Planting Design Annual Meeting Preview

ASLA 2016 Professional General Design Honor Award - Converging Ecologies as a Gateway to Acadiana by CARBO Landscape Architecture image: Alan Karchmer
ASLA 2016 Professional General Design Honor Award – Converging Ecologies as a Gateway to Acadiana by CARBO Landscape Architecture
image: Alan Karchmer

Planting Design at the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans, October 21-24, 2016

Planting Design Professional Practice Network (PPN) Meeting
Saturday, October 22, 12:45-1:30 PM
Jackson Square Meeting Room, PPN Live on the EXPO floor

At the Planting Design PPN meeting Saturday afternoon during the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO, we will discuss our PPN’s goals for the upcoming year, meet the members who have been shaping blog posts for The Field and plans for Online Learning webinars, and have an opportunity to sign up and volunteer to join the Planting Design leadership team. The short 45-minute meeting will also give us some time for a discussion about designing for intermingled plant combinations led by David Hopman, landscape architect, associate professor, and chair of the PPN, and Nigel Dunnett, Professor of Planting Design, University of Sheffield, UK. This is intended as a participatory event so bring your toughest concerns and best ideas to share about this important and emerging trend in planting design.

In addition to the Planting Design PPN meeting, there will also be a planting design-focused EXPO tour on Saturday, and the EXPO Reception featuring the PPNs on Sunday, 4:30-6:00 PM.

Planting Design PPN EXPO Tour (1.0 PDH LA CES/non-HSW)
Saturday, October 22, 9:45-10:45 AM
Tours will start from PPN Live on the EXPO floor

The Professional Practice Network (PPN) EXPO Tours at the Annual Meeting highlight new and improved products and how these improvements and services can assist in creating a successful design project. This tour of the EXPO floor will include the exhibitors: J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co., Bold Spring Nursery, The Plantium, and Star Roses and Plants. Sign up online to attend the PPN EXPO Tour!

Below, we highlight sessions with an emphasis on planting design.

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 10

Figure 1: BRIT bioswale 2 polyculture in July 2016 after weeding and mulching have brought the planting back closer to the original design intent shown in lead image from part 8. The bioswale is now ready for hundreds of additional specified plants that will be installed in the fall once the weather cools down. image: design and photo by David Hopman
Figure 1: BRIT bioswale 2 polyculture in July 2016 after weeding and mulching have brought the planting back closer to the original design intent shown in lead image from part 8. The bioswale is now ready for hundreds of additional specified plants that will be installed in the fall once the weather cools down.
image: design and photo by David Hopman

Polyculture Maintenance and Plant Palettes

This post is about the maintenance decisions that can have a profound effect on the range of plants useful for an aesthetically qualified urban polyculture. Some of the issues are addressed in the spreadsheet that was presented in part 8 of this series. For example, relative aggressiveness will help determine if plants play well together or if one plant is almost sure to dominate. However, the discussion that follows is on factors affecting plant palette decisions that go beyond the intrinsic characteristics of each plant that is considered.

Pruning

Polycultures of herbaceous perennial plants and grasses are low maintenance but will frequently be more useful for aesthetically qualified native urban polycultures if they are pruned two or three times a year. Just because a plant is native does not mean that it must be allowed to express only its non-maintained form. This is especially true when soil amendments and irrigation are used. Water, fertilizer, and soils that are richer than what the plant would normally grow in without human intervention tend to make the plants taller, fuller, and more aggressive than otherwise, and may even cause them to flop over, particularly when they are blooming. Selective pruning may actually bring their appearance and stature back closer to a “natural” state.

Another big advantage to selective pruning is that it broadens the range of plants that can fit the aesthetic criteria of a particular polyculture. For example, one of the best native plants we have for shade conditions in North Texas is Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). It is tolerant of both drought and seasonal inundation, stays attractive throughout the year, and establishes and spreads very easily. However, with irrigation it can easily get 3-4 feet tall, which may not be a desirable trait in an urban polyculture where other lower plants could have a seasonal focus. By cutting Sea Oats in half early in the season, it can easily be maintained at 18 inches tall. Some of the plants can also be left taller as “scatter plants,” which is how we are maintaining the UT-Arlington polyculture featured in part 7 of this series.

