Appreciating Nature through Gardening

Archive for June, 2011

Woodland Garden in North Carolina

My friends Marty and Alan cultivate a serene woodland garden that perfectly complements their modern home.

An ebullient Virginia fringe tree welcomes visitors.

Wide paths draw guests to restful seating areas behind the house.

A Japanese aesthetic informs the design, with subtle plantings merging into the surrounding woodland.

From the back deck, the space opens to a wide lawn punctuated by more works of Thomas Sayre.

A board walk echoing the planes of the house leads to a clearing in the woods.

A bird feeder signifies communion with nature reinforced by appreciation of native plants.

A modern steel arc bridges a dry streambed.

Harmonious woodland vignettes embody the essence of this superb garden — appearing effortless, but in reality the result of careful selection and placement of plants and objects to create an elegant design.  Nothing competes for attention, the fresh spring growth of similar shapes but contrasting colors dances around the ancient rock cloaked in moss and lichen that anchors the composition.  Old and young, weathered and new, the grouping is a natural poem of time and the seasons.

Another scene speaks to the life cycle in the garden, with a slowly decaying tree nurturing a succession of understory growth.  Native and exotic plants weave together, sharing the space and resources — an exemplary metaphor for ideal human relationships.

Alan Armitage, Vinnie Simeone, Alan and Marty at Senso-ji, Tokyo, October 2011.






Duet by Thomas Sayre

At the end of a long, mysterious lane winding through a southern wood, the monumental works of Thomas Sayre emerge from clearings in the trees.  Fellow Garden Vistas travelers, Marty and Alan, host an extraordinary collection on their large property  in the countryside near Raleigh, North Carolina.  The couple met the artist in 1992 through a connection to their architect, leading to a fruitful creative partnership.

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A pair of earth-cast concrete ellipses mounted on fixed axles, the eight foot tall forms move with gentle pressure from the wind or human touch.  Iron oxide colors the material, giving it an organic warmth that recalls the red clay of the region. Contrasting sides of rough texture from the ground and smoothly polished terrazzo alternately absorb and reflect the natural light.    The highly polished surface reveals a  random mosaic of fine pebbles divided by four stainless steel bands, forming a sleek, sophisticated face.  The reverse holds an imprint of the soil womb, with a coarse, raw face pocked where the earth gave shape to the formless media.   On this side, the integral steel bands become skeletal, lying beneath protruding layers of concrete.  The ten-inch thickness at the center of each piece tapers to less than half an inch at the edges, giving a sense delicacy to an encounter with the work that invites  touch.  According to Alan: “Turning one of the pieces requires a bit more force than the other such that in light winds they become randomly aligned; whereas with strong winds, they stand parallel to each other.”   Duet strikes me as a parallel for positive human relationships standing aligned in rough weather, but able to rotate individually as “the spirit moves.”

More to come from this amazing location…