Archive for the ‘PLANTS’ Category



Portland scientists tap the bryophyte Orthotrichum lyellii to test urban air quality.

From the October 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine 

For decades, mosses and lichens have been used to gauge forest health, and in Europe they have been used to measure and map urban pollution across countries. But a recent study of air quality in Portland, Oregon, is said to mark the first time that U.S. scientists have used moss to collect and map fine-grained data on toxic metals in the air of a city. “This kind of high-density sampling on a large area is unique, at least in North America,” says Bruce McCune, a professor of botany and plant pathology at Oregon State University who is not associated with the study. “It allows you to make inferences and find surprises that you wouldn’t otherwise.”

Sometimes those surprises are unpleasant. Earlier this year, harnessing the bryophyte Orthotrichum lyellii to test the air quality of communities throughout Portland, (more…)

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Margie Ruddick and Thomas Rainer talk about their new books on wild landscape design.

Margie Ruddick and Thomas Rainer talk about their new books on wild landscape design.

From the July 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In the past several months, Thomas Rainer, ASLA, and Margie Ruddick have each published books centered around notions of designing “wild” landscapes in the public realm to help restore ecological diversity in urban settings. Ruddick’s book is Wild by Design: Strategies for Creating Life-Enhancing Landscapes (Island Press, $45), and Rainer’s is Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes (Timber Press, $39.95). We invited the two to ASLA’s offices to talk about the project they have in common. This interview has been edited and condensed.

Why did you each decide to write books on wildness in landscape design?

Margie Ruddick: I didn’t actually think of my work as wild at all until Anne Raver wrote this piece, “In Philadelphia, Going Green or Growing Wild?” [about Ruddick’s home garden, in the New York Times], and then I started to get e-mails from people all around the world, and I realized: This is wild gardening.

Thomas Rainer: It felt like a good place to be, and we [Rainer and his coauthor, Claudia West, International ASLA] are both plant geeks. We had a lot of practical problems to work out in terms of how to (more…)

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From the June 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Several conditions of the contemporary world present serious challenges to traditional or conventional ways of thinking and making in landscape architecture. Some of these, such as the continuing analog versus digital debates, are tiresome, rarely well-argued (by at least one side if not both), and counterproductive to an advance in the cultural efficacy of the discipline. Others are more complex and unwieldy, but also likely have much greater capacity to expand the scale and scope of landscape architecture in the future. In this category I would place the interrelated questions of “planetary urbanization,” “Nature,” and the effects of the Anthropocene among the most perplexing and fecund for the future of the discipline. As Jedediah Purdy writes in After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, “As climate change shifts ecological boundaries, problems like habitat preservation come to resemble landscape architecture. We can’t just pen in animals to save them; we need to secure migration corridors and help species move as their habitats lurch across a changing map.” In effect, we will have to become planetary gardeners.

Obviously, such massive questions exceed the capacities of any one discipline’s knowledge. But this “bigness” should not be an alibi for continued reliance on outmoded ways of thinking such as notions of cities or sites as discrete, bounded conditions that can be operated on without understanding of context or flows. Similarly, and perhaps even more relevant to the day-to-day practices of many landscape architects, ideas (or ideologies) regarding nature, ecology, wild, invasive, and native continue to be treated as simplistic binary conditions that prematurely shut down what could be a vast territory of conceptual and practical exploration. It may also be that landscape architecture is particularly well-suited to engage these territories because of the unique disciplinary potential made possible through the hybridization of typically distinct science/design/humanities epistemologies. With these larger questions in mind, two recent books prove useful in providing not only new conceptual frames to intellectually engage these issues, but also updated tools and techniques necessary for developing concrete practices to physically and practically engage these conditions in ways that move beyond the status quo.

As the title suggests, Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer, ASLA, and Claudia West, International ASLA, draws upon the notion that (more…)

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A new film focuses on Jens Jensen.

