Sunday, August 25, 2013

garden at the modern house

When I moved to a new house a year and a half ago, it was goodbye to Casa Coniglio. I had just gotten the garden to about where I wanted it to be (a garden is NEVER “finished”), and I had assembled a collection of my favorite plants, some of which were collections of my own seed-grown plants, or hybrids, such as Echinocereus triglochidiatus (Claret Cup Cactus), which I grew from a packet of seeds from Plants of the Southwest, and were just becoming large enough to have a good display of flowers.  It should have been no surprise to me that I fell into a funk when I moved to The Modern House, which has none of my choice plants. It does have a much larger garden space (0.45 acre, which might not seem like that much to some people, but compared to my previous 0.16 acre, it is luxurious). Most of the last 18 months has been working on fixing broken things such as repairing damaged walls, repainting, fixing the heating system and plumbing fixtures. The garden is slowly moving along, after having removed a number of dead and dying trees. Anything new requires first the removal of the old. I’m finally starting to get in some plants that I like. But Casa Coniglio is now long gone, and now I’m working on The Modern House Garden (TMHG).

We call it The Modern House because of the dozens of houses we looked at in this land of Pueblo-style homes and Territorial style homes, this house had distinctly modern features. It certainly is not Modern as you would imagine Modern style, and it is far from being as Modern as other houses in this neighborhood. It does not have steel doors and aluminum window frames. If this house were in Los Angeles, it would be considered an adobe, or maybe a modernistic adobe. But for identification purposes, during our house hunt, we called it The Modern House, and now I can’t think of it as anything else. Perhaps I should call it The Semi-Modern House, or The Modern Adobe House. But no, TMH it remains.

The style has been a dilemma for me. My preference leans heavily toward Mediterranean, especially Italianette, hence Casa Coniglio, and this would not do at TMH. Not only did two households have to combine into one, but I had to figure out what to do about the furniture, most of which did not match each other or the house. I have learned to appreciate modern furniture (but I still don’t like Mid-Century Modern).

Which brings me back to the garden. How to design a garden for a modern house? I’ve been researching this since before we moved in, and there seems to be two camps. One is to make the outdoors just like the indoors. Strict lines. Lots of paving. Very limited plant palette. Just about no flowers. Devotion to form, structure, texture. Did I mention a very limited plant palette? I do love this look, for example the gardens designed by Marmol Radziner brought me to a standstill, with my mouth open. But given that I am a plant freak, and that Casa Coniglio had over 100 species in just the postage stamp front yard, how happy do you think I’d be with a structured garden of just 4 species? I showed my partner a picture of one of these gardens and said I wanted to do this. I was rewarded with full out laughter, which I must admit, hurt my feelings a little. Sigh.

However, these stark structured gardens were not the only ones that I found in my research. Many houses looked like they were plunked down, a space ship in the middle of a natural landscape. Others had massing like the prairie style Oehme Van Sweden gardens. Some had the dense perennial plantings like Piet Oudolf designs. There were even modern houses with cottage style planting, albeit with strict geometry of the hardscape. I realized that any of these would work, and any of these I would love. Given that the builders of TMH made swoopy curvy areas in the garden as well as big square concrete pad walkways the more structured garden would require a complete restructuring, tearing down and rebuilding the hardscape/irrigation/drainage. This would be out of my budget even if I wanted a strictly modern design garden. Nope, I'll give in to the beast. Let the plant collecting begin!

1 comment:

  1. It seems all the prairie/perennial gardens are as out-of-place in your or any part of Abq, as are aspen groves, bluegrass, etc. Esp in the vein of most doing so not even changing to many of Abq's own native species, let alone patterns. But with all the different spaces you have, does one style need to be everywhere? I.E. one area may be minimalist, another for collecting everything you like, another for only local foothills natives within 500' elevation, another something else, one a Will-only garden, etc.

    You already have the irrigation in place that can be adapted accordingly, when it's time to attack each space. You have a nice framework to build off of, even if the art and furnishings have to start going.

    Seems like fun!