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Archive for the ‘Materials’ Category

Contractors, arborists, and landscape architects in Massachusetts would do well to check out the Ecological Landscaping Association’s September events list.  The ELA is offering a number of really good workshops, on topics ranging from Boston-area restoration projects to the use of fire in landscape management, as well as a two-part, two-day workshop on root issues.  

One day of the root work will focus on soils(f you’ve read any of this blog, or Taking Place In The Trees, you’ll know that I’m interested in roots.)  In the air tool workshop, entitled At The Root: Air Tools Workshop, Rolf Briggs and Matt Foti will be talking about using air to work in the root zone, to decompact soils, to transplant trees and shrubs and also about how to plant nursery-grown stock properly.  

Matt and Rolf have done a similar workshop for the Mass. Arborists Association in the past, and Matt holds an annual workshop on proper planting techniques.  Being able to see what a root system looks like is eye-opening.  Learning — not just from written specs or a generic tree-planting detail — how a tree or shrub should be planted is essential, and well worth the price of admission.  I have been to at least three of these workshops, and learn something new at each one, and so can say that this workshop is one every landscape architect who designs plantings, and every contractor who sells plantings should attend.

Michael waters in a hemlock whose root flare has been excavated with air.

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Something about this light post base puts me in mind of a stage set. Perhaps it’s the fact that while the base looks as if it’s a heavy iron casting, this tear reveals that it’s really made of a kind of fiberglass or resin. This kind of material for a light post base is all right, I suppose. It does make me wonder about the makeup of other street furniture and accoutrements these days, like manhole covers….
light base

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St. Paul's Church, Cambridge, MA

St. Paul's Church, Cambridge, MA

It’s not just Gothic architecture that makes a good foil for honey locusts. I’ve always been fond of the Romanesque St. Paul’s parking court designed by Burck Ryan Associates. When it empties of cars, it’s a pleasantly proportioned and detailed plaza space punctuated with honey locust trunks; when the cars arrive, it becomes a shady parking lot.

If only those traffic cones were set square and plumb, and made of granite…Regardless, the place operates pretty much the way it was intended to, and in the most Cambridge-compact way possible.

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To digress just a little from the line discussion: That Parc Citroen photo puts me in mind of the Cornell Arts Quad, around which are ranged some of Cornell’s most historically and academically significant buildings. The Arts Quad is huge (obviously not what it has in common with the Parc Citroen lawns shown), and there is a several-foot (eleven feet?) grade change from east to west, along its short axis.

Cornell Arts Quad looking north to south.  The tipped plane displays the lawn more prominently to those walking along the west side and looking east, as an open box of candy looks more appetizing when held at a slant to display its contents better.

Cornell Arts Quad looking north to south. The tipped plane displays the lawn more prominently to those walking along the west side and looking east, as an open box of candy looks more appetizing when held at a slant to display its contents better.

When I was a student there in the late 80s, and in the throes of learning how to analyze sites, I realized that the Arts Quad’s tilted plane created a perceptual wall for anyone walking along the west side, looking east and uphill. Standing at the bottom of the lawn and facing east, your eye perceives more lawn even than is actually there, because the plane is slanted rather than flat. In Parc Citroen, the tipped planes of lawn feel similarly more available to the eye from the walks along their low edge.

Using this kind of quiet grade manipulation can let you create a sense of greater green space than may really be available. Horizontal planes give you two axes — horizontal and vertical — to read, while tilted planes give you a more complex experience. I think that controlling the ground plane’s edge makes the experience more readable, as in this Halvorson-designed tilted plane at the Boston Federal Reserve Bank,

Tilted plane of lawn at Boston's Federal Reserve, with South Station behind.  This cylinder of stone and grass is actually part of the Fed's security system -- no one can drive a truck through it to hit the bank's glass walls, just to the left.  But you don't read it as a giant bollard; you read it as a big pad of lawn, elevated and held out to your eyes on a stone tray.

Tilted plane of lawn at Boston's Federal Reserve, with South Station behind. This cylinder of stone and grass is actually part of the Fed's security system -- no one can drive a truck through it to hit the bank's glass walls, just to the left. But you don't read it as a giant bollard; you read it as a big pad of lawn, elevated and held out to your eyes on a stone tray.

or at Park Citroen. Where the plane continues to buildings (which accommodate the grade change), as in the Arts Quad, the effect is more subtle.
Now that's a controlled edge.

Now that's a controlled edge.

