Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Permanent Lawn installation

Back in March we brought up the philosophical debate about what's truly "green" in the context of new permanent lawn technology. We had an opportunity to install a permanent lawn at a commercial application in south Minneapolis at Liberty Frozen Custard on 53rd and Lyndale Avenue. Go check it is an amazing facisimile from a distance, and up-close it really holds up well. And it's particularly appropriate for this high traffic area and the retro-vibe of the establishment. Maybe there are other uses out there? Let us know your thoughts...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones - a primer

Here's a great primer explaining the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones via the University of Minnesota Extension Service. There has been much talk of late of how plant hardiness zones may be shifting. This explains the system and how the Twin Cities is still pretty well-rooted in Zone 4a, even though we have many adventurous gardeners tempting fate and living life on the Hardiness-edge!

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones revisited


Avocado Green's installation Homegrown at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has been a great success. Many of our friends have been out to experience it in person and given us a lot of wonderful feedback. For all of you whom haven't had a chance to check it out, it's not too late. The "Powerhouse Plants" exhibition is on through October 10th. And in the meantime, here are a bunch of photos showing you how Homegrown has evolved over the season along with a few of our visitors. If you have a photo of your encounter with Homegrown, please send it in and we'll add it to our collection!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Homegrown" at Powerhouse Plants

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, Minnesota has a special summer exhibition called "Powerhouse Plants" which focuses on the multitude connections between plants and people: as nourishment, energy source and inspiration. Part of the fun is a juried art competition where artists and designers where asked to intepret these connections in new ways. Avocado Green was honored to be one of the five submissions selected for installation.

Our installation was assembled the last week of May. Entitled "Homegrown," the installation is in essence a "green wall" layered in a familiar context to appeal to the kid in all of us. Here is a quick synopsis of the design intent:
Approaching "Homegrown", one sees a simple building facade not unlike a child's drawing of a house. Upon crossing through the door, a wall of garden springs to life with a vertical cascade of color, smell and texture. A vertical garden presents the familiar in a brand new light, inspiring a fresh look at the role plants play in our lives. The landscapes that surround us often become "background" for the casual observer; here plants are "front-and-center". The installation becomes in both form and message a billboard for the power of plants to go beyond their perceived passive role in our everyday lives.

I've included some construction photos here, along with a few hints of the completed work, but you are going to have to visit the Arboretum to experience the work in it's entirety. It's located on the trail near the Sensory Garden and the Iris Gardens, and maps are provided at the gatehouse for this, the other artists' installations, and all the other special exhibits comprising "Powerhouse Plants."

Special thanks to our carpenter and all-around handyman extraordinaire Gary Bieniek and irrigation contractor MJ Holasek Irrigation for their services in making this project a reality.

If you aren't familiar with the Arboretum, it is a fantastic regional resource for all ages and interest levels: intense gardener to the casual picnicker. Acres of display gardens and trails can easily consume an afternoon. Visit for more information.

The "Powerhouse Plants" exhibition runs through October 10th. For those of you who can't make the trek, I'll be posting more photos over the summer tracking how the garden wall grows!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lake Minnetonka magazine

Avocado Green got a shout-out in the June 2010 issue of Lake Minnetonka magazine. The article "Alfresco Living," by our friend Diane Timba, discussed trends in residential landscapes and included some of our thoughts on good landscape design.

Thanks Diane for including us!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Solar City Tower @ 2016 Olympics

Good design should inspire.... I'm in awe.

And can't wait until 2016!

Follow the link for details of this proposal:

Solar City Tower @ 2016 Rio Olympics

Monday, March 22, 2010

Something wicked this way comes...

WICKED PLANTS by Amy Stewart

Just finished this quick, entertaining read. I recommend this for any plant nerd out there looking for some cocktail-party trivia to impress your gardener friends. While after reading it your takeaway may be "huh, just about everything can be deadly if you ingest enough of it," the real message is what we as humans usually deem the separate realms of the chemical and natural worlds are really one in the same.

Particularly fun factoids include:

All parts of your Easter Lily are toxic to cats.

Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac are not an ivy, oak, nor sumac, respectively. And none of them are actually poisonous.

