The Big Picture


Scale is a big word; there are lots of meanings-many of them designed-charged.   Overscaled can be good, fun, dramatic, compelling- or just plain theatrical.    Underscaled can ruin a beautifully bold idea before the shovel goes in the ground. Proper scale is classic.  This applies to landscapes, fashion, furniture, and rooms; I am sure I am forgetting many others.   When things are the right size, you instinctively know it. Any person could tell you if a portrait of a person is badly drawn-we all know faces, and their proportions, as we have had non-stop exposure to the human face. But most could not draw the human face unless they were taught.  Unless they learned about scale and proportion. The key idea here-some things can be learned, and can be used as a tool to get your design going somewhere.
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Survey Your Spot



To follow is the first in a series of a discussion of how I design. Maybe it will help you; maybe it will inspire your own process.

If you are like me, you have a mortgage.  With that, came a mortgage survey; you need to fish that thing out. This document shows how your house, and driveway, and walks sit on the land you own. Mortgage surveys are usually on a single piece of paper-the actual dimensions of your house and land have been scaled to fit that piece of paper.  That scale is on your survey.  Should you read 1″=20′-0″, it means just that. A line on that survey which is 2 inches long, means the space is actually 40 feet long.  Who could draw a landscape bed which is actually 40 feet long in a space that is 2 inches long?  Not me.  So I will take this survey and blow it up times 2-so I have a plan that every inch represents 10 feet.  A survey scaled at 1″=30′, I blow up X 3.  Don’t black out-this is basic math. Take some time to think about it.  Should you not have this time, ask your 8th grader, or your girlfriend who is an engineer to help you. She will no doubt tell you that you need an engineer’s scale.  Enough for today, yes?

Ready to Plan?

readytoplan11readytoplan21What is it the right time for?  That’s simple-make plans.  People are good at planning.  We are actually much better at planning, than dealing with what we didn’t plan for-so make use of what you are good at.  We’ve all made grocery lists, given birthday parties, hosted holiday dinners, decided to have families, gone back to school, moved on. A landscape by design, which is a fancy way of saying, by plan, is planning-don’t be afraid.

I am a professional landscape designer, and I think I have my place.  Designing and outfitting the outdoors is no less expensive than designing the inside of a house-with the added headache that things grow up differently than we think they will, and they do poorly, or die, more often than we think they will. But even people who hire landscape designers need to add their skill at planning to the mix- its always the relationship between an designer and a client that makes for really beautiful landscapes. Ready to plan?

Only a Gardener

only-a-gardenerOnly a gardener, obsessed for the first sign of spring, would in their next breath complain about inordinately warm temperatures!  71 degrees in Michigan, March 17, is too very warm.  Daffodils and crocus shoot up as though shocked by a bolt of electricity.  An unknown dwarf magnolia in my yard has every fuzzy hair on every bud, standing at attention. This makes me cringe-I am well aware that Michigan has snow and very cold temperatures well into April.  Devastating-the sight of frost-browned spring flowers.

only-a-gardener2March, and into April, is the worst part of our gardening year.  Meaning, this time of year features the best of the worst that can be.  You can spend a weekend raking, and in four days there is no trace you were ever there. Brown is still the dominant feature.  Unless you have designed your landscape to bridge the seasons, all that brown can beat you down.