Garden spirit

Gardening thoughts and inspirations

Hot trends for 2015

With the new year just around the corner, it is a great time to think about your outdoor space and what you can add to your garden to give it that extra spark of interest for 2015. Here is a list of some of the hot, landscaping trends for 2015 that experts have predicted.

  1. Garden- tainment: Consumers are projected to spend billions on outdoor décor in 2015. Homeowners will use their outdoor spaces as an extension of their homes to entertain. Your outdoor space can be as comfortable and welcoming as the inside of your house. Outdoor furniture doesn’t have to be white, plastic, rickety lawn chairs! New outdoor fabrics are made to be waterproof, fade resistant and are available in many patterns and colours. Use them on comfortable outdoor furniture that will help create your outdoor living room. Readymade pots and planters can be quickly added to bring fresh colour to any patio setting before a party. Add a small outdoor fireplace to create a cozy hot spot for you and your family to enjoy in the evenings.

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  1. Edible Gardens : The latest trend is to combine edibles and ornamentals in your garden beds and pots. By adding fruits and vegetables to your outdoor space, you will offer more diversity, and energy to your garden. Plus you get a bountiful harvest out of it too! New dwarf varieties of berry producing bushes like blueberries and raspberries make it possible to plug these shrubs into already established beds or small patio pots.

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  1. The birds and the bees!: Since the news that our bee populations have been dwindling started to hit the airwaves , people have been consciously adding to their gardens with bees in mind. 2015 will be no exception. Basil, aster, goldenrod and lavender are a few options for the pacific northwest. You can also design your garden with butterflies and birds in mind. Planting ceanothus(California lilac) is a great source of nectar and food throughout the season for butterflies. Phlox, lupines and fall sedum are other great butterfly plants. Also, think about the birds by adding a bird bath or small fountain for them to splash around in.
  1. Waterscapes: Water features are a popular addition to gardens and 2015 looks like no exception. From Patio ponds, small fountains and gurglers to ponds, streams and waterfalls – there really is an option for every space and budget. The sound of water drowns out noise, it is relaxing and soothing after a hectic day at work, and water features attract life of all kinds – birds, butterflies, dragon flies and frogs. Your outdoor space will be transformed by your waterscape. It will become the focal point of your outdoor room.

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  1. Privacy planting: Life keeps getting busier and busier. All the more reason to create a private piece of paradise at your home. That means planting to create privacy. This traditionally takes the form of a hedge. But it can be as easy as a row of container plants on your deck or patio. You can also plant a natural screen with a mix of perennials, ornamental grasses and shrubs.
  1. Tripping the light fantastic: When night falls, why should you have to leave your beautiful garden and head inside? Landscape lighting can help extend your time in your outdoor space. Customized lighting can easily highlight some focal points in your garden or keep your patio warmly lit. Outdoor lighting keeps your walkways and entry ways safely lit up too. Enjoy adding another dimension to your garden as you can relax on your patio and experience your “night garden.”                                                                                                                                             Landscape-lighting
  2. Bed Head Style: A purposefully un-styled outdoor space is the result of intentionally working within the natural landscape. This is sometimes called ‘naturalistic” with the emphasis on form and structured rather then just on plants that flower. This casual landscape style expresses an effortless personality with an “anything goes” attitude. This usually involves a mixture of ornamental grasses and perennials and a desire to create a low impact on the environment. Drifts of plants in close groupings reduce the amount of weeding and water loss. Plants are usually left through the winter as their seedheads, stalks and the wispy grasses shine in the winter light.

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Start planning now, and good luck gardening in 2015!

For more info or ideas visit our website at:  www.richearthgardenservice.com  , check us out on HOUZZ and visit our Google plus page at https://plus.google.com/ .

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Forest bathing….

Have you ever had a stressful day at work? An argument with someone or a difficult paper to write for a course that has just added too much stress to the already busy daily grind? Perhaps you needed to relax and get your mind off it all and went for a walk outside or for a run. Or maybe you just stared out the window and gazed out onto your garden or the trees on your street. Without even knowing it, your subconscious has turned to nature to help to calm your senses.  Biophilia, the innate human attraction to nature, is a concept that has been recognized for several decades by the scientific and design communities.

