Sometime beyond 30,000 years ago the climate had changed, and the cold and ice advanced out of the arctic covering a large portions of North America, Europe, and Asia. The ice sheet was estimated to be a mile thick and with so much of the water of this planet frozen, the oceans were as much as 450 feet lower than they are today. As the ice sheet advanced to cover what we now call home, it had scraped and scoured the earth carrying soil particles, boulders and anything living in its’ path that couldn’t flee its’ approach. The areas south of the major ice sheets were what might be considered sub-arctic; a tundra and open boreal woodland with very little rain. Around 13,500 to 11,000 years ago the ice sheets receded and the flora that had managed to survive south started to advance north and grow in…
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The Whos live in Whoville on a speck of dust, and there were many types of Whos on many different specks, they wiggle and giggle, crawl, walk, swim and hop. They come in different shapes and sizes and each do different things, but what they all shared is that they do things that are necessary for other things to live. For they consumed the organic debris that settles around their homes and turn it into food so other things to survive. It is a system that for all living things works very well, a tree sheds it leaves, branches break, becomes food for the Whos of this earth and they in turn make the food to give back to the tree. The Whos are food for other creatures and then they in turn become the consumed. Starting with Whos and they may be very small, for even if we…
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Have you ever travelled thru the forest and have come upon the terrain that had pits and mounds that is sometimes referred to as pillows and cradles which is the result of a tree or trees being blown over by wind sometimes by thunderstorm microburst or straight line winds when the soil is saturated or hurricanes. The cradle is the depression caused by the roots torn out of the ground and the pillows is the soil around the roots that drop to the ground as the trunk and roots decay.
This area of pillows and cradles might have been from 1938 hurricane that came thru New England and cradles have flatten out over the course time.
In areas where there is a few or more of pillows and cradles you can see if each are in the same direction this might indicate a single event or are they different directions which might mean different trees were blown over at different times with winds from different directions.
I might suggest an interesting book called “Reading the Forested Landscape – A Natural History of New England” by Tom Wessels published by The Countryman Press
In the book Tom Wessels has drawings of different forest scenes and then goes into discussions about what is there and indications of what it might have look like 100 years ago.Such as stone walls and rock piles which suggest that this land was once open farm land and if the walls were just large stones, it might have been pasture land. The rock piles or smaller stones pile on top of the walls would indicate that the land continually tilled for food production rather than for just livestock.
As I run my hands thru the soil, trying to puck out the weeds by the roots, I see all my companions in or on the soil, and I realize that I’m disturbing their habitat as my hands and my body are sharing the same space.
In really messy, weedy gardens when I start to remove the unwanted, the uninvited; it a mass exodus of of living things who had made it a home, now is search of another place to survive and rear their young.
I look up and see something in the plant next to me, sometimes there is something looking back at me, or busily trying to find something to eat or just plain sex out in the open.
So what do I do, pull out my camera and click, some times I get a good shot.
Nature Abhors A Garden
A while back I did a presentation for a gardening organization about landscape design titled “Idealism meets Realism” and when they wrote an article for local newspaper about the presentation it was tiled it ” Nature Abhors a Garden”. My feelings were mixed about what they might have taken out of the presentation, yet maybe that what I was talking about, even with all the concepts involving design, plants and the physical, natural environment. I also felt proud in that title, for it really is the title of another article written before that has always struck me at my core.
The article was written by botanist Peter Del Tredici who is director of Living Collections at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and a lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture, Har¬vard School of Design. He lectures frequently and his writing has appeared in numerous publications and has authored a recent book called ” Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast” published by Cornell University Press.
The article, which appeared in Pacific Horticulture, July/Aug./Sept. 2001, and in The Ecological Landscaper Winter 2006-07 edition and again in Dec of 2010.
