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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Designing a Garden Considering Autism and Special Needs:

Is your garden providing too much stimuli, or too little?

What makes a soothing area in which to re-center?

What should pathway surfaces be like and how wide?

How do environmental noises make an impact on the garden experience?

One of my favorite (and award-winning) websites is the Therapeutic Landscapes Network. It’s an extremely thorough resource for those specializing in combining their landscape design skills with concepts of health and well-being.

Two months ago I asked its founder and director Naomi Sachs, if by any chance she had ever done a story about landscape design for autistic children. I already knew Naomi had her finger on the pulse of her field. Lo and behold, she and Tara Vincenta (both ASLAs) were in the process of writing an extended piece about Autism and Special Needs. Tara is founder and principal of Artemis Landscape Architects, Inc. and Naomi not only runs the resource website but runs her own landscape design and consulting firm. Below you can link to the article.

I urge you to head right to these links for some valuable information on how to make your landscape, your garden, your park of optimal benefit for these individuals. After all, April is Autism Awareness month. All of us know of folks with special needs.

The publication article: Outdoor Environments for Children with Autism and Special Needs. It outlines research and design considerations for creating outdoor, nature based spaces that allow children with autism and other special needs to play and learn at their own comfort level, overcoming common challenges in a safe, fun environment that is equally engaging for any child. Find the article via: http://www.healinglandscapes.org/blog/2011/04/outdoor-environments-for-children-with-autism-special-needs-in-informedesigns-implications/

True to thorough form, Naomi has also collected a list of Resources on Autism and Access to Nature posted here. http://www.healinglandscapes.org/blog/2011/04/april-autism-awareness-landscape-architecture-month/implications-resources-2/

Check out Therapeutic Landscape Network — a site that emulates enormous dedication, research and study. http://www.healinglandscapes.org/about-mission.html

Nancy R. Peck

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Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park Conservatory of Flowers

Lowland Tropics room, Conservatory of Flowers

Golden Gate Park in San Francisco offers a number of sites for the plant lover. In a view from the road, we see two sun-lovers sprawled on a blanket on the wide open lawn space. Annual garden plots set off a strikingly-bright white Conservatory of Flowers beyond. Small chaperoned troupes of delightful children are prancing about . . . taking in the fresh April air between potty breaks.

The Conservatory’s main center dome is flanked by a wing of two galleries on the right—Highland Tropics Plants and Aquatic Plants. The wing to the left of the dome offers a Potted Plants display and temporary special exhibit room. I cross the entrance threshold and immediately find myself in a moist Palm Court of towering green Lowland Tropical plants—a magnificent thick display of ferns, banana, cacao, Jurassic cycads and much more. Here and there blue and orange bits of color are randomly cast, source being the sunshine through the structure’s stained glass.

Through the next door, the Highland Tropics gallery recreates high elevation forests of the tropics. There’s a nice display of mosses and the epiphytes which I like—plants that grow on other plants. The room offers much to whet our appreciation of orchids. This is where a renowned collection of Pleurothallid orchids can be found. Through another door, the Aquatic Plants room is picture perfect as we learn about water lilies and lotus. Also on view is a collection of carnivorous pitcher plants and bromeliads.

This striking building is said to be the oldest public conservatory in the Western hemisphere—opening in 1879—as well as the oldest structure in the park.

Much thanks goes to recent restoration efforts and dollars to do so. With these plants well-established and in such a yesteryear atmosphere, I just might get inspiration for writing a Victorian historical novel. At this conservatory one can get close to specimens: smell the gardenia, inspect the fronds, study orchid details and view exotics from around the world. http://www.conservatoryofflowers.org/

While others might prefer a huge botanical exhibit extravaganza as found in some other large cities, I felt this was just the right size with an ambiance for a mini-retreat—leaving time for other Golden Gate Park experiences. Next stop: Japanese Tea Garden.

Nancy R. Peck

Aquatic Plants room Conservatory of Flowers

Aquatic Plants room, Conservatory of Flowers

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Botanical Garden at UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

I’ve left the desk-nest this week and am touring the San Francisco area. Sunny weather. That’s always a nice gift to bring to one’s host.

Field trip to UC Berkeley Botanical Garden: Up up up the hill the car crawls past two flagmen. Grunting trucks are painstakingly choreographed  in the renovation/retrofit project going on at the old university football stadium. Destination reached and admission paid, we enter this very diverse 34-acre UC Berkeley research garden—13,000 varieties sectioned off by geographic regions of the world’s continents. First we enter the Arid House with its large collection of the quirkiest of cacti, sheltered, because they would not tolerate the Bay Area’s dampness. The collection dates back to the 1920s.

