Design is Influenced By Experiences – Experience More

By Laurie Van Zandt
Ogden Valley News – December 15, 2004

A recent trip to London and Paris with the Association of Professional Landscape Designers provided me with a unique opportunity to explore centuries old, traditional English gardens; the strong planterly forms and dramatic contrasts of light and shade in Anthony Paul’s Sculptural Garden ‘The Black and White Garden’; Julie Toll’s contemporary, natural style executed with wildflower meadows and flowering lawns; the subtle, watercolor gardens of Claude Monet; and the exciting gardens at Citroen Parc, where architecture and nature, French Baroque and modern geometry, urban and rural, collide to form incredible public spaces. Probably the most exciting gardens were the show gardens at Chateau de Chaumont in France, featuring thirty fantastic, surreal exhibits representing ‘Chaos – (Order and Disorder in the Garden)’, It was an incredibly stimulating and influential experience, with unconstrained designs full of adventure, imagination, interpretation and risk.

Lectures by numerous international designers provided insight into the future of fine gardening and landscape design. Two distinct, universal trends emerged from the sharing of ideas with such disparate artists as Dan Pearson, designer of the romantic gardens of Torrecchia in Italy, new rooftop developments in Tokyo, and walled gardens in Yorkshire; Giles Clement, landscape architect behind many famous French gardens and France’s leading ecologist; and Tony Haywood, whose Conceptual Gardens utilize horticultural installations as fine art, and who encouraged us to think, dream, create, expand, push, reach and adventure.

These trends seem particularly applicable to the severe environs of Northern Utah.Sustainability was a recurrent theme among the speakers, as well as being evident in many of the gardens we toured. Sustainable gardens are gardens where the designer is conscious of the landscape’s impact on the surrounding area. They utilize recycled materials, as well as renewable, local resources. In particular, sustainable gardens include plants that are appropriate to the climate and local growing conditions. This type of design encourages landscapes that leave a gentle mark on the environment. Designers in Germany are realizing the value of sustainable landscapes, and they are being installed frequently in the form of wildflower meadows, especially in urban and public settings. These gardens are virtually self-sustaining and maintenance free. Local wildflowers are chosen for their seasonal color and interest, and it has been found that familiarity is breeding acceptance of the meadow’s “down time” when seed heads dominate, and viewers are learning to appreciate the rites of passage and the return of spring.

The second trend explored at the conference was the appreciation of a “sense of place”as a focus for creativity. The Ogden Valley is rich with design inspiration and symbolism in the form of our mountains, streams, rock formations, seasons, and wildlife, and an acknowledgement of the Valley’s farming heritage can be made through contemporary use of local and traditional materials and plants.

An awareness of the human impact on the natural world is becoming increasingly important, and it is gratifying to see the international design community accept and embrace this reality by focusing on solutions through sustainability and sense of place. The lessons afforded by designers on the cutting edge of landscape design can, and should, be adapted to meet the particular challenges of landscaping in Northern Utah.