thedesıgner ASSOCIATION OF
PROFESSIONAL LANDSCAPE DESIGNERS
Home DESIGNING FROM HOME BACKYARD PLAY AREAS CREATING SANCTUARY
editor’sletter There’s No Place Like It
don’t know about you, but I sure appreciate my home much more now that I’ve been here nonstop for a year! For that reason, this summer we’re investigating what makes a place a “home.”
Jenny Peterson talks with APLD member Elizabeth P. Montgomery about designing for clients virtually. Long after we’ve gone back to business as usual, that will still be a convenient way to broaden your net and help more people enjoy their outdoor spaces. Speaking of enjoyment, we’re thrilled to have designers and authors David and Jeanie Stiles sharing their tips for creating fantastic backyard play areas that adults and kids can enjoy. If your idea of a backyard play area is a place to rest, relax, and recharge, you’ll love our book excerpt from Creating Sanctuary by Jessi Bloom. Susan Morrison tackles the enviable job of reviewing three new books to inform your design practice, depending on where you live.
And now for a topic very close to home: This is my last summer issue of The Designer, and after we publish the December 2021 issue, I’ll be handing the reins to a new editor. I’m so grateful for and proud of the work our contributors and our team have produced during the past six years, and I’m looking forward to seeing what new life the next editor breathes into the publication. Do you know someone who might be a great fit for this position? Please email email@example.com. Have a wonderful summer! K AT I E E L Z E R - P E T E R S E D I TO R @ A P L D.O R G 2
PHOTOG RA PH BY K IRST EN B OE HMER P HOTOG R AP HY
No matter where someone lives, they need green space that’s safe, free of expectations, beautiful, and welcoming. That’s why I’m over the moon to include Wambui Ippolito’s article, “Teenagers Need Parks Too.” She asks, “Where can urban teenagers of color go just to be annoying—like all teenagers worldwide—without having their natural hormonal drives policed? What sort of green spaces do these kids need where they can just be?” And then shares her thoughts for filling that need. Shanti Nagel and Meral Marino also delve into the topic of greenspace for all in “Landscapes Bring Beauty and Dignity to Low-Income Housing.”
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contents SUMMER 2021 11 PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE 14 DESIGN ROUNDUP Summer Books BY SU SA N MOR R I SON
16 BUSINESS Designing Virtually from Home BY J EN N Y PETER SON
20 IN THE FIELD Teenagers Need Parks Too BY WA MB U I I PPOLI TO
26 BOOK EXCERPT Creating Sanctuary BY J ESSI B LOOM
36 DESIGN 101 Backyard Play Areas BY J EA N I E A N D DAVI D ST I L ES
46 CASE STUDY Landscapes Bring Beauty and Dignity to Low-Income Housing BY SHA N TI N AGEL & ME RA L MA RI N O
ON THI S PAGE:
Rodgersia, Anemone, Hakonechloa, Hosta, Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance', Polygonatum odoratum variegatum, Astilbe from Case Study on page 46. PHOTOGR A PH BY SHA N TI N AG EL A N D MER A L MA R I N O ON THE COVER : I MAGE FR OM THE B OOK EXCE RPT CRE AT I NG SANCT UARY BY J ESSI B LOOM, PHOTOGR A PH BY SHAW N LI N E HA N .
WE ARE STILL PLAYING IT SAFE
APLD’s 2021 International Design Conference is going virtual again.
Join Us ONLINE October 6 – 9, 2021
Great Education | Magnificent Gardens from Around the World | Fun Networking with People who LOVE Landscape Design
Jessi Bloom is a bestselling author, awardwinning ecological landscape designer, and speaker. She owns N.W. Bloom EcoLogical Services (based in the Pacific Northwest) which is known as an innovator and leader in the field of permaculture, sustainable landscape design, construction, and land management. Her work has been recognized by government agencies and industry organizations. She lives near Seattle with her children on their permaculture homestead, which is full of functional gardens and rescue animals. See her on Instagram.
