Connect One Design Shout Out

The Plantium is made for landscape professionals BY landscape professionals. To that end, it’s been an exciting summer in the Colorado mountains and the Connect One Design landscape architecture team has been hard at work. Check out Connect One Design in the media. We couldn’t do what we do without an amazing staff and The Plantium software!

Here’s just a few fun pics from the field. Enjoy!

 

Importance of the Allergy Friendly Landscape

Most of us think summer sneezing just ‘comes with the territory’ but did you know that you can alleviate some of it with an allergy friendly landscape!  As landscape professionals, the concept of an allergy friendly landscape is a crucial one. Regardless of the scale of a project our understanding of high pollen generating plants is critical to making some changes for the better in our cultivated landscapes.

Wind blown pollen

Wind blown pine tree pollen. Makes me sneeze just looking at it!

Background

Most of us suffer from just a little sneezing and sniffling from seasonal allergies but the implications of high pollen rates can be far more serious. “Deaths from asthma continue to climb each year at alarming epidemic rates”.1 While the causes of these increases can be debated it is clear that high pollen rates play a role in many health related issues, especially in the young, old and those with compromised respiratory and circulatory systems.

Studies have shown death rates among high-risk populations increase on days with high pollen and high pollution. Similar to the association of very hot or very cold weather to higher death rates, one cannot attribute it directly to the weather condition but rather see a correlation in high-risk populations.2 Impacts like thunder death outbreaks also bring home shocking impacts of high pollen in urban settings.3

So, how did we arrive at the increases in allergies and asthma? We all know the issue relates to high pollen counts, but what is pollen and has atmospheric pollen been on the rise in recent years? Pollen is the microscopic grain carrying the male gamete of a plant that will pollinate (via transport by insects, birds, wind, etc.) the female ovule of a plant. This microscopic grain is both an irritant and a nasal allergen in humans (and other animals; yup, dogs get allergies). Anemophilous plants generally cause the most allergies because they pollinate primarily by wind. The pollen grains of those plants are light and small, in order to be easily dispersed by the wind (and therefore tend to stay airborne and easily breathed in by humans). The role of female plants in an allergy friendly landscape is critical because they are attractive (for sure 🙂 )! The pistil of female plants is STICKY in order to capture the pollen grain. In an allergy friendly landscape female plants (and flowers) are important because they both do NOT produce pollen, AND they pull pollen out of the air with sticky attractiveness! Two other important aspects of pollen creation are important to understand as well – pollen production is increased dramatically with additional CO2 in the atmosphere (urban settings) and changes to the timing of pollen generation is being sparked by increased climatic temperatures.

Microscopic Helianthus Pollen

Microscopic Helianthus Pollen – it sure looks like it would irritate anybody’s nose!

So what does this have to do with the cultivated landscape and an allergy friendly landscape? This is where the concept of botanical sexism comes into our vocabulary. “Arborists often claim that all-male plants are ‘litter-free’ because they shed no messy seeds, fruits or pods. In the 1949 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, which focused on trees and forests, this advice was given to readers: ‘When used for street plantings, only male trees should be selected, to avoid the nuisance from the seed.’ In the years following, the USDA produced and released into the market almost 100 new red maple and hybrid-maple-named clones (cultivars), and every single one of them was male.”4 At The Plantium, we believe male cultivars have an important place in the landscape, but it is important to understand that the use of male (and only male) cultivars and overall plant selection play the most important role in developing an allergy friendly landscape.

Scope and Scale

When and where it is important to think about an allergy friendly landscape? There are many projects where understanding the right plants for a low allergy and allergy friendly landscape are important. Being conscious of pollen generation on all your projects can help address the growing issue of high pollen in the cultivated landscape. Our responsibility as landscape professionals should be taken seriously! Consider your client when embarking on a residential design. Just asking the question about any allergy or asthma sufferers in the household (and then designing an allergy friendly landscape) can help make a successful landscape and a happy client. Allergy friendly landscape plant selection is most important around high risk populations, including playgrounds and senior living projects. Finally, projects in urban centers should be addressed carefully as the greatest population of allergy and asthma sufferers per capita reside in cities.

Amaryllis Stamen

Up close and personal on the Amaryllis stamen. The sticky pistil of an amaryllis flower gathers up all this pollen for fertilization!

Making Great Plant Choices

All of this background begs the question… what do we do now? Here are a few thoughts.

