Archive for the ‘Innovation’ 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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Christmas tree

Does it seem like the conifers that you bring into the house are getting drier and drier—or is it my imagination? No sooner does the tree get into the house that the needles begin their fall-off—even as you’re cramming the trunk into its water trough or gingerly placing ornaments on the tree. A real indication that the days are numbered for this already dead tree. 

I keep my fingers crossed that the tree doesn’t lose its needles in unison in front of everyone. I know it is going to happen shortly. Will it be right after the last-gasp Vacuum of the Year? Or in the middle of the New Year’s Eve Epic Party of the Year. The anticipation rather reminds me of Cinderella waiting to lose her gown at the stroke of midnight EST. 

If you happened to be listening to National Public Radio on December 10 you might have heard an interview with Dr. Raj Lada, founding director of the Christmas Tree Research Center of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. His research aims to increase needle retention where growing fir trees is a multi-million dollar commercial industry. Good news, Dr. Lada is said to be on the verge of doubling the life of the cut Christmas tree. At the facility they are working on a method that will block the release of ethylene. In basic terms, this would be like slowing or halting the ripening of a banana. 

His remedy isn’t here yet but in the meantime, I deduced these recommendations from the interview:

  • The trauma of transport can trigger the start of the ethylene process. You might want to buy from producers closest to you, cutting down when you select it. In transport—the less shaking the better.
  • If you do buy from a retailer, hope that they’ve been keeping them in a water vessel.
  • Once you have your specimen home, re-cut the trunk at least one inch.
  • Lights alter a tree’s metabolic function and they are also spectrum sensitive. White lights might be preferable and don’t turn them off at night. “When the tree is in the dark it will start “respiring” more, using all its carbohydrates too soon.”
  • Keep your tree stand filled with water, checking it daily. A glycerin product in the water is pointless as it will not reach the necessary height due to its viscosity. Also adding sugar to the water or fertilizer will have little effect.
  • Don’t use products that close stomata as they will shut down the carbon dioxide exchange needed for photosynthesis. It needs to have the sugar synthesized every day.
  • Keep the tree in a cooler room if possible (but not at freezing temperatures). Keep it away from the kitchen.
  • Finally, keep fruit away from the tree. Fruit gives off ethylene.

I wonder how Cinderella would deal with needle-drop? I guess she’d just get out her dustpan every hour on the hour. Or maybe she would have thrown in the towel and had a tree crafted of glass instead.

Here’s the transcript of the NPR interview with Dr. Lada.

Photo by Jean-Pierre Bazard, Wikimedia Creative Commons

 Nancy R. Peck

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Floral art by Cecelia Webber

Art by Cecelia Webber

Are you looking at this image? Are you really looking at it?

This is the work of professional artist Cecelia Webber. Each floral graphic image is entirely made up of small repeated, graceful human figures. Her website shows more artwork and you may contact her to buy prints. Which is your favorite? I like the feathery dandelion which you’ll see at http://ceceliawebber.com/

One of the places Cecelia’s work is featured is at the Renown Institute for Cancer in Reno, NV. This is an unusual medical institution that sees value in the healing aspects of art and proves it with a very successful hallway gallery program. One can immediately see how incorporating art in the healing environment makes sense for the morale of patients, loved ones and staff.

In her blog, Cecelia shares her gratitude about having her work featured there. “I couldn’t be more pleased to be part of a space made so well with such a wonderful goal in mind . . . I hope that my art will do its small part to give the patients and staff at the hospital something positive to see each visit.”

Watch the enthusiasm for this program at Renown’s Art of Healing video here.

Floral art by Cecelia Webber

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Judith Needham's willow playhouse

How nice to be able to provide a child with an endearing playhouse that not only looks good in the garden but isn’t made of plastic!

The Dreaming Spires Playhouse is made of English willow and created by weaver Judith Needham. She says the material takes about five years to degrade, which coincidentally is about the length of time a child remains interested in imaginative house play. Afterwards, it can be put into the fire or put into the compost pile or used as garden mulch.

Explore her website http://www.judithneedham.co.uk to see photos of her other hut retreats such as The Onion and the Willow Den. Also view images of some of her interesting live arbor paths.

These structures are custom made and commissioned. If you are interested in ordering she has the experience shipping from Surrey, U.K. to the U.S.

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Hans Silvester

Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa

While investigating online about the inventive re-use of materials, I ran across some images that wowed me. Let’s take a visit to where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan meet.

This is where the nomadic Surma and Mursi tribes of the Omo Valley express their artistic sense with skin pigments and found flora and fauna embellishments. As the naturally-made pigments dry quickly, rapid application spawns spontaneous self-expression. I love the result.

Respective of copyright issues, I’m not reproducing any of the many images here except as seen on the book cover. Here is a link toward purchasing the book Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa or you may find it in a library. The images by photographer Hans Silvester are striking. The book includes 160 images he gathered from several trips.

To get a fuller sense of the artistry, I do encourage you to connect to Youtube (below) where a number of video makers have montaged many of the images. The accompanying music is his/her addition.

Let me know what you think.

Nancy R. Peck

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Thirty five years ago, engineer-machinist-inventor Fred Schleipman went on a solar eclipse expedition. Between shadow bands he met Bert Willard, an optical engineer and member of the Springfield Telescope Makers of Springfield, Vermont. 

When visiting Willard’s makers-club, Schleipman became enamored with a telescope on display—an original Porter Garden Telescope. Schleipman then began his next expedition, i.e., to re-create it. So unique and fine, it would be a pity to have this instrument of beauty fall into obscurity.

Telescopes of Vermont

Photo courtesy of Telescopes of Vermont

Finally in this decade these garden telescopes are being offered— re-created by limited edition and found at Telescopes of Vermont . The team involved in this endeavor includes Fred Schleipman, Russ Schleipman, Bert Willard, Dave Nugent and Jim Daley. Each individual has a story to tell as you’ll find on the “About Us” page. (more…)

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Treehouses. It seems almost every adult maintains fantasies about them. Have you ever desired a tree-vacation for the bird’s eye view? Wanted to be smothered in the free essential oils of Forest? Sought some solitude? Free of clutter? I have just the place for you—where Design pays a visit to Nature.

Hotel treehouse

Mirrorcube Photo courtesy of Treehotel

Treehotel in Harads, Sweden. (The link should bring you to the Google translator.) 

Now a trip just south of the Arctic Circle may not have been on your top ten, but maybe a look at this will win you over to visit. And I realize there are other hotels that latch on to that yen to return to youth-play and tree escapism. And some do it Swiss Family Robinson style. But if your tastes navigate elsewhere, Treehotel might just be the ticket. 

The project is a collaboration between some of Scandinavia’s leading designers and architects. I read that the plan includes erecting 24 units over a five year period and to continue adding variety and architectural involvement. Steps toward minimizing the hotel’s environmental impact—including eco-friendly plumbing and heating—are considered. In the case of the Mirrorcube, Treehotel’s co-founder Kent Lindvall (guidance counselor turned hotelier) says a special film applied to the glass will be visible by birds.

Whether or not you are able to go out on this limb of a tree-trip, DO look at the fun pictures on the Treehotel website (link above). There’s the Mirrorcube unit which I’ve pictured above, the Bird’s Nest, the UFO, and others. Rise above it all on this trip.

Nancy R. Peck

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