Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Drawing Nature into the Urban Landscape

Back in February I wrote about a daylong seminar held here in Portland “Changing Times, Changing Landscapes: Drawing Nature into Urban Landscape Design” a joint effort of Pacific Horticulture and the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon. The seminar was held on March 28th and I was thrilled to attend as a guest of the Pacific Horticulture Society.

If I were a smarter blogger I would have positioned myself at the back of the room, where I could have taken photos of the speakers slides without annoying those around me. Instead I sat where (short) me could easily see the screen and thus took not a single photo. However because a blog post with no photos would be boring, I snapped a few during the post-seminar reception held at Contained Exuberance and Xera Plants.
The entrance to Contained Exuberance

The printed program for the day’s events featured this quote from keynote speaker Patrick Cullina: “Cities across the country and abroad are seeking revitalization through innovative landscape initiatives that make them more vibrant and livable. Today’s program explores a range of strategies that overlay environmental interests on cultural experiences and examines impacts that creative uses of plants can have on urban life.”
Someone warned "that is not a bench!"
The thought of someone mistaking it for such made me laugh...ouch!

Here's where I admit I attended the program not all that excited about Mr. Cullina's presentation. "The High Line" blah blah blah. No! I was wrong. His presentation was fabulous. If you think you've already heard all about The High Line you're wrong. If you think "but that's New York, it's not applicable to ___ (fill in the blank)" you're wrong.
I think that's Agave 'Cream Spike'

Mr. Patrick Cullina is an excellent speaker and if you ever have the chance to hear him speak about The High Line, or the urban landscape in general, you should be there.
Surrounded by several sempervivum and sedum.

His slides were not just of the High Line, or from New York, but instead featured urban projects both small and large from locations across the country. He also spoke about the importance of revitalization occuring in such a way that the history of the space is still visible. Gas Works Park on Lake Union in Seattle comes to mind. The space wouldn't be nearly so compelling if the old structures had all been removed, by leaving them the space became so much more than just another park.
Bob Hyland, owner/designer at Contained Exuberance popping open a bottle of sparkles courtesy of
Chris Cullina, Argyle Winery

The next speaker was Karla Dakin, co-author of the book "The Professional Design Guide to Green Roofs" - talk about plant design porn! Her slide show had many beautiful images, including local green roofs designed by Sean Hogan/Cistus Nursery who just happened to be the next speaker.
My scotch-moss never looks that good.

Sean's plant images never disappoint and he provided a lengthy list of wonderful plants suitable for green roofs and urban plantings.
Here's the crowd gathered next door at Xera.
In the blue jacket on the left is Evelyn Hadden, seminar speaker and author of Hellstrip Gardening.
If you think the Xera sign is a bit wonky it's because I put the words on it. In "real life" the back of the sign is blank.

The most interesting green roof plant Sean mentioned? Trunking Yucca rostrata, on a green roof! Growing in just 11" of soil. Can you imagine? Sean also discussed the importance of using our native sedums (Sedum oblanceolatum , Sedum obtusatum, Sedum spathulifolium) since they're adapted to our summer-dry climate.
Sean Hogan, seminar speaker and owner of Cistus Nursery chats with garden writer Kate Bryant.
You may have noticed them in the distance of the photo above. 

The afternoon program kicked off with Lorene Edwards Forkner (editor at Pacific Horticulture) who spoke about collaborating with nature in the garden. Specifically planting in such a way that you're attracting, and working with, pollinators.
Fremontodendron

Lorene's talk included subjects such as: planting a layered landscape, maintaining permeable surfaces, considering the climate (plant for where you live!), minimizing inputs (don't love your garden to death) and supporting the pollinators.
Artemisia versicolor 'Seafoam' just getting started for the season.

After Lorene came Evelyn Hadden who, by the way, will be back in Portland in June to speak at the HPSO Study Weekend. Evelyn is full of passion for urban plantings, hellstrips in particular but any bit of land that you could squeeze a plant into. (*I had to add this link, even though her post went up after I published my wrap-up. Evelyn has a much more detailed write up on the event here: There’s Hope for Urban Design*)
I think that colorful plant in the lower left hand corner is Trachelospermum asiaticum 'Ogon Nishiki'.

Next up was Maurice Horn, of Joy Creek Nursery. Maurice spoke about the hellstrip he planted at his last home, a planting of entirely Columbia River Gorge natives.
Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Purpureus' I was so tempted, coulda shoulda wouda. Wonder if they still have it?

Some of the plants Maurice highlighted were Eriogonum umbellatum (Buckwheat), Lomatium Columbiana (Desert Parsley), several of penstemon and again Sedum spathulifolium.
In the blue shirt, back jacket is Jim Rondone, past President of the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon.
To his right is Kate Bryant (again - she gets around...)

A big part of my enjoyment of the day was being surrounded by like-minded individuals. But what about those folks who don't ever stop to think about the need for nature in our cities? Or more importantly those folks who have never experienced nature? Mr. Cullina told a story about a father and son on The High Line who were trying to figure out where the trigger was for the cricket soundtrack was located. They couldn't comprehend that there were actual crickets and the "soundtrack" was natural. Not in the city!
Bonsai arctostaphylos? 

