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Posts Tagged ‘plants’

BY TIM WATERMAN

The colonial past and the horticultural present take tea at London’s Garden Museum.

FROM THE OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Just upstream and across the River Thames from the long, neo-Gothic bulk of the Palace of Westminster, which contains the houses of Parliament and the tower that contains the bell Big Ben, are two venerable buildings that have been added to since the Middle Ages. One is Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The other is the old church of St Mary-at-Lambeth, now the home of the Garden Museum.

The Garden Museum’s main focus is British gardens and gardening, including not just the most elaborate and vaunted ones, but also a more intimate history of smaller gardens. Featured in particular are those of the middle classes, which have given Britain the sense of being a “nation of gardeners.” For landscape architects with an interest in either stately or domestic gardens in Britain, the museum, which has been recently redeveloped and now includes a building addition, two newly redesigned gardens, a superb café, and an expanded collection, will be a delight. Rather than serving, as a botanical garden might, to narrate garden history through garden spaces, the Garden Museum’s collection gives a more personal-scale view through tools and ephemera that (more…)

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BY HANIYA RAE

Meet Vinobot and Vinoculer, a duo that can visualize how plants adapt to their surroundings.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In a cornfield in Missouri, two robots, one stacked on top of the other, file down the narrow rows. As they move, they collect information about the plants using various sensors—enough to create a 4-D graphic model on a computer. By building these models, scientists can show how plants react and adapt to their surrounding conditions. Someday, more robots like these might toil in cities and forests as well, helping humans determine how a plant species is responding to climate change.

“We wanted these robots to investigate different species of plants,” says Gui DeSouza, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Missouri’s Vision-Guided and Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. “One plant may respond better to flood conditions, another to extreme heat. We’re essentially trying to correlate the plant’s phenotype, or the plant’s observable behavior during an environmental change, to its shape and physiology.”

DeSouza’s research as an engineer centers on formable objects, such as plant leaves, and devising ways to calculate their measurements. Leaves, he says, constantly move and sway, making their surface area and structure (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Improbable Botany. Illustrations by Jonathan Burton. Published/Curated by Wayward.

Wayward is a collective of landscape architects, architects, urban growers, artists, and other assorted creative types who design landscape installations for “exploring new models for how green space can work in cities,” says its founder, Heather Ring. The group’s experimental and often temporary projects emphasize creating “narrative environments that tell stories through the spaces.” The projects have included chromatic explorations of algae growth and weaving slow-growth sculpture from living trees.

It’s an outsider’s perspective on landscape design that might have earned Ring’s London-based band of designers the high school graduation accolade of “landscape architect most likely to commission a science fiction anthology,” because that’s just what Wayward has done.

Having raised nearly $16,000 during a successful Kickstarter campaign, Wayward will publish (more…)

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BY KATARINA KATSMA, ASLA

Sandra Clinton’s landscapes don’t stand out. They belong.

FROM THE MAY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

Sandra Clinton, FASLA. Credit: Bob Devlin.

“I’m a plant scientist first,” says Sandra Clinton, FASLA. She is quick to clarify it’s not the only thing that defines her work. “I’m an aesthetic designer. I design for what I think works together and what I think will survive.”

It’s the literal combination of landscape and architecture that Clinton, the president of Clinton & Associates in Hyattsville, Maryland, says defined her interests early on. “My entire childhood was spent watching my mother garden this incredibly intense garden.” Her mother, she says, was in an unspoken annual competition with the next-door neighbor for best landscape. While her mother focused on plants, her neighbor—who was an engineer—favored structures and pavement, and by the time Clinton reached the age of seven he would let her help with construction. “To me, you have to have the structure work and you have to have the plants work. My job is to make them work in proportion and combination and in concert with each other.” (more…)

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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.

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