Another visit to Honolulu Museum of Art

Chinese garden.

I like to pop into the Honolulu Museum of Art as much as I can. It's one of those rare places where art, architecture, gardens, and history intersect.

Purely from memory, I believe Honolulu Museum of Art is located in the former home of Anna Rice Cooke, daughter of a prominent missionary family in the islands and patron of the arts. It was her collection of art that formed the basis of the museum's collection and the reason why the museum was founded.

View of exterior. Roof looks like a Dickey roof. Monstera is a nice modern choice, but I wonder what the grounds looked like when Cooke lived here.

There seems to be very little written about the museum's courtyard spaces. One is landscaped in the style of a Chinese garden, another in a Mediterranean style. The courtyard near the main entrance is notably home to a fair sized kauri tree, but is otherwise mostly lawn.

It's taken me several visits to finally get respectable photographs of the Mediterranean courtyard. I haven't found a way to nicely capture all of it's features with my basic camera - vining bougainvillea, arched doorways, paned glass doors, bench beneath scraggly tree, lovely pottery, focal water feature where the water is intended to flow from a perimeter pool to a central fountain - in a single frame.

One corner of the Mediterranean courtyard.

The one thing I think that's missing from this courtyard sanctuary is a lemon tree or two. I'm sure its absence has something to do with maintenance (I'm also not sure where it would fit space-wise), but its addition sure would be exquisite.

There are some extraordinary landscape paintings perennially on display. I recently was able to take a tour that highlighted some of them. There are paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe, at least one of the members of the Hudson River School, probably at least one by someone from the Volcano School, and if I remember correctly, one Monet. There are also spectacular scrolls featuring ancient Japanese and Chinese landscapes. The scrolls were particularly interesting. I had not thought about scrolls as a medium for landscape art before.

There's always something new to see at the museum. Even the pieces that have been on display for years are a delight to revisit. I hope to visit again soon.

Georgia O'Keeffe paintings depicting Maui landscapes.

Finely woven mat is a sight to behold.

What a great choice of wall color! I marvel at the time it must have taken to produce such a thing.

Note: My posts will likely be sporadic and infrequent for a while due to work.

Podocarpus forms

This well manicured Podocarpus hedge disguises a chain link fence well.

I've been noticing Podocarpus lately. It has a temperate climate feel to me for some reason - maybe it's something to do with the leaves or the modern shapes one can prune it into or its temperate roots - that contrasts with common tropical plants in urban landscapes. 

It's a conifer and it makes a great hedge. I've seen one that is perfectly rectangular that hides a chain link fence so well that you would never know there was such a fence if you didn't inspect the hedge closely (above). This hedge makes a great privacy screen, as it has grown rather dense, but it is weed-wacked often to maintain the rectilinear form, and that causes some less attractive but temporary browning.

I spotted another such hedge (below), and have watched it fill in nicely. It used to be much sparser. There are still some thin spots, but it's looking better than ever. It's not quite as uniform in shape as the first hedge (maybe it will be one day), but it's much more attractive than a chain link fence.

Podocarpus can also be attractive in tree form. I used to think the plant really only looks good (either as a shrub or a tree) when shaped strategically, but its less manicured form is growing on me. They seem pretty low maintenance, at least once established, and don't seem to shed much.

This Podocarpus may be a different species than that shown in the other photos in this post, but I'm not sure which one. They're also more mature trees than the others.

Close-up of bark.

There are seed cones in there.

Podocarpus trees pruned in an urban landscape.

This planting grid reminds me of the Ground Zero tree arrays. I tested out the concept of approaching from an angle versus parallel to the rows, and got a neat sense of randomness becoming order as I changed my perspective.

If I didn't know what Podocarpus could look like in tree or shrub form and just spotted it as a small potted plant, I probably wouldn't be that impressed. The plant looks kind of lush in the photo below, but I've seen them a bit larger and they don't look particularly attractive at that stage.

Podocarpus gracilior, potted in nursery.

