About our Company

My photo
Landenberg, Pennsylvania, United States
Based in Landenberg, PA PLG offers Landscape Installation and Maintenance to Southern Chester County and Northern Delaware

Friday, February 24, 2012

What is a Sensory Garden?

               Sensory gardens can be designed to serve many functions from teaching, socializing, healing, and therapy.  The best designs can blend all the senses together but the different senses can be focused on in individual areas.  The sensory garden focuses on one of the five senses: sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste.  Designs can be both stimulate and help relax at the same time.  These gardens appeal to people with an impairment of one or more senses. 
Design Considerations:
·        Hardscape:
o   Raise planters to provide access to plants.
o   Think about materials you are using for walls, walkways, and seating
§  Smooth materials such as thermal cut stone, metal, and sanded wood.
§  Rough materials such as tree bark, rough stone, and tumble brick.
o   Signage in a sensory garden is a key feature.
§  Signs of plant characteristics and uses will encourage interaction.
§  If designing for the visually impaired consider Braille signage.
·        Plant Selections
o   As with any planting design choose plants that work well in your zone and the microclimate that the garden is in.
o   Avoiding plants that require a lot of pesticides or chemical upkeep as well as plants that are poisonous or can cause severe allergic reactions.
o   Many plants can provide multiple sensory experiences
§  Tomatoes provide touch with their hair leaves, smell from their foliage, and taste from their fruit.
o   Think about themes in your planting design
§  Design a grouping that are all plants used for medicinal purposes
§  Design a grouping that provides spices in another area of the world
·        Sight
o   Sight is by far the most important sense to the human species and because of this it is the most important in the garden as well.  Play with this sense by providing different colors, textures, movements, form, light, and shadow. 
o   Even people with severe visual impairment can perceive “blobs” of color, light, and shadow.
·        Sound
o   Sound is an important element in the design of a sensory garden.  Sound is a very important if you are visually impaired.  A sensory garden should play on this sense.
o   Plants rustle in the wind, wind chimes ring, birds chirp, include water, and gravel crunches under foot.
·        Smell
o   Smell is a very emotional and associative sense.  We remember smells throughout our lives.
o   Smell is another sense that is good for the visually impaired. 
o   Many edible plants have strong scents.
o   Place fragrant plants next to walkways and seating areas for the biggest effect.
·        Touch
o   Touch is an important sense but needs to be carefully regulated in the sensory garden. 
o   Plants with thorns should be avoided or placed where they cannot be touched.
o   Plants that are going to be handled should be chosen with their robustness in mind.
o   Think about soft flowers, rough tree bark, slick leaves, and sticky sap.
o   A lawn appeals to many senses including touch.  Provide an area for a visitor to lay down and enjoy the touch and the smell of a lawn. 
·        Taste
o   Taste is another sense that a designer need to carefully regulate.  Be careful to not provide plants for tasting that could be poisonous or cause a severe allergic reaction.
o   When planting a garden for tasting be sure to provide enough to ensure everyone has a chance to taste.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to visit our web page at www.lawn-scapes.net.

-Matt Bradley

Friday, February 17, 2012

Longwood Gardens

        In early June my parents and grandma made a trip from Athens, Georgia all the way to West Chester, Pennsylvania to visit my wife and me.  My Grandma was left to my wife and me to entertain while my mother and stepfather went to the Carlyle Car Show.  Knowing my Grandma to be a garden enthusiast that had buckets of plants she was ‘rooting’ and planting beds full of random varieties, we decided to take her to Longwood Gardens.  Now my wife and I had visited Longwood once before when we made the initial trip up here and needless to say I was quite smitten with the gardens.  I was extremely excited to visit again because now I would recognize more species of plants, more of the native stone, and I could draw on this trip for inspiration for upcoming projects.  So on an uneventful Wednesday morning we picked up my Grandma from the hotel and preceded to Longwood.  Granny was so excited that she talked our ear off the entire 30 minute ride from West Chester.  She had apparently done her research, she knew that Longwood was a Du Pont mansion and had over 1,000 acres of gardens. 
        We arrived, paid the entrance fee, and got Granny set up with an electric scooter.  We then immediately started exploring.  The first thing that caught my eye was the light green color and fine texture of the deciduous Dawn Redwoods against the stone work of this building.        

    The light green of the needles is really set off by the brown tones of the stone work and window casements.  When the Dawn Redwood starts to show its fall colors (a really bright orangey-red) these colors will still work!  Once I stopped and took pictures of this our General (Granny) continued our forced march deeper into the gardens.  The perennial and annual plantings along the entry allee really caught my eye and once again I begged to stop.

I really appreciate the eye for detail in these plantings.  When they were laid out the installers really took the time to insure the spacing was correct and it shows.

I love these Pink Spider Plant blooms combined with the foliage of the Coleus.
The allee' terminates with this simple but beautifully finished fountain.