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The term Biophilia (from the greek root – meaning love of nature) became a popular idea in the 1980’s when a biologist – Edward O. Wilson, realized the long term consequences of our suburban sprawl with our destruction of nature, and our insensitivity to the natural world around us . He pioneered a new school of thought on bringing people back in contact with nature.  “Biophilia is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms.” The concept of biophilia suggests that humans hold an actual biological need for a connection with nature. This connection is based on physical, mental and social levels. Our connection to nature (or lack of connection) can greatly affect our personal well-being, productivity and societal relationships.

But is that possible? How could we even quantify it? Is this just some flowery idea made up by the liberal, left wing, environmentalist hippies…..?!?

In reality, improving community well-being through biophilia can impact productivity costs and the bottom line. There is actual financial potential for businesses to grow their profits by this sound, economic investment. There are good economics behind Biophilic design. There have been many studies, based on scientific research that shows the very real savings on today’s high productivity costs.   In 1978, ING Bank directors shared a vision for their new 538,000 square foot headquarters in Amsterdam. The focus of the building design was to maximize natural lighting, integrate organic art, and install water features to enhance the productivity of its workers while also creating a new image for the bank. The productivity savings in this case were astounding: absenteeism decreased by 15% after construction was completed. Employees looked forward to coming to work and voluntarily tended to the natural features in the office. The bank additionally saved an estimated $2.6 million per year after all energy system and daylighting units were installed. Overall, ING’s image as a progressive and creative bank corresponded with the growth of users who decided to switch to ING as their primary bank, bumping it from the fourth most popular bank to the second most popular bank in the Netherlands (32. Romm and Browning, 1994)

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Biophilic design can also help patients to heal more quickly in hospitals. I attended a landscaping conference a few years ago where a speaker talked about the effects of his garden designs in hospitals across North America.  The healing benefits of the gardens he designed and installed were astounding. Not only did it create a space that improved a patients recovery but also helped improve the day to day living with a terminal illness. Healing gardens promote good health, evoke pleasurable memories and act as a place for social connections for patients. Even family members visiting patients feel more relaxed, rejuvenated, and positive. The effects on the health care staff were also recognizable as they were able to use the garden space to take breaks in and get some time to relax and recoup from their demanding jobs. The health and alertness of nurses in hospitals is crucial to the comfort of the patients. Many hospitals in North America are now incorporating large-scale healing gardens into their design layout.

In Japan there is a name for the healing process of surrounding patients in nature. Sharin-yoku is the ancient Japanese practice of restorative walks in nature. In English Sharin-yoku translates into “Bathing in the atmosphere of the forest”. There have been many studies in Japan to look at how effective these walks can be. In the forest, volatile and non-volatile compounds called phytoncides are emitted by plants. Inhaling these organic compounds has been proven to decrease blood pressure and stabilize autonomic nervous activity (Ohtsuka, 1998).

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Our bodies response to daylight is also another important clue on how we can harness the power of biophilia. It is proven that exposure to natural light helps to balance our hormonal levels of serotonin and melatonin. Using natural light in the design and planning of hospitals, work places and schools can only increase our health and productivity.

So, next time you are feeling stressed out and even if you sometimes feel like life is beating you down – head outside into the fresh air and bathe in the atmosphere of nature. Afterwards, you will feel better – its biophilia dude!…everyone’s trying it!

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Fall – ing into winter….

We have had some great weather over the last couple of weeks on the west coast. It was really quite warm for October – but all of a sudden the temperature has dropped and the rains have arrived. The wet, cool, grey days of fall are upon us. But before we pack it in and forget about going outside to enjoy our gardens – we can find ways to extend the interest into the fall and winter and plan for spring!

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Sedum ‘autumn joy’,Japanese blood grass.    Aster,torch lily,fountain grass, rudbeckia.

This is the time of year to enjoy the last burst of colour in our gardens. If you have any ornamental grasses in your garden beds like me , then you will be excited as the colours begin to glow and change in the fall light. A mixture of grasses and perennials is a sure fire way to extend the season. The seed heads of the grasses look spectacular in the blowing , autumn winds. The contrast of seed heads of a perennial like black eyed susan or sedum look wonderful next to the airy, wispy quality of the grasses.

