DryStoneGarden

Plants, Stone, California Landscapes

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David Nash’s Ash Dome

This is an aside from my posts about my Europe cycling trip. I’ve read a few books on Nash and I liked his totems at Kloster Schoenthal, but I haven’t visited Ash Dome and am unlikely to ever do so (it’s location is secret and apparently it’s dying of ash dieback). I only know about it from videos and photos on the internet, but I think it’s great and an interesting contrast to the Tree Museum. The Tree Museum is about the ability to transplant and display mature trees; Ash Dome is about the patience to train trees as they grow in situ. In any case, Ash Dome is a terrific project, and when I recently mentioned it to an arborist and a landscape architect, neither one had heard of it even though they seem like the exact target audiences for it. So… Ash Dome.

David Nash – Ash Dome from Culture Colony on Vimeo.

All three videos are worth watching for anyone interested in trees or sculpture from trees. The first two focus on Ash Dome, the third is more generally about how Nash describes his working process, compiling clips from a longer video about an artist residency he did at a college in North Carolina. He’s an oddly compelling talker. His idea of art as stiff and constipated or loose like diarrhea is not one I’ll forget any time soon.

Kloster Schoenthal Sculpture Park

A few days before the Tree Museum, I went to Kloster Schoenthal in Langenbruck, Switzerland, another fantastic sculpture park. It’s a couple hours from Basel by bicycle in the foothills of the Jura Alps at a monastery that dates back to 1145. The land is part of a private farm, and the home of a collection of sculpture and land art. I didn’t love any particular sculpture, but I liked most of them, and I loved the setting. It’s a lot of fun to wander around and see the different sculptures and the church building and the landscape. Switzerland has an amazing combination of rustic charm and sophistication, and Langenbruck is one of the best places to see that. Read the rest of this entry »

The Tree Museum

Happy new year. I’m still posting things from my bike trip from Amsterdam to Bologna last summer. This is another garden, but quite different from the others. It’s branded as a Tree Museum, which is a great concept, but I’d describe it as a sculpture garden, with the trees as the sculpture. Maybe those are not mutually exclusive terms; it certainly has the rarefied air of a museum. The creator is a Swiss landscape architect/nurseryman who specializes in moving large trees. Over the years he built up a collection of trees and at some point he decided to create a garden to display them. I love the way the walls are used to frame the trees.


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Hortus

My favorite garden in Europe after or alongside Vlinderhof is Hortus, the home garden and nursery of Peter Janke in Hilden, Germany, near Cologne. It’s great. It feaatures classic design elements but sometimes tweaked with more contemporary materials and a modern sense of balance. I find I can usually tell everything that’s happening in a formal garden with a single glance, but his garden is worth exploring. Nice plant combos and interesting contrasts between formal geometry and informal plantings. I took a lot of photos and could have easily taken more.

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Hermannshof Garden

‘At Hermannshof we don’t follow trends. We make them.’ Cassian Schmidt, feeling his oats.

In Germany I visited Hermannshof, a botanical garden a little south of Frankfurt. The garden goes back hundreds of years, but in the last couple decades it has become known for experimental meadow plantings designed by its horticulturalist Cassian Schmidt. Apparently, he has trialed and introduced a lot of plants over the years, and influenced Dutch and German designers, including Piet Oudolf. It’s a lovely garden, but as a designer from California, I found it hard to figure out what was experimental or which plants were Hermannshof introductions; most of the plants were familiar to me and I didn’t see anything particularly novel or surprising about the way they were combined in the meadow plantings. It was all very nice, but seemed well in line with plantings in the botanical gardens we have in California. But afterwards I listened to a talk he gave for a Beth Chatto symposium, and it gave some background about the research and methods underlying the plantings. The talk is embedded at the end of the post; this link takes you to slides from the talk, including some interesting graphics and photos that blow doors off the photos I took at the garden.

In any case, it’s a lovely garden. The meadows are planted in large blocks and their effect is pretty dramatic as a result. A bunch of plants of similar heights will almost always look nice together, and this was no exception. Echinacia and grasses, Euphorbia and grasses, Gaura and grasses, it’s all pretty nice.


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Dutch Planting Style

Along with the Piet Oudolf gardens, I saw a lot of other great plantings as I cycled through Holland. Dutch public spaces embrace the exuberance and wildness of plants in a way that is rare to see here in California. These photos are just one example. They’re from a random planting around a playground in Loenen aand de Vecht, a Dutch town that just happened to be on my route. I don’t know anything about this planting except that it’s clearly the product of a designer and culture that loves plants.