We have a few friends showing their faces this fine May morning, some in the ground and some in containers. I hope you enjoy these beauties as much as we, and when your done here remember to stop by May Dreams Gardens to see many more bloggers fine blooms!
As we continued on with our Backyard Makeover, my cell phone began to ring. Offers were coming in to help with the project, in fact at one point I thought we might have too many people running around the site. Calls came in from John Borovicka’s Carpenter’s Union Local 43, as well as Local 24, with which he had been working the day he died. John’s Union brothers were great, they showed up asked what needed to be done, and got to work. They agreed to finish up the trim work on the sauna addition John had started, install a screen door for the space, and helped out with the Memorial garden, by pouring the slab for the Granite bench. It was quite a site, seeing some of Connecticut’s best bridge builders, pouring a slab that only measured 14 inches by 42 inches. The scale of this project was much smaller than they were used to, but they handled it with the same precision reserved for our state’s major roadways.
While the Union guys were seeing to their tasks, our crews lead by Readco Landscaping, were busy working on the sitting wall and patio under the watchful eye of our Director and camera crew. Construction had to be halted from time to time, but Readco did a great job staying on schedule.
Sometime during the afternoon hours on Wednesday, a woman walked down into the backyard carrying two large plastic containers. We were use to friends stopping by at this point, but could not imagine what she was bringing by. Maureen, and her family, are good friends with the Borovicka’s, and she began to tell us of the many times John had been to their house to help with repairs and projects. Tears filled her eyes as she told us of John’s generosity, and that she had brought us cookies and peanut butter bars to say thanks for all that we were doing. Her story warmed our hearts, and the treats were delicious. Unknowingly though, she had broken one of the rules of dealing with contractors and stray dogs; If you feed them they might never leave!
As the stories and visits continued a renewed sense of what we were really there for kept us focused on finishing on time, and the wrap party planned for the end of the week.
Check back in to see what else lay in store for the Borovicka backyard!
John Borovicka had donated much of his time to “Christmas in April”. On one project the crew could not finish the work on a particular house, so John went back on his own time, and finished the work by himself. The homeowner grateful for the extra effort John had shown on her behalf, offered to pay John for his work, but John declined, saying he was glad to be of help. Being of little means, the woman insisted on compensating John for his time so she paid what she could, a can of peaches, a bag of peanuts, and the coupons she had clipped from her newspaper that week.
These are the stories Linda Borovicka began to share with us as we began work on her backyard. Each story bringing a smile, and at the same, causing a sinking feeling that came from deep within. We have caught only a glimpse of the person John Borovicka was, but it was clear he was special.
Day one of the shoot was a mix of setting up camera shots and interviewing the principles. Our host, Fox 61’s Sarah Cody would be leading us through the week interviewing vendors, and checking in with me from time to time for updates on the project. My job is to create the overall layout of the project, schedule the work, apprise the camera crew of who they would be interviewing and filming each day, making sure materials arrive as needed, and keeping the Fox61 people up to date on the progress. Although it seems like a lot of work, my job has been easy, thanks to the fantastic efforts of each of the following parties involved;
Dunning Sand and Gravel would be supplying all the hardscape materials. Readco management is supplying the labor needed to install the patio, grade and excavate, site cleanup, and just about everything else needed, including a couple of special projects at my request. More about those in a later post. Salem Country Gardens would supply the planting plan, the plants and the planting labor. Carefree Small Buildings a 10 x 12 shed. Giant Oak Power is supplying a Mower, and Big Y, food for the wrap party. We received a few last minute and surprise gifts, and we’ll find out about those later also.
Our job meeting the previous Friday with the principle contractors had gone well, and I had sensed that this group would be great team to work with. Not wanting to step on their generosity, I had laid out my ideas and rough schedule, and waited anxiously for Monday to arrive. What I found out, is that I had underestimated the generosity of this group. Here we were on day one, and already Dunning Sand and Gravel was dropping off a dumpster and a mini-excavator, and Readco had had called in Sullivan Tree Experts, to remove an oak that stood in the way of John’s patio (both companies had already kicked in more than they had pledged). I knew instantly that this would be an exciting week!
Check back in to follow our story, as we Honor a local hero from Vernon, CT!
