Friday, December 19, 2008

Listing to Port

My on-line column at last week listed five plants I would never use in a client's garden. It generated about a bazillion hits and lots of requests for more lists that people could use in their own gardens.

So this week, I offered my readers the first of a series of lists, leading off with Billy's Killer Combos--a veritable cornucopia of eye-popping plant combos that anyone is free to rip off. If you live in Minnesota or one of those other places that can't grow palm trees, you might want to just look through the sumptuous pictures and swear that you'll move to California sometime before we burn up or break off into the ocean.

Here's the link

Monday, December 8, 2008

Winter Sunset - Sharing Blogs

Sunset at the Andree Clark Bird Refuge - Santa Barbara, CA.

Saturday night was a gig night for my band. We had an early set up and I was going home to chill before coming back for our performance. Leaving the parking lot of the Montecito Country Club, I saw a tumultuous blanket of clouds smothering the western sky, but plenty of room at the horizon for late afternoon rays to underlight this canvas. The shot above, moments before the light ebbed, is the most dramatic.

That's it for me. Here are tidbits from a few fellow bloggers I have listed at my blogroll.

Susan Harris wrote a very thoughtful entry about "being" in a garden, rather than looking for the next great photo...
The Sustainable Gardening Blog
When visiting a garden, be “still as a needle”

It's hard to get into that Bing Crosby "White Christmas" mindset when I'm observing fiery sunsets through palm trees. This helped...

Chiot’s Run (Ohio)
Christmas in Zoar
December 8th, 2008

Benjamin Vogt writes a thoughtful, but rippingly funny blog I've recently encountered. It invites participation by using REJECTION as a vehicle for composing. Mysterious? Venture forth...
Deep in the Middle
Other People’s Rejection Letters

Always a hotbed of insightful commentary and wry humor, Amy links to a great excerpt from an LA Times Opinion article...
Garden Rant (Posted by Amy Stewart)
Everything I Needed to Know About Foreign Policy I Learned in my Garden

Friday, December 5, 2008

Five Plants I Hate...

For a quick, silly read, check my bi-weekly on-line column at Santa Barbara's very own news and events

What are YOUR bottom five?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Shootin’ Blanks

I need more ammo! I’m running out of words. Frankly, I’m surprised. I tend to be a pretty vocabularious guy. I’m hoping to enlist your help.

In my 21 years at my day job as landscape architect for the city of Santa Barbara, I’ve been called on to write staff reports, memos and the occasional grant proposal. I do a pretty good job—even convinced the powers in Sacramento to send some significant didge our way a few times. It’s professional writing; no Pulitzer prizes in my future.

But now I’ve expanded my writing endeavors. It began about seven years ago, e-mailing cheeky gig alerts to adoring King Bee fans, hoping they’d come see us (next chance: SOhO, Friday, December 12). I launched this blog in May 2007, ranting about bad gardens, teaching design principles, occasionally extolling the charms of Santa Barbara. This attracted the attention of now defunct Coastal Woman magazine (we miss you, Barbara!), where my quarterly feature, Garden Coach, raised the bar on my writing skills. No more off the cuff bursts; people were actually reading this magazine. Additionally, I write a thousand words a month for Santa Barbara Homeowner Magazine, and then let my hair down at in a bi-weekly on-line column. That’s a lot of writing for a landscape guy.

Mostly, I write about gardens and here’s where the word shortage manifests. There are only a handful of ways of saying “garden” or “green” or “beautiful.” I get bored and you don’t want an article that reads like an assembly manual for a bookcase. That’s where you, my erudite, imaginative readers come in. Bear with this minor digression, as you might be wondering why a landscape architect is getting all bent out of shape about writing.

Like I said, I’ve been at my day job for over two decades and quite frankly, the thrill is ebbing. Lately, thoughts of retirement have been dancing in my head. I figure that with the pension I’ll receive I can retire to Botswana and be set for life. But it’s hard to find free wi-fi there, so I’ll be staying around and needing supplemental income.

Right now, I trade my writing for advertising. If you’re an Edhat regular and occasionally glance at the top of the screen, you see a banner ad—sometimes it’s for my consulting business, bgdc. I advertise to find new clients. It works. However, given the current state of the economy, it might be awhile until I pull the chord on my pewter parachute.

As should be obvious, I’m not really a writer—I don’t even play one on TV. I backed into writing and so far it hasn’t tried to bite me on the ass. Here’s the dilemma: I’ll have more time for the clients I’m generating if I can streamline the writing process. Yet as I sit down to tackle each assignment, I feel like I’m fumbling through a foggy cloud of June Gloom. I’m enjoying the writing—I just wish it came as easily as designing.

What I need is a reliable process; I need words to pour from my noggin, arrange themselves on the page with √©lan and brilliance, and then push the ‘send’ button on their own, whilst I set about making landscapes more beautiful, functional and sustainable.

To jump start my training, I attended a garden writer’s conference in September. I’ve spent a small fortune on writing books and bought lunches for generous freelance writers. It’s helping. Who knew there are actual techniques for writing? Like fitting the number of topics to the number of words in the assignment or writing “shitty first drafts” before you polish the rough edges. It’s amazing what a little strategerizing can do.

Now imagine my delight when I discovered, a website that generates veritable spider webs of word associations in a dynamic, colorful, animated format. I typed the word “green” in the text box. From the center of the screen, fourteen lines blossomed from the original word, bouncing like marionettes, each one displaying a different meaning for “green.” One arm connects to “not mature; unripe” while another defines a piece of land set aside for recreation. One leads to where golfers putt, another to the political party. Click on the synonym “park” and a new octopus word map in generated. You’ll find yourself going down a labyrinth of rabbit holes after a few clicks.

Here’s where you come in. Right now my goal is to expand my garden design vocabulary and I’d like your help. In the comment section at the end of this article is your opportunity to inundate me with garden design words—words about flowers, spaces to hang out, the sensations you feel when you’re in your garden, the sights and smells that take you out of your everyday life and trigger your pleasure centers.

Put on your thinking cap, whip out your Roget’s and unleash your inner Shakespeare.