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 9

Figure 1: Knee high grass polyculture in full sun designed for BRIT ecological detention structure. design and image: David Hopman
Figure 1: Knee high grass polyculture in full sun designed for BRIT ecological detention structure.
design and image: David Hopman

Assembling Polycultures from a Qualified Palette

Part 8 of this series detailed the rationale and methodology for extracting qualified native plant species for use in creating polycultures. This month’s post features a discussion of how to successfully combine the species into a low maintenance native polyculture that can take the place of a monoculture groundcover.

The 109 species selected for use in part 8 were sorted to find groupings unified by height, texture, line, color, or form. Two categories of plants were created for each of the main polycultures. The first is very aggressive groupings of lower plants that serve as the primary intermingled groundcover. The second group of plants for each polyculture are accent plants that are unified with the lower grouping by texture, line, color, or form, but also have a strong contrasting element that will show them to best advantage. These are either more transparent scatter plants or more opaque shrubby plants used more like rocks or small hill shapes.

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 8

Figure 1: Design and Photoshop mockup of Sun-Juncus polyculture and low polyculture edge for bioretention structure at BRIT. Lower left shows existing plants being killed by solarization. Design and image: David Hopman
Figure 1: Design and Photoshop mockup of Sun-Juncus polyculture and low polyculture edge for bioretention structure at BRIT. Lower left shows existing plants being killed by solarization.
Design and image: David Hopman

Case Study: Extracting native polycultures for bio-retention structures at The Botanical Research Institute of Texas

Reconceptualizing a Plant Palette Using Native Polycultures

Part 7 of this series focused on small steps that can be taken by any planting designer that will gradually move their designs in the direction of aesthetically qualified native urban polycultures. This post begins the discussion of a more complex and rigorous approach that I used in North Texas. The complexity of the Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington area of North Texas is confounding when considering the use of extracted native polycultures as design components. It is a sprawling and rapidly growing metropolitan area of more than seven million people that is larger than the state of Massachusetts.

The problems and opportunities associated with reconceptualizing nature in this non-temperate area clarify an understanding of the issues in other areas where integrating nature may not be quite as complex and problematic. A detailed discussion is presented below that illustrates a research methodology used to develop 10 contrasting native polycultures for ecological retention structures on the campus of The Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) in Fort Worth, Texas.

Using Research to Define Aesthetically Qualified Native Urban Polycultures in North Texas

In North Texas, as in many other areas of the United States, the information needed to extract a wide range of native polycultures is simply not available. Academics and research institutes have a unique role to play in developing this information as the following description demonstrates. This research is directed at a palette of plants for ecological retention structures (large scale rain gardens), but can also serve as a model that can be adapted for the plant palettes required for many other types of planting design in metropolitan conditions in the Great Plains of the United States and other biomes throughout the world.

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 7

Figure 1: Simple low woodland polyculture in spring (April 12) at Hopman residence in Arlington, Texas. Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata), Wood Violets (Viola missouriensis), Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana), Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis), and Golden Groundsel (Packera ovata). image: David Hopman
Figure 1: Simple low woodland polyculture in spring (April 12) at Hopman residence in Arlington, Texas. Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata), Wood Violets (Viola missouriensis), Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana), Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis), and Golden Groundsel (Packera ovata).
image: David Hopman

Beginning the Transition to Native Polycultures

Developing a Plant Palette that Balances Aesthetic Control, Environment, and Ecology

Developing a plant palette for metropolitan areas that moves beyond the native and adapted plant palette is a very challenging and necessarily a very long term proposition. The vast corporate, design, regulatory, and research infrastructure that has evolved to the current state of the art will change very slowly, as it has in the past. As with any innovation, it will first be seen as radical and even eccentric and there will be many stakeholders that will push back hard against the tide of change. There are a number of possible scenarios for moving forward towards a more resilient and ecologically and environmentally supportive landscape palette.