I hope you find special people to build your team with!
This past Monday, we began shooting the second “WTIC Fox 61 Ultimate Backyard Makeover”. I was fortunate again this year to be asked to serve as landscape designer/project manager. We have a great group of vendors participating this year, and a very nice family to work for. The Borovicka’s of Vernon, CT. will receive a wonderful new backyard, but they have recently suffered a tragic loss. This is their story.
John Borovicka was a master carpenter with the Carpenters Union, Local 43. He was a doting father to Bethany and Kimmie, father-in-Law to Sid, and loving husband to Linda. He plied his trade during the day building bridges and working on various construction projects throughout Connecticut for O&G Industries. On nights and weekends over the years, John built the house the family lived in, the deck and gazebo they dined and relaxed on, and landscaped the yard they played in. John’s efforts didn’t stop with the family home though, as he regularly helped out neighbors, friends and family with any project they needed help on. He volunteered with Christmas in April, his Church, drove the High School Band instruments on trips, and brought his daughters to dance class, even dancing with them every once in a while. John was proud family man, and a devoted community volunteer. And, unbeknownst to him, he was soon to be a grandfather. Last fall John began working on the last part of the yard.
After recently completing an addition in which they placed a sauna, John had intended to construct a patio and sitting wall just outside. He prepped the area, did some drainage work, and put away his tools as winter began to set in. The plan was to get right back at it this spring, but tragically in November, John lost his life in a workplace accident. The patio and steps would remain unfinished, the family would lose the center of their world, and the community would lose a hero.
Here is where our story begins, as Kimmie Borovicka napped on the couch with the TV on. She awoke to hear the announcer say something about a Backyard Makeover contest, but didn’t hear the details. She ran to tell her mother and sister, and after a thorough search, they found the Fox61 website and sent in a picture and an essay. All this, one week before the contest began.
The Borovickas entry was selected as one of three finalists, and their story was posted on the website to allow fans to vote for the winner. After a week of voting the Borovickas, with over half of the vote, were declared the winners. In just two short weeks, the Borovickas, still grieving from their loss, went from wondering what they would do with this unfinished area, to welcoming in our crews to carry on John’s work. It is our hope that what we provide, will in some small way give them comfort as they remember a great man.
In upcoming posts, we’ll find out exactly what the Borovickas have won, meet the contractors that will finish the work John started, and create their Ultimate Backyard.
If you’ve ever walked through a landscape and not been able to tell what part of the country you were in, or have traveled somewhere only to find the same plants, paving materials, and stores as the mall back home, then you have experienced the homogenization of today’s society. Uniqueness is giving way to mass production in our world. If everywhere we go, looks the same as where we’ve been, is there really any reason to have gone there in the first place? This post, and the posts of 12 of my friends and fellow Landscape Designers today, is dedicated to celebrating regional diversity in the garden. Lauding the uniqueness of each corner of this small planet. Please take some time to visit the other participants blogs, and experience the visions of each of these talented designers, as they delve into regional diversity in Garden Design. You’ll find their names and links to their blogs at the end of this post.
I live and design landscapes in southern New England. New England is a wonderfully diverse region of the country. The Connecticut River Valley, rich and fertile, has been home to thriving agriculture for some 400 years. Dairy farms once dominated the rolling hills of Vermont. There are granite quarries in New Hampshire, brownstone quarries in Connecticut, rocky lobster beds in Maine, and the world’s premier oyster fisheries in Long Island Sound. Mill towns throughout the region stand as reminders of a strong manufacturing base, long since weakened by present day global economies. Ecosystems vary from huge sand dunes on Cape Cod, alpine meadows in New Hampshire, deep spruce forests in Maine, and over 6000 miles of rocky and sandy coastline. In a days drive, one can experience all that New England has to offer, passing through cattle pastures, tobacco fields, mountain passes, large cities and industrial hubs.
The architecture in New England is predominantly colonial in nature. It echoes the feel of northern Europe, for it is those Europeans that originally settled here. They brought with them their colonial style houses, cottage gardens, and an innate ability to construct miles and miles of field stone walls, perhaps the defining image of New England. Stone walls line both farmland and Main Street in most New England towns, and that same stone can be found in the construction of many of the older factories, churches and municipal buildings.