So rather than me writing trying to do it justice, it might be best to just share it;
Nature Abhors a Garden
by Peter Del Tredici
Homeowners and horticulturists alike use the term ecological land¬scaping to express an awareness of the importance of environmental issues. Unfortunately their awareness does not extend into the realm of seman¬tics. The phrase “ecological landscap¬ing,” despite its popularity, is ambiguous, mainly because the word “ecology” itself has two distinct meanings. Within the field of horticulture, ecology generally refers to landscape maintenance techniques that are less destructive, polluting, or energy-consumptive than “traditional” tech¬niques—basically what is referred to as being “green.” From the biological perspective, ecology describes the structure, development, and function of ecosystems. The fact that people use the same word in different ways has led to significant communication problems among people who work with different aspects of horticulture. In the hope of bridging such commu¬nication gaps, this brief article high¬lights other important words and concepts that are bandied about in the literature without concern for their precise meaning.
While gardeners can learn many things from studying “natural” plant associations, there are clear limits to how far one can carry the comparison. The concept of succession is a case in point. In unmanaged landscapes, the processes that lead to the development of a community of plants and animals on any given piece of land are unpre¬dictable. The apparent stability of that community at any given point in time is an illusion; the reality is an ongoing change in composition induced by unpredictable disturbances.
In contrast, designed landscapes typically consist of a limited number of plants assigned to fixed positions. There is little or no room for dynamic interaction among the various species, and no provision for additions or deletions to the design. Most land-scapes are based on the assumption that the conditions that prevail at the time of installation will continue more or less unchanged into the foreseeable future. Gardening is essentially about humans controlling—even disregarding—the successional process to pro¬duce specific aesthetic effects, while ecology is about natural selection con¬trolling plant succession based on the principle of survival of the fittest.
Closely related to the concepts of ecology and succession, and equally ambiguous, is the concept of a “weed.” Deciding which plants to cultivate and which to eradicate is one of the most basic issues that a gardener faces. From the horticultural perspec¬tive, the concept of a weed is relative and a function of the purpose of the landscape: a weed is a plant that the gardener does not want. From the biological point of view, there is no such thing as a weed. The nearest equivalent would be a colonizing or early successional plant that requires some form of disturbance of the land to become established and survive.
The final element in this all-too-simple discussion of ecological landscaping concerns the crucial role that dis¬turbance (i.e., environmental change) plays in shaping the development and structure of all plant communities, managed as well as unmanaged. Two basic categories of disturbance can be recognized: that which is part of the “natural” disturbance cycle—includ¬ing wind, fire, ice, and water—and that which is a byproduct of human activity, known as anthropogenic dis¬turbance. In its broadest sense, this latter category includes the insidious effects of all types of pollution includ-ing acid rain, air pollution, road salt, and fertilizer runoff—as well as the large-scale effects of ecosystem man¬agement programs that modify the normal nutrient, fire, or water cycles of a given region. The issue of global warming, which has the potential to affect large-scale weather patterns, is making it increasingly difficult to keep these two categories of distur¬bance separate from one another.
The different meanings of the words ecology, succession, weed, and distur¬bance play out in the different ways people view the contentious issue of introduced species. From a conserva¬tionist perspective, exotic species are generally seen as disruptive elements that invade natural habitats and dis¬place native plants. From a biological perspective, exotic plant “invasions” can be viewed as symptoms of human-induced environmental degra¬dation rather than the cause of it. Invasive species, regardless of their nativity, typically display broad eco¬logical amplitudes (i.e., adaptability) that allow them to exploit the chaos that ensues when existing plant com¬munities have been destabilized by environmental disturbance, either natural or anthropogenic. As with so many things in life today, the ever-expanding human population is the real problem: exotic plants and animals are convenient scapegoats.
Like it or not, the world is con¬stantly changing, and the forests and fields of the future are going to look quite different from those we see around us today. Globalization seems to have taken over our environment in much the same way that it has taken over our economy. The minute we stop maintaining our gardens, the ravages of wind, snow, ice, droughts, floods, weeds, pests, and diseases transform them into something we never imagined. Basically there’s no such thing as a “natural” garden, even one that consists entirely of native species. Much as we might like to deny it, nature abhors a garden.
