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Archive for the ‘Gristmill’ Category

The massive four-stem Norway maple that blew down in high winds last week.

Following up on the list post item from June 9, about what to use to replace a lost Norway maple: it will be a honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos inermis ‘Shademaster’), placed slightly upslope from the Norway stump.

Last week I visited the North Shore seaside site (where last year we revamped the drive court planting and added bamboo and holly for property line screening; to read about those projects, see Refinement and Air Spade In Action) and saw the spatial effect of losing this tree.

Surprisingly, the loss wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be. The tree’s canopy had taken up a huge amount of space and cast deep shade over quite an area. It had screened my clients from an unappealing view of the corner of their neighbor’s house — but also from a wider view of the Boston skyline in the distance. Now the horizon is wider; they’re going to have a spectacular view of the city’s July 4 fireworks. While the neighbor’s house is unfortunately visible for the moment, the honey locust will mitigate that view. A younger specimen maple just over the property line, which had been hidden by the larger tree, looks healthy, and helps provide a perspective-focusing foreground to the far horizon.

Fortunately too, while the tree provided shade over a wide area of the site, much of its underplanting consisted of junipers and taxus, which should benefit from having more sunlight. The redtwig dogwood, azaleas, and hydrangea will think a bit about how much they like being exposed, but I think they’ll adapt. Even the little spring shade garden should fare all right, protected as much of it by a dense shrub planting from full sun exposure. Many of the herbaceous plants in it are ephemeral anyway, showing up in early spring before any trees leaf out, and fading back as foliage emerges above them.

Shade cast by the now-gone Norway maple protected the little spring garden and its ligularia circle at the path's end.

Our biggest concern for this newly sunny area is the ligularia bed. This bed, banded with a circle of bluestone, makes the southern terminus of a sightline through the tiny spring garden. The ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ ligularia, with its chocolate-brown foliage and golden spikes of flowers, makes a ravishing dot at the bottom of the exclamation point. And it’s a shade lover.

Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawford' in its circle bed.

It may not be at all happy to be getting sun all day every day. My hope is that it can handle it well enough for long enough to feel relief from the kinder, more dappled shade that the new honey locust will eventually cast.

This site has seen several mature trees come down since last year; neighbors next to the drive court removed a large maple and a lovely S-shaped pine, an ailing ash tree got taken out, and a graceful Russian olive specimen, some 20 feet tall, blew down in the same storm that took the big Norway maple.

Each subtraction has shifted the sun/shade proportions, and each will affect the growth and health of the surrounding area. This kind of change requires adaptation both by the plants and by the owners, and provides opportunities for new ways of seeing a familiar place.

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Voice.  That’s it.  My phone lets me talk, and listen to someone on the other end; if I’m working, I can plug a headset in or hit the speaker phone button.  And use the ‘Mute’ button if necessary.
I opened Toby’s iPhone app post with reservations, having felt saturated recently with iPhone app ‘articles’ that seem little more than ways for a newspaper or blog to fill space.   (In the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine recently I mistook a piece on phone apps for an advertisement, because it was largely a collection of photos of phones, each one showing a different app, with a weblink below.  It was not poor beleaguered print journalism’s finest hour.)
I’ve been a dedicated voice-only phone user forever.  Low-to-the-ground technology is what I like to use, knowing how easy it is for me to get lured in to a moving display and find myself sidetracked for an hour or four.  And I just got a new phone contract last week, turning down the chance to get a new phone because the one I have works just fine.  So a post about phone apps?  Argh.
But the apps Toby shows are making my dialing finger (so to speak) itch.  It would be hugely helpful to be able to place dimensions directly on a photo in the field.  My field notes tend to be scratchy and blobby, and while I’ve developed a method for keeping straight what numbers go with what dimension line, that dimensioning app holds out the promise of more organized field dimensioning.  So tempting.  And stitching together a bunch of photos a la David Hockney would simplify my reference photo printing, too.  Even the number converter looks inviting, though I keep a handy cheat sheet with me for quick and dirty conversions.

An excerpt from a recent set of field notes.

Still, colored pencil and paper are quick, and while they’re not beautiful they do give me the information I need, in exactly the way they’ll be useful when it’s time to draw a base plan and work out the details.  You can’t beat the price.  So far, the end results  over the last couple of decades have been successful.

Stay tuned.  I’m betting that I’ll stick with a voice-only phone, but if the iPad adds a camera and a UWB port and can use those apps I may turn into a technology maven yet.

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Or, ‘This is not a tree’.

Thinking again about, and then past the pollen issue, I wonder if humans had such strong allergic reactions in pre-industrial times. In much the same way that we have been using the world’s oceans as a dumping ground for every substance we don’t want to deal with, we have been pumping fine particulates into the atmosphere in ever-increasing quantities since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Maybe pollen's not the real problem. Photo courtesy of The Library Of Congress, via Flickr.