This drainage grate is another detail around the fountain that really caught my eye.
        Once I had exhausted my significant other by pointing out all of the details and plantings I liked along the entry allee, we started to explore all the ‘outdoor rooms’ off of the allee.  We started by exploring this space because of its interesting form and mixed paving materials.
The mix of classic red brick and full color flagstone really influenced my design work this past summer.
We walked down the first flight of stairs and I noticed the classic stone work and cast iron handrail.
The next level down Sarah and I found this square fountain surrounded by intricate annual plantings, really showing off the thought and labor that this type of design work and installation requires

Turning around in this space we found even more to look at.  I love this planter fountain and the lush plantings in simple clay pots around it.

Our exploration of this space completed we continued on.  Cresting the top of the final set of stairs we realized we had lost Granny!  We quickly set off to find her though we were sure she was old enough to take care of herself, besides; we had a lot to look at and take in!  The next space that really caught my eye was this sunny sitting area that took advantage of the inherent structure of Boxwood, Celosia, and Ornamental Grasses.  I especially loved the simple, straight, concrete stairs creating a nice level change.
Paving for a patio or walkway can be as simple as compacting some stone dust.

The concrete stairs and stone retaining wall are set off with boxwoods and a potter plant.
        When we finally found Granny she had found her way to what Longwood refers to as the “Large Lake.”  She was sitting and looking at the interesting structure that allows a view to the other end.  I found the carving and the cast iron work to be very interesting.  Looking at the ground, I realized how important this type of interplay between light and shadow is in a garden.  This inspired me to think about these elements more when designing!

Looking up through the cast iron dome.

The shadow of the dome on the ground.
View of the large lake.

After marveling at how big the carp in the lake were we all turned our attention to the Italian Water Garden.  While you are not allowed into the space, the elevated vantage point affords good views.  The fountains pulse giving a sense of expectation and energy to the space that is palatable. 
This space is rooted in the classic Italian Renaissance Garden Style.  The formality of the forms, the allee of trees, and the proportionality really draws the eye!  This would be a great space for sunbathing!  Another interesting feature of this space is the waterfall steps.

This looks like a great place to cool your heels!
        The next place we stopped was the ‘Lookout Loft’  and I must say that this was the most exciting and inspiring structure at Longwood Gardens (in my opinion)!  The attention to detail in this structure is just mind blowing.  From the hand brazed copper, to the copper balusters, and the twigs/branches composing the roof.  The coolest thing about this structure is the innovative ways devised to experience the garden.  The one I thought was the coolest was the ‘listening device.’  This device amplified the sounds coming from the immediate area and piped them directly into your ear.   
Branches composing the roof lend an airy feel to the structure.

Part of the listening device.

This is an example of making art functional.  What a great detail!

Bell of the listening device.

Copper balustrades with very intricate detailing.

        As you can tell I was quite enamored with this structure.  I cannot wait to revisit it to take more pictures of this amazing piece of art!  The next stop was the Longwood Garden Conservatory.  This one amazing glass structure could be a day’s worth of exploring on its own!  With an amazing array of tropical plants, fountains, and indoor landscaping was mind numbing. 
View of the conservatory

Main Entrance

        Directly across from the Conservatory is the Main Fountain Garden.  This space is pretty self explanatory and amazing!  Hang out in the provided chairs and on the benches and just take it all in.
The Main Fountain Garden

The perfect sitting area

Fenced garden area.

The bluestone and the brick work very well together.  The Adirondack Chairs are begging to be used!
I really like this planting detail.  Mixture of boxwood and red leaved barberries.
        The next stop was the Chimes Tower; and what an amazing structure it is!  This tower overlooks a nice pond that originates at the Eye of Water.  This is definitely one of my favorite things to photograph at Longwood.

Chimes Tower from below.
Chimes Tower with the Conservatory peeking from behing.

        By this time Sarah and I were exhausted from chasing Granny around on her electrified scooter.  We all made an agreement that we would make our exit from this amazing green and lush wonderland.  The drive home was filled with talk of the labor and work that must go into maintaining the plantings at that level.  It has now been almost six months since my family has visited and every time I speak to Granny she tells me how much she enjoyed the trip to Longwood.  Well Granny, I enjoyed it as much as you did! 

Housed in the conservatory is the amazing organ and dance hall.  The ceiling in this room is absolutely amazing.
Look at the rose colored glass! Amazing!

Intricate parquet floor of the dance hall.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to visit our web page at www.lawn-scapes.net.

-Matt Bradley

Friday, February 10, 2012

A simpler Time.....

Ever wish you could step back in time?  Find a place where all the hassles of the modern world melt away?  Well I have found that location.  Now I do not want to give the exact location where this magical retreat is but, I will tell you about it!

