Wednesday, October 28, 2009

SFBG announces design competition winner

I was delighted to hear from Michael McKechnie, Executive Director of the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society, that they have successfully completed the five-month-long juried design competition for Gondwana Circle. The competition was an open call to artists and designers interested in gardens and public art to create a design exploring the historical significance of Gondwana as it relates to today’s horticultural communities of the Southern Hemisphere.

What or where is Gondwana, you ask? I wondered the same. Basically, it was a continent 200 million years ago that contained most of the landmasses found in the Southern Hemisphere before tectonic movement rearranged the map to the formation we know now.

Says McKechnie, “The geological story of Gondwana plays out significantly at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. We’re one of a handful of public gardens worldwide to have such a significant collection of Southern Hemisphere plants with our extraordinary Chilean, New Zealand, Australian, and South African gardens. These plants tell the story of plant evolution and migration.” The winning design will stand at the intersection where these Southern Hemisphere gardens meet.

And The Winner Is….

“Roving Mass” by Michael Overby and Emma Fuller of New York City, who beat out more than 90 designs submitted from around the world. Click here for the full story.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Garden Conservancy/Margarido House party

Submitted by Garden Design Contributor, Debra Prinzing:

At "Sip, Graze, and Be Green," Garden Conservancy's party on Oct. 1 to fete Margarido House's Green Award from Garden Design magazine, more than 100 guests arrived to join owner/developer Mike McDonald of McDonald Construction and Design and his terrific wife Jill Martenson for the event. In the spirit of "thinking green," many people carpooled or took public transportation to arrive at the Oakland home, a model of sustainable construction and landscaping.

While touring the LEED-H Platinum project, supporters of Garden Conservancy mingled with architects, landscape designers, garden professionals and sustainable vendors including Mark Rogero of Concreteworks, David and Susie Gardcia of Paver Pro, and others. Margarido House is an excellent demonstration of how to design integrated interior and exterior spaces to maximize square footage, sightlines, natural light and passive cooling/heating -- plus, be a beautiful living environment.

Julie Johnson of Tres Sabores donated organic wine to the event, which netted $1,200 for Garden Conservancy programs.

Garden Conservancy president Antonia Adezio welcomed the group and thanked them for supporting garden preservation efforts, including the gardens at Alcatraz (which we could see across the SF Bay from the spectacular vantage point of Margarido House's roof garden). Mike McDonald shared his enthusiasm for collaborative and sustainable building projects and answered a short Q&A with Garden Design writer Debra Prinzing. Designer Lauren Schneider of Wonderland Garden and Landscape discussed creating a dramatic and sustainable landscape of California native plants and low-water Mediterranean varieties. Guests went home with copies of Garden Design's September -October issue, which features an article about Margarido House.
Learn more about the home and garden at

Monday, October 19, 2009

Prestigious Landscape Design Award Finalist

We’re excited to see the news that Rios Clementi Hale Studios is a finalist in the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum’s 2009 National Design Awards, in the category of Landscape Design. While we don’t know the outcome of the awards yet (winner to be announced this week in New York City during National Design Week), we are looking forward to featuring a Los Angeles garden by the firm’s founding principal Mark Rios, FAIA, FASLA, in the April 2010 issue. Stay tuned.

(Baroda Garden, Beverly Hills; Photo: Tom Bonner)

The prestigious Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards celebrate design as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world. National Design Award nominations are solicited from more than 800 leading designers, educators, journalists, cultural figures, and corporate leaders from every state in the nation.

To see more of the firm’s work, go to

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Do it! San Diego Fall Plant Sale

Learn to incorporate gorgeous drought-tolerant plants into your garden at the 27th Annual Fall Plant Sale, this weekend at the San Diego Botanic Garden (formerly Quail Botanic Garden). See many examples of how low-water-use plants can brighten your garden and help protect against wildfires.

