Archive for March, 2013
I was one of the many judges yesterday at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. It was a great chance to see the gardens without the crowds and I took photos after my group finished judging. I liked a lot of the gardens this year, though scrutinizing the gardens as a judge made it hard to get a sense of the show overall. My favorite was Glade by Mariposa Gardening and Design and John Greenlee. The stonework and plants (mostly natives) are beautiful. The nicest touch was the spotlight on the Needle Grass in the meadow. Grasses are most beautiful when they catch the light, so it was great to see that effect created indoors. Needle Grass doesn’t have the conventional appeal of more traditional garden plants, so I really appreciated that it was a focal point of the garden.
The Goldsworthy-esque egg was well built, and the diagonal walls have become a Mariposa trademark at this point.
The big award winner was Inside Out by the students from Arizona State. One of the walls did nice double duty, showcasing a giant ceramic art piece on one side and a yucca on the other, with the cast shadow of the yucca creating another great lighting affect like the spotlight on the meadow.
I liked the paving and all of the design details in the garden by Arterra. The gardens at the show all reference a specific country, but the one by Arterra is inspired by Wonderland.
The plants in the Thai garden were mostly California natives. The plants weren’t really the focus of the design, so they didn’t register for me right away, but I appreciated that it was different from what you usually see or envision with California natives.
I loved the Philippine garden. You can sort of see in the photo that there are rusting metal bits, shelves holding old bottles and other assorted items, and laundry hanging to dry. The aesthetic is closer to my own garden than I would like to admit, but at the same time, when I sat under the awning it felt like a space that would be loved by its owner so maybe I’m okay with the similarities.
A slab of rock turned into a divan in the Icelandic garden by McKenna Landscape.
The show has the world’s largest succulent globe by the same grower who provided the plants for the Succulent Borg Cube three years ago. It has a diameter of 10 feet, it weighs 2,800 pounds, and it spins. There are 30,000 cuttings of 11 different species: Echeverias, Sedums, Crassula, and Sempervivum. The globe is tilted at the same 23° angle as the earth, which made the Southern Hemisphere more prominent, a nice change from the usual top-down, northern-biased perspective I usually have. Even just the globe on its own was worth the trip to see the show.
I feel like I should be finished with my trip south and get back to Bay Area subjects, but the last thing to post from my trip was my visit to see Levitated Mass. It’s a 340 ton boulder-turned-sculpture at the LA County Museum by land artist Michael Heizer. I don’t have a strong opinion about Heizer’s work, but I was fascinated by this project when I heard about it. As far as I know it’s the biggest and heaviest rock ever moved. Heizer got the idea in the late 60’s and then spent about forty years looking for the right boulder. Then, after he found it, he needed 5 more years to raise the $5-10 million dollars for the project, including $1.5 million just to move it about 100 miles from the quarry to the museum. The movers had to use a special trailer 260 feet long and 32 feet wide with 196 tires, they could drive only at night, they couldn’t exceed 8 miles per hour, and I think they had to move or take down some telephone wires and traffic lights that hung too low over the road. There were also several delays involving the permits required to travel through all of the different jurisdictions. Different challenges than the ones that faced the Brits who built stonehenge or the Gauls who moved around the menhirs, but still pretty compelling.
Having spent so many of my working hours moving big rocks and even more of my leisure hours climbing on them, I thought I was the target audience for this piece. It turns out I’ve probably spent a little too much time focused on rocks, because I liked the concept more than the execution. The mass just doesn’t seem levitated; it’s obviously sitting on metal brackets and straddling a concrete trench. The boulder is supposed to look huge, but it’s diminished by all of the open space around it and by the long trench. The trench itself is kind of beautiful in its own way, but it’s so deep you can’t touch or really interact with the boulder. And the climber in me feels like the rock face you first see is really the backside of the rock, the downclimb. I’d like to see the prow facing towards the entrance.
But despite my complaints, it’s hard not to like a great big rock on an elaborate pedestal you can walk through, and there are a lot of impressive things about pulling off a project of this scale. I don’t regret making the effort to see it, and everyone else there seemed to like it too; Facebook must be filled with photos of people posing with their hands up so it looks like they’re holding the rock. Boulders are fundamentally cool, especially 340 ton ones, and this one was fun in a ‘giant whale sculpture in front of the aquarium’ kind of way. I just wish they’d let me climb on it.
I kept track of links while I was following the project:
an earlier sculpture called Levitated Mass, a fountain in New York that seems somewhat levitational when the water is turned on
an interview with Heizer when Levitated Mass was under construction.
Infrascape Design wrote several posts about the boulder.
a couple of videos in this article
another article that includes a video of the arrival
a long NY Times feature on Heizer
The last of the botanical gardens I visited on my trip was Rancho Santa Ana. Quite different from the Huntington, but it still has a Los Angeles sense of scale. It felt huge to me, three times the size of the Tilden native garden, with some huge specimens and the biggest clumps I’ve ever seen of a number of plants like Heuchera, Dudleya, Snowberry, and many of the chaparral plants. I had big expectations for the famed Rancho Santa Ana native garden, and it didn’t let me down.
I’d like to see this patch in bloom.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dudleya used as a groundcover.
Great Deer Grass meadow. I’ve seen photos of the garden’s annual meadow, but it was still dormant when I was there.
The chaparral plantings made a big impression. The mounding form and small texture of the plants was kept the same, and then the color of the foliage provided the contrast. Really effective how it all flowed together. Probably the best chaparral plantings I’ve seen.
The built forms are nice too. I liked this grape arbor above, I liked the canopy below, and I liked the sculptures throughout the garden.
Because I was gone for much of January and busy right before and after, I missed a lot of the peak manzanita bloom in the Bay Area. But Rancho Santa Ana has so many nice manzanitas, I still got a good dose.
A great garden, hopefully I’ll make it back some year for the springtime bloom.
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