I make a habit of walking through the nursery department at our local "everything" store each week when I grocery shop. There are frequently must-have surprises. Yesterday as I was checking out the cashier, obviously taken with the plants the guy in front of me was buying, said "I'm not a gardener, it's my first day out here, but this is really exciting, seeing everything people are buying!" He took the time to talk about what he was buying and encourage her, as did I. One person at a time.
The shade plantings along their fence are looking lush!

Want to get involved? The Pacific Horticulture website lists upcoming events here and the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon has a list here.
In the background, on the left, is Greg Shepard, co-owner at Xera.

There's a fun blog that chronicles the guerrilla gardening efforts of a group in SoCal, maybe we all need to start a little guerrilla gardening effort? Be it giving plants to a neighbor, planting up (and caring for) a round-about at the end of the street, or being part of your city's effort to provide green-space for inner-city kids. We need more plants, and plant people. Spread the love.
And I had to share this, the "safety wrap" on an opuntia, Xera style.

All material © 2009-2015 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

22 comments:

  1. I'm glad this event turned out so well. And now I really want a green roof so I can plant a yucca rostrata.

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    1. Perhaps you need a garden shed (à la Tamara) with a Y. rostrata on top.

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  2. What a good line up of speakers! I have gone a bit crazy in my hell strip...it is such an under used space in urban neighborhoods. The green roof gardening sounds interesting. I was just doing research on some sempervivums I bought and read that a native variety of sempervivum in Europe used to be planted on thatched roofs in order to help slow fires. Your photos are great. I am going to borrow the idea of the agave surrounded by mini - sempervivum and sedum : )

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    1. Hence their common name, "houseleek" although I think I prefer "hens and chicks"...I should probably steal that combo too, it's a good one!

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  3. Sounds like a great seminar in a terrific setting! Love your story about the everything store! A few weeks ago I was looking at orchids at the everything store with a couple fellow shoppers and asked if they had any luck keeping them alive. They both answered in the affirmative and passed on advice for keeping them alive and blooming. I put one in my cart so that they would feel successful at sharing their knowledge and passion but replaced it after I'd finished shopping. Love the succulent "bench!"

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    1. The seminar itself was at an events facility...indoors on a sunny day! (that was tough) How lovely of you to support the orchid lovers!

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  4. The foliage in that shade-loving display is fantastic. This sounds like a great event. The cricket story reallly shows that perceptions and expectations can be so revealing, and often faulty. It's interesting: All the great ideas about hell-strip planting get me motivated to plant a hell-strip ... except I don't have one. Of course, the same (or similar) plans and principles can be applied to any garden strip. Great post!

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    1. Indeed they can, front yard or hellstrip, it's all full of possibilities.

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  5. Thanks for blogging this. Sounds great. I love the High Line and the concept, and would have enjoyed hearing about it as well as the other large and small urban gardens around the U.S. Also love the speakers talking about minimising unputs/resources and considering climate.

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    1. The concept behind the High Line really can apply to so many spaces in other cities, during the seminar I was envisioning a raised rail-line that goes through the downtown of my hometown of Spokane, WA. As far as I know it's still used though.

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  6. You know I'm a fan of seminars, so I'd be all over this one. I'd forgotten about that guerrilla gardening group so put them in my blogroll, thanks to your reminder. That 'Seafoam' artemisia is calling to me...

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    1. Me too, word is that Xera has some coming to the shop soon. I think my plant lust partners and I have plans to scoop them all up but perhaps I can find a snippet to send your way...

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  7. It sounds like a great day all around. Pacific Horticulture doesn't seem to be very active in SoCal - the only event listed for SoCal through September is a San Diego garden tour this Saturday (overlapping the South Bay Cactus and Succulents Show I plan to attend). I wonder if the organization's focus reflects its history or perceptions of the receptivity of gardeners here.

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    1. Well my own biased view is that they've only recently started to be involved up this way, in the Pacific NW, since Lorene came on board as their editor (she's in Seattle). I would have guessed that they had a large presence in SoCal, but maybe that's my naivete in lumping all of California together.

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  8. You guys rock!!! I´m so happy now I know some of the faces and names you are talking about! it all sounds great, so much interesting information in a single event. Thanks for sharing!!

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    1. Wish you could have been here Lisa.

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  9. I'm thrilled to see this post and learn about this event. If it weren't so expensive I would have loved to been there. All of these points are so relevant and will continue to be - all topics that are exciting and the direction I think gardening is going. Thanks for posting!

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    1. And if I hadn't been the lucky recipient of a guest pass to the event from PC I probably wouldn't have been able to attend either, it was a little on the pricey side. Maybe in the future they'll have something just as thrilling but with less well known speakers?

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  10. Such a timely theme...and the speakers sound fascinating. I keep learning that any subject can be engrossing if the presenter is good.

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  11. Fantastic post on a great topic -- and an awesome seminar! I'd rush to one like it in SoCal. Thanks for covering this!

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    1. Are you a member of the Pacific Horticulture Society Luisa? It really is money well spent AND the more members there are in a location the more likely I bet they'd be to do something like this.

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