Monday, September 29, 2014

Kew Gardens (Andi Plants in Wonderland)

Bonjoir from Paris! Saturday I had the pleasure of visiting Kew Gardens in London- one of the world's most famous botanic gardens. Rather than do a write up of this wondrous place I'm inviting you along a visual journey. Click the link to go down the rabbit hole. Their current seasonal exhibit is a fun look at the world of toxic and intoxicating plants. I managed to snag photos of the informational plaques which you can zoom in on for great brain candy. I already can't wait to go back again... Perhaps after the conservatory renovation is complete. That's it for now!  

 Kew photo album

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Traveling Plants: Chelsea Physic Garden, London

Greetings! Andrea Doonan horticulture + design is out of the office for a couple weeks and I'm taking to the road for a sampler of London, Paris and a large bite out of both Spain and Morocco. Along my adventure I hope to share tales of botanic and design discoveries with you.

So here I am, in the heart of London- and in the land of Royal Parks, lies the Chelsea Physic Garden, an unassuming, far less grandiose hidden gem than its towering neighbors. London's oldest botanic garden, it was founded in 1673 by the "Worshipful Society of Apothecaries" for apprentices as a teaching garden, designed to allow apprentices a structured environment in which they could learn to identify and study important medicinal plants.

It became one of the most important centers of botany and plant exchange in the world. If that wasn't cool enough- they managed to create microclimates by combining the location of the garden near the river and creating high walls. This enabled them to grow and study plants that otherwise could never grow in London, including the largest outdoor fruiting olive in all of Britain. The Chelsea Physic Garden has developed a major role in public education focusing on the renewed interest in natural medicine. The Garden of World Medicine which is Britain’s first garden of ethnobotany (or the study of the botany of different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples) is laid out together with a new Pharmaceutical Garden.

It's a great teaching tool for novices and amateurs alike to learn the many uses of common plants... From the common willow (asprin) to less common treatments for opthamalogy, gynecology, arthritis, you name it. Including a kind of artemesia that's been funded by the Gates foundation to grow over the world in treating malaria. Such a joy to see all walks from herds of school kids to the elderly strolling about these grounds. 

Some mobile uploads below for you. I'll plan to add captions once I return to a real computer. More info check out Cheers!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why a drought is the best time to plant a new garden

September 30th marks the end of 2014's water year which was the 4th driest on record. I was having a discussion with a colleague who was expressing issues about not wanting to encourage new garden installations during drought because: even drought tolerant plants take water to establish. I have had one of the busiest seasons this year partially because of the drought and I encourage people to take action during this time. It may seem counter-intuitive, but here are my reasons why a drought is the BEST time to plant a new water-wise garden:

Times of Crisis are Catalysts for Big Shifts and new ways of thinking. Yes- it would be the most conservative route to just let the lawn go brown and do nothing, but if people let their lawn go dormant and take NO action, there's always the chance we have a huge El Nino year- drought restrictions are pulled, and people just go back to watering the lawn because it's "cheap" and "easy" (in the short run). Take the drought as an opportunity to really evaluate our consumption, our waste, the environment in which we live and how to co-exist with it and give back rather than fight it. How about using outdoor showers in the summer that water our fruit trees? Laundry to landscape? Re-working the earth to slow it, spread it, sink it; re-working our brains to reduce, reuse. As an opportunity to create new habits and new shifts as a society.

Economical Incentive: In California, there are numerous rebates available from water districts. Lawn removal rebates, conversion from spray to drip... as well as all sorts of free and discounted resources such as rain barrels, greywater workshops, on top of countless interior home rebates to reduce water consumption and raise awareness. In Santa Cruz, there are water use restrictions per person/ per household and people are getting taxed for going over their water allotment. Taking out the lawn and converting to drip reduces the water use DRASTICALLY.

I have a client that took out her lawn, replaced with a lovely front yard garden this Spring (she also took advantage of other water rebates for her home)- this summer, the water district came by to make sure her water meter was working because they couldn't believe it went down so much! For the record, all of my clients who installed new gardens this year remained BELOW their allowed water use... and in the long run, once plants take full root and establish, the water usage will only decrease.

Environmental Incentive: We all know the benefits of tearing out a lawn or water hungry landscape. We can have natives and pollinator attractants, a garden that requires little to no water when established. We can get rid of the noise and air polluting lawn mower and stop pouring fertilizer on our lawns and water on them, which then runoff into the storm drains and raise the nitrogen levels in our ocean waters. We have the opportunity to support the birds, bees, and create a habitat for all of our friends that keep the world going round.

Quality of Life and Space: Changing our surroundings to reflect our needs and aesthetics gets USE out of an otherwise flat water/energy sink. We can plant vegetables, herbs or fruit trees to bring back in the home- which not only is great for the soul, but also for the family/community- as food brings people together. If we have a beautiful garden with flowering sages and lavenders and hummingbirds chirping around- coming and going from the home is a pleasant experience- for the nose the eyes and the ears. Re-imagining our spaces might also include creating a new seating area that was otherwise unused- a new recreating area, vantage point or retreat zone. So you see designing and planting a new garden is really reclaiming your space- and why would you wait until later for that?

In regards to edible gardening, here's a great article on drought gardening: