A big part of garden design
revolves around the flat functional space that is paved or decked
this is the hardscape that is used for tables and seats, and for walking to and fro
this is our topic today
both the hardscape edge where it meets dirt, plants, and the earth
as well as the surface itself, and the patterns you cajole out of wood and stone

We live in this time some folks call the postmodern age
all the spinning spirals, ornate branches, and random frilly mischief
all the dense complex weavings and tight repeating details
have been taken out of design
we have reduced our life to the pleasing simple geometric forms
stacked boxes, and an occasional perfect circle
clean and efficient, no nonsense and uncluttered
no busyness
we have materials that are
easy to build off the shelf, sometimes already made as a module
easy to install, piece by piece, don’t need much skilled labor nor crafts-person-ship
easy to maintain, just hose it or blow it or pressure wash it

Time wise, this design and build process is relatively fast
labor wise, its minimal, compared to old times
this is the post modern age
peoples lives are busy enough, they dont want more of that in the garden
we want a nature that is simple, easy, and well controlled
we dont want a nature that is complex, difficult, and in charge

Well those two visions of nature collide in the garden
and the role of the designer is to find the balance and complement one another
in texture, in form, in flow, in time
really, dont you get, just a tiny bit bored, of the rectangular slab of concrete and uniform chips?
theres is no design or meaning there –
oh yeah, that is the meaning of the post modern age…
you are living in a godless, spiritless, rational, reasonable, non magico world where:
plants should behave like a static piece of furniture
they should not shed or grow or heavens forbid get sick and die
people should be always-on robots
working or charging, devoid of emotion and doubt
and wild nature is something far away in a dark continent, not… in my backyard

There is a little leeway and room
to bring some of those ancient design patterns
back into our lives
not like they have ever gone away
we just thought that the garden would look better without them
but then we realized,
that if you apply the same aesthetic to the outdoors as you do to the indoors
you will just have another living room, one that is a lot less comfortable
then, whats the point at all?

But, if you do want to have a GARDEN –
a place of seasonal fragrant scents
a site of intermittent colors
a home for visiting aliens like kingfisher or sparrow
and a cosmic center to commune with the universe
then you will have to be observant and take your time to learn nature’s patterns
we can start with the edge and then delve into rock and fiber later

Look for edges of design
they are all around us
some edges are functional
like the fattened outward curving lip of a bowl that manages not to chip as easily
or the thinned lip of a tea pot spout that makes sure you dont get the drip drips
Other edges are ornamental cosmetic
a scalloped bend, a splash of neon, or a wee bit of gold trim
they create that dynamic tension that pulls us out of a monosyllabic worldview
these edge features dont necessarily take a lot of extra time or money to build
but they do require a good conceptual idea streaming through the plan
and the ability to recognize and repeat the motif until a song emerges out of the landscape

there are edges everywhere –
the frame of a painting or a window
the top of a bus stop
the curb, yes the curb that lies between the road and the sidewalk
now you see them and can add them to your design repertoire
you dont need a ton of it, a subtle touch will do
its all there in the outline of a subject
sometimes its barely noticeable, but it makes a difference
a little inlay of red pebbles on the border
a thin slab of redwood on top of the post
the slight bend of an arch that mimics the wisteria behind
work the edge, that is where the energies are pronounced and you define the spaces
you want to accent and border the uniqueness, specialness
and one of a kind nature of a garden dream
the garden that is grounded in the present, in your presence

Forget the edge now
and go towards the center
the center of the patio, the middle of the deck
walk down the acorus lined path
what do you see?
is it all one color, one material?
all flat and spaced one foot on center?
regular, consistent, unchanging?
or are there flecks, smattering, tidbits, unspoken remnants of –
dots, stars, webs, waves, streaks
unusual hardscape patterns that somehow
lie in symmetry with
are congruent to
share parallel qualities with
the tubed fuchsia blooms with a floral formula of 4 4 8 4
the methodical dotted runway petals of alstroemerias
and the symbolic gesture of a lotus rising out of the round leaf mud flats
tie it all together
the hard and the soft…
unity, that is a design principle!

Again, you do not have to replicate the entire jungles cacophonic symphony on the stone paving
just tuck a little of it into your design
or at least consider it; it really is not that foreign of an idea
no you dont have to use tear drop shaped brick
nor do you have to commission laser cut drizzles of intricate stainless steel
keep it simple and elegant, we are not going baroquian victorian azteckian chinoise
those epic periods have come and gone, only way is forward in time

Similar to the using of edging detail, a little can go a long way
maybe use a few pavers that are a different color (!?)
trace a few lines that go diagonal, go across, or skip a beat like a dotted line (?!)
do a few layers of the hardscape such that it is billowing out like a cloud, exploding like a lupine seed pod, or reflecting the form of the surrounding statuary
you would still have a postmodern garden,
with clean, efficiently made, and functional hardscape
but, it would be endowed and imbued with the designs of

summer caterpillars munching uneven holes in leaves
a trail of falling autumn leaves
the radiant calm of a snow field
and the happy stirrings of flowers in the spring
all of this
in the celebration of the covenant of life
and the creation of hallowed ground that allows this interaction to take place
this is the joy of garden design
thats the job, get to it!!!

Edges everywhere: lines and colors. Follow the outlines as they rise and fall, swell and constrict.

Patterns on flat surfaces. Keep an eye on the edges borders, and the interior. Yes some of these patterns are old time not fashionable anymore…

Do these need an edge? Does the transition seem fluid?

Do concrete sidewalks have to be 4′ x 4′ squares?

Match your hardscapes and tie it all together? Repeating patterns and materials?

Is the edge ‘functional’?