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Episode 4 – Alot Of Heart In San Francisco

by germinatrix | April 26th, 2010


I went to the San Francisco Garden Show this past March – and what an extravaganza (my favorite word, yes – but it is really applicable here!) it was! William my formidable Video Minion and I drove up to SF from LA and had a great time looking at gardens and meeting people – the resulting video is an ode to the wonderful garden bloggers and tweeters we met there. I hadn’t met ANY of them before, and when I saw the video I was amazed to see that we greeted each other like long-lost old friends – because, in fact, we kind of are. We’ve been admiring each other’s work, reading each other’s thoughts about landscaping and life, and having riotous fun tweeting away afternoons filled with gardening double entendres. I adore them!

William, my awesome video minion!

Laura Livengood Schaub (our fearless leader), Rebecca Sweet, Jayme Jenkins, Debra Lee Baldwin, Christina Salwitz, Susan Morrison (who eluded my camera somehow, but she WAS there and I HUGGED her!), Laura Mathews, Shirley Bovshow,  Alice Joyce, Adriana Martinez, Fern Richardson, Katie Elzer-Peters, Miriam Goldberger, Billy Goodnick, Judy Maier, Elayne Takemoto, Jenni Nybro Peterson – this is for all of you who have created a vibrant community I am SO proud to be a part of!

apologies for crappy photo quality! the succulent version of the borg cube...

And a special shout out to Rich Radford who Lifted the Armadillo – DROOL!

Now about the video – I am snarky. I know. But I wanted to make it clear that there was a garden I liked VERY much, and a garden I REALLY couldn’t get on board with.

While I had alot of fun saying “Post-Apocalyptic” over and over and OVER, and made a little fun of the golden armadillo – I really enjoyed Rich Radford’s meditation on what would happen to gardens left alone – “Re-Generation”. (OKAY everybody who was there KNOWS he’s a FOX and I must have “interviewed” him seven times, but that had absolutely NOTHING to do with my discerning garden eye for good garden work!) While I could have done without the metal animals, I loved the corten steel lean-to adorned with rusty chains and a fabulous roof ‘hair-do’ of fescue , as well as the wonderfully textural planting that showed a restrained hand as well as a love of texture. Of all the gardens I saw, THIS was the one I could see in a real home. The hardscape was simple and chic, and it was a garden a homeowner could actually LIVE in rather than WORK in.

this subtle 'living wall' was a part of Rich Radford's "Re-Generation"

Now, I know that show gardens are fantasies – I’ve done a few, and I LOVE how theatrical they are. I like that designers reach, explore, and inspire – but too many are tricked out to the point of kitsch. (And to that Amanda Thompson of Kiss My Aster would say “Give it to me!” ).  I think that even when pushing our boundaries, we still should adhere to certain principles of good design. We should show people that good work ISN’T about shoving everything you like into one space and calling it “GREAT!”.  Alot of our work is wise editing. I’ve had to talk people OUT of more stuff than I’ve talked them into! Please don’t make my job harder, show designer all hopped up on possibilities! But if you MUST, then knock yourself out. This is just my taste, my opinion.

"Re-Generation" - a garden abandoned. thoughtful, with great simple design elements. And dead leaves!

I was EXTRA snarky about a garden that might surprise some people, because it was an “art” garden, and most know that I’m fairly passionate about art, that my husband is an art critic, and that I’ve worked with several artists in my design practice. But I have a very uneasy relationship to “art” when used in a garden setting. This is too big a topic to get into here – I’m going to have to address this in a separate blog post. Suffice it to say that I felt that Keeyla Meadow’s garden REALLY needed a big dose of restraint. I loved the plants – WHO WOULDN’T – but they were deployed in a very patchy way; creating a sense of mass and repetition would have helped tremedously. But I could’ve dealt with the way the plants were used if the hardscape didn’t add an extra level of frenetic activity – in the end, there was no place for the eye to rest and make sense of the space. Her thing is color – and J’ADORE color – but using EVERY color in one small space in the planting AND in the hardscape AND in extra ornamental features (I can’t use the word “art”) just creates way TOO MUCH for this designer to get behind. Sorry!  I know LOTS of people loved this garden – it won the silver medal- but I do think it could have used an editing eye. Not all “art” is automatically good. Nor is it automatically “art”.  Hence the term “extra ornamental features”. I’ve seen images of Keelya meadow’s other work, and I really like some of it – but I have to be honest. For me, this was a big miss.

Exuberance – YES!!! But we have to add some restraint to our impulses, we have to craft it and work it – THAT is the “art” in what we do, in my opinion.

this courtyard garden inspired by New Orleans was a big hit - I wish I had better pictures! Great use of plants...

I had the BEST time at this show – I learn so much by looking carefully at what others do, and everyone who participated really gave it to us with alot of heart. The biggest heart has to be the one beating in the chest of Laura Livengood Schaub. Because of her, this show became a mecca for the west coast blog brigade (and even some from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and even CANADA!). She is a force to be reckoned with, and is totally a Rock Star.

The video is dedicated to her …

XOXO The Germinatrix

7 Responses to “Episode 4 – Alot Of Heart In San Francisco”

  1. Looks like a whole lotta fun.
    Sorry to have missed meeting you while you were at the show.
    Your cameraman did a wonderful job and I enjoyed your commentary.
    And I’m in agreement over the K.Meadows garden. Not only was it a ‘miss’ as you stated but I thought it was also a mess.
    It was in the same category as the Floral Barf Up exhibit.
    Loved Organic Mechanics piece as well as the New Orleans Jazz Garden.
    Luke warm on the Post-Apocalyptic garden.