One likely scenario for the transition to a more balanced palette is an incremental approach that gradually introduces native species, varieties, and selections into the infrastructure of the green industry. This would be an evolution of the ‘native and adapted’ palette that has been  emerging since the 1980s, perhaps accelerated by climate change and the ‘new normal’ of warmer conditions with wide swings in rainfall patterns, coupled with increasing water needs from a rapidly growing population. This evolving palette will represent the same basic approach currently used by many designers for the selection of plants. Designers will search for aesthetically pleasing groupings, or drifts, of discrete monocultures that meet the practical, aesthetic, and financial criteria desired, albeit in a more environmentally and ecologically sustainable way.

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 6

Figure 1: Unmowed HABITURF® at the Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas image: David Hopman
Figure 1: Unmowed HABITURF® at the Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas
image: David Hopman

Part 6: Native Plant Turf Polycultures

Part 5 of this series introduced three relevant strategies at the new George W. Bush Presidential Center that were employed to select future viable species of plants. The first two, using local plant consultants and recreating a local prairie ecosystem, are addressed in part 5. This month’s post will focus on the third strategy, using an aesthetically qualified native polyculture for large areas of turf at the Bush Center.

The idea of using a palette of indigenous (actual native) plants is currently largely the purview of a small, relatively sophisticated cadre of native plant specialists and enthusiasts. Reconciling two points of view—the desire to restore complete ecological ecosystems with their environmental and ecological benefits, and using native and other adapted plants with a more traditional design approach, requires a reconceptualization of natural plant communities within a cultural context.

This difficult problem must first be addressed at the macro scale by finding the most appropriate native ecosystems, within the overall biomes, that are most practical and useful for the extraction of species for a new environment, the ‘new nature’ created by development conditions in metropolitan areas. It must then be addressed at the micro scale by constituting the details of this new synthetic environment, the particular plant palette, so that it meets biological, cultural, personal, and environmental goals and achieves a better balance of the three areas of aesthetics, environment, and ecology. The native turf polyculture used at the Bush Presidential Center is a good example of using both of these strategies.

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 5

Figure 1: Bush Center south Terrace on opening day in 2013 image: David Hopman
Figure 1: Bush Center south Terrace on opening day in 2013
image: David Hopman

Part 5: Lessons from the Bush Presidential Center: Local Consultants and Urban Prairies

The G. W. Bush Presidential Center landscape is a good point of departure for a discussion of a variety of strategies for future viable plant palettes, as there were three relevant strategies employed for selecting plant species:

  1. Using local consultants to check species for regional appropriateness,
  2. Recreating a local prairie ecosystem in an urban context using ecological restoration consultants, and
  3. Using an aesthetically qualified native polyculture.

The Bush Center is a 23-acre campus near downtown Dallas that features four distinctly different plant palettes. Almost the entire campus, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., was designed with sophisticated sustainable strategies. A small internal Rose garden, however, uses a more traditional green industry plant palette and demonstrates a good balance of a small area of resource-intensive exotic species within a large, biologically diverse, resource-efficient landscape—with many species of native plants.

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 4

Figure 1: Subdivision entrance planting design using a native and adapted plant palette image: design and computer model by David Hopman, ASLA, PLA
Figure 1: Subdivision entrance planting design using a native and adapted plant palette
image: design and computer model by David Hopman, ASLA, PLA

Part 4: Contemporary Native and Adapted Plant Palette

The rise in research and the popularity of using native and adapted plant palettes can be traced to the work of the Colorado Water Board in the early 1980s. They coined and copyrighted the term ‘xeriscape™,’ a combination of the word “landscape” and the Greek word “xeros,” which means dry. [1-2] Other terms have been created for similar approaches in other areas. In North Texas the term used by the North Central Texas Council of Governments is ‘Texas SmartScape™.’ According to their website, the program is designed to “Conserve water and save $Money$ on your water bills; beautify your home and local environment; attract native butterflies, hummingbirds and other wildlife; and prevent / help reduce storm water pollution!” [3]

