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-an independent landscape designer with over 2,700 projects since 1981, giving me tremendous insight and expertise that allow me to solve design problems quickly. Services and styles are tailored to the specific needs of the client; ranging from scale drawn master plans with hardscapes and plantings to on-site consultations utilizing spray paint and flags for instant visualization. My specialties and services offered include residential and commercial, both large and small.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

PHILOSOPHY-Embrace and Plan for Imperfection

"People are into how it looks, because they think it is going to feel the way it looks."-Carrie Fisher
They think they want perfection and if and when their surroundings are perfect then they will be happy.
The thing about nature is that it isn't perfect-
it is gloriously imperfect! 
This is a pedestrian walk way at The National Mall, a national park in downtown Washington, D.C.  I took this picture 20 years ago because I was impressed that the health of this tree was more important than paving. Below is a picture of our front sidewalk in Cleveland Heights, a Tree City. Many trees in Cleveland Heights have had their roots cut in the desire to maintain flat sidewalks. Of course the section of the tree canopy that was fed by that root would die as a result. We've been homeowners in this suburb since 1975. We had had an elderly neighbor who didn't even drive, forced to build a 2 car garage and a paved driveway. It has been a housing violation to have a gravel driveway or a  divided driveway in which  a  central strip of lawn runs the length of the driveway.
Our tree lawn has clover and many other "weeds." Despite being a lazy gardener, I have tried over the years to maintain some semblance of suburban "perfection,"  but I do not like to use weed killers.  I keep it watered and cut. I do not collect the grass clippings. I allow them to decompose and feed the lawn.
Just as a pear shaped woman should wear a colorful scarf around her neck to call attention to her face and away from her hips, I hope that my landscape will be appreciated for the gardens and not judged by the condition of the grass.
Recycled road paving bricks comprise much of our hardscape. Their irregularities make it next to impossible to have tight joints between the bricks. This is part of the charm of my deliberately imperfect landscape. Many years I have thrown white alyssum seeds all over the patio with a resulting frothy white softness. I pull weeds only as they offend me. Our front brick sidewalk is a primary source of nicotiana sylvestris seedlings. Once I have plucked those seedlings out, I will spray the bricks with full strength household vinegar allowing the sunshine and the acid to fry the weeds.
Once brown, the weeds burn off. A weed burning flame thrower is a tool guaranteed to get the men in your life interested in helping.
We had a 14 foot square patch of lawn in the back yard for the dogs. I do not miss the annual spring clean up. I decided to replace the lawn with 3 tons of pea gravel (which I moved all by myself!)  By embracing wabi-sabi, the aesthetic of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete,  I find time to relax and enjoy my yard.
A new client told me about the $300 per month she was paying to keep her lawn perfect. This reliance on perfect grass was detrimental to her 3 year old son's health and she was still not pleased with her curb appeal. I recommended putting the  aesthetic emphasis on creating a landscape that had good bones. I used the analogy that a homely woman with perfect skin is still homely, whereas  Audrey Hepburn, would be beautiful despite any complexion flaws. The best landscape should be like a little black dress, always pleasing because of its' effective design, but changeable by the addition of a colorful scarf. The effort could be put into a courtyard with a bench that would beckon year round  with spring and summer flowering plants, fluorescent fall foliage and architectural evergreens.
Tomorrow, April 22nd, is Earth Day- a day intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's natural environment. What if, instead of demanding perfection in our landscapes, via chemicals and concrete, we accepted imperfection?

Our properties don't have to be exactly right. They just have to feel right. Nature has always been here to remind us to mind our priorities. Happiness comes from being gentle, forgiving and generous to oneself and experiencing our world the same way. No happiness will be gained by having complete control over nature.

The mantis in the first picture is praying that we figure this out.

Do you need help figuring out how to feel happy in your garden?
I can help- contact me at
or call me at 216-381-1827.

1 comment:

  1. My stone & pea gravel? Me too, moved it all myself. Tawanda!!!

    Haven't had lawn in over a decade.

    We're living parallel lives. Thank you for your note, happy to discover your work.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara