Ideas for atrium/indoor garden area

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jakabedy
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Ideas for atrium/indoor garden area

Postby jakabedy » Mon Oct 11, 2010 10:20 am

The time has come for something to be done with our atrium. I suppose it isn't actually an atrium, as it isn't walled off and is simply part of the giant heated and cooled space that is our DR/LR/kitchen/atrium. But "garden" doesn't seem right, and I can't think of a better name for it, so we call it the atrium. One need not walk through it to get anywhere, so it has no real function other than looking cool. The brick wall is the back of the kitchen island/galley wall. The dark brown paver "track" runs through the kitchen and around the atrium, with the dining room on one end and the living room on the other. Dimensions are 8.5' x 17.5' and there is a skylight over the entire space, so it gets plenty of daylight.

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I believe the rectangular cement stepping stones are original. They are not cemented in and can easily be moved or removed. Plants are all in pots and all of them are expendable. I really don't know what is beneath the rock -- digging down a foot revealed more rock. But when we moved the plants out to redo the kitchen, the rubber plant had rooted itself, so there is dirt down there somewhere. I'm thinking I want something simpler and less a repository for wayward 1970s house plants. Something along these lines:

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We've got great little boulders in the yard, so if I could figure out how to move them I could easily add them to the mix. I'll probably want to keep any plantings in pots, and just sink the pots into the rock to make them "look" planted. Maybe have a small seating area and use the existing rattan chair? -- this can be done by reuse of the pavers, or some other way. Maybe mix in a section of a different rock/gravel color as an accent? Any suggestions as to types of plants that would work well, or more/better ideas than what I have come up with so far?

Oh, and once I get this one done, there are two similar beds outside waiting for attention as well. At least one of the already has a nice Japanese maple.

Thank you!
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Postby dilettante » Mon Oct 11, 2010 12:04 pm

I have a similar, but reversed, issue I'm thinking about. Here's the pic:
Image

The "Atrium" in my North Carolina house is enclosed with glass on four sides, but is open to the elements on top. Like you, I have two similar-sized outdoor gardens that abut the house - in my case at the primary entries. Whether right or wrong, here's how I have been thinking about it:

One of the primary tenets of Modernism is to remove distinctions between outdoors and indoors. The architect of this house put a garden right in the core of the house. So, I've made all three gardens as similar as possible - similar plant materials, similar rock outcroppings, similar mulch - given the constraints of sun and shade differences. The uniformity of the three gardens lends coherence to the structure, but I may have taken serenity and turned it into boring.

I'm grateful that you started the thread, jakabedy, and await solutions to our situations from the garden/plant mavens on the board.

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do it now!!

Postby FRaC » Mon Oct 11, 2010 12:35 pm

two words: koi pond

jakabedy
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Postby jakabedy » Mon Oct 11, 2010 2:18 pm

dilettante - That is a great space. Our other two beds are at the main entrances, as well. I like the idea of keeping it all consistent -- that's what I want to do, as well. I don't think yours is boring. It just needs something with some height -- maybe a Japanese maple (if it will thrive in your area) and a bench or statue?

I used to think that I would have rather had an open-air atrium like yours. But now I'm thinking I might have it a bit better, because I don't have to rake it!

FRaC - I've thought about a pond. I may get a pond company out to look at it and give me some estimates/ideas. If I did a pond I'd want to do it right. We weren't afraid to DIY the kitchen, but a proper pond (not some plastic insert with the edges showing) somehow seems more daunting. Of course I also fear the dogs would drink it dry and the cat may find the koi enticing . . .
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Joe
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Postby Joe » Mon Oct 11, 2010 10:14 pm

study japanese garden design. there are many great books out there. visit your local japanese garden. can't go wrong.

san mateo eichler http://www.totheweb.com/eichler/e_house/3_atrium1.html

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Postby robbhouston » Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:09 am

Hey all! Long time, no posting...sorry :)

jakabedy: I've seen pics of your house on the forum before. Cool place! Regarding suggestions for your indoor garden area...

Of course, we all know the theme of such features is to bring outdoors inside (or blur the division between outdoors & indoors). Besides just putting in plants and other items normally found outside, you might try establishing a theme and using it both inside and out. Like, use the same stone & pavers in your garden that are outside (if you have them). Duplicate a couple of pots (and plants, if climate allows), inside and out. That way the space seems like one unified space, separated by just a few feet of floor and glass.

