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Archive for the ‘PLANTS’ Category

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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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

One of the many plantings at Hummelo. Credit: Piet Oudolf.

One of the many plantings at Oudolf’s home near Hummelo, the Netherlands. Credit: Piet Oudolf.

From “The Oudolf Way” by Katarina Katsma, ASLA, in the May 2015 issue, featuring Hummelo: A Journey Through a Plantsman’s Life, written by Noel Kingsbury in commemoration of Oudolf’s 70th birthday.

“Everything that Oudolf creates is mesmerizing. His palette has incredible depth and texture.”

—Chris McGee, LAM Art Director

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.

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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

Salton Sea migrating pods concept map by Lateral Office. Courtesy Lateral Office.

Extra from “Eyes Northward” by Jane Margolies, in the March 2015 issue, featuring Lateral Office in Toronto.

 “I love an image with a strong figure–ground relationship. This particular image of the Salton Sea evokes M.C. Escher’s Sky and Water woodcut prints, but also appeals to my desire for underlying structure.

—Chris McGee, LAM Art Director

 

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.

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Americans throw away more than 146 billion coffee cups every year, says Alex Henige, a senior in the landscape architecture program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. That number may seem low, but with no end in sight to the nation’s coffee addiction, Henige has a plan to take it down even lower—and plant trees in the process.

For his senior project, which Henige has turned into a Kickstarter campaign, he is developing “The World’s First Plantable Coffee Cup,” which turns a beverage container into a seed packet. The plantable coffee cups, made with fibers from local recycling centers, are embedded with an assortment of California native seeds. In his scheme, their first lives as cups would end one of three ways: The cups could be soaked in water for five minutes and planted in the ground; they could be collected in a special container for use at nearby reforestation sites; or they could be thrown away and would biodegrade within six months or so.

Henige was part of the team that won the 2014 ASLA Student Award of Excellence in Community Service for work on the Ratang Bana AIDS Orphanage Playscape in South Africa. On that trip, he saw the potential for a dual-purpose product. “They don’t have proper disposal techniques over there,” he says, “so what if we had a product that can benefit the communities by dissolving the waste?”

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At this point, the Kickstarter prototype is for the California region, and there are still many tests to complete, such as putting the seeds through the manufacturing process to see whether they can germinate afterward. If they can, he will put the cups in consumers’ hands and monitor usage patterns. “If they’re throwing them in urban environments, then we need certain species” that wouldn’t hurt ecologically, Henige says. “If there are more people who are actually throwing them into our containers where we can collect them, then, okay, these people actually want us to use this product for reforestation.”

For more information, visit “The World’s First Plantable Coffee Cup” Kickstarter, running now until March 14.

Credit: Courtesy Alex Henige.

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BY CONSTANCE CASEY

A little unkempt looking, the shagbark is one of the mightiest of North America's trees.

A little unkempt looking, the shagbark is one of the mightiest of North America’s trees.

From the October 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

 One of the grandest North American trees is the shagbark hickory. It’s dramatic and easy to identify, with its smoke-gray bark warping away from the trunk. Grand, of course, implies big, and that’s part of the reason why the shagbark is not often planted and you wouldn’t see it in a nursery. It spreads itself in the woods from Quebec to Minnesota, south to Georgia and Texas, typically topping out at 70 to 90 feet with an irregular oval crown. It can grow to more than 100 feet, given 350 years or so.

The copper beech, with satiny bark, is British or Continental—Old World. The shagbark, to the essayist Donald Culross Peattie, is New World. “To everyone with a feeling for things American, and for American history, the shagbark seems like a symbol of the pioneer age,” he writes, “with its hard sinewy limbs and rude, shaggy coat, like the pioneer himself in fringed deerskin hunting shirt.”

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Cool relief from dull summer reading is here! The mid-summer issue of LAM focuses on the surprising history and ongoing threat posed to the storied town of Zoar, Ohio, by a 1930s levee; the public spirit of Máximapark designed by West 8, near Utrecht in the Netherlands; and Cliff Garten’s artistic take on civic infrastructure. Elsewhere, we look at city policies on urban farming; the planting designs of Richard Shaw in the harsh, arid highlands of Colorado; the strange relationship between the western fence lizard and the pesky black-legged tick; and a design by James Corner Field Operations on the Seattle waterfront meant to aid in the protection of the Pacific salmon. Kim Sorvig takes on Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownership, by Andro Linklater, in Books, and Rachel Sussman shares a portfolio of her work from the instant cult favorite, The Oldest Living Things on Earth, in the Back. And of course, there’s more in our regular Books, Species, and Goods columns. Best of all, the July issue is FREE and easy (see below) for you this season.

You can read the full table of contents for July 2014 or pick up a free digital issue of the July LAM here and share it with your clients, colleagues, and friends. 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 July pieces as the month rolls out.

Credits: Redesign of Santo Domingo Riverside Neighborhood: INCONSERCA and Ana Báez Sarita; Planting Palette: D. A. Horchner; Ribbons: Jeremy Green; Seattle Seawall Detail: James Corner Field Operations; Zoar Levee: Ed Massery; Research Map: Jong Lee, Student ASLA; Bicyclists in Máximapark: Courtesy Johan De Boer—Vrienden Van Máximapark; Western Fence Lizard: Cary Bass/Wikimedia Commons.

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

In this dispatch of the Queue, we tiptoe through the tweets of May, contemplate a trip to the high desert, and willingly give ourselves over to the United States Geological Service.

 

CATCHING UP WITH…

 

FIELD STUDIES

 

OUT AND ABOUT

 

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT., TWITTER EDITION

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