Northwest Garden Style

Discussion in 'Garden Design and Plant Suggestions' started by Gordo, May 24, 2006.

  1. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    When one contemplates installing a new garden or redesigning an older one, one of the first questions to be answered in picturing our ideal garden would seem to be "What style?". Here in the PNW, we have the luxury of choosing from any number of garden styles, with a nearly endless pallete of plants, due to our mild climate. From formal English gardens to tropical, cottage gardens, collectors gardens, the choices are many, which can make the decision all the more difficult.

    This brings me to a question that often occurs to me; is there an idealized or quintessentially Northwestern style of garden, and if so, how would we describe it?
    In my own mind, I've always felt that Asian gardens come closest to what this idealized form would be like - but both the scale and cultural references seem too specific. It does seem to me, however, that such an idealized garden, if it does exist, would be based on, and include elements of the local natural environment as a starting point for specific examples. I wonder if anyone else has any thoughts on how we define Northwestern type gardens or on the concept of regional garden styles in general.
     
  2. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hi Gordo,

    I live in the Mid-Atlantic states, between the Northeast and the Southeast and have travelled all over the US except for the Pacific NW. ;-( With that said, I have also lived in the Catskill Mtns of NY and along the NJ shore. I've spent time in Arizona and Louisiana and my perception of garden styles in the different regions doesn't ever bring to mind Asian gardens. I have seen many pics of PNW gardens as I have some friends in Washington and Oregon and think of them as lush, full and very green. Asian gardens to me are green and lush, but very containted.

    When I think of regional style gardens in the US I think of the Northeast as cottage style, the southeast and gulf states as tropical, the southwest as more xerispcape and desert-like, and the midwest and mid-Atlantic as a mix of several styles.

    Newt
     
  3. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    Newt,

    Thank you for your ideas on regional gardening styles - nice to have the perspective of someone who has traveled far more than me. Your response confirms to some extent what I've been thinking - that regional styles, in a general sense, are determined by the climate and ecology of an area, as well as by cultural influences of the people who live there. However, given the time frame over which particular styles evolve and the amount of control that now exists relative to plant choices, irrigation, etc., I wonder to what degree regional styles can be identified or will continue to evolve in the future. Cultural influences would similarly seem to provide less of an influence in the future as populations have become increasingly less isolated.
    If, on the other hand, people begin to focus more on a sense of the relationship between the garden and the earth, perhaps this trend will change toward a more regionally specific approach. Asian gardens, in particular, seem to me to embody a sense of peace and harmony with nature, using the natural landscape as the ideal model connecting the viewer to the environment.
     
  4. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Gordo, I see what you mean about garden styles that migrate to other regions through travel and immigration. They don't necessarily become generic to the new region. If you've ever been to South America you would see how lush the landscape can be in many parts. In other areas of the continent the plants grow so fast and the gardens are so small that overpruning is a fact of life. An example would be Lima, Peru where I spent 4 months. There plants grow exponentially even though it almost never rains. People prune their trees, shrubs, vines and flowers severely into grotesque shapes, shear everything and constantly top trees. They paint the bottom of the trunks of trees with white paint and to me it looks ugly. I gave my son's gardener time off with pay so I could tend the garden. I hand pruned and deadheaded instead of shearing. When I left, the lantana that had been growing against a wall and rarely ever bloomed, was in full bloom. The marguerite daisies were fuller and blooming their heads off and many other plants that had been pruned so much they never bloomed were lush with flowers. I shudder to think what it looks like now. My son has since moved to Colombia and no longer has a garden. ;(

    When people migrate to other regions they often take garden styles they are familiar with along with them. Just look at the South and Central American influence in places like southern Florida where you see what I've just described. Another good example is Phoenix, Arizona. People migrated from lush areas of the country and wanted green lush lawns and the same flowers they had been familiar with from their home regions. Now there is a historic district where you HAVE to have a lawn! The cottage gardens of England came to the northeast US and seem to have stayed. Yes, you do see different styles in the NE, but you still see much of what migrated to the area with the people that brought those styles.

    In the early days of this country wealthy people that travelled to Europe brought back Italian and French garden styles. Most of those gardens are now public gardens. Not many people install these types of gardens today, though Asian styles are still very popular, probably for the reasons you note. Sure makes for diversity. :)

    Newt
     
  5. WesternWilson

    WesternWilson Active Member 10 Years

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    I think a Northwest style has evolved...although I have never really seen it described. Out here, we have a wide range of plants that will thrive, but you really, really need winter interest and evergreen foliage thoughtfully placed in your plans to counteract the winter monsoon mudfield look.

    But I see more and more borders that include native salal and wintergreen, grasses, white and red centranthus, the ever present rhododendrons and small evergreen shrubs, spireas, hollies, mountain bluet.

    All in all, a relaxed cross between English Country Garden and Rainforest! Very nice and refreshing.

    For inspiration, see works by Ann Lovejoy, a wonderful garden writer from Bainbridge Island, WA, which is just to the west of Seattle.
     
  6. Gordo

    Gordo Active Member 10 Years

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    There is an excellent interview and article dealing with regional gardening styles in the latest Fine Gardening (Sept/Oct 2006) with author and garden designer Page Dickey, author of the book "Gardens in the Spirit of Place" - described in the article as an exploration of "places that are the unique expression of their particular location and the people who created them". In defining a sense of place the author says "We're talking about many things: climate, topography, soil, and the vernacular of the architecture, walls, and fences. It's also about local history and culture." She goes on to say "It's sad if our gardens become as homogenous as strip malls." "Be happy with where you live. Embrace it."
    Amen.
     
  7. groovyjoker

    groovyjoker Member

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