Whos of Whoville


antilandscaper

 

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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A Multiple Personality Disorder


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I’ll say that “life was much simpler once”; at least in a world of gardening and yet it most likely because of the theory that ” ignorance is bliss”. I once was a wooden boat carpenter who when I had my own business it was at my former home and I probability spend more time in my gardens than working on boats. I lived in the middle of the woods, where my gardens were, it was on the land that had been cleared by the former owner for fire wood to heat their little house in the winter. It was a joy to go from nursery to nursery picking out plants and then trying to find a place where they might fit, to spend hours weeding, creating new beds. My gardens were well tended, at least up to the time that I changed professions from a boat carpenter to a person working sales at a plant nursery and being part of their landscape crew, and then my gardens began to transform. For they began to have manage on their own, many of plants were lost, others grew with a vengeance and design and ideas what I had planted began to disappear and the forest started to reclaim its own. I wind up becoming an observer rather than a participant, for many hours are required to work in horticulture field during the season.

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It has been a long evolution from a period of bliss to now where my feelings are much more confused; for as I have furthered my education about plants, designing and the natural native landscape I have developed a multi personality disorder. Why not start with lawns for it is a huge part of this profession, it a multi -billion dollar industry from those that provide seed, the chemicals, to the sellers of soil, compost to all of those that sale equipment from mowers, weed wackers, irrigation you name it, it’s out there; with new, improved products every year and to all of the landscapers who job it is to maintain it, keep it green, looking lush and free of undesirables. Then the question is what becomes of the chemicals with names we (or I) can’t even pronounce and wonder what harm they do to us and to all the other living things out there, or do we consider going organic? Even organic requires a lot of inputs, to offer organic the inputs are to feed the soil, that feed the grass. It certainly is a better option than what we call typical lawn care.

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Yet do you ever wonder why have a lawn? Where did our idea of a lawn come from? Where it is largest portion of any landscape we might design. Now, I am person sadly that never gets that excited about lawns or cutting my own grass, I do it more so just to keep my neighbors from cursing me and I don’t my clients lawns. When I used to live in the woods I had very little lawn, only for paths and over my septic system and it was nothing I ever planted rather it was grasses and plants that stayed green after walking or cutting it. There were many stone outcrops which meant I couldn’t use a lawn mower instead I used a weed wacker and when it broke, my lawn quickly became a wildflower meadow, not something planned, but from the plants that were already growing there, but when not cut they grew to be 2 feet high, with all kinds of flowers mixed in;becoming a different kind habitat with insects, birds I had never notice before. I let it go for the season and then after I cut some parts and let other parts go, which made my ex-wife much happily. It is a nice idea of a creating meadow rather than lawn, but for where I lived it was landscape of transition for it never would remind a meadow without my intervention. What kind of meadow it might be depended on what was there to begin with, what might introduced by me or the surrounding landscape. What kind of meadow it might be also depended on the soil, water and how it was maintained. when is it cut would determine what would survive, what went to seed, what grows close to the ground that can take repeated cuttings. And if I stop cutting, it would move on to shrub land, then forest.

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With this in mind and thinking of design, on a few occasions I have been ask by a client to create a naturalistic landscape, but when I look around the site maybe in the woods, that had been cleared of all vegetation for the house, driveway, septic system with the idea that there is a front yard, a back yard. The woods surrounding the lot has been clean of understory plants for whatever reason I’m never sure, and the client wants it to be natural with flowers, shrubs, maybe plantings with ornamental trees and it is a given that the rest is lawn, regardless of soils that remain. It hard not to tell them that if the site hadn’t been so disturb, with the smallest footprint of disturbance, it would have been easy to keep a natural landscape for it was already there, but what the client wants is not what was already there. For what was there, did flower, for all plants do, but it’s not the show that they or we come to expect. Nor would the client with few exceptions want their front or back yards littered with leaves, twigs, branches like the surrounding area. So we all want to create something that natural, we might think to use native plants, but were they there before or would they have shown up on their own if there had been a natural disturbance to the site? Are the soils, moisture, sunlight of the site either before and after disturbance appropriate for what are natives? This isn’t to suggest that using natives is something that doesn’t matter, it does, it should. But maybe it about much more.
A man-made landscape is never a natural landscape. Each has its own set of rules, and the conditions and outcomes of each are very much different. One is manipulated by us, the other isn’t. The design is the end, only allowing for growth and maturity. What plants started there remain, others are removed.
We’ll never go back with the introduction plants from all over the world, not knowing how they will adapt to a new environment and how they might change that environment directly and indirectly. I will mention Invasives for they are and will be very much a part of our profession and our environment. And we have opened Pandora’s box I’m sure that each of us has to deal with them now, just in the maintenance of our customers gardens. we work an area, yet just a few feet away are more that we’re not responsible for and they will be the problem of future maintenance. We in New Hampshire may have stopped selling those plants that are on the Invasive list, but there are already millions of them out there, each producing many more millions of seeds that will produce billions of offspring in the future. So as we design, using plants now not on a list, but may someday be on a list which future landscapers will be dealing with. Can a native that isn’t a native to this region or a ecosystem have the potential to act like an invasive someday?