Plant donations from more than 100 local growers, wholesalers, retail nurseries and individuals make this one of the most interesting and diverse plant sales of San Diego County. Plant selections include California natives, cacti, succulents, bromeliads, fruit trees, and sub-tropicals. Also for sale are garden related items, used books, and homemade goodies such as specialty jellies. Enjoy an opportunity drawing and the popular sit-down Bakery Shoppe, which serves cakes, cookies, pies, and coffee.

Cost: Free with admission or membership (Admission: Adults, $12; seniors, active military, students $8; children ages 3-12, $6; and children age 2 and under are free.)

Photo credit: From Designing with Succulents by Debra Lee Baldwin.

27th Annual Fall Plant Sale
October 17 and 18, 11 am – 4 pm
(Members Only Pre-Sale: October 17, 9 – 11 am)

Location: San Diego Botanic Garden, Quail Botanical Gardens, 230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas, CA 92024, <> , 760-436-3036 x. 206

About San Diego Botanic Garden
Set on 35 acres in north coastal San Diego County, San Diego Botanic Garden’s, formerly Quail Botanical Gardens, mission is to inspire people of all ages to connect with plants and nature. The Gardens includes nearly 3,500 kinds of plants representing three general plant habitat types: desert collections, Mediterranean collections and subtropical/tropical collections. Demonstration gardens such as the children’s garden, “Seeds of Wonder,” as well as the Hamilton Children’s Garden which opened in the Summer of 2009, encourage conservation education, focusing on horticultural themes and traditional uses of plants. San Diego Botanic Garden is opening daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission prices are as follows: Adults, $12; seniors, active military, students $8; children ages 3-12, $6; and children age 2 and under are free. For more information, visit <> .

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do it! Mums in NC

This weekend, October 17-18, marks the annual North Carolina Chrysanthemum Society’s Annual Show at The North Carolina Arboretum. This year, the local chapter is hosting the national society’s show. The popular annual show showcases hundreds of chrysanthemum blooms in vibrant and varied colors. Expect to see tree and cascade exhibits as well as displays of chrysanthemums, bonsai, educational exhibits, and a special section on Photography, all from more than 200 exhibitors from across the country.

The exhibits will be judged by National Standards by expert Accredited National Chrysanthemum judges from all over the United States and Canada, by strict NCS standards and highlights the exceptional variety in size, shape and color of these popular fall flowers.

The show is a perfect opportunity to learn more about how to grow display- or show- quality chrysanthemums. Guests to The NC Arboretum will be able to enjoy the shows and flower sales as well as trail walks, family activities, and exhibits. The Chrysanthemum Show is free for Arboretum Society members or with the standard parking fee ($6 per personal motor vehicle). Visitors are encouraged to explore the Arboretum’s 65 acres of cultivated gardens, 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, engaging exhibits, and bountiful opportunities to connect with nature.

For information, call 828.665.2492 or visit

Friday, October 9, 2009

Do It! Rare Texts on Display

From October 17 through January 10, the New York Botanical Garden grants a once-in-a-lifetime peek at select books from the T. Mertz Library, considered to be one of the world’s greatest repositories of botanical and horticultural literature. The library houses a treasury of published and archival documents that trace the development of botany and horticulture from the 12th century to the present day. Drawing from this wealth of materials, Ex Libris: Treasures from the LuEsther T. Mertz Library highlights some rarely seen items that demonstrate the extraordinary beauty and depth of the collections. Eighty per cent of the items displayed in Ex Libris have never before been exhibited to the public.

Ex Libris: Treasures from the LuEsther T. Mertz Library is in the Rondina and LoFaro Gallery. Here is the link to the exhibition’s checklist:

While there, don’t miss the Garden’s fall offerings, including Kiku The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum.

