History of the Small Garden

Where space is restricted, the design of that space becomes all-important. A brief look at the garden in history still has relevance for the owners of small gardens today, even though the terms of reference were often quite different. Many of the elements which make up the design of todays small garden have historical antecedents, while the number of old gardens which actually remain indicates that they have stood the test of time visually and as places for use.

In its earliest from the garden was basically an enclosure, made of thorn or scrub, to keep out marauding animals and keep in domestic ones. The enclosures later took the form of a mud wall, and were a defence against other humans as much as animals or were intended to shield off the heat of the sun. When nomadic community settled, the enclosures because places for growing both food and plants. This creation of a small private sanctuary characterized early enclosed gardens all over the world, though there function of course varied according to the climate and the way of life.

Early Formal Gardens

The earliest recorded gardens seen in Egypt seen in 3000-BC, were surrounded by a mud wall to absorb some of the suns heat. The house was also within this square or rectangular enclosure. The formal layout of early gardens was necessitated by the need for irrigation channels to provide water in a hot, dry climate. These divided the garden into geometric areas and, in the grander gardeners, the irrigation channels became formal pools with fish and there were arbours to sit under, overhung with vines, and shade giving palms. The Egyptians grew onions, which were there staple diet, and other vegetables and herbs for their medicinal value.

This basically formal style of garden characterized the whole Islamic world during the next few thousand years. The enclosed paradise gardens of Persia were often walled and the walls hung with grapevines and climbers. Fruit trees were cultivated, including peach, apple, cherry, banana, date, fig and olive. The Persians also grew flowers such as poppys, lilies, chrysanthemums, narcissi and roses in formal beds between the stylized cruciform shapes of the water canals. The idea of a flowering paradise within a formal setting is captures in Persia writings, painted miniatures and woven into carpet patterns.

The Indian and later the Moorish garden evolved from the Persian glorieta. Water was the essential thread of continuity, weaving through and links different plating areas, while creating a cooling effect. The Moorish influence stretched along the whole of North Africa, into Sicily and to southern Italy and thence to the Sierra Nevada in southern Spain. The style and form of the garden remained much the same, enclosed by buildings and high walls to provide shade and privacy. They were designed for outdoor living while remaining within the confines of the house.

The Moorish garden in Spain generally consisted of several court yards, known as patios, with water as the connecting link. Many patios contained a long canal with a central fountain and there were ornate pillars and tiled walls and floors. Cypress and orange trees were planted in sunken beds and usually lines the walls to give extra shade, while aromatic plants were grown in pots along the edge of the water scented the air. From Spain, where even the grand palace gardens were divided into small walled enclosures, the paradise garden tradition can be traced to South America. From there is spread to the idyllic climate of California, where it eventually metamorphosed in to todays patio garden, with the element of water often present in the blue waters of the swimming pool.

Gardens through the Ages

As a pursuit built as much on our own foresight as it is on our creativity, it is important to reflect on the schools of thought that drove previous horticulturalists, because, as influential as the great painters and film makers are on our artistic heritage, so of course must be the gardeners that came before you and me. So well use this article to pay some gratitude to, and hopefully learn the motivations behind, the green spaces of the past and how these reflect on those of the future.

The genesis of artistic horticulture began with one of the oldest recorded civilizations, in the Persian Empire – at its height over 3000 years ago. Gardens emerged as an organic rebuttal to the harshness of the Iranian landscape and also as a testament to the ingenuity of contemporary engineering. It was the introduction of structures now referred to qanats which made the impossible ideal of Persian design a reality. These subterranean aqueducts were originally developed as a means to combat the hostility of the surrounding desert and make plausible the mass integration of agriculture, and also of water supply. The Persian garden is famous for its contrast with the landscapes it survived in – while the renaissance horticulturalists sought to form uniformity among that which nature already provided, the eastern garden is characterized by its ambition in the face of adversity, perhaps personified by the persistence of the legends of the garden of Babylon. So emotive was this school of design, that its thematic sensibility travelled as far west as the Iberian peninsula (modern day Spain and Portugal), where the gardens of the Alhambra are a good example, and as far east as the flat lands of India, where the gardens of the Taj Mahal were laid out in the Persian style. The horticulturalists of both these countries can, like the Persians, be considered geographical victim to, and conqueror of, the arid landscape.