Sadly though, New England’s natural beauty is slowly disappearing, succumbing to strip malls and boring landscapes of mass produced plant cultivars. The brick paths, field stone walls and cottage gardens, that provided this region with its traditional character and charm, are also giving way to more modern concrete pavers, block walls and uninteresting plantings. To turn around this trend, one need only to look again to New England’s history and natural beauty when designing a garden. Its early European influences, natural geography and native ecosystems, still present today, can easily be drawn upon to marry each design to the regions character. And when that design is true to its surroundings, and successfully implemented, the effort put forth to enhance that natural beauty, disappears beneath a conjoined sense of place. To put it simply, a well designed landscape seems not to have been designed at all, yet gives the visitor a sense of location, and of the character within. Herein lays the value of celebrating a location’s natural diversity, and turning away from homogeneous design. By focusing on regionally specific plant groups, hardscape materials, and design concepts, we promote uniqueness rather than assimilation into the global fold.
Examples that might celebrate regional diversity could be as follows: A shade garden of locally native plants beneath a beautiful hardwood canopy, so common in New England, instead of cutting down as many trees as possible to grow a lawn. A meadow or rain garden in a low lying damp area, filtering toxins from runoff before it reenters the ecosystem. A habitat garden comprised of native plant species providing a place of food and sanctuary for the native fauna. Moving in closer to the house, examples might include; Native stone and brick to construct walkways and patios, calling back to the days when such materials were quarried in a nearby location. Regionally available wood species, felled and milled locally to build garden structures. And, when possible, situating the home itself so as to accentuate the property, shunning cut and fill grading practices and taking advantage of the land’s unique characteristics.
Drawing upon the history, native plants and hardscape materials of a region when designing a project, provides the designer a culturally specific path to creating that garden. A garden that celebrates its location and informs its visitors. As our world continues to shrink, it is imperative to preserve local character and regional identity. Doing so, will give your garden its unique sense of place.
I hope you find yourself a new sense of place in your own garden. And please, if you any thoughts on this topic? I’d love to hear them, leave a comment below!
I would invite you now to visit my friends and fellow Landscape designers as they blog from their unique and diverse regions, and who knows, maybe you’ll find an interesting place to visit the next time you venture across this wonderfully diverse country of ours. Click on each of the Designers names to visit their blogs. (And while your there, explore some of their older posts also. You’ll find a wealth of information!)
Another day of rain yesterday, and honestly, I am struggling to find the silver lining. Here are a few positives; the reservoirs are full, lawns are staying green and the irrigation systems are not being used as much (Yeah!), most of the wet weather has been spaced out enough to limit basement water (Double Yeah!). What I am most excited about though is the crop of mushrooms that have appeared in our yard. Have a look!
It’s Hard to outdo Mother Nature, when it comes to simple beauty, and I look forward to moments like these. Truly, it’s the little things that make life enjoyable.
Recent events have kept me from attending to all the details that keep each project moving along smoothly, and that has caused there to be a little downtime for the crew. When faced with idle time in the past, I could usually trust that my crew would keep themselves busy in some sort of constructive fashion. My current crew, consisting of 2 college aged males on the otherhand, upon finding themselves with some empty time, decided they would rather exercise their ceative muscles. When instructed to move an existing pile of brick, they instead decided to build a monument any mason was sure to be proud of. So, move it they did. All that was left was to sit back and soak up the accolades.
So my friends, I give you – “Pile of Brick”, by Justin and Mike.
Now in the past, I may have over reacted to this kind of “tom-foolery”, but I have matured over the years, and have learned to accept things for what they are. After all, they could have used their idle time in all manner of degenerate ways (that’s a story for another time!). No, this time I took into account that the customer was fairly amused, and that their actions didn’t leave me with any repairs or the need to replace anything (which is also a story for another time!), instead I focused on the positive, and….. promoted them.
I am pleased to introduce the new Vice President and Executive Assisant, of material storage and brick stacking for Blue Heron! (I’ll let them decide which is which).
