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Archives for June 18, 2013

A New Humanism: Part 23

Jun 17, 201306:12 PMPoint of View


Because the enveloping presence of light energy transforms our levels of competence, security or moodsour essential well-being and survival – the effective control of daylight, flames, and their replacements, naturally has long been part of the expertise of designers and engineers. And it’s been obsession, too, of visual artists and poets.  In Le Corbusier’s familiar words, architecture is the “play of masses in light,” and its history, “a struggle for light.”  And for all of us, light energy is an inescapable “material” in design – both as a content and as a context.

Light invites action. The eyes are automatically drawn to – alerted by – the places that seem to offer the most important and readily available information – moving lights, sudden changes, or the brightest spots. In verbal language we even use “light” as a metaphor for knowledge. It’s a defining quality of any experience – orientation, exploration and peril – clarifying threats and opportunities, refuge and prospect, and unraveling “mysteries” in the shadows. And so we add skylights, build glass buildings, and open up entire land- and townscapes to become, in effect, larger and larger prospects – broader clearings in the forest – well-lighted by day and, by our ingenuity, at night.

The light we see is a mix of radiation from sources, diffusion in the atmosphere and reflections from a multitude of surfaces, including the shadows created by their forms and textures. At an intimate scale, it’s largely those reflections that tend to make plaster or concrete read as “neutral,” plants, fabrics or wood “alive,” and polished marble, “perfection,” before we touch them. And in larger forms, the artful shaping and detailing of places built in the brilliant sunlight of Greece, Italy, and deserts – now without their colors – the sculptural chiaroscuro illustrates the breadth of expressive potential, as light changes the geometry of space and masses through the seasons and through a day, both inside and out. In differing light, we live in a different environment.

The Acropolis in Athens – the “presence” of the gods, on a refuge and prospect high above the working city in the clarity and shadows of the brilliant Aegean sun


That is just the beginning, of course.  In the creation of sacred places or performing arts and commercial settings, essentially all of the operations and limitations of human vision are being exploited.  Toward one very effective extreme are such spectacles as the sparkling signs and saturated colors of entertainment places, or the scintillating light of a white ballroom or flashing disco mirrors, or the brilliant stained glass light in cathedrals.  By simultaneously exciting every point on a retina and overloading the visual system – dazzling the eyes – the mind is disoriented as it struggles to find order in the bewildering flow of sensations and information. 

Then, with senses on full-alert, but still confused, we seem to reach out – even if only for a short time – to imagine a new order – new rules – for a “new world” – one that does make coherent sense.  The cathedral builders saw that “other world” in light itself – light as a divine “substance,” a divine presence in super-natural soaring weightless space. For others, it’s in the body chemistry of an intoxicating party-mood and earthy, hyper-natural world of Las Vegas, with its own rules –“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Both create settings – environments – that invite experiences of rare pleasure – a release, an escape from habitual, imposed day-to-day patterns – in one case, a profound religious experience, and in the other, a new-found sense of wealth and uninhibited freedom of action.

The designers of theatrical and cinematic lighting do the same with great subtlety. First the audience is disoriented by darkness and then reoriented when combinations of lights “materialize” the new world. Then, the feeling of being for a time in a new reality is intensified by linking in the other senses: rhythmic sound that overflows the space – like an organ or drums that seem like the earth speaking, or the pulsating super-amplified sounds of a rock band – all given color and life in ritualized movement, secular or sacred dancing or touching.


As body chemistry evolved within the planet’s cycle of sunlight and darkness, it came to produce parallel rhythms of survival-based hormones. Melatonin, prompted by darkness and inhibited by light, especially sunlight, and responding to receptors on the retina, induces a daily rhythm of waking and sleeping – a time when other exhausted receptors, muscles, and neural connections are typically refreshed by disengaging, by hibernating. Sensing that transition in a secure setting seems to be one of the pleasures of sunrises and sunsets. In any case, sleep brings on a very real vulnerability, and we seek out, often urgently, places where protection and warmth provide refuge. Sheltered resting-sleeping places are probably half of our indoor built environment, and, no matter what other symbols they embody, in daily life we tend to approach them with a narrow, demanding, survival-based mental set – a defensible perimeter, elevated and secluded, with enough light indoors and out to feel the security of the place.

