Saturday, January 30, 2010

Apple of my eye

When I originally procured my Apple itouch phone I thought it to be a nifty little contraption that not only allowed me to remotely collect emails and map me through the backroads of Bedford but also entertained my children at the doctor's, I was sold. Now a year later, I am only realizing it's greater has superseded my wallet in pocketbook hierarchy! Beyond turning into a lightsaber or "shazamming" songs, it is also a fountain of knowledge to match your list of exterior queries.

On a recent perusal through the apps store and features setting on my handheld (read: Holy Grail) I compiled a list of a couple of my favs:

Camera: Capture images of plantings you like while on holiday, good looking pillows to keep in mind for next Spring or snap a few of your prized thistles to share on your next coffee with Martha.

Ben Color Capture: Take a photo of a color you like and the app will find it for you on Benjamin Moore's color wheel. This beats leaving a note for a neighbor requesting the paint particulars of their shutters and shingles.....thank you again Sally!

Color Snap: Same theory as above but will locate the color on the Sherwin Williams color wheel.

Farmers Market Finder: YUM. What a great idea. Heading off in the RV this summer for a little R and R- taste and savor the local produce along your way....hey, start a blog while your at it (and there is probably an app for that too)!

Florafolio- Native Plant List for the Northeast. I am constantly asked about Natives and this is a great tool to make sure Town property isn't covered in bamboo by year end. (I would hope by now, you realize when I'm joking.)

ilocate: For locating outdoor furniture shops. Who knew?

ivideocamera: This one is very clever and I have my friend Natalie to thank for introducing it to me. It will turn your icamera into a video camera. Now you can capture Martha's expression when you show her your photo compendium of prized thistles!

Trees Near You: Liriodendron tulipifera, Paulownia tomentosa, Platanus x acerifolia.....what is a girl to do? This app identifies the tree species nearest you in San Francisco also has this app. Sit tight and I'm sure that the app engineers in cyberspace are finding a way to code your city/the globe/the Milky Way as we speak.

US State Trees: Great for a long drive when one more Taylor Swift chorus will simply do you in....or just the ticket for a RV trip...see above!

Help yourself to my findings and let me know if you have any good ones too. My sincerest apologies for boring the blackberry readership to tears, get next week's dirt on Valentines Day.
Ya Dig?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Take Off Eh?

The 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games commence with global applause on February 12 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Are you readying your loonies, your toonies, your Sorels and toques too happy anticipation of rink side Nanaimo bars washed down with mugs of hot cocoa? Maybe an Apolo sighting? Perhaps your game plan includes taking in the action from home. Your favorite spot on the couch, relaxing a la lulu lemon and enjoying the lengthy commercial breaks?
Whatever your venue, Vancouver's abundance of green spoils is sure to become readily apparent and should be merited. The City's practice of employing sustainability, enhancing public spaces, using green technology and land preservation is both impressing and inspiring.
Pair this idyllic stage with an overwhelming sense of global citizenry, community, patriotism, pride and ....shoot, how many more days until the Games begin?
To heighten our anticipation of the Games and enrich our Olympic experience here is a snap shot of my Gold Medal picks of Vancouver's green beauties.

Stanley Park: Pick up a box of Smarties, a Flake bar and C Plus and take a stroll through this treasure. This evergreen attraction is vital to Vancouver's city life. Comparable to Manhattan's Central Park, and only 16 years older, this outdoor space caters to the city with offerings of recreation, arts and wildlife. Find out more at:

Capilano Suspension Bridge: My knees were knocking on this excursion and surprisingly my deep love for terra firma did not keep me in the car. Imagine the feeling halfway through when the 12 year old child ahead of you starts jumping to create waves! Visit the link below to take in this awesome experience. For more information visit

Queen Elizabeth Park and Arboretum: What a beaut! This park began as a basalt quarry and was eventually turned into a arboretum complete with over 3000 trees and boasts the highest point in Vancouver. Dining facilities and recreation facilities contribute to the scene as well as a stunning Henry Moore sculpture garden. Learn more at:

Vancouver's Convention Centre: This harbor front structure supports Canada's largest green roof. It spans six acres and is home to more than 400,000 indigenous plantings. Genius. While promoting sustainability, it collects rainwater and lowers the temperature of the structure and it's surroundings. A well curated palette of plantings has turned this urban carpet into a mecca for birds and insects. While it is not accessible to the public, the roof does have a slight pitch offering a great view from the plaza. To learn more visit:
Worth honorable mention is Vancouver's Public Library which also has a roof garden flanked above the Moshe Safdie-designed structure. To learn more visit:

Museum of Anthropology: Designed by famed Canadian architect, Arthur Erickson the museum sits on the University of British Columbia campus. Residing over the Strait of Georgia, it stands as an iconic arrangement of glass and steel. The best feature are the nearby totem poles which contribute to the drama of the space and nod to the Native American heritage of Vancouver. Don't miss taking in the simple landscape palette that was conceived by notable landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander which includes gravel beds, grasses and native plantings. To learn more visit:

If you digested that with lightening speed and the heights of the Capilano Suspension Bridge didn't leave you Squamish....learn more about Vancouver and British Columbia at: or

One last suggestion. Why not bring a little bit of the Olympic experience home. Treat yourself to an amuse bouche. Instead of your "lugeable" cup of Joe, go to for a true Canadian tradition and order up some of Tim Horton's finest coffee. Play Wii's Vancouver Olympic Games and feel the thrill of being in the Pacific Coliseum. Download the free ipod app on itunes called "See Vancouver". Oh, and for an authentic touch, try this recipe for a great Nanaimo bar:
Ya dig?
Get next week's dirt on Apples.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Human Nature

I lived in New York City at a time in my life when MacLaren and Peg Perego referred to my go to set of wheels. The shoe leather express was the easiest form of transportation and allowed Junior and I to explore the great city with bliss and efficiency. Generally. Like anything you do repeatedly in life, pet peeves develop or, in this case, you transform into ....a New Yorker.

It would drive me bananas when fellow pedestrians stopped in the middle of rush hour foot traffic or at bustling street corners to have a conversation. Folks all over the city had this tendency not just the holiday tourists on Fifth Avenue (now that I am safely ensconced in Connecticut, I can only imagine the spectacle in front of the Apple Store)! Why couldn't they take a few steps to the side and let woman and child get to music class?

I have the answer and we are all guilty. Human nature. We like to have the maximum choice of decision to splinter from organization or stay. Getting jabbed and snarled at by people navigating around you is far better than committing to a conversation and getting stuck off to the side by the fire hydrant with your Super. William Whyte wrote an excellent book based on his research on "The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces". His findings continue to fascinate and entertain.

Why do the most successful outdoor spaces have the highest percentage of women inhabitants- as a gender, we are more discriminating as to where we will sit and more alert to the potential dangers around us. It makes perfect sense but I love when you add the food vendor coefficient. Food attracts people, who attract more people who signal to a female, safety in numbers. There is a strong link between design and human nature that is not always realized.

When I worked for the New York City Housing Authority in the Landscape Architecture Department we were responsible for ground improvements with particularly interesting approaches to design. Doe-eyed and fresh off the bus from Cambridge, my Harvard education had led me to believe that public open space should always be lit at night signally a safe place for human interaction to unfold. In this situation however, undesirables would use this light to conduct well, "business" (and you know what I mean). To add light to these areas and add a false sense of security to such open spaces would prove to be a huge design flaw. On site visits we witnessed handiwork of vigilantes, who as a means to spare children from the dangers of lit areas would have literally shot the power lines to smithereens. In dim light, the undesirables couldn't decipher the money denominations to finalize their transactions and therefore, opened up shop in better lit conditions, making the neighborhood far safer. I know what you are thinking. But, it didn't seem appropriate and the moment never right for me to shoulder tap them with my brilliant recommendation that they should conduct business in Canadian currency.

Grand Central Station...are you a door opener? Most people are not. Given the option, non door openers will even get in queue two to three people deep to avoid having to open an unused door themselves. It's important to note that Whyte figured this out in the 70's before Germ-X, Purell or the eruption of Swing Flu. The next time you are at a department store chances are that you will wait your turn in line and select the busy revolving door already in motion rather than forge your way to a stile at's not coincidence, I'll let it go this time if it's because of the nasty rash on THAT guy's face....but I really think that it's human nature. Fascinating.

Ya Dig?

Check out upcoming dirt on Vancouver 2010.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Baby it's cold outside....

Warm up inside the pages of landscape and garden literature and bask in the images of green grass and summer blooms. Tear sheets out or make notes of plantings you like, smart space planning, ideas for exterior paint colors or good looking outdoor furniture. Come spring you have a great reference tool to get you started on creating the outdoor room you covet. My sister-in-law and I have done this for years and are constantly referencing and adding to our library.

Inspiration doesn't have to derive from garden tomes. Vogue Magazine has sophisticated color palette combinations and New York Magazine has clever ideas for small outdoor spaces.

As a landscape designer, it's a great departure point when my client presents me with a compendium of visuals to convey their style. I can then piece together a cohesive silhouette that fits with their lifestyle, plant zone and taste.

Don't be shy. Take those tear sheets to a garden center and have the staff identify mystifying plant stock or source the outdoor fixtures Heidi and Seal have in their backyard.

Treat yourself to these resources and get started on defining your own Shangri-La:
Architectural Digest
Canadian House and Home
Elle Decor
Garden Design Magazine
Landscape Architecture Magazine

Ya dig?

Get the Upcoming Dirt on the psychology of public open space and if you are headed to the Olympic Games, Vancouver's abundance of greener spoils.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ya dig?