Podocarpus gracilior (fern pine) is the species I see most. I read it's native to East Africa. Pacific Horticulture has an interesting article about how this species ended up in California.

Apparently you can also bonsai Podocarpus (here's a photo of one).

A quick whirl through Allerton's gardens

Diana Pavilion at Allerton Garden on Kauai. Photo credit: Adapted from photo by Ron Cogswell.

Robert Allerton (1873-1964), descendent of one of the wealthiest Mayflower passengers, aspired to be an artist. He spent two years studying in Europe, financed by his agricultural magnate slash bank founder father Sam Allerton (1828-1914), but burned all his paintings before moving home. Land was to be his canvas, and sculpture his medium.

Not long after returning from Europe, at the turn of the last century, Robert cleared land near Monticello in Illinois inherited from his father (Sam Allerton owned more than seventy farms in Illinois) to construct a home, employing architect friend John J. Borie, III to develop plans. The mansion, featured in a 1904 issue of House Beautiful magazine, was apparently unprecedented, even in the wealthy Montecito community. If you look at modern satellite imagery, the estate looks to cover an area about the size of nearby Montecito itself. He entertained a myriad of guests there, including his father occasionally, who would adorn a bust of Caesar at the bottom of a stairway in the mansion with his toupé as a joke.

Allerton mansion in Illinois. Photo credit: Adapted from photo by Michael Morrow.

Although the mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the American Institute of Architects included the property on a list of "150 Great Places in Illinois" in 2007, Robert seemed to care most about the gardens, hoping they would be made available to the public. Today, one can  tour what Robert called "The Farms" (now known as the Allerton Park and Retreat Center), or even stay overnight.

The National Park Service designated  The Farms' grounds a "National Natural Landmark" in 1970. The "Formal Garden Area", consisting of a series of gardens along a quarter mile walk, was developed around the same time as the mansion was constructed and constitutes just one component of The Farms. Robert later completed other projects on his property, including The Sunken Garden (ca. 1917), The House in the Woods (ca. 1917), The Death of the Last Centaur (ca. 1929), The Sun Singer (ca. 1931), and The Lost Garden (ca. late 1930s).

Estate entrance. Photo credit: CECrane.

Friend and architect David Adler transformed Robert's landfill into The Sunken Garden. Photo credit: Adapted from photo by Ron Frazier.

The House in the Woods, designed by Joseph Corson Llewellyn and built in 1917, housed the estate's head gardener and his family. The front door is the mansion's original front door, repurposed here after the mansion was remodelled in 1916. Robert had the Shepherd and Shepherdess sculptures relocated from the Square Parterre Garden to frame the view of the home. Photo credit: CECrane.

Sculpture in the House of the Golden Buddhas. Photo credit: Crystal.

Entrance to the Avenue of the Chinese Musicians. Photo credit: Adapted from photo by CECrane.

The Chinese Maze Garden layout is said to have been inspired by a pattern on Robert's silk pajamas and originally featured apple and pear trees espaliered along the concrete walls. Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Ron Frazier.

The Sun Singer sculpture creator Carl Milles thought the siting of his work was "magnificent". See a photo of the statue undergoing restoration here. Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Philip Brewer.

According to Burgin and Holtz (2009), Robert felt that a painting that hung on a wall in the same spot for too long soon went unnoticed, and likewise preferred to periodically rearrange his garden sculptures (except for the largest ones, which for logistical reasons apparently stayed put).

Robert travelled widely through Europe, Asia, and the Pacific, collecting pieces wherever he went. He narrowly missed boarding the Titanic on one trip home, and lost friends to that tragedy. Returning home on another trip with his adopted son John Wyatt Gregg, they made an impromptu stop in Hawaii, and ended up spending a night on the island of Kauai at the suggestion of prominent Honolulu citizen and Robert's childhood friend Louise Dillingham  because the Halekulani Hotel was full. Louise arranged for them to visit the McBryde property in Lawai while they were there.

Allerton Garden from above. The military installed barbed wire along the beach during World War II. The Allertons spent years afterwards removing bits of metal from the sand. Photo credit: Adapted from photo by Pat McGrath.