You never see a Cashew in it's shell at the grocery because the Cashew is in the same family as Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac, and its shell has a similar irritating oil that causes a nasty rash if any part of you comes in contact with it.

You could die from a diet consisting of only corn (I'm not kidding).

Also, for great photos of some of the plants featured in the book, check out this site:

'Wicked Plants' at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mid-century Home by architects Elizabeth & Winton Close

My realtor has a great listing coming back on the market in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I was through it last fall. Local architects Elizabeth and Winton Close designed the home for the original owner, a landscape architect. If you love mid century modern design and Danish modern influences you should check it out. There is a preview open house this Sunday the 14th from 12 to 2 pm.

The home is brilliantly sited to take advantage of a really interesting lot. Lexington Avenue is a busy road, but here you are high up above it nestled in the woods, not unlike being in a great big adult-treehouse. The original owner created a distinct and memorable landscape to support the amazing details of the architecture.

Check out the attached flyer: Close house pdf

"Permanent" lawn?

Check out the following link for a compelling debate about what makes something "GREEN" in this new green movement in which we all now live. I've actually worked on a residential project where we priced-out this new generation of artificial grass. The homeowners were interested in exploring it for their shady backyard where the challenged lawn also competes with four young kids and two dogs. I do have to admit, I'm a purist when it comes to design, but this new product is amazingly close to in texture, color and quality of experience to the real thing. I'm not sure I'll ever be specifying it for a design, but there definitely is an appropriate time and place for its implementation.

Ultimately the high initial cost of the permanent grass was the deciding factor for these homeowners. We ended up sodding, with the idea that there will need to be ongoing sod/seed replacement depending on how the lawn is used and abused.

Be sure to follow the link in the article for a more detailed analysis of the debate.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"Sankaku" by John Howe

An amazing house just came on the market and I had the great fortune to tour it today. "Sankaku" (Japanese for equilateral triangle) was designed by and for John Howe, Frank Lloyd Wright's chief draftsman at Taliesin. The equilateral triangle is a touchstone design element throughout. The siting of the building on a 2.3 acre lot on small Horseshoe Lake in Burnsville is perfection. The layout and architectural details are stunning. The finishes and furnishings have been faithfully maintained. I left the property with an overwhelming sense of serenity having experienced this place.

If you are a fan of Prairie School architecture and have a chance, there is another open house on Sunday February 14th from 1 to 3 pm. I highly recommend getting your foot in the door, because this spectacular property is priced to sell and some lucky new homeowner is going to get a steal.

Follow this link to go to the full MLS listing:

Also ran across this Star Tribune article from August 2000 on John Howe:

Monday, February 8, 2010

MNLA awards

Two landscape projects designed by Avocado Green have been recognized by the Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association (MNLA) for design excellence in their 2010 awards competition.

Landscape contractor Ground One Enterprises submitted the Nelson Residence, which won a Grand Honor Award for backyard design, and the Rekenthaler Residence, which won a Merit Award for frontyard design.

Go to MNLA's website and click on the 2010 lists to see all the award winners:

Friday, February 5, 2010

SPACES feature article

If you get a chance, pick up a copy of the February/March 2010 issue of SPACES magazine. The article "Space Exploration" is a feature on the Buss Residence, which is also shown on the cover.

TreHus Builders of Minneapolis completed an extensive remodel of this 100-year-old home, and the article focuses on their work along with discussion of the landscape renovation.

Avocado Green designed this landscape with landscape contractor Ground One Enterprises completing the installation. There is a great spread showing the before and after of the backyard. This was a complete transformation of every corner of the property...a successful collaboration with great clients.

Use the link below and scroll down to the "Buss Residence" thumbnail for additional photos of this project:

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Hi all - welcome to my first foray into the blogosphere. I figured since blogging is now obsolete, and that I refuse to subject myself to the concept of "tweeting," now is the perfect time to jump on the one-step-behind bandwagon!

My initial intent with this is to muse on landscape architecture, gardens, design, nature, and whatever else inspires me and the work I do as a landscape architect, along with updates on the latest news related to Avocado Green, Inc. I'm excited and a little anxious to see how this evolves and look forward to sharing with you.