From the April 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Jens Jensen didn’t care much for the White City. According to the new documentary Jens Jensen: The Living Green, he, along with the architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan, rejected the European influence of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and embraced the prairie and its ecology as the American landscape idiom. Today, many of his pioneering ideas about the use of native plants and landscape conservation have new currency. Jensen, who was born in Denmark but is closely associated with Chicago’s urban parks and midwestern landscape preservation, will be the subject of an Earth Day observance at the New York Botanical Garden. A screening of the documentary will be followed by a panel discussion with Darrel Morrison, FASLA; Robert Grese, ASLA; the filmmaker Carey Lundin; and Jensen’s great-granddaughter, Jensen Wheeler Wolfe.

Jens Jensen: The Living Green Film Screening and Panel Discussion at the National Building Museum, April 14, 2016, 7:00–8:30 p.m.

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

Wrought iron step and brick façade overcome by time. Credit: Future Green Studio.

Wrought iron step and brick facade overcome by time. Credit: Future Green Studio.

From “In the Weeds” by Nate Berg, in the September 2015 issue, featuring Future Green Studio’s love for designing with weeds.

“The juxtaposition of new growth against old structure creates a nice tension, and the dead leaves and stems on the wrought iron step create a nice bridge.”

—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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With new plant varieties hitting the market each year, someone has to make sure everyone plays by the rules.

With new plant varieties hitting the market each year, someone has to make sure everyone plays by the rules.

From the August 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The people behind Plant Watch want the name alone to strike fear into anyone illegally propagating plants that are under patent protection. Plant Watch began in 2005 as the U.S. arm of the Canadian Ornamental Plant Foundation (COPF), a nonprofit group that deals with royalty administration and monitoring for illegally propagated plants by growers who skip out on paying the required royalties for growing protected plant varieties. COPF started as “a gentleman’s agreement to grow plants and remit royalties to each other,” says Sylvia Mosterman, the executive director of Plant Watch and COPF. However, “people aren’t as gentlemanly as they used to be,” so COPF grew in response to monitor patented and trademarked plants from illegal propagation.

Plant patents, or plant breeders’ rights, as they are referred to outside the United States, are granted to “an inventor who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant,” according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. Patenting a new variety of plant protects only against the unauthorized reproduction of a plant; as an extra layer of protection, a plant can be given a trademarked name, such as Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer, for easy identification by consumers. Breeders are the originators of these new plant varieties, and there are companies such as Bailey Nurseries or Monrovia that actively search for new plants from a variety of breeders to add to their corporate brand offerings. These companies usually have brand compliance rules in addition to (more…)

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After 10 years of evolution, the green roof of the American Society of Landscape Architects is producing a new and varied crop. Photo courtesy of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

After 10 years of evolution, the green roof of the American Society of Landscape Architects is producing a new and varied crop.

We recently came across this piece by Brittany Patterson at E&E Publishing on green roofs in the nation’s capital and their enormous (and necessary) benefits, which was originally published behind E&E’s paywall. E&E, which does excellent daily reporting on climate change and energy issues, has kindly allowed us to repost the article in full.




Nestled on Eye Street in downtown Washington, D.C., near the heart of the bustling city lies the headquarters of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

From the front, the brick building looks like any other in the neighborhood, but take the elevator and a flight of stairs to the roof and you’ll find yourself surrounded by rows of green Sedum, blooming prickly pear cactus, and patches of lush butterfly milkweed and hare’s-foot clover. It’s almost possible to imagine you are sitting in the tranquil countryside, not just on the roof of a building covered in foliage.

As relaxing as they can be, green roofs are more than just easy on the eyes.

“Green roofs deliver multiple benefits for both combating heat and in the retention of stormwater,” said Kate Johnson, a program analyst with the District Department of the Environment (DDOE). “Both are issues we think are going to continue to be important in light of climate change. It’s projected to get hotter, and it’s projected we’ll have more extreme rain events.”


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