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Cultivate Curb Appeal With A Sustainable Landscape

Fixing up the inside of a home and cleaning up the yard is challenging in itself. Overhauling a yard can get expensive and time consuming. But while you spruce up outdoors, look at ways you can blend resourceful designs into your home’s curb appeal.

With growing demands for green building and sustainable landscaping, more homeowners want natural luxury outside their front door—without the extra maintenance. Sustainable landscaping is practical since it integrates plants and materials, which are in balance with the local climate.

Every yard is unique. You can incorporate just a few well-placed plants to save water. Or for a really self-sustaining garden, have a lawn like a meadow with every variety of herb, flower, grass, vegetable and fruit.

With careful planning, sustainable design:

  • Adds distinctive visual beauty—from formal to informal design.
  • Is low maintenance and cost effective long term.
  • Is easy to implement.
  • Requires minimal inputs and resources—less water, fertilizer or pesticides.
  • Reduces your home’s energy consumption.
  • Is environmentally sound—reducing carbon, chemicals and toxins.

Plan with Maintenance in Mind

Walk around your property to identify areas you want to accentuate for beauty and functionality. Whether you want to add an herb garden, a work area or patio, work with the slopes and boundaries of your yard. By designing with the natural patterns in the landscape, you make the most of space and maximize drainage for growing the best plants.

If possible, work with existing pathways as part of the outline for your yard. For interest and safety, modify pathways or make new ones that follow higher grades and natural curves in the land.

Consider sun and shade patterns, wind patterns and soil conditions throughout the yard. Different plants will do better in varying conditions or microclimates within your yard.

A landscape designer or contractor can help you choose the best plants for a sustainable landscape.

Grow Beauty and Function with Sustainable Vegetation

Sustainable landscapes grow a full spectrum of plants fitted for any style—from informal cottage to formal Chinese and everything in between.

Add sturdy lushness to your yard with native plants, which adapt easily to local climates and need less water. Self-seeding grasses and plants are ideal for sustainable landscapes—simply gather seedpods to crush and spread seeds where you want them to grow. Plants will flourish naturally. To minimize water requirements, keep plants with similar needs together in the same areas.

Fruit and nut-bearing trees, herbs, vegetables and edible flowers can be combined in any aesthetic variation, while providing food for you and local wildlife.

Deciduous trees, like maple, oak and elm, give shade in summer and allow sun in winter. Planted near the house, they provide comfort, while cutting down on energy bills. Turn a section of your yard into a cool summer woodland to further reduce air conditioning bills. Trees and hedges also form windbreaks, helping to cut your home’s fuel consumption by 1/3 and more.

Vines and bamboo gardens create privacy and shade around patios.

Use Eco-friendly Materials

A sustainable landscape relies more on vegetation, than hardscape materials, for forming boundaries like walls and fences. For walkways and driveways, be resourceful by using porous materials such as mulch, gravel or crushed stone, which are abundant and allow drainage. Try to use local and salvaged materials like used bricks or concrete.

Work with Nature

Attractive landscaping of any kind grows out of functional design planning. Whether you hire a landscape expert or do-it-yourself, work with the existing natural environment to develop a sustainable yard fitted to your lifestyle. No matter what you design—from an herb and vegetable garden to a meandering walkway or a meadow-like grass to a self-seeded lawn—shape areas and borders with vegetation suited to the climate and location. By working with the land you can create a self-sustaining yard over time tailored for your lifestyle. Instead of watering and fertilizing, you can spend more time enjoying the natural beauty, which is an extension of your home.


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Landscape Planning In Winter: Using Containers

Many gardens and yards flourish all summer long only to look barren in winter. By then, it’s too late in many climate zones to plant trees and bushes for a winter landscape. But the dormant season is also the perfect time to plan your future winter landscape.

When the bare outlines of your yard are exposed, it’s easier to see where hardier trees, shrubs and plants could add dimension and color. Before you let your winterscaping vision fade into spring, seize the season by buying some young tough winter plants for outdoor containers—which, you can transplant into the ground in springtime. Watch as your winter container plants transition from being outdoor decorations to being the backbone of your yard’s landscape through all four seasons.

Winter Container Plants with Colors and Shapes for Every Season

Winter-hardy plants come in every size, shape and texture—in endless colors and subtle variegations.

Green foliage warms a landscape in any season, but shows especially well in winter when deciduous plants go dormant. Evergreen trees and shrubs are perennial fillers in every style of landscape. They form a lush backdrop in summer and become prominent focal points in winter, often popping with colorful flowers and berries. Evergreens—as well as the tougher evergreen conifers, grow in countless hues of green—from blue green to lime green and gold to silver.

No matter what region you live in, you could easily fill your winterscape from among the countless forms of evergreen plant species: A stately blue spruce tree grows to be a strong focal point and provides wind cover for a property. The low-growing wintergreen plant provides red and purple groundcover, with the added benefits of edible red berries and broadleaves, harvested traditionally as therapeutic tealeaves. Many types of evergreen English-ivies retain their colors year round. And old-fashioned boxwoods are one of many evergreen shrubs, which make a sturdy garden border.

For flowering plants, try holly or winter flowering pansies. Whichever types of winter plants you choose, native plants are natural choices for planning a winter landscape. Check local parks and nurseries for ideas and resources. Choose plants which will look as elegant in containers as they will when full grown in the design of your yard.

Keep Winter Plants at Home in the Right Climate Zone

To determine the climate zone which plants are most likely to survive in, refer to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/, plant encyclopedias, or local nurseries list each plant’s designated zone—(the minimum temperature a plant can be expected to survive).

Since container plants aboveground are exposed to colder temperatures than plants under the ground, try to choose plants which are hardy, both in your local zone as well as another colder zone. The zone map is a good guideline, but plant survival varies with local conditions and microclimates.

Keep Your Container Plants Insulated from the Cold

Winter container plants need as much insulation as possible, since the roots do not have the benefit of being buried beneath the earth’s surface where temperatures are more constant. The bigger the container, the more soil there is to insulate roots from cold temperatures and fluctuations. More mature plants, with somewhat developed roots, will survive better in containers during winter.

Wood containers make good insulators. Impermeable materials like concrete, metal and plastic are also good shields from the elements. Keep all winter container plants off of the cold cement.

Hardy winter plants add dimensional beauty to your yard, whether they are in containers, transplanted in spring, or full grown in the ground through all the seasons. They balance and enhance the interesting patterns of bare branches and other interesting structures in your yard.

Make it easy by planting next year’s winterscape with this year’s decorative winter container plants.


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Winter Landscaping Tips, Tricks & Ideas

Winter is when so many homeowners realize the backbone of their yard’s landscape is too barebones to be interesting. Without the defining structures like evergreen trees, pergolas or pathways, garden landscapes gone dormant can look barren. While in winter, it’s too late to plant berry plants and too cold to build a retaining wall, but there are plenty of ways to add immediate interest to your yard, and at the same time plan for next year’s winter landscape.

Why it Works to Decorate Your Yard in Winter Time

Instead of regretting you didn’t get your winterscape planned in time for winter, you can add instant color, texture and form to your garden landscape with other structural elements—from benches to boxes. A few well-placed items transform the view out your window and create a picture for people driving by.

By decorating with garden items and things you already have, you save money while personalizing your winter landscape. In the process, you have the opportunity to study and plan your yard’s design for future seasons.

Create Focal Points for Winter Contrast

Garden architecture, from big to small, provides needed contrast against faded winter backdrops. Even a solitary pot, or a clump of long grass, stand out with winter interest. Anything can become an architectural element—from sculpture and statuary, to boulders and birdfeeders. String some tiny outdoor lights almost anywhere for effect.

An arrangement of outdoor furniture or a bench under a tree creates a congenial scene. Paint an old chair in a bold or subtle color. Drape a few antique garden tools on top of a small table.

So-called junk, like vintage farm implements, becomes art with character. Fill a wheelbarrow or a crate with logs, greenery or favorite trinkets.

