Continuing from my garden and garden related posting earlier (Pergola Designs: Brilliant Ideas and Pictures), I also came across this series of gardens from an article written by Popular Mechanics. I actually like the Host Analog concept (because it is maintenance free!). I am also proud to see two Asian nations being featured as well. When will it be Malaysia's turn?
I took the liberty to re-post the key parts of the article below. If you are interested to read the full article, please go to this link (http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/improvement/lawn-garden/worlds-18-strangest-gardens).
Designing a landscape can be as simple as planting a backyard garden or as complex as shaping tons of earth around a city. As eco-friendly design continues to prosper, landscape architects are devising new ways of gleaning environmental benefits from the natural surroundings while minimizing how buildings disrupt the scenery. Meanwhile, smaller-scale gardens are being designed to explore abstract concepts and catalog fauna from around the globe. From an ancient agricultural site in Sri Lanka to the fledgling crops of the International Space Station, we dug up this collection of the world's most noteworthy gardens and landscapes.
California Academy of Sciences' Living RoofLocation: San Francisco, Calif.
Background: Roof gardens can pose significant construction and maintenance challenges, and adding hills to the mix doesn't make things easier. The crew behind the California Academy of Sciences' living roof installed a multilayered soil-drainage system and chose to rely mainly on natural irrigation to nourish native plant species and minimize upkeep. In 2008, the building received LEED Platinum certification—the highest rating possible—partly because of the roof's awesome insulation capabilities, which keep the building an average 10 degrees cooler than a typical roof would.
Why It's Unique: The garden's two larger contours sync up to the planetarium and rainforest exhibitions down below, but the roof is as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing. "The mounds really came from the fact that when you look from afar, the backdrop is San Francisco's hills," says Bill Callaway of SWA Group. This leading landscape architecture and urban design firm helped design the Academy of Sciences' living roof, and has worked on projects ranging from Google's HQ to Burj Khalifa's Tower Park. "So really what the architect was trying to do was echo those hills in the project by putting them on the roof." By adding an open-air observation deck, the designers created an ideal location to watch the birds and the bees buzz around the lush plant life.
Location: Xilitla, Mexico
Background: English surrealist and poet Edward James went to the Mexican rainforest to create a spectacle of a garden that blends strange architecture into an already vivacious environment. Walkways stamped with footprints, Orchid-inspired sculptures and fantastical structures looming over the landscape are just some of the features laced throughout the 40 or so acres.
Why It's Unique: At points, it seems as though the abundance of artwork would detract from the beauty of the natural landscape and diverse fauna. Then again, it's a small plot of land when considering the size of the whole rainforest, and as the years pass, the artwork and gardens meld into the environment more and more. "I suppose it's true of architecture, but certainly landscape design; it doesn't take too many years when left to its own devices to be eaten up by the jungle," Callaway says. "The natural landscape is going to win out." James died in 1984, and nature has been busy consuming the features so rapidly that Las Pozas was recently named an endangered cultural site by the World Monument Foundation.
The Garden of Cosmic SpeculationLocation: Scotland
Background: The Garden of Cosmic Speculation is the brainchild of architect and architectural critic Charles Jencks and his late wife Maggie Keswick, an expert on Asian garden design. Open to the public only once a year, the 30-acre garden is on Jencks's private estate in Scotland. It took nearly two decades to complete.
Why It's Unique: It is not unusual for science to inspire artists, but when that inspiration takes shape as spiraling landforms, double-helix staircases and intricate floral arrangements, the results are outstanding. Pyramid-like landscapes reflecting in a still pond elicit thoughts of parallel universes and swirling mounds of earth look like grassy black holes. Bridges, streams, fences and other installations divide the garden into several areas and link them together. Jencks's interest in exploring modern physics is not limited to the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, as many of his landscapes morph space and perspective.
Step Garden at Acros FukuokaLocation: Fukuoka, Japan
Background: Adding a new building in Fukuoka, Japan, forced designers to encroach upon one of the last green spaces in the densely populated city. Eco-centric architecture firm Emilio Ambasz & Associates created a unique 5400-square-meter green area that flows into what remains of the park by snaking this 14-story, ziggurat-like garden up the side of the civic center.
