Smart & Sustainable, Green Garden Design, Coaching & Seasonal Maintenance

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Inside the Garden Designer's "Brain"

I quote the word "brain" because I don't really believe it's taking place in there ... how 'bout you? Do you create in that meaty space? Ha! Ah well, I digress...let's get on with it. Back to business! I recently turned in my last project for my C.A.D. (computer-aided design) landscape design class at American River College. We putzed along for awhile this semester doing little tutorials, and then, Bang! A big job... designing a big space on campus for the president of the college.

ARC president shows horticulture CAD students the mock-up for the front entry

We met our "client" over by the music/theater buildings and took a look at the space he wanted us to transform. It's at the back of the music building. Approximately 8,000 square feet of nothing, except 2 walkways and a large back-flow prevention device. While he talked, my concept started to take shape. My daughter received her AA degree in theater at AR, my sister and I sang in the Jazz Vocal group. I know the hallways, the teachers, the students. I knew what they wanted .... to perform!!!

The next class meeting consisted of site measurements. We buzzed around with our measuring tapes. That was a drag. Four million measurements, what the heck? But my friend, Darlene, and I bonded over the hectic confusion, and met again to re-take them in a calmer moment. Eventually I realized I didn't need most of the measurements ... I wasn't keeping those walkways, or much of anything else.

ARC CAD students taking measurements
25 students with tape measures and notebooks

I dare you to make sense of this!
we all contribute to the measurements on the board

Eventually my vision arrived on paper ... an amphitheater where students could rehearse, children's theater productions could be staged, impromtu performances could spring to life. Also, a place to hang out and do homework, a classy place for theater patrons to wait for showtime and spend intermission ... a place that would celebrate the arts, and the artist. That's the beauty of design ... the imagination of what's the very best that might happen here.

I added a feature I saw in a demonstration garden at Green Acres in Sacramento ... a raised bed with beautiful stonework and a rill at the base, fed by copper tubes. I think everyone should have one of these!

Green Acres retaining wall with rill

The rill was my favorite part of this garden, the three rivers stone was also gorgeous, and, the raised bed - it created a lovely enclosed space. Kudos to the designer!!!

Green Acres nursery demonstration garden
another picture of this demonstration garden from Green Acres

The deadline was approaching and I wasn't ready! I had been busy creating a display garden for the CA state Flower, Food and Garden Show, and missed a few classes (ahem). But was able to finally get my design done, and the color rendering figured out, albeit a bit late (ahem), and turned in to the president before spring break. I'm proud of my design and think it perfect for the setting ... functional and polished enough to do credit to the college, but with the exhuberance of a renaissance faire, to match the spirit of these arts students.

color rendering of my conceptual design for a new ARC Fine Arts amphitheater patio

I learned how to do CAD design. Not perfectly, but that was never the expectation. The expectation was that we'd achieve a professional-level competency that could then be improved upon. I feel like we're all off to a great start! Thanks as always to Paul MacGowan, head of the Hort program, for his humor and guidance.

Whether you need garden design, coaching, seasonal maintenance or planting, Geno's Garden can help!
Call me at (916) 764-5243, or email

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