Okay, so I’m not a fan of chainsaw art – in general if it’s something that’s associated with a Kardashian or Duck Dynasty I don’t want it in my backyard. However, there’s something to be said for temporary land art, and if Tim decides to get creative with a chainsaw, who am I to say no? And yes, I made him put on his safety gear after I snapped the photo.
I include copses in entries, and as a transition between two spaces – I love the intimacy that they create, the simplicity of the architecture, the feeling of airiness. To see more of this project go to our Houzz project page “Beauty for Birders”.
Share if you #landluv it too!
Here’s our off-season beat the blues survival plan – we’re posting 100 photos, one every few days for the next 6 months, tagged #landluv, that represent things we love about Landscape, Agriculture and Natural Design. Each photo could be a favorite plant or combination of plants, a particularly enticing space, a technique that saves time or benefits the greater ecosystem. It could be a simple detail that makes a design special, or puts a smile on our faces. The images come from a variety of places but aren’t professional photos (taken by yours truly with a sadly outdated iPhone) – they could be part of a Linden project, or from another designer that we admire, or captured during a stroll through the wild. In each case we will explain in one sentence why we think the subject deserves a little love. Short and Sweet.
Red is a hot topic for clients – they either love it or hate it. Personally I think it’s like an exclamation point, life would be boring with out it, but it should be used in small doses.
It’s a color that can be used to accentuate dramatic foliage – in the design above the stars of the show are really the deep maroon Cannas, the white striped Arundo donax grasses, the stiff blue-green juncus and the lime creeping Jenny. The red draws attention and gives it a heartbeat. White and yellow help cool and balance the palette. Here are some more photos of the same garden: Continue reading
This is the time of year when I start getting a bit rabid about color, specifically annuals in containers and the endless combinations I arrange to satisfy my plant addiction. I want them all and yet I have to wait another month in Vermont to set them on my front porch. So to bide my time I start organizing color arrays from photos of my visits to different botanical gardens, city streets and shop windows, and thank the many anonymous contributors to the garden design world.
I have four favorite color combinations that I gravitate towards and I’ll do a post for each. The first is red-orange with its complementary green-blue, and a touch of lime and burgundy foliage. In the photos below are some winning combos that do well in the Northeast and provide a little jazz all season long. The varieties listed in the caption may not be exact but that most people will be able to find in their local garden center to achieve the same effect. Continue reading
Every garden needs a little drama, or at least a few big plants that stand tall and take an extra bow. Of special note are those that have huge leaves, super fragrant flowers, or alien-looking parts. Beware however, many of these drama queens are high maintenance (think of them as movie stars in your garden) – some need a bit of coddling, props and stakes for support when they get tired, they can over-share (lots of seeds), be aggressive (invasive rhizome root systems) and be darn right nasty (prickly or poisonous), so be prepared. However, in small doses these “wow” plants are worth the trouble. I have a long list but will select five of my favorites at random that will enjoy a place in most gardens. Continue reading
Meadows can be beautiful aesthetic features of a landscape and can also provide breeding habitat and critical sources of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies, and moths, in addition to habitat for birds and mammals. We will be creating two pollinator meadows at the new Linden L.A.N.D. Group office in Shelburne, one in a wet area and one in a dry area, and will follow some of the recomendations made by the Xerces Society in their book: “Attracting Native Pollinators” published by Storey Publishing in 2011.
We often start our design process by observing patterns in nature – I half close my eyes on a hike and look to see what fuzzy shapes seep through, then try to reproduce these colors and shapes in a garden. The design aims to be wilderness reorganized into graphically clear forms, distilled, flowing, blending, overlapping.
An important prerequisite is volume – thousands of plants, timed like an orchestra. It can be overwhelming, but there’s a lot of work being done now using plugs and seeds to keep the cost down, and even better, getting plants to reproduce themselves (I especially enjoyed Larry Weaner‘s presentation at the 2013 New Directions in American landscape conference titled “The Self Perpetuating Garden”).
Which plants should we include? Selecting plants varies by site of course, but you’ll commonly see sturdy, daisy-like perennials that don’t require staking, mixed with tall grasses, and plants that have dotted spires and umbels. Annie White, a grad student at UVM, is studying native plants and their cultivars to see which ones are the most attractive to pollinators. We eagerly await the results of her research, but in the meantime here is her list of Top 10 Plant Choices, including one of my favorites – Helenium.
