Tuesday, March 30, 2010

SF Garden Show: Natives 3.0

I'm the newest member of Tierra Seca Landscape's fan club!  Natives?  Check!  Contemporary and thoughtful design?  Check!  Stuff that glows?  Check! 

What I love about this design is that it doesn't advertise the fact that the plantings are native.  The natives are only a piece of the full landscape, bringing all the elements together cohesively.  It also doesn't fall into the "if it's native, it must look wild" stereotype. 

Brian Swope, the designer plays with topography in Natives 3.0, the name of this garden.  Softly angled ramps meet to a conversation area in the center of the design, adding visual interest and emphasizing the planted beds surrounding it, which rise at slightly steeper angles.  Personally, I could have done without the painted yellow, red and blue walls, but the additional color helps to bring a festive atmosphere.
The planted areas are not left entirely to the plants, but are incorporated into the design by raising the focal points, in this case some gorgeous pines, onto plain wooden boxes.  It serves as a wonderful reminder that you aren't on a hike in the woods.  This is a backyard where the human element plays harmoniously  with the natural. 

River stones ring the perimeter of the garden, grounding the landscape before it ascends up to the patio area.  Angles and topography are once again referenced in the eye-catching, glowing cones, serving as beacons of the landscape.  A shot of water bubbles energetically at the surface of this cone forest, cast in a fanciful blue light.
The plants used in this garden included lupine, blue-eyed grass, fuscia flowering gooseberry, and bay laurel, among many others.
I liked that this garden had an ambiance of playfulness without looking like a Ronald McDonald fun house.  I also appreciated that Brian used the opportunity to create something more avant garde(n), which is more than what many of the other exhibitors accomplished.  Apparently, the economy seemed more of a theme than anything else and most gardens were pretty and well executed, but not much more than that.  Pardon my cattiness, but sticking dinosaurs into a pretty landscape doesn't inspire me.  (That garden was really pretty, though!)  But what did you think?  Am I asking too much to have gardens that challenge the viewer/participant?


  1. I agree, I rather liked Tierra Seca Landscape's garden. I've officially fallen hook-line-and-sinker for blue-eyed grass now that I've seen it in bloom, in person!

    The dino garden was well executed, but rather over-the-top for my taste...and the plastic iguana looked a bit silly. What I don't enjoy about some of these shows is that some, if not many demonstration gardens, tend to emphasize what is possible, not what is PRACTICAL in garden design. A T-Rex is not really what I'm after in the garden, or a garden show really. I'd rather see more practical, but inspirational design for the home gardener. I also wish there had been more to inspire children to garden at this show, they seemed rather left out.

  2. I loved Brian's garden, and he was a delight to hang out with; glad he got such a nice article in the Chronicle. That planting of blue-eyed grass was killer.

    A note to Curbstone Valley Farm; did you happen to check out Sproutopia in Fiesta Hall, our children's section? Bees, Worms, Carnivorous plants and bonsai classes were popular. Also the children's garden by Edible Schoolyard (in the Victory Garden tent) was pretty cool too!

    Glad you enjoyed the show, it was a lot of fun this year!

  3. I don't mind over the top- but what was that garden trying to say? Here's something cool to look at? I feel that the garden show could be a wonderful forum for new and creative thinking. Maybe that's not its goal and I'm only dreaming! Most folks I think were looking for what might work in their own yards, not necessarily art.
    The kid's section was OK, but I agree that there could have been a more interactive exhibit. Maybe some kind of place to drop them off so they don't have to be tugged around by their parents all day!
    I'll be doing a whole post later on the victory garden- loved it!

  4. I've been having similar discussion with people about how native plants will really come into their own when people use them in fresh ways that don't mimic the woodsy natives look that most of these gardens seem to emulate. Those can be terrific spaces, but there's so much more you can do with our amazing plant material.