Despite the predating Egyptian, Roman and Hellenic empires, none had before employed gardens with such frivolity and with so great a gulf between the priorities of art and state.

The next chronological milestone in horticulture comes from what is now the longest surviving empire of the ancient world, the Chinese principality, beginning with the Qin dynasty approximately 200 BC. These projects were usually state sponsored and were often established as a form of a homage to the current imperial patriarch, the Qin dynasty, however, they took a back seat in the progression of Chinese scholarly gardening to the Yin Yang philosophy that dominated the countries academia in later centuries. This impetus stemmed from a focus on the importance of harmony and balance within, and in relation to natural setting, hence the design ideal that spread to medieval Japan, which I have mentioned in a previous editorial. Thus began the idea of microcosmic recreations of the natural landscapes of both countries, the obsession with symbolism to evoke greater scope than would be possible in the dimensions of a conventional garden, and also the inclusion of panoramic perspective to give the illusion of size. These included the use of gravel pits to signify oceans or deserts, which themselves were identified by the deliberate inclusion of rock formations to represent land masses or landmarks within these miniature environments.

Following the fragmentation of the Roman Empire, two major powers emerged in Eurasia from the remains of the old imperial senate – the Western Roman Empire fell to ruin against the hordes of Attila, while the eastern remnant would later evolve into the Byzantine Empire. The vast majority of their horticultural heritage, however, was lost with the sack of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire and, while contemporary novels provide romanticized accounts of the techniques employed, the only solid evidence we can rely on is the context around which they were constructed, which dictated all those that came before. Due to the relative youth of orthodox Christianity, the integration of animal sculpture to the Byzantine garden was not an unreasonable concept – having not fully established the accepted religion, pagan idolatry was still rife and thus nature, as opposed to divinity, was held in much higher regard – unlike the monastic gardens that were to follow.It is reasonable to accept that these motivations continued until the demise of the empire in 1453, which leads conveniently into the subject of renaissance gardening.

Despite the stimulus of its predecessors, and the relative contrast between countries and the respective art movements in other mediums, renaissance gardeners had one common ideal: uniformity. The beginning of the renaissance and the introduction of formalized aristocracy, following the bloody medieval period, led to a new focus on regality and aesthetic symmetry, and brought with it a boom in the popularity of topiary. Hedging had become a geometric means of maintaining the lines and shape of beds and gardens and also in promoting the favoured colour of the era, which was green. Many royal and state gardens were designed with a birds eye perspective, in that the formation and shaping of hedges and beds were intended to be seen from above, which meant that, while the garden was aesthetically pleasing, it was not an interactive experience, but one whose primary function was to be observed – and observed from a distance. Excellent examples of such gardens can still be seen at Versailles and Villandry in France.

With the introduction of the Romantic Movement in the 18th century, came a particularly English focus on the revival of the pastoral imagery that over the past few centuries had become so populist in continental art. The realization of an idyllic landscape, including lakes, trees and temples, became as much a part of the fabric of horticulture, as it had of contemporary literature and painting – hence the favoured integration of livestock such as sheep and horses to the garden grew exponentially! Lancelot Capability Brown was not the first designer to employ this style, but he was perhaps the most famous, designing 170 gardens including Petworth in West Sussex, Chatsworth in Derbyshire and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

By the end of the romantic era, however, the class division in the country had grown to dizzying heights due to the effect of the industrial revolution, which was only further exacerbated by the First World War breaking out. Due to the pressures that global conflict produced, gardens were forced to evolve once more to be used for more practical purposes and, by the time World War Two hit, the working class was fully indoctrinated with the grow your own mentality. It became not only a personal responsibility, but a national duty, to dig for victory to ensure that, should the worst occur, one would be ready to contribute to the cause of king and country, and thus vegetable gardens became the new standard.