We cannot mimic nature in our gardens because nature is a process, not a product. The best we can do is stick to a few basic principles: get the right plant in the right place; practice consistent maintenance over the long term; and most importantly, know why we’re growing a garden and how we want it to look in the future. Indeed, being able to visualize the future is really the only thing that keeps us working on our gardens in the present.
In the past article I brought up the subject of Best Management Practices for Landscaping and touching upon why a manual of this sort might be important. There are many good publications already out there that already focus the practices one should follow to create and maintain healthy landscapes and most of us as landscapers we already know what these practices are and we use them everyday. Having said that, why is so much of what we see everyday really doesn’t take best practices into account, plants installed in conditions that can never support them or if they do they aren’t appropriate for the site where they are used? Then the question becomes what allows for this and how might we correct it? How do we give some weight to these best practices, so that they are understood and they become the standards by which all those that are involved in the creating, approving, installing and maintaining of landscapes in municipal, commercial or residential situations? I will offer an example of this in the municipal situation with a couple of photos to illustrate.
In Rochester, as is occurring in many towns and cities they are making improvements to streets and sidewalks either for stormwater/ sewer improvements or as in Rochester downtown revitalization projects. This street (Hanson St.) that the photos show; it is side street that comes into the central square of town. What had occurred was that the street pavement and sidewalks were taken up, all of the utilities were place underground and with improvements to sewer and water lines. After all this work was done it was back filled with gravel and the crushed pavement that had been removed, new sidewalks were installed with new streetlights. As with many of these types of projects opening were left in sidewalks for trees to be installed. There are 26 trees that have been planted along this street, 4 varieties of trees were used: 10 Syringa reticulata, 4 Acer rubrum, 9 Zelkova serrata and 3 that might be Crataegus inermis, all about 2” cal.. As you will notice in picture 1 the trees were planted 6-8” below sidewalk grade. As a side note Hanson St. was the first street to be paved in Rochester in 1901 with 56,000 granite blocks from a quarry in Suncook, some of which were saved and cleaned to be reused as you notice in second picture around the trees. In order for granite blocks to installed stone dust was used as a base and in between joints. Then mulch was used to fill the gap between the trees and blocks. To look at the pictures, what do you consider to be problems? What might these trees look like in 5 to 10 years? What might have been the cost? This one example of so many, I sure you see this every day.
We do have a better understanding of the importance of soils and the nature and habits of plants and what their requirements are; so what I would like to offer now is outline for what I think would be in a Best Management Practices for Landscaping manual. I hope you might look it over, add your ideas, add comments, suggestions, or tell me I’m way off base.
Reasons for Manual-
A guide of best management practices for landscaping to be used by Planning Boards, Landscapers, contractors and homeowners who might use this resource to do the work themselves or to oversee the work done by someone else.
To help create realistic expectations to a design, installation and maintenance issues for the long-term success of the landscape site, one that enhances the site and the surrounding area and helps minimize the impact of other features of the site. General plant requirements – to site and soil types.
Sun light and environmental exposures
Type of soil- an explanation of different type of soils
Native soil or back fill
Compaction of soil at site
Amount of areas for landscaping – what plant material might it support, where they might be created to realistically valuable
Amount of imperative surface around planting areas and how these areas might impact the landscaped areas
Building site Footprint
Proper protection of existing vegetation
Minimize impact in alternation to site
Runoff water- where does it come from and where does it go?
Plant material and their characteristics
This would give general information about plants and their growth habits and requirements for a successful planting.
Different trees and their type of root structures and sizes.
