Home Improvement : Steal Landscape Ideas from Theme Centers

A theme park can be a rich source of landscaping ideas for a homeowner, if you keep your eyes open while standing in line for a ride.

I recently spent an evening at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, one of the more imaginatively landscaped theme parks in Southern California, if not the nation. Disney World and Epcot in Orlando, Fla. are also good choices if you happen to visit them on vacation.

Keep an eye out for the details that can make your landscaping stand out. The bench pictured here, made from a log, could be duplicated by any reasonably handy person who has access to the proper logs. You might find logs like this from a firm that specializes in tree trimming. If you're one of the growing number of log-home owners, a bench like this is a natural. It would also look good in the backyard of a mountain home or cabin.

The low brick wall pictured behind the bench is another idea that could be adapted to a home landscaping project. A wall like this could be used to define areas such as walkways and spas. Bricklaying is a satisfying activity that provides a sense of accomplishment that is exceeded by few other activities.

Look for creative use of mounded earth, boulders and shrubbery and take plenty of color pictures. An instant camera is good for this purpose; we have two Polaroid SX-70s that yield excellent prints. If you're careful--and lucky--you might even be able to get some decent photographs of the fireworks show at Magic Mountain's Mystic Lake. We did on our visit.

When you're borrowing ideas from places like this, you're getting some of the best landscape architecture available anywhere; theme parks are major employers of landscape designers and architects.

Several of the designers of Disney World and Epcot Center, after they finished their work at the theme parks, went on to revitalize a decaying part of downtown Orlando into a popular tourist attraction.

If you have any interest in woodturning, drop everything and run out and buy a copy of "Turning Wood With Richard Raffan" (The Taunton Press Inc., 63 S. Main St., Newtown, Conn. 06470, 165 pages, $17.95). Raffan is an Englishman who moved to Australia in 1982. While he was still in England--on Jan. 1, 1970, to be exact--he gave up a "good" job in London for the life of an itinerant woodturner.

He traveled around the country hawking his bowls, lamp bases, egg cups, etc. out of the back of his car. His only formal training as a woodturner was five months in a "small country shop." Judging from the photographs--black and white and color--in this beautifully designed book, he deserves to be in the ranks of the best woodturners in the world.

Raffan discusses choosing equipment and tools, including sharpening woodturning chisels. He uses lathes from the United Kingdom, possibly the best in the world. The British machinery industry never went into the decline and fall that its motorcycle and automobile counterparts did. The U.K. is still in the first rank when it comes to chisels and cutting tools in general.

Repeating: If you want to find out if woodturning is for you, get this latest addition to the Fine Woodworking book list. It's one of the best books I've seen on a subject that is one of my favorite specialties in woodworking.

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