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. 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.
Urban trees are part of our infrastructure. They must co-exist with all the curbs, paving, utilities, and our movements. Various soils and media are available to help address issues like compaction of the growing media, and heaving of paved areas due to tree roots.
I have done projects in the past where we spec’d CU-Structural Soil ® or a similar method to allow great tree growth and thriving amidst lots of built infrastructure demanding structural stability, tight spaces, or other factors. It works.
Years and years ago, I was asked to design “bird-friendly” native plantings for a parking lot for one of Chicago’s Harbors. It wasn’t quite the first time I was asked to do something like this – all native plants – but it was still memorable. That particular design never was installed, but since then, the Chicago Park District has really stepped up their focus on the ecological value of the parklands. About the time I was asked to do the bird-friendly parking lot, the CPD began allowing this part of Montrose Beach to grow into the bird sanctuary it is today – a magical place of life and abundance and beauty.
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.
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.
(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!