Details And Their Importance

As I progressed in landscaping as a career – and especially in my own projects – I came to realize how vital “finishing” can be. As the business owner who had a “speak freely” attitude I promoted among my crews, I learned many things I would otherwise not have attempted or known without their input. Nor is this some false modesty – it is simply truth. The only thing I did right was listen.

Finishing A Project

Well, it came to pass that my crews could get pretty upset with my behavior during finishing – the last day or two on a project where the time seems to slow down and a business begins chewing into profit lines. As well as I may have insisted we perform installing things, my frustration always seemed to emerge just about now.

We’ve used fire hoses tied directly into fire hydrants, using 2-3″ hoses to blast large projects into cleanliness. Needless to say, the need for an excellent pressure washer is must-have for projects where brick dust, soil amendments, bark mulches, street dust and – Heaven forbid – oil stains from standing, dripping vehicles (including the machines used for the work, like Bobcats) -can produce stains of potentially disastrous impact. Brooms, fine rakes for bark mulch, snippers for the tags which always accompany plants and which – if left – reduce the entirety to a more amateur status, blowers, you name it, all of which seemed diabolical to someone with my level of ADD, ha ha.

But the real fact was, they were prescient. They were totally capable of leaving a project looking as perfect as it could look. Plus, I would get the call when we were done and drive over to assess it all. I could still set standards, even if I was awful at the work. So they basically kicked me off the jobs. And I’m serious. I was hard to live with. The reason I say it was a factor is because crews from 2 different eras and 2 different countries did the same thing. I am a mess at the end. Luckily for the crew, it was so obviously unsatisfying to me, they both recommended that I go to the next project and begin. The truth is, I am, having said all the above, a monster at starting things. This was pretty much always where I saved and made money. I could destroy stuff at a dizzying pace!!  😉

Add that I was a sole proprietor in effect, we then saw how the wisdom of moving along rapidly and seamlessly became a truism in how to handle the work. An early or prompt arrival gave me time for the ‘soul-to-souls’ I could have with clients, as well as ascertaining potential changes they may have conceived and wanted to talk over. It also allowed me to arrange deliveries for the future, from machinery to sub trade scheduling.

The picture below is somewhat typical of the crude beginnings of a project. This is about the third day of work on a large residential project in Reno. I have spirited away one guy to run the larger machine, separating out boulders by size as I played around with actually setting the rocks into soil. Meanwhile, the other guys were finishing a project elsewhere.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   Eventually of course, the entire crew showed up and we were wholly underway, a glorious sensation to me as our attentions bent to newer projects. Soon, we would be doing the “mid project” Phase 2-3 work of final rock placement, irrigation and planting. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I would always collect the final check on a walk-through with owners, listening to any corrections they may have had from punch lists we both created and/or listening to them rave. The latter was always my favorite. 😉

Detail In The Work Itself

“The devil is in the details……..” .but so are some excellent angels.

Eventually, what I found was a profound sense of feeling well-served on the parts of clients who almost daily checked out our progress and who expressed the severest appreciation for how we handled details. I learned, for example, to actually work to produce details someone would admire. Rather than shy away from difficult aspects of projects, I learned to embrace them instead. For example, this rock grouping clustered around a gas-fed fire pit we designed and installed was never even spoken of during the original design consultation. I just went and thought it was too cool not to try.001 The “trick” here is the absolute snugness of the bricks which were custom cut to nestle in next to these boulders with zero tolerance for clearance. It made them look far more natural. (double click to get a better idea of how perfect I required the fit.) SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA The owner later lamented he overspent on chaise lounges and bar seating in his back patio “because everyone wants to go sit on the dam rocks!” 😉 (He said it with a smile, let me add, lol). He learnbed how large boulders retain the heat from the sun for long hours into the njight and how nice that feels on a bum, lol.

Below is a picture 20 feet away from the fire pit, illustrating how I would use the same “snug” technique with boulders I would insert to break up boring and predictable lines on the outer edge of the patio. I always thought it gave a far more “lived-in” look and seemed incredibly more interesting if not natural. 001

Here is the same patio, looking out at a small hill we created in order to supply the owner’s requested waterfall, creek and fish pond.

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A view of the same project from a different angle, looking back………..

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More detail, this time merely providing an interesting edge, snugging up nicely to the concrete border.

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This entryway to a home – below – was a process of gluing bricks onto the existing very bare concrete left by the builders. Note, on enlargement, the circle pattern we cut and forced into the mix right at the door way itself. I wasn’t asked for this, either, but this detail proved a winning formula and honestly didn’t take too long to manufacture.

From the very front:

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A better look, when enlarged, from the side.

