Lost in Paradise

Discussion in 'Garden Design and Plant Suggestions' started by Gordo, Feb 17, 2006.

  1. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    I couldn't help notice two new commercial landscapes in my small community, which I suspect were designed/installed by the same person(s). While I am admittedly viewing this from the perspective of a home gardener, I have always felt that the best landscape designs convey at least some degree of reference and respect toward their surroundings. My question, then, is twofold; what are your thoughts, comments, and/or opinions about:
    a) the relative validity of this idea.
    b) the specific designs pictured (assuming I can get them posted), with respect to this idea.
    Any and all responses will be welcome. Thanks.


    Stanwood Palms P.S.jpg

    Camano Palms P.S.jpg
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    The bank at the Camano gateway is in what appears to be a former prairie where some amazingly high and low temperatures are shown on the bank's digital display. I have heard skepticism about these, yet it's just possible they are an accurate reflection of local variation in site conditions. Afterall, the two weather stations whose temperature records are often listed for Seattle have a 10-11 degree difference between their record lows. Anyway, if this is a comparatively continental site the plants chosen may not work out too well for cultural reasons. So far the windmill palms in particular do not look pleased, as is often the case when they are stuck in poor (in this case?) soil on an exposed site. Otherwise, this and the similar planting over near Haggen suffer as compositions primarily from being tombstone plantings, with one of this and one of that dotted about as isolated specimens.

    As far as these being tropicalesque plantings in the countryside, as the land immediately around them develops further - county regulations permitting - they will no longer have incongruous rural backdrops. Palms, phormiums and other architectural plants look great with modern architecture.
     
  3. Anne Taylor

    Anne Taylor Active Member 10 Years

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    Well I admit one of the best things I've learned designing over the years is "there's more than one way to slice a pie". Without knowing what the predetermined criteria for these plants were - like was this the owners' preference? Was this the best specimine's available to the landscaper? Deer proofing necessary? Site specific restrictions by authorities? Who knows? Ron is quite right these are architectural and for that reason have a quality... however their placement is too uncomfortably sporadic for my usual approach. I'd be prone to want to re group them and add in some colour and textured foiage to set them off, something tough enough to withstand commercial/industrial settings. It's not Pacific NW , but then again it may be a delight to someone. Objectively, I think it needs some reference to the land,- add in some large/medium boulders maybe? I really dislike planting on 'mounds'! It's all wrong for the plants- for erosion, poor watering - just not natural! These beds will of course grow in but... yawn.... slowly.
     
  4. silver_creek

    silver_creek Active Member

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    I am as guilty as anyone of trying plants that are a bit marginal; but all the plants that appeal to me feel natural to the Pacific Northwest environment. Palms, bananas, even Phormians invoke in me the "this is not California" reaction- but nature will take care of that in time...Part of that reaction comes from living in a very windy site, which usually tatters those semi-tropicals that manage to survive the winter temperatures.
     
  5. oscar

    oscar Active Member

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    Three cheers for the designer, well, maybe two........i like annes (and i think ron mentioned in a round about way) idea of the grouping and the boulders...not sure about adding too much colour.........i do hope its not a really windy site, it kind of ruins the look of those beautiful plants. That poor little chamaerops (top picture, bottom left corner) looks like he's about to get blown away.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Drifting of plants creates flow, restfulness. One of each, particularly pokey architectural plants like these creates stasis and tension. Tombstone Planting is apt term. A plant then a flat space then another plant then another flat space...
     
  7. Yes I do agree, however, unless Camano Island maintains above normal winter temperatures,and adequate rainfall especially in the summer heat(assuming these skeletal plantings are left on their own for survival until established), these vastly spaced plants will struggle to gain the intended tropical (dare I say...savannah-esq) look! Perhaps a few succulents or cacti are needed to set the gardenscape gamble on another extreme.

    Are the commercial residents open to constuctive criticism? additional plantings?
    Or,are they looking for a zero maintenance gardenscape? Re: added boulders?

    I feel for those palms...
     
  8. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    I don't want to discourage comments about the particular design at all, but I think the larger question, which Terry alluded to, is how these designs fit both within the immediate neighborhood and within the region as a whole. To refer solely to site specific details ignores, I think, a host of issues relating to regional sensitivities, asthetic and environmental. While I personally love the biodiversity that can be expressed in our gardens, I would hope that we equally value the regional uniqueness of the areas in which we live.
     
