The Mountain Meadow Design philosophy was first conceptualized by Peter Lassig and articulated by Reese Nelson. The design method, employed on the gardens and grounds at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, help any gardener create a landscape that is aesthetically pleasing as well as horticulturally sound. The purpose of Temple Square is to draw people closer to God, and one way this purpose is achieved is through the beautiful gardens. Visitors are always in awe of the world class gardens. One would think that the 10 acres of manicured gardens, filled with 500,000 annual flowers planted per year, is meticulously combed every day for how pleasing it is to behold at any given time. However, the opposite approach is how these lush displays of nature are maintained. “Temple Square Gardens create the essence of the Garden of Eden and remind us of the presence of God as we view His creations. Temple Square uses a flower-planting philosophy throughout their gardens called the Mountain Meadow Design Philosophy. This philosophy is about making the flowerbeds look natural as if they were sown by the wind [or God’s hand]. It is a natural form that calls attention to God and not the gardener.” Lassig was adamant about ensuring that the gardens did just that, called attention to our creator and not the gardener. He mastered this with his creation of the Mountain Meadow Design, which includes four different parts: Skeleton, Tendon, Flesh, and Sparkle.
“Temple Square has continuous blooming flowers throughout the growing season. There are no bare sPots even after one type of flower is done blooming. They accomplish this by choosing flowers that bloom at different times in the season. Early spring bloomers, mid, and late spring bloomers are used so that the design is always visually performing. Once the plants reach their peak they are taken out so tat you don’t see the declining, dying plants.
The garden designers on Temple Square do a wonderful job creating a beautiful and lasting design because they have come to understand what makes a design both horticulturally sound and aesthetically pleasing. It is important to understand the background and cultural requirements of the plants planned on being used so that their needs are met. Sun, water, soil conditions, space provided, and length of bloom time used are all elements that affect plant growth and its success in the garden.
Take pansies, for example, they are planted in the fall to be used for early spring color. Understanding the growth habit of a particular plant is also important. Some plants may grow quicker than others and overgrow and crowd out their neighbors. Sweet Potato Vine is a good example of this because it grows quickly and crowds out or in between other plants later in the season. Some plants re-bloom and have a longer season than others, such as roses. It is good to use the space wisely to get a good coverage. If the plants have been designed to spread out over the ground over time, the design looks full and weeds won’t grow through as easily.”
Reese Nelson had the opportunity to work on the grounds at Temple Square and help Lassig articulate, educate, and implement this formula. Brother Nelson now energetically teaches the Mountain Meadow Design Philosophy in his classes at BYU-Idaho and any horticulture and landscape expos he can attend, most recently the INLA Expo 2016 in Boise, ID. The concept of skeleton, tendon, flesh, and sparkle is catching on, so much so that EuroAmerican Propagators, one of the industry’s largest bedding plant producers, is espousing the philosophy and including it in their annual catalogs as “best new plant choices with the best design philosophy.”
It’s easy, it’s fast, it’s efficient. If more landscape companies knew and used it, we could all enjoy viewing landscapes at their best.
Another location famous for its beautiful grounds and gardens is Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, UT. Esther Truitt Henrichsen, a bulb specialist, is part of the gardening team there; she also had the opportunity to work alongside Peter Lassig at Temple Square and learn and use the Mountain Meadow Design Philosophy. Esther is a world traveler who has been growing gardens her entire life and creating sacred spaces as a respected Historical Landscape Architect, and currently employs the Mountain Meadows Design Philosophy at Thanksgiving Point.
The Thomas E. Ricks Gardens here on campus employ this design and planting method in multiple areas. It's one of its many charms that make the gardens unique and set it apart from the rest of the campus grounds.
Representative Examples of Annual/Perennial Flowers:
Our aim for the Department of Horticulture at Brigham Young University-Idaho is to nurture understanding of both the art and science of Horticulture. Students learn experimentally in the classroom, laboratory, greenhouse, and ten acre Thomas E. Ricks demonstration garden as they pursue an Associates or Bachelors Degree. Using the medium of plants, students develop habits of hard work, enlightened minds, and healthy living that assist in gainful employment opportunitues.