Paint a gate or part of a fence. Take advantage of architectural pieces you come across. A section of fencing or a decorative panel leaning in the garden or against the house adds new dimension. So does a castoff window frame or a detached door with some original décor attached to it.

Consider the many possibilities of garden art—from metal sculptures to birdhouses and plant stakes to rustic signs.

Plan Your Spring and Summer Garden

Winter is the perfect time to study the bare bones of your garden landscape and plan its future design. As you add focal points to this year’s winter landscape with furniture or sculpture, think about year-round possibilities.

You might not have a pond, pathway or arbor in place now, but now is the time to imagine where those elements would best be situated within your landscape. Notice the shapes and outlines of existing trees and plants and where spaces need to be filled in. Visualize where hedges, stonewalls or walkways will provide natural borders and functional flow to your garden and yard.

Turn Winter Interest into Enduring Design

By decorating your yard in the winter, you have the opportunity to study the bare bones of its underlying structure and plan for year-round design elements.

An out-of-season landscape lets you see what’s missing. You can see where to plant evergreens for greenery, deciduous trees with interesting branches, shrubs or berries. You can determine colors, which will enhance pathways, arbors and other hardscaping.

But no matter how nondescript your yard looks in winter, you can make it more interesting with a few well-placed objects. It will transform the view out your window and your home’s curb appeal.


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What’s the Difference between Landscape Designers, Landscape Architects, and Landscape Contractors?

These broad definitions apply to the United States only. Laws vary from state to state regarding the work performed by landscape designers, landscape architects and landscape contractors. Some need to be licensed by the state; others do not. Permits may or may not be required for landscape work performed in your state or locality.

Landscape designers typically have training in landscape design and horticulture through formal education or on-the-job experience. The Association of Professional Landscape Designer’s certification program confers professional recognition to landscape designers based on experience and established standards of excellence. Landscape designers provide design concepts, landscape plans, and selection of materials. Some designers provide only design services, others work closely with contractors during installation and some provide construction services themselves as permitted by state law. Many landscape designers are also professional horticulturists. Landscape designers can provide design services for both residential and commercial clients, although many specialize in residential design.

Landscape architects have obtained a degree in landscape architecture from an accredited school. Only those who have have met their respective state requirements may call themselves landscape architects. A landscape architecture curriculum usually emphasizes site analysis, design, presentation and construction techniques rather than horticulture. In addition to the types of plans provided by a landscape designer, many landscape architects produce plans and construction -ready documents for institutional and commercial projects.

Landscape contractors perform a wide range of services, including garden and lawn installation, garden maintenance, masonry, carpentry, other landscape elements and sometimes design. Many work for nurseries or design/build companies and others have their own firms. When working with a landscape contractor, be sure to clarify the design process used, whether you will receive drawings for your review and approval, or whether you have just a verbal description of the landscape to be installed.


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Why Hire A Designer?

Hiring a professional landscape designer could be one of the smartest investment decisions you’ll ever make. Designers trained and qualified in the principles of garden design and horticulture can help their clients avoid the costly mistakes that can turn the dream of an outdoor haven into a landscape nightmare.

Professional landscape designers are skilled practitioners of fundamental design concepts – proportion, unity, balance, perspective, color, texture – that can bring about a fully integrated design. They have a comprehensive knowledge of plants so that you get the right plant that grows to the right size for the right place in your garden.

They are skilled communicators and planners who work with contractors, vendors, local governments and others to complete successful projects. Professional landscape designers are also aware of our natural environment and promote sustainable practices whenever possible. They are inspired by the creative process, by great design, and most of all, by their clients’ needs, wants and dreams.



337 Montauk Highway
Water Mill, NY 11976


(original source)

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Sagaponack Goes Boom

Anyone who has driven down one of the bucolic lanes in Sagaponack can see it. A virtual explosion of plywood, concrete, balled trees, dumpsters, and piles of soil off to the side of properties, lying in wait for final grading. The roads are streaked with dirt, and the sounds of construction boom across the fields.

