Tag Archives: Canada Blooms

Thinking Big

May 21st, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Recently I saw a photo of a giant yellow ducky floating in Hong Kong harbour. Called Spreading Joy Around the World, it’s by the Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. And it is BIG: 54 ft, or 16.5 metres, tall.

The artist said it was intended to make people feel happy. It worked. It made me smile.

It also set me thinking about the impact of size in a landscape.

At Glen Villa, the Big Chair always brings a smile. From a distance, it’s hard to appreciate the scale. But once someone sits in the chair, its giant size becomes apparent.
The Big Chair at Glen Villa

 

The chair was created by NIP Paysage, a firm of young and inventive landscape architects based in Montreal. I first saw the chair at Canada Blooms, in an installation designed by the Reford Gardens in Metis, Quebec. As soon as I spotted it, I knew it was the chair I’d been looking for.  Based on the traditional Adirondack chair, the Big Chair is a surefire success. It’s a rare visitor to Clen Villa who doesn’t climb up to have their photo taken. And everyone who does feels like a child again, and smiles.
Oversized objects carry a strong message. They disturb our sense of balance, confuse our impressions of distance and perspective. Small objects can do the same. A smaller-than-normal object set in the distance lengthens a view. Close at hand, something smaller than expected can make us laugh.
This tiger was tucked into a planter on an outdoor mantlepiece at Chanticleer, a very fine public garden near Philadelphia. I love the touch of colour it adds, and how it transforms a group of tiny shade-loving plants into a pint-sized jungle.
A tiger in the jungle, at Chanticleer

Playing with scale and perspective in a garden isn’t a new trick. André Le Noôtre worked his magic in the 1600’s at Vaux-le-Vicomte, south of Paris. At the end of a kilometre-long expanse, he placed a statue of Hercules silhouetted on the horizon. The statue was so large that it made that one kilometre appear much shorter. To add to the trickery, he contoured the land, entirely concealing a canal and the grand staircase and statuary that led to it.

Despite looking fairly close, Hercules is still about half a kilometre away.

Standing on top of that stone wall and looking back towards the chateau, you get an idea of the distance. And you see what previously was hidden from view: an impressive canal.

Looking back towards  the chateau at Vaux-le-Vicomte
The British landscape designer Russell Page liked to play with perspective, narrowing a path as it receded to increase the sense of distance. Other designers have planted trees closer together the farther away they are, or even have planted shorter trees, all to accomplish the same visual trick, to make the distance seem greater than it is.
This photo came with a (probably apocryphal) story about a woman who couldn’t get permission to build a shelter for her horses. Could she put up a table and chairs? No problem, came the response.
Ah, the joys of photoshop!

Confounding expectations adds fun to a garden. The rubber ducky doesn’t even have to be big.

A light-hearted touch in a Montreal garden:
a ducky swimming in a birdbath

 

Evaluating Canada Blooms 2013

March 27th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
Flowers do not a garden make. Nor a garden show. Nonetheless, for me flower arrangements were the highlight of this year’s Canada Blooms. And I am not a flower arranger. Not any good at it, and not interested in becoming any better. But I do like art, and to see amazingly artful compositions made with plant material was a nice treat. Can you imagine the time and effort it took to create this gold ribbon winner? Nancy Wilson's gold ribbon winning painting reflects an amaryllis tucked into the arch behind.

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Is Canada Blooms a garden?

March 21st, 2013 | 2 Comments »
An extra post, from Toronto As I write, I’m on my way to Toronto to visit Canada Blooms, Canada’s largest garden show. I’m speaking tomorrow about using art in a garden and am pleased to be doing this. I set myself a goal when I first started giving talks about gardens and garden design, and that goal was to speak at Canada Blooms. So, as of tomorrow afternoon, I'll check off one item on my (increasingly long) list of things to do. I visited Canada Blooms last year and, quite

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