How to select good quality plant material, esp. trees; also container vs. B & B material advantages and disadvantages
A discussion of the planting area and what it can support
A description of plant materials and those conditions that they require
The natural characteristics of shrubs and their cultural practices for growth control
The design should factor in maintenance issues
Plant materials suitable for the area that are sustainable
Snow removal and considerations chemical usage related planted areas
The effects of imperative surfaces
How the design should relate the site to the surrounding area
Mulching and staking
Maintenance factors that help create a successful Landscape
The establishment period (short term maintenance)
Long- term maintenance considerations and cost factors
As we all go about our business, landscaping in one form or another we see everyday what is being done by quote “others who by common sense or basic understanding of plants, trees and their true requirements”, should never be doing the things we tend to see happening everyday. How many places have each of you seen in the course of traveling around, whether from job to job, or just going to the mall or a shopping plaza with the family where all you can to do is wonder “ what was “someone or they’ thinking when they designed, created the site, and then installed a bunch of trees and shrubs that we all know that in all likelihood will have no chance of survival or if they do, they will never be what was envisioned when designed and installed. It comes down to the basics of what are the plants requirements and are they being met? Is it realistic to think that a tree that in its’ natural habitat might mature to a size of 50 feet plus be able to grow in an area of 6’x10’ surrounded by an impervative surface of asphalt, with a base of gravel and crush stone and then compacted, which may be the Best Management Practices and materials for laying asphalt, but not for planting a tree as the landscape plan and/or zoning calls for. Does that tree have any hope of reaching maturity?
How many times have you gone to a potential job site, whether an individuals’ home in the woods or a sub- division in a new development to find the site has been so altered with the removal of native soils and replaced with a layer of sand against the foundation and backfill with gravel or clay and then topped by an inch to 3 to 4 inches of quote “loam”. Maybe the whole building lot has been cleared of vegetation and native soils well beyond the buildings’ and its’ necessary features such as a driveway and a septic systems’ footprint. That house in the woods is now a cleared lot with an altered grade, substandard soils and we are being asked to return it to that natural landscape or now it is to becomes a large lawned area with some landscape beds to make the home look pretty. Is any thought given of how this impacts that larger surrounding natural landscape when this is being done over and over again? And if we are to consider doing the job, we must factor in the materials needed just to create an environment healthy enough for a landscape to grow and succeed Where grade changes have occurred retaining walls may have been installed with BMP for walls so that they may remain true over the years, but may not have taken in account that plants might be install on top of it to soften the look of that wall. Much of this has to do with communication or lack of; for someone (building contractor, planning board member, site worker and another trade) who isn’t landscaper or a plants’ person and isn’t considering what is required for plants and trees to survive after their job is done, that becomes the problem of the homeowner or someone else including us because we have to work with it, either to correct those problems or just work with those conditions and hope for the best that maybe plants might survive (at least a year).
I may have only begun to scratch the surface or ‘soil’ as too the much larger subject of Best Management Practices for landscaping; for we all know of the importance of soils to all living things that are dependent on it for their survival, including ourselves. Yet many times soil is never considered, whether to protect it, nurture it for many who don’t understand it just figure stick a plant or tree in the ground it will grow. We work with everyday; so how do we communicate it and educate others, who might if they had the knowledge, might attempt to change some of their practices for the better? It is one thing to talk to someone on a one to one basis, a building contractor who wants to the best job he or she can beyond the bottom line, but they need to have the knowledge to know how best to work a site for their client and for the larger surrounding natural environment. This information would be important to local planning boards that are charge with the responsible of overseeing the development that adds rather than reduces a quality of life for their community and part of that is a healthy, growing landscape in a residential or commercial setting.
There are many tools already out there we can use such as UNHCE’s publications ‘Landscaping at The Water’s Edge’ and ‘Integrated Landscaping: Following Natures Lead’. There is ‘Selecting trees For The Urban Landscape Ecosystems’ published by NH Division of Forest and Lands and New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ new ‘Innovative Land Use Planning Techniques Handbook for Sustainable Development’ which you can be view at http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wmb/repp/innovative_land_use.htm this site can also be linked from NHLA’s web-site. At our joint Spring Educational Conference for Landscapers this coming March 18 2009 we hopefully will be having a panel discussion on the subject of land use and BMPs’ for landscaping which I am sure you all want to be involved in and offer comments to the discussion.