A shot of the stone chimney and naturalistic landscaping.
               My wife’s family has a lake house in Great North Woods of Wisconsin that her Great Grandfather built during The Great Depression.  He needed a way to keep his factory workers busy so he would not have to lay them off.  If you have ever seen “The Great Outdoors” with John Candy and Dan Akroyd then you have a great picture of the surrounding landscape.  Once a year Sarah and I like to escape for a week or two to decompress, mountain bike, water ski, and drink the amazing Wisconsin beer. 

View of the dock and "Echo Cove"
               The lake house and the crystal clear lake it is on serves as an inspiration to me every time I visit.  We have no television, internet (wireless included), and out cell phones barley receive service!  We really can relax, listen to the sounds of the lake, and have good conversations with our family.  I always come back ready to work and with plenty of photographic inspiration for my design work.  Since the family owns it, we have the responsibility of keeping it up.  I love working on the cabin, the boathouse and in the surrounding yard/woods.  To keep the upkeep to a minimum the landscaping is very naturalistic and composed of flora native to the North Woods.  Species include Black Pine, White Birch, and several varieties of native grasses.  The main focus is on removing small trees (when they grow in nuisance areas), ensuring that the crushed red stone walks are compacted, and the paths are swept clean.  Unfortunately, any chores must be completed before we can go skiing, kayaking, or for a bike ride!

View to the Boat House showing the natural landscaping and walkways.
 The idea of a wooded landscape composed of native flora and fauna really inspires me.  In spite of my chosen profession, I really do not enjoy yard work all that much!  With an eye for design and function I would love to see more landscaping like this in Pennsylvania.  How much lawn do you really need?  Enough to lounge, through the football, or run the dog; with careful planning all of these uses can be accommodated without requiring a Saturday spent on the mower.  Color within a naturalistic landscape can be provided with native azaleas, dogwoods, and other shade tolerant understory plants. 
Mixture of native grasses and ferns.
   Once you move beyond the landscape surrounding the cabin and start exploring the wondrous natural expanse of the forest beyond it you find many interesting things.  One of my morning rituals is to take either the kayak or the canoe out and paddle around our cove.  There are two islands and several swampy areas to explore.  The first is named ‘Bud’s Island’ after the man who built the primitive cabin that is on it.  As you can see from the pictures nature is slowly reclaiming all of his hard work.

Cabin being slowly reclaimed by nature.
I really love the aesthetic created by the cabin, pine straw, and the birch trees; it is just so picture perfect.  While exploring we were extremely careful to not disturb ANYTHING!  We want to preserve this for future generations to explore and enjoy.

Close up of the cabin.
  Once done photographing the cabin and exploring the island, I moved on to exploring the swamps.  The flora is amazing, encompassing all manner of flowering water plants and lily pads.  Lily pads bloom in two colors on our lake, white and yellow.  The white blooms are becoming more and rarer as they are out competed by the yellow.  One sad sign of the times is the appearance of the Eurasian Milfoil  in the lake.  The Milfoil is an invasive exotic that is quickly out competing the native plant species in the lake.  It is quite the nuisance and pretty disgusting when it attaches itself to your leg when swimming.  The local forestry office has come up with a pretty interesting way to control this pest.  Their method consists of a pontoon boat, two divers, and what is basically a vacuum.  One diver goes down and uses the suction hose to harvest patches of Milfoil while the other stays up top.  This seems to be working quite well, though every time a boat drives through a patch the prop cuts any Milfoil present to pieces and disperses little pieces to reproduce asexually.  We do our part by taking out the kayaks and raking the dock and beach areas clear of floating pieces

Lily pads in the swamp.
Rare white blooming lily pad.

These plants bloom a beautiful purple spike.
Mini Trees!

Greetings from a simpler time!

Interesting facets of daily life in Wisconsin’s North Woods are the so called ‘Supper Clubs.’  These are mostly family run restaurants that are run out of lodges or old homes.  Our personal favorite is Norwood Pines.  The lodge it is run out of is absolutely beautiful and the ice-cream drinks are to die for; by far the best food in the area.

Norwood Pines Supper Club
  Many of the homes in the area are marked with amazing stone work, be it chimneys or walls, our cabin included.  The craftsmanship inherent to this kind of work is on display every place you visit. 

Fireplace in the boathouse.
Stone retaining wall.

I love our cabin for its obvious age and the antiques that still work perfectly (or not so perfectly).  These antiques lend a feel of a time gone by to the cabin and I would never update any of these items for the sake of modernism.

I love the illustration but I don't know if I would trust this in a fire.
Vintage door closer.
View of the boathouse and our dog, Sam.

I hope all you readers are enjoying these blogs about what inspires me and you have thought of a place that inspires you as well.  Writing these help me recapture some of the thoughts and ideas that I had when I was experiencing them and by writing are refreshing them in my memory! If you have any questions please do not hesitate to visit our web page at www.lawn-scapes.net.

-Matt Bradley