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Miscanthus ‘Yaku Jima’

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Miscanthus ‘Huron Sunrise’

There is also colour to be found in the various shrubs that provide winter interest and food for the birds with berries. Adding 1 or 2 shrubs that produce berries is a great way to add some vibrant focal points in the fall and winter as well.

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Callicarpa ‘beauty berry’ and Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’

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But back to the grasses…..I have written about the benefits of grasses in the garden before : drought tolerance, low maintenance, long season of interest. The only draw back is when the grasses get cut back in early spring , there are a few months when ones garden can look quite bare. A perfect solution is to plant some spring blooming bulbs. Fill in the gaps between the cut back grasses with vibrant colours from Februrary to May. This is the perfect time of year to get some bulbs in the ground before winter creeps in.

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I like to plant a few early blooming crocuses. Then I mix in some early dwarf narcissus like Jetfire, and some later blooming daffs like Tete a tete and  King Alfred. Finally I choose some mid to late blooming tulips to add the late spring burst of colour before the grasses begin to grow again. The great part is the grasses can cover up the dying leaves of your bulbs.

This is a great project to do and lots of fun choosing the colours to start off with in spring after a grey winter. Be bold, have fun and plant away. Check out your local garden centre now for beautiful bulbs….

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Monty and the Ephemeral Garden

Recently, my mother recommended that I try watching a gardening show that she was enjoying. It was all about French gardens – British host, Monty Don, traveled around looking at gardens and discussing the historical context of these gardens and how they related to garden design through the ages. Monty Don is a very famous British gardening guru – he has hosted a gardening show on the bbc for a number of years, been on the radio, and written books and articles on gardening for various publications. He has quite a following in the UK. Monty is closer in age to my parents but I thought I would tune in and give ‘Monty Dons’ French Gardens’ a try. (He also has a series called Monty Dons Italian Gardens).

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 I was pleasantly surprised – his passion for gardens and the excitement he shares on his show have a youthful exuberance. He is an excellent presenter. He obviously loves gardening, has a great deal of knowledge about the history of gardening and garden design and his passion is quite contagious. Monty has stories of Queens, jealousies and competitions between Kings about some of the gardens he visits.

He travels through France, stopping at beautiful gardens along the way. I feel that one of his great gifts is his ability to appreciate every garden, no matter if it is not quite to his taste. So many garden critics tend to be so negative about this garden or that garden style. They spend all their time cutting down others. Monty was always so positive and appreciative.

He has a real passion for hedges!  One tv critic wrote in a review of the show. “There are few things in life finer than a good hedge,” says Monty Don, standing by a very high one that seems to go on forever, horizontally as well. To be honest, I can think of a few things finer (in fact about 10 billion), but he does seem to mean it. Monty’s enthusiasm is not put on for the camera, I think – it’s real. He really does love his hedges.    Yes , he really does!

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Monty had worked in the south of France as a young man, so he revisits some areas that he hadn’t been to for years. It was interesting to watch him enjoy the same French countryside with an older perspective. On one of the episodes Monty was posing a slightly pretentious question. Can a garden be art? Or is it just a garden first and art later or only just a garden. He visits 3 very different gardens and asks each garden designer to answer, which I found very insightful.  

Monty Don also has a great gift in articulating his feelings. He talks about how gardens force you to be in the moment. He describes how all the natural elements come together to bring you present in that precise moment. How the smell of lavender, the sun shining through the trees and the wind blowing can create this moment where everything else drops away and one will be fully present and experience it. Then the wind shifts, the sun changes and its gone. That moment can never be recreated. It happened, you experience it and just like that its gone.

 

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Monty Don has written of his struggle with depression since the age of 25 and his diagnosis with Seasonal Affective Disorder. He describes in his memoir “great spans of muddy time” in which there is nothing but depression. He has said that “‘Earth heals me better than any medicine”.  Monty Don has always been candid about his garden’s role in helping him with his depression. In his book ‘The Jewel Garden’, he elaborates on this much more. Monty also suffered a minor stroke in 2008 which lead to him having to step away from the cameras and his gardening show to recover. His spent his time getting better by working on his own organic garden at his home. He has also done a gardening show where he worked with recovering drug addicts to build a garden as part of their recovery process.