The size, scale, and quantity of residential building sites are mind-blowing, even for an architect, who can, at least at times, revel in such creativity. Having a modest project in Sagaponack has led me to Town Line Road and Daniel’s Lane, where there is a palpable feeling of power, energy, and the mighty force of those who, despite the economic meltdown, landed at the top of the heap.

Wall Streeters, hedge fund titans and real estate speculators have set their sights on Sagg. Its peaceful vistas, dotted with houses in the historic farm vernacular, are now sprinkled with strawberry-pink Corian above-ground pools, Middle Eastern follies, and imported stone edifices. Change has provided steady work for a vast number of tradespeople, architects, designers, landscape architects, engineers, and any possible specialty construction/design service available.

The Sagaponack Village Building Department and Zoning Board see some of the most extraordinary manifestations in architecture today. It is fascinating to watch those involved gracefully try to balance the heritage of the village and the right to freedom of expression.

The signage is so rampant that a sign law (perhaps slightly less stringent than East Hampton Village’s) must be on the horizon. In the words of Lady Bird Johnson, “Public feeling is going to bring about regulation so you don’t have a solid diet of billboards on all the roads.”

Months ago, I listened to a description of plans for light posts at the end of a long driveway, at the end of a private street. The posts, as presented, were large enough to fit a person inside them. I couldn’t help but wonder if the homeowners were going to station guards there.

The East End, for an architect, is a series of never-ending fascinations of architectural philosophy — and psychology.

(by Erica Broberg at The East Hampton Star)

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How to Create a Successful Hardscape

Hardscaping is an attractive feature and offers many appealing options, from a rustic stacked wall to a fully developed outdoor living room and kitchen. Once you’ve decided to create an outdoor space, you must plan carefully to meet your hardscaping goals.

“Research really pays off, especially when you consider that a fixed object in the landscape is not going to move easily — and you don’t want to put in a lot of effort and then have your materials or design fail within a couple of years,” says Samuel Salsbury, a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and partner with Sabrena Schweyer, APLD, in Salsbury-Schweyer, an Akron, Ohio-based landscape design group.

By following these simple tips and avoiding some common mistakes, you can create hardscaping you’ll love for years to come.

Consider the Landscaping

As much as you can, consider the entire area available to you for hardscaping before you design an element, even if you’re just tackling one space for now.

“At the bare minimum you should plan a design for the whole area, or consult a professional to create a design for you,” Samuel says. “If you don’t consider the site comprehensively, it’s like building one room of a house, and then a year or so later, a second room. You may decide to plop down a patio, and then decide you want a barbecue, pond or walkway and the patio blocks your plan.”

Delve Into Draining Issues

Samuel says he’s seen more hardscapes messed up by people ignoring drainage requirements than by all the other errors combined.

“You must plan how the drainage will be affected when you place, say, a wall or a patio,” Samuel says.

There’s also an environmental consideration, says Weston, Wisc. landscape designer Susan Murphy. “You should plan runoff so you can capture the water and use it on site, instead of letting it hit that concrete and go down the drainage pipe.”

Develop a Focal Point

“You want the eye to travel toward a destination, and one or two visual elements that make you pause, either visually or literally, like a weeping evergreen with an Oriental lantern,” Susan says.

Choose Balanced Elements

Susan’s pet peeve? “Boulders that are supposed to be helping to naturalize an area, but instead have been dropped right on top of the ground and are sitting there like dinosaur eggs,” she says. “To successfully use boulders in hardscape, you need to make sure they’re large enough to fit with the scale of the landscape, and bury them deep enough so they look like a naturally-occurring element.”

Too-linear elements can create the same unnatural feel, says Sabrena, a certified landscape designer. “I see way too many people plop in a straight or L-shaped sidewalk, or stick a linear or rectangular patio or deck on the back of the house without giving further thought to the natural lines of the space,” she says. “You should try to include curves and shapes in a way that the hardscape elements transition gracefully into the rest of the landscape.”