The McBryde property originally belonged to Queen Emma (1836-1885), who planted bougainvillea near her home (I've heard bouganvillea can still be seen on the property). The McBrydes purchased the property when she died. Using much of the property for farming sugar cane, taro, and rice, McBryde relocated Queen Emma's home from its cliff-top vantage point overlooking the valley down into the valley to accommodate expansion of sugar cane production.

When Robert and John visited the property, it happened to be on the market for sale. They immediately seem to have fallen in love with it, and eventually made this place they called Lawai-Kai (kai in Hawaiian means "sea") their permanent residence. They quickly built a new house to replace the McBryde home. To mark their first New Year's Day there in 1939, they planted a breadfruit tree. They imported many statues from The Farms and exotic plants from their travels throughout the tropics. An expert stone worker named Mr. Yamamoto built several walls on the property.

Allerton home on Kauai. Photo credit: Adapted from photo by Cheryl Marland.

Photo credit: Adapted from photo by chuck b.

Over the course of decades, Robert and John worked around nature to create a garden unlike any other in Hawaii. Confining tropical plants to rigid lines in the European style was impossible, and so they learned to adapt their formal style to the growing habits of plants in this Polynesian island setting.

Just as at The Farms, John and Robert entertained many guests at Lawai-Kai, including Georgia O'Keeffe in 1939, who came to Hawaii to paint tropical fruit and flowers for the Dole Pineapple Corporation, and Richard Nixon forty years later in 1979.

The Lawai gardens were featured in both print and film. In the 1950s, Harper's Bazaar (written and illustrated by Cecil Beaton) and Life magazine (3/17/58) both ran articles, and South Pacific (1958) was filmed on the property. Jurassic Park and Lt. Robinson Crusoe (1966) are among several other movies filmed there.

John attempted to replicate the Italian Villa Farnese at Caprarola waterway in this area fronting the Lawai stream. Contractor Hironaka and employee Wataro made the shell from a mold, and the mermaids are replicas of sculptures by Libero Andreotti that Robert and John found at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. Photo credit: Adapted from photo by julie corsi.

Robert was instrumental in the founding of Pacific Tropical Botanical Gardens in 1964, and donated a million dollars to support the project and purchase the adjoining property (known today as McBryde Garden). Guided and self-guided tours of the Allerton and McBryde gardens, now under the auspices of the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), are available to the public. Robert and John supported the NTBG, Art Institute of Chicago, and Honolulu Academy of Art (now Honolulu Museum of Art) throughout their lives.


Sources and more information:

The Robert Allerton Story by Kathryn Hulme (1979)

Robert Allerton: The Private Man & The Public Gifts by Martha Burgin and Maureen Holtz (2009)

Allerton Park & Retreat Center

National Tropical Botanical Garden

Wikipedia article - The Farms

Wikipedia article - Allerton Garden

Note: I just happened to pick up the two books listed above, but there are several others out there that are probably just as interesting.

Interesting conservation work being done around the world: notes from the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress

Corrugated cardboard stools, seating, partitions, podium, and stage at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress. Carpet colors were coordinated with "pavilion" themes (e.g., blue carpet for the Water Pavilion area) and served to define distinct areas within the large convention hall.

The IUCN World Conservation Congress is happening right now, held for the first time ever in the U.S. The quadrennial conference reportedly has drawn some 9000 participants from all over the world. President Obama, Jane Goodall, Sylvia Earle, and E. O. Wilson were just a few of the noteworthy speakers. There were over 300 sessions scheduled per day over the weekend and over 1300 sessions planned in total over the ten day time frame. A good portion of those sessions were free to attend. Among those, here's a recap of some of the fascinating work presented.

Japanese tea production

Using grasses sourced from local grasslands as mulch for Japanese tea production in satoyama landscapes produces high quality tea and helps to preserve the grasslands. Watch a video about this farming method here. Link to IUCN workshop:

Banking endemic Hawaiian seeds

There's an effort on the island of Kauai in Hawaii to bank seeds from three endemic canopy tree species. Banking seeds conserves genetic diversity, facilitates breeding work, and supports the supply of saplings to the landscaping industry and others. Link to IUCN poster:

Conference reception lobby.

