Often called the Russian Versailles, The Peterhof Gardens near St Petersburg are the very definition of a grand garden design. With 500 acres, 200+ statues, 144 fountains, 7 palaces, and 23 museums, it is the most visited site in Russia hosting over 4.2 million visitors annually.
Inspired by a visit to Versailles castle and grand garden design in France, Tsar Peter the Great built Peterhof as a summer residence and he managed to make it even bigger and more spectacular than his inspiration.
The Fountains Inspire Garden Design
The Tsar insisted on the use of an Italian gravity based water flow system that enables the fountains, an integral feature in the garden design, to flow on their own, never running dry. The fountains circulate 30 million liters of water daily, the equivalent of 12 Olympic swimming pools, 1 thousand liters per second.
What really makes the gardens and palaces so exciting is the grandeur and volume of the space they inhabit. Grand spaces are a rare thing in our increasingly crowded world, grand garden design is even rarer. The Peterhof Gardens are the finest I have ever visited, and I have visited many.
Grand Space Delivers Grand Gardens
These gardens are grand with space, moving water, plantings, and the sea light. I loved that everyone was so happy in this garden. It’s as if they felt Tsar Peter’s inspiration personally and were transformed by the true magic of his grand garden design.
Russia is like another planet, not just another country, culture, and customs. The light is very different, whether the day is cloudy or sunny.
The plants were all familiar to me and I was surprised to learn that. I think I was expecting Siberian winters. The original landscape and garden designers used carefully selected native plants that could withstand the harsh winter weather and provide that blanket of green in the spring and summer.
Peterhof Restored and Garden Design Today
Peterhof has undergone restoration and fresh plantings significantly following the great flood of 1777 and again after the decimation of World War II.
The groundwater in St. Petersburg is so polluted from earlier heavy industry that it cannot be drunk by anyone. It is an irony that the city is surrounded by water and it is water that inspired Tsar Peter the Great, yet it is undrinkable. Humans can make and destroy grandeur.
In February this year, the International Sculpture Center awarded artist and sculptor Bernar Venet the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions to the field of landscape sculpture. Just two weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Venet and experiencing his world renowned landscape sculpture first hand.
It was 1983 when Venet established the basic structure for his “Indeterminate Lines” steel structures and I was drawn to them at first sighting. Being near the fluid lines without specific form, something so rigid as solid steel, is compelling physically and emotionally, almost electrifying to the touch.
I became a raving fan of Venet’s when I met the French born conceptual artist this summer. I was fortunate to be a dinner guest of the energetic, charming, and fascinating artist at Le Muy, the site of his Venet Foundation in Provence France this summer and home to many of his landscape sculpture.
While Venet’s landscape sculpture can be seen in museums and important galleries all over the world, his paintings, photographs, films poetry, and music are less well known. Venet says “I work in all these different areas because I’m never satisfied.” A consummate creative experimentalist and intrepid artist in a surprising variety of media, surely the best viewing spot is in the artist’s personal landscape and sculpture park.
Venet was inspired to create Le Muy, as a home for several of his grand scale landscape sculpture and for his foundation, by fellow artist Donald Judd. Judd created his personal gallery in Marfa, Texas and included many works by his artist friends. In Le Muy, the collection also includes works by major artists of the American minimal and conceptual movements, Dan Flavin, Richard Long, and Richard Chamberlain as well as works by Arman, César, Sol LeWitt, On Kawara, Robert Barry, Lawrence Weiner, and Carl Andre. Frank Stella designed a chapel especially for the site.
According to Venet “With the Venet Foundation, I am trying to make more widely known the adventure my friends and I experienced during an extraordinary period—the 1960s and after—in the United States, a country that opened doors for me from the moment I set foot in it at the age of twenty-four. While I’ve had and still have the great privilege of living with them, the works I’ve created and those I’ve acquired do not belong to me. They were produced for cultural reasons and as such they belong to everyone, they are for everyone’s eye, pleasure and knowledge.”
Venet is the most internationally exhibited French artist with 30 public sculpture exhibitions and monumental works permanently installed in cities including Auckland, Austin, Beijing, Berlin, Cologne, Denver, Geneva, Neu-Ulm, Nice, Paris, San Francisco, Seoul, Tokyo, and Toulouse. Venet has been the recipient of many awards including the Grand Prix des Arts de la Ville de Paris and Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest decoration.