Once the wars were over, however, and the economy benefitted from the rule of a new and industrious government, sustainable consumption was no longer a priority for the common man, and so English culture underwent a second renaissance and what emerged were the many and varied children of a hundred older gardening cultures that we see today – but no less beautiful for it.

Finally, we must address the garden design of tomorrow, which in the wake of the 19th century industrial boom can be summarized in one word: Ecology. As well be covering in another topic this week, it has become the primary focus of both government and leading designers to ensure that our domestic gardens, as well public green spaces, are as sustainable as possible so that they, at least, may shine brightly in the shadow of our uncertain future.

The 5 Hot Spots In Louisville And Indianapolis Home Improvement

Getting off to a home improvement project in Louisville or Indianapolis can be accompanied by a feeling of excitement. However, if you use waste energy on projects that dont do a lot for your home, you may end up regretting it later. How can you zero in on the hot spots and be sure you have made a good call with your renovation plans? It will come back to getting the right advice and using the right contractors. Hit up these five hot spots when its time for home renovation in Louisville or Indianapolis.

1. Bathrooms. Try selling a home without having a realtor march you into your bathroom and point out a few problems spots. You simply cannot go through the sale of a home without addressing some concerns in this room. The only other option is to not do anything and accept a lower price from the buyer. Which would you rather choose? Remember that, by the way, while you are still living there you will be able to enjoy it.

2. Kitchens. The other big spot in the home is the kitchen. Realtors love to point out flaws in this or that area. It is fairly simple. Make sure your cabinets are in good shape and replace any old countertops. After that, take a look at your appliances and see how much they are really worth to you. If you are worried about rising electricity costs, you can probably take care of a good deal of that by replacing the older appliances.

3. The living room. The family gathers there and it is the nerve center of your home, for better or worse. Do you think you can ignore problems in your living room for long? Take the opportunity during renovation time to see if the layout really works for you. Old couches and poorly maintained shelves are much more of a drag than a television set that might not be the latest model.

4. The basement. Should you leave your basement in an unfinished state forever or is it time to turn it into a room you are proud of? You might think it will take a big budget to handle a job like this one, but if the walls in your basement are already finished, you will simply be adding items here and there. It could be a place where you store collections of books or art, or it could be your sanctuary. Its up to you.

5. The backyard. When the summer months are approaching, the place to hit up in a home renovation project is the backyard. Cookouts always seem to go a little better when the landscaping looks just right and the deck is in good shape. If you want to go the extra mile and get a powerful grill which can cook steaks or burgers to perfection, you might end up having to fight off guests as the summer rolls by.

How to Grow Flowering Kalanchoe Plants for Drought Tolerant Gardens or as Houseplants

Kalanchoe plants are pretty dry garden bloomers known for their bright colorful flowers. They’re great succulent plants for dry landscapes or as houseplants in container gardens indoors. Kalanchoes are in the Crassulaceae or, Stonecrop family. Most varieties are perennial and evergreen.

One of the most popular form of kalanchoe species grown today is kalanchoe blossfeldiana and its many hybrid plants. Kalanchoe blossfeldiana plants grow up to 2 feet tall and as wide. They have large, leathery leaves about 2 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. The leaf edges are usually lightly scalloped and may have a slight tint of red or other color. Some hybrid plants have smooth edges and different colors on the leaf.

Flowers bloom in upright, large clusters from 2 to 3 inches across, and are made up of small daisy like flowers of 5 petals. The stamens are usually yellow and can stand out brightly depending on the flower color. Flower colors can range from white, yellow, orange, red, pink and everything in between. Flowers can also be creamy, dreamy pastels, or have flowers with more than one color, but kalanchoe blossfeldiana are mainly known for neon bright colors. These drought tolerant plants make a bold statement in the garden with their glowing, bright flower colors. Bloom is heaviest in spring, but they can bloom all year with a little feeding of fertilizer after the first bloom.