Keep the Greenery

Sure, you see all-stone or concrete areas in the Southwest, says Susan, but there the focus on hardscapes can be a matter of necessity, not a trend to follow. “Southwesterners sometimes have to have a hardscape without greenery due to the strong sun and too little water,” she says. Everyone else, she says, should definitely include ample vegetation in relationship to hard surfaces.

Barbara Pleasant, author of “Garden Stone: Creative Landscaping with Plants and Stone” takes the idea even further. “You can have a beautiful backyard comprised of a hardscape framed by shrub and flowerbeds, but keeping a small swath of lawn is a good idea,” she says. “Grass is a safer playing surface for children, and a patch of turf will help cool down the landscape on hot, sunny days.”

Choose Proper Materials for Your Style

“Hardscapes can be relaxed or formal, but the best ones show a well-defined style,” Barbara says. “Think of a two- or three-word phrase that describes your vision and stick with it. An intimate courtyard, for example, has little in common with a Grecian garden when it comes to style.”

After selecting your style, choose a few materials that complement your home’s interior and exterior. You don’t want to have to look at a hardscape with all one color or material, Samuel says.

“The idea is to find two or three materials that are visually creative and coordinate not just with each other but with the interior and exterior of the house,” says Susan.

Textural variety is important, too, Barbara says. “In most hardscapes, it’s OK to have two textures going, for example flagstone underfoot and landscape blocks for low walls, but more than two textures tends to look messy. If a wood deck is part of the picture, try to stick with a single type of stone or brick for your hardscape,” she adds.

Call In the Experts

Hire a designer or landscape consultant who knows your style. If you do opt for a hired designer or contractor, get recommendations and check portfolios and references, says Samuel.

Samuel insists that anyone embarking on a project that involves a structural wall or a hill with stability issues first contact — or have their builder contact — a geotechnical engineer to discuss the implications.

“They can prevent really serious damage, or you get the best case scenario, which is when they come out and say, ‘I don’t see an issue.'”

Buy More Than You Need

“Whether you’re working with brick, stone or another material, buy a little more than you need for the project,” Barbara says. “Later on, you can use the extra materials to accent pretty beds with temporary edgings, or to add steppingstones or landings, knowing these little features will match the dominant hardscape.”

“It’s rarely a cost-effective strategy just to purchase the least expensive materials or services for a hardscape design — too often you get what you pay for,” says Sabrena. “There are a lot of considerations besides price, including how long a material will last and whether it will suit the architecture of your site. It makes more sense to economize by scaling back a project or the number of design elements, with the help of a cost-conscious professional, then to always buy the least expensive materials.”

Properly Prepare the Site

“The most common mistake I see people make is putting in a hardscape element without preparing the site appropriately, which is a sure formula for future failure,” says Susan. “If you don’t put the correct amount of base material down, or compact it well enough, you risk having a wall sink or settle or a patio settle and heave in frost.”

Not everyone needs the 4-foot frost footing that’s required to withstand Wisconsin winters, but you can determine the specifications in your area by talking to an inspector at your local building authority or contacting the American Landscape and Nursery Association (ALNA) or your state landscaping association.

Samuel says, “People who aren’t skilled tradespeople think, ‘If I can’t see it, it’s not worth spending the money,’ but a level surface to build on and the proper depth for the freeze line are everything in hardscaping. If you don’t have them, five years out, your project will be breaking up.”

(original post)

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Getting Started with Sustainable Landscaping: Tips from the Field

Sustainability in landscape has many different meanings. Some define a sustainable landscape as a discipline that emphasizes plant health, soil condition, water quality, and resource conservation. To be sustainable does not mean the elimination of fertilizers, synthetic compounds, petroleum based products and gas powered equipment. Rather, sustainability means the creation of outdoor spaces that utilize the three R’s, ‘reduce, recycle, reuse’. A sustainable landscape creates a balanced relationship between the natural and manmade environment.

