Monthly Archives: July 2010

Garden as setting for life's drama

Anna Gilman Hill’s ‘Grey Garden’ in the East Hamptons is the setting for a movie on the lives of mother and daughter Little and Big Eddie. Anna Hill has been described as “one of the world’s greatest feminine horticulturalists.”

Yet the women who acquired her garden were challenged by the legacy she left them.

The Grey Garden, and the women’s struggle to maintain a viable garden in a beachside setting, somehow parallel their lives as individuals.

The future of the future?

When Marcel Duchamp painted ‘The Passage from Virgin to Bride’ in 1912 New York was still deeply in shock from the loss of the unsinkable Titanic earlier in the year. On April 15, 1912 headlines had read: ‘God Himself Could Not Sink This Ship.’ Yet, all it took was an iceberg in the darkness to shake man’s faith in technology. Perhaps the 6th May suffrage marches in the city similarly shook the pscyhe of the men of the city? Yet by 1917 the women of New York had the right to vote.

Sara Bard Field is said to have had conventional beginnings as a Baptist missionary wife. It is recorded that “she gradually evolved intellectually, emotionally and spiritually” finding the love of her life, working for suffrage and the right to birth control.

In 2010, once again icebergs are causing sleepness nights as temperatures heat up and polar ice caps continue to melt. This time perhaps young women are in danger of asking for ‘presidencies’ (think Sarah Palin), equal participation at the UN and who knows what else?

Greening the greenback: the US green city renaissance

Green cities in the US refer not only to an attempt to integrate the environment into the concerns of city planning, but also attempts at greening the economy of these cities. The measures that are applied to rank the cities include:

*public/private incubators for clean technology industries

* renewable energy

* advanced transportation

* advanced water treatment

* alternative fuels

*green building

*energy efficiency

It is said that “these indicators gauge, for instance, which cities’ public transit, renewable energy, local food, and development approaches are more likely to either limit or intensify the negative economic and environmental impacts of fossil fuel dependence.” Although these goals are admirable, they are really only concerned with a soft green economy, and don’t go close to the total economic transformation which seems to be called for if cities are going to continue to thrive into the future as places for human settlement. 

Patrick Blanc green walls are beautiful – but are they sustainable?

Patrick Blanc has made a great contribution to the technology of green walls, with beautiful results. But do they make useful contributions to environmental and sustainable design objectives? I do not know and would like to hear of any scientific evidence and environmental impact assessments. My guesses are (1) Patrick Blanc’s green walls use more energy for pumps/materials/manufacture than they save through insulation (2) more of Patrick Blanc’s green walls use tapwater than use rain which has fallen on the site (3) Patrick Blanc’s green walls make useful contributions to noise attenuation and dust capture (4) the contribution of Patrick Blanc’s green walls to biodiversity is negligible (5) one could achieve more environmental benefits, though less beauty, by using climbers.
The above example is on the Athaneum Hotel in Picadilly, London.
Stephen Alton shares my scepticism.

Garden designs at the Hampton Court Flower Show 2010

Happy hippos at Hampton Court Flower Show 2010

Happy hippos at Hampton Court Flower Show 2010

One does not see too many Hippo Gardens, and they don’t win many awards, but at Hampton Court in 2010 we were pleased to find ourselves much more in agreement with the garden design judges than at many shows. It confirms our usual advice to clients: if you want a good garden design then you should employ a good garden designer. Such people may have no training or any training – but more often than not you will find that they have, like the 2010 winners, completed educational courses in landscape architecture or garden design.