I often see new landscapes that look great immediately after installation, and continue to thrive for five to ten years. Beyond those five to ten years, I find that a majority of landscapes, especially the plantings, look tired, thin, and lacking in vitality. When I first started working in the industry during the early 1990s, common practices included either installing a landscape and then planning on ‘re-installing’ the planting areas after a period of time, or selling intensive maintenance plans with the installation. A majority of designs often lacked forethought as to how the project would look and perform beyond five to ten years, or how the areas would look if not intensively managed. Continue reading →
Thanks to the pioneering work of E.O. Wilson, Doug Tallamy, Jonathan Foley, Marla Spivak and many others, the public has begun to accept the need for native plants in the landscape in order to help increase biodiversity and protect pollinators. It turns out that people really do like nature and are willing to change their habitats if the payoff is more birds, bees, butterflies, and wildlife in general. As ecological landscape designers and installers, we are lucky to be on the front lines and in positions that would allow us to help our clients restore habitats and reduce the spread of invasive species on over half the acreage in the lower 48 States, which is the total area currently in suburban/urban use. That’s enormous positive potential. Continue reading →
One of the most important elements in successful public urban green space is PLANTS. Over the last 30 years in New York City, we have found exciting reasons to use plants in new ways to improve the lives of city dwellers. We now know that plants have the power to soften and civilize public urban space, even in places once thought to be dangerous. These green oases give pleasure to millions who crave a connection with nature in their lives. Continue reading →
Disturbances occur, and our landscapes ought to be ready for them. Hurricanes and wildfires are common natural disturbances whose impacts can be mitigated with sensible landscape design and larger-scale planning (fig. 8.3).
Much of the damage caused by hurricanes stems from falling limbs, flying debris, and the direct force of winds (Abbey 1994). A simple preventive step is to remove dead branches and dead or diseased trees from areas where they might cause a problem. Tall sentinel trees such as cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto) and bald cypress placed at the edges of a lot can break up wind flows and act as initial storm buffers (fig. 8.4). Storm walls and wind deflector trees with low centers of gravity and deep root systems, such as live oak (Quercus virginiana), can guide winds up and over buildings. Continue reading →
The 2013 season? Well, with apologies to the late Jerry Garcia, I have to say, “What a long, strange trip it’s been….”
First, the snow never wanted to leave. In central Massachusetts, snow was still on the ground in mid-April as bulbs and perennials pushed their way out of the half-frozen ground. Then, from April into May it was unusually dry, no April showers at all but plenty of May flowers. All the moisture from the late snow cover did contribute to a spectacular blooming season for spring blooming plants and trees.
Recent destructive storm events have focused public attention on climate change, sustainable site design, and resiliency. As ecological design practitioners, we have an opportunity to build on this paradigm shift and take the lead in promoting a more sustainable approach to water management. To help our new ideas take root quickly, we must bring together new ways to frame our discussion of ecologically-based design, and we must follow through with beautiful spaces that resonate. Continue reading →
I am typically introduced to a project over the phone. I love to listen to clients’ descriptions of their property as I develop an image in my mind. I often sketch as they speak to me telling me what is working and what is not. I note the adjectives they use when describing their setting. “Hilly, shady, exposed, overgrown,” and always, “nothing will grow”. Then the fun begins as I ask them what they want. Continue reading →
As they make the left turn into the Providence, RI doctor’s office parking lot, some patients might set their jaws and steel themselves. The screening procedure these Baby Boom Generation clients are about to undergo – while relatively comfortable, completely routine, and sometimes lifesaving – is one that makes many feel squeamish beforehand: the sign at the turn says “Gastroenterology Associates/West River Endoscopy.” Continue reading →
I’ve been designing, installing, and tending gardens for 16 years. About two-thirds of my time each season is spent in gardens, with my trusty, dusty team. Each season has its own quirks and personality; like cream rising to the top of the milk, rich images separate themselves out from the jumbled memory of the season’s seemingly endless tasks. Continue reading →
As a gardener, I am afforded a lot of design input as I care for gardens: re-doing beds, planting annuals and bulbs, and festooning containers come to mind. The gardening season is busy, but alongside my horticultural duties, I also take on several design projects just to make sure that I don’t have a single moment to myself. This season I was kept extra busy with some fun design challenges. Continue reading →