  1. Understand and educate yourself on the benefits of the allergy friendly landscape.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the OPALS rating system. Thomas Ogren created the first and only known rating system that ranks the allergy potential of plants.
  3. Discuss the need for an allergy friendly landscape with your client.
  4. Educate yourself on types of plants that might fit in an allergy friendly landscape and follow a few best practices such as:
  • Gender balance the landscape.
  • Use fewer wind pollinated species.
  • Encourage sterile cultivars and showy flowers (most plants with big colorful flowers are insect pollinated! Bees welcome?!).
  • Avoid high pollinators: male only willows, poplars, aspens, ash, (fruitless) mulberry, cypress, junipers, yews, myrtles, currants, etc., olive trees, Bermuda grass. Fruit trees are good but nut trees tend to be allergenic.
  • Develop maintenance manuals for your clients that encourages trimming of existing high pollinators and good maintenance of installed plants (e.g. trimming privet before it flowers). The Healthy Schoolyards Initiative5 has a great start at a list of maintenance measures that can be undertaken on existing landscapes.

The Politics of Allergy Friendly Landscapes

While it appears uncertain that low pollen ordinances are having an impact, landscape professionals should be aware that there are a growing number of urban centers enacting pollen control ordinances, including Pima County, AZ, Clark County, NV, Albuquerque, NM, Phoenix and Tucson, AZ, and El Paso, TX, among others. Other cities such as Louisville are embarking on some truly innovative approaches to understanding and addressing the epidemic.

Conclusion

While we can thank pollen for so many wonderful things like solving murders (it’s a plant’s fingerprint!), determining the age and quality of coal seams, and our delicious fruits and vegetables we now need to be stewards of our own air and address the issue of excessive pollen in our cultivated landscapes!

References:

  1. http://www.academia.edu/4110694/Politics_of_Pollen_Article Copyright 2001, Tom Ogren
  2. http://www.webmd.com/allergies/news/20000427/high-pollen-linked-death#1
  3. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-38121579
  4. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/botanical-sexism-cultivates-home-grown-allergies/
  5. http://www.healthyschoolyards.org/

Image References

https://commons.wikimedia.org

Using Denitrifying Plants in the Landscape

Turns out we have an addiction in this country. “Call it the nitrogen fix. It is like a drug mainlined into the planet’s ecosystems, suffusing every cell, every pore — including our own bodies.”1 In response, some jurisdictions (apparently finding dealing with addiction at the source – i.e. agriculture, wastewater, feed lots, poor landscape practices, etc. too difficult) are requiring the end user of non-potable reclaimed effluent to utilize only denitrifying plants in the landscape. Their theory being that if the ornamental plants can take up the nitrogen, then problem solved.

This discussion of overabundance of nitrogen in our water and soil could get really scientific, really fast (and unfortunately make for very dry reading) so instead I’m going to keep things pretty simple and straightforward and provide some great resources for seeking additional information.

The nitrogen problem. “Over the last century, the intensive use of chemical fertilizers has saturated the Earth’s soils and waters with nitrogen. Now scientists are warning that we must move quickly to revolutionize agricultural systems and greatly reduce the amount of nitrogen we put into the planet’s ecosystems.”1 Excessive nitrogen leaches into waterways, feeds algal blooms and contributes to eutrophication of water systems….. effectively starving plant and aquatic life of oxygen. It can even starve our children of oxygen, known as Blue Baby Syndrome, as a result of nitrogen contaminated drinking water.

The good news. Nitrogen is an inorganic compound which, unlike other macronutrients, can be turned to gas and released into the atmosphere. More good news. This means that the use of denitrifying plants can be addressed via phytometabolism in a relatively short period of time and presents good opportunities for field application.2 “Since all plants use nitrogen and support denitrifying bacteria, any kind of plant can provide some form of nitrogen remediation from soils and water. However, the method that provides the quickest remediation tends to be a system that includes plants with very high growth rates and evapotranspiration rates. Nitrogen is used up quickly, or the plant acts like a large reactor, priming the soil bacteria for speedy conversion of the nitrogen into a gas. Plants species that produce a lot of biomass have been those most successfully used in studies to remove high levels of nitrogen in soils and groundwater.”3 Some would then argue for the use of bluegrass and other fast growing turf, but studies have shown that a mixed species landscape will produce a more diverse microbial soil, and therefore denitrify faster via plants AND bacteria.

Finding the right plants. While in no way an exhaustive list, the book Phyto: Principles and resources for site remediation and landscape design, suggests a brief list of high biomass plants such as Bambuseae, Brassica juncea, Brassica napas, Cannabis sativa, Linum usitatissimum, Panicum virgatum, Populus, Salix and Sorghum. Additionally, some high evapotranspiration-rate plants include Alnus, Betula, Eucalyptus, Fraxinus, Populus, Salix, Sarcobatus vermiculatus and Taxodium distichum. Again, while not an exhaustive list one thing to note is that these tend to be high water use species. In a large scale remediation setting this is desirable (because you are purposefully applying large amounts of contaminated water), however, it tends to fly in the face of end user goals in the ornamental landscape that are working hard to reduce overall water consumption.