The native and adapted plant palette has made a large improvement to the environmental cost/benefits ratio of using plants for ornamental horticulture. The prime driver has been water savings, a subject that many people can relate to, including people who are not focused on other environmental issues or who may be primarily looking to save money and reduce maintenance. The gardening approach using this palette is flexible and can even approach fine gardening standards while using far less resources. The focus of designs using these plants is usually still discrete monocultures, or ‘drifts,’ of single species of plants using unity and contrast techniques derived from traditional principles. There has been a trend in recent years towards more naturalistic intermingled plant combinations using this palette as well. It has been very well promoted by government, industry, the design community, and academia, thereby hastening the adoption of this important innovation. Plants that were very hard to find and very expensive a few years ago can now be found at very low prices in many big box retailers.

The native and adapted plant palette is currently the state of the art when it comes to a proven and commercially-viable environmentally friendly strategy for selecting plants. It is the one that the most forward thinking landscape architects and garden designers use. Some of the tenets have even been written into landscape ordinances in drier parts of the United States. It is flexible, cost effective, and there is ample information easily available to train designers for success.

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 3

Peter Walker, FASLA, stands in front of his redesign of the UT-Dallas Campus featuring exotic turf and tree species. image: David Hopman
Peter Walker, FASLA, stands in front of his redesign of the UT-Dallas Campus featuring exotic turf and tree species.
image: David Hopman

Part 3: The National Green Industry ‘Utility’ Plant Palette

The next step forward in moving towards a better balance of aesthetics, environment, and ecology has flourished since the latter part of the 20th century with the introduction of better adapted plants by the national horticulture industry. These are the ‘workhorses’ used by landscape architects to cover large areas of ground in landscape development and to provide the structure and spatial definition desired for landscape designs. They are hybridized species of turf, groundcovers, annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees that are rarely indigenous to the areas where they are planted. The massive scale of the areas in the United States covered by these plants makes them the primary target for the aesthetically qualified native polycultures that are the subject of this series. Turfgrasses alone cover over 63,000 square miles—about the size of the State of Florida—and may be the largest irrigated crop in the United States. [1]

As in part 2 of this series on fine gardening, the priorities of the companies and the plant palettes they produce are revealed by examining the search functions on their websites. These websites show what the companies want their customers to look for and, significantly, what is missing from the thinking that is reflected in the plant palettes produced.

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 2

Dallas Arboretum (warning sign added in Photoshop) image: David Hopman
Dallas Arboretum (warning sign added in Photoshop)
image: David Hopman

Part 2: Fine Gardening

Part 1 of this series, published earlier this month, explained the goal of promoting a plant palette that balances aesthetics, environment, and ecology. This installment begins the discussion of a variety of plant palettes and planting design approaches with ‘Fine Gardening,’ a methodology that is very out of balance with the goal of aesthetic, environmental, and ecological balance. Fine gardening is an approach where the artistic intentionality of the designer and the direct sensuous experiences for the user are often the only priority. This approach is used in many high end residential projects, botanical gardens, and other landscapes where cost is not a determining factor. For example, at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the gardeners take the heroic measure of hand-snipping twice a month every third leaf of each branch of the London Plane trees that line the path of the famous Robert Irwin garden, per Robert Irwin’s precise instructions. Fine gardening is promoted heavily in many newspapers and in magazines such as Southern Living, Fine Gardening, and many others.

