The Photo Editor of Small-Space Gardening contacted me about a picture she found on on my website of a garden I’d designed. She loved it and asked to use it in their Spring edition. I, of course, was thrilled that they liked it and wanted to publish it, so, of course, I said yes!
And here it is! I am so pleased that it’s in such a wonderful publication — currently available on newsstands. It’s filled with fabulous pictures and great ideas for container gardens, small vegetable gardens, small backyards, color palates, plant selection and a great deal more.
Here is the photograph from the magazine, which they titled “European Charmer.”
Since 2014 is upon us, I thought I might offer a suggestion for the New Year that could save you money, improve your property’s “curb appeal” and help bend the curve of Southern California’s water usage downwards by just a tad, and given our ever vanishing water supply … every tad does count!
It involves taking a look at one of the most obvious but most overlooked pieces of property on every block—that strip of land that lies between the street and the walkway, known as the “Parkway.”
The parkway and walkway together make up the sidewalk, which is part of the public right-of-way. But that doesn’t mean it’s the city’s responsibility for it’s maintenance. The adjacent property owner is responsible for maintaining all of the parkway except the street trees, which are maintained by the city: responsible (we hope) for their planting, trimming and removal.
WHY ARE PARKWAYS IMPORTANT?
Parkways are important to individual property owner and the city as a whole for the following reasons:
Parkways enhance the visual quality of the city.
Parkways improve the curb appeal of your home, potentially increasing its value.
Parkways provide soil volume that street trees need to grow into healthy, mature trees that provide shade, consume carbon and provide other environmental and health benefits
Parkways help collect storm water and irrigation runoff and return it to the groundwater table.
Parkways provide a buffer between pedestrians on the walkway and cars in the street
Over the last two months, in Parts I and II of this series, we have looked at how nature, and in particular “Green Cities” impact not only our health and well-being but how they can positively contribute to a whole range of intellectual, emotional and developmental issues.
Part I focused on how interaction with nature can help alleviate mental fatigue and relax and restore the mind. It also presented compelling documentation on the importance of nature in child development.
Part II demonstrated how the out of doors and bringing nature into the work environment can positively affect workers’ performance. It also describes how nature can positively impact children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and individuals suffering from Alzheimers and Dementia.
Part III, and the last of the series, looks at how we can go about achieving what has been described in Parts I and II and what roles technology, parks and landscape design play in making this happen. As an example of my own work in this area, I have included information, photographs and links to the Weingart Center Garden here in Los Angeles, which I designed and believe incorporates and exemplifies the underlying premise of this series: we all have a deep, significant and perhaps even a genetic need to to be a part of and interact with nature.
Published by the College of the Environment, University of Washington, the project’s support was provided by the national Urban and Community Forestry program of the USDA Forest Service, State and Private Forestry. Summary prepared by Kathleen Wolf, Ph.D. and Katrina Flora, December 26, 2010. You can read it in its entirety at http://depts.washington.edu/hhwb/Thm_Mental.html.
Can Technological Nature Be Effective
The question has been asked, “Couldn’t we simply substitute aspects of the natural world with technological depictions of nature?” Can technology provide an adequate substitute in places where the natural world is some distance away?
When comparing subjects’ reactions in windowless offices with and without plasma TV “windows” showing natural scenes, participants preferred the offices with plasma-display windows and noted increased psychological well-being and cognitive functioning as a result of this connection to the natural world. In another study comparing viewing formats, outdoor views through glass windows were more restorative than blank walls, but plasma windows were no more restorative than blank walls to the subjects’ sense of well-being. Subjects’ heart rates were lower in offices with the glass windows than in those with plasma windows and blank walls.
It seems that artificially represented nature is not an effective substitute for directly perceived nature as it does not provide equivalent benefits and positive experiences. Such technological representations could be useful to some degree in situations where it is difficult to incorporate “real” nature, as in space shuttles, submarines, or other extreme environments where there is an unavoidable disconnect from the natural world.
Nature in the Community
Green Space for Physical Activity
Play and exercise are an important part of children’s and adults’ development and brain function. As children, play can help develop cognitive thinking and reasoning abilities. Later in life, exercise likewise helps increase and maintain the brain’s cognitive capacity.
Researchers have found that exercise boosts the growth of new nerve cells and improves learning and memory in adult mice: newly formed nerve cells were concentrated in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is key in memory formation, spatial learning, and conscious recall of facts, episodes, and unique events.
Urban green spaces encourage exercise and are a more restorative environment than indoor settings, with a greater positive effect on mental health. Additionally, urban green spaces offer a free, accessible, public environment in which to exercise and play to those who cannot afford a private gym membership.
A neighborhood than incorporates easily accessible green spaces into its design may also improve social cohesion and interaction. As a result, the mental health of individuals may also remain positive due to a decreased chance of depression and feelings of isolation and increased self-esteem. Effective social support networks have been found to restore feelings of personal control and self-esteem by buffering the effects of stress and poor health.