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“Detail” also took place at the very end of jobs, during the cleanup I mentioned I was forced to avoid. 😉  (kicking and screaming………not). Below is the day of completion at the finishing touches around a small pond in the woods we created by falling trees, digging a hole, and trying to make it look as natural as possible. In the end, this is probably the best detailed finishing I ever saw. It looks like it’s been there forever.

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Inasmuch as most of our larger work looked something like the below about mid-way through, the “End” so often seemed so remote. Imagine all the work involved and then imagine not attending to the small stuff.

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But rescue is at hand by some willing labor and the good vibes we always tried to support.

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Azuma Makoto

What an intense and artful revelation this guy is. Azuma works in flowers and succulents and he takes flower arrangements to what I feel to be one of entirely fresh  new levels of artistic skill and acumen that define a craft’s greatest possibilities. He waxes from irreverent and edgy in his arrangements – for example his launch into space of the bouquet show in the picture below –

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To more spare arrangements, made to photograph and immortalize………””Originally Flowers exist in the nature in a way they should be. But I always thought that flowers shine even more or strike you with their beauty deeper in our minds when I stripped them out of their natural environment,” says Azuma.

(Sakura Tree)

00flowers4 Displayed in blocks of ice:

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“I use flowers that are living. If I use their life to create a piece, I would like to create a work that should surprise the flower themselves, or the people who see them. I am an entertainer who uses flowers,” says Azuma of his art……….

00flowers6His best friend and a virtual co-worker is his photographer, for obvious reasons. The richness and wealth of lush detail are studies captured in a cooperative effort. Azuma oversees every iota of his work and his legend is quietly growing and he recognized a talented mate in capturing permanent images of his work, often showing the depth of color that a dark background can provide. Far from being a dark study in the standard concept of the term, the backgrounds allows the blooms to explode for the eyes..

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This one below may be my favorite. Here he uses ample numbers of Proteus plants to extrude virtual light from within. Proteus to me rank slightly above the greatest Rhododendron blossoms as Nature’s finest blooms.

00flowers1300flowers 14But, like Isamu Noguchi’s restless range of artistic projects, Azuma also plays in realms he most certainly belongs in. This picture reminds me more of Salvadore Dali than of Nature although all the sculptures show here are representations of plant development.

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He can make your office a snazzier joint too!!!  😉

00glowers12I’m not just late to the Azuma game, I only discovered him today. After stumbling across all this, I had to get deeper. I absolutely adore what this man does. He just turned me inside out, lol.

Enjoy:

More on Louisville’s Newest Park(s)

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The Parkands of Floyd’s Fork is a gorgeous conglomeration of other parks: Beckly Creek Park, at the entry on Shelbyville Road, begins a park-touring Odyssey designed for all 4 seasons of Nature in an incredibly beautiful Kentucky at its best. The entire $120 Million donated effort is nearly complete, having begun in 2012 the process of removing invasive species and replacing them in great huge, gorgeous swaths with local wildflowers and grasses. The volunteers who performed so much of the early work deserve world class applause. The result of everyone involved’s hard work is a real sense of Perfection.

This park has recently become a center of my medical rehabilitation from a crazy cosmic series of physical injuries. The gorgeously heavy early Summer air supports the jungle -like growth which is a Kentucky forest in Summer. Consistent downpours and spectacular thunder and lightning effects long into the night, sometimes still rumbling in the morning, make for a green environment in ideal growing conditions. Forests are incredibly dense, often featuring unique species such as Kentucky Coffee Trees, the common but lovely state tree, The Tulip Poplar, Hickory and the stately, huge and colorful Sycamore’s who lighten the already-rich environment.

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And, of course, the park is named for the creek which passes through – sometimes raging, sometimes still – the creek is the heartbeat.

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I was lucky enough to be around while smaller creeks feeding Floyd’s Fork took on a serenely luscious look.

001Visiting the creek often in other locations every trip I make, I discover an old Sycamore snag protruding out as foreground for a still-life of calm riverhood.

DSCN1333[1]The history of flow rates and rushing water is easily enough spotted, even – or especially? – when the water recedes..

DSCN1331[1]Even having lowered, the water level still satisfies the gurgling reputation and surprises with its volume.

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The most remarkable part of all is how the hundred miles of bike trails – a cyclist’s paradise with an eventual circling route around the entire city – follow the creek itself. Paddlers, kayaks, bicycles, fishermen – all are welcome and pretty much all return like me to savor this bountiful Natural Feast.

Next post, we will visit the Interpretive Center, the great playground and the stone work of some breathtaking specialists in a park which spared no expense in meeting craftsmanship excellence.

