Pacific Northwest

A group for those studying, living, working, or just plain in love with the great Pacific Northwest part of the United States and Canada

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Landscape Architecture Discussion Forum

Attention Seattleites!

Started by Lisa Town Mar 5, 2009.

Great Northwest Projects 2 Replies

Started by Lisa Town. Last reply by Lisa Town Sep 21, 2008.

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Comment by Jason King on September 21, 2008 at 4:12pm
An awesome topic (and prod for discussion). Working in a firm that does mostly sustainable projects - we struggle with the native purism vs. ornamental aesthetics probably on a daily basis... in order to meet the varied goals of our clients. We have native-only folks that won't budge on throwing in a drought tolerant non-native. We also have designers that adhere to the more ornamental schools of thought - and use a bunch on non-natives in the process to create more painterly design.

When we do restoration / revegetation work, we are recreating nature (or at least an analog of it) and lean on natural paradigms for determining plant communities. An urban park, ecoroof or dense infill development require a different aesthetic, due to space, usage, environment, exposure, soils, water, and social expectations. This doesn't mean all non-natives - but a selection of plants that work but also are drought tolerant and don't require high inputs of fertilizer and herbicides. The key - knowing the fuzzy middle ground of 'adapted' plants.

The expansion of LEED and other systems to include 'adapted' not just allows for greater creativity but more appropriate design. In Oregon, the predominant plant palette is 1) deciduous and 2) typically HUGE! Thus in urban conditions, you soon have overgrown or unmanagable or somewhat unstructured thickets of plantings where you really want a sustainable and beautiful environments that is easy to maintain and look good all year. A bunch of stormwater management projects have suffered from this - and the entire potential of certain techniques suffers alongside - because people want certain sustainable techniques - but not at the expense of aesthetics. Part of it is changing expectations and aesthetics. Part of it is making a 'sustainable' landscape (which doesn't necessarily equal native).

Green Roofs are a great example... as the typical model that has been applied uses sedums. There are two native sedums in oregon, which do well, but are not necessarily our goal to create monocultures or un-diverse environments.

Another big question is lawn. Although some would like to remove it completely from design - it's something that is required (sports, play areas, open space) in particular amounts for a variety of projects. Ecolawn is an option... (which is usually non-native as well).

My philosophy is to find the balance that works best for a project. Influences on this are the writings of Joan Nassauer (the Messy Ecosystems, Orderly Frames discussion) - as well as some of the more interesting ecological designs coming out of the leaders in the fields. Another great (and little known) book is called The Dynamic Landscape - which investigates 'ecological' planting design through history...

I wrote an article about this a few years back for OregonLAND - which I think is still online...
Comment by Karen Oleson on September 19, 2008 at 10:46am
Aren't we a quiet group! Hello all. I am trying to refine my thesis question or topic. It is going to center around what design principles could successfully be used with native plants particular to a specific bioregion (in my case the pacific northwest, zones 3-5) in order to create a landscape of high design. My purpose is to demonstrate to the general public that wild plants can create a stunning landscape. I am experiencing difficulty in getting all that into one statement. Also, does anyone have experience using natives in designs that are not supposed to look "natural?" Cheers, Karen

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