  9. oscar

    oscar Active Member

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    ok you asked for it ;) They probably dont fit with the surrounding landscape, however, if you used mostly native plants ( a tree huggers dream) you'd have a bunch of weeds......im just kiddin, just because mother nature failed to leave palms here in the UK doesnt mean we cant plant them, does it? i know North America is blessed with a greater variety of material to work with, use them and put non natives into the mix as well if you like......Here in the UK local authorities are starting to dictate what can and cant be planted in both public, and horror of horrors, private gardens, so i say enjoy your freedom and plant what you like, where you like.
     
  10. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks Oscar.
    In no way am I in favor of or advocating that anyone or any entity dictate what can or can't be planted in public or private gardens. We Yanks tend to resent this type of thing. However, I've lived here in what has come to be known as Cascadia for long enough (some 50 + years) to have seen a profound, though recognizably inevitable change in the local environment as a result of growth. It is with this in mind that I frequently advocate for the use of native plants as well as those which, though not native can blend with and contribute to our local ecology. This is not to say that all gardens should conform to some set standard, but rather, that we consider the big picture in our design choices.
     
  11. silver_creek

    silver_creek Active Member

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    I could expand on that thought, Gordo- my distaste for palms and other semi-tropicals stems from 1) I've only seen large ones look good in very protected areas; even some large, obviously established ones look a bit haggard from wind damage if they are not well enough wind protected, IMOH, and 2) the incredible wealth of plants that truly thrive and look good in PNW gardens. I don't think you have to go native to have great looking, low maintenance gardens in this region, but, as always, the plant has to be one that will thrive in the location given. Outside of waterfront, or downtown urban-sheltered Seattle or Vancouver, many semi-tropical just don't seem to thrive.
     
  12. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    After a business development is plopped down in the middle of farmland or a forest the overwhelmingly disharmonious land use has already occurred. Landscaping modern commercial buildings designed in Philadelphia with vine maples and hemlocks - or any kind of plants - isn't really going to take away either their lack of regional association or their glaring artificiality. Might as well use some exciting plants that are visually compatible with modern archicture, once the harsh setting has already been produced.

    On the other hand, it is true that which plants look good with "hard" materials isn't a function of where they are from, one could satisfy natives purism with something like Mahonia aquifolium, which looks great with glass, stone and wood--and also happens to be native to the vicinity of these Camano Island developments. I think there are some right across the highway from the bank, planting the same species at the bank could serve as a gimmick to at least partly associate it with the surrounding rural landscape. Still a modern building (and development) in the middle of a rural scene, but it might help a little.
     
  13. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    While I agree that some building designs may associate best with a particular planting scheme, to say that once a commercial development occurs the damage is done, misses the point about preserving regional character and natural habitat. Perhaps we could argue for better architecture here, however, many commercial developments, while modern in style, associate just fine with native plants and naturalistic planting styles. Many fine examples of this can be found locally, including the Camano Gateway development (with the exception of the property in question). Here locally designed buildings are surrounded by the just these types of plantings (in stark contrast to the property on the southeast corner). Hopefully employing this approach can, in some small way, mitigate the effects of growth, but more importantly, serve as an inspiration for the future direction of that growth.
     
  14. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    The decorative foliage planting at the bank is the only one that holds any horticultural interest. Unless I've missed something the rest is as stereotypical and bland as the buildings, if I remember correctly the same "native" redtwig dogwoods, arborvitaes etc. as one sees EVERYWHERE ELSE AROUND HERE. Except for perhaps containing some native taxa (Thuja plicata instead of T. occidentalis) such efforts are not region specific at all. Palms and phormiums are actually more regional in character, because only a comparatively small part of the country can manage them.
     
  15. Carol Ja

    Carol Ja Active Member 10 Years

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    Aside from the designer really liking to plant palms, it seems to me that this person is using the plants to make up for a lack of hardscaping.
    Plants take up only a small percentage of the cost in a good design. In a bad design plants can sometimes make up for a lack of long term thought. This seems like only a short term solution, this designer will probably find the client knocking on the door looking for some better solutions to save the expensive palms, or maybe some other designer will get the client.

