“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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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 →
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.
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?