We have pavers set in stone that create a walk from our outer front door to our side patio..
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We also have a small entry court you must walk thru to reach our inner front door...
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We used the same stone and pavers to connect the 2 spaces so they seem like one continuous space...
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Once inside, you can no longer see the outer stone walkway along the front, but the entry court (visible from inside) maintains the same look...
Image

Our "atrium" isn't inside our house, like yours, but the idea might work for you as well. Maybe you're already doing this? If so, about my only other suggestion would be to have less items there. It looks a bit random and kinda crowded. Sorry, just trying to help... :)

If you have foot lights outside, you might mess around with placing a couple of matching ones in the indoor garden too. Might make for some cool lighting effects at night.

Good luck with whatever you go with.

--Robb
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A little website I created to showcase my home and other MCMs in and around the Nashville TN area.

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dani
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Postby dani » Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:58 am

dilettante, from what I can tell there are 2 door that access the space correct? If that is the case, I would put a path of rectangle steppers straight across and a specimen Japanese maple on the right (from the picture view). Chose one that has an open form.... a smaller younger tree would be great so it can be trained. I would then fill in the space with a ground cover such as liriope or you could cover it in a small gravel, with a patch or 2 of the ground cover. You could also add a few boulders, if you want to off set the tree. keep it very simple. just something to view and not to dominate the spaces around it.

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dani
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Postby dani » Tue Oct 12, 2010 10:10 am

jakabedy, this is a hard one :) Make sure you still use house plants here, if you decide to put plants in again. Trees, shrubs, and perennials used outside the house, need a dormant season (winters) to live. That said, there are a number of "trees" that will grow inside. I suggest you take a trip to a garden center that has a variety of "indoor" plants. Ficus (fig) would be a nice alternative. they can get pretty big, but are fairly slow growing. You kind of need something with height to the right or left side. it would be nice if you could find one big enough to give the space some "human scale".

another thought is a cluster of fairly large planters, maybe 3? you will need something with height, kind of vertical. if you could fine a planter style that had 3 heights and plant the same thing in all three that would do the trick also.

I would take the steppers and line them in a straight line through the space, if there is enough. it's kind of hard to describe it, easier to draw it. again I would keep it simple. right now there is a lot going on in the space, nothing is a focal point and I think that is the problem your having.

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Postby jakabedy » Tue Oct 12, 2010 11:17 am

Thanks, all. Agreed that the current "layout" is pretty much a hodgepodge. We got most of the plants with the house and have unintentionally acquired a few others (funeral, office closing, etc.). I pretty much just put them down and leave them there -- definitely no plan of any kind! Once I have a plan in place I'll see if I can freecycle those (probably all of them) that don't make the cut.

I think part of the problem is the indoor, heated/cooled aspect of it. As dani said, a dormant season needed for most outdoor plants. And most indoor plants are what I call the "giant aquarium plant" variety of which I am minimally enamored. And the "human scale" aspect is important as well. While having everything very low and sparse seems at first to be the way to go, I don't want it to become some sort of zen Christmas village that is lacking only a train running through it.

Robb and dani both hit on the issue of consistency. I haven't been able to locate similar pavers, but they shouldn't be too hard to custom-cast to match. I thought about making the entire front bed a pond and "float" the pavers across it. But we are in a wooded area and keeping the pond clean could be come a full-time job. Here are some shots that sort of show the main outdoor beds near the front door. It is roughly the same size as the indoor bed, and there is another one on the other side of the carport that doesn't get much exposure to anyone other than the dogs. The first one is totally devoid of plantings -- just stone -- although there is a very overgrown yew in front of it and an overgrown holly hedge on the side -- I will probably pull all of that out. The other one has a nice Japanese maple and some hugely overgrown Camellias or Gardenias or something.

Image
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There is a great locally-owned nursery in town and she has a lot of house plants as well. I may contact her and see about hiring her to get me a general plan and a list of appropriate plant materials, then I can tweak as appropriate. I'm also going to hit the Japanese garden at the botanical garden and get lots of photos.
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dani
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Postby dani » Tue Oct 12, 2010 4:07 pm

jakabedy, on the outdoor planter.... put your height at the front of the planter (by the start of the steps) so from inside it gives the space more depth. I would try to mimic the layout of the planters the same, if possible.

indoor:
Also, I have had clients keep evergreens and maples in large planters and move them to a cold but "freeze free" area such as a barn, mulched in hay or bark mulch for the winter. Then they are outdoors or indoors for the summer. Just a thought, but moving a large planter is not easy and it can be extremely heavy! If it is a small tree, it could be done for years, then re-homed when it gets to big.

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Postby dilettante » Tue Oct 12, 2010 6:07 pm


dilettante
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Postby dilettante » Tue Oct 12, 2010 6:11 pm



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