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas

Crystal Canyon entrance garden in Arlington, Texas. Grasses installed by landscape architecture students from The University of Texas at Arlington and wildflowers compost seeded in. Photo taken in June of 2013, one year after installation. image: David Hopman
Crystal Canyon entrance garden in Arlington, Texas. Grasses installed by landscape architecture students from The University of Texas at Arlington and wildflowers compost seeded in. Photo taken in June of 2013, one year after installation.
image: David Hopman

Part 1: Aesthetics, Environment, and Ecology in the Creation of Plant Palettes

Essays about plants usually focus on specific plants, specific approaches to combinations of plants, practical uses for plants, plants for specific habitats, etc. These essays are indicative of the broad and continually evolving way that landscape architects approach planting design. This post takes a step back to address the issue of how landscape architects should use a clear set of principles to inform their palette of plants. By thinking first about the plant palette, new approaches to planting design will emerge that reflect the contemporary concerns of both the profession of landscape architecture and society at large.

Many design firms have design priorities that can be summed up in a few words. The ideas are sometimes illustrated with Venn diagrams and referred to as a triple (or quadruple) bottom line. The three criteria that are the focus of this series of posts are aesthetics, environment, and ecology. Other important elements, such as community and economics, can be addressed with a plant palette that balances these three important criteria. However, if art or economics, for example, are the driving generators of a plant palette, it may not be possible to bring the plants into balance with environmental and ecological concerns. Ecology is the most difficult and complex parameter to bring into balance and is currently the leading edge of future viable planting design innovation for landscape architects.

A variety of approaches to the selection of plants will be tested against the criteria of aesthetics, environment, and ecology in future posts. These posts will begin with a critique of palettes that are the most out of balance and proceed to others that gradually bring the three elements into equilibrium. The end of the series will propose a methodology for creating a palette of aesthetically qualified native polycultures suitable for the typical kinds of projects undertaken by landscape architects in metropolitan areas.

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Annual Meeting Preview: Planting Design

Ball Horticultural garden design by Roy Diblik image: Brooke Ryan, Ball Horticultural Company
Ball Horticultural garden design by Roy Diblik
image: Brooke Ryan, Ball Horticultural Company

Planting Design Professional Practice Network (PPN) Meeting
Sunday, November 8, 5:10-5:45 PM in PPN Room 3 on the EXPO floor

At the Planting Design PPN meeting Sunday afternoon during the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO, we will discuss our PPN’s goals for the upcoming year, meet the members who have been shaping blog posts for The Field and plans for Online Learning webinars, and have an opportunity to sign up and volunteer to join the Planting Design leadership team. We will have three very special guests at our event, who will make short presentations to the group and be available to meet and answer questions:

Roy Diblik
Noted plantsman and designer Roy Diblik has spent more than 30 years studying, growing, and enjoying plants. His passion for native plants and other perennials began with his work at the Natural Garden Nursery in St. Charles, Illinois, and has been cultivated through his establishment of Northwind Perennial Farm, a nursery in Burlington, Wisconsin.

Roy’s recent work includes a planting of the new Oceanarium at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and a garden for the modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is best known as the plantsman behind Piet Oudolf’s midwestern garden designs, including the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago.

Jim Urban, FASLA
Jim is well known for his skills in the areas of urban arboriculture and soils, including the preservation and installation of trees in the urban environment and the specification and installation of specialized planting soils for roof gardens, urban landscape plantings, and rain water management. Jim will present to the group about the TREE Fund, a non-governmental source of funding for research and education programs in the field of arboriculture.

Nancy Buley, Hon. ASLA
Nancy, Director of Communications at J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co., will speak about the health benefits of trees and green space with an emphasis on new research, and will share a handout with links to resources and research available on this important topic.

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All Eyes on ‘Plan Bee’

image: Pollinator Partnership
image: Pollinator Partnership

Pollinator Week Draws Diverse Attention

The third week in June is home to National Pollinator Week, a week that the U.S. Federal Government and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) officially set aside in 2006 to steer our focus toward the plight pollinators are facing. It’s estimated that a quarter of all invertebrates are pollinators and in the past 35 years, invertebrate populations have decreased by about 45%, while the human population has doubled (University College of London, 2014). In earth time, 35 years is about as long as it takes for a person to blink. If this much diversity can be lost that fast, our actions must also be as swift. Fortunately this year, all hands were on deck, from local parks departments all the way up to the President of the United States. But what was accomplished? And…is it enough?