    In the long term as stated before the palms will probably suffer from the wind, and the bark mulch will blow the same way. The overall design looks a bit out of place in relation to its surroundings, The scale of the palms doesn't work well with the smallness of the rock and mulch, but maybe the client likes that sort of look, or there wasn't a big budget.
    Each to thier own, right?
    Carol Ja
     
  16. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Windmill palm is exceptionally hardy, at the Carl English Botanical Garden in Seattle--where it has been a feature for decades in an open lawn on heavy, damp soil--it even reseeds. Phormiums, however, are another matter. The Camano plantings are suffering from the usual one-note thinking--all 'tropicals' or all roses or all dahlias or all fruit trees and nothing else, instead of mixed planting--and (probably) poor cultural practices prevalent in both commerical and home horticulture. The Tombstone Effect created by the Camano 'tropical' plantings is also a very common mistake, making them look more stark and bizarre than they need to.
     
  17. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    Though not intending to distract from the conversation, I feel it is necessary to offer the following corrections, question, and information:

    1) The "bank" referred to above is no longer at this location, nor has it been for some time. It is now home to one our largest realtors (luring newcomers with palm trees?)

    2) The decorative foliage planted at the "bank" includes a very large, and expanding mass of English Ivy (not pictured). Is this the horticultural interest referred to?

    3) The "stereotypical and bland" buildings within the award-winning Camano Commons complex include design work by two of our most highly respected design firms - Designs Northwest and Dykeman http://www.dykeman.net/our_work.html#, as well as other contributions from local tradesmen and artisans http://www.revisionaryglassworks.com/com-res-slide1.html. They are also the subject of an Everett Herald Story entiteled "A Different Way To Develop"
    http://www.heraldnet.com/stories/04/08/15/loc_camano001.cfm

    4) While no redtwig dogwoods are in evidence, what I did find, in addition to many lovely non-native plants, was: Pacific Dogwood (or hybrid), Douglas Fir, Shore Pine, Flowering Current, Evergreen Huckleberry, Snowberry, Kinnikinick, Fragaria, and two species of Oregon Grape.



    Camano Commons.jpg
     
  18. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    From the outside of the cluster--which is where the buildings are seen in relation to the surrounding rural scene--it's another grouping of boxy buildings jutting up in the midst of nothing similar. I wasn't even aware a view like the one shown here was possible, since none of this is apparent driving by. And in courtyardlike scene shown it doesn't matter what is going on around the development, anything planted just has to look good with the building materials immediately around it.

    Many of the natives on that planting list will overwhelm their positions in short order, others will die from unsuitable soil etc. Geographic theme plantings often fail because plants from diverse habitats are brought together onto one site. And the range of plants all native to the same region that also lend themselves to cultivation and display can also be rather small and limiting in some areas. In this instance unsuitable trees in particular have of course been used because there just aren't that many native trees to choose from around here.

    Spellcheck: Currant.
     
  19. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    Perhaps it is unwise to opine about specific planting positions, soil conditions, etc. unless one is familiar with them.
     
  20. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    The new Garden Design forum is getting closer and closer to becoming the former Garden Design forum.
     
  21. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    I've seen more than enough to provide a basis for what I have said.
     
  22. bcgift52

    bcgift52 Active Member

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    And who's gonna keep them boys in check while you're off gallivanting !!
     
  23. *N*E*R*D*

    *N*E*R*D* Member

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    The only thing i have to add, is please don't do the "Mulch Volcano". And another while im on the topic, i wonder how long have those stakes have been on those plants. Those only need to be on there for less than a year. And even then, they aren't that necessary. Not to point out other peoples errors, but these landscaping companies now-a-days make me sick.
     
  24. Chloris

    Chloris Member

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    Hey everyone this is North America where like it or not...anything goes!
     
  25. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    I thought back to this thread recently, upon the death of former U.S. first lady 'Lady Bird' Johnson, who was so instrumental in the beautification of highways throughout Texas and the rest of the country. In an interview she once said "I want Texas to look like Texas, and Vermont to look like Vermont. I just hate to see the land homogenized."
    I can't help but think this trend towards homogenization - in our homes & landscapes as well as our communities- is ever-increasing, leaving us the poorer for it.
     

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