Urban Landscaping

by Lynden B. Miller

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

by Stu Shilaber

The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway is Boston’s only organically maintained public park and one of a handful of organically maintained urban parks in the United States.

The Harbor Fog Section of the Wharf District Parks features artwork and a misting fountain.

The Greenway was built atop the main north/south tunnel of the Central Artery by the State of Massachusetts, which replaced a 1950s era elevated highway in a project known as the Big Dig. Its 15 acres of parks, spread along 1.5 miles of downtown Boston, were designed by different firms with extensive input from neighborhoods, the city and the state. Continue reading

by Anja Ryan

Throughout New England’s cities and towns there are many uncovered opportunities to reclaim previously developed land. Forgotten over the years, old railroad beds, burned-out mill foundations, and vacant lots have become overgrown with successive vegetation, been vandalized, and used as dumping grounds. Sometimes structures remain, beckoning us from a not so distant past. As our urban centers start to see a new renaissance through the “smart growth” movement gains and as people from the suburbs move back to urban areas, the land these abandoned places occupy is becoming more valuable. Continue reading

by Jack Ahern

An original method for planning resilient and sustainable cities is presented here. The method builds on established planning methods and models. The method has five themes: (1) goal-oriented and exosystem-services-based, (2) strategic, (3) scenario-driven, (4) transdisciplinary, and (5) adaptive. Each of these five themes is discussed in the following sections. Continue reading

by Jessie Banhazl

Incorporating vegetables into the urban landscape is not as difficult as it may seem. As with ornamental and perennial plants, placement, light, and spacing between plants are critical to the success of a vegetable garden. What is great about working in urban spaces is that you can take an untraditional approach to vegetable production by installing raised-beds or using containers anywhere on your property that receives at least four and a half hours of light.

Swimming pools are good containers for growing edibles in untraditional locations.

Continue reading

by Claudia West

Imagine yourself strolling along a typical metropolitan street. What vegetative characteristics might you experience? Are window boxes and containers bursting with seasonal color? Do low growing sedges tickle your ankles as you walk past a lushly planted tree pit? Are you enticed to run your fingertips through the Panicum seed heads as you enter the town square? Or, are mature tree canopies protecting you from polarizing heat? Continue reading

by Owen Dell

Amid a sea of talk about the benefits of sustainable landscaping, there is precious little information to prove that it actually makes sense, environmentally or economically. Landscape professionals have long operated on a hunch that sustainable landscapes save water, reduce labor, minimize fossil fuel use, and offer other benefits over conventional turf-and-flowerbed landscapes, but without hard data it’s difficult to make a case to skeptics. That’s where the Garden/Garden Project comes in. Continue reading

By Jennifer Chesworth

urban hawk bruce yoltenUrban landscapes are going green to fill an important role in food production, habitat provision, and conservation of wildlife. Can the built environment, with its vast impervious surface areas, treacherous roadways, and neighborhood “nuisance” ordinances adapt to create a truly green future?

The answer to that question is a conditional yes; It depends, and it requires careful and coordinated planning on the part of property owners and city governments. It also requires the will of not just a few, but a majority of urban people.

Chicago_urban_farmUrban farming, city gardens and urban forestry are moving into the forefront of city planning, proving to be cutting-edge solutions that inspire hope for the future. Green roofs, raingardens, community orchard projects, botanical gardens, composting, and greywater recycling are just a few ways that individuals and urban district governments can “go green.” But with the greening of our cities comes new responsibilities, obstacles, and real dangers for both wildlife and city dwellers. Biodiversity in the urban landscape is a wonderful thing; it also includes and even attracts common “nuisance” species like rats and mice, bats, raccoons, opossums, deer, fox, termites and other pests. A hawk that most urban people might not even notice, or might welcome in the skyline, is another person’s nuisance complaint because it hunts and kills the songbirds. We all have our preferences. But the need for more green spaces and more sustainable environmental services in our cities is becoming critical in many people’s minds. City dwellers, as well as the urban landscape, are going to have to adapt to accommodate the changes needed for greener cities.

Urban_raccoon_and_skunkThese issues are being raised across the nation, making headlines just this month in cities like Philadelphia and Washington DC. As in most policy issues, the question of “who pays?” is central to both the protection of biodiversity and the removal of unwanted wildlife that may carry diseases or ticks and fleas, damage property, bite or scratch children and household pets, interfere with road safety or die in traffic. Trees, parks, community gardens, or backyard composting on one property can draw wildlife and pests across roads and onto neighboring properties. When trapping animals, fumigating for pests, or weed removal can cost hundreds of dollars and may be required under city ordinance, the costs and benefits of greening the city need to be carefully weighed and understood by city dwellers. Policy has a long way to go, but at least these issues are being brought to light and put forward in public debate.

petting zoo audrey and goatValuing nature requires contact with nature, and education about why we need to live in better balance with the environment. City zoos are important oases in urban landscapes where research, conservation, children’s petting zoos and other public education promote the value of nature for city people. The antithesis of “wild” and in some ways, a sad response to the need for wildlife protection, zoos provide a controlled environment for public interaction with the natural world and often house important conservation initiatives and botanical sanctuaries.

butterfly-xingBut the concept of “green cities” is more inclusive than that. Urban landowners and landscaping professionals have exciting opportunities, and unique responsibilities, whether the goal is to beautify or to provide functional services or both. We know that green spaces lift people’s hearts and are an essential part of human life in the city. The challenge is to make life in the city good for nature as well.

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Urban Hawk photo by Bruce Yolten
Petting Zoo photo by Daniel Taylor
All other photos are from Wikimedia Commons.

Jennifer Chesworth is a freelance writer and is editor of ELA’s online news