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So where my multi personality steps in is that there are some many different answers to the same question, what is, what isn’t; good, bad, indifferent? So when it comes to design and what is the best landscape, how do we judge? Is it color, form, texture seasonal value in our eyes and that of the customer? Does it serve the function the surrounding landscape does it supplement or compete with that landscape. Or going back to man-made verses natural landscape, at what point does one consume the other and make it nonfunctional?. We like to think what we’re doing is making it better, but it is the future that will tell. For now, I still working in peoples’ gardens, I try to design to what a customer might like. I try to suggest that less is more, native over exotic and yet another part of me is thinking let nature take its course. Why clean a garden when it’s might be best not too. Should a garden look kept and tended to? For it doesn’t seem to fit with that larger landscape that no one has designed.

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Who’s Coming To Dinner? Or Life is a Buffet



Who’s Coming To Dinner?
Or Life is a Buffet
Part 1
As different birds land on the feeder, you might be wondering why it is that there are certain species of birds that come to enjoy your offerings, while others don’t. If you live in a city, or live in the woods, who is “a coming and calling for dinner”, may be very different from one place to another, even if it is only a short distance separates the two. Other birds may only show up at certain times of the year or may only stop by for a short visit of a day or week. You hold a handful of soil and you know or have been told that millions of living things are right there in your hand, are they be the same if it were handful of a forest soil verses a handful of a city lot soil? What kind of creature are making holes in your maple or rhododendron leaves? As you discover the leaves of some of your plants have eaten, yet the plant next to it hasn’t been chewed on at all and why is it many times you never see them, but you surely know they were there. What we are observing is species requirements and types of different habitats. From microorganisms, fungus, lichens and mosses to plants and trees and from insects to birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.
We might think to landscape for wildlife whether for ourselves or for our clients, who have expressed a desire for butterflies or hummingbirds to frequent their gardens with a colorful display. So what is it we need to do attract a particular species or wildlife in general. We all know the 4 basic requirements for a habitat: food, water, cover and space. It sounds simple, at least for the first three and the forth (space) is the area that is required to fulfill the first three including cover which is a place to seek shelter from the weather, protection from predators, cover for predators seeking prey and for reproduction and raising young.

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So when we think about ‘space’ we might look from our own point of view; for we might consider that our homes and our yards as being our habitat; a source of water, food and cover. Yet our water comes from a larger area, even if we have well water that is taken from the ground under our feet. For our ground water is that of a the watershed where all of the moisture that is received in the form of rain and snow slowly peculates thru the soil and recharges our aquifers and ground water. Even if you are on public water, the area that is required to supply its’ residents, may be well beyond your town or city’s limits and may cover hundreds of sq. miles and in some areas in dryer climates it they might be drawing on water from thousands of miles away. Our food may ideally be local, but even that would be regional rather that from our own food sources that we grown or raise at our homes. And for most of us, it isn’t ideal and the food we eat comes from thousands of mile away and today most likely some of it comes from the other side of the planet. The other factor of space for us is that we need to travel in our work in order for us to make the money that allows us to buy the food, the electricity to power our pumps, to have water at our faucets and to keep that roof over our heads. So our space requirements when we think about it , is a series of habitats that would have be considered part of our individual habitat that cover our base needs.

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All living things have their own type of habitat and yet for almost all habitats they are dependent on other habitats for their own survival. It can be direct or indirect but they are interdependent and influence by each other. All living things fall within a range of their ability to survive different habitat requirements, from generalist that can survive in many different habitats to species can survive only in very narrow range of moisture requirements, to types of food and cover it requires. From the smallest such as what lives in that handful of soil, what life is there is dependent on the larger habitat where that soil comes from. The handful of material in your hand might be a fine particle base such as clay, silt or the larger particles of sands and gravel and stone and what microorganisms that can live there are dependent on the same 4 basic requirements water, food, cover and space. So with water (or moisture) with each of these different particle sizes interact in different ways; from clays ( poorly draining to very poorly draining) where there is very little space between particles that when the water table is high those spaces are fill with moisture pushing the air out. and on the larger scale of habitat what plants and trees that can survive seasonal water saturation and for how long it remains that way. The other characteristic of clay soils is in periods of dryness it takes a lot of rain or snow to re-moisten it again for much of the rain runs along the surface because of the smallness of space between particles and the water it follows the path of least resistance. Sandy and gravelly soils are generally well draining to excessive well draining and tend to dry out quickly, especially if sand particles are deep in the soil horizons. (As a side note these areas are where many our aquifers are located). Food the next requirement of microorganisms which are dependent on the larger living organisms that can live in the different types of soils for they provide the food for the microorganisms both directly and indirectly. Either they consumer other living organisms or the organic waste from other species consuming other living organisms within a given habitat and in turn they provide the food for other living things.

