If we build it, they will come… but we shan’t wait too long… much to do!

Beautiful restoration plantings, only a few years old, and teeming with pollinators on this warm October day!

This was happening at Chicago Park District’s “magic hedge” at Montrose Point! Lucky me to witness and share such beauty!

Magic tree, magical beach….

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.

Inspired by nature – I took this video to explain why Re-Ecology is so important to me.

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.


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.

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!