We breathe oxygen. Oxygen shares atmospheric space with pollen and with myriad other particulates; our bodies work to filter out the particulates as we draw in oxygen.

Certainly, pollen poses challenges to the smooth operation of the human body. And planting fewer pollen-abundant trees might help breathing conditions to some extent. But really, now — shouldn’t we also look at the overload of particulates continuously (not only seasonally) streaming into our breathing space from coal-fired power plants, miscellaneous smokestacks, vents, trains, trucks, buses, and cars? And act to place more stringent limits on emissions from all those sources?

Making the natural world the culprit is easy. Calling ourselves to account for the consequences of our much more harmful actions may, as painful as it is, may be the more responsible and fruitful response.

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Brian Rose’s website, the subject of yesterday’s post, also features his photos of the Berlin Wall and its environs before, during, and after its fall. He writes about the experience of place in Berlin, and for anyone whose knowledge of the Wall is limited (mine was derived mainly from watching Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire and Faraway So Close — wonderful movies, in which the Wall is a character, but not the main character in them), Mr. Rose’s chronicle, called The Lost Border; Photographs of The Iron Curtain is well worth exploring. Don’t miss it, in fact — it’s an affecting series that depicts and describes how the Wall and the zone around it informed, and in ways continues to inform — the national consciousness of the once-divided and now unified Germany.

Photo by Svenwerk on Flickr

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Last week a friend mentioned seeing a yellow-flowering shrub on the VFW Parkway in Boston. It reminded me of the show of Hamamelis that used to appear outside of the Harvard Business School’s Baker Library back in the early 80s; when I first saw it (this was a few years before I became a landscape architect and learned what Hamamelis was) I thought a bank of Forsythia was blooming in February.

Saturday I was in Cambridge, and drove down a street that used to be on my route home from work at CRJA. As I turned the corner, this sight greeted me.

This street runs roughly east-west, and with buildings on both sides gets a slice of sun in the middle of the day. The sycamore maples further along the street add a bit of dappled shade to that slice, too. These Witch Hazels don’t seem to mind. And they have the room they need to spread and fill out their characteristic fountain habits.

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Every month Landscape Architecture Magazine arrives in the mailbox, and some months I look through it quickly for pieces that catch my eye. Other months it has to go on the stack of periodicals next to my desk until I can pick it up on a slow day.

The 2009 series on field sketching was a dandy one, and I found myself pulling out each of those articles to save. One of my favorite things to do is to look at process art — the work that shows you the inside of someone’s mind — so I dawdled over these issues. It was inspiring to look at different sketching styles and to read each landscape architect’s approach to the materials, subjects, conditions, and opportunities of sketching.

The January 2009 issue of the magazine, which I only just recently read, had a fine piece on designing for the winter landscape. What struck me about this piece was its tying design to maintenance. Anyone who has designed a place that gets regular snowfall knows the challenges of dealing with the need to move snow, of coping with ice, and of accommodating the freeze-thaw cycles of every winter. This article, written by Adam Regn Arvidsen, outlined some fairly commonplace tactics for designing in northern climates: including a basic inventory of a site’s winter maintenance needs, considering what happens to grout when it is exposed to moisture and cold, paying attention to pavement textures and slopes in areas where ice might accumulate.

The bit that most appealed, though, was the sidebar called “Quick Tips from Winter-Savvy Landscape Architects”. Arvidsen distilled suggestions from landscape architects in Vermont, Michigan, New York, Minnesota, and Maine into a useful tip sheet, with ideas about communicating with winter maintenance crews about design intent, using darker paving materials that will heat up and help melt snow, and avoiding evergreen plantings that might hang over cars or walkways, as the shade they make can encourage ice to form. (I’m always inclined to plant shrubs and trees fairly far back from pavement that’s going to get plowed, and instead use tough, blocky herbaceous plants, like peonies or hosta, that can hack getting snow dumped on them.)

These things all make sense, and as nuts-and-bolty as they are, consideration of this sort of practicality can lead to the kind of project detailing that lends ease and comfort and an air of gracious inevitability to a designed landscape.

Photo from Flickr, courtesy of the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

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Sweep


‘Balnahard Bay, Colonsay’ by Bryan Dickinson 1 September 2009
“Noticed the lines that the Marram grass was drawing in the wind…. Rain shower just as we were finishing, had to run for cover.”

Piggybacking on your post, Toby, here’s another image from the same V & A exhibit; maybe two photos will compel even more people to look at this link.

I’m reminded by this image of the lesson to make sure that an element in plan has a three-dimensional reason for being.

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