Composing a garden is a lot like composing music. There are places in the garden that invite a crescendo of blooms, and other areas that call for a something gentler, more of an adagio. A tree may be a cappella, placed without accompaniment of flora and fauna, while garden intermezzos are provided by a restful bench, an inviting birdbath, or an architectural remnant.
The overture to the garden may be a stone pathway leading you into the orchestration of plant life. The point to composing a garden is to provide an overall feeling of harmony and create a truly personal connection. The composition of music is similar.
Good music can inspire. Listening to great music in an intimate chamber music setting on a weekend afternoon in the country is transformative, taking me out of my daily routine and into my imagination.
And so it was on a recent Sunday with the Emerson String Quartet at the Highlands Chamber Music Festival. The Emerson, formed in 1976 in a dorm room at NYU, now plays at Tanglewood, Ravinia, Lincoln Center and broadcast nationally on NPR. Marcia Weber Gardens to Love was privileged to sponsor their first appearance at the Performing Arts Center in Highlands, NC.
Landscapes and gardens are like music in that good design requires rhythm, movement and some force in endless variations. At the heart of chamber music and good design lies the spirit of collaboration and the role of the musician or the garden owner.
There has to be a dialogue with the ensemble of performers or workers, a collaborative expression of experience, knowledge, and talents of its participants. When well done, there is a transformation.
The magnificence of music not only impacts people, but also is said to impact plants. The right tones, rhythm, and harmonies can actually promote plant growth by helping them open up to growth potential when they would otherwise be dormant. Music transforms all forms of life.
Here are some simple gardening tips for late summer to keep your landscape looking great. Our gardens take summer vacations in a manner of speaking. When temperatures exceed 90 degrees and the days begin to shorten after summer solstice, and rain is only an occasional afternoon shower, plants take a break. Growth stops, flowering slows or stops and pollen dries quickly for fruit to set on the garden vegetables. Plants go into a heat or drought dormancy. Think of it as a summer break rather than a loss.
When the garden goes on vacation here are some essential gardening tips to keep in mind:
1. Don’t overwater. If the plant is not actively growing, overwatering will cause roots to rot and fungus is grow.
2. Don’t over fertilize. The plants can’t take up the fertilizer if they are on break.
3. Don’t expect full bloom in the garden in high summer unless you have only tropical plants.
4. Give your potted plants a bit of shade, if possible. Thin pots can heat the root zone to over 100 degrees.
5. Enjoy the shade of a big oak tree. If you don’t have one, make a note to plant one this winter.
It is all too easy to err on the side of over caring for your garden instead of the right measure of care. We forget that plants have been around for many thousands of years and have survived and thrived through all manner of weather and soil conditions. Many plants are surprisingly resilient and the best care you can provide is less than you imagined.
Gardening tips for late summer may seem counter intuitive yet, in my experience, they have proved to keep my own garden and those of my clients thriving for many years. This is a case where less really is more when more (too much water and too much fertilizer) would challenge the health of your lawn, shrubs, and flowers.
Lawn maintenance is a hot topic this time year. This is when Atlanta lawns are looking lush, vibrant green, and very inviting.
While riding through our Buckhead Atlanta neighborhoods, I am reminded of author Tom Wolfe’s expression in Man in Full about our lawns, “heaving bosoms of green”.
Keith Blanchard with the Wall Street Journal (April 15,-16) wrote a marvelous article, “What the State of Your Lawn Says About You,” that sums up man’s obsession with lawns.
If you have an interest in a beautiful lawn, whether you tend it or someone else does the work, here are my ten tips to a beautiful lawn. (And, at Gardens to Love, we are always delighted to take care of your lawn for you. We offer full service landscape maintenance and garden care, just ask.)
My tips for a lawn you can love:
1.) Feed it. Use organic fertilizer, as much as possible, for your lawn maintenance.
As tempting as it can be to use whatever might be available or the fertilizer du jour, organic makes a truly beautiful difference in the care and feeding of your lawn.
2.) Don’t irrigate it too much. Wait until early June to start watering.
Too dry and your lawn is likely to get brown patches, too wet and you’ll see that glorious green turn into a sickly yellow. Lawn maintenance is as much art as science and you need both.
3.) Provide plenty of air flow and good drainage.
Like all living things of beauty, a healthy lawn needs to breathe and drain well.