NRCS EQIP Landscape Initiatives

The NRCS EQIP program provides funding to landowners for conservation projects. There are several landscape scale efforts described here.

Why people use parks: psycho-social-spiritual benefits of NYC parks

There will be a new study published next month in the Journal of Ethnobiology that investigates the psycho-social-spiritual benefits of New York City parks (43 parks included in study, excluding Central Park and Prospect Park because of their unique management). Link to IUCN poster:

Potted plants define a listening booth where visitors can don some pretty nice noise cancelling headphones that immerse the listener into the sound of several primary tropical rainforests around the world.

3D tropical primary forest soundscapes

There's an ongoing effort to record three dimensional sound of tropical (+/- 5 degrees from the equator) primary forest landscapes. There are many reasons why this is a useful undertaking, one of which is that the recordings provide a historical point of reference. As local (e.g., oil drilling, as in the case of Yasunì, Ecuador, one of the recording locations) and global (e.g., climate change) influences effect these ecosystems, this work serves as a kind of aural version of HALS documentation for rainforests. What's neat is that you can see how different species utilize different frequencies or timing in the data, and how every sound niche seems to be occupied. Apparently the "sound imprint" of primary forest looks much different than that of more disturbed ecosystems. In the listening booth pictured above, sounds are spatially fixed such that if you move, the source of the sound relative to you does not. The recently patented Eco-acoustic Theatre is like a theater inside a geodesic dome which, as I understand it, would allow you to hear these rainforests as though you were actually standing within them. Link to IUCN poster:

Orchid-gami handout. You can punch out the shapes and assemble them to create various orchid species out of paper, and learn a little about each one in the process. The finished product is shown in the top right corner of the left paper.

International orchid conservation

Here are a few interesting points from the talk about orchid conservation:
  • Orchids eat fungi.
  • Search for a specific North American orchid species or learn more about them on the Go Orchid website.
  • There are about 3000 botanical gardens worldwide.
  • Naples Botanical Garden is adjacent to natural habitat of the ghost orchid, one of the hardest orchids to grow.
Link to IUCN session page: Direct link to video about orchid conservation:

The globe image displayed across the nine screens of NASA's Hyperwall rotates to show fires (red), dust (orange), sulfates (white), sea salt (royal blue), and atmospheric carbon (green). The Web Fire Mapper and Worldview tools accessible online are an interesting way to view data on the global scale. Link to IUCN session page:

3D printed seascape (right) and 3D virtual coral reef movie viewing using special goggles (left).

3D imaging of coral reefs using drones

Have you ever looked down at a water feature with a bunch of pennies in the bottom and the shapes of the pennies are distorted from the movement on the surface of the water and the water itself? There's a pretty cool NASA project that has figured out how to exploit these distortions to eliminate them from imagery using algorithms in a process called "fluid lensing".

Another problem with aerial photography of water is how light refracts. Have you ever swam in a pool and noticed a pattern of tiny bands of light that are shaped kind of like the spots on a giraffe? These are called caustics, and this project has also figured out how to take advantage of these discrete lighting conditions to provide visibility of underwater coral features at greater depths.

You can view before and after images and video on the presenter's website, and listen to an HPR interview here.

Drones are flown over coral reef to capture the imagery and biologists conducted field surveys for validation. Aside from potentially getting some incredible images, algorithms have been developed to distinguish between living (organic) vs. non-living (inorganic) matter and branching vs. mounding coral, and the technology could also be used to identify specific species in an area. Somehow it is also possible to generate a 3D model of the underwater coral reef seascape (pictured above).

If you're attending the conference, there are two more presentations tomorrow (9/7/16) about this work. UPDATE: The evening presentation was cancelled as of about noon, 9/7/16.

