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Archives for December 31, 2016

Swirling brick circles form back garden for South London Gallery

Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco has worked with 6a Architects to create a sculptural garden paved in a pattern of interconnected circles for the South London Gallery.

The community-focused gallery, located in the London area of Camberwell, was previously renovated and extended by 6a Architects in 2010.

The new back garden is intended give the gallery’s visitors space to sit, eat and play. It will also serve as an outdoor showcase for installations by various artists.

South London Gallery Garden by Gabriel Orozco

Arranged across a number of levels, the garden is widely paved in Yorkstone bricks, many salvaged from what used to be the gallery’s rear facade.

These bricks draw circles around the garden, demarcating pockets for different activities. Rather than appearing repetitive, however, the circles are each given their own character through the use of different levels, or through the addition of plantings or water butts.

Circles are a common motif in Orozco’s work, but this is the first time the Tokyo-based artist has applied them to a garden design.

His main concern in designing the garden was to integrate the space with its surrounding architecture while serving the needs of the community.

South London Gallery Garden by Gabriel Orozco

“From my first visit I was impressed by the South London Gallery’s commitment to its local community and neighbourhood, and intrigued by the relationship between the garden space and its different audiences, and the idea of creating something which could provide an inspiring platform for all of them,” Orozco said.

“I started to think about various geometries emerging from the architecture surrounding the space and how they might be reintegrated into it as the basis of a design. It has been a fascinating process.”

Orozco intends the garden, which is currently sparsely planted, to be allowed to overgrow into a rambling environment that connotes an urban ruin.

It is planted with different grasses, creepers and scented plants, chosen on the basis of advice from horticulturists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

South London Gallery Garden by Gabriel Orozco

The garden will be open to the public every weekend and by private invitation during the week. As well as through South London Gallery itself, the garden can be entered from the abutting Sceaux Gardens housing estate, where the gallery runs art programmes.

The project adds to 6a Architects‘ growing portfolio of artistic and cultural spaces. The London-based studio previously renovated contemporary art gallery Raven Row and recently built a concrete studio for famed photographer Juergen Teller.

Its 2010 extension of the South London Gallery saw the studio renovate a neighbouring derelict house, exposing its original structural features.

The South London Gallery is currently displaying working drawings and a film about the garden project in its first-floor galleries until 8 January 2017.

Photography is by Andy Stagg

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The design story behind the new light garden at the Spring Garden El stop

The walk from Festival Pier to the Spring Garden El stop at night used to be a dark one. Not anymore, though.

The street improvements at the stop between Second and Front streets feature a light installation so striking that it hits the eye as more than nice urbanism — it’s public art.

The project, implemented by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation and the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, cost $2.4 million in a patchwork of grants. The Spring Garden Street Connector looks similar at first glance to the one on Race Street, which guides pedestrians along the I-95 underpass. But this one is powered by a prismatic light installation that, according to its designers at the Lighting Practice,follows the cycle of the sun as it rises and sets each day.”


Matt Stanley

Technical engineering firm NV5 led the design team. The metal panels that cover the lights have a leafy design that were inspired by the street’s name, according to PlanPhillywhich detailed that construction was underway back in July. They were designed by Cloud Gehshan and made in an old Progresso factory in South Jersey, now the HQ for Urban Sign. Liz Ruff, an account manager at Urban Sign, said translating the garden-inspired designs was tough.

“It’s one idea to come up with them as a concept, it’s another thing to have that flow as a pattern and repeat itself,” she said.

For example, the light shines through “hundreds and hundreds” of holes, with the leaf shapes visible in the negative (unperforated) spaces. Cloud Gehshan “wanted the holes to be varying. In artwork that’s easy,” said Ruff. To fabricate that, every opening had to be adjusted. “I think the design firm touched each hole on that project.”


NV5, Cloud Gehshan Associates, and DRWC

Colored beams also come through hanging, wavy, metal sheets— Ruff called these “clouds”— also bearing the leaf design. The stop has new sidewalks and streetscape upgrades to make getting to and front the waterfront safer.


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What your garden needs right now

Photo by Nico Toutenhoofd - Detroit Free PressAdd unusual bulbs to your garden like this Tulipa Schrenkii from Old House Garden Bulbs.

Photo by Nico Toutenhoofd – Detroit Free PressAdd unusual bulbs to your garden like this Tulipa Schrenkii from Old House Garden Bulbs.

For serious gardeners, the winter season is a less hectic but important one. Here are some tips categorized in what I call my “Seven Ps” — plan, plant, prune, provide, prevent, protect and prioritize.


If you don’t already have seed and plant catalogs pouring into your mailbox or email inbox, start with some of my favorites.

For heirlooms, I like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ( You can also shop in person at its Petaluma Seed Bank showroom. For unusual bulbs, I like Old House Garden Bulbs ( or Humboldt County’s Telos Rare Bulbs (

For edibles, I drive up to the Occidental Arts Ecology Center ( in Occidental for heirloom-certified organic, open-pollinated plants.

Gone native? Try Larner Seeds in Bolinas or Mostly Natives Nursery in Tomales. Main Street Trees in Napa grows and sells native trees and shrubs and The Wildflower Seed Co. in St. Helena sells a California native wildflower mix.