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 Here is a quote from Monty that shows his love and passion for the garden :

“The routine of a garden is a huge part of its attraction. Sarah (his wife) says that I am like an old dog plodding round the same beat morning and night, but for me the walk is measured with constant change. Following May Day – surely the most exciting date in anyone’s calendar – those changes are exploding with every step. This year has had spring more tightly coiled inside it than any other I can remember. Now, at last, it is like a struck match, flaring with a million green flames at every sweep of the eye. Tulips blossom and the last of the winter flowers and first of the summer pitch in with colour, but this is undeniably the high green day of spring.”

 

Heading out into the garden can be a real, positive distraction from the stresses of life. It also has the power to heal – physically, mentally and spiritually. Take the time to be in the moment, outside in a garden, no matter how big or small. Lose yourself in the plants and the trees, it will be worth it.

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Relaxing with Waterscapes

When I was growing up I lived inside a park. My Dad was the manager of a fish hatchery located in the park that was situated right along a creek.  I did learn a lot about the life cycle of the salmon and their part of the creeks ecosystem. But of course, I also spent a lot of my time outside in and around the creek.

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Most of my summer days were spent playing in the creek – wading through the cool water, jumping on the rocks along the banks of the creek and searching for crayfish in the stiller waters. At the time, I knew I was lucky. I really enjoyed my time in nature and exploring the creek and its surroundings. Nature became a place that I could find fun and relaxation in and also a place that nurtured a spiritual connection in me.

It really effected me and what I have chosen to do in life. As a landscaper , I draw my inspiration from nature. I am always hoping to create gardens that work with nature, not against it. That fit into their surroundings and that become an outdoor space of relaxation and fun for people. Over the last few years I have expanded my landscaping to include water feature design and installations. To begin with I wasn’t sure why I was so drawn to water in the garden – really?…sometimes I am a bit slow!  Of course, I eventually made the connection – it had everything to do with my time as a boy playing in the creek. Now , I get to create naturally looking streams that take inspiration from that creek.

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 Stream design and installation by Rich Earth

Water features come in many forms – a pond, a stream, a fountain or gurgling stone. I enjoy designing and building natural waterscapes that are built with  stone and logs and surrounded with beautiful plants. Water features that attract wildlife like frogs, birds and dragonflies. The goal is to bring a calming piece of nature into peoples busy lives. Creating a space that allows the sounds of the water to relax you as you sit back and forget about the stressful day. Also, the educational aspects for children are endless with waterscapes in your back yard.

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                                   Waterfall and stream design and installation by Rich Earth

I have found a company that makes water feature products which shares the same love of water and nature as I do : Aquascape. Their founder, Greg Wittstock, began building ponds at the age of 12 to initially be a home for his turtles. He continued working on his turtle pond as a teenager – perfecting it as he went. When he finished college , he began building ponds for a living. His goal was to create natural looking water features that worked with mother nature to create naturally balanced ecosystems. Today , he has one of the largest water feature companies in the world – still creating beautiful, natural looking ponds and water features in peoples back yards and supplying landscapers like me with the products to do it too.

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Greg and Aquascape continue to grow and move forward into the 21st century. This September, a reality show called POND STARS, premiers on the Nat Geo Wild channel. It follows Greg and his company as they install water features across the USA. He is able to share his passion for water in the landscape and his passion for “ponds done right, customers served right.” It is exciting what he is doing for the water feature industry and to bring the idea of water into everyone’s home via this new reality show. As Greg always says : “Everyone wants a water feature – they just don’t know it yet!”

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Please check it out : POND STARS begins on Friday sept. 5th. Nat Geo Wild. Check your listings. To check out more about waterscapes by Rich Earth and the POND STARS show go to my website:

www.richearthgardenservice.com

hot, hot, heat!

It has been a long,  dry summer on the west coast this year.  There were quite a few scorchers. Even though it has cooled down a bit, we are still well below average for rainfall amounts since June 1st (according to the weather network).