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In cities, even Burlington, there is a lack of nature, soils, biodiversity, and ‘green’. Impermeable surfaces channel stormwater runoff down the hill directly into Lake Champlain. A proportional lack of trees elevates temperatures and causes heat island effect. To fix the problem our first reaction is to try to put back the nature that we’ve removed, to put a few artificial organs into an otherwise still functioning body – and in rural areas where fragments of functioning ecosystems remain that we can splice into, restoration efforts are successful. But what happens when the whole ecosystem in an urban context has been destroyed? Where there are no native soils left, no open land large enough to accommodate the vegetation that once lived there, no corridors extensive or wide enough for migrating terrestrial animals – in essence no hope of ever replacing the complexity and diversity of the original system? That’s when you start hearing terms like Urban Greenspace, Novel Ecosystems, and Future Nature.
I heard a presentation on Novel Ecosystems last winter by Nigel Dunnett, a Professor of Planting Design at the University of Sheffield, UK. He and James Hitchmough of the Department of Landscape along with Sarah Price designed the meadows at the London Olympic Park. (Thomas Rainer has a great blog post about Dunnett’s meadows here.) They went to great lengths to create sterile planting environments, with carefully designed soil mixes, weed-free seeds of annual and perennial species choreographed to bloom in a dramatic sequence, planted in exact weights and proportions, and then groomed to create incredibly colorful “pictorial meadows” for the Games. This approach has come to be known as ‘The Sheffield School’ of planting design.
Dunnett and Hitchmough wrote a book called The Dynamic Landscape, Design, Ecology and the Management of Urban Planting in 2004. Dunnett also co-authored a book on Rain Garden Design (the first one I ever read) in 2007. In both instances his expertise lays firmly in the built environment and in finding ways to marry aesthetics with functional solutions. He proposes that we need to reconsider our definition of ‘ecological’ in the urban context, and specifically that native plant communities may not be the best adapted plants for highly modified and disturbed urban sites. Instead a Novel Ecosystem approach could be used that is based on:
- choosing species from different places to maximize aesthetic and ecological functions
- choosing species that are adapted to the urban environment
- developing systems that deliver ecosystem services (slowing stormwater, providing nectar and pollen, nesting sites etc.) with minimal inputs (fertilizer, water, weeding).
I agree with him that in many cases it would be impossible to try to recreate a natural system where none exists. The High Line is often given as an example of re-introducing a wild aesthetic using plants (many of them native) that are adapted to an urban environment. I hope we continue to see more examples of a wild aesthetic in urban areas mostly because they generally contain a larger diversity of species. In comparison to NYC, Burlington is more of an urban island floating in a sea of functioning ecosystems, and it’s still possible to splice into those systems. Where we can, I think it’s still a good idea to select native plants from our knowledge of the plant communities that existed here before. There are lots of exceptions of course – you can’t put Clayplain Forest species on an extensive green roof and have any of them survive. So yes, it’s a balance of native and non-native, ecological and aesthetic.
Here’s an example of an urban backyard we designed for the VT Flower Show in 2011 that demonstrates how this Novel Ecosystem concept could be applied here – we mimic the style of woodland and meadow plant communities, as well as urban agriculture (greenhouse, spindle fruit trees, compost and chicken run) and green infrastructure components (Permeable paving, RainXchange system, green wall, green roof). The scale is micro rather than macro, as are most urban backyards – yet if we can cobble together many examples of this type of landscape we might supply some of those ecosystem services that are lost in an urban setting.
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Flowering plants are practically bursting from store shelves at this point and look mighty tempting. I don’t want to rain on any parade but a few helpful hints will save you from buying plants twice. Planting time is based on soil temperature not the calendar, and we are several weeks behind our average. An easy way to tell soil temperature is simply to stick a thermometer about 4″ in the ground. You can take a measurement in the early morning and late afternoon to get a high and low for the day, then average them. When the soil temp is around 65 degrees, Petunias, Begonias, Lobularia (Alyssum) and Snapdragons can go in the ground. More sensitive crops like Vinca (Catharanthus), Celosia, Lantana, Melampodium, Zinnias, and Pentas need soil temperatures of 68-70 degrees. These are the flowers that thrive in the heat of the summer and need those high temperatures. Most everything else falls in between.
This is the year to have patience. Wait until soil temperatures are up for a couple of days before rushing out to plant. I just bumped the plantings at Basin Harbor to the week after Memorial Day (which is early this year) to be safe. Monitor your local soil temperature and save yourself some money!