Incorporate firescaping techniques and plants in the garden design to protect your home and neighboring properties.

Introduce design into your garden if you haven’t done so already. New design apps will help you create stylish and practical traditional, modern, Japanese, native, vegetable and small gardens.


Winter is ideal for planting bareroot trees, roses, shrubs and vines. They tend to be less expensive than those that have been potted up and nurtured for months in a nursery. Make sure to dig generous holes and do not to plant trees underneath overhead wires.

You’ll soon start seeing wonderful edible options such as berry and grapes vines, asparagus crowns, artichoke plants and fruit trees in nurseries. Indulge! Choose only those plants that are compatible with your microclimate, soil, wind and watering conditions.

If you are talented with seeds, start lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, leeks, broccoli and cauliflower, among other vegetables, indoors now.


Wait until the weather warms up before pruning any frostbitten plant now. It could further traumatize the plant. Shelter it from further cold and give it time to recover.

Trim back sleeping vines, fruit trees, grape vines, hydrangeas, buddleia, penstemon, salvias, and the ornamental grasses that bloomed so beautifully in your garden over summertime.

Divide clumps of bulbs and tubers.


Fertilize established citrus trees with extra nitrogen. Even when it rains, plants under overhangs need water, and houseplants if in warm homes, need extra moisture.

Adjust your irrigation system with free weekly email or Twitter alerts from the Marin Municipal Water District based on your climate zone, irrigation system and plant types. Sign up at (


To keep gardens free from over-wintering pests and diseases, keep them free from dead plant material. Dispose of spent flowers and plants, dead or moldy leaves, and fallen produce. A dormant spray can help, too.

Clear away ivy and other dense plantings from your home’s exterior and you clear away easy hiding places for rodents. Check every inch of your home’s perimeter to make sure there isn’t a hole more than the size of a dime that can allow rodents inside.

Discourage rodents from damaging citrus trees by applying Bonide Repels All.

Screen windows so spiders, moths and other insects stay outside.

Overturn rainwater as it collects in pots, wheelbarrows or other containers to prevent mosquito breeding and the spread of West Nile disease.

Mulch now and you’ll save on water bills, soil erosion and time spent weeding later. Keep mulch pulled back from citrus trees, though, so the soil can warm up during sunny days, Pull up weeds now while the soil is soft.


Winter is a fabulous time to assess your landscape. Fallen leaves have laid bare the structure of arbors, and deciduous trees, shrubs and bushes. Rains can draw attention to leaking gutters and rooftops or soggy landscapes. Mud can wash away from fence bottoms exposing rotted wood and rodents may have found a shortcut into your home. Take notes and photographs so you can remember to fix things.

Succulents, citrus and tropicals can be damaged during cold spells. Shelter container plants in a warm space near a protective wall, or a corner of walls, under an overhang. Alternatively, spray them with an anti-transpirant product, such as Cloud Cover, or wrap their trunks in a thermal wrap.


Gardening tasks are ongoing but don’t get overwhelmed. I like to focus on the most important tasks now that will save me time, money, energy and grief later. And, whenever possible, enlist help.

Don’t-miss events

• Learn how to identify, collect and grow edible mushrooms and avoid the toxic ones in “Mushroom Cultivation” in a seven-week class from 1:10 to 3 p.m Jan. 30 to March 20 (no class Feb. 20) at Indian Valley Campus at 1800 Ignacio Blvd. in Novato. The cost is $138. Register at 415-485-9305 or

• See free-flying monarchs, Western swallowtails, painted ladies and more at the “Butterflies and Blooms” exhibit from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays through March 15, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 16 through Oct. 30. The exhibit will close for maintenance from Jan. 17 through 22. Admission is $8. The Conservatory is at 100 John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Call 415-831-2090 or go to

• Ready, set, prune! In this free “Fruit Tree Pruning and Planting” class, gardeners will learn techniques to prune one fruit tree or a home orchard for fruitful production and how to choose a pruner. Classes will be at 9 a.m. Jan. 7 at Armstrong Garden Centers at 130 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in San Anselmo (415-453-2701) or 1430 South Novato Blvd. in Novato (415-878-0493)

• Learn how to create aesthetically pleasing and healthy and productive fruit trees with garden designer Elizabeth Ruiz in a “Fruit Tree Pruning 101” seminar at 1 p.m. Jan. 22 at 401 Miller Ave. in Mill Valley; 10 a.m. on Jan. 29 at 700 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Kentfield (415-454-0262); and noon January 29 at 2000 Novato Blvd. in Novato (415-897-2169). Free for members, or $10. To register, call or go to

• Make a wooden candlestick, oil lamp holder and small bowl during “A Taste of Turning” workshop with Geo Monley from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 28 and March 7 at the Tamalpais High School Wood Shop at 700 Miller Ave. in Mill Valley and costs $86. Register at 415-945-3730 or

PJ Bremier writes on home, garden, design and entertaining topics every Saturday and also on her blog at She may be contacted at P.O. Box 412, Kentfield 94914, or at

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