    Thanks for the re-visit.
    Michelle in Marin

  2. West Coast Blog Brigade, sounds like another one of my fictitious punk bands. I love it!

    Great video Ivette! Poor William, always referred to as minion. HA!

  3. Thank you for doing this…it was wonderful to see a bit of the show, especially through your eyes. I couldn’t agree more about art and the garden. Sometimes I feel that I am the only one who thinks that way! The popular opinion seems to be the more art you can cram in there the better…but what about the plants!? Aren’t they already enough?

    And you really weren’t that snarky…I read the post before watching the video and I was a little let down. I wanted MORE snarkiness!!!

  4. Michelle I WISH I could’ve met you, but I have no doubt you and I are destined for a meet-up in the near future…
    Thanks for the props to William! He is great – I’m so lucky to have him on my team! He’s a video/installation/multi-media artist and is going to get his Master’s at UCLA this fall … a REALLY hard program to get into. His sensibility with video is such a great match for what I like to do in gardens. I love that you recognize that!
    Yeah, the K. Meadows garden was rife with issues that I strive to help people to overcome, which is why I felt it had to be called out on some level. You work with art in gardens, and do it in a very focused, balanced way. It’s a complicated thing to take on – I’m excited to write more about the subject in the future.
    Floral Barf Up! HAhahahaha!!! YES. Agreed!
    I would have added a little more complexity to the planting of the Post Apocalyptic garden, but as an idea, I was on board. And of course – the Organic Mechanics Cube was just out of this world.
    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Michelle – always so great to dialog with you!

    Adriana! OF COURSE you’d also have a running list of band names! We have to compare ours one day … One of my favorite lectures at art school was when Jello Biafra gave a talk, and he ended with a huge list of band names that fans had sent him. Hilarious!
    I’m glad you like the video! I love William’s role in it – the camera man shaking everyone’s hand and being referred to as “Minion”! He thought it was so funny. When he interviewed to work with me, I told him that one of the peculiarities about the job was that he would be called “Minion” online by me, but I never expected it to catch on with the Blog Brigade! HAHAHAhaha!
    Hey- I’ll see you this Friday!XOXO!

    Loree my dear! We are such brain twins, of course we’d think the same way about art in gardens – especially when you consider the kinds of plants we love, which ARE sculpture! Who needs art when you have AGAVES? I love simple hardscaping and dramatic plantings … any “art” has to be SUPER purposeful and clean, IMO.
    Yeah, I didn’t think I was THAT snarky, but Jan said some people might think I was bitchy, since I laugh alot. One man on the San Francisco Garden Show Facebook page had a REAL problem with me, and I was super excited that I got to engage in some controversy! But you’re right – I could’ve been WAY snarkier. I’ll have to send you the stuff we edited out!
    Oh, and speaking of sending – I haven’t forgotten about the spiky care package of plants I promised you! As soon as I have time for a garden clean-up/cutback, you’ll get a BIG present!

  5. Ooh that looks like it was fun.

    With you on the art garden. My mom has something of an art garden, but she has better art.

    I’m really conflicted about the post-apocalyptic garden, not least because mine looks like that a lot of times too! Maybe it’s just that I’m always visually drawn to the beauty of the derelict that I notice it so much: the majority of the world is not, in fact, all that well-kept. There’s decay both in the inner city slum and in aging ghost towns that put different versions of this ‘garden’ all over the world, here and now. There’s something about this high designer claiming it as a ‘vision’ that I find highly offensive. I imagine this person has lived his whole life among manicured lawns and thinks what he’s doing is groundbreaking. The other half of me says, it’s like Lichenstein framing giant comic panels – intellectually challenging, controversial, brilliant. Especially in this fantasy world of completely unrealistic gardens (it’s like the high-fashion of the gardening world, I suppose).

    But I totally want a garden full of female genetalia. In fact, I sort of already have that garden: it’s a balcony, an enclosure, a leafy womb. But the square sliding door is just disappointingly inorganic.

  6. Hey there Summer! Yes – IF you are going to use “art” in the garden – please let it be good. I know people love what they love, and they want decorative non-plant elements in their gardens… but just like Interior Designers are charged to educate their clients about taste and discernment, we Garden Designers HAVE to at LEAST advocate for good taste and good design outside. Of course, that being said, if a huge clusterf**k of garden kitsch makes one happy, do it! My clients WON’T be joining in!
    I take your point about the Post Apocalyptic Garden – I was basically responding to the clean, simple hardscape elements and that beautiful rusted corten steel lean-to with a grass roof , which I thought was beautiful and could easily transfer to a home garden, no problem. And those breezy grasses (but of course, I’d put succulents in there!) were sexy! Yes, the designer is taking a reality and romanticizing it by projecting it into the future (a little simplistic and unnecessary, when, as you point out, garden “ruins” are all over the place – here and now), but I’ll forgive him that. At least he was following through with an idea that went beyond making a pretty, decorative space – and I applaud that.
    I think a garden full of female genitalia could be enthralling! Or strange – but WHO CARES!!! DO IT!!!

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