A similar body-chemistry tends to be produced when we find ourselves temporarily confined in an unchanging setting. As sense receptors are fatigued by concentration and repetition, the drowsy consequences frustrate everyone involved. It’s going to happen, but daylight alone can change the chemical mix – just as food and drink, coffee breaks and exercise do. Accordingly, in the otherwise handbook-perfected work places, conference centers, museums, and many new schools – places where people spend long hours staying alert – designers have been able to recharge a body-state within those spaces with exposure to natural light – to real sun, sky, and shadows and the refreshment inherent in the cycles of daylighting of the natural world.


“Light, open and airy” feels like a refreshing release, but the night has other pleasures. Darkness, when eyes are disabled, sharpens both the other senses and the “mind’s eye” – inviting fantasy and imagination. And the presence of darkness and dimly lit places tends to arouse other predilections and stir other mixes of hormones – producing other priorities – that compete with, and can overwhelm the melatonin in a bloodstream.  Both the fear-of-the-dark – the uncertainty about mysteries and hidden dangers – and a consuming ambition to extend the time we can work, move, and play in daylight, have resulted in brightly lit twenty-four hour habitats. But, at the same time, we build places with low light levels where we can “hide” ourselves from observation and distractions but without feeling confined. By “losing” the ceiling and walls of a larger space in darkness, and introducing a small, soft, warm source that lights up a foreground of faces – in candlelight, at a campfire, around a card table – designers create feelings of seclusion and a private intimacy with the accompanying body states that favor confidentiality and trust, daring and risk-taking, persuasion, and seduction.  In other words, with changing light, sleep is overruled by more immediate challenges to survive, win, and prosper.

Breaking through constraints

Limits on seeing feel like limits on life, and we have a long history of technology designed to light up the dark or to deal with too much “blinding” light. Because the pupils adapt to the brightest light, they necessarily edit out whatever is dimly lit. Then unlighted colorful foregrounds become featureless silhouettes and signs, clues to orientation, work surfaces, food, and faces can be frustratingly – or intentionally – obscured by glare. In response, we have developed vocabularies of built environments to compensate for the pupils’ natural limitations: selective shading and reflections, task lighting, balanced multiple sources and the focused highlights that signal “destinations” – the human purposes within a space, indoors and out. And we are continually exploring new forms that resolve conflicts – like those between functional night lighting and seeing stars in a dark sky, or between the desire for both daylighting and big-window panoramic views, but without glare and heat-gain. In a parallel way, too, we invent lenses that supplement our own, extending the range of focused vision.

The important point here is that, year by year, our ambition – our innate predilection – to keep extending our reach, brings into being more sophisticated science, design, engineering, and industries to manage light. We can – and many do – measure, model, control and predict human responses – emotions, associations, intellectual performance – to the light and color content of essentially any habitat we are building. Yet much more is known than is put to use.  And that’s what a new broader humanism is about: breaking through convention and out-dated “intuitions” and adopting more systematically than we do today, the advancing arts and sciences – in this case of vision and optics – into the everyday practice of architecture, landscaping, and urban design.

The presence of divinity in the dazzling light and color that fill the soaring space – once everyday practice in a gothic cathedral – this one in Mallorca.


We live wrapped in feelings aroused by colors. In a sense, they all – including black and white – tend to produce a range of moods – body states – and associations that prime responses to whatever we encounter. As raw color sensations follow paths into different parts of a brain, the meaning to us, the significance, is, as always, shaped by contexts; it can change as we’re competing or courting, problem-solving or facing a moral judgment. And while often learned from our culture and experience our responses are naturally grounded in some basic, common physiology.  

The red effect

In the retina, and concentrated within the central fovea three types of cone cells are sensitive to, and report on, light energy frequencies. The greater number by far senses reds and oranges, giving them more clarity and impact. Naturally, then, they draw the most attention, and seem to advance. They feel aggressive – possibly threatening – and tend to increase heart rates and blood pressure and thus a sense of warmth and impulse for action. We’ve all seen how that’s exploited as the “red effect” in fashion and uniforms, or in a built environment, signs, signals and all kinds of eye-catching.

Blues and greens

…and especially violets, activating fewer cells tend to be perceived as less so, receding not advancing, leaving sensations of calm and cool. And blue, like yellow forms tend to become indistinct and immaterial, especially seen against the sky or water.

Essentially all tones of green tend to be associated with the natural settings they dominate, and beyond that, research is showing that, in a problem-solving context, greens can be refreshing, reduce stress and foster creativity – in a sense like the presence of nature itself. And along the same lines, in almost all contexts we respond to green as a symbol – a positive sign of approval and “go ahead.”