Why It's Unique: Acros Fukuoka's walls are mostly glass, allowing natural light to flood the building year-round. "I'm assuming that they probably did the green side facing south, and the glass is on the north side because of heat-gain issues," Callaway says, noting that a relatively new trend is companies creating vertical green panels that can be used on the sides of buildings. But Step Garden is no aftermarket add-on. In 1995, when the building opened, Step Garden had 37,000 plants spanning 76 varieties. Today, there are more than 120 varieties and 50,000 plants. And just because the garden runs up the side of a massive building doesn't mean it's off limits. Two entrances from the park allow residents and visitors to meander up steps that cut through the greenery.
The Greenhouses of AlmeríaLocation: Almería, Spain
Background: Not all gardens are about leisure; some are money-making machines. The roughly 20,000 square hectares of greenhouses on the southeast coast of Spain churn out fruit and vegetables by the ton on a year-round basis, fueling the province of Almería's economy. The greenhouses are packed together so tightly that they're visible from space.
Why It's Unique: Almería's sea of white-roofed greenhouse is so vast that researchers from the University of Almeria estimate that the local temperature has dropped an average of 0.3 degrees Celsius every 10 years since 1983. "What they're going to do is do the cheapest thing possible because its business, but it looks like a totally functional thing that just happened," Callaway says. "There's a certain elegance and industrial beauty in factories and anything that has a functional purpose." The potential cooling effect from the reflective nature of the white roofs has led some experts to suggest that similar designs can be used in geoengineering projects to help bring down the temperature in certain regions.
The Lost Gardens of HeliganLocation: Cornwall, England
Background: England's Lost Gardens of Heligan have a storied history of prosperity, neglect and rejuvenation. The once glorious Heligan estate fell into disrepair as World War I creeped into England and priorities shifted. Nature took its course in the decades that followed, swallowing the gardens and obscuring the walkways. It wasn't until 1990 that two descendants of the Tremayne family—the owning family of the estate dating back to 1200—discovered a small garden and decided to revamp the site.
Why It's Unique: Before there were Chia Pets, there were the much larger Mud Maid and Giant's Head of Heligan. Callaway says there is a fine line between kitsch and art, but these two sculptures are wonderful additions to the garden. "It could be that those mud sculptures are much better now than they were in the beginning," Callaway says. "Because now they have the patina of age." In addition to these impressive sculptures, Heligan also boasts an Italian Garden, an extensive jungle section and an alpine-inspired ravine.
Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical GardenLocation: Chonburi, Thailand
Background: Originally destined to become a fruit plantation, the pristine grounds of Thailand's Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden sprawl over 500 acres. With a year-round tropical climate, the location is versatile enough to have cactus and pineapple gardens, as well as more sculpture-based displays, like the bizarre Umbrella Garden.
Why It's Unique: "A botanical garden is a place of learning," Callaway says. "It can either be focused on plants from the region or be a museum of stuff from around the world." Nong Nooch achieves both, showcasing the world's largest collection of tropical palms and cycads while paying homage to a variety of cultural styles, including French and Roman design. Among the more interesting displays is the Butterfly Garden - a series of maroon and green plants that swirl around the gray sidewalks to create a pattern similar to that seen on butterfly wings. Nong Nooch even has its own version of Stonehenge, consisting of hundreds of rocks laced around meticulously manicured shrubbery.
Poison GardenLocation: Eureka, Calif.
Background: Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities, tends this small garden off the side of her home in aptly named Eureka, Calif. Stewart, who also runs an antiquarian bookstore with her husband, recycles damaged books by burying them. She outfitted the garden with a chair, lamp, window and desk to make it a real writer's garden.
