Wednesday, June 3, 2020

For the Birds

For avid bird lovers, a new stone patio, for the birds, a new native landscape.

This flat site is a suburban backyard backed up to a forest. The design includes native flowers, shrubs and understory trees, in which birds can nest and forage for insects, seeds, berries and nectar. All are strategically placed so as not to interrupt views from the house and the patio.

Evergreen Inkberries insure some winter greenery as well as a berry harvest. Redbuds provide the patio with some shade in addition to their spring color. This variety of 22 different plant species supplies a diverse menu for a variety of song birds throughout their feeding season.

Creating habitat for wildlife in your yard can connect you with your local ecosystem, in this case an adjacent forest, and potentially extend a wildlife corridor.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

A "Japanese" Garden with American Natives

Native gardens can take any form. This site is a small portion of a large waterfront property on Maryland's eastern shore. Much of the land will return to nature, but after spending 5 years in Japan, the homeowner wanted to bring the beauty and peace of traditional Japanese gardens home.

An new alle' of Zelkova trees  shelters the long driveway, hiding this secret garden to one side.

At the property lines, a backdrop of evergreen trees provides a privacy barrier. A long continuous hugelkultur (shown in purple) shapes the background perimeter of the garden at 2 sides. This sinuous berm mimicks the artificial "mountains" of Japanese gardens. These are planted thickly with deciduous canopy providing shade for adjacent understory trees.

To resolve a sheet-flow stormwater issue, a rain garden and small swales, hiding in planting beds,  harbor Willows and other water-loving natives.

A serpentine pathway (in yellow) leads one from the entrance "gate" through a variety of showy understory trees to the end of this linear garden.

The homeowner painstakingly selected American native varieties of trees and shrubs, which resemble common Japanese varieties she is familiar with. A few true Japanese species were included - Ginko, Japanese Maple and Zelkova - to give the garden authenticity. Native shrub and herbaceous layers will showcase a stone lantern and other decorative features, which act as destination points.

This garden functions as a nature sanctuary as well as a cultural archetype, enabling the homeowners to preserve wild plants while continuing their fond experience of the Japanese aesthetic.

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Friday, May 29, 2020

Sheet-flow Erosion/Gully Repair

At this 6 acre rural property heavy storms cause rain water to sheet-flow from large neighboring properties, following the natural contour of the land. Run-off travels across an open field, then decends downhill in a torrent. Over time the resulting erosion has carved a 25' deep gully, which is in danger of reaching the water table and destabilizing the house foundation.

My design solution uses large scale swales and hugelkultur berms to intersect water flow, enabling the ground to absorb it before reaching the hillside.

Long logs, recently cut from trees located too close to the house, were transported to the site and placed in a series on contour, perpendicular to the water flow.

Swales were dug at the uphill side of the logs. The displaced soil was dumped on top of the logs to construct huge planting berms, or hugelkultur. Swales were filled with wood chips, leftover from the tree cutting. 

The fence line  (where the sheet-flow first enters the property) was planted with water-loving native trees to provide a suntrap, a windbreak and privacy. The entire site is protected by a deer fence.

Small check dams were built in the gully to slow water flow. Its banks were planted with red twig dogwood live stakes to stabilize the soil.

The 2 largest swales, seeded with native flowers, act as huge rain gardens. After a storm they absorb the bulk of the water in about 2 days, recharging the water table.

The berms located in the shade of the adjacent forest were planted with native shrubs. Those located in full sun were planted the first season with a soil boosting seed mix, and the next with perennial edible berries and fruit trees. 

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Edible Bayscape at Seven Oaks Elementary School

Last fall I designed an Edible Bayscape for Seven Oaks Elementary School in Perry Hall, MD. Funded by Northrup Grumman, the project was sponsored by the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy (GVC), planned by school staff, and supported by the PTA and Baltimore County Public Schools. 

The site is an enclosed courtyard surrounded by six classrooms and the school library. A symmetrical design clearly distinguished pathways, which protect planting beds from tiny foot traffic. A perimeter border of Blue False Indigo encloses a variety of "outdoor rooms."

The canopy of a large Oak shelters an outdoor classroom. A magical spiral bed of native ground covers culminates at a sun dial. An ornamental bench is flanked by more native flowers that host beneficial insects. 3 cedar compost bins house decomposing leaves from the Oak tree. A circular herb garden compliments a modern sculpture, a memorial to a child who died. Raised linear beds, one for each grade accommodate vegetables

The Bayscape was installed in several work sessions by children, their parents, teachers, a local master gardner, volunteers from the neighboring senior center, and GVC interns. The site was cleared of weeds and grass, the soil loosened, leaf compost applied and the beds mulched. Wood chips define the pathways. F
all is a great time to plant, even though plants are going dormant. Roots become established during the winter, strengthening plants for their emergence in spring. 

This Bayscape will be maintained by children in the Seven Oak Elementary School's Garden Club, guided by a volunteer from the University of Maryland's Master Gardner program. 

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