When the question is asked, blues are typically selected as a “favorite” color. And research is showing that responses to blue – what seem to be innate associations – in social contexts are feelings of friendly or approachable, and in work situations open-minded, unconfined. At the same time, though in another part of a brain – in another context – we tend to respond to blue light – unless balanced by other colors – as “cold” and in another, it’s the symbolic color of melancholy or in another, it’s the UN and EU color of peace. Again, the context shapes the meaning.

White and black

This mix of all color wavelengths is rare in nature – except in the sky. And we tend to perceive it in ways parallel to geometric forms – as a distinctly human order – or a divine one – imposed on a less perfect natural world. Seeing pure, reflective white Carrara marble against the darker stones of Florence or bricks of Rome, or a white plantation house in the green/blue/brown of a wilderness, tends to lead toward sensing personal mastery, a place released from outside threats or aging, and as the most visible, these symbolic white human civilizing victories singled out as the most important, privileged places.

In a built environment, black, like darkness, is used to hide or minimize a presence. And in a social context, used sparingly, tends to be associated, like white at the opposite pole, the ultimate in formal authority.


Because it is the intensity of the impacts – of excitement of the receptor cells – caused by brightness, lighter values, sharp contrasts, and saturated colors, we give a high priority to finding and focusing on them as “first impressions.” They structure the sequence of perceptions. And contrast is the key. Repeated, bright look-at-me light – and vivid colors – along a confined corridor like highway strip or in a carnival setting, can be energizing to exhaustion until the significant information in each individual “first impression” is communicated. Then it’s absorbed in the identity of a larger district, a destination clearly set off from its surroundings.


When light energy reflects off surfaces, their physical textures and variations, creating changing shadows, naturally add a dimension to what we see. The reflections from natural irregularities in building materials, or weathered pigmentation, a patina of human use, or colors seen in firelight become flickering images on the retina. Unconsciously we tend to sense that as motion and, in turn, almost human life. Landscapes, especially in a breeze or dappled sunlight, or in the sparkle – and sound – of moving water can do the same.

As a language   

With these few basics as a start, cultures – and individuals – have elaborated out of their own experience and associations, a range of “languages” of color that have been most effective for them. Like verbal languages they appear to evolve over time, becoming enormously complex and powerful. And sensitive, trained designers, artists and colorists, have used the historic color vocabularies of a culture together with the science behind them to develop an impressive fluency. In a sense, they’ve organized the visible spectrum into a vocabulary of hues, values, and uncounted distinct tones that we are readily able to perceive. And then, in a parallel with composing music, they can hold in their minds, and foresee colors in relationships with each other and with the other senses. And they can use combinations of mixes, textures, layering, lighting, harmonies and contrasts to evoke hundreds of predictable feelings – except, of course, in that +/- 10 percent of the population that the rest of us call color-blind. 

In a built environment, colors are, of course, only one factor in a scene, but again experience has proven colorists in our culture able – on their own – to stimulate, or set the stage for such imagined sensations as: warm or cool; soft, smooth or harsh; excitement or serenity; harmony or confusion; formal or casual; refined or rustic; dignity or flamboyance; solidarity or conflict; natural or crisp and machine-like; old and prestigious or new and prestigious; and varying political and religious values. In other words, they have identified workable translations from colors to body states, and the expressive languages of color – from the cool white-black-gray of the Bauhaus to the intense rainbow of a Caribbean village – are as inevitable and forceful in a built environment as they are in love and in battle.

Local color

Alongside the clear, bright white pride in mastering an uncivilized place, often not far away are other settlements where color is not a choice but a given. The practical, cost-effective materials of architecture and landscapes are at hand in the earth itself – the warm sandstones of Bath and the Cotswold hills, red clays, the redwoods of California, the fields of lavender or tulips and native associations of plants everywhere. Then at all scales – in buildings, landscapes, cities, and regions –  powerful, memorable color identities are valued because they tell stories of home, stable societies, roots in the land, and the larger, longer history of surviving and prospering here. In today’s mixed national/global markets, color rarely plays that role except in places deliberately branded by their occupants or developers. Our lowest-cost, vernacular materials are as likely to have the colors of recycled plywood, plastic tarps, and corrugated metal sheets, and they tell their own stories of settlement and survival in an industrializing culture.

* * * *

Next: An overview of how the sensations of hearing, tastes, and smell are integral to experiencing the places we build. 

