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Archive for the ‘ECOLOGY’ Category

 

The formative influences and expansive body of work of Richard Haag, FASLA, are on full display in the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s multipart oral history of Haag, and are an excellent accompaniment to Brice Maryman’s lively review of The Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag: From Modern Space to Urban Ecological Design by Thaïsa Way in the May issue (“Once and Always the Radical”). In this interview from 2004, Haag narrates from his beginnings at his father’s country nursery to his emergence as a landscape architect to become one of the most well-known names in the profession.

You can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 200 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

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BY CAROL E. BECKER

Building the supply chain for native landscapes.

Building the supply chain for native landscapes.

From the May 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The oak is our national tree for a reason. Oaks are endemic to our native landscapes in all regions of the United States, easily identified by their leaf shape and gnarly branches. The size of the mature white oak (Quercus alba), spreading up to 120 feet, is one reason we associate oaks with strength, along with the density of the wood and an oak fire’s burning hot and long in the woodstove. Native oaks fall into two taxonomic groups, white and red, and their landscape uses vary depending on soil moisture. But most important today, as Douglas Tallamy, a professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, points out, oaks are the “quintessential wildlife plants.” They provide food to more than 500 species of caterpillars and other insects. In this fact lies the oaks’ value to the entire food chain, from the birds that eat insects to the humans who rest in the trees’ shade.

We need more oaks in our landscapes, mostly for the food benefits they provide. But instead of being sought-after plants, oaks are underused, undermarketed, undercultivated, and therefore in short supply. Landscape architects don’t often use them, clients don’t ask for them, and thus growers don’t grow them. A reverse scenario also holds true. Few nurseries grow Quercus species, particularly Q. macrocarpa, Q. muehlenbergii, and Q. alba, because they are hard to grow and suffer significant transplant death. So clients don’t see them and don’t ask for them and, in turn, landscape architects don’t specify them. Whatever the reason and wherever you start, it’s a circle of mutually reinforcing supply and demand.

The oaks are but one example of the larger problem for design professionals working to create sustainable landscapes with hardy plants in a given region. The interest in doing so—the imperative of doing so—is unequaled by the supply of appropriate species. This shortage also helps perpetuate clients’ expectations of plant specimens they do in fact see at the retail level, plants that are well-shaped, blooming, varied, and maybe even a bit exotic. The landscape architecture profession has taught them to value this aesthetic at least since the mid-19th century, when Andrew Jackson Downing codified ornamental landscaping in A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening. Now, we find ourselves in a world where, in just the past 40 years, half the songbird species in the United States and more than 90 percent of the monarch butterflies have disappeared. Honeybees and bumblebees have fallen to a mysterious virus, a cataclysmic problem that threatens the entire food chain. We do know how to reverse these trends and preserve biodiversity in landscapes, but we can’t get it done because clients still want constantly blooming and well-shaped plants with no bugs.

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BY PHILIP WALSH

A new cash crop is shifting the contours of Wisconsin's countryside.

A new cash crop is shifting the contours of Wisconsin’s countryside.

From the March 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Two saucers full of sand sit on my desk. One contains a heathery mix of grains that I scooped up from L Street Beach in South Boston. It’s a blend of dark, light, and medium stone, mostly quartz weathered from the granite mountains of New Hampshire. Viewed at a distance it’s just gray. The coastal sands of southern New England were originally washed down by glacial floodwaters when the Laurentide Ice Sheet began to retreat about 20,000 years ago. Sand is dynamic, particularly when acted upon by the ocean. And indeed, the effect of water on stone is the very genesis of sand. The action of millennia of waves and currents reshapes the grains themselves. This sand is “semiangular”: The grains are irregular and somewhat sharp edged, although the occasional near sphere of transparent quartz does crop up now and again, as I peer at it through a 10x loupe. It is very young sand.

The second dish of sand is quite another matter. It’s an even golden color, reminiscent of straw or lightly done toast. The grains are on the whole much finer than the beach sand, and even without magnification they have a remarkable consistency, almost a silky quality. Under the loupe the grains are almost all rounded, most nearly spherical. The saucer also holds several large lumps of aggregated sand, still damp when I collected them at a mine operated by Fairmount Santrol at Menomonie, Wisconsin. This is sandstone from the Wonewoc Formation, and the mine was originally prospected by a nearby glassmaking company. Some of the sand from this site still ends up as windows. When I gathered these lumps of sand at the quarry, still moist, the stone had the consistency of halvah and readily crumbled into a heap of the distinctive, fine golden grains. Now that the sample has dried it behaves more like the sandstone it is. The Wonewoc sandstone dates to the early Cambrian Period, about 500 million years ago. It was smoothed into its typical roundness and sorted into beds by the actions of shallow seas that lapped the shores of supercontinents that predate even Pangaea, the breakup of which continues to shape our globe. This sand is so old that the tides that refined it were governed by a shorter day and a year 400 days long. It is unthinkably ancient.