Monarch populations are at a mere 10% of what they were just 20 years ago (Center for Biological Diversity, 2014) and domesticated honey bee stocks have decreased 58% in 58 years (National Research Council, 2007). In response, POTUS announced the release of an unprecedented action plan to call national attention to the population devastations happening to wild and managed pollinators. The White House Pollinator Research Action Plan outlines issues pollinators are facing and highlights priority actions for a cornucopia of public and private groups. This is the first administration to actively address the issue of pollinator decline to the public and that is a huge step. It is also following through with its promises of creating databases of more accessible information.

But the problem is the document is filled with words like “identify,” “understand,” “determine,” and “research.” The key word lacking here is “do.” How can this be called an action plan when it is missing key action words? Even when action is mentioned, some of the measures have existed for years already. These are not necessarily new advances to protect pollinators, but rather are a distraction from our relatively unbridled pesticide use and the paucity of suitable habitat as a result. I can’t say I am surprised though. When 25% of the global agrochemical market is neonicotinoids, you are bound to run into some red tape (National Resource Defense Council, 2014). Luckily, there are groups spreading the message to put pressure on the government to make big changes…and fast.

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Spring Cutback: A Model for Maintenance

image: Liz Ligon
image: Liz Ligon

“Landscape design is the art that engages with all aspects of a sustainable world: elemental forces, materials, humans and other living beings. Thus it is the responsibility of landscape artists to create the work and develop the aesthetics that will make experiences of a sustainable world highly enjoyable and desirable.”
–Diana Balmori, FASLA, A Landscape Manifesto

In late March, the Friends of the High Line team began its annual “Spring Cutback.” For most perennial gardeners, and especially those who align themselves with the Piet Oudolf “New Perennial” aesthetic, the process of cutting back ornamental grasses and the skeletons of last season’s herbaceous perennials is as much a harbinger of spring as the first bulbs poking through the soil. In New York City this process is no different, as volunteers flock to the High Line to play a part in the preparation of the park’s plantings for another year of glorious, wild exuberance. This community event has quickly become a tradition that many New Yorkers mark on their gardening calendars, and it has particular relevance to landscape architects who are interested in creating well-maintained, long lasting, and luxuriantly planted urban environments.

The most limiting force exerted on planting design is maintenance. A recent ASLA survey of emerging trends for 2015 in residential landscape design emphasized “low maintenance landscapes” as one of the top consumer demands. Landscape architects often justifiably associate complex planting maintenance requirements with increased operational costs and consider it a potential obstacle to the long-term sustainability and viability of the landscapes they design. These constraints have spawned an exciting branch of planting design research in Europe, where pioneering horticultural ecologists like James Hitchmough and Nigel Dunnett at the University of Sheffield are developing seed mixes and modular planting systems that can be implemented in public spaces to provide an exuberantly diverse aesthetic spectacle with minimal maintenance involved.

These are indeed exciting developments and must continue, but what the High Line Spring Cutback illustrates is that there is another strategy to ensure diverse, ecologically functional and aesthetically engaging plantings thrive in urban public spaces. Rather than propose a planting like those being developed in Europe that thrive on neglect, the High Line’s model requires that the planting designer craft a vegetal environment that is so undeniably beautiful and easy to fall in love with that its life will never be in danger, regardless of economic circumstances.

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Pollinators & the City

image: Samantha Gallagher via Bee Safe Alexandria
image: Samantha Gallagher via Bee Safe Alexandria

Saving Native Bees to Save Diversity

Bees are one of nature’s biggest celebrities. They have been on the cover of Time magazine, written about in The New York Times, and featured in multiple documentaries with various celebrities. And there is good reason for it. Bees are responsible for the pollination of the majority of foods, including almonds, blueberries, avocados, and watermelons, as well as the pollination of many flowering landscape plants. Bees are a keystone species, and we need to rehabilitate their populations or face a serious change in the composition of our landscape and meals…which is not something I take lightly. Take away blueberries and avocados and I would have an anxiety attack. But my work is about much more than just saving the bees. It’s about biological design as everyday practice. It’s about changing policy and education to support the creation of living landscapes and not monocultures. It’s about diversity on all scales of life because diversity attracts diversity. And it all starts with bees.

