Thursday, December 06, 2007

Inside Out

The Art and Craft of Home Landscaping
By Jeff Hutton

Are you a gardener or a landscaper? According to Jeff Hutton, a landscape designer in Vernon, Connecticut, there’s a distinction.

After all, would you furnish your home by popping into a furniture store on a whim, buying whatever catches your eye and then shoving your I-don’t-care-if-it-is-too big -and-clashes-I-want-it-anyway sofas and chairs just anywhere and expect your home to look attractive and inviting? Well, if your whole house is furnished straight from Ethan Allen, yeah, you might. Most people, however, decorate their home with at least some thought to the basics of concepts like color, space, patterns, flow, scale — even if it’s only subconsciously.

These same basic design principles could and should apply to the landscape outside of your home as well, according to Hutton, who shares his more than thirty years of experience designing outdoor living spaces in his new book, Inside Out. Hutton advocates “. . . merging the surrounding landscape with the structure of the house.” Calling himself, “a great proponent of what I call ‘inside out’ – effectively blurring the border between architecture and landscape architecture, or interior and exterior design,” he contends: “Your yard is the canvas. Design is about composition, no matter what the application.”

Since too much of my garden canvas is now blank, courtesy of the ongoing drought here in Georgia, this book offers a much-needed landscape cache of information and ideas. Foundation beds, walkways and paths, decks and porches, patios and courtyards, retaining walls, ornamental grasses, ornamental and shade trees, foliage and flowers, as well as easy-to-follow discussions of integration, intersection, association, balance, composition, and color are all here in the wonderful book.

Hutton is also a self-proclaimed lifelong student of plant nomenclature and he includes a fascinating chapter on deciphering the Linnaeus Code, the methodology of classifying and naming living organisms organized by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, often called the Father of Taxonomy. According to Hutton, “It’s pretty satisfying to be able to read the label on a plant, and understand its character from its name.”

Do you think this is useless information? Not so. If you’re browsing the garden center for something to plant in that small wedge of ground next to your house, you’ll know enough to give the plant with giganteum on its label a pass.

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