Archives for January 2012

Sunday Opinion: Apple-icious

I will admit to more than a little long standing prejudice against Apple.  Years ago, I tried diligently to get Rob interested in the computer.  How about a PC, I asked.  Unlike my project specific large slotted screwdriver, or my trowel, a computer enables a person to engage in a universe of activities only limited by one’s ability to ask questions or research.  I really felt he needed to make use of that technology.  Nonetheless, every effort at persuading him to learn to use a computer fell on deaf ears, until he visited the Apple store.  A conversion took place.  He let me know soon after that he would learn to use a computer, provided I would provide him with a Mac.  It is no mystery why the Mac appealed to him.  Every aspect of its physical design and built-in functionality is spare and simple-gorgeous. How like him to want a computer that not only worked beautifully, but whose visual story, history, and technical achievement engaged and enchanted him.  It exasperated me that my offer to set him up with a computer came with a highly qualified yes.  What could possibly be so wonderful about this particular computer, beyond its obvious good looks?  

I should preface any further remarks with my own story about coming to terms with the computer.  I barely knew Buck-he was the architect and project manager for a new house for which I did the landscape design in 2004.  He sent an email to the office over the holidays about an interest in an antique English fountain for the above mentioned project.  My assistant was off for the holidays.  Necessity pushed my invention. I opened a beer, and started tinkering with Monica’s computer. I was alarmed the entire time that I would break something.  After all, I barely knew how to turn the thing on.  I sent Buck an email with lots of information regarding that antique fountain.  The back story?  I typed his email address incorrectly, it was after the holidays that Monica scooped up my effort, and got it sent where it needed to go.  But that day, I was pleased with myself.  I had begun to learn something new.

I ordered a computer for myself straight away.  A Dell PC.  I am sure for some time I was a poster child for how to hit the back button, or start over.  It was years before I learned to cut and paste, or produce a word document.  I am still learning.  In 2000, I bought a computer for my Mom.  She had worked with the first computer at Wayne State University in the 1950’s.  That computer was the size of a grocery store.  She had a big black phone reciever at home that sat face down into a black box.  That was her line to that giant computer.  None of us dared touch it.  Years later, I knew she would love to have one of her own.  She was a scientist-surely she could master it.  Neither one of us knew enough to go on, and hook that computer up to the internet.  She used it to play solitare, and edit her photographs.  Though I thoroughly regret that she did not live to see me use a computer, I know my ability to learn to use one came from her.

So back to Rob, and his request for a Mac.  Though the price shocked the daylights out of me, I bought one for him.  Somewhere I have a photograph of a special Apple IT tech installing that Mac, and Rob standing by with that deer in the headlights look on his face. Much has changed since that day.  That Mac has renabled him to keep up with dozens of suppliers in multiple countries.  He plans trips  to other places via his computer, and downloads driving maps of those countries onto his Garmin.  He takes maps of his routes from Google earth with him.  He wastes little time travelling.  This gives him more time to shop efficiently.  The pictures he takes with his iPhone are astonishly good and sharp.  He communicates with clients, via those pictures.  That is the bare beginning of what that phone can do, given an expert operator.  I could swear he pointed his phone at a color, and read on his screen a name and formula.  Is this possible?   This year, I bought him a state of the art Mac with a screen the size of Texas. He searches, maps, coordinates,  studies, inquires.  Should you like the music in the shop, credit Rob and his Mac.  His computer skills have left me in his dust. 

Upon returning from a trip to California, Rob gave me with a coffee mug from Apple – he wanted to visit the company in person.  I was dubious-he was the one with the love for Apple technology, not me.  But a seed had been tossed on the dirt.  All it would need was some water.  My road trip the first 2 weeks of January made me think an iPad might be just the thing for me.  How so?  The Apple technology is portably planet wide.  I like the possibilities this implies.  An iPad is a very small object densely packed with opportunity. It would have been at home in the car, in hotel rooms, at market.  How genial.  It is an infinitely large shopping bag in which to store all kinds of ideas, notes, pictures, intellectual paraphenalia and bits of this or that.  An iPhone-all of a sudden I had to have one.  For the camera of course.  My camera is not always moment-ready.  It is a heavy and bulky thing to haul around, waiting for a moment to make itself known.  I also do not mind having the weather, and the compass instantly available on a small screen.  I am sure there is much more to come that I cannot begin to anticipate.  It has a serviceable phone.  I had no problem with the purchase part.  Meg spent 5 hours helping me get everything set up and teaching me the rudimentary moves.  Many thanks, Meg.  The very best part?  You do not need a fork, or a trowel, or a shovel to dig into it.  A finger will do.  How perfectly splendid is this?

