Archives for April 2013

Sunday Opinion: White Bread

White bread-I am sure you know what I am talking about.  That bread that is made from wheat flour from which the bran and the gram has been removed by milling.   Not Italian peasant bread.  Not French baguettes.  Not 6 grain whole wheat bread.  Not rye or pumpernickel. Not panetta, or flatbread, or pita bread. Not sunflowers seed bread, or molasses bread.  Not banana or apricot/walnut bread. Not focaccia or panetone or hardtack.  Not Challah, tortilla, ciabatta, sourdough bread,  or biscuits.  Not a French boule, or broiche, or zwieback,  or sour dough bread.  Not cornbread, soda bread, potato bread or lavash. Not matzo, not bagels, not sour dough.  Plain white bread.

Buck brought me lunch today.  Tuna salad.  He brought a container of tabouli-a salad with many recipes centering around parsley.  And a Mediterranean lentil/pasta salad.  I mixed the three elements evenly.  I had in mind to have a sandwich.  Lots of good food that tasted great on their own, and even better given the mix.  The mix of flavors and textures made for a really good lunch.  As for the sandwich bread-all this great mix asked for was a friendly vehicle.  A sturdy enclosure that would make the sandwich not only delicious, but easy to eat.  White bread.  Specialty breads-I like to eat them as toast, or with butter.  So I can enjoy what  makes that particular kind of bread an experience all its own.  Ordinary Michigan baked white bread -it is a strong and sturdy food that compliments a salad based sandwich.

 

I think about the contribution to design that white bread makes, routinely.  Not every element in the landscape is the star of the show. Some elements are the glue that stitches a narrative together.  That white bread may be pachysandra, boxwood, grass, or a creeping thyme.  A drift of ornamental grasses.  A path that connects this place to that one.   A hedge whose sole purpose is to feature the garden planted in front of it.

My Sunday noon sandwich was a symphony of flavors and textures, piled high between a pair of slices of plain white bread.  It occurs to me that the most elemental garden might be a field of wheat.

 

At A Glance: Spring Purple

purple-pansies.jpgpansies

rhododendron-blooming.jpg
rhododendron

Forest Pansy redbud in bloom, from Brooke Run tree farm

purple-violas.jpgviolas

grape-hyacinths-and-pansies.jpggrape hyacinths and clear sky pansies

primula-dendiculata.jpgprimula denticulata

purple-hyacinth.jpgpurple hyacinth

queen-of-the-night-tulips.jpgQueen of the Night tulips

anemone blanda purple, from Wikipedia

sweet-alyssum.jpgmixed sweet alyssum

primula-obconica.jpgprimula obconica

pjm-rhododendron.jpg
pjm rhododendron
palibin-lilac.jpg
palibin lilac

pulsatilla vulgaris, from wikipedia.  So many pictures of purple spring flowers!  I think I am really happy that spring is finally here.

Fenced

2008 Panaretos Spring 4-24-08 (3)
A fence is a garden structure that is easy to identify.  A fence is a vertical element in a garden that separates one space from another.  Twin fences with soil piled in between is an effective noise barrier.  How so?  Only soil absorbs and blocks sound.  Plants and single layer fences do nothing to mitigate sound.  An impossibly tall berm at the road is a fence of a green sort.  It separates a personal and quiet space from a noisy and public space by filtering out the sound.  Many communities permit the installation of what is known as a privacy fence.  No matter the material, any fence of a substantial height (in this case, 6′ tall) provides a physical separation from adjacent properties.  Those people who live in urban areas value their privacy.  A fence is a simple structure that takes up very little space-in the interest of establishing a boundary.  Your yard and my yard have a barrier in between that allows each of us to live our private lives.
April 25 2013 (15)
Those people who live on vast ranges of land in Texas value a separation that keeps their cattle from wandering off their property.  Electrical substations fence their properties to keep unsuspecting others from injuring themselves.  The Berlin wall was an elaborate fence which came to symbolize a barrier to freedom.  A firewall on my computer-a digital fence constructed to protect my computer from harm. A fence is a person who is a middleman between two parties.  The fence is a barrier, or a facilitator, depending on the circumstances. Other fences are purely decorative in how they define a space.  A low wall, should it be long enough, qualifies as a fence. This wall/fence does not provide privacy.  It does not entirely enclose a space.  It makes a beautiful and very friendly statement about the separation between the public street and the private home.