Care of kalanchoes outdoors is easy in mild winter areas. They are hardy to USDA Zone 10b, or 35 degrees, (Sunset Zone: 17, 21-24), These plants can take full sun to part shade in the garden. Outdoors, if it gets over 100 degrees for more than a few days, or your plants develop brown spots it may be getting sunburn. Either move the pots, or provide a little shade during the hottest part of the day. Indoors they prefer a bright windowsill with lots of light. Indoors, place plants near a bright window.

Kalanchoes are popular gifts during the winter and make nice housewarming presents. If you are lucky enough to receive one the first thing you might want to do is see if the soil is dry. If so, give your plant some water and let it drain in the sink. Then move them outside if you are in a mild winter area, or to a windowsill if it is cold outside.

Seeds saved from hybrid plants will not grow out to look the same as the parent plants. It is much easier to propagate kalanchoe with leaf or stem cuttings. Place the cuttings in damp soil, and keep the soil moist for the first two weeks. After that, let the soil dry out between waterings.

Water requirements are low. They can take average garden water, but will also grow well with much less. In my garden a few plants are out in a section with the natives and other drought tolerant plants and they do quite well. To avoid root rot, let the soil dry out before you water them again.

Kalanchoe plants also do well in container gardens. Since they can handle drought, they are a bit more forgiving than other plants if you forget to water them! They look great on the patio or as a focal point on your table.

Salt Lake City Home Improvement Electrical System Repairs

Every home needs electrical repairs from time to time. Especially in older homes, new technology does not always work well. Electrical system remodels are more about safety than luxury. Because of the danger and complexity involved in this kind of project, the traditional do-it-yourself attitude is not advisable. It is best to seek professional electricians who are familiar with the Salt Lake City home improvement regulations.

Careful planning is needed to ensure that you will have plenty of power for your present and future needs. Whether you are adding circuits in a new room, wiring a remodeled kitchen, or adding an outdoor circuit, plan for enough electrical service to meet peak needs. These kinds of services are usually expensive. Here are some ways to save and get the most of your investment from your Salt Lake City home improvement:

1. Don’t be misled by an electrician’s hourly rates. This amount ranges from $30 to $70. It is better to choose an experienced and well-equipped electrician with a higher hourly rate than a cheaper, inexperienced hack with inadequate tools or no parts. The hourly rate should be considered along with the contractor’s quality of work, equipment and experience.

2. Compare the electrician’s travel charges. This can have a big impact on your costs. Many electricians working in the Salt Lake City home improvement spend a third or more of their time navigating traffic. Some charge for each visit, some a flat trip charge and others simply compensate for travel time by charging a higher hourly rate. Every electrician finds a way to pay for travel expenses so don’t hesitate to ask how and what they charge. If your project will take longer to finish, a trip charge and a relatively lower hourly rate is better. Otherwise, choose a higher hourly rate inclusive of travel charges.

3. Bundle electrical repair jobs together to save money and time. Present a list of all your electrical problems encountered. You can get everything taken care of at once.

4. Be prepared before the electrician arrives. Clear the work area and make sure the electrical panel box is accessible. You save money as well if the electrician deals less with inconveniences.

5. Install money-saving electrical fixtures. Choose fluorescent over ordinary incandescent bulbs. Use motion detector switches on your outdoor lightings. Be creative with your landscape lighting and indoor accent lightings. This can be appealing not only to you but also to your potential buyers in the future.

Remember that all electrical upgrades require review by your local electrical inspector to make sure the changes conform to the Salt Lake City home improvement electrical and building codes. Failure to have proper permits and inspections can cause problems that can cost far more time and money. You could have trouble reselling your home in the future, or worse, your homeowners insurance could refuse to cover your loss in a house fire because the house was altered illegally!

Landscape Architecture

Landscape architecture is the design of outdoor space using the compositional elements of vegetation, landform, water and structures such as walls, seating, lighting, steps etc. The U.S.A. is a large country with varied geographical resources presenting opportunities to landscape architects to improvise with and accommodate these resources. Even though there is minimal threat to natural habitats the growing urbanization and moving population is encouraging construction and designing of neighborhood parks or playgrounds. These are relatively small but of intensive use for education, health and recreation purposes.

