Lawn Alternatives

It's not impossible to have an iconic green carpet of grass in California and save a little water. It is really astounding how much water goes into maintaining residential lawns, and there are so many refreshing twists on that old tradition to try.

The images below are from projects I've worked on around the Bay Area, a no mow fescue grass at Cavallo Point, myoporum groundcover in Los Altos, and Carex pansa at a residence in San Louis Obispo County.

Another possibility with a traditional turf grass lawn is to give it a clean edge - a metal header, a dg pathway or even a concrete mowband to define a smaller lawn space and make it look a little more refined at the same time.

ASLA's Sustainable Landscapes

The American Society of Landscape Architects has launched a splashy new website introducing a broad definition of sustainability as it relates to site construction and landscape architecture. The intended audience seems to be the public, and anyone else who might not have a clue what it is we do. Twenty case studies illustrate various sustainable design elements and by reading through them all, I feel like the range in scale and detail shows just how broad the field is, and how micro and macro decision making is crucial to working in a less environmentally hazardous way.

Critique and controversy are sorely missed. I think the ASLA can still champion its award winning projects and its mission and still ask tough questions. Is it more sustainable to do nothing? Do we care if it's ugly? What trends here are just aesthetic trends, and what elements are innovations that will really change how we work? I don't have the answers, and I am a admirer of many of the case study projects. I am just always hoping for more, more, more.

Maybe I'm just sore they've used my color scheme!

Water Lamb Outdoor Collection for DWR

Design Within Reach has always been a great source for modern outdoor furniture. It can be an investment, but the impact of strong, unified furnishings does wonders for an outdoor space. I was pleased to see they have newly released a Walter Lamb collection, an iconic furniture line from the 1940's originally made from salvaged copper. In the right context, this collection could really be fantastic. Or if that doesn't suit and the early modern/midcentury feel is what you're after, there's always the classic Case Study House Terrace Collection and Bertoia.

ASLA 2010 Award Winners

The American Society of Landscape Architects has announced its 2010 Award winners. I tend to gravitate towards the residential projects...

I loved the clever geometry of Scott Lewis' Parkside Garden and the tiny green pavilion tucked away in the back corner of the garden. Green walls can really be overdone and done poorly, yet that little pavilion looks as though it sprouted, beautifully proportioned, from the garden (as opposed to having a tray of succulents hastily nailed to it).

Rumsey Farber's North Sea Residence also impressed me. It's a distinctly modern residence, yet it looks completely in harmony with the surrounding wetland landscape. Nice to see such softness and warmth come out of such crisp clean lines

San Francisco Urban Forest Map

Friends of the Urban Forest, the City of San FranciscoCalFIRE (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection), and local San Francisco businesses have teamed up to create an interactive map of our urban forest. Users can update street tree information, add and identify new trees, read calculations of each tree's environmental benefits, or search for locations of a particular species within the city. Map data can be used in GIS, so street tree information can be layered with other data sets to provide richer maps of our neighborhoods for designers, engineers, and planners.

San Francisco is the first city to create an Urban Forest Map. Not only will it be a dynamic source of tree data, it will also be an inspiring and informative tool for the community. Makes me want to get out there and plant more trees! Browseadd information, or become a fan to encourage other cities to do the same.

Gravel and Gold: New & Vintage in the Mission

Have you ever walked into a store & just wanted to move in? It's been there nearly a year now, but I have somehow missed Gravel & Gold on 21st & Lexington, right off of Valencia. They have local honey, Swedish clogs, 70's design books, great clothes, and they host some impressive art shows, pickling workshops and neighborhood parties. The woman in there was also incredibly friendly, offering me tea and a window seat. I wanted to buy everything! I managed to escape only with a Sunset book on hot tubs and saunas from 1979. I plan to return...

Ah Spring...

I saw some great garden swings at Flora Grubb this past weekend (see photo bottom left). The sun was shining, and I was reminded how spring brings with it a boatload of optimism. I wonder why I don't see more swings and hammocks in residential gardens? I can't think of a nicer way to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon. Even the traditional, padded glider couch has its charms. I can remember taking some lovely naps on one as a child on my grandparents' deck.

Good Fences

It's an overused expression, but I do think good fences make good neighbors, and good fences can be so delightful. There is nothing like a sculptural wall, be it stone, wood or planting to define a space. Here are some favorites that I've come across in the last few years in person and in print, and a couple that I have worked on. Designers, when known, are credited in each image title.

SF Botanical Garden Design Competition

The San Francisco Botanical Garden Gondwana Circle Design Competition has announced a winner. Congratulations to Michael Overby and Emma Fuller for their design, titled Roving Mass.

Gondwana is the name of one half of the landmass of Pangea after the split some 200 million years ago, and the goal of the competition was to redesign a planting circle in such a way as to familiarize visitors with plate tectonics and plant evolution. Nearly 100 entries were received from around the world, below are just a few.

Outdoor Kitchens

I’ve noticed a huge rise in the popularity of outdoor kitchens lately. I love, and am all for barbecues, fire pits, eating areas, pergolas, and pizza ovens, but the huge industrial kitchen structures that have been filling up pages and pages in landscape magazines lately have me a little off put. Why not keep it simple (and keep those energy bills in check)? Attached are some gorgeous examples of affordable, beautiful, eating, lounging and food prep areas.

I Heart Flora Grubb

I cant think of a better place to wander, look at plants, and have coffee while leafing through garden design books. Flora Grubb Gardens on Jerrold Avenue in San Francisco is a boutique nursery with a ton of gorgeous plants. Its an excellent place to get some refreshing design ideas, and to pick up a plant or two for your deck. I'll add them to my links section - they usually have some worthwhile talks on modern garden design, low water gardens, and diy projects.

Then Mannahatta Project

I'm not sure if the goal of "restoring New York to what it once was" can ever be physically perceptible, but the virtual restoration on is fascinating. There is something very small and poetic about reintroducing native plant species to an environment like New York, and something very elegiac about seeing the same seasonal changes that were once happening on the island 400 years ago. For an introduction to the project, see the Restoring Mannahatta article in the Home and Garden section of the New York Times.

Reference Imagery

While they are not all earth shattering, I recently discovered a trove of architectural images on the Visites Privées section of the Marie Claire Maison website. It’s a great place to browse, daydream and get some fresh design ideas without shelling out for a stack of imported magazines. Enjoy!

Yay Summertime!

I am so ready to enjoy a summer full of weddings, parties and lazing around outside. I saw these recently and thought they seemed far from safe, but I am intrigued. They are apparently biodegradable and often get mistaken for ufo's. There's reason enough right there to get some this summer and have a little party (