Modern Support

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These sturdy black columns were made by pouring concrete into columnar forms. Though these ones are part of a building in Potrero Hill, it’s not hard to imagine them as supports for a modern-styled arbor or trellis in a garden needing some verticality. Or, similarly, in a small grouping as a sculpture; add water flowing up the center and tumbling down the sides for a fountain. Simple and supportive, but with a big statement.

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Part II: Mexico City, Muy Moderna

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Lines and edges, and more lines and edges. Mexico City’s dry landscape and reliance on water conserving plants like agaves and cacti present a sleek, minimalist vibe by default. These agaves popping out of holes cut into a deck create a miniature desert forest in the middle of an apartment complex. Much more dynamic than just a wooden platform!

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The addition of bright wood to this grey and chartreuse building lends an organic touch, softening the lines. The three tiers of different plants showcase the varying forms and shapes of each species. When designing, it’s easy to want to mix plants together – one here, another there, and still another in between – for variation. But we often forget what this image shows, that using one species at a time creates a solid, powerful statement.

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Remembering Repetition

There may be more types of hardscaping materials in this garden than actual species of plants. Wood, concrete, gravel, metal, tiles, and glass. Yet the colors repeat – the sienna of the wood and metal, and the grey-white of the gravel, glass, and concrete – making the design cohesive rather than seeming scattered. With a limited color palette of mostly light or grey-green plants, this repetition results in a clean, pretty space. The bold lines of the fence, the metal, and the grasses and agave are a simple and strong compliment to the plants gently cascading over the retaining walls.


The Way We Roll

Planter boxes on wheels are becoming increasingly popular around café and shop entryways in the City. Have you noticed? The ultimate small spot – a container – that won’t be stolen or vandalized come nighttime, nor will prompt curse words to fly from the mouth of the person with the closing shift attempting to lug a heavy planter through the doorway. And how much cuter can you get than a Radio Flyer full of houseplants?



Or, for a more modern aesthetic, a recycled metal duct. But these are just two examples. The possibilities for moveable planters-on-wheels are pretty infinite.

Up Against the Wall


Though Small Spot Gardens is all about finding an ingenious use of even the tiniest patches of soil, not all of us have a garden-able plot in which to grow flowers or food. But solutions aren’t always so obvious, or sometimes they are just in such plain sight as to go wholly unnoticed. For example, if we have a house, then we have a wall, usually several of them. As this home demonstrates, the mantra of urban sustainability –think up, rather than out – can lead to an inventive and spectacular design. With all the sun from this south-facing wall, these multi-colored aeoniums and other succulents are destined to turn an otherwise bland beige wall into a vertical art form. Imagine!: According to the local nonprofit SPUR, San Francisco has over 120,000 buildings. There is a huge amount of potential here.

Steep Hill Ahead? No problem!

The ancient gardening art of terracing has been used all over the world for taming hillsides while simultaneously respecting their, shall we say, “hill-ness”. A steep asphalt street in Noe Valley is no exception. One of the best sidewalk gardens in San Francisco, this one uses modern-looking metal boxes, which are both durable and develop an attractive rust patina. The grey-green and golden grasses, wine-colored aeoniums, and bright red kangaroo paw offer complementary hues as well as diverse textures. And an added benefit? The small gardens are something to stop and check out while huffing and puffing one’s way up the hill!

 



Small ‘n’ Selective

With smaller gardening spaces, we tend to feel limited, like we have to cram it with every plant that grabs our eye at the nursery that morning. Of course, sticking to just one or two species can require a difficult level of restraint. But these two junipers possess a striking architecture, with enough difference in height and form, as well as varying shades of green, to create a powerful design. The addition of the offset rocks and gravel bed contributes to the meditative character. This small spot in the Richmond is a wonderful reminder that clichés are often true: Sometimes less is more.