The Blue Egyptian Water-Lily
Temple of Flora
London: T. Bensley, 1807

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rare blooming about to occur at Montreal Botanic Garden

A rare blooming at the Montreal Botanic Garden is about to occur. The flowers of this 25-year-old agave plant, a Mauritius hemp (Furcraea foetida), will open in the next few days – for the first, and last, time. The agave will produce thousands of bulbils on the flower stalk or offsets at its base, which will allow it to reproduce vegetatively. As the plant’s Latin name suggests, while these blooms may be extraordinary, not everyone will necessarily be very fond of the flowers’ fragrance! Once it has finished flowering, the plant will gradually die back, as is the case for most members of this family. For the time being, the Mauritius hemp flower stalk is growing several centimetres a day, and is already nearly 9 metres tall! Part of the glass in the greenhouse roof has had to be removed for it, in fact.

Denis Barabé, a botanist at the Botanical Garden, brought this Mauritius hemp to the Botanical Garden in 1986, after collecting a plantlet in the wild, on Mount Bourda, in Cayenne, French Guyana. It was entered in the Garden’s records on December 3 of that year, becoming the 2,182nd plant entered in the 1986 collection records. Mr. Barabé has worked at the Montréal Botanical Garden since 1976 and is also a researcher at the plant biology research institute (IRBV).

For more, go to

Monday, October 5, 2009

Start your holiday shopping AND save the bees.

Start your holiday shopping and contribute to research to find the cause of the mysterious disappearance of honey bees due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

This beautiful 2010 calendar ($20) just came across my desk: A Bee Lover’s Garden: 12 Plants That Bees Love. Working Together to Create a Healthier World for Our Bees, and for Ourselves. The illustrations, printed on fine quality, green-seal-certified paper are by North Carolina artist Jay Pfeil and are truly frameable. The calendar is designed to educate people about the importance of bees, and inspire and empower them to plant these bee-nurturing plants in their gardens. A portion of the sales will go to The Eastern Apicultural Society's Foundation for Honey Bee Research.

Says the group’s founder, Mel Hughes, “Even if our first year's donation is small, we have still educated, inspired, and empowered thousands of people to rethink the higher purpose of their gardens.” The 2011 calendar is already in the works and will feature trees that nurture bees.

Photo credit: Illustration by Jay Pfeil.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What's on garden designers' minds?

I’ve just returned from Los Angeles where I moderated a panel of design experts at the Brown Jordan showroom during Fall Market at the Pacific Design Center. Selena Souders of Big Red Sun (the photo is from her Venice store), designer Kimberlee Keswick and Stephen Block of Inner Gardens took time out from their demanding schedules for what turned out to be a lively discussion about the “outdoor room.” 

Sure, we explored the outdoor room at length. But two issues arose that really got me thinking that these are the areas where designers really need to educate their clients as well as the architects and interior designers involved in the project.

BUDGET and FEES: The designer is tasked from the beginning to help the client understand the perceived value of transforming the exterior spaces into an extension of the indoors – often doubling the livable square footage of their homes. The next step then is creating an appropriate budget and bringing the client on board to see beyond the need for hardscaping and plants. A healthy percentage of the budget also needs to be allocated to line items such as lighting, furnishings, appropriate components of an outdoor kitchen and fire and/or water features.  Last but definitely not least, there is that other tricky area: getting paid — ideally, up front — for the actual design. That these fees are customarily paid up front for architectural drawings was not lost on anyone. Kimberlee stressed the importance of creating a master plan from which everything flows, from the budget to the workflow. Each panelist discussed how he or she approaches this issue with clients and how much time and work they are, or are not, willing to invest upfront.

TIMING TO ENTER A PROJECT: When I asked the designers at what stage they are typically brought into a project vs. when they should ideally enter it, they all agreed that it is too often too late. It became clear that there is a real need to educate homeowners and architects of the importance of establishing a design team up front to comprise not only an architect and possibly an interior designer, but also the landscape architect or garden designer.

            I thought it interesting that yesterday I spoke by telephone with Palm Beach, Florida designer Jorge Sanchez of Sanchez & Maddux who had this to say: “There have been clients who have come to us after they have chosen an architect and contractor, and have finished the pool and driveway. We tell them they just need a plant installer. It is extremely important for the landscape architect to work from the beginning with the whole group. Otherwise, there is nothing cohesive or creative about it.”  

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