Exiting that shed, one is immediately struck by (photo above) the “Southern Africa” rocky hillside on the left dotted with oranges, yellow, purple annuals and bulbs and fan aloes. Turn around and there’s a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay behind a gauze of atmospheric blue.

I’m always attracted by the sound of water features. The Japanese Pond (photo below) augments the diminutive Strawberry Creek which runs midway through the property. The pond is set off by a small waterfall framed by maples, empress tree and dogwoods. But the pool’s claim to fame is its breeding ground reputation for Taricha torosa (newts), native to upper Strawberry Canyon. I got to see several newt couples doing their thing which is always interesting. Ah spring.

The loudest aspect of the botanical gardens, I would say, is a chorus of frogs. They live in a pond ecosystem which lies between the Herb Garden and Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden. No need to follow path signs, just follow your ears.

There’s much to see and learn at this botanical garden but I did notice that some toddlers couldn’t be happier frolicking around a small man-built water feature next to the tour deck and rest rooms. Down close to the ground and with attention to details they were fascinated searching for the little slimy critters clinging for dear life to the concrete pond wall.

http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/

For a list of garden tours click here http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/education/tours.shtml#children

Nancy R. Peck

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden Japanese Pool

Japanese Pool at UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

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kids and watering can

March brings news of grant recipients especially for schools, expansion of community gardens and residents taking matters into their own hands despite city budget cuts (see Sacramento, CA). And some garden clubs have the fun of giving out grant monies as well.

Get some ideas for clever projects by clicking on the Groups + Grants News tab at the top of the page. Team work and collaboration make for lots of activity.

If your organization has made a difference with a community project in the past month, send a press release or published media url link, tosalonhostess@gmail.com and efforts will be made to include it.

Nancy R. Peck

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You’ve heard that exercise is good for your physical and mental health. You’ve also heard that being outdoors de-stresses and improves the mood—clears out the cobwebs. I know you’re already aware of how gardening is therapeutic.

Well, now there’s a new name for all of this. . . brought to you by the world of science + copywriting.

Green Exercise—when you combine exercise with nature—when you commune with the outdoors and move about a little bit. What will they think of next, you ask? Nature-deficit-disorder, attention- restoration theory, environmental psychology, biophilia, Green Gym and green prescription—that’s what.

At the University of Essex-UK, using meta-analysis and assessment of multiple studies involving 1252 participants, it was quantitatively implied that even short five-minute spurts of green exercise had long-term health benefits. All types of green exercise were beneficial—and the presence of water in the natural environment created even more positive effects.

Self-esteem especially increased for the youngest subjects. And the mentally ill showed the greatest rise in self-esteem improvements. As Jo Barton concludes about the results “we believe that there would be a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to self-medicate with green exercise.”

In another study at Wageningen University & Research Centre in the Netherlands, gardeners over 60 were compared with non-gardeners over 60 in the same neighborhood. A significant increase in perceived health and decreased stress levels was found.

And in New Zealand, the Get Growing with NZ Gardener television show teamed with the Mental Health Foundation: “. . . gardening is a great way for people to incorporate the five winning ways to wellbeing into their lives—connect, learn, give, be active and take notice.” They add (what to us may seem obvious):

  • Joining a gardening club or community gardening project can help you connect with new people.
  • Gardening can inspire you to take notice of the natural world around you.
  • Learning about plants keeps you discovering new things.
  • Regular gardening can help bring structure to your life.
  • Gardening gets you out in the fresh air and is a good form of physical exercise.
  • It’s a good outlet for your creativity and it is fun.
  • Growing veggies and herbs can encourage healthy eating and save money.
  • You can give surplus veggies or cuttings to friends, family and neighbors as a gift, or trade them with produce from other people’s gardening successes.
  • Gardening is something the whole family can do together.

Hmm. Push-ups today or weeding?  Have you squeezed in your Gardening Green Exercise today?

Photo: Tom Adamson, Flickr Creative Commons

Nancy R. Peck

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Tomoko Hayashida, Sogetsu School

Those in San Francisco are in for a treat this weekend March 19 and 20, 2011 for the Ikebana International biennial Flower Show. Much of the proceeds will be donated to disaster relief in Japan. The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Ikebana International, founded in 1959, is one of the most active chapters in the world and includes members from seven schools.

Pictured above is an arrangement by Tomoko Hayashida, Sogetsu School. The Sogetsu School, one of many Ikebana schools, has a more free-style philosophy with emphasis on the artist’s expression and message. The school was founded in 1927 by Sofu Teshigahara who believed anyone could make ikebana anywhere with anything.

