Geometry in the Garden
The ordinary garden wall has latent powers. In the hands of a landscape magician like Bernard Trainor it can provide enclosure, seating, and visual drama all at once. See how his low wall bending around a bowl-shaped water feature
draws us into the circle close to the reflecting pool — a liquid campfire! — deftly creating a simple but memorable outdoor room. View from the other direction
and you can see how the wall’s whiplash curve reels the rest of the garden into view. Or here’s his use of the wall as planter.
The rough-textured lower stone wall supporting the planter is wide enough for sitting and acts as a foil for the higher smooth-plastered wall behind it. The planter becomes a kind of dais for the plants and adds texture and intimacy to the gravel covered courtyard. Or see how he turns a basic concrete block wall into something
eye-catching and new by running a trickle of water over a boulder placed at one end. I had the pleasure of working with Bernard Trainor on a project for Sunset — and I admire his pragmatic/poetic approach. He first studies the site to document water movement, soil types, vegetation, view shed, and seasonal dynamics. He says: “These site patterns are a repository of meaning — they do not lie…” Then he combines this new knowledge with the client’s program and starts to design; good advice for any garden designer.
Garden walls can be made of almost anything. In Phoenix I have seen examples like this one
made from gabions, which are wire mesh cages filled with rocks – typically used in civil engineering projects to stabilize slopes and shorelines. In a garden they’re like works of environmental art. My friend and former colleague at Sunset, Senior Garden Writer Sharon Cohoon, is a fan of gabions and discovered a Utah company called Ore Containers that makes this
unusual tall water feature — see the curtain of drops in middle of the frame.
Meet Our Newest Exclusive Architect
In other news, I’m very excited to report that architect Matthew Coates has joined our Exclusive Studio. His designs celebrate a casually elegant brand of indoor-outdoor living.
In his MOD 57 Plan 498-4 the main living/dining space opens to a broad, sheltered terrace. The layout shows how the master suite can function as a separate wing. Note also the outdoor fireplace on the terrace.
Or here’s his Retreat House Plan 498-2, with its seductive double-height window wall at the corner of the main entry.
The floor plan is compact and includes extra storage beside the garage. The upstairs master suite boasts a two-person shower in the bathroom. This level also includes a generous home office. I’m jealous.
Welcome home, Matthew, of Coates Design!