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Alexander writes with a rare understanding for all of the living organisms — humans, plants and wild creatures — who will occupy and benefit from the garden that is under design.
"I especially like the book's 400 line drawings. Most are helpful, some humorous."
If you would like a water feature in your garden, begin by considering the different types before deciding on the form it will take.Water has a seductive, elusive quality that can greatly enhance any setting and, when used effectively, is able to command more attention than any other garden feature. It has the attribute of reflecting light but also has, in the garden layout, a similar strength to a solid structure. If well designed and integrated, a water feature can be a great asset to a garden, but, if used badly, it can be a depressing mistake. Water should be used with discretion, becoming part of the structure of your design. In small gardens, water is best used formally, either in conjunction with a building or as a sculptural feature or fountain. Using water informally, in free-form shapes imitating natural ponds, requires more space. Decide early on which type of water feature you want, and then decide whether it should flow or be static. The safety aspect, particularly for children, is of prime concern — being caged in as a precaution does not enhance any water feature.
Although perhaps the single most magical feature in a garden, water is also the most difficult subject to get right. Once you have decided on your concept, it may be advisable to call in a water specialist who should be able to foresee any potential problems.
Water has been prized in the design of gardens since ancient times. It was used as an integral part of many early Mogul, Persian and Islamic gardens, cooling down the atmosphere, soothing the spirits and giving an additional dimension to a flat landscape.
In Europe during the Renaissance a renewed interest in hydraulics led to a proliferation of water devices, particularly in Italian and French gardens. Fountains had huge jets of water that soared into the air; grottoes had trick water features, which, to the amusement of the host, soaked unsuspecting visitors; cascades tumbled down water staircases; and a series of spouts and rills emitted sounds that imitated music. It was the height of fashion to include an unusual water feature in a garden setting, and wealthy landowners who took pride in their gardens engaged designers with knowledge of modern hydraulics to turn their fantasies into reality.
Although today we accept hydraulic systems, such as pumps, as part of everyday life, there is still huge scope for the imagination when it comes to using water in a garden.
Water awakens the senses. Its movement and reflection provide a feast for the eyes; the range of sounds it produces, from gentle dripping to loud crashing, has the ability to calm or invigorate; and its tactile quality, whether liquid or in the form of ice, is fascinating. When used in a garden it can provide a home for plants and wildlife, colourful swirls of fish and water plants adding to its visual appeal. Water can also enhance the quality of other materials, deepening the colours of mosaic tiles, for instance, or highlighting the smooth surface of river pebbles.
The most striking attribute of still water is its power to reflect, thereby doubling the value of any image that falls on its surface. This can be used to great effect in a garden. It can unify a design by bringing together the ground plane, the vertical plane and the overhead plane, and it can create a feeling of space by bringing light into the garden.
To bring out the best of water's reflective quality, it is important to contain the water in a material that is as dark as possible. The reflections on the surface of a swimming pool are usually poor or nonexistent during the day, because the floor and walls are generally pale in colour and can be clearly seen. If, on the other hand, the pool were painted black, the reflected images would be clear, even in cloudy weather, and the interior would be invisible. Of course, this would only apply to ornamental pools — a black swimming pool would be most uninviting.
Being unable to judge the depth of a pool or pond adds a sense of mystery to the feature and has practical advantages as well. Not only does the darkness obscure functional items, such as plant containers and supports for stepping stones, but it also allows the designer to construct a relatively shallow pool, thereby saving on construction expenses.
When thinking about reflections, consider the importance of the water level. As the side of the pool will be reflected in the water, the water level will appear to be lower than it is, reducing the apparent surface area.To maximize the reflective area, you will need to raise the water level as high as possible. In formal pools it should be kept just below the level of the coping stones or edging.
You can experiment with the effect of reflections by placing small objects on a hand mirror.
If the sun does not fall directly on the surface of the water, the reflected sky appears a more intense blue. This fact can be used to advantage in small town courtyards, where the enhanced colour and light reflected back from the surface of the water can turn a gloomy, dull space into one with vibrant interest.
To increase the darkness or depth of colour of the water, dramatize the effect by using dark large-leaved evergreens in the background.
Moving water shimmers and sparkles in the light and adds a refreshing quality of sound which is much appreciated in hot countries. Because of the way light dances on moving water, it works best when it is positioned in full sun. Fountains, for instance, are particularly effective when positioned in full sun with a shady background, preferably of dark green plants.
One way in which moving water differs from still water is by the sounds it creates. A small amount — trickling onto rocks in a pool, for instance — can be delicate and musical, whereas a large volume, forced up through the jet of a powerful fountain or cascading over rocks into a pool far below, can produce loud hissing or burbling sounds that bring a sense of excitement to a garden. In an urban setting these sounds can help to reduce outside noise, particularly the distant sounds of traffic or people.
|Ch. 1||Research, preparation and design appraisal||13|
|Ch. 2||Developing the design : focusing on the ground plane||65|
|Ch. 3||Finalizing the garden layout plan||141|
|Ch. 4||Creating a planting plan||193|
|Ch. 5||Visualizing and constructing the design||229|
|Keeping a plant notebook||259|
|Core plant list||265|
|Plant hardiness zones||271|
Posted February 24, 2008
This book covers all phases of garden design, from original research, obtaining the owner's requirements, site survey sketch, checklist and inventory, to conceptual diagrams, presentation plans, theme plan, preliminary garden layout plan and final planting plans. It discusses space, light, proportion and scale, color plates, ground plane, vertical plane, overhead plane, materials, texture, principles of planting design, planting styles, practical considerations, seasonal effects, and rendering techniques for various plans. It also has a plant list and plant hardiness zones at the end. This is one of few books that actually discuss the design aspect of gardens / landscaping. Very practical!
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