Monday, November 23, 2009

Winter Landscapes in the Midwest & North

I grew up in the Midwest and moved to California after college but I have never lost my love and fascination with the wintertime. It must have been all the fun I had as a youth flinging snowballs, building huge snowmen and sturdy snow forts that subconsciously keeps that love alive today.

Although I do not design landscapes in cold-weather climes, this time of year my thoughts often wander back to remembering what the blank barren brown landscape used to look like before the winter snows upholstered it all in white. I think about what I would do today as a designer if I was creating landscapes in a cold-weather clime - things like which plant materials I would select for their winter qualities, how I would arrange that plant material, the hardscape features I would include, which art or accent pieces would be selected and carefully placed in prominent areas, the type of lighting that would be effective and, as important, what kind of things that I currently do that I should probably avoid doing.

As Landscape Architects, we always try to think about the seasonal aspects of all landscapes that we design and select plant materials that flower or do something interesting during every season. In cold-weather design, I would have to change my thinking.

The interesting patterns in which plant material could be arranged, the various textures of specific plants, the drama of colorful stems, the value of ever-present evergreen plantings, the specific form of the individual plant type, whether the broad-leafed ones held onto their leaves or not, how they would catch and hold onto snow, if they had lasting berries, etc. all come to mind as important cold-weather plant material selection criteria.

I think about things like how fences might hold onto snow, how the garden features and furniture could look and what kind of warm glows could be created with landscape lighting. Arrangement, pattern, line, texture and form would take precedence over the other principles of design.

To be able to change an otherwise barren landscape by incorporating interesting design elements that would give the impression that the landscape is still "alive" would be the goal. I think that it would be great fun to be able to think in that dimension and to incorporate another whole new set of design criteria into my current design program and it's palette. I always wonder about what my clients think and how they enjoy the spaces that I create. The thought of creating an interesting, exciting, thought provoking inspirational landscape that brings joy to my clients would be very pleasing to me. Especially if they arrived at these thoughts during the depths of winter.

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