This is the twenty third in a series of posts that spell out a set of ideas called A New Humanism: in architecture, landscapes, and urban design. They’re about enlarging the way we think about design by applying, in day to day practice, a broader range of insights into the cutting edge sciences of nature and human nature — using them to understand how our evolved mind-and-body actually experience the places we design, and why people respond the ways they do.

Robert Lamb Hart is a practicing architect and planner educated at Harvard GSD and the University of Pennsylvania. He is a founder and a principal in Hart Howerton, a planning, architecture, and landscape design firm with an international practice out of offices in New York, San Francisco, London, Shanghai, Park City, and Boston. He believes that the design professions have been falling behind in their understanding of one of the defining enterprises of the Modern revolution, the application of the maturing, fast-moving sciences of ecology and human behavior — and the compromised results are showing. 

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Next step for Bloomingdale Trail: Creating an identity

The planned 2.7-mile Bloomingdale Trail and five linked parks — envisioned as an elevated pedestrian and bicycling corridor splashed with artwork and landscaping — will assume a new, overarching identity Tuesday when the multi-use recreation system assumes a fresh moniker: The 606.

The Trust for Public Land, manager of the project that will link four regenerating Northwest Side neighborhoods, will announce the label while presenting final project plans at a public meeting Tuesday evening. Construction on the $91 million public-private venture is expected to begin this summer, with the elevated trail portion to open for use by the fall of 2014. Artwork and other amenities will be added after that.

  • Related
  • Bloomingdale Trail

    Bloomingdale Trail

  • The Bloomingdale Trail project

  • From an abandoned railroad to a park

    From an abandoned railroad to a park

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  • West Bloomingdale Avenue, Chicago, IL, USA

The 606 label represents something virtually all city residents share — the first three digits  of Chicago ZIP codes, which planners hope will connote unity and links among neighborhoods.

“It’s really a sign that the project can stand on its own feet as being uniquely Chicago — the fact is, it will be pure Chicago,” said Paul Brourman, CEO of ad agency Sponge and member of the Chicago advisory board to the trust. He organized the pro bono naming effort.

The numerical label also is meant to harken back to the path’s roots as a 100-year-old rail bed running through a once-industrial corridor. “It’s reminiscent of a train route,” said Beth White, director of the trust’s Chicago office.

The 606 will be the brand for the whole project, which also is envisioned as an outdoor education site for Chicago schools. But its component parts, including the Bloomingdale Trail, will retain their own names.

“We respect the trail for what it is, a trail, but now i’s part of something bigger, the way Cloud Gate and Lurie Garden are part of Millennium Park,” said Matt Gordon, director of naming and writing for brand consultant Landor Associates and part of the park project’s branding team.

A logo, in which the numeral’s circles interlink, aims to show the brand as “a connector of people, communities and ideas, and a connection back to the city” said Jennifer Harrell, owner of Wyville USA, who designed the logo.

The text style aims for a modern look, and something that reflects the “Industrial Revolution, the grit of Chicago,” she said, adding that “we’re talking about doing a three-dimensional structure in black iron or steel.”

The development of a project name came about to dispel confusion surrounding the trail, which will run atop an abandoned 16-foot-high rail bed that runs above Bloomingdale Avenue, which is about 1800 north. It stretches from Ashland Avenue on the east to Ridgeway Avenue on the west, linking Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park.

“Lots of people thought it was in Bloomingdale, Ill., or many times people would call it the Bloomington Trail,” White said.

Attracting corporate sponsorships was tricky, too, given that Bloomingdale’s is the name of a prominent retailer, which could dissuade other stores.

“There were questions raised in that arena too,” White acknowledged. The trust hopes to find a lead sponsor, as well as backers for components of the project.

Some marketing experts said the project should appeal sponsors, including health-oriented companies.

“You’re seeing parks, bicycling’s a healthy, outdoorsy type of thing,” said sports marketing veteran Bernie DiMeo, now head of public relations firm DiMeo Partners.

But some question the wisdom of retaining the Bloomingdale Trail as well.

“The 606 sounds cool, it has an obvious story to it,” said Tony Schiller, executive vice president of Paragon Marketing Group, a sponsorship and partnership marketing agency. “The Bloomingdale — what’s that?”

He also said it would have made more sense to engage a lead sponsor and bring the corporation into the naming process, rather than tacking it on later. “If you don’t integrate the brand into the name, it’s easy for the brand to go away,” he said.

The key, now, will be to come up with a strategy to integrate the corporate brand into the name, with various points of engagement, including media play, signage and special events, he said.