This kind of weather can be tough for our gardens to handle. Deep watering, mulching, and the right plants in the right places are a few rules to help. It is possible to have a great looking garden thru a hot summer.

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Ornamental grasses like the above fountain grass ‘karly rose’ , just thrive in the summer heat.

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This dwarf fountain grass ‘hameln’ looks good in pots too. There are many perennials that will actually enjoy a lack of water – crazy plants! -and grow even better.

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The electric blue of this sea holly really brightens up a garden. So, enjoy the dog days of summer. Find places to add some plants that will add some summer interest to your garden, but won’t put more demand on our precious water resources.

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Gardening with Piet

     I have been gardening in one way or another since I was 18. I have always had a love of nature and found that being outside in the fresh air was therapeutic for me  – so gardening has been a career that has satisfied that need inside me. Over the years I have been lucky to work in some beautiful gardens in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. During my time maintaining gardens,  I have felt a connection to nature, that goes beyond just pulling weeds in the fresh air. A connection to something more profound , more spiritual – a mystical experience. I have always found it hard to articulate and the experience doesn’t happen everyday but often enough for me to dwell on it.

     Recently , I purchased a gardening book that really put it in a way that hit the nail on the head for me. I will quote the authors as their words are much better then mine –

” Mysticism in the garden depends almost entirely on circumstances that are beyond your control, when the power of the elements combines with nature – in the early morning, in fog, or at dusk for instance – to make you feel quite alone. Mysticism may seem a strange word to use with regard to a garden. It is best defined as a spiritual experience where one feels at one with the whole of creation, and hence at one with the divinity itself.”  Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury

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That contradiction of feelings is what I find the hardest to explain. Because as I feel “quite alone” in the early, frost – covered winter morning, there is also this profound connection to the whole of creation and the divine. Feeling a part of everything and very insignificant at the same time.   This also effects how I work as I feel myself working as a part of nature , working with something more powerful then I can control.  The same authors describe this as well –

” ….it is possible to feel in awe of the garden, and it is only one step beyond this to see the garden as a paradigm of creation, and the human role within it as a minor one. Rather than controlling nature, the gardener merely orchestrates living things that have their own rhythms and processes, over which he/she has little control. The mystic wants to feel as though he is an integral part of nature , the expression of divine beauty, so the mystics garden is somewhere very personal where it is possible to feel at one with nature – gardening as a spiritual exercise!”

Pretty heavy stuff! Not that I am trying to be overly serious and precious about gardening and what it entails. But I think we can all relate in our own lives when we have had a connection to something larger then ourselves – a spiritual connection – whether hiking on a mountain, watching the sunset, at a rock concert with 50,000 people or in a garden on a frosty , winter morning.

   This approach to gardening – working with nature instead of against it – is not something entirely new. It has been evolving for hundreds of years. The eighteenth century English garden designer , William Kent, was the man who ” leaped the fence and saw that all nature was a garden”. By the late 1700’s Head gardeners on large English Estates began to get rid of the boundaries between garden and the rest of the land. There was so much natural beauty to be seen and appreciated in the surrounding land not just in the “formal walled garden”.  

Today, this approach to design is also rooted in the guiding rule of “right plant, right location”. The traditional idea used to be to plant what you want, where you want it and prune it and control it into a shape that you want it to be. For example – if one wanted ball shaped shrubs, just cut whatever you have into ball shapes!

Today, with more safe and environmentally sound approaches to pest and weed control, the idea of working with nature to design a garden makes even more resounding sense.

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   So, all these feelings can then translate into garden design and effect what plants you use. Certain plants can evoke a more mystical feel in a garden. The garden designer Piet Oudolf believes that ornamental grasses play a large part in evoking these kinds of feelings in the garden. His use of perennials and grasses in his designs work to produce ‘moods’ in the garden as he looks to create light, movement, harmony, the sublime and finally, mysticism in his gardens.

      I have always loved all the different types of shrubs , trees and perennials.  So, I am excited to try and create gardens that can be a personal place of spiritual connection. I hope to inspire others to create and enjoy mystical experiences in their own gardens.