Manipulating the ground plane with a wash is a fine way to tweak how a space is perceived, and to give it more quiet complexity.

Cornell Arts Quad photo taken by Anjum and supplied courtesy of Flickr.

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The Boston Globe just published this piece about stone wall theft throughout New England. It describes the just-passed New Hampshire law that will assess triple damages for the restoration of a stolen wall — plus attorneys’ fees — against those who steal that stone wall. That’s a lot of spondulix. The article is worth a read.
p1000653

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Here’s a series of photos from an air-tool transplant project executed last week by a crew from Matthew R. Foti Landscape and Tree Service of Lexington, MA.These guys have been using air tools to bare-root trees for some time now, and they have refined the process pretty skillfully.

Shown here are a very large treeform Taxus and a smallish Cornus kousa. The Kousa Dogwood had been planted only about 8′ away from the Yew, and probably had been sheltered by it in its early days. At this stage, though, their crowns had been competing, and a revised landscape design gave further reason to spade out and move both plants.

Taxus and Cornus kousa planted closely together, as part of a larger planting that has already been dismantled.

Taxus and Cornus kousa planted closely together, as part of a larger planting that has already been dismantled.

The Bobcat has dug a trench, and the Foti crew is blowing soil into it. Note that the Yew's branches have been tied up to keep them out of the way.

The Bobcat has dug a trench, and the crew is blowing soil into it. Note that the Yew's branches have been tied up to keep them out of the way.

Taxus is a deeply rooted plant -- notice the trench depth, and presence of roots in the lower part of the mound..

Taxus is a deeply rooted plant -- notice the trench depth, and presence of roots in the lower part of the mound..

Soil and rocks fly during the process, so eye and ear protection are essential. The white jumpsuits keep these guys from getting covered with soil (color is optional).

Soil and rocks fly during the process, so eye and ear protection are essential. The white jumpsuits keep these guys from getting covered with soil (color is optional).

Bobcat continually takes blown soil out of the trench and stockpiles it.

Bobcat continually takes blown soil out of the trench and stockpiles it.

Double-teaming a soil clod. Pushing the nozzle down into the root mass helps loosen soil inside it.

Double-teaming a soil clod. Pushing the nozzle down into the root mass helps loosen soil inside it.

Pigtailing the roots -- tying them in long bundles -- helps keep them protected and out of the way.

Pigtailing the roots -- tying them in long bundles -- helps keep them protected and out of the way.

Twine holds the pigtails together; when the plant is ready to move, twine can also be used to tie the pigtails back to the trunk, to keep them from dragging during transport.

Twine holds the pigtails together; when the plant is ready to move, twine can also be used to tie the pigtails back to the trunk, to keep them from dragging during transport.

Progress shot. Look at how deep the trench is. The Taxus is nearly ready, and shortly the crew will move on to the Cornus kousa; when both trees have been blown out, they will be separated and moved to new locations.

Progress shot. Look at how deep the trench is. The Taxus is nearly ready, and shortly the crew will move on to the Cornus kousa; when both trees have been blown out, they will be separated and moved to new locations.

The following week: Taxus in a new spot, looking relaxed and healthy.

The following week: Taxus in a new spot, looking relaxed and healthy.

Final shot. Asymmetry in the Taxus crown reflects its previous location in a larger planting.

Final shot. Asymmetry in the Taxus crown reflects its previous location in a larger planting.

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What is a landscape architect doing writing about these methods of tree planting and moving? Well, for one thing, I don’t like to waste woody plants. Planting an ingrown-root tree (or even a healthy one) in a new landscape without attending to the tree’s requirements — for rooting space, for decent soil porosity, for adequate moisture, for sufficient gas/air exchange at the root flare, for sufficient light, among other things — can lead to the tree’s being stressed, declining, and dying in relatively short order (a typical urban street tree lasts 7-10 years, and is in decline for most of that time). That seems a waste to me.

A tree represents a lot of energy. A tree is a system, as well as a component in a larger system. And my design work takes place in a larger system, too — that commercial system, where clients hire me to make comfortable, beautiful, gracious outdoor spaces for them. The more knowledgeable I am about these big, organic, living design elements, these systems, the better my built projects will be, and the more sustaining and sustained they will be, as well. If the best advertisement for a landscape architect is the landscape we design, then it makes sense for us to know a lot, and to use what we know, about the biggest elements we use in that landscape.

Wait’ll I start writing about water….

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