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Piet Oudolf’s Garden for Hauser & Wirth

Design concept image: Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Design concept
image: Hauser & Wirth Somerset

Piet Oudolf’s planting designs for such high-profile projects as Chicago’s Lurie Garden in Millennium Park and New York’s High Line have created a definitive “new perennials” style that he describes as “romantic, nostalgic, not wild, organic, spontaneous” in an article in The Telegraph. His gardens can be recognized by their large sweeps or drifts of tall perennial varieties and more naturalized plant choices, which create blocks of color and texture that weave the eye through the garden. Veronicastrum, Sanguisorba, Cimicifuga, Miscanthus, Rudbeckia, and Eupatorium are several perennials that often populate his signature gardens.

At Hauser & Wirth Somerset, a new gallery and arts center in Southwest England that will open this July, Oudolf is further developing his style to include combination groups of perennials, grasses, and groundcovers in his stylistic development as a garden designer. Additional cultivars and variously scaled selections will be arranged in repeating clumps versus the usual expansive drifts.

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Creating a Native Planting Design Style

image: Adam Woodruff
image: Adam Woodruff + Associates

The Planting Design PPN, chartered in 2012 in response to ASLA members’ interest in the subject, creates many opportunities for examining the area of planting design and  horticultural selection within the bigger picture of categorical expertise in our profession. As PPN Chair, I am charged with seeking interesting contributions for The Field. So, traveling along the internet I came across a planting design style for a modern prairie picture that truly took my breath away! It turns out that garden designer Adam Woodruff, of Adam Woodruff + Associates in Clayton, MO, was able to travel extensively to develop his planting design style. Landscape architect Thomas Rainer found Adam’s work breathtaking, too, and in his spare time between teaching at the College of Professional Studies at The George Washington University and his position as Associate Principal at Rhodeside & Harwell, a leading national urban design and landscape architectural consulting firm, he’s written a great re-cap of Adam’s travels and professional thoughts. Check out Thomas’s blog, Grounded Design, for additional planting design-themed posts!
–Deirdre E. Toner, Affiliate ASLA, Planting Design PPN Chair

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Planting Design Annual Meeting Preview

image: Deirdre Toner
image: Deirdre Toner

With the ASLA Annual Meeting coming up fast, I would like to remind everyone about the PPN Networking Reception on Friday, November 15 at 5:15pm and the Planting Design PPN Meeting on Sunday morning, November 17, 10:10-10:45am, where we will look at a summary of the results from our 2013 Planting Design Survey and strategize together for the information you’d like to receive from your PPN in 2014. See you there!

Here’s a glance at the events and education sessions with a particular emphasis on planting design.

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Chelsea Flower Show 2013

RBC Blue Water Roof Garden image: Adam Woodruff
RBC Blue Water Roof Garden
image: Adam Woodruff

As May and June are such busy months for landscape architects and designers, the opportunity to visit the Chelsea Flower Show (CFS) is usually a far and away bucket list item.  Adam Woodruff, of Adam Woodruff & Associates located in Clayton, Missouri, visited CFS 2013 and created a wonderful post on his website that showcases a wonderful slide show.  He showcases every garden, including detailed pictures of plant material and design in each bed. There are some amazing combinations of plant materials, which can be inspiring to see in bloom!