The Approach

Each year millions are spent on designing, building, and maintaining landscapes that use too many unsustainable resources. This is wasteful and depletes our water, contaminates the soil and water table, and pollutes the air from the use of gas-powered equipment. These problems can be avoided or reduced by practicing sustainable landscape design and construction. Using sustainable practices will reduce greenhouse gasses by conserving resources, energy and minimizing fertilizer and pesticide use. A sustainable landscape will also reduce labor costs, making it less expensive overall to implement and maintain.

Gary’s Sustainable Landscaping Guidelines

1. [For new planting areas] add 6″ of compost to the soil and use a rototiller to incorporate the compost into the top 4″.

2. Mulch and top dress with 3″ of compost.

3. Design low volume irrigation by installing low volume nozzles and subsurface drip system to reduce water use and increase soil moisture. Install an Evapo-Transpiration (ET) controller to reduce over watering. ET controllers use weather data to calculate ET.

4. Install drainage systems to eliminate storm water contamination and add rainwater harvest systems to reclaim run off and collect rainfall. This can be then pumped or gravity feed to the irrigation system.

5. Construct retaining walls, block or vegetative to prevent run off and erosion. Segmented retaining walls are a good way to prevent run off and erosion and allow for drainage behind them. They are engineered and can be built to over 4’. This wall system can keep soil and debris out of the storm water systems.

6. Plant lawn on level ground to prevent run off and conserve water. Always encourage clients to plant turf on the level (see #7)

7. Reduce amount of lawn and instead use ground cover plants or synthetic turf.

8. Practice prudent use of synthetic fertilizers and pest controls. Use Mechanical and natural methods as part of an integrated program. There are polymers on the market that will aerate the soil and combine with a liquid compost product to get great results.

9. Remember use products and materials that are part of Reuse, Reduce, Recycle practices.

(original post by the Ecological Landscaping Association)

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A Look Back at Long Island Modernism

There was a time in the not too distant past when architects brought their vision, talent and enthusiasm to the East End to build dream homes for young families. These homes were unlike the shingled monstrosities which litter the landscape today and are surrounded by the giant hedges and other non-native plantings that conspire to block the open views.

Rather this was the architecture of Long Island Modernism. Popular more than half a century ago, the hey day for the style was the period after World War II when the possibilities of American ingenuity were realized in the former farm fields and defunct estates of rural Long Island. Shopping malls, hospital complexes, homes and corporate headquarters were all built in this new style throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties as the population fled east from New York City for the dream of suburbia.

Though locally, the most familiar of the modern houses came to be known as the “white boxes of Sagaponack” (in later years, derisively so), today, those that remain serve as a poignant reminder of what has been lost.

To that end, author Caroline Rob Zaleski has just published “Long Island Modernism: 1930 – 1980,” a new book by W.W. Norton & Company detailing the history of the movement through a series of essays about the important architects and designers who shaped it, as well as documentation of the modern structures built throughout the island.

“There was a period in the ‘50s when they were very much the way most people wanted to build on the East End,” says Zaleski. “By the late ‘70s, the white box Modernism had become completely reviled.”

Which, Zaleski notes, is a shame since these homes were way ahead of their time. They embraced a pared down minimalism and an ecologically-sensitive carbon footprint long before anyone knew what that term meant. For the families who lived in these homes, the stark design, low maintenance systems, natural landscaping and simple furnishings kept the focus on the beauty of the area and gave residents time to enjoy it.

“Now looking back, I see it was a wonderful time,” says Zaleski. “Minimal means low budget, simple beach houses. It was all about living in nature and taking in nature. Before the nurseries took over, you used to be able to see the ocean. But the McMansion of today is the new ‘norm.’”

“What amazed me during my research was how rampant Modernism was as a style and as a way of life,” she says. “It’s just horrifying in a time of global climate change where life on earth is threatened that Modernism as an experiment failed. Almost all buildings erected today are dependent on electricity and an enormous amount of wasted energy is going into maintaining them as well as trucking building materials and non-indigenous plants into the region.”

