This week I am in the San Francisco area for the APLD (Association of Professional Landscape Designers) annual conference. What attracted me to take a week away from the East Coast, during a busy season, was the opportunity to see some amazing gardens and meet some inspirational designers. The conference has delivered on both fronts and has provided me with lots of great topics for Open Air Life.
One of the more unique, and inspirational spaces we’ve visited was the Edible Medicinal Garden at the UCSF Medical Center, designed by the esteemed artist Topher Delaney http://www.tdelaney.com. We were lucky to have Topher there as our guide to walk us through the garden.
|Names of philosophers and inspirational text at the building’s entrance set the context of this space as one of learning|
|Topher Delaney challenging designers to consider the cultural statements, and uses, of plants|
One of the features of this garden is its access to the public. The garden is set in a series of Corten steel beds along the building’s foundation. Crushed gravel provides a walking surface between the sidewalk and the beds, allowing pedestrians to get up close to the plants. The lack of a fence, and the accessibility of this garden to the street, truly makes this a public garden.
|Aloe, yarrow and rosemary offer a stunning color combination|
Herbal medicine is an ancient practice that seems to be gaining interest as a complement, or alternative, to Western medicine. This garden showcases plants that are known for their medicinal characteristics. In the combination above, aloe offers relief from burns, yarrow is used as an astringent and as a digestive aid, and rosemary is said to improve memory.
|Plant names are labeled on the Corten steel beds|
Plants are allowed to grow to term. Unpruned, this offers a view of these plants in the natural, mature form. As a botanical garden, you expect to see plant names, but the colorful and bold labels on the Corten steel beds lend a sense of artistry to this garden.
|Topher gathering leaves from the Stevia plant for us to taste|
What I found inspirational about this space were the inherent challenges presented: what does a public garden look like? What value to plants offer other than as ornamentation? What might the plants chosen in a garden say, culturally, about the people that occupy the space around the garden?
For our first day of touring gardens in the San Francisco area, this was a great way to start!