Green spaces, such as community gardens or even the shade of a large tree, encourage social contact by serving as informal meeting places and sites for group and shared activities. Green spaces can serve as a sort of ecotherapy, as marginalized people can find empowerment, respite from stresses, and personal involvement in environmental stewardship. Green spaces in close proximity to homes encourage exercise, which can improve mental health. As described earlier, studies indicate that having views of nearby nature and living within green spaces can improve worker productivity, reduce stress, improve school performance, and lessen the symptoms of ADD.
Specifically concerning the elderly, social interaction is important as less loneliness is correlated with lower mortality rates, depression, and cognitive impairment. Additionally, in a study of elderly populations that prefer natural over built environments, there is a positive correlation between familiarity of the environment and restorativeness. To promote this, the elderly require easily accessible spaces due to their more limited mobility, so having parks and green spaces in close proximity to their neighborhoods or care centers is especially important.
Landscape Design for Mental Health and Function
Parks are often scattered about cities, and many cities have too few parks. Based on decades of research findings, parks should be managed as systems, not just for the usual purposes of beauty and recreation, but also to help citizens function at their best. The National Parks and Recreation Association recommends that there be park space within 2 miles of every residence (with ¼- to ½-mile distances optimal for walkability) and that a city’s park system provide 5 to 8 acres of park space for every 1,000 residents.
Planting design within a park is also important. The “savannah hypothesis” argues that people prefer open landscapes with scattered trees, similar to African landscapes in which humans evolved. However, this theory has been recently challenged by evidence showing that the psychological benefits of green space are positively correlated with the diversity of its plant life. People who spent time in a park with greater plant species richness scored higher on various measures of psychological well-being than those subjects in less biodiverse parks.
Planters, gardens, green roofs, and other features can be incorporated into building design to address mental health and cognitive function. For example, the soft rhythmic movements of a trees or grass in a light breeze or the light and shade created by cumulus clouds, called Heraclitean motion, are movement patterns that are associated with safety and tranquility, aiding the development of a calm, stable mental state; lighting or space design that mimics Heraclitean motion could be incorporated into building design to create calm, peaceful areas that aid patients’ recovery or improve workers’ or students’ productivity. Bright daylight supports circadian rhythms, enhances mood, promotes neurological health, and affects alertness; increasing the use of natural light and reducing dependence on electric lighting can also significantly improve mental health and function.
Design can also encourage learning and exploration by creating spaces that are not immediately interpreted but allow discovery through sensory exploration. Effective architectural design is not easy to achieve: built objects and spaces that are too complex at first glance can become daunting, overwhelming, and too difficult to understand, while those that are easily scanned do not encourage interaction. If the built environment simulates the layered complexity of ecosystems, a person’s sensory systems will be engaged to explore and learn about the built object or space, which encourages cognitive function through a high level of visual fascination and mystery.
Weingart Center Garden
A Little Bit Of Country On Skid Row
In May of 2010 I began designing and eventually building the Weingart Center Garden. The Garden is adjacent to the Weingart Center, in the heart of the skid-row section of downtown Los Angeles. I wrote about this experience in one of my first newsletters entitled, “A Little Bit of Country on Skid Row.” That newsletter detailed my experiences and became the basis for an article I wrote for Worldscape, a Chinese publication, in both English and Chinese, that focuses on global landscape design.
The Worldscape editors requested an article describing one of my projects and I thought the design and construction of the Center’s garden was ideal. It demonstrated how a public/private partnership (the Weingart Center, AmeriCorps and me) can make a major contribution to one of the worst neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Here is a link to a PDF of that article: Worldscape-Weingart and a video documenting the Garden’s construction is available here: Weingart-Construction.
The Weingart Center Garden – A Testimonial
The Garden that Garden of Eva designed and constructed for the Weingart Center, with the assistance of AmeriCorps, is a beautiful, comfortable and extremely functional outdoor living space for our clients, guests and community. Eva provided both the technical understanding of our needs and the vision to make the best use of the space. It provides a much-needed extension to our facility and it is continually used for meetings, training and fund-raising events, as well as barbecues for our staff, clients, guests and the community.
This small park provides refuge, relief and is a pleasant contrast to Skid Row and the city’s streets, sidewalks, large business complexes and housing developments. When you enter, the feeling you get is like walking into a country garden filled with beautiful flowers, trees, plants and a water fountain. We couldn’t be happier with the outcome and Eva’s continuing maintenance of our Garden.
Maurice Ochoa, Vice President – Facilities Services
Weingart Center for the Homeless
While a large part of this country is now in the process of preparing their gardens for winter and carving pumpkins for Halloween, here in Southern California our mild Mediterranean climate allows us the joy of year-round gardening. With the soil still summer warm and our rainy season just around the corner, from now (mid-October) through January is the ideal time to plant. And from all the landscapes I’m currently designing and building, fall appears to have surpassed spring as my busiest time of year.