The project, which has been on the city’s wish list since 2004, has been put on a fast track by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with city departments overseeing construction of what will be part of the Chicago Park District system. The trust, along with Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, have been working to garner support.

The project has garnered $39 million in federal funds; $2 million from the park district; and as of early this year, $12.5 million in private donations including $2 million in leftover NATO summit funds, leaving another $38 million to be raised. The trust plans to announce progress on its fundraising later this summer. | twitter@kathy_bergen

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Calif. Station Landscaping Is Fire Prevention Model

June 17–RANCHO CUCAMONGA — Residents who live in the northern portion of the city now can get ideas for fire-safe landscaping at Hellman fire station.

The Rancho Cucamonga Fire District recently introduced the Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Safety Education Project at the station. Landscaping at the station is meant to demonstrate best practices for homes in the high-fire-hazard foothill areas above the 210 Freeway.

Landscaping at the station, including stones, mulch, and low-lying native plants, when placed around a home can create defensible space to keep flames away from homes.

“This will help homeowners better defend themselves and help us to defend them should a fire burn through the area like it did in 2003 during the Grand Prix fire,” Fire Chief Mike Bell said.

In addition, the Fire District recently announced a new warning program and RC Fire Watch. When a red-flag warning is issued to warn of high wildfire risk, the district will hang red flags at its stations.

The department also plans to deploy red-shirted RC Fire Watch volunteers on red-flag days and the Fourth of July to have “eyes and ears” out in the field as an early warning system for fire. Volunteers would also contact people entering mountain areas and make sure they’re prepared to go into canyon, mountain and wildland areas.

In a separate project, the fire department is working with Eagle Scout Jacob Fakhoury to identify fire-safe plants in the high-risk zones in

the foothills.

“I will be putting the signs near the identified plants just to help the community so we can help prevent fires as much as we can from destroying the community,” Fakhoury said.

Residents can get fire-safety tips and check whether their home falls in the Wildland-Urban Interface Area at

Mary Peat, who lives in northwest Rancho Cucamonga, said a visit to the fire station has given her ideas on how to landscape her own backyard.

“I have a back section like this that I wanted to develop, and the landscape architect was able to answer some questions for me,” Peat said.

Peat had to evacuate horses when the Grand Prix fire swept through the area 10 years ago.

The 6,000-square-foot single- story Hellman Fire Station 177 opened on Jan. 24, 2012. A three-person crew staffs a paramedic fire engine ready to respond to fire, medical and rescue emergencies.

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Master Gardeners announce garden tour

Master Gardeners of Van Wert news

The Garden Walk is scheduled for Saturday, June 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $10 per adult. Tickets may be purchased at any of the gardens, while a sunflower sign prominently placed in the landowner’s yard designates each garden stop.
Refreshments will be available at various locations as well as a “gardener’s market” and a “miniature garden clinic” at the homes of the Master Gardeners on the walk. An additional location will offer a composting demonstration, with questions and answers afterward.

Following is the location and descriptions of the gardens:

The entrance to the Children’s Garden in Smiley Park, which is kept beautiful by the Master Gardeners of Van Wert. (VW independent file photo)

Dave and Janice Kirchenbauer

Over the years, the Kirchenbauer Gardens, located at 303 N. Jefferson St., have grown from a small backyard of herbaceous peonies and one 75-year-old peony tree to a half-acre of peonies, peony trees, perennials, a variety of grasses, a shade garden, and a high berm of evergreens and roses. Another lot is situated close by, with a 30-by-100 foot vegetable garden and apple, peach and pear trees. Included in the area is a grape arbor with three varieties of grapes and then more roses, hydrangeas and perennials.

Be sure and visit the “miniature garden clinic” held by Sue Young and a “gardener’s market” at this location.

Dan and Jean Bulau

The Bulaus, who live at 1212 Second St., welcome area residents to their city garden. The garden started as a flower garden with a shaded area and a full sun area on their small city lot. For several years, they added a few perennials every year — often trading plants with other gardeners (isn’t it interesting how often plants have their own stories?). Now they have plants in bloom from early spring to late fall. Four years ago they purchased a derelict house next door and had it demolished. As a result of that yard expansion, they now have a vegetable garden, a strawberry patch and a few raspberries.

Remodeling and a deck provided another opportunity for a flower garden expansion. Professional landscaping in the front of the house and the side lot, and brick and mulch walkways, tie the lots and gardens together.

Dan Bulau loves to experiment and calls compost his secret ingredient, while his wife says she would like the garden better if the plants stopped moving around. They do agree, however, that the best part of gardening is sharing the wonders and joys of nature with their grandchildren.