Having looked over the draft form of this handbook and other publications, I might even suggest that NHLA partnering with other organizations consider creating our own manual on the Best Management Practices for Landscaping manual to address issues not covered in other published documents or where they are, to combine that useful information into a one source manual that addresses the many issues involved in good landscaping. This could be given or sold to planning boards, building developers, contractors, and landscapers and offered to the general public as an educational book. We have friends and colleagues from other organizations who’s’ educational background can provide direction; offer suggestions and arm us with scientific research can support our findings for proper landscaping practices.
I know it might be a big task, but at least it might help address so many of the problems we see everyday. It doesn’t nor should it be a textbook, rather a manual that can be understood by the layperson, but can provides valuable information to help so that they can make informed decisions when it comes to landscaping from the very beginning of a project.. When it comes to landscaping. It isn’t only about just making money; it is about creating something and being to look back on it and feeling pride in what you did. It is also about not having all landscapers being place on the same level, unless it is to a higher level where knowledge, education and experience are the deciding factors.
So I’ll ask if any of you are tired of seeing bad work being performed and want to try and do something to improve what seems to be becoming the norm. I do hope you might consider becoming involved for it is about the standards we all want to work with and it will take many view points and ideas that are taken together that would make a BMP for Landscaping manual of any value
Oh it is a beautiful day! A nice day for a walk in the woods. We can meet at the hay field down the road and walk in, be careful to park on the field side of the road because as you will notice the field across the way it hasn’t been hayed or mowed for years and show signs of early succession with perennials, shrubs and tree seedlings and at the stone wall on the edge of the road the rosa multiflora and autumn olive has taken over and you don’t want to get too close. It’s about 1/4 mile hike thru the fields, but it shouldn’t be too bad as the fields have had its’ first cut and is just starting to grow anew. As we look what is growing here we see timothy, clover, vetch and annual and perennial grasses such as orchard, rye, switch grasses and maybe other plants that we might consider to be weeds. but for the person who is cutting this field they do try to keep out plants that might be poisonous to horses, cattle and other livestock and introduce plants that might have higher nutritional value. We notice an area that hasn’t been cut and the reason for that is that there are ground nesting birds like bobolinks or meadowlarks who’s brood has yet to fly off from the nest. How this field is maintain is a factor in what plants grow here. If the field were to be mowed once a season we might find that plant species would change over time, for plants that might take longer to flower and set seed might start to replace those that can survive being cut two or three times a season, and if as some time happens, this field is used for grazing of livestock, again over time the plant composition might change again due to the greater input of fertilizer in the form of manure and what plants can survive being grazed on.
We move on and before we reach the edge of the woods we come upon brook and some wetlands and we notice the signs of a past beaver encampment on the brook, large girdled dead trees some distance from the brook, beaver chewed stumps and maybe the remnants of their dam. When the beavers were here they would have ponded the area upstream, the expanded the wetlands that were already here and change the flow of the brook downstream. The area around the pond would have changed ; trees were taken down by the beavers or died from the soil becoming saturated or being girdled and some remain standing. Whether the beavers were evicted or they had moved on to new food sources, this is area is one of transition with the pond being gone, the wetlands area being reduced as the soils dry out and others plant species able to grow here again. Even if the beavers hadn’t populated this area, this brook and surrounding wetlands might still be going to changes; from changes in the brooks’ flow either from changes in precipitation or divergence of the water flow upstream, whether natural or man-made and/or deposition of sediments in the area from land disturbances upstream.
