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Posts Tagged ‘Native grasses’

LETHAL GLASS LANDSCAPES

BY JEFF LINK

A proposed building and landscape ordinance could shape the future of bird-friendly design in Chicago.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

On a mild Friday in early May, Ted Wolff took a personal day and drove to the Ballard Nature Center in Altamont, Illinois, to catch a glimpse of Lewis’s woodpecker, a nearly foot-long, pink- and white-breasted bird native to the western United States. Along with two other Chicago birders, Wolff, the garrulous, white-bearded principal of Wolff Landscape Architecture, was on a “twitch,” an English expression for pursuing a bird in a geographic area where it is rarely seen.

Early that morning, an Illinois Rare Bird Alert reported that the woodpecker—named after the explorer Meriwether Lewis, who first saw the bird on his expedition with William Clark—had been seen at the nature center. It was reason enough for Wolff to clear his docket. Before long, the three birders were driving south to be among the first people to see the bird in Illinois, outside its historic range.

When they entered the nature center’s indoor viewing area, the woodpecker was already perched on a platform feeder—a “walk-up,” in birder’s parlance—eating shelled peanuts in front of a one-way reflective plate glass window. They watched it peck at the platform for several minutes, then fly to a hackberry with a peanut wedged in its bill, pausing before circling back to the feeder.

“At some point, though,” Wolff told me later in his office on the sixth floor of the Old Republic Building on North Michigan Avenue, “it flies over toward the feeder and overshoots and flies into the window. I think it sees its own reflection and it sort of pulls up and touches the window lightly and is able to fly off.”

Many birds are not so lucky. Ornithologists estimate that up to a billion birds, often migratory birds listed as species of conservation concern, die in building collisions in the United States annually—collisions that Wolff says are largely preventable, and deaths that warrant a stronger response from landscape architects as advocates for bird-friendly design. (more…)

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BY JONATHAN LERNER

An enchanting but failing maple allée gets a second life.

FROM THE MARCH 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

An allée can dignify an arrival, draw the eye to a focal point, even partition an open space. To do any of these effectively, it must appear linear, uniform, and repetitive. Of course, composed of living trees it can’t really be flawless; still, it ought to give the illusion of perfection. So there’s a problem if some of an allée’s constituent trees fail to thrive, leaving gaps and slumps in an assemblage meant to appear continuous and taut. That’s what was happening at Storm King.

The Storm King Art Center occupies 500 acres of rolling terrain about 50 miles north of Manhattan in the Hudson Highlands, a region of lushly vegetated, softly eroded low mountains. More than 100 monumental works by renowned artists are sited permanently throughout (more…)

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BY THOMAS CHRISTOPHER

Unmown "Habiturf" looks soft and slightly tousled. Photo: Mark Simmons, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Unmown “Habiturf” looks soft and slightly tousled. Photo: Mark Simmons, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

From the May 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Clipped-grass turf is the most heavily used material in most American landscapes. The NASA researcher Cristina Milesi used satellite imagery to estimate that lawn occupies some 49,000 square miles of the United States, and it’s increasing by roughly 600 square miles per year, according to a study conducted by Paul Robbins and Trevor Birkenholtz of Ohio State University’s Department of Geography.

Yet, since the 1950s, landscape architects have typically ceded decisions concerning this vast area to turf-industry technicians. Turf became an industrial product after World War II. Which grass to use was dictated by mowers, sprayers, blowers, and spreaders, and choices were limited to a very few varieties of grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and hybrid Bermuda grasses (Cynodon spp.), that lent themselves to chemical maintenance. Today, though, new alternatives are emerging that landscape architects can use to create healthier and more aesthetically dynamic models for what a domestic grassland can be—a source of environmental renewal rather than an ecological villain. It will also please the increasing numbers of clients who dislike not only the sterile monotony of conventional turf and its high maintenance costs, but also, more critical, the threat that the required maintenance chemicals pose to kids, animals, and communities.

(more…)

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