the year. I see that I need to put “taking after-pictures” on my list of New Year’s Resolutions… Thanks to the guys who shared a few of theirs with me. Wishing you all a Happy New Year – Here’s to 2018!

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2017, Design ideas, What to do in the garden

The Power of Potential

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Christmas Eve. A magical day, even more so than Christmas, in some ways. Christmas Eve is all about potential. Christmas itself is still ahead, in its entirety, and none of it has been used up yet. It’s rather like the last few hours of work just before you stop and go on vacation. The possibilities are endless, with the thing that you have been looking forward to lying there in the near future, whole and untouched, ready to be enjoyed. if you have done your preparations right, you will soon reap your reward.

The winter ahead is a little like Christmas Eve, in that it is the preamble to celebration that will eventually come. Spring gives us a fresh start in the garden. The weeds we never got around to pulling up, the flowers we never deadheaded, and all the other chores that we put off have been forgiven. The garden can now be anything. Under the snow, the plants are storing up their energy for the season ahead, and while they rest, we can prune and tame them so that they will wake up looking better than ever. We can sharpen our pruners, look through the gardening magazines that we were too busy to open over the summer, and dream. By the time spring starts to stir, we will be poised to act.

Winter, while it can be a trying time for the gardener, can be a gift if you use it to rest and let your mind wander through the garden while it is free from the distractions of jobs that need to be done. Enjoy the blank slate… it is nothing but potential.

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Garden ramblings

Back Again!

Hello, and welcome (back)! My reasons for having been silent for so long include a wonderfully busy schedule, a need to grow and branch out in other areas, and sometimes just wanting to be in the garden instead of writing! Also, I haven’t gotten anything as near as exciting as a frog in the mail, lately, either. (See previous post if you think I’m hallucinating.)

The plan for this blog is to introduce you to new plants, give you some timely weekend gardening tips, and  to hopefully feed your imagination with ideas and pictures of gardens from around the world. As a landscape designer, seeing other people’s work is  a great tool – not to copy it, but as a springboard for other ideas. Yes, you can brainstorm with a picture. From time to time, I’ll also add pictures of some of the gardens that we have created.

So welcome to The Sunny Side! Weekly posts will begin starting the first week in January, but you never know what may show up before that. I’m glad to have you here.

Seasons Greetings,

Wickie Rowland

Landscape Designer/Creative Director

Labrie Associates, Design & Landscape Division, No. Hampton, NH.

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Uncategorized

An Unexpected Guest

This winter I experimented by planting some plug plants, the idea being to grow them to maturity by planting time, and save money. In January the box of plugs arrived from Florida with much fanfare. I opened the box and was greeted by the optimistic foliage of some diminutive perennial geraniums, a ray of hope that pierced the heavy grey skies of a very long winter.

I set about planting them into larger pots right away. I was working in my studio, as the greenhouse was much too cold for the tender new arrivals, and had settled on the floor with everything that I needed to complete the job. Suddenly, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and when I looked around, there was a tiny frog, about the size of a quarter. A stowaway! What to do… I wasn’t sure how to overwinter him, and so put a pot over him so he wouldn’t escape and started to build him a house out of an old terra cotta pot in a sheltered place outside. Once the frog condo was complete, I brought him out and showed him his new home.

Sometime later, I crossed paths with a representative of the company which had sent the plugs. I thanked him for the bonus frog, and without missing a beat, he said, “Oh! You found Leroy!” I then had to tell him the rest of the story.

About five minutes after I had put the frog in his new home, I thought better of it, and decided that he would probably have a better chance of survival if I put his new house in the greenhouse, where it was marginally warmer. But by the time I got outside, it had been ransacked. Looking around, I saw one of our dogs licking her lips…

Poor Leroy.

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Uncategorized

Why I love my Job

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Imagine a job where you get to learn how to fly, and to travel through time. A job where you take something less than ideal and turn it into something both beautiful, and practical; something which makes people feel good. A job in which you get to solve puzzles. A job which combines music, art, sculpture, and dance all in one. And, you get paid to do it, to boot.

Sound too good to be true? Well, it isn’t. It’s my job, the job of landscape designer. My job brings me to interesting places, and in contact with interesting people. It begins in a place where there is a problem to solve; a muddy back yard, an ugly view, or no usable space for the kids to play in. I get to hear people’s dreams and hopes for their leisure time, and in doing so, learn about them and the…

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The Tree Strangler

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I was going to write this blog entry about a gardening tool that I am particularly fond of, but I have become obsessed with the Strangler Fig lately and so I’m going to write about that instead and will leave writing about my favorite tool for another time.

 

Once, I read a book whose first line read, “My earliest ambition was to become a missionary-bishop and in due course to be eaten by cannibals.” The rest of the book was rather anticlimactic in comparison to that intriguing statement, but how could you not keep reading a book which begins in that way? I was similarly drawn in by the Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea), but in contrast, its story is just as interesting as its name. It begins life as an epiphyte, a plant that lives on a host plant but gets its sustenance from the air, rain, and airborne debris, rather than feeding on the host itself. Quite a benign start – but one that quickly becomes rather sinister. After attaching itself to the host (usually a tree and often a palm because of the grooves in the bark), it begins to grow. Aerial roots grow downward to attach to the soil and thicken. Others grow upward and tangle themselves around the leaf buds, preventing them from opening. Still others wrap themselves tightly around the trunk, keeping it from increasing in girth. As the Fig gets bigger, its thick canopy of leaves covers the host tree and blocks out any light. The host tree eventually weakens and dies, leaving a hollow centered, self supporting “tree” that is largely made up of Strangler Fig roots.

 

Since it starts its life near the top of the tree – its seeds having been deposited there by a bird – the Strangler Fig  has the advantage over trees growing directly in the soil, as it starts out much closer to the light. Being able to survive on air and rain means it isn’t dependent on the soil except as an anchor when it has become bigger than its host. It is not unusual, where these plants are found, to see a perfectly healthy tree with a strange growth of Strangler Fig clinging to the side, perhaps shooting out an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers-esque” appendage to grapple onto a nearby limb and hold it in its clutches. And we already know how the story will end, with a big knotty tangle of roots, some perhaps two feet in diameter, squeezing the life out of the poor tree that the Fig has landed on. No wonder it is sometimes called a “vegetable octopus”, or the “boa constrictor of the plant world”.

 

The strangling of a tree can take decades, if the host is big and strong, a lot less time if it is smaller. But it will happen, and the tree will eventually die and rot away, the rotted trunk then fed on by the Fig. The host has, in effect, been eaten by a vegetative cannibal. The only way to stop it is to get the Strangler Fig while it’s young and cut it out of the tree. In fact, that tool that I was going to write about would be just the thing for that job… But that’s for another time.

 

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If you look at the top of the picture, you will see the palm tree that is being swallowed up by the Strangler Fig.

 

 

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What it looks like at the bottom.