There will be a composting demonstration at this stop. Feel free to direct questions to Dan Bulau and Master Gardener Amy Mosier.

Mike and Linda Stanley

The gardens of Mike and Linda Stanley, 10572 Ohio 118, have evolved through many years of deciding that there just had to be that one additional bed to add to the landscape. Driving by their home, one usually does not see any of the perennials that inhabit their back yard, unless it is in the early summer when their row of peonies blossom with various colors.  The flowerbeds started basically to make it easier to mow around their pine trees.  What happened after that is a story in itself.

The Stanleys try to have color in their garden throughout the summer — in other words, quite like a patchwork quilt. Many of their favorite plants are hydrangeas, hostas, clematis, and knockout roses.  Many of the plants have been gifts from friends or heirlooms from their family; in fact, it is a standing joke that many of the plants are pleasant to look at, but don’t ask the owners what the name of the plant is. Those looking for a garden that is informal, that has been landscaped by the owners, and rustic in charm, come to see the Stanleys’ gardens.

There is plenty of parking behind their house at the middle school, while parking on Ohio 118 could earn people a ticket.

Nate and Rachel Hoverman

Those who want to see a perfect garden should see the garden of Nate and Rachel Hoverman, 111 Boyd Ave., request that attendees skip this stop. Rules are not followed here, property lines are crossed and their “art” is composed of other people’s junk.

The garden began before the house was purchased. The Hovermans always admired the house and had hour-long conversations about how to make it beautiful again long before it was theirs. When it became clear that Van Wert would be their home, they looked at just one house. Months later it was theirs.

Nearly 80 plants were uprooted from the rental down the street and spent the winter in pots behind the garage. Existing landscaping was removed and new was designed and installed by Rachel Hoverman, a horticulturist at Beining Nursery and Landscaping.

A flagstone patio, with inlaid antique grindstones was a necessity to cover two giant cisterns that are original to the 1915 Dutch Colonial residence. A giant ash was removed, but lives on as a rustic pergola created by Nate Hoverman, a fifth grade teacher at Van Wert Elementary School. Near it, a redwood was planted in memory of a great family dog.

The vegetable garden, whose design was based on a fountain at Longwood Gardens, has received two revisions. It was originally half the size and had a formal four-square design. Finding vegetable gardening addicting, it has doubled in size in the four years the Hovermans have lived here.

The couple will tell people the garden isn’t perfect, but they love it for the time it allows them to spend together. They hope area residents enjoy it as much as they do.

Art and Connie Weber

Art and Connie Weber, 1049 Grand Prix Drive, want the public to know they do not have a neat, pristine garden; rather, they have a garden for their own enjoyment and fun.

Each year, new plants are added, sometimes adding another strip of garden to accommodate them.  Space is provided for both a flower area and a food-producing area, though Connie Weber has been known to interplant vegetables with her flowers “because they are pretty”.  Art Weber has strawberries, plums, peaches, apples, cherries, raspberries, vegetables (including potatoes in boxes), and such in his part. His wife has roses, peonies, hydrangeas, butterfly weeds, lilies, and such in her part.

Trees, such as smoke trees, dogwoods, a redbud, crabapple, a bald cypress, a red buckeye and whatever “catches their eye” have been added each year.  All the beautiful bulbs will be in hiding when people see the yard in late June, but there are hundreds of them. Both Webers enjoy talking “gardening”, so come to share experiences of what works and what doesn’t. Don’t expect perfection; it still eludes them.

Mark and Cindy Hurless

Mark and Cindy Hurless, 1274 Madison Boulevard, have lived at their current location for about seven years and began their landscaping efforts by implementing geometric shaped beds to match the angles of their home, rather than using traditional curved beds. Within these beds they have a combination of evergreens and Bradford pear trees.

The front rock garden sports a wrought iron frame that shows off an espalier apple tree as a conversation piece. In their fourth year they began adding natural rock landscaping in the front and side yards, along with stone steps leading to a beach area that sits just off of the pond at the back of the property.

Their gardening style incorporates traditional perennials like hydrangeas, roses, peonies, irises, and lilies, and they are particularly fond of using a lot of green with occasional splashes of color. The pool area is finished with river rock and hardy plants that can tolerate a lot of outdoor activity.

The large area is complete with a private garden and pergola, and provides space for summer bonfires or just a relaxing view of the pond fountain in the early evening. An herb garden, designed and planted three years ago, is visible outside the kitchen window.