Unlike the spherical mass of traditional Western arrangement, ikebana is based on the structural concept of an unequal triangle: with scarcity, minimalism, emphasis on shape, line and form. The Sogetsu philosophy: plants are beautiful just as they are and can be arranged in an effective style to be appreciated even more. The school encourages students to be individual and imaginative.

Other Ikebana International chapters in the U.S. are located in Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Detroit, Honolulu, Washington, DC, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland OR and others.

Sources:

http://www.ikebana.org/index.html

http://www.ikebanahq.org/sogetsu.php

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floral arrangement by Sue Redden

Winning Design Entry by Sue Redden

If you’ve been a garden club member for any length of time you probably have been exposed to The Standard Flower Show. The Standard Flower Show tradition started a very long time ago. But it is more than simply tradition. It basically—still and after all these years—sets out to educate and develop aesthetic sensibilities. If you’ve ever been swept up into its whirlwind you at least know this much.

Now, aside from horticulture entries, you may have been asked to try your hand at creating and entering a floral arrangement into the Design category. This request may have come about in the form of arm-twisting—in which case you definitely need some de-mystifying about how it will be judged.

And, voila, if you already have been on the receiving end of judging and scoring for your floral arrangement, you probably want to know just how that panel of three judges came to their decision of Honorable Mention.

So, for this post, I have consulted with Sue Redden, a demonstrator and winner of many blue ribbons and top NGC Exhibitor awards in Design and Horticulture. Sue has been a leading member of two garden clubs in Rhode Island for, well let’s just say, decades and she has filled board positions for the Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs Inc., the New England Region, and National Garden Clubs, Inc. She has judged Design and Horticultural exhibits in New England, Philadelphia, and Cleveland.

Here is Sue’s basic introduction to The Standard System of Awarding:

  • The Flower Show’s “Schedule” is “the law.”
  • The Handbook for Flower Shows is the ultimate authority for judging. [Accept no substitutes and get the latest edition. See below.*]
  • Three people make up a judging panel and use The Standard System of Awarding.
  • In a Standard Show, four arrangements would compete within the same pre-determined “schedule class.” [We’ll leave definitions of schedules and classes to another post.]
  • Only one first place (blue) ribbon per class is awarded; must score 90 or above.
  • Only one second place (red) ribbon per class; must score 85 or above,
  • Only one third place (yellow) ribbon per class; must score 80 or above.
  • One or more honorable mention (white) ribbons as merited; must score 75 or above.

Judges award the blue ribbon to the highest scoring design, again it must score 90 or above. (Note: There are times when multiple entries in the class achieve the sought-after 90+ score, and this 90 above score will be indicated.)

In order to win the top additional exhibitor awards—such as the Tricolor, Designer’s Choice—one must have scored 95 or more.

And here’s what the judges look for:

Scale of Points for Design

Conformance –20 points if all the requirements for the design are met.

Design – 42 points is the next consideration – 7 pts allowed for each of the following met principles:

Balance – Is the design visually stable?

Proportion – Is the design in proportion with its allotted space?

Scale – Are the components in scale with one another?        

Rhythm – Does your eye carry through the design?

Dominance – Do one or more elements dominate?

Contrast – Is there interest in the design?

Artistic Concept – 12 points – Is there creative and appropriate selection and imaginative organization of all components according to the schedule guidelines?

Expression – 10 points – Has the exhibitor interpreted the class well?

Distinction – 16 points – Is the plant material conditioned? Does the exhibit have marked superiority in all respects?

And we have the TOTAL—a rarely attained 100 points.

Sue says:

“To win a top award a lot of thought must go into selection of plant material, color, texture, spikes, rounds, etc. and one must adhere to schedule parameters . . . i.e. read the show’s schedule carefully and follow directions!” 

With subjective opinion, personal taste, and whim minimized as much as possible, the scoring standardization almost makes it appear as an exact science. Not quite—they are mortal beings after all—but judging is a learned art in and of itself.

To learn more about how to become a judge yourself, contact your state federated NGC Flower Show Schools Chairman for further information.

Also you might be interested in Flower Design Study Units. Explore here: http://www.gardenclub.org/FloralDesign/DesignStudyUnits.aspx

*The Handbook for Flower Shows, revised 2007 edition is available from NGC headquarters – Member Services. Order your copy by calling 800-550-6007. National Garden Clubs, Inc.  4401 Magnolia Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, 63110-3492.

Let me know if you’d like to hear more about de-mystifying The Standard Flower Show!

Nancy R. Peck

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