Landscape Design Principles, Time.

posted; 07/20/06

The above image was taken on Monday. I had a chance to go through this neighborhood and inspect a job we had going in nearby. While there I decided to look in on a few others. I was most curious about this one. I was curious about how neglect and the influence of time had affected what I had installed almost 4 years earlier.

The story:I knew the plant contractor who installed the material away from the pond and falls was also going to maintain the project for a year. He had asked me to come in and build the waterfeature on this one-I obliged. What did this mean? I knew he might not be there for the long haul because maintenance was not his focus-installation was. I had no idea what would happen from there.

I also had heard the pond was “for play”– to be something for the kids to play in and through. This is almost always bad in a closed system-the number of ways to screw the thing up are endless. It’s not like the creek running through my backyard when I was a kid . . . . this is artificial-it needs man’s hands to keep it running. I immediately declined any type of contract to maintain, and I specifically mentioned that the 1st time “Junior” ran through the pond with toys the liner warranty was no longer in effect. Well, just what does all of this mean?

It means I tried to design and build accordingly. To use large/heavy stone at transition points and to anchor and wedge them in place. For the stream and waterside plantings, I tried to use stuff that was tough, adaptable, hardy, and would tolerate neglect. It was to become the survival of the fittest. It was to become a war zone.

Here we are 3+ years after the fact. What do you think? Tomorrow I’ll add a shot from another angle and throw in a shot of the pond-which has been neglected and abused — especially the edges.

Year 1 The image below (Photo 2) was taken during the middle of the 1st year growth in plant material at this series of streams and waterfalls I built. The plant maintenance looks okay. It looks like it could be spectacular one day.

Photo 2

16 months These 2 images were taken about a year after Photo 2 and about 2 years before the photo at the top of the post. You can see the way time is working its magic. The growth of the material and its influence on the landscape.

The final thought. This waterfeature is in one of the upscale neighborhoods from a few years back where the property lots were usually an acre plus with 2,3,4 story houses, built back off the street. Everyone has a “lawn service” — that type of place. I would think if this backyard was anywhere but backed up to an unbuildable area (where they had neighbors looking in) there might be some finger pointing going on. Everything is not perfectly clipped, straight, square or otherwise. On the other hand, different observers may look at this feature in its present state and say “they love it”.

“IT” truly is in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I like how the groundcovers are\have been, waging a war (it looks like the Houttuynia is winning) to end all wars. Other plants are sneaking in; grass is growing in the stream bed-always a good thing when looking for a naturalistic feel. I like it. Others would call this “too unkempt”.

In this analysis-the homeowners are living with it. Someone at the house when I was there said they “loved it”. By the way, I’m not sure who that someone was. They enjoy the scene, the space, the sound, the movement. They are living with time’s effects.

Time’s effects will continue and with no real maintaining of the site, (the aquatics area-pond plants and plants surrounding the aquatic area-everything growing along/in the stream bed). How long will it be until all control is lost? Just how long will it be before time’s effects overtake a man-made environment making it no longer enjoyable?

Where do you draw that line? What is the criteria? What exactly is over-run??? vs., say, the “natural look”???

By Rick Anderson

The Whispering Crane Institute was originally formed to act as the umbrella organization for the Philosophy of Design Symposium, and other seminars and workshops given by Rick Anderson and Richard L. Dube’. In the year 2000 WCI became a sole proprietorship owned by Rick Anderson. Today the WCI provides design and consultation services for Landscape Contractors, acts as a Green Industry think tank, and provides training for others in the form of workshops, seminars, and individual consulting. The WCI also provides written material, opinions, case-studies and how-to articles for industry trade magazines.

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