The hill that borders the pergola provides a barricade of evergreens along with daffodils in the spring and a variety of plants like hostas, hydrangeas, and lilies, with a host of annuals planted each year to add interest and color. Seasonal whim determines what beds are changed or upgraded: two years ago asparagus and strawberry beds were added, and three years ago a vegetable garden was added to the east lot of the home.

Gardening friends and experts like Robbie Adams, Troy Treece and Rachel Hoverman have helped over the years and have made landscaping enjoyable. The Hurlesses are happy to share their love of landscaping with others.

The Garden of the Senses

At the Garden of the Senses, next door to Wilkinson’s Printing in the 100 block of East Main Street,
 Master Gardeners of Van Wert have created a garden in downtown Van Wert, located in an empty lot between two businesses that had been used as a parking lot. This lovely oasis today contains trees, flowers, herbs, and shrubs with raised beds and brick walkways curving around the flowers and trees with benches to stop and rest and enjoy the peacefulness of the garden.

A pergola was built on the spot, which in summer is adorned with hanging baskets and during the Christmas season houses a stately decorated Christmas tree. The Garden of the Senses can be viewed on Main Street just east of Balyeat’s Coffee Shop.

The Children’s Garden

The Children’s Garden is located across from the airport on Leeson Avenue.
This garden, located in Smiley Park on the southwest side of Van Wert, has been a project of local Master Gardeners classes and also provides a hands-on learning facility for children and their families.

A gazebo is positioned in the center, with several theme gardens radiating out like spokes on a wheel. The first garden is a large butterfly-shaped garden outlined by flagstone and incorporating vibrant plantings that butterflies love. A walkway through the center of the garden leads to the colorful Butterfly House, provided by KAM Corporation, which contains lush plantings of aromatic flowers that attract the many species of butterflies that make their residence in the House and garden.

This garden was designed to promote education, horticulture, the arts, and to be environmental.

Historical Society Museum Herb Garden

The Historical Society Museum’s herb garden, located at 602 N. Washington St. in Van Wert, is designed to the period of the log house and contains plants that would be grown and used for a family living in the log house in the 1800s.

The herb garden is divided into several raised beds with paths between them and includes a culinary, medicinal, household, cutting, biblical, fragrance and vegetable gardens. The Evergreen Garden Club designs, plants and maintains the garden throughout the year.

Proceeds from the Garden Walk will be used by the Master Gardeners to maintain their two garden projects: Garden for the Senses and Children’s Garden, and will be useful in supporting the Master Gardeners’ ongoing future educational projects.

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Gardening and More: Talk set on career of forgotten landscape architect at the …

BUFFALO — Did you know that one of the most important landscape architects in the world did work located right here in Western New York? His name was Walter Burley Griffin, but chances are, you have never heard of him.

While he has a world-wide reputation, Griffin is virtually unknown, in his home country.

The architect designed the landscape for the Martin House Complex in Buffalo. He also designed the entire city of Canberra, the capital of Australia.

Learn more about his fascinating career, during a presentation by Christopher Vernon, associate professor in the school of architecture, landscape and visual arts at the University of Western Australia, at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18 in the Greatbatch Pavilion at the Martin House complex, located at 125 Jewett Parkway in Buffalo.

Tickets are $20 for Martin House members and $25 for nonmembers. To reserve tickets, visit the Martin House Complex website or call 856-3858.

Walter Burley Griffin is “probably one of the most important landscape architects you’ve never heard of,” Vernon said. Despite his accomplishments, Griffin does not have the reputation in the United States that he deserves.

Griffin was born in 1876 and raised in the Chicago area. As a teenager, he attended the 1893 Chicago world’s fair, which was a pivotal experience for him. The World’s Columbian Exposition was a designed city, though a temporary one. While visiting the fair, Griffin realized that he was interested in designing not just buildings, but the whole package, so to speak, including landscapes.

Griffin worked with architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago, from 1901 – 1905. Both men wanted integration between architecture and landscape. Griffin’s design for the Martin House Complex was the most elaborate garden he created, while working for Wright.

While Wright attempted to copy nature, Griffin was not interested in disguising the hand of man, in his designs. Griffin designed geometrical, formal gardens. That may be one of the reasons this man is not well known.

“Even today, more naturalistic designers get the attention,” Vernon said, adding that Griffin was the antithesis of landscape architect Jens Jensen, who advocated using only native plants.

