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INTERVIEW BY BRADFORD MCKEE

In his new book, Doug Tallamy looks at oaks as a life force.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In two influential books, the entomologist Douglas W. Tallamy has spread a message of people-powered biodiversity, to say that if humans have crowded out nature across the world, they can also invite it back in at close range. Tallamy, who is 70 and lives in southeastern Pennsylvania, is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he joined the faculty in 1981 and has led or coauthored 104 published research studies on the behavior and chemistry of insects. In 2007, his book Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants hatched a mission to persuade home gardeners to think big about the buffets they can create for animals just outside any door as bulwarks against ecological decline. He expanded that project in 2020 with Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, which became a New York Times best seller.

Tallamy’s latest book, The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees (published, like the others, by Timber Press), puts his message through a different prism, that of the genus Quercus, which includes 435 species of oaks around the world, 91 of them in North America, where they are superlative among trees as sources of food and shelter in their environments. He details the oak’s life cycle through the 12 months of the year. “Unfortunately, the diverse web of life that is associated with oaks goes unnoticed and thus unappreciated by most homeowners,” Tallamy writes. Many homeowners, indeed, are ready to cut down oaks to avoid raking leaves, though he explains that raking is not only unnecessary but to be strongly discouraged, given the high value of oak leaf litter as microhabitat. Once again his gift to readers, in plainspoken prose, is to help them see the familiar in nature and find the unseen.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Bradford McKee: In The Nature of Oaks, as in your earlier books, you’re bringing science and natural history to the household conversation—

Doug Tallamy: That’s the goal!

BM: —though scientists who do academic research and also do public advocacy so regularly are exceptions in most fields. What’s driving your mission? (more…)

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FOREGROUND

Big Tree, Small World (Interview)
The author and entomologist Doug Tallamy’s new book, The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees, advocates for the environmental workhorse of trees.

One Big Picture (Water)
A comprehensive new map of the Colorado River Basin connects the watershed and the people.

FEATURES        

Licensure on the Line
After years of political attacks, the design professions are uniting to protect
against threats to professional licensure.

Worlds Away
Hidden in the leafy Washington, D.C., suburbs, Glenstone has been an insider’s destination for years. For a new expansion and outreach, PWP Landscape Architecture designed a landscape
for the confluence of big art and small moments.

The full table of contents for September can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 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 posting September articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Worlds Away,” Glenstone; “Licensure on the Line,” LAM; “One Big Picture,” Pete McBride; “Big Tree, Small World,” Rob Cardillo Photography.

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FOREGROUND

Talking Points (Planning)
The WELL Community Standard is touted as the new sustainability checklist, but is it just landscape architecture in new clothes? Reed Hilderbrand tries it out at a Florida megaproject, Water Street Tampa.

Let the Graveyard Grow (Maintenance)
In Brooklyn, New York, Green-Wood Cemetery’s parklike setting and open lawns have become a pandemic destination. Behind the placid view, the horticultural staff races to stay ahead of climate change.

FEATURES

Soldier Stories
Three new veterans memorials break from the visual language of war to make a place for those who served and lived. Butzer Architects and Urbanism, Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, and DAVID RUBIN Land Collective each found an approach that ties the past to the present.

Back to Basics
When Waterfront Toronto announced that the Google offshoot Sidewalk Labs would be designing an urban techtopia on a prime 12-acre site, brows were raised. Now the project is canceled—a casualty of public resistance and pandemic funding—and the city looks to what’s next.

The full table of contents for June can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 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 posting June articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Soldier Stories,” Sahar Coston-Hardy, Affiliate ASLA; “Back to Basics,” Picture Plane for Heatherwick Studio for Sidewalk Labs; “Talking Points,” Reed Hilderbrand; “Let the Graveyard Grow,” Green-Wood/Art Presson.

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

Photo by Tim Griffith.

From “The Best Medicine” by Lydia Lee in the April 2021 issue, about GLS Landscape | Architecture’s new Stanford Hospital landscape, which connects patients to lush and varied gardens and orchards, aiding their recoveries.

“A path with purpose.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

You can read the full table of contents for April 2021 or pick up a free digital issue of the April 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 250 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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TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY TARA MITCHELL

The unseen world of little bluestem grasslands.

FROM THE MARCH 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Roadsides are a tough place for any form of life. The land is never free of human disturbance, be it from mowing, drainage and guardrail repair, tree cutting, installation of signs and utility posts, or vehicles that don’t stay the course. The soils are often compacted, dry and infertile, and polluted from salt and runoff. Remnants of debris—plastic bags and bottles, fast-food wrappers, coffee cups, pieces of cardboard, toys, and miniature liquor bottles—lie tucked away in the vegetation. On heavily trafficked roads, there is the continuous roar of cars and trucks whizzing by, wearing, irritating, never-ending.

Roadside vegetation is increasingly becoming a jungle of nonnative plants. In some places, there exist impenetrable stands of Japanese knotweed and common reeds. Elsewhere, the ubiquitous jumble of bittersweet, multiflora rose, and honeysuckle eats away at the forest edge. In more suburban areas, barberry, burning bush, and English ivy, having escaped the confines of manicured landscapes, creep unnoticed through the understory, changing the soil chemistry and the ecology of adjacent forests. From the perspective of vegetation, the roadside is a double war zone: man versus nature and plant invaders versus long-established plant communities.

But sometimes, when the soils are dry and infertile and the land is sufficiently exposed to the wind and the beating sun, there exists (when the mowers allow) extraordinary beauty in long stretches of little bluestem grassland. These grasslands may not be particularly noticeable during the summer, but by late August, when the foliage turns a coppery-red hue and the fluffy white seeds glint in the sunlight, the land is transformed. When mixed with the pink haze of purple lovegrass in bloom and a sprinkling of goldenrod, rabbit tobacco, and aster, the combination can be stunning. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The Morton Salt site will feature a riparian ecosystem grown in a synthetic medium. Image courtesy Lamar Johnson Collaborative.

In Chicago, a synthetic growing medium will provide a healthy buffer between contaminated soils and riparian plant life.

 

For nearly 100 years, the Morton Salt facility on the North Side of Chicago, with its massive rain slicker and umbrella sign, has been an iconic presence along the industrial corridor that traced the North Branch of the Chicago River. The warehousing and packaging facility closed in 2015, and within a few years, the company announced an ambitious adaptive reuse plan for the site, turning it into a mixed-use campus featuring a concert venue and office spaces. (The sign will stay.) It will also be home to Morton’s R&D facility, relocating from Chicago’s suburbs, where the company will research water softener salt, pool salt, deicing salt, and salt solutions for other industrial applications.

The project’s innovation will extend to the outdoors: The landscape of the campus will include a synthetic growing medium developed by Omni Ecosystems. According to the company, it’s the first site in Chicago that’s been approved for the use of special stormwater soils designed to mitigate runoff and stormwater from combined sewer overflows. Working with the Chicago Plan Commission and the Department of Buildings, Omni Ecosystems will use 60,000 cubic feet of Omni Infinity Media, largely composed of an ultra-light, kiln-dried mineral similar to volcanic rock. This medium will allow a rich wetland and riparian ecosystem to thrive on top of a degraded and polluted site that’s been capped with concrete and asphalt.

The Omni Infinity Media is mostly air—it has 78 percent void space, compared to standard topsoil, which has 25 percent. “It’s quite literally and physically a sponge,” says Michael Skowlund, ASLA, the director of landscape architecture at Omni Ecosystems. (more…)

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