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Landscaping As Radical Art

The term “radical” stems from the original Latin radicalis – “of roots” and from Latin radix “root”. Whereas, this term ironically resembles “Conservative”, owing to Conservatism’s high valuation of something’s earned past (especially when confronted with “radical change”), I really like the application of “radical” to art as something very nearly opposite of the spirit of its definition. “Radically opposite”, in fact. The term is loosely applied here, but in the overall “sense of things”, it fully meets the spirit of my claims regarding the stunning evolution of a trade which has seen periods of high fashion – from Ancient Times and Babylon’s Hanging Gardens to Frederick Olmstead’s White City and his incredible collection of urban designing accomplishments. Currently, we see regular people create masterpieces of riveting detail and variety in their own fabulous yards, inspiring more public artists and landscaping specialists in a wider realm. I have always said that the best work I ever ran across were productions made by homeowners in the experimental privacy of their own homes.

My current usage of the term “Radical Art” indicates a departure from “the regular” cosmetics of a trade so long defined as just an adjunct to buildings and their grounds – the General Field of Landscaping. It is my conviction that landscaping has evolved into its very own species of art and architecture, outgrowing “Dad” –  into it’s own sort of identity as it evolves further into real art.

Of course, architectural renderings oversee the more vast properties of our urban environments. We’re talking huge.

Noguchi:

 

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What we now see all around us in growing profusion are swaths of land, of urban and suburban wonders, we can simply no longer take for granted and which rivet our minds and souls in ways by which we find ourselves utterly challenged. Some are larger than others:

This work of art in Australia, known as ‘Mundi Man’ or ‘Eldee Man’ was constructed by noted painter Ando (website here) and is located on Mundi Mundi Plains, NSW. It is the world’s largest art work, covering some 4 million square meters, or 5 million square yards. That’s a lot of “cosmetics”!

Antonio Gaudi may have set the Lunatic Fringe of Radical Art in landscaping with not only his remarkable building designs, but in the incredible complexity and bizarre designs so rife at Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. His admixture of “primitive” and ultra-modern are well-illustrated in this photo I gathered from this website, dealing with Cruises.

 

From the same park………….

 

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Underneath this….

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The stunning work of Isamu Noguchi, as offered in the first photograph above, has also offered a primary glimpse of landscaping radicalism for long years prior. Now fully enacted by a fabulously and numerically-rich coterie of building designers, the arresting visual and sensual 360 degrees of 3 dimensionality of landscaping reaches an exemplary peak in his work. Below is his spare, yet incredibly evocative construction of a park erected on the site of a former garbage landfill.

Moerenuma Park, Sapporo, Japan:

 

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My view of these installation includes the packages relative to the advancement of technological breakthroughs in the machinery itself of construction. If Da Vinci could conceive of “lift”, “displacement” and the eventual forms which encourage Mankind to fly, then the wildly impractical new wonders of Drip Irrigation, water pumps and advancements in adhesives have opened an entire realm of gravity-defying work of its own.

Vertical Gardening will produce many Babylons, right before our every eyes:

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Even residences will gain from inexpensive-yet colorful profusions of verticality, a technology now just getting underway.

Machines

The advent of the Mini-Excavator, in my world of installations, has produced amazing wonders, quickly-accomplished, only requiring an imaginative combination of materials, designers and installers to implement the next wave of the booming field of water features. Note here the incredible handsomeness of the stud at the business end of such a handy little monster of torque:

 

The above became this……….

 

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Fountains, water, radicalism, sound and senses…………………..

(Noguchi again):

Lighting has caused a Mini Sensation and a completely outrageous burst of creativity in the field as well, from simple, well-placed uplights and filters of a smaller but ineffably gorgeous dimension:

To the radical fringe of massive urban production such as this Mall Fountain in Singapore – the world’s largest fountain:

More Radical yet, we have the entire realm of fountains and the myriad new applications of water, beginning, once again, with Noguchi’s completely impractical 9 Floating Fountains at the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair:

My belief is that we are just entering a field which promises a burst of fabulous artwork of increasing meaning and relevance. I honestly believe we are being pushed outdoors, kicking and screaming, as our back yards become “destinations” and extended living rooms, kitchens and dens. Our cities become more vibrant when we supply other “destinations” to please the eyes and senses. The factor of radical art in landscaping may even supply microcosmic pleasure in the tools and those items which we have so long merely taken for granted………..

such as garden furniture, as Helen Nock (website included)  so brilliantly illustrates:

Walls and fences take on some structural interest when in the hands of Micahel   Eckerman of Santa Cruz, his website here. A surfer and gatherer of native materials, his formations show movement and form which closely resemble the behavior of ocean waves:

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The creations we see today raise our vision and stop our wandering eyes so that we can better focus on their message. The “message”, as in all art, is that of celebration of our shared humanity. These spiritual accomplishments encourage us all to be better people, in every way.

I am glad Landscaping enters the realm of art itself. The scope of the trade has no conceivable limit, from the very tiniest of realms to those of massive scale. It is Man tickling Man and the sooner we understand that, the more we can create and enjoy more of the same.