A this blog shows, I enjoy playing around with houses, either building my own or kitbashing those I purchase; another thing I enjoy is landscaping and “SL gardening”. I love fiddling around and building an environment around my SL homes that both fits with them and adds ambience to them (at least in my eyes, others might think otherwise!). I’m not sure what the attraction is; perhaps I’m compensating for the fact that in the physical world, the only manner in which I’m remotely green-fingered is when I dip a hand in in tin of paint…
In February, I picked up the InVerse Orlando House (see: The InVerse Orlando House in Second Life), which just happened to be of a length and height such that it pretty much “slotted into” the split-level landscape I’d established from my previous InVerse house, the Tarzana (see: An Inverse House in Second Life), and which (at the time) I didn’t want to change too drastically.
However, the hands of the clock march inexorably forward, and the itch to re-develop the gardens more in keeping with the Orlando – with it’s mansion-like presence of tall columns, shading terraces and railed verandas – grew. So for the last week and as time has allowed I’ve been gradually re-working things to both better present the house and better integrate the Mesh Romance Flower Cottage by FelixvonKotwitz I’d picked up roughly around the time of the Orlando purchase (see: A Romance Cottage in Second Life) that has made a cosy little summer house-come-garden folly.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to gather something of a library of landscaping kits, tools, plants, and so forth, and have developed a number of “go to” creators I most frequently turn to for my needs. These include (as they have the most relevance here):
- Alex Bader: I don’t think anyone does landscaping kits as comprehensively as Alex under his Studio Skye brand. Landforms, cliffs, shorelines, beaches, rivers, streams, waterfalls, ponds, woodlands, forests, plants, and so on; together with a host of buildings, structures and textures to boot, Studio Skye can be a one-stop shop, and I’ve been using Alex’s items for over a decade.
- Cube Republic: Cube is another creator with a prolific output that is coupled to at eye for detail and a solid sense of care in working with mesh. His plants are second to none, and he also offers a range of landscaping kits and has venture into the world of EEP settings as well. Like Alex, he also offers texture packs and structure kits such that between the two of them, I can pretty much always find what I need.
- Sasaya (Sasaya Kayo): through her HPMD (HappyMood) brand, Sasaya offers a range of general trees and shrubs that are well-optimised, look good and relatively low LI. Her shrubs and flowers / grasses are often ideal for landscaping / wild gardens.
- Kriss Lehmann: again, Kriss again offers a range of plants and garden kits through his Botanical brand, together with structures of assorted types (his Forest Ruins Tower has been a long-standing part of many of my past landscaping) and items that help bring a garden to life.
There are other brands I use – We’re Closed for trees with LI is a factor, for example – but the above tend to by my go-to brands. I particularly like Cube, Alex and Kris, as their items tend to be optimised such that linking parts of their kits can help in managing LI (indeed, I’m surprised as to how many don’t understand the benefits of considered linking to help manage LI, but that’s a subject for another blog post I’ve had sitting in my Drafts folder for so long, it has probably taken root).
But, back to the garden. With the previous house, I’d focused on using the Studio Skye Zen Garden Kit to give something of a wild garden look. For this time around, I’ve kept some of this, but also opted for a more formal approach with lawns and planters to the front of the house, some of which extends to the back garden, with the Zen elements mixed in, together with a wilder look to the rear. For this I focused on kits from Studio Skye – notably the Tiered Garden Wall Building Set, which offers a lot of flexibility when using wall shapes to break up a space and to create planters.
While terraforming can be used for hills and raised areas, particularly in private estates where terraforming is allowed, it can also be problematic if you don’t have terraforming rights, or where issues of texture matching, smoothing, etc., are concerned. To this end, I opted to use the Studio Skye Land Forms Building Set One to provide clifftop hills and slopes running down to the house and around it. While mesh forms like this will inevitably lead to somewhat angular slopes in places, with care and blending, a reasonably consistent finish can be obtained, and without spending hours in smoothing terrain and facing the potential for blurred-looking ground as a result of morphing and raising the terrain.
Alongside of these came elements from Kris Lehmann, such as his Edged Brick Path (which sits will with the likes of Studio Skye Tiered Garden Wall set, with shrubs from HPMD – although for flowers, I admit I opted for Kayle Matzerath’s ~*GOD*~ Lumenaria Flower Fat Pack, which offers (me, at least, as I’ve been using them since encountering them at 2013’s Fantasy Faire) a good solution for garden flowers in planters, although they can decimate at moderate camera distances.
Something that can add a good deal of depth to a home setting is the use of wildlife / animals. This does have to be excessive – but the sight of song birds here and there can really help with bringing a garden to life – particularly if you’re using an ambient sound scape that includes bird song. Two of my preferred creators in this regard are:
- Morgan Garret (Fishgod): while I am not sure if he is still active in Second Life, Morgan Garret created the Grizzly Creek brand that includes some of the most detailed birds from around the world I’ve owned. They are naturally animated, their song works with that of any ambient sound scape, and they are incredibly life-like. At 3LI apiece, they aren’t going to eat into your land capacity.
- │T│L│C│Animals: operated by Lautlos and True Redrose, this is another excellent source of birds and fish – and other animals. Some of their waterfowl might need a little resizing, but if you have a pond or lake, I cannot rate them highly enough – particularly as their ducks, geese, fish, etc., can be set to swim on / under both Linden Water or other water planes.
Obviously, there are other brands out there as well – JIAN being one – just as there are for landscaping and plants. The ones I list above are the ones that suit my needs and have allowed me a happy week of playing with kits and landscaping at home. Which in turn has given me the excuse for writing the above 🙂 .