The first American professional landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead Sr. was responsible for construction of the new Central Park (NY) in 1857. The project was resumed after the Civil War along with new ones in Brooklyn, N.Y.; New Britain, Connecticut; San Francisco, California; Chicago, Illinois and across America. With the success of these ventures and the growing popularity of constructed park cemeteries, the landscape gardener was beginning to be referred to as a landscape architect. Schools and colleges across the country pitched in, offering professional degrees in landscape architecture to budding landscape architects. Landscape architecture is now recognized by the International Labor Organization and is represented by the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA).

The landscape architect is not a lonely figure. They have the backing of professional associations and a wide spectrum of projects ranging from roads, reservoirs, river reclamation, forests, housing development projects, industrial estates, rapid urbanization and other projects. If one is thinking of becoming a landscape architect, one needs to have a creative flair and appreciation for nature in all its forms. Along with this is needed an analytical mind to design, manage, preserve and rehabilitate cities into functional and aesthetically pleasing entities. Whether working for a firm or being self-employed, the increasing demand for designed outdoor spaces is turning landscape architecture into a challenging profession.

Whipper Snipper Advice For Those Who Don’t Like Gardening Jobs!

There’s a whipper snipper lying neatly against the wall in my garden shed. It’s just waiting, very patiently for the day that the grass grows so high that there will be no excuses left for me to make. This will be the day that the once neat garden beds will be framed by a long border of six inch tall grass swaying joyfully in the breeze. The day is coming ever nearer for this newly inherited task, unseasonable warm sunshine and rain is making sure of that.

The thought of using a whipper snipper never gives me joy. Maybe it’s the noise, even greater than that of a lawn mover, they make, that high pitched scream that could be coming from me if that furiously rotating wire misses its target and connects with my leg. The way they slice through the grass and everything else that gets in their way should be enough to bring about a pause for thought. Although at least my whipper snipper only has a wire, so surely that must be better than those that have metal teeth.

My sister-in-law just loves her whipper snipper. It’s her favorite gardening tool. In fact she looks so very comfortable using it, masterful in fact. You can tell a person who relishes in this task by the way they hold it and their confident stride as they cut their garden to perfection.

I have used one once, but it would have been obvious to anyone that the whipper snipper and I were not getting along at all well. For a start I was unable to cut a straight line, and I’m sure the grooves that were being carved through to the bare earth were not an attractive look. Of course it can be put down to a lack of experience, but there is definitely a skill involved in creating those beautifully manicured edges.

But what is the alternative? It really is a case of mastering the whipper snipper or going back to the dark ages of either hand clipping, or the manual edger. Somehow neither of these options arouses in me even the slightest amount of enthusiasm. That probably has something to do with the enormous amount of edging that will eventually have to be done. It takes an expert whipper snipper operator several hours to accomplish, so the job could well be an all day affair for me.

There is a way around it all of course, as there is to just about all of life’s little trials and tribulations. Hire a gardener. These are definitely the professionals when it comes to using a whipper snipper. I’ve even seen them controlling and guiding their whipper snipper effortlessly as they walk backwards creating the perfect line. It’s all in a day’s work for them, whether it is a favorite part of their day, who knows, but it is definitely something that they become very proficient at very quickly.

The idea of hiring someone to attend to the whipper snipper chores is certainly very attractive, but the fact is I will never be able to think of myself as a gardener until this part of my education is complete. Providing the muscles are willing, a day spent with this noisy monster should either show a vast improvement or a surrender. After all, we all have gardening talents and for some this means whipper snipper prowess, and for others it may be that they are a whiz on the end of a pair of secateurs. My talents have yet to emerge, but I’ll keep working on it.

Patio design is a new solution to building a patio. Visit HomeOwnersForum.org explains how he gets to know and use those gardening tools he never thought existed.