Soon after completing the Martin House project, Griffin left Wright, to start his own architectural practice. A high point came in 1912, when his submission was chosen for the design of the new capital city of Australia. Although his name was on the submission, Griffin had created the design with his wife, Marion Mahony Griffin, an architect esteemed for her talents as a graphic artist.

Winning the competition validated Walter Burley Griffin as an authority in the field and brought him plenty of work, designing parks and suburbs. In 1914, the Griffins traveled to Australia, intending to stay only temporarily. They ended up living there until 1935.

Griffin struggled to keep his Chicago office open but, at a time in which it took a month for a letter from Australia to reach the United States, that strategy proved too difficult.

“When he disappears to the other side of the world, he gets forgotten,” Vernon said. “He has no name recognition in the United States.” In this country, Griffin is seen as a “second-rate Frank Lloyd Wright.”

Many people focus on Griffin’s architectural work and overlook his work in landscape architecture. “In my view, Griffin was a better landscape architect than he was an architect,” Vernon said.

After Griffin moved to Australia, he came back to the United States twice. On one of those occasions, he visited the Martin House.

“He must have been quite proud of the project, or at least curious about how it aged,” Vernon said.

At one time, the Martin family had a gardener, who lived in his own cottage at the complex. Just as the buildings at the complex fell into disrepair, the landscaping ended up not being maintained properly.

Vernon said that he last visited the Martin House Complex in 1992 but recent photos show that trees weren’t replaced, the landscaping has lost much of its complexity and intricacy and much of the landscape is now lawn.

Efforts have been made to restore the Martin House Complex buildings. A new project will soon begin, to determine the planneddirection for the historic landscape restoration, according to Curator Susana Tejada.

“The purpose of the project is to make sound recommendations for how the gardens and grounds of the Martin House will connect with the entire context of the restoration site, what the year of significance will be, what direction planting will take and how the landscape will relate to the museum visitor experience,” she said.

Vernon praised these restoration efforts. “The landscape is as much a product of design as the building is,” he said.

After more than two decades of successful practice in Australia, Griffin ended his career, with an array of projects in India. When Vernon gives his presentation this week, he will emphasize the cross-cultural transfer and transformation of Griffin’s design ideals and approach across the disparate “worlds” of the United States, Australia and India.

Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email

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9 ways to save on summer gardening

First, ask yourself a few key questions: Do you have full sun or shade? A rooftop spot or ground-level garden?

“Determine your climate: Rooftops can be hot, ground-level gardens, humid,” explained Cangialosi. If you’ve got shade, buying the pretty flowers that require full sun means they won’t live to see July.

“Look at drainage,” she added. Make sure liquid has a way to escape when watering plants or if it rains. “Plants don’t like their roots wet — it’s like sitting in a wet diaper,” she says. Once you have a proper drainage system in place, then you can shop and plant. (For tips on how to do drainage right, see the next tip.)

Skip the pricey planters

If you’re in the market for a container garden, the costs can add up quickly, with planters running into the hundreds of dollars. Luckily, there’s a cheaper (and chic) option.

“You can definitely skimp and get the less-expensive pots. IKEA has great options — but you have to augment slightly,” said Cangialosi.

This brings us back to drainage. Cangialosi suggests drilling holes in the bottom of pots that don’t come with them, or placing a pot within a pot, with gravel between the two, so the water overage has a place to go.

Invest in perennials

Perennial plants come back each year, while annuals are yours to enjoy for just one season. That’s why buying the latter is an amateur gardener mistake.

“Perennials are roughly the same price as annuals, but you’ll have them year after year,” explained Cangialosi.

In fact, she says, they can return for anywhere from six to 20 years, which is a far better return on your botanical investment.

Bonus: You’ll save time and money.

“If you put enough plants in, they’ll fill your space nicely, and you won’t even have to weed as often,” she said.

Check out more money-saving gardening tips here.

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This post originally appeared on on June 6 and was written by Maureen Dempsey. It is republished here with permission from LearnVest.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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Plotting success: tips for planning your vegetable garden

To prevent unpredictable weather mucking up your plans, don’t slavishly
follow the calendar for each sowing. Instead, time the follow-on sowing when
the seedlings of the previous sowing are just emerging.

More gardening ideas from this series:

How to grow your own
fresh flavours

structures: how to create arches and pergolas

your garden patio an ideal retreat

Your Summer Garden homepage

Waitrose Garden:

For even more ideas and tips, as well as advice on how to get the most from
your crops, visit

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