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BY KEVAN WILLIAMS

A torreya sapling growing in North Carolina and a photograph of its parent tree.

A torreya sapling growing in North Carolina and a photograph of its parent tree.

From the September 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

For more than 200 years, naturalists and plant enthusiasts have come to the woods along the Altamaha River in south Georgia, searching for a horticultural holy grail: a wild Franklinia alatamaha, William Bartram’s “lost camellia.” First discovered by the famed naturalists John and William Bartram in 1765 at a single site near Darien, Georgia, and seen only a handful of times since, a wild specimen of the plant was last conclusively identified in 1803. Franklinia is considered extinct in the wild, and the species has survived only in propagation: All living plants are descendants of seeds collected by the Bartrams and grown in their Pennsylvania garden. But many aficionados have continued the search for a surviving wild plant, ignoring the seeming finality of extinction. I’m wandering through woods repeating the exercise in the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area, but the Franklinia I’m seeking aren’t wild, as such. They’re an outplanting of two dozen nursery-grown plants, attempted by the staff of the Nature Conservancy to see whether Franklinia could still survive in Georgia.

My guides are Alison McGee, the Southeast Georgia conservation manager for the Nature Conservancy, and her husband, Rob Sutter, a conservation ecologist, who lead me down a dusty dirt road to the conservancy’s experiment site. We park near a campground frequented by hog hunters and venture off into the woods, clad in orange. For a couple of hours we wander through a maze of saw palms, searching without success. All the signs seem to be there. There are tattered strands of survey tape hanging from a few of the trees, and machete wounds mark others, but there are no Franklinia. The planting should have had a marker—“That’s the way we usually find rare species these days,” Sutter says—but we can’t find it. Was it kicked over, hidden under the saw palms, or are we looking in the wrong spot? McGee takes home two hog skulls as a consolation prize, signs of one migrant species that seems to be doing well here.

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Drought is said to be too many nice days in a row. Well, in California, three years of nice days has curdled into sheer dread. In the Features section of our September issue, Bill Marken, a frequent LAM contributor and a former editor of Sunset, takes a road trip through California to witness the effects of the drought, which is crippling in certain places and seemingly not such a big deal in others, and to comment on the efforts, or lack thereof, to help soften the drought’s blows. In Mexico, a memorial to victims of the drug war struggles to honor the local impact of this complex, global tragedy. When the ever-encroaching tides threatened an iconic Norman Jaffe house in the Hamptons, LaGuardia Design Landscape Architects pulled it back from the brink and garnered an ASLA Award of Excellence in Residential Design. The landscape historian Thaisa Way takes Michael Van Valkenburgh’s words to heart when she looks at Chicago’s Lurie Garden, by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol with Piet Oudolf, 10 years after it opened beside Lake Michigan.

Also in this issue: The new landscape design for the Weeksville Heritage Center unearths the site’s past as a freedmen’s settlement; the ongoing efforts to contain sudden oak death’s spread (efforts which, it turns out, may be helped by the California drought); ecologists on the cutting edge of assisted migration who argue that it’s the only way to save the trees; and a brief history of pushback on Rails to Trails conversions. All this plus the regular goodies in Species, Goods, Books, and Now. The full table of contents for September can be read here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 200 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating some September pieces as the month rolls out.

Credits: The Lurie Garden, The Lurie Garden; Assisted Migration, Torreya Guardians; Weeksville Heritage Center, Nic Lehoux Architectural Photography for Caples Jefferson Architects; Sudden Oak Death, Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension; Memorial to the Victims of Violence in Mexico, Sandra Pereznieto; LaGuardia Associates Perlbinder House, Erika Shank; San Luis Reservoir, Peter Bennett/Green Stock Photos. 

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BY KATHARINE LOGAN

sea wall _blog

New design for Seattle’s Elliott Bay Seawall will include habitat for young salmon and a glass-floored promenade to allow light into the ocean.

From the July 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Before Seattle grew up on its shores, Elliott Bay was a bluff-backed beach, with intertidal marshes and mudflats providing a complex and varied habitat for birds, fish, and marine invertebrates. Its sloping beaches offered salmon a safe passage through shallow waters, with plenty to eat along the way.

The growth of Seattle changed that. The developing city filled and leveled its waterfront behind a seawall built on densely spaced and creosote-blackened pilings. Deep, dark, and toxic, the urban shoreline repels migrating salmon out into the bay on a difficult journey where they become easy prey for other fish and marine mammals.

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A monthly roundup of the news, dispatches, and marginalia that caught our eye.

This month’s issue of the Queue delights in OLIN Studio’s new digital magazine, absorbs the inevitable wave of backflow on Rebuild by Design, and ponders the goat invasion of Long Island.

 

CATCHING UP WITH…

 

OUR WOBBLY WORLD

FIELD STUDIES

 

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

 

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