Unfortunately, it would seem that municipalities, especially in drought plagued areas trying to encourage water reuse, may end up further discouraging effluent reuse with these unnecessary regulations and may find themselves dealing with unintended consequences, such as forcing the use of plants that require even more water to both thrive and denitrify the soil. It is clearly a discussion worth continuing.

 

I’d like to thank Kate Kennen for the amazing information gathered from her book for this article. Kate is always an inspiration and this book is an INCREDIBLE resource for all practical applications, large or small, for phytoremediation and productive landscapes. It is a must read!

Find Kate here….  http://offshootsinc.com/

Find her book here…. https://www.amazon.com/Phyto-Principles-Resources-Remediation-Landscape/dp/0415814154

  1. Fred Pearce. Copyright 2009. http://e360.yale.edu/mobile/feature.msp?id=2207
  2. Kate Kennen and Niall Kirkwood, Phyto: Principles and resources for site remediation and landscape design. Routledge, 2015. Figure 3.1, Page 63
  3. Page 128

Urban Horticulture in a Capital Place: The National Botanic Garden

By, Arabella Beavers, Busy Beavers Gardening. Why would urban horticulture be important to The Plantium roving gardener? As our climate changes, as gardeners our ability to respond to these changes in a sustainable manner has to stay current and relevant. Urban horticulture is the study of the relationship between plants and the urban environment. It focuses on the functional use of horticulture so as to maintain and improve the surrounding urban area.[1] Staying current with the sustainability aspects of horticulture and gardening means being inspired by its new trends.

My inspiration this spring came from our nation’s capital and the gardens of Washington, DC. An amazing tribute to the history of gardens and an inspiration to the future of sustainability in urban horticulture the National Botanic Garden can’t help but stir the gardener’s imagination.

I was fortunate enough to visit Washington, DC and although the weather was a little inclement for spring, I was so delighted to find such spectacular gardens in our nation’s capital. From urban gardens along the city streets to sculpture gardens and the glory that is housed in the National Botanic Gardens – this city definitely is in touch with its green side. The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is a botanic garden on the grounds of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., near Garfield Circle. The Botanic Garden is supervised by the Congress through the Architect of the Capitol, who is responsible for maintaining the grounds of the United States Capitol. The USBG is open every day of the year, including federal holidays. It is the oldest continually operating botanic garden in the United States.

USBG Entrance

The Courtyard Entrance, National Botanic Garden

 

Here’s a little history on this historic garden. The garden began as the Botanical Garden of the Columbian Institute but became the United States Botanic Garden in 1850, thirteen years after the demise of the institute. In 1867, Congress provided money for the construction of the first greenhouses. Constructed by the Architect of the Capitol in 1933, this historic Lord & Burnham greenhouse contains two courtyard gardens and 10 garden rooms under glass, totaling 28,944 square feet of growing space. Several historic trees stood on the site including the Crittenden Oak which marks the spot where John J. Crittenden made an address in an effort to avert the Civil War. Others included the Beck-Washington Elm which was a scion of an elm earlier planted by Washington himself. There was also a plane tree which Thaddeus Stevens brought from the Vale of Cashmere, a sycamore planted by Senator Daniel Voorhees, a Chinese oak from the grave of Confucius, two cedars of Lebanon, and several others that have historic associations.

The Bartholdi Fountain, the work of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the same sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor stood in a central site in the gardens, however, it was placed in storage for several years to make way for the memorial to General Meade, the hero of Gettysburg.

The garden “was formally placed under the jurisdiction of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress in 1856 and has been administered through the Office of the Architect of the Capitol since 1934. The Architect of the Capitol has served as Acting Director of the United States Botanic Garden and is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the Garden and for any construction, changes, or improvements made.” [2]

Today, the United States Botanic Garden is home to almost 10,000 living specimens, some of them over 165 years old.

USBG and Capital Dome

The National Botanic Gardens with Capital Dome Behind

Enough with the history…. Here’s my camera eye view of the experience that I had at the USBG on that wonderful ‘April Showers’ day…..
Nestled Within the shadows of The Capitol – currently under a state of repair, this lush garden was displaying its last flush of spring bulbs and beginning to prepare for a perennial push. With some exceptional displays of roses, iris and flowering bushes such as fragrant aballia. I was so excited to see this wonderful array – especially since it was still snowing back in Colorado!

