Featured

Re-Ecology. I made up a word.

It is true. I made up a word. Re-Ecology.   I used to dream of oceans of nature surrounding corporate buildings and parking lots in the suburban phenomenon called The Office Park.  Park? If it is a Park, it must be healthy for birds, bees, and butterflies, right?  Well, not so in the typical situation.

Really?

Really.  The landscape contracting industry typically does things a certain way in these places, especially around the Chicago metro area.  Regular fertilizer, weed killer, pre-emergent weed killer…. irrigation, mowing, blowing, shearing…. You get the picture. There is a lot of work going on. (And, by the way, you are paying for it!)

With all this work, one would think these spaces might support a healthy environment.  Do they?
There are endless literature and studies and metrix on this topic, but the short answer is NO.  Typically, these conventional landscapes are comprised overwhelmingly of non-native plants, a very limited palette of plants, and sustained with chemicals and irrigation.  This is not conducive to all the ecological services we should be getting from our landscapes!

I do it differently. I know you know that because you are here, and it is likely you saw a video of the Monarchs or two….. So magical!
Anyways, there was no word for what I wanted to do.  So, I made one up. Re-Ecology.  Please take a look.

Landscape Architecture

Landscape Architecture creates our built spaces by harmonizing the dialogue among science, culture, and environment.

Everywhere there is human culture, there is landscape architecture, formally or informally. Interested in expanding your purview?

The Department of Landscape Architecture at Illinois is hosting an Islamic Landscape Symposium on September 13 to explore the design of contemporary Islamic gardens and landscapes, and we are inviting designers, historians, and students to attend. We connected with the organizers, Professor D. Fairchild Ruggles and PhD student Amir Habibullah to learn more about the symposium.

https://landarch.illinois.edu/attend-the-islamic-landscape-symposium/

Fools and Dreamers indeed… and the weeds may redeem us all

Magical place nurtured back to nature. Great lesson here about gorse. Soil wishes to be covered, so, there are always plants up for the job. Some of them, and most of them in places we disturb, are likely considered weeds.

Perhaps we need to be clearer in our intention, step back in our understanding, and listen to them. They are actually trying to return nature’s balance. Best we learn, and use this to our advantage when we can, eh?

You can watch the film for free, and even host a screening.

All-Season Beauty + Texture

(Christmas in July??? Or just understanding your landscape year-round?)

Plant combinations, massing, and matrices, are chosen for their ability to play off one another with timing and textures, for their ability to hold interest during multiple seasons, and because they “get along” well culturally.

This video was made during the second winter for this corporate landscape. Nearly 50% of the plantings were only in their first winter. Over time, the structure will develop, and the forms and textures will become stronger, and more distinct.

These landscapes are best installed over the course of about 5 years, with 50%+ being installed year one, 30% year 2, and the ensuing years getting about 15% per year.

Yes. 50%+30%+15%+15%+15% is more than 100%. That is why we call it stewardship.

Why “stewardship” and not “maintenance”? Stewardship merely guides Nature. The physical labor required is more akin to Ecological Stewardship. These plants want to thrive, and we just need to remove weeds, invasives, and do minor amounts of what might be considered traditional gardening.

Want to know more? Please feel free to contact me at Semiramis Studio!

Thank you for watching….!!!

Parkway Possibilities

This is an urban parkway in a residential neighborhood in Chicago. The plantings are native, except the Clematis and the tulips.

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Parkway in Andersonville neighborhood, Chicago.

There are several boulders that make great seats on a hot summer evening.

Weeding a couple times a year is all this type of landscape needs, as long as the Norway Maples are trimmed to allow some sun to filter in. This parkway is south facing, so it gets some sun.

shifting the paradigm…. bridging the gap

There is a gap in our landscape and land managing industry today between conventional landscapes and ecological landscapes.  My work bridges the gap, integrating native plant communities-based landscapes into the built environment.

Our immediate environs can be designed to support Nature, by making beautiful, legible, designed landscapes, that people consider to be an amenity, not just a wild place they visit somewhere else or see from afar.  As development pressures continue on our lands, there are more opportunities to restore, and to design, in ways that support nature. 

The leading edge of the landscape industry is native plant community-based designed landscapes.  These landscapes, used in our “ornamental landscape” settings, rely on familiar visual landscape archetypes and ecological-principles-based design. 

Stewardship sensibilities, rather than gardening sensibilities, are the best way to maintain these landscapes, even when it is an highly designed aesthetic.  The plants, arranged in this designed, but nature-inspired manner, work together and can thrive together.  Because the landscape is healthy, it can provide valuable ecological services. 

Design continuity over time is important to maintain the landscape as intended, as our desire for a static aesthetic will be challenged by succession. The oversight of the stewardship work, and incremental changes over time are best overseen by the designer.  Typically, documentation and plans should be incorporated to guide future work, and at minimum, a professional with design sensibility and plant knowledge should be empowered with management. 

Ecological restoration-trained crews can be tasked to do most of the regular work of weed management, supplemental plantings, and dividing.  Naturally, there are certain gardening tasks that still must be done depending on how “front door” the space, but by no means do these landscapes require the continuous maintenance of the conventional landscape paradigm of bare mulch, individual plants, chemical controls and irrigation.

Questions? Please send me a comment!

Alexia

Winter Beauty, and the Corporate Landscape

I love winter. We love how our plants perform. I love how nature has designed them to stand up awhile, despite the falling rain, the heavy icy slushy stuff, despite the nearly one foot of snow and slush earlier this year. I love these plants.

I stop by fairly often just to check. We want to make sure everything is looking good. This November these plants were flattened by over 24 hours of rain-to slush – to snow. I really thought they were going to be flattened for the whole winter.

I was so delighted that after a melt, the plants have sprung back up and are distinctly showing off their forms and textures and colors. Sometimes, in these perfect kissing dusty snows, the white stuff really helps accentuate the deliberateness intrinsic in my design choices.

These pictures were taking at the end of December 2018. What a great way to close out a year!

The Studio will ring in 2019, by accepting our Team’s Gold Award in Ecological Plantings from the Illinois Landscape Contractor Association for this project designed by the Studio.

Grateful for everyone’s contributions to and appreciation of this project!

Want to know a bit more about this project, or compare these pictures to others? Try here.

GOLD Award!

We are thrilled to announce our project is being honored with a GOLD AWARD in ECOLOGICAL PLANTINGS from the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association. The ceremony is in January at the iLandscape Show, but we could not wait to share the happy news!
Here is a link for a full screen view, or see below: