Stewards of the Land

Neighborhood Strong Plantings image: Tim Garland

Neighborhood Strong Plantings
image: Tim Garland

After pondering various topics of interest in our field with Chris Miracle, Design-Build PPN Co-Chair, and reflecting upon my experience as a landscape architect, both in the pure design field and now in the design-build industry, I had an epiphany on an important subject to be discussed. I believe that as we move forward in our professional careers, we need to reflect back to the father of landscape architecture, and the works of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Central Park, his iconic piece of work, was and is currently a true treasure. If we distill down the concept of Central Park, it was a response to a strong social need at that time in the history of our country. Somewhere along the course of his career and the spawning of landscape architecture, the narrative of landscape architects being stewards of the land became prevalent. I would like to take a few moments and reflect on this concept of stewards of the land, and stewardship in general.

As landscape architects in the design-build sector of our industry, stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. One of our largest resources is the landscape, and as landscape architects we truly are the stewards of this land.
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Texture in the Garden

Colocasia esculenta (see below for description) image: wikimedia Wildfeuer

Colocasia esculenta (description below)
image: wikimedia Wildfeuer

One of the best attributes of a well-designed garden is the use of texture in the selection of plant materials and hardscape materials. A well textured garden should photograph just as good in black and white as it does in color. In this post, we would like to highlight some plant materials that provide both punch and softness – all adding deep textural interest to make the landscape “reach out” to the visitor.

Big and Bold

One tree that has some significant foliage impact is Magnolia tripetala, the Cucumber Magnolia. It’s long tapered and creamy colored flower petals are not as showy as the blooms of some of its cousins in the Magnolia family, but its rugged growth habit, large size, and lush foliage is a real attention getter. The Cucumber Magnolia also adds a much sought after tropical feel to a northern garden.

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Dry Stacked Stone Walls

Natural Drystack Rubble Stone Wall with Mortared Cap image: Chris Miracle

Natural drystack rubble stone wall with mortared cap
image: Chris Miracle

From the rolling country sides of Ireland to the mountains of Kentucky, the craft of building dry stacked stone walls has a rich history. Hand crafted stone walls dating back hundreds or even thousands of years can be found around the world. They are usually mortar-less, built of local stone and reflect each areas vernacular architecture and cultural heritage.

Dry stone walls are built for many reasons. Some hold back significant amounts of earth allowing railroads, highways and buildings to be constructed. Others form the foundations for bridges or provide protective armoring for shorelines. Some are stacked as fences to delineate property limits and others are created for a sense of enclosure and can make a strong architectural statement.

Just within Wisconsin alone, we are truly blessed with a dizzying array of native stone to choose from for our dry wall constructions and would like to share some images and information with you. These projects highlight the dry stone wall building craft as well as the wealth of material riches that there is to choose from. We also invite you to contribute information through words and images including cases where dry stone walls solved a landscape architectural need in your area. Were there any special techniques or unique stone products used to complete the construction project?

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Difficult Summer for Wisconsin Green Industry

My lawn has been a light golden-brown for over a month now

My lawn has been a light golden-brown for over a month now
image: Jay Gehler

In Wisconsin, like much of the US, the weather is making headlines – way too hot and way too dry. When was the last significant rainfall, maybe in late April?  Weatherman report the rainfall level is seven inches below average. That coupled with the extreme summer heat has significantly impacted the Green Industry in the Upper Midwest.

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Rethinking the Lawn

image: Walnut Ridge Grounds Care

image: Walnut Ridge Grounds Care

Water for landscape and lawn use may not be as critical an issue in other parts of the country as it is in the Western states, but the use of fertilizers and pesticides, electricity or gas to mow, and labor to care for lawns are universal issues. If you’re thinking of retrofitting an existing lawn, your options for design are many, but you still have the starting point of: “What to do to get rid of this big green carpet?”

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