As we walk along the edge of the wetlands to the beginning of the wooded area notice that forests’ edge is dense with many shrubs and younger trees we might also notice that some non-native and some invasive plants have managed to get a foothold here with their seed being deposited or blown in from surrounding areas. We walk in to the woods we notice it is a bit cooler, the sunlight only reaches the ground in little patches, the understory plants and trees seedlings are more scattered. As we walk on we see the changes in tree dominance in one area beeches might have larger numbers than oaks or maples. There are larger size beeches with surrounding younger ones that haves spouted from the older trees roots. we travel a little farther on we see oaks and maples mixed with white pine, white ash, hemlock and spruce. Off to side there is dense hemlock stand with nothing growing underneath except for some smaller hemlocks that may be older than their size would indicate, their growth is slow as they wait for an opening when the sun might reach them and then they can take up the space allowed them. We also notice changes in the understory plant material some plants in abundance in one area but not in other areas, including ground covers, sometimes more plants growing where more sunlight reaches the ground. Maybe a tree or trees were blown over in a wind storm allowing more light to reach the ground. We see evidence of past openings with ‘pillows and cradles’ which are mounds next to depressions which indicate that trees had been blown over raising the roots out of the ground and being that the trunks or roots having decayed and the soil dropped where the roots were.
As we have been walking we have notice series of stone walls which indicated that this land had been cleared of forest and was either farmland or pasture maybe dating back more than a couple of hundred years ago. At some point this area was abandoned as farmland and allow to regenerate to forest, we can assume this from the few trees that may have been here for a hundred years or more. Yet we notice that many of the trees by their size may not be more the fifty years old, so we can also surmise that these woods had been logged again and the older trees were left because they didn’t have any timber value or were in locations too difficult to cut and remove.
We all have different perspectives to what these different habitats are and what they mean, and we are just beginning to understand how each of these habitats do effect each other. How changes in one area might have impacts on surrounding habitats from natural or man-made changes or how continuous changes in each affecting the other. They are unique environments that are woven together by the soils, types of organic debris, micro-organisms, moisture and water, flora and fauna. One can spend a life time observing and studying it and still not know or understand it all.
We have reach the top of the hill from here the trail to the right heads off to a old gravel pit long unused and you would see that plants are just starting to get a root hold, just here and there and most likely will take decades if not a century to built up enough organic material to once again become a forest. To our left we look out to see the development below, residential neighborhoods, shopping areas. One thing that might strike you is the vast difference between what we have just experience with our walk and much of our man-made landscapes which mainly is one of well structured islands in seas of black and green. Trees and plants nicely spaced, evenly organized, one of these, three of those or massed plantings for that visual impact. The reason for our walk is about landscape zoning ordinances for if we didn’t have any ,how much worse might our landscapes look? Areas of lawns might be just black top or left as gravel. It would be left up to those who enjoy landscapes and gardeners who always want to add something new to their homes verses others who just don’t care what it might look like. Some we create laws about landscapes and lawn in the hope to improve the quality of all our lives, to bring our changes to the natural environment from development and keep the natural integrity of the supporting landscape. The trouble is when laws are written they meant to be clear and understood by the majority and carried out by good hardworking folks who don’t know much about the nature of trees, plants, soil habitats, what their requirements and how they might impact the natural ecosystems. We can try to control issues of water, pollution, vegetation and it impacts on us and our environment, we write ordinances that call for a tree every 35 feet, shrubs every 6 feet along the perimeter which is certainly better than none, but how does that fit to a natural environment? When ordinances requires ‘ x’ number of trees and shrubs for ‘x’ number of parking spaces planted within the lot; where rarely they remain healthy or even survive given root space, soil conditions; might it not be better to use that plant material to create natural buffers and leave the parking lot for cars.
We have over time develop an ideal of what a good landscape should be, that includes lawns, foundation plantings and with islands here and there. Yet next to the natural landscape does it really fit or does it belong? What if I decided to stop mowing my lawn, allow it to become a meadow; might someone come to my door and cite me for an un-kept lawn? How would I explain my reasoning to that person who can understand what a lawn should be, but not a meadow? How would the neighbors feel if I let my landscape go ‘la natural’, let nature take its course? As more and more of the natural landscape is being taken over by ‘us’ and we replace what was there with what we consider good landscaping, with the technology and equipment to change our environment on an unprecedented scale and no way of knowing the long term effects we might be having on whole ecosystems . For our parts as landscapers, designers it is time to reconsider what is a good landscape, one that takes the whole environment in account, addresses our understanding soils, our choice of plant materials (native and alien), including grass species and give them greater importance in our changes of the natural landscape.