4.) Not too much shade, at least 6 hours of sun per day.
Too much shade and you’ll get moss or muddy bald looking spots because grass needs sunlight to grow well. This is more about where you are planting and the type of grass seed you sow.
5.) Some weeds are ok. They prevent rampant fungus growth.
Not all weeds are bad, and some can even be pretty to look at. (I remember blowing the tops off dandelions as a little girl, betting you’ve taught yours to make wishes that way too.)
6.) Cut the grass at the appropriate height, at the appropriate time.
Regular lawn maintenance that includes proper grass cutting is essential to a healthy lawn.
7.) Leave the clippings on the lawn to feed itself.
This is some of the very best organic fertilizer you can feed your lawn and it’s incredibly easy to come by. Lawn maintenance done organically recycles all the debris as food for your lawn.
8.) Don’t blow the grass. All that debris feeds the grass. See tip no. 1
Change your view of lawn maintenance, don’t see that as debris to be done away with, instead see it as nature’s dessert for your lawn.
9.) Let it grow, it doesn’t always have to be cut every week, especially when it is really hot.
Leaving it a bit longer will protect it from getting scorched in our peak summer months and keep it looking lush much longer.
10.) Appreciate it and all the effort that someone gives for your lawn to be beautiful.
Whether that someone is you, or you work with us on your lawn maintenance, enjoy your lawn for the landscape foundation it is.
Atlanta landscape design today is seeing a revival in Brutalism. Originally intended to express clarity and purpose in the chaos of prewar Europe, quite appropriately, today it is evident in bold, simple modernism with an edge. Brutalism is the collective name for architecture stripped to its bare bones of form and function. And it is often best exemplified by Le Corbusier who used the style for everything from housing to monasteries.
Many examples of Brutalism can be found overseas, particularly in Britain’s famed Churchill gardens estate. In the US, perhaps the best example is the new home of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Contemporary and Modern Collection, now located at the Marcel Breuer designed building that was previously known as The Whitney. Another, lesser known and earlier, fine example of Brutalism is evident at Black Mountain College just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, both in the building and landscape architecture
I’m a great fan of the Abstract Expressionist art movement and an owner of a Brutalist Modernist house. Thus, I felt compelled to visit the college when the Atlanta Center for Contemporary Art put the trip together in early April.
Originally, the school’s rural setting was seen as a chance for communal learning. The students, among who were Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg, were taught how to farm, cut timber, and garden as well as color and music theory. There is a modesty about the place, yet strength of design and form from humble building materials.
I’m seeing lots of modern Atlanta landscape design today. Most of it would benefit from less of the gimmicks and more of a strong design with a very simple plant pallet. Less stuff, more design integrity, modest materials used in special ways all define the Brutalist landscape design. Most of all, I’d recommend a trip to the Black Mountain College landscape.
May is the advent of outdoor living season and that means Atlanta garden maintenance and quick planting tips for easy entertaining. It’s also the season to celebrate graduations with a garden party. To make the most of your landscape style and capitalize on the gifts Mother Nature brings, here are 3 quick tips to deliver a memorable celebration in your garden.
#1 Create Party Destinations with Pretty Pots of Color
It’s easy to create inviting garden destinations with an abundance of creative containers, earthy looking ceramics, Italian terracotta delights, contemporary urban zinc square edged, the choices are endless and come in all shapes and sizes. Varying heights keeps it interesting. You can flank doorways, frame open steps, even define the entrance to your garden party easily with containers. Part of the fun is packing in plant life so you have tall grasses with shorter flowering shrubs and the divine overflow of green trailing and creeping plants. Be sure to put a newly mowed lawn on your list of Atlanta garden maintenance, your containers deserve to be framed by the beauty of a fresh cut lawn and the that smell of summer.
#2 Frame Your Garden Paths with Blooming Borders
Perhaps the fastest way to add bursts of color while providing an inviting party gardenscape is with blooming borders. Whether your garden enjoys full sun or has a lot of shade, there are wonderful flowers you can plant in all manner of rich hues to add immediate invitation. Cleaning your borders from accumulated winter debris and last season’s leftover plantings is perfect Atlanta garden maintenance before you get started with planting.