To those of you that tuned it to watch “The Ultimate Backyard Makeover” on FOX 61 this past Saturday, I must first say thank you. Not only did you perservere through a long blog series, you went the extra yard. Now, if you found yourself saying “what the heck was that?”, you are not alone. Apparently there were some technical difficulties in the Fox 61 control room, and half of the show did not make it on air, so if you didn’t get it, it wasn’t you. Fox 61 will be re-airing the the show in all its glory again this Saturday (Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel) and this time you’ll get to see the whole thing.
So if you have it in you to give it one more try for cause, please tune in. Oh and just in case, better have a copy of your favorite movie to watch if things go awry again. I think I’ll rent moonstruck……
Promoting a small business can be a daunting task. Finding the right venue to get your message out, getting ad copy just right and staying within a budget, all can test the reserve of even the most creative soul. That’s why, when the Backyard Makeover project presented itself, I gladly jumped onboard. A role in a televised production, on a local station, professionally filmed and produced, would surely provide needed exposure and credibility for Blue Heron Landscape Design. Most of the other participants, already advertisers with Fox 61, undoubtedly also knew of the value of this exposure, and also were quick to sign on. With stars in our eyes, we arrived, prepared for our companies expected fortunes.
Fate, I have always maintained, has a sense of humor, it seems, that it also has a sense of purpose. Here was a group of companies determined to take advantage of a brilliant opportunity, unexpectedly finding a greater purpose; Present a very deserving family with a private place of respite that they would not otherwise be able to afford. Now, I don’t mean to make our homeowners out as destitute, for they are not. Simply good people, that life threw one too many curve balls. And by no means are we, the participants meant to appear as saints, most assuredly we are not. This rather simply, became a feel good story that would benefit both sides in ways that neither could have imagined, and that is good story to tell.
Thank you to WTIC FOX 61, for providing this opportunity, and thank you to each of the other participants for making my job easier. Special thanks to Ron and the crew at R-N-L Enterprises, for without them we never would have pulled this off. And, thank you to you, readers, for the opportunity to tell this story, I know time is precious, and this has been a long blog. I hope you have enjoyed it.
Now, I must go, it just started to rain again, and I think I left my tools outside……
Day two of our project began with a job meeting. This is a common occurrence, especially when so many contractors and vendors are participating. Four of those participants met on the homeowners back porch, and the discussion quickly centered on our first obstacle, and what would prove to be an ongoing theme for this project….Rain. Each contractor, stood with his umbrella, the whole group looking more like the crowd at the US Open, than a group of artisans set to reconstruct this backyard. Quickly, we dispensed with ‘interesting topics’, such as; “I wasn’t given enough notice for this project!” and “There’s no way this will get done by Friday!”, and refocused around the homeowner’s story and the opportunity we each had to help them out.
Each participant would bring his certain product or talent to the group; Ron from R-N-L Enterprises, would provide site work, bed prep, brush removal and lawn establishment. Darren from Birch Mountain Earthworks would supply us with mulch, topsoil and playscape mulch. Bryan from Winterberry Gardens would bring in the plant material and plant it. My job was to design the overall layout of the site, including, location of their new shed and new playscape, size and shape of the new patio and sitting wall, and the layout of all the planting beds. I also would be scheduling each of the participants time on the site, keeping each abreast of the schedule, and coordinating with the film crew as to their arrival, so each could be filmed in action and interviewed for the final production. After getting a little understanding and relief from the executives at FOX 61, we set our schedule and were off.
R-N-L got to work immediately, clearing brush scraping sod from the beds, and excavating areas for the shed, the new playscape and the patio. They are an efficient crew, and were able to make quick work of theirs tasks, with the help of their Takeuchi Compact Track Loader (See picture at right). Carefree Small Buildings delivered the new shed, and with the precision of a surgeon the driver placed it exactly in the spot R-N-L had created for it. When commenting on how good the driver was, he replied to me, “oughta be, I been drivin’ this truck for 46 years”.
Next in were John from Nicolock Pavers, and his installer Gregorio. Jamie selected her paver style and color, Gregorio and I discussed the patio layout, and we set Monday as the day for installation. Unfortunately, rain and schedule conflicts, would put the rest of the project off until the next week, but come that Monday morning, the place would come alive with activity.
In part III, tomorrow, we’ll do our best to stay out of everyone’s way, as the jobsite becomes a flurry of activity, including some emergency tree work, the patio installation, plantings and some very cool extras.