March 29, 2011 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
As I peered through the cut out of a beautiful metal screen into landscape architect Jeffrey Gordon Smith’s award-winning installation, Pi r Squared, for the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, I definitely felt this designer’s invitation to Get Your Green On. According to Smith, the title of his garden, Pi r Squared, “in it’s most obvious form, is a reference to circles, but when you look deeper the reference is extended to include cycles, and more specifically, recycling and up-cycling.”
In keeping with this year’s theme, Life in the California Garden, numerous vignettes featured native plants that caused me to dream if not drool.
Large containers made from various sized recycled plastic industrial gaskets filled Smith’s garden. The gaskets, many used originally for drainage pipes, were obtained from construction waste, that I was told was safe for planting edibles as they’d been intended for transporting drinking water.
“Sustainability incorporates ideas such as upcycling, the goal of which is to prevent wasting potentially useful materials by making use of existing ones,” explained Smith. ” This garden utilizes discarded materials set to be recycled in conjunction with drought tolerant planting. The circle, the strongest structural shape in nature, and a symbolic representation of cycles, is used here functionally and repeatedly as an artistic expression. The installation serves to question, examine and challenge traditional perceptions of sustainability, use of materials, and how we integrate these ideas into our gardens and life.”
More Recycling and Upcycling: From Farm to Wall
Recycling and upcycling was, as expected, a common theme throughout the show. In their garden, entitled Latitude, McKenna Landscaping cleverly transformed goat feeding troughs, obtainable through any agricultural supply company, into hanging planter boxes. The upcycled troughs, which they covered in burlap, are easy to hang as they already come with brackets on the back.
Stringing Together Sustainable Ideas
Ah Sam, a local floral and garden shop, strung together ordinary terra cotta pots to make a lovely hanging vertical garden.
They extended the pot theme by adding the pots to a wired vintage chandelier, transforming it into a living light fixture:
Then, while they were at it with these pots, they placed stacked them inside each other in a curving line to create garden edging like I have never seen before:
Ah Sam had a lot of really clever and sustainable ideas including a straw bale garden, and a hydroponic one edged in lettuce:
UC Berkeley’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning went hydroponic as well with its cloud of more than 1,000 crystalline tubes suspended from light steel frame supporting UV lights. The recyclable clear plastic tubes contained a plant, an inorganic growing medium, and a connection to the drip irrigation system circulating nutrient infused water.
The Garden Route Company and Filoli, an historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation located 30 miles south of San Francisco, collaborated to create A Garden For Life, which included this gorgeous dove cote with succulent walls and green roof of native grasses, below.
Star Apple Edible and Fine Gardening of Oakland created one of the show’s highlights, the outdoor edible garden. Because food is so much a part of the show, the 6000 square foot garden, entitled The Modern Homestead, featured aesthetic vegetable plantings, a green roof “Modern Cabana” chicken coop, below, as well food demonstrations.
As part of the edible garden display, Sunset Magazine presented this straw bale garden.
Fork-shaped garden markers added a nice touch to the edible beds.
Rest and Repast in the Garden
For its garden, Randy Shadrick and Anna Riordan of Outdoor Environments Landscape Construction, created these metal wire mesh banquette bases and garden borders filled with Black La Paz stones.
One of my favorite gardens, Metamorphosis, created by a group of students from the West Valley College Landscape Architecture Program demonstrated for the home gardener that “life in the California garden ‘after water,’ is not only feasible, it’s more lush than expected.” Creature comforts included a wood outdoor shower and a multi-use deck that doubled as a sleeping porch. Sleeping al fresco, suggests the designers, invites one to turn off the air-conditioner, let nature keep you comfortable, while lowering those utility bills.
Not All Work and No Play!
How could I resist this play on worms…er, words?