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So given the different soil habitats from very wet to very dry and those different habitats in between. What each habitat can support for life in the whole range of living things. Starting with wet such as lakes, ponds, marshes, peat lands, wetlands, swamps, river riparian areas and floodplains. To the dry habitats of alpine and sub-alpine, shallow soils on bedrock, rocky ground, cliffs and talus, upland dry forest to sand dunes along the coast. Each of these habitats are unique, they may share species that can survive such different conditions, but there are also species that can only exist in a particular habitat and the layering of species, one dependent on the other that make each of these habitats unique. There are other habitats that fall between the range of wet and dry and all of these habitats may be approximate to each other the are separated by the conditions of soil, topography, weather and exposure.

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I guess I’ll end for now where I started, at the bird feeder. I live in a residential area within a small city, but before had lived in woods, and what I notice is that many of the birds I seen in one location I see at the other, from chickadees, to nuthatches, fitches and tufted titmouses and one of the things and I wonder is where do they all live in my neighborhood? How far do the travel to feed upon the seeds I provide? And because I have squirrels who certainly aren’t going to give up a meal that I offering to other species (no matter how clever I think I am in trying to stop them) and with their messy eating habits, they wind up providing seeds for ground feeding birds such as mourning doves and dark eye juncos and for the rodents the tunnel under the ground and the snow to enjoy easy pickings. There are other birds that I never had before, such as wrens and house fitches that come with living in an urban environment. Yet there are many other species that never come to the feeders, like the robins or cedar waxwings that even in the dead of winter when have very little food sources other than the little fruit there is on a crabs or a pears and winterberries, they never consider sunflower seed even with raisins and berries that are mixed in? So the fact that I have bird feeders and a heated bird bath for winter and there are trees on the surrounding the edge of my property for shelter, have I created a habitat? Would they not be here if I didn’t keep the feeders full?

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Nature Abhors a Garden


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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;

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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.
http://www.ecolandscaping.org/12/ecological-landscaping-101/nature-abhors-a-garden/

wetlands

Best Management Practices’ for Landscaping Part 2


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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.

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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.

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Outline
Introduction
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
.

Site considerations
Sun light and environmental exposures
Soil conditions
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

Proper Design
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

Proper installation
Site preparation
Soil amendments
Planting
Mulching and staking

Maintenance
Maintenance factors that help create a successful Landscape
The establishment period (short term maintenance)
Long- term maintenance considerations and cost factors
Structural pruning

Best Management Practices for Landscaping


Hanson St. Tree photo 1Hanson St tree photo 2

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?

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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).

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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.

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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
Snow Arbor

Bonsais, a Circus of Trees and Every 35 feet Part 3


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.

Bonsais, a Circus of Trees and Every 35 feet Part 2


A Circus of Trees

There once was a gentleman by the name of Axel Erlandson born in Sweden in 1884 who’s family migrated to the US when he was 2 and by  the turn of the century they had settled in California to farm the land. He was self learned person without much education but with a passion to read and to observe nature around him. He had seen how trees growing together that had grafted themselves at branches soon he was experimenting with grafts and training tree trunks to growing unusual shapes. Over the course of his life he had created as many as 70 trees in the form of chairs, ladders, loops, hearts, arches and lattice. The family opened the property to visitors as an attraction and named it the ‘Tree Circus’. After he passed away in1964 the property and the trees fell on hard times and when the property was bought in 1983 by a developer who was going to destroy the trees to make way for construction,  Michael Bonfante, owner of Tree Haven Nursery heard about the trees and bought the surviving 29 trees and transplanted them to a site that he created called the ‘Bonfante Gardens Theme Park’ in Gilroy, California where again the trees could be cared for and viewed by visitors.

We have as a people have looked at nature and wondered how we might improve it from the viewpoint of our own interests. From the very first farmers who would start to collect grain seed from plants that showed signs of producing more seed, or seed that didn’t scatter when harvested or maybe had stalks that didn’t blow over in wind storms and could best tolerate the weather conditions of the area and produce a healthy crop.