April 25 2013 (16)
Iron fences designate a separation, but permit lots of light, and a view through.  These pillars are massive, and the gate is solid and painted a dark color.  The black iron fence can barely be seen, but for the hedge of yews planted on the inside.  Why so much discussion about this particular fence?  The choice of materials, the color, and the size make a visual statement about privacy.
April 25 2013 (18)
Like the home in the previous picture, this property is a corner property.  Other homes on the block have private back yards courtesy of the house itself. This fence is solid from top to bottom, and has a very contemporary feeling.  Make sure that wood fence is installed slightly elevated from the ground plane. A garden fence made of wood needs to shed water and dry quickly.  A fence in constant with the soil will deteriorate much sooner than it needs to.
balcony railing

This second floor balcony terrace has a fence which is primarily about safety.  White or light colored fences usually stand out architecturally, but this fence has a landscape of water and sky behind it.  This white fence in a green landscape would make a much more emphatic architectural statement.

cedar fence

This vegetable garden is entirely enclosed by a fence of cedar, and galvanized steel mesh. The idea here is to protect herbs and vegetables from the wildlife. The height of the fence is meant to keep the deer out.  The depth of the wire fencing below ground is meant to deter ground hogs and rabbits.  Keep out.
cedar privacy fence
Fences of a clearly decorative design satisfy the need for beauty and visual interest as much as a need for privacy.  Cedar is a highly rot resistant and evenly grained wood that can make a fence as refined in appearance as a piece of furniture.  The design of this fence is especially pleasing, given the stone and grass path below.

espalier fence

Espaliered trees can provide a green fence.  In a tight space that needed screening up high, a fence of espaliered lindens was a good solution.  The property next door is vacant, and unattended-the property line is in front of the boulders.  Were it to be sold and developed, a new house could be very close by.  Anticipating the need for privacy permits the time it takes for a green fence to grow.   The major horizontal arms have numerous small branches which will eventually grow together to form a green wall.  This fence needs more care than most, in the form of yearly, or twice yearly pruning.
pool fence
Pools require fences of a certain height, and a certain density.  An iron pool fence in my area requires a picket every 4 inches.  Most communities have rules about fencing swimming pools, as they can be dangerous to a child.  These fences are not about privacy-they are about safety.  The hydrangeas on the far side of the fence will eventually grow between the pickets.  The fence itself will disappear from view, with its ability to enclose and protect unimpeded.

steel fencing
This garden/dog run has a hazel wood privacy fence along 2 lot lines.  The Bowhall maples will eventually provide a green screen for the second floor windows.  The iron fence encloses the dog run, and is meant to deter coyotes.  Coyotes run at, and leap over a barrier.  The 18″ wide shelf at the top of the fence, and the yew hedge at the bottom, is a strong deterrent.

twig fencing

I have only seen a fence such as this once.  It is beautiful and dense.  Fencing from natural materials are easy on the gardening eye while entirely functional.

vertical-garden-fence.jpgBut of any fence I have ever seen, this has to be one of the most inventive and original.  Designed and built by Barry Harrison, partner in Art-Harrison Design Studio in Royal Oak, it satisfies both a need for privacy and a need for green.  The cedar posts with integral bird finials were hand carved by Barry himself.  It’s easy to see that these pots of succulents would be tough to overwater. This is sure evidence that even the most utilitarian element in a landscape can have great visual appeal.

Dinner In The Granary

To follow is a photo album from friends who hosted a formal dinner party last weekend in their granary.  A granary is an outbuilding, a small barn if you will, ordinarily used to store grain.  In England, granaries are commonly set on stone piers known as staddle stones.  These elevating piers make it next to impossible for rodents and other wildlife to get into the store of grain.  This particular 19th century American granary is above ground on concrete blocks.  Utilitarian, yes. My friends do not grow grain, but they certainly has a very broad view of utility-and a big love for the landscape.  You’ll see.

Sat_Apr20 Sat_Apr202 Sat_Apr203 Sat_Apr204 Sat_Apr205 Sat_Apr206 Sat_Apr207 Sat_Apr208The weather last weekend-blustery and cold.  That problem was solved renting a portable heater which kept the room comfortable.  A power outage the morning of the dinner-daunting.  But they had a vision to entertain that was 1 part theater, 10 parts a love of beauty, and 100 parts a love of anything and everything in the landscape.  The spring sprouting and blooming branches with ranunculus gracing the table-exquisite.

macarons.jpg

For dessert, rose flavored macarons with raspberries and lychees.  Each macaron was presented with a single red rose petal, and a dewdrop of clear candied sugar.1  Their party was so clearly representative of who they are-gardeners with wit, fabulous style and imagination.  It is with great pleasure that I share their pictures.