View Adam’s images on the ADAM WOODRUFF + ASSOCIATES website.

by Deirdre Toner, Planting Design PPN Co-chair

Folly in Planting Design – Boxwood Clouding

An example of Boxwood Cloudingimage: Wirtz International Landscape Architects
An example of Boxwood Clouding
image: Wirtz International Landscape Architects

Although nothing beats the architectural simplicity and evergreen staying power of a boxwood hedge in a traditional garden design, the element of folly in topiary and ‘clouded’ boxwood hedging is being embraced thanks to the exquisite work of Belgian landscape architect Jacques Wirtz and his firm, Wirtz International Landscape Architects.

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New York City’s High Line: Planting Design

Fall blooms on the High Line, NYCimage: Deborah Steinberg
Late summer blooms on the High Line, NYC
image: Deborah Steinberg

The High Line, in New York City, is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. The first section of the High Line opened on June 9, 2009. One of the unique features of the High Line is the inspiration for the park’s planting design.

“The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the out-of-use elevated rail tracks during the 25 years after trains stopped running. The species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees were chosen for their hardiness, sustainability, and textural and color variation, with a focus on native species. Many of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are incorporated into the park’s landscape.”

Taken from the official web site of the High Line and Friends of the High Line. Visit their site for more information and a complete plant list, seasonal bloom list, and plant guide.

by Deirdre E. Toner, D.T.DESIGN, LLC., Co-chair of the Planting Design PPN

Tulip Paradise: The History of the Tulip and Emirgan Park

Stream of tulips, Emirgan Park, Istanbul, Turkey
image: Eric Kopinski

When most people think of tulips, they think of them originating from Holland, when in fact tulips are native to Central Asia and Turkey4. Tulips noted by the Turks in Anatolia were first cultivated by the Turks as early as the 11th century2. The botanical name, Tulipa, is derived from the Turkish word “turban”, which the tulip flower resembles.  Many cultivated varieties of tulips were widely grown in Turkey long before they were introduced to European gardens in the 16th century and quickly became popular4. Although the Dutch Tulipomania is the most famous, the first tulip mania occurred in the 16th century in Turkey. Tulip blooms became highly cultivated, and coveted, for the pleasure of the Sultan and his followers. The Turks had strict laws governing the cultivation and sale of tulips; buying or selling tulips outside the capital was a crime punished by banishment3.

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Reflections on the Annual Meeting

therapeutic garden
Emanuel Hospital Children’s Garden, Portland, OR
image: Therapeutic Landscapes Network

As I was flying home on the plane leaving behind what remained of the 2012 ASLA Annual Meeting, I had time to reflect on the many great sessions that I attended.  I was left with images still fresh in my mind from the presentations, from the beautiful therapeutic gardens to the solar panels and wind turbines providing renewable / sustainable energy.

Whether you were able to attend the convention, but missed these sessions or you were unable to make the trip to Phoenix, I have identified what I believe to be the highlights among the presentations. After each session title is a link, which will provide more information about the presenters or subject of that session.  Take a look. They are all well worth your time!    Continue reading

To vegetable or not to vegetable…Citizens revolt!

Front Yard Vegetable Garden
Front Yard Vegetable Garden
image: The Agitator

You can’t have a lifestyle trend such as urban farming or edible frontyards without some controversy. Did you know that there really are many cities and towns with old bylaws or zoning codes that prohibit a person from actually eating any food they grow in their own yard!  While some cities such as San Francisco, New York, Baltimore, Seattle and Detroit have begun to change laws and policy in support of urban agriculture, and as this trend continues to thrive because of food safety and security issues, the growing foodie locavore movement and urban hipster cred, many citizens in other cities and towns have been threatend with jail time or fines for planting a garden or organic farm on their own property.

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Residential Landscape Architecture and Sustainability

Landscape Architects, Ltd., Alexandria, VA
ASLA Honor Award Lily Lake Residence Dalton, PA Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd., Alexandria, VA
image: ASLA

A well designed residential landscape can not only create beautiful vistas from within the house and comfortable rooms for outdoor living, but can also significantly increase the real estate value of a home and neighborhood. But wait there’s more! Did you know that carefully placed plants can also significantly reduce your homes heating and cooling energy needs?  Provide food for your family and friends?

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