#3 Light Up the Night with Landscape Lighting
While we have the advantage of long days, you never want to forget the elegance of adding well balanced landscape and pathway lighting that comes on automatically as dusk sets in. Lighting provides more than just a mood, it also provides security so your guests know where to step and what they are stepping in. You’ll want to have pathways well marked and add uplighting to selected trees and container groupings. Often the shadows cast are as artistic as the plants themselves. Ensure that your lighting becomes part of your regular Atlanta garden maintenance, replace burned out bulbs, adjust lighting top hats, and clean out flood lights that have been covered by debris.
For the ultimate shortcut in getting your Atlanta garden maintenance done before you celebrate, contact Marcia Weber Gardens to Love, we are here to meet all of your Atlanta garden design and landscaping needs from design and installation to special occasion only as well as regularly scheduled maintenance. We save you time and deliver the glorious garden you’ve been looking for.
Atlanta garden designs are a magical place in the spring. The weather ranges from cold nights to almost summery days and it gives plants who’ve been dormant for the winter their much needed wake up call. While our pollen season lasts a short month, it certainly coats everything in a soft yellow haze indicative of the growth to come. This the perfect time of year to take a look at your garden design and your landscape style and start to put your wish list together of what you’d like to see in midsummer and the fall.
Atlanta Garden Design: My Favorite Blooms
Everyone has their personal harbinger of spring. For me, it’s the dogwoods unfurling their ivory petals and my favorite azaleas, G.G. Gerbing, with their delicate blanket of bright white petals. These first blooms call spring light onto the garden floor. These early colors remind me that soon pathway edges and open beds will be filled with the vibrant colors of summer.
Atlanta Garden Design: Light
I use height to capture light and draw it into my garden. In the foreground I planted Stachyurus. Its arching limbs of delicate yellow chains point downward to the bright yellow flowers of Kerria Japonica. The single-colored mass of azaleas spreads out from around the Stachyurus, inviting me to sit on the stone bench. I designed my garden to be a place for quiet contemplation and relaxation at the end of the day, it’s my own private haven and a garden design just for me and my family.
Atlanta Garden Design: Add a Surprise Teaser
The teaser to summer in this sunny spring garden is the Perle d’Or rose at the base of the Stachyurus. Its light peach flowers promise the heady fragrance of summer’s roses. Later, as the sun turns hotter, the garden of spring light will become a retreat from summer’s sun. Your garden design evolves with the seasons and at Marcia Weber Gardens to Love, we enjoy designing a landscape style that suits your lifestyle and your home’s architecture all year round.
Gardens are a relationship to light, and good garden design showcases the play of shadows with light. Since most flowers need part to full sun, blooming plants showcase how light moves throughout the garden during the year. Spring is an enchanting time to begin observing light in your garden or yard. The drab winter skies are gone, so the contrast between shade, part shade and full sun is easier to see. A well designed garden will invite you into it’s interior and beckon with sunny highlights and dappled respites.
Atlanta Garden Design: Create Your Own Outdoor Retreat
In your own Atlanta landscape take a look at the leaf buds coming out on the trees; it helps you remember how deep a tree’s shade will be come late summer. Then, think about where you want to bring colored light into your garden or yard. We look forward to serving your landscape architecture and garden design needs and desires.
When you are ready for a fresh landscape design and lush garden layout, give us a call. We can take care of you from the design, plant selection, installation, and even your maintenance.
Moss Lawns: How Can I Get One?
I’ve always thought of moss lawns and nooks as magic, a place where fairies live, because those places seem to appear magically in early spring and disappear in summer. Perhaps it is more like a Houdini trick.
Moss is technically a Bryophyte or non-vascular plant that lacks true branches, leaves and roots. It absorbs water in other ways and when there is no water there appears to be no moss. Voila!
Unlike other plants, moss has no seeds, but has spores that are released when the plant dries. Moss grows in colonies that will knit together to create the nice smooth carpet upon which the fairies dance.
I find the best way to encourage moss is to keep clean the area where moss has chosen to grow. Regular use of a blower to remove weeds, duff, and leaves seems to prevent plant competition and create a seedbed for the moss spores. Leaf build up at any time of the year smothers those plants. Moss can take periods of direct sunlight, but not for long because it absorbs water above ground, not below. Early spring, when there is not much competition for water and light is when moss appears to come to life. And that is when the fairies come out.
Gardens to Love
Rome, Italy is known as the eternal city. I learned that first hand during my October trip with the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. (more…)