plants do not make a garden

51jaevithgl__ss500_Landscape architects rarely talk about plants.  I might even go as far as to say that most landscape architects don’t know much about plants.  Tuesday night, Eric Groft of Oehme van Sweden talked about inspiration, not about plants.  The first slide Groft showed was a painting by Helen Frankenthaler.  “We were told this slide got us the job at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Frankenthalers’ big sweeps of color mirrored our design”

helen frankenthaler Portland ARt Museum





I understand this obsession with art influencing garden/landscape design.   And I think it is incredibly clever to present a painting as a metaphor for a design concept.  Oehme van Sweden has been the gold standard in the landscape architecture for a long time.


Credited with introducing a planting style that has filtered down to even suburban America, Eric Groft presented the firm’s work in a fresh way.  The Artful Garden is organized around basic concepts/chapter headings. Rhythm and Movement opens with  “It Don’t Mean a Thing, (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” Duke Ellington.


It’s really awful how someone as engaging and personable as Eric Groft can be rather dull.  After a long day at work, I want to be inspired, which is a lot to ask of any speaker.  Sometimes, I prefer to dislike someone’s work and try to figure out why I feel a certain antagonism towards it, than to leave feeling apathetic.  I do want to feel the swing.

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