How to save endemic Hawaiian birds

Hawaii is a biodiversity hotspot. There are 142 known bird species, 95 of which are extinct. Of the surviving endemic species, most are listed as either threatened or endangered. The good news is a lot of work is being done to save them. The strategies discussed in this session included:
  • Ungulate management: mammals like feral pigs and deer eat trees that birds rely on for survival; controlling them either through hunting or fencing (exclusion) has been helpful.
  • Revegetation (tree planting) to create habitat. 
  • Translocation (moving a population from one location to another): millerbirds were successfully moved from Nihoa Island to Laysan Island, an example of restoration (on Laysan - the Nihoa millerbird is an analog for the Laysan millerbird).
  • Predator mammal proof fencing: erecting specially designed fencing and removing all predators from within the fenced areas create safe haven "islands" for birds; shearwater birds imprint on the night sky they first see when they leave their burrows for the first time so it is thought that exposing hatchlings to the sky within the enclosure will result in them considering the enclosure "home".
Also, some interesting historical notes: albatross eggs were collected on Laysan Island for their albumin which was used in photography, and the birds were once killed for their feathers, which were used to make mattresses. More on the history of albatross in the Pacific in this presentation PDF. Link to IUCN session page (where more presentation PDFs are available):

New US Forest Service apps

There are several online applications the US Forest Service just released this year:
  • Forest Atlas of the US: see the extent of tree canopy cover across the continental US, the ranges of different tree species, view historical fires spatially by year and size across the US, and more.
  • My City's Trees app: visualize landscape scale data on land cover type, city extent, watershed extent, and ecoregion extent by city.
  • Native Plants Finder: find native plants and butterfly and moth species by zipcode and make a plant list for your landscaping or gardening project.
  • Visitor Map 2.0: an interactive online visitor map that integrates Twitter and Yonder data to help visitors plan their trips and locate trails, campsites, and other points of interest.
Link to IUCN session page:

Landscape scale conservation with the LCCN

The Landscape Conservation Cooperative Network consists of 22 public-private partnerships that work to address conservation issues in 22 regions. Read more about their projects here. Link to IUCN session page:

New books related to cultural landscapes

One of the speakers was a co-editor of two newly published books related to cultural landscapes:
  • A Thinking Person’s Guide to America’s National Parks (2016), and
  • Conserving Cultural Landscapes (2015)
Related IUCN page:

Eight excellent (and free!) resources for anyone interested in landscape architecture

Magazines swaps are just one of many great resources for free information about landscape architecture and garden design.

When I first realized I was interested in landscape architecture, I wasn't sure where to start. For anyone interested in this subject, I've rounded up some of my favorite resources below to make the list I was hoping to find at the start of my journey. I hope it's helpful to someone out there!

1. Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM) by ASLA

LAM tops the list as the most recommended reading material to me by practicing landscape architects. ASLA releases the magazine each month on the web and in print. You used to be able to read the magazine for free online, but now it looks like both the online and hard copy have a subscription rate. They do seem to be making one back issue available for free on their website. If you become a member of ASLA, a magazine subscription is included in your membership at no extra cost, but you don't have to be a member to purchase a magazine subscription. LAM and the ASLA website are also great places to find relevant books, and they run a blog called The Dirt.

2. The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF)'s Pioneers Oral Histories

The TCLF is a great organization that I discovered through their Pioneers Oral Histories project. Each video about a legendary American landscape architect is a joy to watch, highly inspirational, and a wealth of information. Highly recommended.

3. The Library of American Landscape History's (LALH)

The LALH is another great resource for books and also has a magazine called View with some of the back issues available online for free. They also have a few films online accessible for free that are just as beautifully done as the TCLF's and absolutely worth watching.

4. "Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America" film by PBS

Perhaps the first thing I ever learned about landscape architecture was who Frederick Law Olmsted was (through the well-written biography Genius of Place by Justin Martin). The TCLF and LALH both have stunning videos about Olmsted, but this PBS documentary approaches the subject in a slightly different way. The PBS website for the film also has further information about him.

My problem has evolved from not knowing what to read to not knowing what to read first.

5. Google Books

I recently discovered there are a lot of older books about landscape architecture that Google has scanned and made available online (and downloadable). The one I'm currently reading is An Introduction to the Study of Landscape Design by Henry Vincent Hubbard and Theodora Kimball Hubbard (1917), but this seems to be just the tip of the iceberg of Google's book stash. I have found older technical texts to be of high quality so I wouldn't discount them based on age alone. Styles may change (which is actually interesting from a historical perspective), but I expect the design principles underlying them to remain relevant.

6. Other magazines

Garden Design

Garden Design is a delight for the senses. Their photos are large and richly colored and their sometimes heavier weight pages feel like an investment to be treasured. The magazine is only published quarterly, which only serves to heighten anticipation. Their website seems like a good introduction but inadequate replacement for the printed periodical, but there are a few excellent articles there. My absolute favorite is "Landscape Design Rules" by Rob Steiner. That one article taught me more about landscape design than any other source so far. I also like their page on garden styles.


Style extends beyond the sartorial to gardens at Vogue, as more often than not each issue includes a garden-related article. Their website also has some garden-related content. One of my favorite finds on their website is  "Miranda's Garden", a short film series that takes you behind the scenes of landscape architect Miranda Brook's work.

Architectural Digest

AD also seems to generally include a garden-related article in each issue. For example, this one. I especially like the older back issues of AD for their lengthy and in-depth pieces.

The New Yorker

To be honest, I sometimes don't even get the cartoons in the New Yorker, but a quick search for "landscape" on their website yields nearly 7500 results and among these are some gems that even I can comprehend. I recently enjoyed the videos of Joyce Carol Oates' garden and Bruce Davidson's search for nature in Los Angeles landscapes, and the articles about turning the lens on industrial landscapes and the Governor's Island project in New York.

These are just some of the widely circulated magazines that will run an article from time to time that may be of interest, and they are likely accessible for free through your local library.

7. Blogs -->

There are some seriously great bloggers out there. My "Following" list is a bit eclectic, and I'm sure it's incomplete, but there are several in there related to gardening and landscape architecture (some already mentioned above). Land8 is a community of landscape architects I recently discovered, and has a blog and a resource page worth checking out.

8. Local and regional resources

Wherever you live, there are probably local or regional organizations doing interesting things that you can either become a part of or read about somewhere. One that I really like is the California Garden & Landscape History Society for the "Resources" tab on their website, which is something anyone can benefit from regardless of how near or far away California is.

A quick round-up of some of the literature either read or in the reading queue around the house.

Basically what I try to do is keep an eye out wherever I go, online or off. From National Geographic to Harper's Baazar, you never know what lies between the covers unless you look. Library and other book sales have been a treasure trove of relevant literature at bargain prices. Book and magazine swaps have also proven useful. I find a lot of free back issues of Architectural Digest and even LAM through magazine swaps, and have also left many behind for the taking.

I didn't really get into books with this list. There are sooo many great books out there that in the future I hope to do more posts specifically about books. While some landscape architecture books may be available at your local library for free, many may not. I've already come across several great books on the subject not in my local library's collection. I have found several books for under $5 shipped online, so it's definitely worth keeping an eye out.

Did I leave out something great? What are you reading right now? What are your favorite books, magazines, websites related to landscape?

NPS 100th: a dozen national park scenes

In a quick post this week, I wanted to share some of the awe-inspiring images I've run across while reading about our national parks.

These are just a few of so many great photos out there. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!


Thank you for letting me share! Are you visiting any NPS sites in honor of tomorrow's centennial?

Sources: 1 (kezee) / 2 (LOC) / 3 (Wilfred Hdez) / 4 (Thomas Moran) / 5 (Nick Mealey) / 6 / 7 (Melvin Vaniman) / 8 (Detroit Photographic Co) / 9 (Ansel Adams) / 10 (Daniel) / 11 (Chiura Obata) / 12 (John Muir portrait via LOC). 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...