Feb 13th, 2014

Winter Symposium & CVNLA Short Course: Sublime + Sustainable with Julie Moir Messervy

by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator,  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 

Julie Moir Messervy

Julie Moir Messervy inspiring a packed house during the Winter Symposium & CVNLA Short Course at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

This morning I spent a few minutes listening to a horticultural rock star of our time.  Julie Moir Messervy spoke to a full house of green business owners and their staffs, landscape architects and designers, Master Gardeners, seasoned home gardeners, and horticulturists (including most of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s hort staff), during the Winter Symposium and CVNLA Short Course Sublime + Sustainable: Horticultural Artistry in Action.  I could feel excitment in the room, a sense of enthusiastic desire for knowledge and inspiration from one of the nation’s most well-regarded and prolific authors on the topic of garden design.   Messervy’s  newest take on garden design is design that incorporates sustainability as a central feature. It’s garden design for the 21st century, incorporating the idea of “new homesteading”  or making  our homes a place where we not only embrace the paradise that is our outdoor space, but more than that, making it a model of sustainability, using vegetable gardens, solar panels, drying yards, rainwater collections systems and more as an imaginative way  to create a nest for the next generation.

Green roofs, she pointed out, used to be filled with hardy plants like Sedum, but with the evolution of better technology in both the roof membrane and how living roofs  are designed,  Messervy has seen many more gardeners putting vegetables on their roofs, something that wasn’t easily done just a few years ago.  When planning  outdoor spaces it helps to have an expert like  Messervy  to  help you think about details that might not otherwise come into consideration.  For example, she notes that south-westerly winds cool you in the summer, so you would want to be strategic not to block them with plantings.

Ever heard of a Drying Yard? Me neither! One of the greatest things you can do for the environment, Messervy says,  is to use your own energy, or utilize nature’s energy instead of using fossil fuels. With a little strategic planning you can dry your laundry outside, using only the sun’s natural energy. “There is nothing NOT beautiful about these,” Messervy says, showing a slide image filled with perfectly spaced  pants hanging on a clothesline.  Drying Yards aren’t new ideas of course, but  in today’s age of convenience, most people don’t think about drying their clothes outside, the natural way. It practically seems revolutionary.  And why not use a rake instead of using a loud leaf blower? Your neighbors will thank you for not creating obnoxious noise and your body with thank you for it too.

If you missed  the symposium, consider checking out her new book, Landscaping Ideas that Work.  Or, if you are tech savvy do-it-yourselfer, check out her app, Home Outside Palette app for iPhone and iPad (available soon for Android).

How do I know Messervy is a horticultural rock star? When you’ve designed a garden with Yo-Yo Ma, you certainly are!   At the Toronto Music Garden in Canada, Messervy’s challenge was “How do you create a garden to a piece of music? — Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for unaccompanied cello, BWV 1007  “The ideas were all in the music — I just recreated what I heard” Messervy says.   Imagine, a garden with prelude,  allemande, courante, sarabande, minuets, and gigue. If nothing else it inspires me to rethink how I want to design my own garden, pushing the limits of what I thought was possible this does.  Maybe I’ll design my front yard to Radiohead’s Transmutation and my Back Yard to Dan Mangan’s  Leaves, Trees, Forest.  Now, if I can just get my neighborhood association to allow a Drying Yard….

Jonah Holland is Digital Content Manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where she has worked for 14 years overseeing social media, the blog, and the website. She is also a mom, yogi, open water swimmer, gardener, and seeker. She's been known to go for a walk in the Garden and come back with hundreds of plant photos, completely inspired to write her next blog post.

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