 Mr. Erlandson certainly wasn’t the first person to observe grafting in nature. It is believed the art of grafting originated in China 3500 years ago and was introduced to the Greeks and Romans a 1000 years later.. ‘During the Renaissance, many plants were brought back to Europe, and were in many cases maintained by grafting. The need to match the cambiums of stock and scion was realized by this time, but of course a real appreciation of meristems was hundreds of years away. An understanding of plant circulatory systems developed in the 1700’s and the formation of graft unions were the subject of much research. By the 1800’s over 100 different grafting techniques had been described, including those that are in wide use today.

  Axel Erlandson standing under one of his works

Many years ago at a NHLA conference I was introduced to an old timer from Maine who was talking about some apple trees he had and that he over the years he had grafted up to 75  different varieties on to each of his trees. As he traveled around to different orchards and he came across a variety he didn’t have, he would ask to take a scion to add to his trees. It is amazing when you think about it the next time you bite into an apple, whether a McIntosh, an Empire or a Honeycrisp; that for every tree that produced that variety, that it had to come from one tree that had produced that particulate fruit and for all of the millions of  McIntosh trees out there, they have all been budded or grafted or today with many plant species by tissue cultured from that one tree that had the characteristics of that juicy, tart McIntosh taste and any scion or bud from a McIntosh tree that is grafted on to another type apple tree will  still produce that McIntosh apple. .

Today much of what we use in our created landscapes have been produced asexually, every tree and plant of a named cultivator will have much of the same characteristics as the one plant that had been created of that name. They are hybridized to created characteristics that we favor, whether it be for flower set or longer flower times, plant habit, size, adaptability to different environmental conditions and pest and disease resistance. It is the goal to create better trees and plants by the features and characteristics that we place a value on. Our palette is worldwide from native to rare exotics and the criteria is that they have desirable characteristics and they will sell. But of the trees we do cultivate we are aren’t concern about seed set other than its’ ornamental value, for it isn’t the purpose to plant trees in our created landscapes to create a forest, rather we want specimens and any seeds that do germinate we would tend to be weeded out.

The native plants that are used can be to a local area, a region or even to an area within a whole country the deciding factor is whether they can tolerate the conditions of another region, a tree is stated to be native, yet its’ native range might be the northwest, or southeast or even mid Atlantic regions of the U.S. An example might be Cornus florida, our native dogwood, they are sold and used at least in the southern half of the NH and ME, they can survive and grow and even flower in those winters that tend to be mild and don’t kill the flower buds. Yet to look for native dogwoods in the natural habitat we have to travel south, you might see them growing at the edge or within a forest in Mass. and Conn. and certainly farther south and it is stated the their range is up to southern Maine yet you will rarely see them outside a man-made landscape in  southern NH. So why do they survive here, but don’t regenerate here? Colder and a bit longer winters, or other unfavorable conditions to prevent the germination of their seed? Think of some of the native plants we use at least in our a zone 5 area, but under natural conditions our area is beyond their native range, red buds, catalpa, yellowwoods, honey locust and shrubs such as mtn. laurels, rhododendrons.

Yet we don’t tend to use just native plants in our landscape, not when we have the whole world of trees and plants available to us. Unless a tree is labeled native, it origins can be from anywhere and unless you do a little research you might not know whether the parentage of a plant you selected might be from Asia, Europe, Africa, unless of course it is in its’ name such as Japanese maple, European beech. So why would it be a problem to be using these plants; people have from the time that they started to explore other parts of the world, have been bringing plants back with them from their travels. To find a plant so different or rare and if it could survive the conditions of your home, why wouldn’t you want to use it? Even our native plants have migrated too here and some of the plants that have yet established themselves this far north, may yet do it in the future as their offspring adapt themselves to colder conditions or our climate and the environment change to favor their migration. The problem may be that we don’t really know or understand our native ecosystems and the interdependence of different soil habitats and all of the life that exists in each and how they all affect each other. We know that in NH we have a list of invasive species and if we are to look around to different regions of the U.S. we find that many more trees and plants are considered invasive and many of them we still use in our landscapes here. So what makes a plant or any other living thing non-native to an area become invasive? When did we realize that our Invasives were invasive? After how many years of common usage? What are the factors that make one exotic tree, plant more invasive than another, or do they all have the potential of being invasive given the right conditions? Given all the new plant material that breeders are continuing to introduce, we really don’t know what our future native ecosystems might look like or how native they may be. We have find out from experience that once an exotic plant, insect, micro-organism, mammal  has become invasive , there truly isn’t any way to remove that threat and we are just staring to learn the impact they have and will have on our natural landscapes.

When we think of the circus coming to town, we think of the ‘out of the ordinary, different from our everyday lives’, with wild, dangerous, exotic creatures and a side show of oddities, and freaks of nature, but sometimes when we look at our created man-made landscapes we may realize that the circus is always in town and the natural is becoming the oddity.