I am fairly sure I am preaching to the choir about how great an Apple can be.  They have been around a long time-I see lots of them.  They don’t make much, but what they do make is extraordinary.  I will admit I was intimidated.  Rob’s Mac has that inscrutable quality about it.  Do I cling to my religion?  Oh yes.  I was sure I would have trouble.  However, the basics of both of my new tools have actually been fairly easy to master.  The finer points-they will no doubt take time.  What this will all come to, I have no idea.  Anyone who has seen a deleted email on an iPhone sucked into the garbage can-lid up, lid down, or heard the airplane whoosh of an email being sent understands that a mechanical device that appeals to and functions via the senses is an experience of technology like no other.  



At A Glance: More Normal














Rob On The Road

I have no complaints about the weather here.  The temperatures are steady right around 32 degrees.  Today we have had light wet snow, party sunny skies, heavier snow and firece winds, and sun-depending on when you are looking out the window.  But I am a little envious of the picture Rob took outside a flower shop in Amsterdam.   He is back on the road again-this time on his way to Italy. 

Spring flowers-how great they look. 

 Waxflower stems come from a shrub indigeneous to Australia.  15 euros a bunch-ouch.

A basket of hyacinths mulched with florist’s moss-very good looking.

These yellow tulips still have their bulbs attached.  Were these mine, I would most certainly wash all of the soil off of the bulbs, and put them in a vase of water, as is.

a 25 count bunch of roses.

This flower shop is in Bologna. 

So is this market.  So far, so beautiful.

Seeing The Light

Lighting the landscape is not my forte.  Everyone does a better job of it than I.  Fortunately for me, the light lingers in the summer.  All it takes for Buck to abandon the yard is the warning buzz from one mosquito-he is through with the garden once it gets dark.  When I am working the landscape season, I am up between 4:30 and 5 am.  This means I am often in bed by dark.  Landscape lighting is not a big priority for me. I am happy with the daily dose of natural light, the sun and shade created by plants.  I do have landscape lighting on the driveway-this for safety and security.  Landscape light subtly washes the front of the house.  I like how it looks when I drive by on my way to work before dawn.  But the winter landscape asks for more light.   If it isn’t dark out, it is dark grey out.         

 Though I go out every night after work with the dogs, I am not out there long.  Given how mild our winter has been, I am out with them longer than usual-but a half hour at most.  By that time, it is dark, or well on its way to being dark. The evergreens in my garden would be beautiful from inside, if lit for the winter season.  I do have 2 containers on the drive ablaze with light.  Rob fixes them for me in December-I keep those pots lit until well into March.  They are beautifully cheery.  I have a cut Christmas tree strung with enough gold and white lights to softly illuminate the entire side garden-I run those lights all winter too.   

The process of cleaning and painting the walls of several rooms in the shop has put lighting on my mind again. Landscape spaces are notable for lots of reasons, just one of which is their lack of a ceiling, or roof.  Natural light falls illuminates every landscape space-unless one chooses to plant a tree, or build a pavilion, pergola, poolhouse or other cover.  These rooms in the shop have little in the way of natural light.  The shop ceilings range from 12 to 18 feet tall- this part helps to make a description of how an object might look in a large outdoor space.    Rob cannot, and does not try to light the space as if the sun were shining.  He lights objects.  I am seeing that a lighted object in a dark room pops; every detail reads clearly and dramatically.   

Good landscape lighting can features a specimen tree, or illuminate a walk. One of the great pleasures of a shaded spot is that clearing with its pool of light on the ground.  An object or painting that is spot lighted garners attention.  A dimly lit corner is cozy. Oblique lighting casts long shadows in an interior space.  Whether indoors or out, the mix of dark and light is visually exciting.        

I know that skillful lighting can so enhance the experience of a landscape.  But the experience of these dark interior spaces has unexpectedly provoked a lot more thought about light as a design element.  Were you to ask me what is of utmost importance to me at the shop, I would of course say an experience of great service rendered in a personal and knowledgeable way comes first.  We meet people,  learn their names, we take and file pictures, we remember the kids, the events, and the gardens that go with those names.  A passion for gardening always comes with a name and an individual set of circumstances.  The vetting, purchase, and availability of beautiful objects would be second-whether that object is a fine antique or a fine looking fiber pot matters not.  Great design is great design.  Providing a beautiful and thought provoking experience-this would be next.    

The shop does have some natural light, via our greenhouse roof, and a small skylight.  How we arrange and display things in the shop revolves around creating relationships between shapes, sizes, styles, textures, and color.  That arrangement is not finished until it is lighted.        

I am experiencing my own shop in a different way right now, given some choices about paint.  None of the spaces pictured are finished.  They have some major elements set, and await the arrival of our purchases for spring.  Once the room is arranged, Rob will light them.  We will be another month, getting there.  But in the meantime, I am looking at my own dimly lit winter garden as an opportunity to experiment with creating a better winter landscape experience.    

A little less gloom, and a little more glow sounds good.