Why It's Unique: Most people try to avoid cultivating plants that can kill them, but Stewart's garden has more than 35 different species that could wreak havoc on the body if mishandled. Nightshade, hemlock, datura, opium poppy and castor bean—the main ingredient of the deadly poison ricin—are among the killer varieties sprouting here. Gates at the front and back of the garden help keep the neighborhood kids and Stewart's chickens from gobbling down these pernicious plants, while a cement tombstone inform onlookers about whom the plants have killed, including Socrates (hemlock) and Abe Lincoln's mom, Nancy Hanks (white snakeroot).
Gardens of VersaillesLocation: Versailles, France
Background: France's King Louis XIV called on the renowned skills of landscape architect André Le Nôtre in the late 1600s to expand the regal gardens at the Palace of Versailles. A pinnacle of French landscape design, decadent fountains and swaths of immaculate lawns surround the geometric gardens. Today, remnants of the original irrigation system can be found many kilometers away in surrounding suburbs.
Why It's Unique: What Callaway finds striking about Versailles is that though it was built to entertain the kings of France and their courts, it serves the public remarkably well today as a place to gather, have picnics and relax. "Over the years, the gold leafs and all that type of stuff that was excess wears off ... the detritus goes away, and the bones of the thing are just spectacular," he says. Callaway also notes that families such as the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts commissioned similar private gardens that have since been turned into functional and beautiful public grounds. "The only thing decadent about them is that they were originally used by rich people."
Ancient City of SigiriyaLocation: Sri Lanka
Background: Dating back to about 480, this ancient city is as complex as it is imposing. From atop the massive granite slab—dubbed Lion's Rock—onlookers peer down over a vast system of terraced gardens, winding irrigation paths and rock sculptures. In 1982, UNESCO declared the location to be one of its World Heritage sites.
Why It's Unique: Sigiriya has three main gardens: a water garden, the terraced garden, and a boulder garden. Unlike most rock gardens, the rocks in the boulder garden cannot be repositioned with a few strokes of a rake—they're legitimate boulders. In fact, the rocks are so large that a 15-foot-tall throne is carved into one. The legacy of sites like Sigiriya provide invaluable insight into the early days of agriculture, and to think of the rudimentary tools used during its construction makes the site that much more impressive.
White Head Institute Splice GardenLocation: Cambridge, Mass.
Background: This modern mashup of a French Renaissance garden and a Japanese Zen garden sits on the roof of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization that works on high-risk, groundbreaking projects. According to the website of the Splice Garden designer, Martha Schwartz Partners, "the garden became a cautionary tale about the dangers inherent in gene splicing: the possibility of creating a monster."
Why It's Unique: Looks can be deceptive: Splice Garden's plants are all plastic, and the hedges are actually Astroturf-covered pieces of steel. The hue of green emanating from the ground is the work of colored gravel and green paint. Despite the dearth of genuine vegetation, the final design still provides a calm space for scientists to contemplate protein folding and stem-cell differentiation.
Jardin ExotiqueLocation: Monaco
Background: Opened to the public in 1933, Le Jardin Exotique, or the Exotic Garden, is home to an array of cacti and other succulents. If visitors grow tired of hundred-year-old cacti and plants imported from Africa, Mexico and the Arabian Peninsula, they can wander into the nearby cave and check out some stalactites, stalagmites and helictites.
Why It's Unique: While the Exotic Garden may seem like a traditional botanical garden, most of the plants are embedded in the rocky coastal cliffs of Monaco. Stairways carved into the terrain allow visitors to get a better view of the plants without having to scale the cliffs, and small observation areas provide astounding views of the coastline through the flora. The sublime climate of the region allows plants to bloom year round.
AquascapesLocation: Around the World
Background: There are thousands of people around the world who are active aquascapers—men and women who spend countless hours cultivating spectacular landscapes in fish tanks. Some enthusiasts enter their work in competitions, while others merely seek the satisfaction that comes from difficult design work. Larger-scale aquascapes are often displayed at aquariums, and maintaining the vitality of plants submerged in a tank of water poses a host of challenges not associated with potting a few geraniums.
