Helping out to make a greener earth

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gardens at Crosswinds, Tagaytay - Makeover as an Exhibit

Working on something that one loves is truly not work but fun!

Sometime early June, long-time friend CV Lazaro of Los Banos called up to ask whether I would like to exhibit in a garden show he is helping to organize.  Though I have not done an exhibit in a competitive environment for a number of years and was not that hot on doing one at that time, I told CV that I was listening.  It turned out it was not the typical garden show competition staged by the numerous Manila-based garden clubs. It was being organized for an exclusive subdivision development company where a select group of award winning landscape/garden designers will be commissioned to do installations in a number of key areas in the sponsoring subdivision. As CV was explaining the details, the more I became interested.  The clincher of course was that the subdivision is located in windy Tagaytay City, only 10 kilometers from my farm!  And so I said yes, I will participate.

On July 30, the competition was eventually launched at Crosswinds, Tagaytay City after which a meeting was held for the five competitors to draw which pre-selected area each will be working on.

Spread throughout most of the developed areas of Crosswinds, the sites included the Christmas Store, The Sales Office, Delemont 165 Model Unit, The Christmas Village, and the Montreux Gardens View Deck.  In addition to myself, the participants were Rolita Spowart of VS Orchids, Rex Puentespina of Malagos Gardens in Davao and Waling Waling Flowers, Myna Frago of Forest Woods Garden and Vicente Ma. Jose Ferrer of My Mother's Garden.

I was assigned the Delemont 165 Model Unit, a well maintained area as it serves as the showcase of the company for its prospective clients/home owners.

This beautifully constructed Swiss chalet-inspired house faces a wide lawn surrounded by tall shrubs, with medium sized pine trees giving the area a distinctly alpine flavor.

On the far left side of the lawn is a beautifully constructed wooden swing, while planted in the middle is a trimmed 3-ft tall juniper hedge.

My first visit to the site was not very encouraging. The garden is already mature and beautiful in its own quiet way.  It has beautiful trees and the gazebo/swing is the real focal point in the space.

The challenge is to beautify the garden without greatly damaging the existing plantings as the exhibit will last only for a few weeks and need to be removed afterwards.

Bringing in annuals in bloom would be the most obvious solution to creating excitement and adding color to the space. However, the exhibit will last for several weeks deep in the middle of the rainy season.  The flowers will wilt in a matter of days, so the decision was to use colorful bromeliads instead.

We brought in alcantarea imperialis rubra to give the space a common backbone while at the same time adding subdued color and the unifying star-like shape that will be the signature of the exhibit.  The biggest bromeliads were planted first.  We also brought several large agave geminiflora (the spiky green plants in front of the gazebo) to give extra texture and break the possible monotony of the star-like shape. It also did not hurt that the agave's outline echoed that of the pine needles.

Layers of plants were installed to create the necessary masses, taking into consideration the color combination and the need for contrast and texture.

The view (left picture) of the house showing the plant groupings from the street approach as we are about to finish with the installation shows the color of the bromeliads echoing the color of the cottage.

Much care was taken so as not to damage the lawn as judging was to happen a day after the completion of the garden.

An arrangement of three bromeliads was placed at the left side of the gazebo while three blooming tillandsia xerograhica was tied to its right front post. This minimal planting was intentional so as to downplay the gazebo to a minor focal point and the plant composition in the middle of the lawn to being the major focal point.

The major focal point of the garden is an arrangement that combines several planting materials: the juniper hedge acting as a background, the bromeliads adding form and color, the agave geminiflora bring in texture and added interest and some flowering native orchids, vandopsis lissochiloides, adding height and botanical variety to the composition.

In the shadier parts of the garden, especially in the areas shaded by the pine trees, plants with lighter colored foliage were used.  These included variegated bromeliads, dwarf variegated polycias, and other ground cover plants with variegated leaves.

As bromeliads as best viewed mostly from above, the picture below shows the major focal point from another angle.

It was a great experience doing this installation.  I thought that I was already over with doing these exhibits but creating under time pressure against a criteria where one will be given feedback has its own rewards.  

It also did not hurt when one's creation, against a group of equally beautiful creations executed by very capable competitors ran away with the top prize!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Five Airports in 2 Weeks

Due to some unexpected turn of events, I found myself passing through five different airports over a span of two weeks (October 8 to 23). Given the very short interval between airports, I decided that it would be interesting to see how these five airports compare in terms of approach to indoor landscaping and plant utilization.

I have been meaning to start working on this post since I arrived from Bangkok more than two months ago but  have not been able to.  Since one of the main reasons that has prevented me from taking on the task is the length of the write up, I have decided to divide it into several installments.

