Spring is …..

Come on a journey with me. I have a tale of butterflies, native plants community-based designed landscapes, and soil life. It is a story of beauty and abundance, design legibility and soils health. I will talk about how to shift the landscape maintenance paradigm to stewardship gardening, and how, on a location with a 30-plus year legacy of non-native plants and conventional maintenance practices, the changes I made in design and management brought this site more monarch butterflies than I could count.

Our everyday landscapes can be of life, of butterflies, of pollinators. It is not hard. It is not unnatural. It does require doing things differently, and freeing ourselves from conventional landscape contractor business metrix, and an expectation of artificiality that so many people seem to have. I will talk about how these life-supporting landscapes are not far away, not alien, because we are of Nature, and Nature has the answers for us.

I founded Re-Ecology LTD based on this shift to a different way of thinking and doing. At Re-Ecology LTD, we think in terms of growth and abundance, and balance and versatility. We “do” in ways that supports what nature would do without us, while we shepherd and guide to increase what we want.

We are fortunate. Our metropolitan area has wonderfully preserved open public lands, and a strong legacy of ecological restoration. But what about our everywhere landscapes? What about the spaces we walk by from the car park and the back door, the parking lot at work and the building entrance, the stormwater detention area? How do we bring healthy, abundant landscapes to our everyday spaces?

Bringing ecologically positive landscapes to our built places is not difficult. Creating designs based on native plant communties, and creating and maintaining the intended design vision over time, are two of the keys to success. Keeping the landscapes “stewardship gardened” in a way more akin to ecological stewardship allows these plants to thrive; keeping the landscape architect involved over time assures the intended design legibility is realized. Landscapes are living systems, and they are an investment, and they should provide increased ecological services over time.

When we shift our thinking to a life and abundance centered practice away from a subtractive conventional landscape paradigm, we allow not only the plants, but the life that they support, including ultimately our own lives, to thrive. We can have better environmental health, more thriving beauty, better performing green stormwater infrastructure, and butterflies for our children to admire with wonder.

I hope you can join me at West Cook WildOnes next week.
-Alexia Paul, RLA, LEED AP
Re-Ecology LTD

Walk the site with me

Please enjoy this tour of a Re-Ecology LTD project!

Contact us if you would like more details about this project, or if you would like to transition your corporate site to a sustainable and beautiful landscape!

This video was made in December 2018.

My role on this project was design and oversight for a specialty landscape contractor (who was NOT the regular contractor maintaining the site). As we transitioned the site, the team, I worked for was responsible for all stewardship gardening in the “re-ecologized” areas.

The number of Monarch butterflies attracted to the new “re-ecology” plantings was stunning and magical!

your sustainable landscape matters

Re-Ecology Land Design

Urban Tree Roots – take a journey

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.

Work in progress…. thinking through some HOA improvements

People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones…. and people with glass garage doors shouldn’t have to mow the grass and have broken glass to fix….. Re-visiting the issues with the Residents to :

  • reduce mown grass
  • increase stormwater infiltration
  • create beauty and get butterflies!

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….!!!