Zaleski’s book is based on a survey of modern architecture which she conducted for SPLIA (Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities). The book contains essays on the 25 most important architects and designers from the movement — from German Bauhaus furniture designer Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe to Philip Johnson, I.M. Pei and even Frank Lloyd Wright. While the book doesn’t focus specifically on East End homes, several are featured in the essays, including those built by Gordon Chadwick with George Nelson, Hamilton P. Smith, Antonin Raymond and Richard Meier, among others.

“SPLIA, which is based in Cold Spring Harbor, asked me to conduct a field survey in quest of important modern architecture on Long Island as well as the narrative of the individuals, the clients and architects who were modern minded,” says Zaleski in explaining how the book came about. “It has a preservation purpose which is to provide an enduring record of the island’s architectural history during this modern epoch. I stop at 1980, because by then, post-modernism has completely taken hold among clients and architects and Modernism becomes reviled.”

While it really hit its stride on Long Island in the post-war 1950s and ‘60s, the New York World’s Fair of 1939 really paved the way for the notion of Modernism as an uniquely American style of architecture — literally.

“The fair was billed as ‘The World of Tomorrow,’” explains Zaleski. “The movers and the shakers who put it together, including Robert Moses, promulgated the idea of a regional plan where New York would be the center and people would move out of the city and be interconnected through the system of highways and bridges which Moses had designed.”

Among the images in Zaleski’s book is a 1940 map of Long Island from a brochure which was handed out to fair-goers at the New York Pavilion.

“You could see by 1940, the bridges, tunnels and roadways were already in place, but Nassau and Suffolk was still vast areas of farmland and open land owned by great estate owners,” she says. “This vision was put on hold because of the war. Postwar is really when it was built out.”

Fatigue from two world wars was one reason, says Zaleski, why in the 1950s Americans were ready to turn their back on old world design and embrace the new modern style, whether it was in corporate buildings or private homes.

“American Modernism became a kind of blend of these ideas that had to do with American ingenuity and being at the forefront of industry and scientific invention worldwide,” explains Zaleski. “It was a melding of modern styles like those that had been developed at the Bauhaus School or as part of the work of great French architect and theorist Le Corbusier.”

“In modernism people saw a style that would express the machine age,” she adds.

And on Long Island, architects and designers found new highways and plenty of open space to explore that style.

“Long Island was the perfect testing ground for modern architecture and modern minded clients,” explains Zaleski. “The regional plans were in place so people could easily drive out from Manhattan when it was less populated. It was the golden age when estates and farmland was breaking up and being subdivided.”

In those days, Zaleski notes even someone with a small budget could engage an architect to build a second home or primary residence in the vast open space of Long Island.

And build homes they did — along with all sorts of other buildings, 500 of which are on Zaleski’s “Inventory of Architects and Their Long Island Projects,” the master list in her book of Long Island Modernism.

“I spent several years doing the field survey,” she says. “I followed leads from journal articles to see if buildings I had read and heard about were still there. I spent a lot of time going back and forth.”

In the end, Zaleski found that only about 35 percent of the buildings in her survey still existed in original condition.

“It was heartbreaking and often I’d come to a building that had been destroyed or dramatically altered, with an interior renovation that had wiped out the original,” she notes. “But the list is proof positive that important architecture was built on Long Island during this epoch.

And while the results of Zaleski’s hard work is “Long Island Modernism” a beautifully designed book with striking architectural images that would do justice to any coffee table it graces, Zaleski hopes it will serve a higher purpose by calling attention to the importance of an architectural movement which has largely been dismissed in the past three decades.

“SPLIA wanted an enduring record of what had been built, but a book can also be a preservation tool,” says Zaleski who notes that another SPLIA book on Long Island’s great estates can be found most real estate offices and is frequently referred to by town boards. “For the modern period, this is a record and I’m hoping after seeing this book, those involved with protecting important architecture on Long Island will understand the modern period is as important as any other.”

With many historical societies and village boards focused so closely on preserving “ye olde,” as Zaleski describes it, she cautions that valuable resources from later eras can be easily lost.

“When you study preservation, a great deal comes from recognizing the significance of buildings and putting together lists of them,” she adds. “I think it would be wonderful if every village on Long Island could get together and list their modern resources, and start to get them recognized.”