California Native Plants
Except for tropicals, subtropicals and summer vegetables, which are best planted in early summer when the soil is warm, everything else is a go. This includes trees, shrubs and ground covers but most of all California native and Mediterranean plants. These species are particularly well suited to our seasonal rhythms. But don’t be concerned if, for the first couple of months, there isn’t much going on above ground, because come spring, the growth of healthy new foliage will demonstrate that during the intervening months, the plant has been busy establishing it’s root system.
I am particularly fond of using California native plants, not only for their diversity of foliage and blooms, but because the majority of them are drought tolerant, which is very important given the state of our water resources. What follows is a listing of California natives (extracted from Wikipedia) that I suggest you consider when laying out or adding to your garden or landscape this fall.
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) are found in drier places. California poppies are also an annual in many places.
In May of 2010 I began designing and building the Weingart Center Garden. The Garden is adjacent to the Weingart Center, in the heart of the skid-row section of downtown Los Angeles. I wrote about this experience in one of my first newsletters entitled, “A Little Bit of Country on Skid Row.” That newsletter detailed my experiences and it has become the basis for an article I wrote for an up-coming issue of Worldscape.
Worldscape is a Chinese publication, in both English and Chinese, that focuses on global landscape design. The editors requested an article describing one of my projects and I thought the design and construction of the Center’s garden was ideal. It demonstrates how a public/private partnership (the Weingart Center, AmeriCorps and me) can make a major contribution to one of the worst neighborhoods in Los Angeles.
The article is to appear in Worldscape’s September publication – I’ll update you when it comes out. In the meantime, these photographs were shot for the publication and show how the Garden has grown in three years. If you want to see what it looked like in 2010, here is a link to a video showing the Garden’s construction: Video.
I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to tell the Weingart Garden’s story. I hope it inspires other public/private partnerships and will help introduce “a little bit of country” to desolate pieces of property all around the world.
to thin the crown to permit new growth and better air circulation
to reduce the height of a tree
to remove obstructing lower branches
to shape a tree for design purposes
to remove branches that are 10 feet or closer to power lines, particularly if they are connected to the house
Who Should Prune
Once the decision has been made to prune, your next decision is whether or not to tackle the job yourself. In the case of a large tree where you want to remove big branches in the upper area of the crown, it may be best to hire experts. Large tree pruning, in particular, can require climbing and heavy saws or even cherry-pickers and chain saws. This is a job that should be left to trained and experienced professionals. Never compromise personal safety in pruning a tree.
How To Prune
Large trees aside, there are many pruning jobs that you can do on your own. In all cases, the key is to prune the unwanted branch while protecting the stem or trunk wood of the tree. Tree branches grow from stems at nodes and pruning always takes place on the branch side of a stem-branch node. Branches and stems are separated by a lip of tissue called a stem collar which grows out from the stem at the base of the branch. All pruning cuts should be made on the branch side of this stem collar. This protects the stem and the other branches that might be growing from it. It also allows the tree to heal more effectively after the prune. To prevent tearing of the bark and stem wood, particularly in the case of larger branches, use the following procedure:
Make a small wedge shaped cut on the underside of the branch just on the branch side of the stem collar. This will break the bark at that point and prevent a tear from running along the bark and stem tissue.
Somewhat farther along the branch, starting at the top of the branch, cut all the way through the branch leaving a stub end.
Finally, make a third cut parallel to and just on the branch side of the of the stem collar to reduce the length of the stub as much as possible.
A similar procedure is used in pruning one of two branches (or one large branch and a stem) joined together in a ‘u’ or ‘v’ crotch. This is known as a drop crotch cut. Make the first notch cut on the underside of the branch you’re pruning well up from the crotch. For the second cut, cut completely through the branch from inside the crotch well up from the ridge of bark joining the two branches. Finally, to shorten the remaining stub, make the third cut just to one side of the branch bark ridge and roughly parallel to it.
If you need your trees pruned, or want a landscape consultation regarding the health and safety of your trees, give us a call at (323) 461-6556
I’m off to see what’s new to the market place this year at the the mother of all landscaping shows this Wednesday at the LA Convention Center.
This is a “must-see” for any landscape designer or garden consultant who wants to keep current with what’s happening in irrigation and water management, water conservation alternatives, stone, rockwork and water features, out-door lighting, and, of course, sustainable gardening and drought-tollerant lawns, plants, trees and shrubs.
While this is a to-the-trade only show, I plan on walking my feet off, taking lots of pictures, gathering up all the goodies I can and will most definitely “tell all” in this month’s newsletter.
So, if you want to know what’s “happening” in the world of landscape design – how to conserve water – or what’s new in sustainable gardens, make a point of reading it. It’ll be out in a week or so – or if you haven’t signed up for it and want to … just click here.