Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A gardener's week - #7

The early part of my week was spent in College Station absorbing as much information as I could from my Landscape Design course. This is a four part study course and this week's session was the first of the four, but the parts can be taken in any order.

The course was absolutely packed with information which just made me realize how ignorant I am on the subject. There were lectures on the historical roots of landscape design and on public landscape architecture and design. And there was a highly entertaining and thought-provoking lecture by Dr. David Creech of SFA and Mast Arboretum in Nacogdoches about his work in China. Apparently, the Chinese are very advanced in their horticultural techniques.

But the greater part of the course dealt with planning and designing the private home garden and, of course, that is what I was there for.

Dr. William Welch of Texas A&M, Dr. Neil Odenwald of L.S.U., and Alan King, ASLA, a professional landscape designer in private practice in the Brazos Valley all spoke to us about and showed us examples of home landscape design.

I learned from Dr. Odenwald that certain design principles are basic to the creation of a landscape:

1. Proportion and scale: Proportion refers to the general relationship among parts. Scale refers to size as related to the human figure.
2. Balance: Gives design stability - actual and visual.
3. Dominance: A dominant idea helps create focus and unity in a design.
4. Rhythm: Relates to movement or perceived movement.
5. Contrast: The addition of components that are in opposition to one another adds vitality to a landscape.

In addition, these design elements are the building blocks of our designs:

1. Line: The edge of form. It provides definition and direction to a design.
2. Form: Physical mass. It is three-dimensional while line is two-dimensional.
3. Texture: The surface qualities and relationship among sizes. Texture is comprised of both tactile and visual sensations.
4. Color: Results from how light is either being absorbed or reflected.

Dr. Oldenwald showed us many visual examples of these principles and elements and invited us to visit his website, OnlinePlantGuide.com to see more than 15,000 illustrative images.

Well, as you can imagine, by the end of the course, I was reeling with all the facts and ideas I had tried to absorb, and I headed home to try to apply them all.

Have you ever noticed that regardless of the weather conditions, weeds are going to thrive? I'll bet you have and so have I, but I was again reminded of the fact when I got home. No rain, but the weeds had completely taken over and I had one big mess! So I've spent the rest of the week trying to repair that mess.

I did find one happy surprise when I got home. My fellow blogger, UrsulaAndres, had sent me some white Texas Star hibiscus seed. It's a plant I've been wishing for and now, thanks to Ursula, maybe I'll have some of those lovely white blooms in 2011. Or maybe 2012.

One disappointment I felt as I was pulling weeds this week was that there just don't seem to be as many butterflies in my yard as I'm used to seeing at this time of year. There are a few Gulf Fritillaries around and some of their larvae are munching on my passion vine now and, occasionally, I see a swallowtail of one kind or another. But overall, the population - except for Sulphurs - seems down. Also, I've yet to see a Monarch butterfly in my yard since early summer. If ever they do turn up here, thanks to another blogger friend, Butterhummer, I have plenty of butterfly weed to offer them. I am longing to see those orange and black beauties in my yard once again.

We can now count on the fingers of one hand the number of days until autumn, that favorite season of the year for many of us, begins. Just a month ago, it seemed this time would never arrive.

The Southern magnolia seeds are ripening and changing color. That means that autumn is almost here!

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