Rose in USBG

Rose Specimen in the Rose Garden

The irises were particularly beautiful at this time of year, with the Iris tectorum ‘Alba’ being stunning in white and another favorite, the traditional bearded iris, in an array of colors that reminded me of a Monet masterpiece I had just seen in the National Gallery. There was even an iris called the red velvet Elvis iris, sadly not yet in bloom!! While plants such as the Iris tectorum can be hard to find, think about more common ones such as the Iris ‘Immortality’ to achieve the pure beauty of the white iris. https://shar.es/1l6uCg

Iris Specimen in NBG

Blooming Iris at USBG

Iris in Bloom

One of the things I loved so much was that they had many specimen plants – one of my particular favorites was this daisy – the Erigeron pulchellus var. pulchellus ‘Lynnhaven Carpet’, a wondrous woodland plant.

Erigeron pulchellus var. pulchellus 'Lynnhaven Carpet'

Erigeron Specimen

Continuing my walk through, I was particularly impressed by their water gardens with a contemporary gazebo and lovely plantings. It was alive with birds and a pair of mallards taking a bath in the shallow ponds. Examples of water grasses, lilies and water iris were just stunning.

Water garden 2 NBG

The Water Gardens, USBG

The Water Gardens, National Botanic Garden

Moving on through this delightful place, I was getting a soaking of my own as it was turning out to be a wet English type day – so I headed toward the greenhouse conservatory to see what I could find in there. Boy was I in for a colorful treat! It was like entering Aladdin’s cave, magical hothouse full of blooms and delights for the garden enthusiast.
The formal ponds within the main entrance are bedazzling – azure pools surrounded by bright pink azalea’s, orange orchids and surrounded by citrus trees – it was like a mirage. But this is a real garden and its microclimate creates the perfect temperature and humidity for the array or orchids and bromeliads clinging to the exotic trees they call home. At the end of each pool was an extraordinary living wall that contained more orchids –  a tropical display that was stunning to me.

Water Garden_USBG

Indoor Formal Water Gardens

Orchids 2 NBG Orchids_Closeup 2 NBG

Orchids in the Tropical Garden

Orchids in the Tropical Garden

 

As you can see from these close up images, these are not the orchids you buy at the supermarket!!

The national botanic garden houses many specialized gardens with displays including a Mediterranean garden, tropical gardens, desert gardens, tundra and a children’s play garden – something for everyone.  What I liked about it the most was that it had such a diversity of plantings.  Plants that we all know and love and use regularly in our gardens, such as lavender, to really unusual varieties that have been nurtured from far off lands form these magnificent displays.

 

 

Med Garden at USBG

Mediterranean Garden in the Conservatory

This really is a spectacular place and somewhere that I would love to return.  Seeing these magnificent displays not only left me wondering about the hundreds of hours of maintenance these gardens would take – but also how inspired I now am to travel and explore gardens all over the world. The challenge of seeing these plants in their natural environment, just as nature intended, then translating them to the urban horticultural environment is a challenge I am ready to take.

I leave you with some interesting facts and more information – next time you are in DC make sure not to miss these glorious gardens.

https://www.usbg.gov/

Happy Planting!

Arabella Beavers, Busy Beavers Gardening

https://www.facebook.com/Busy-Beavers-Gardening-LLC-201131763257382/?fref=ts

Aspen, Colorado

©ARABELLA BEAVERS, 2016

  1. Tukey, HB Jr. (1983). “Urban horticulture: horticulture for populated areas”.HortScience: 11–13.
  2. https://www.usbg.gov/brief-history-us-botanic-garden

The Plantium: Changing the way the world sees plants.

Welcome to The Plantium! As landscape architects and designers we have always held a close relationship with plants. With the implications of a changing climate hitting close to home, this relationship with plants has never been more important. We are looked to by our clients and our peers to make appropriate plant decisions. While in years past these decisions may have been based heavily on aesthetics and survivability, we are now faced with making decisions that are better for the environment. This is a responsibility that we cannot take lightly. The links below are just the beginning of the resources available to help professionals recognize the impact of our design solutions. Resources like these are far and wide but we are still faced with the critical task of finding the right plants for the right situation and the right design solution.

At The Plantium we are committed to changing the way the world sees plants. Our tools help professionals make better choices in their plants and then easily communicate these decisions within their own company, to clients and other contractors. This tool will be a critical step in elevating the dialog around choosing, growing, planting and maintaining plants that now satisfy our aesthetic and environmental needs.

The Plantium. Find. Organize. Evaluate

Copyright 2014 Connect One Design

Related Resources:
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ASLA WEBSITE – GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE

ASLA WEBSITE – SUSTAINABLE RESIDENTIAL DESIGN: MAXIMIZING THE BENEFITS OF PLANTS