Posts Tagged ‘Douglas Tallamy’

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Need you wonder why we started a drinking game called “Portland” here at the magazine? The Oregon metropolis always has so much to show for its progressive thinking. A large team of landscape architects and other designers can take credit and pride in the new MAX Orange Line, seen on LAM’s cover this month, which at 7.3 miles is the latest addition to the city’s light-rail network. Mayer/Reed led the urban design of eight stations, and ZGF Architects led urban design on two others. Also involved are landscape architects who work for the client transit agency, TriMet, plus the Portland offices of Marianne Zarkin Landscape Architects, Lango Hansen Landscape Architects, and Alta Planning + Design. The rail route incorporates bold, colorful streetscapes with more than 3,000 trees, 286 bioswales, and—newer in the United States than in Europe—a short stretch of vegetated track bed. Sean Batty, ASLA, the director of operating projects at TriMet, tells the author, Betsy Anderson, Associate ASLA: “Are we trying to solve a transportation problem? No, we’re trying to solve an urban design problem, which we’re defining as landscape architects: We’re trying to create positive human habitat.”

The May issue of LAM has numerous other fine examples of habitat: There’s the new plaza around a campus residential tower at MassArt in Boston by Ground, Inc., which won a 2015 ASLA Professional Award for Residential Design. And then there is the enduring beauty of a residential garden by Isabelle Greene, FASLA, in California, as appreciated by Lisa Gimmy, ASLA. In the realm of animal habitats, we report on a new online tool developed by the entomologist Doug Tallamy and the National Wildlife Federation to help encourage property owners to create richer wildlife habitats everywhere they can conceivably do so. Our serial coverage of the National Park Service during its centenary year continues with a report by Daniel Howe, FASLA, on projects to promote large-scale landscape conservation around the Appalachian Trail.

This month, we are also looking forward to the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s 50th anniversary celebration in Philadelphia on June 10 and 11. LAF asked a number of landscape architects to write contemporary responses to the “Declaration of Concern” articulated in 1966 by Ian McHarg and several colleagues in response to the unbound environmental degradation they were witnessing all around them in those years. Five of those essays appear in this issue. And, as ever, don’t miss our regular Now, Species, Goods, and Books columns. The full table of contents for May can be found 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 May articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “The Art of Hanging Out,” Christian Phillips; “All Along the Line,” C. Bruce Forster; “The Lightest Touch,” Marion Brenner, Affiliate ASLA; “For the Birds, Indeed,” Courtesy Douglas W. Tallamy; “The Greater Margins,” Courtesy Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

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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.

(more…)

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