After all, as Zaleski and preservationists everywhere are quick to point out, “The most endangered past is the recent past.”

(original post)

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Design a Stroll Garden

If you have enough space, a stroll garden can be a rewarding replacement for much or all of your lawn. It will introduce secret delights and their anticipation, promote contemplation, and draw you and your visitors out among the plants.

The Physical Journey

In her motivational book The Inward Garden, landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy writes:

The single most useful image that I know for composing the elements of a landscape into a coherent and interesting whole is the journey.”

Messervy studied the art of garden design in Japan, where the stroll garden is a well-known form. Its key requirement is space—not to produce sufficient exercise, but rather to give ample stimulation for the stroller’s mind.

A stroll garden can take several forms:

  • a path to a destination, excellent for a long skinny yard
  • a loop past a series of destinations, for a wider space
  • a network of loops and branches

The Anticipation

Suspense and discovery are key moods in a stroll garden, which should not be entirely visible from any point but should hold hidden elements to be discovered around bends, over rises, in the shadows, and behind bushes. This allows the stroller to experience the garden as a series of events, not just a static view–to participate and not simply observe. Alvin Horton explains in Creating Japanese Gardens:

The idea of anticipating and then discovering beauty, detail by detail, is central to the stroll-style garden. Such beauty is often subtle, so its discovery requires a pleasant effort by the stroller.”

The Discovery

What the stroller will discover are your garden’s focal points. Anything sufficiently interesting can be a focal point: a sculpture, a dramatic plant, a group of plants, a section of the garden, or a view of a distant scene. As the garden’s designer, it will be your job to create these focal points.

Instead of trying to fit many focal points into a smaller garden, you can build it around one major element, having that come into and out of view from several well-chosen vantage points along the path. This change of perspective, seeing something from a new side or within a new context, can generate sufficient surprise and mystery to reward strollers.

To capture a viewer’s full attention, allow only one focal point to be visible at a time. Obscure the view until you are ready to reveal it. You can do this with tall plants or a section of fencing, by causing the path to go up or down a hill, or by curving the path.

Curves give the added benefit of making your garden seem larger. The trick is that, to discourage short cuts and make the path feel natural, every curve must have a clear purpose, either turning toward a goal (a bench, a statue, a gate) or curving around an obstacle (a boulder, a shrub, a clump of grass).

The Mind Journey

Messervy suggests that when people view your garden, they “unconsciously take a journey through it in their minds.” To invite meditation, include a comfortable seat or a sturdy surface from which to view each focal point. The vantage point should feel safe; you can achieve this by having walls (of living material or hardscape) at its back and sides to “enfold” the viewer, relaxing the body and releasing the mind to wander.

Unplanned focal points can appear in your garden. A flock of cedar waxwings descends on your highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) and strips it of berries. A rabbit or frog leaps across the path. Dew touches the giant web of a skilled spider. These chance events make strollers more alert and add to their sense of discovery.

The Road Traveled

Your choice and placement of path materials will significantly affect a stroller’s experience.

With stepping stones, you can influence the speed with which strollers progress and the attention they pay to their feet, and therefore indirectly the attention that remains to give their surroundings. Small stones with rough surfaces set farther apart will keep people’s eyes on the path. Place larger stones where you want them to pause, look up, and appreciate the view.

Wide, clear paths foster a slow pace and constant observation of the garden, while narrow or overgrown paths increase the stroller’s speed. Widen your path at viewing areas to allow strollers to notice your focal point.

Changing your path material can signal a change in the mood or character of the garden. In fact, if you do change your path significantly and the garden doesn’t follow through on the promise, your visitors may be subtly disappointed.

One well-designed urban park in Saint Paul, Minnesota, includes two paths that deliver contrasting experiences. Around the edges of the park, the country path of crushed gravel meanders under trees footed by wildflowers, then crosses a brook on stepping stones. The city path, wider and laid with rows of brick, flows past benches and open paved areas in the park’s center. Using well-chosen path materials, the park offers two distinct journeys within the same city block.

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