Why It's Unique: Aquascaping is a craft that requires dexterity, patience and a preternatural sense of composition and scale. Callaway likens the practice of aquascaping to working on a bonsai tree or even fabricating a Star Wars-like movie set. "Scale is a funny thing: if you have no point of reference, you don't know what the scale is. Even if there are fish there, unless it's a fish you know, you don't know how big that fish is," he says. "Scalelessness leads to abstractness, and a lot of the more successful [aquascapes] were more abstract."
Seiruka GardenLocation: St. Luke's International Hospital, Tokyo
Background: Above the bustling streets of Tokyo, on the sixth floor of St. Luke's International Hospital, is this pleasant rooftop garden. The design is pretty straightforward, but there are benefits to it that may not be apparent.
Why It's Unique: People have long extolled the therapeutic benefits of gardens, and a growing number of studies are providing fact-based evidence showing these benefits to be tangible. Callaway points out that there are certain factors that need to be accounted for in the design of a garden for a hospital or healthcare facility. For instance, a continuously looping garden is ideal for patients with Alzheimer's disease, and designers should keep in mind paved pathways and the steepness of inclines for patients in wheelchairs. While Seiruka Garden is conventional in terms of design, having a peaceful retreat at a hospital—whether as a patient, doctor or visitor—is invaluable.
Growth ChamberLocation: International Space Station
Background: Manufacturing food for astronauts and packing it on a shuttle is a costly process that wastes precious cargo space. Being able to grow food while traveling could prove invaluable for long-distance space travel, providing nutritious meals while helping to filter carbon dioxide.
Why It's Unique: This small plant-growth chamber creates a microgravity environment for plants to grow in. In August 2007, NASA engineer Clayton Anderson successfully germinated cinnamon basil seeds during a three-week mission aboard the International Space Station. NASA has also grown radishes, green onions and lettuce in hydroponic chambers at Kennedy Space Center.
Host AnalogLocation: Portland, Ore.
Background: Seattle-based artist Buster Simpson was commissioned to install his Host Analog concept at the Oregon Convention Center in the early 1990s. In order to do so, he dragged in a 1000-year-old, wind-toppled Douglas fir from the Bull Run watershed—the municipal watershed of Portland—and all the fungi and flora that had started to grow on it.
Why It's Unique: A tented irrigation system pulls from the Bull Run watershed, meaning the massive Douglas fir is drinking from the same source it was more than a millennium ago. Every 15 minutes, the system mists for about 15 seconds to mimic the climate of a rain forest, making the fir an ideal nursing log for other species to sprout from. Birch, willow, pine, oak and a variety of ground cover—the boogie-woogie of an urban landscape as Simpson calls them—are among the species that have taken root in the 20 or so years that have passed since the garden was installed. Simpson says Host Analog is meant to be totally wild and maintenance-free, and it really won't be finished for another millennium.
Arctic-Alpine Botanic GardenLocation: Tromsø, Norway
Background: The Arctic-Alpine garden, maintained by Tromsø University Museum, is the world's most northern botanic garden. Cold weather is certainly a challenge, but the region's light patterns, which can plunge the area into long-stretches of darkness at points, are an obstacle for both the plants and the designers. Despite the harshness of the region, the growing season runs from May through October.
Why It's Unique: "It's strange because the Arctic is strange," Callaway says. "You don't think of anything growing at all, but life just refuses to be put down, and you wonder how that's even possible." Like all good botanical gardens, the Arctic-Alpine garden is home to species from as far as South Africa and New Zealand, and life thrives when the garden is not blanketed by snow. The garden also highlights the rich geological history of the area by labeling different rock specimens and offering a tour specifically on the layers of earth exposed in the park.
Hanging BasketLocation: London, England
Background: In January 2009, Hotel Indigo opened in London's Paddington neighborhood, bringing along this monstrous flower basket.
Why It's Unique: Weighing in at more than a quarter of a ton, Hotel Indigo claims this is the world's largest hanging flower basket. The 20-foot by 10-foot basket hangs from 25 feet up in the air and took engineers three weeks to build and a solid day of work to install. Over 100 varieties of flowers and plants are in the pot, and, given London's reputation for rain, they will likely have a prosperous future. Gimmicky? Absolutely. Unique? Most certainly.