Tag Archives: Hazel White

Lili Singer’s Thursday Talk with Isabelle Greene

Sixteen years ago I was writing only prose and what I consider now traditional garden writing for magazines. And then one day I was in my office looking at a landscape architecture magazine, turned the page, and there was an image that had an enormous physical effect on me. I had a sense of utter physical certainty and determination that I would do whatever I had to do to stand in that place. I don’t know quite how to explain it, but it was nothing to do with my thinking. It had absolutely a physical kind of jolting experience.” — Poet Hazel White on Isabelle Greene’s Valentine garden, Natural Discourse lecture 2/10/12

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Isabelle Greene’s Silver Garden at Longwood Gardens, photo included with kind permission of Fleeting Architecture

I’d resolved to attend as many of Lili Singer’s Thursday lecture series as the workweek allowed, which turned out to be not very many, but the 2/7/13 talk with legendary landscape architect Isabelle Greene was definitely not one to miss. Ms. Greene exudes every bit of wisdom and playfulness you’d expect from someone who has practiced an art that has continuously absorbed and replenished her astonishing creative energies for 49 years. She grew up steeped in a tradition of architecture that celebrates and integrates climate and landscape into a design vocabulary, the Arts and Crafts movement. Henry Greene was Isabelle’s grandfather. (Greene & Greene’s masterwork, The Gamble House in Pasadena, is open for tours.)

Ms. Greene’s speaking engagements are rare, so the turnout filled every seat, where we balanced notepads on our knees and scribbled away, taking notes as she coaxed and cajoled the audience through a garden design brainstorming session. The talk drew quite a few professional designers, and much of its focus was the designer/client relationship, but there was inspiration enough for both professional and layperson. Overall, Ms. Greene exhorts us to “listen to the site, the floor of everything.”

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Natural Discourse; Form & Function 1/11/13

Some important dates. Natural Discourse, the multimedia exhibition installed in the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley, is closing January 20, 2013, so it’s now last-chance-Texaco time to get over there and have a look at its many wonders, such as “The Delight of Earthly Gardens” video installation by Nadia Hironaka and Mathew Suib.

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a video installation using footage shot in the garden with a heat-sensing camera revealing hidden aspects of plants in vibrant colorsartdaily.org

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And “Botanica Recognita: Signage to Facilitate a Greeting,” by Hazel White and Denise Newman

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(one of the boophanes from South Africa)

“Signs highlight the plant’s existence with the following information:

name of caretaker (gardener)
most important collaborator (bird, wind, etc.)
poetic name based on the plant’s uniqueness
location in relation to the viewer and surrounding topography
question posed to or by the plant”

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The closing of Natural Discourse, like its inauguration, is book-ended by what promises to be another amazing symposium, “Form & Function” on January 11, 2013. There may be a few tickets left, but don’t hate me if it’s already sold out. Lineup includes these speakers:

Alejandro de Avila Blomberg, Founding Director of the Oaxaca Botanical Garden
Gerard Dosba, Head Gardener and project manager at the Festival International des Jardins at Chaumont, France
Marie Csete, MD, PhD. Division Director, Center for Cellular Therapies American Association of Blood Banks
Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, Architects, creators of SOL House in the Natural Discourse exhibit

Whether you come via Bay Area Rapid Transit or car, don’t miss the companion installation in the downtown Berkeley BART station.


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O Music of Eyes, 2012, by Deborah O’Grady, Shirley Watts, and Shane Myrbeck.
Photography, sound, and printed silk

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I wrote about the UCBG and a portion of the inaugural 2/10/12 Natural Discourse symposium here.

photos by MB Maher

Hazel White: Aesthetics of Inundation

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden’s symposium “Natural Discourse” held February 10, 2012, has been constantly in my thoughts this past week, whether riding the train, driving freeways, staring at the garden. I’d never visited UCBG before and found the physical location enthralling. I’ve been starved for rain, and a small rainstorm obligingly followed me up the coast, from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and rained off and on most of the weekend. For me, mist and rain always increases a place’s allure, and that day the canyon with its meandering creek and trails was magical.

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Associate Director of Collections and Horticulture Chris Carmichael described this contemplated collaboration with artists as a new direction for this predominantly teaching-based botanical garden in an effort to broaden its appeal as part of an ongoing struggle to attract and connect with new visitors. This is an entirely new direction for UCBG, which dates its inception as a teaching adjunct to the university back to 1890. This “living museum” is a member of the Berkeley Natural History Museums Consortium and has only been open to the public since the 1960s. Bringing artists into this hallowed botanical garden to render site-specific works has not been accomplished without some gnashing of teeth by all involved, but like all of us, new survival strategies must be pursued in these tumultuous times, and botanical gardens are no exception. Despite the joking and joshing, deep affection and respect was readily apparent among all involved. A brief interlude to present Richard Turner with a Monkey Puzzle Tree, Auricaria araucana, in honor of his retirement from Pacific Horticulture, was a wickedly funny touch.

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