There will be a total of five parts broken down as follows:

a.   Philippines - Ninoy Aquino International Airport

b.  Taiwan - Taoyuan International Airport

c.  Singapore - Changi International Airport

d.  Indonesia - Juanda International Airport

e.  Thailand - Suvarnabhumi International Airport

First Stop, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Manila, Philippines)

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is made up of three terminals.  Terminal 1 is for all international carriers other than Philippine Air Lines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific. Terminal 2 is for PAL while Terminal 3 is for Cebu Pacific.

The first leg of my journey started with NAIA's Terminal 2 as I was taking PAL for my flight to Taipei.

Terminal 2 is a modern facility and is a great improvement from Terminal 1 which has always served as the international airport since I can remember (1970's).  It is made of steel and glass and offers wide open views of the landing field and the open areas that make up the airport.

Entrance to the airport is quite straightforward and the landscaping is very functional and institutional in character though a bit indistinct.  Just before entering the check-in area, several spaces on the second floor have been converted into outdoor pocket gardens.  Palms, irises, sansevieras, plumerias, ficus benjamina, essentially make up this generic composition.  The turf is decently maintained but the other shrubs can stand a bit of tidying up.

On another side one can see this water feature which rather than adding to the overall appeal of the pond on which it stands calls too much attention to how poorly conceptualized and executed an otherwise interesting concept.  It does not help that the nautilus inspired water feature is sloppily maintained with brown algae growing completely on its inner walls but the sorry excuse for a vertical garden made up of struggling asparagus ferns grown of soft polybags.

Just before entering the check-in counter area, passengers will pass by aisles with a few planters like the one on the right.  Plant selection is correct given the conditions in the area:  a palm for height with aglaonemas and bromeliads for the base is a proven fomula.  

Unfortunately, the plants are worn out and needs to be replaced already.  It really is a shame because given the lighting and temperature conditions, these plants should do quite well, except maybe the bromeliads.  

The most likely culprit:  poor growing medium, inadequate feeding and/or watering program or poor plant quality at planting time.

After checking-in, one must spend some time in the waiting area before boarding. Just like most airports, there are the usual duty free shops to entice bored or anxious passengers, restaurants/coffee shops where one can grab a bite just in case food will not be served on board.  And of course, the plants or interior landscape arrangements to give the space a more natural feel.

There are a number of spaces in the waiting area that has been designated by the designers for plants. It is easily discerned that the designers set aside these spaces to showcase the beautiful plants that are readily available in a tropical country like the Philippines.  Add to this the creativity of filipino garden designers and landscapers.

 Below are the planting arrangements that have been done on some of these spaces.

The composition above is made up of zamioculcas, guzmanias, tillandsias, and sanseverias.  It has weathered tree trunks for the vertical element, with several boulders and loose stones for additional non-plant interest.  And one could not miss the imitation japanese lantern which seems to be completely out of place plus the colorful bromeliad flowers made out of plastic. At first glance, the flowers seem real.  
Sometimes, one's knowledge can be disadvantageous...... 

The arrangement above has definitely seen better times.  The plant selection is generally good and that can be seen by the way the plants have been growing.  The aglaonemas, palms, crinum lilies, and philodendron are thriving.  Only the few bromeliads that seemed to have been left in the area too long are in need of rehabilitation.  The waterfall and its small pool located a bit off-centered in the space, is all dried up.  Of course, the fake bromeliad flowers are present again.

In another area, almost the same situation may be seen as shown below.  The plants are doing well, mainly due to the correct plant selection - palms, sansevieras, pandan, all shade tolerant and highly adapted to indoor conditions.  It  has a water feature and a catch pond, this time right in the middle, that is also all dried up.  Again, the very popular fake bromeliad flowers.

Outside the floor to ceiling glass walls are planter boxes filled with overgrown horsetail, with the original plants all turning brown and the offsets now taking over and growing in all direction ruining the original concept of clean purely vertical lines.

As one walks to board his plane, leaving NAIA Terminal 2 this is what he will see.  Small green patches of grass with cycads and palms bordering the main building.

And what about Terminal 1?  There is very little space for plants outside this airport. 

The concept of green architecture must have been in its infancy at the time that this airport was planned and built.  

Though easier to improve, the same principle seems to be applied inside the building as well.  This principle seems to be   "Keep them out plants, less clutter (and expense) inside the better!"

This potted sifritzi palm seems to be growing happily by its lonesome self along this quite long aisle.

Below are some of the other plants that are sparsely distributed in the airport:

Three overpotted variegated schefflera sit snugly in a space which seemed to be meant for plants and which may be filled with more than 30 similarly sized plants.

In a planter in the foreground of the picture below, there is this smallish sifritzi palm with what seem to be recycled bromeliads from the interiorscape arrangement at Terminal 2. Fortunately, the palm seem to be doing much better as compared to the bromeliads. At the far end of the picture is a similar palm as well.

Tempted as I may be to draw conclusions at this stage, let me complete the presentation of the situation in the other airports before I do so.