Wambui Ippolito is an East African Horticulturalist and Landscape Designer based in New York City, and is a graduate of the prestigious New York Botanical Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture. She is a design mentor for Veranda Magazine’s first-ever “Design U Masterclass,” and was awarded “Best in Show” during the PHS Philadelphia 2021 Flower Show. She lives with her family on the borough of Staten Island. Follow Wambui on Instagram to see inspiring pictures of her designs and to get in touch.
Meral Marino is the Director of Horticulture at CHDC, a Manhattanbased not-for-profit community-based organization. Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Meral immigrated to Austria with her family when she was just six years old. She grew up surrounded by nature in the foothills of the Alps and emigrated to NYC in the 1990s. Today Meral cares for dozens of gardens in affordable housing along the streets of Hell’s Kitchen and also cares for hundreds of city street trees. She is always working to connect the community with plants and gardens.
Author of the awardwinning The Less Is More Garden: Big Ideas for Designing Your Small Yard, California landscape designer Susan Morrison is passionate about gardens large and small. In addition to writing articles and presenting talks on design to garden enthusiasts all over the country, she has shared small-garden strategies on the groundbreaking PBS series Growing a Greener World and has also been featured on notable podcasts such as A Way to Garden and The Joe Gardener Show. Her designs have been featured in various publications, including Fine Gardening and the San Francisco Chronicle. Learn more about Susan’s work at Creative Exteriors Landscape Design.
Book Excerpt: Creating Sanctuary p. 26
In the Field: Teenagers Need Parks Too p. 20
Case Study: Landscapes Bring Beauty and Dignity to Low-Income Housing p. 46
Design Roundup: Summer Books p. 14
Case Study: Landscapes Bring Beauty and Dignity to Low-Income Housing p. 46 Shanti Nagel is a New York-based landscape designer and the principal at Design Wild where she is working to create peace and equity through the magic of plants. As a landscape designer and community builder, Ms. Nagel is committed to the creation of regenerative open space, transformative beauty, and a radical future. She aligns her work with the plant kingdom to heal the human spirit and cultivate resiliency in our communities for our future on earth.
Business: Designing Virtually from Home p. 16 Jenny Peterson is a copywriter, author, and former landscape designer in Austin, Texas. She owned her own landscape design company, J. Peterson Garden Design, for 15 years before joining The Garden of Words as Content Manager and Account Representative. She is the coauthor of Indoor Plant Décor: The Design Stylebook for Houseplants and author of the award-winning The Cancer Survivor’s Garden Companion: Cultivating Hope, Healing and Joy in the Ground Beneath Your Feet (St. Lynn’s Press).
Jeanie and David Stiles
Design 101: Backyard Play Areas p. 36 David and Jeanie Stiles are designers and the authors of 26 books on backyard building projects. Treehouses You Can Actually Build received the ALA’s Notable Children’s Book Award, they were featured in Architectural Digest and Better Homes and Gardens, and they built a treehouse on the TODAY show. David is a graduate of Pratt Institute and the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence and has received two awards from the New York Planning Commission for his playground design for children with disabilities. Jeanie and David divide their time between New York City and East Hampton, New York. Their latest book, Backyard Playgrounds: Build Amazing Treehouses, Ninja Projects, Obstacle Courses, and More!, will be available June 2021. To see more of their designs, visit www.stilesdesigns.com.
>>Click bolded text for links apld.org
Dark & Dramatic
Round spring leaves emerge rich purple and turn near-black - the darkest foliage of any smokebush. Large panicles of red blooms appear in early summer, that become the
misty “smoke” that makes this such
a popular landscape plant. Its unique foliage lights up in an array of reds and oranges in fall, and its compact habit ensures there’s plenty of room for this dramatic, low maintenance plant in any landscape.
• Colorful foliage • Dense habit
WINECRAFT BLACK® Cotinus coggygria ‘NCCO1’, USPP 30,216; CBRAF USDA Zone 4-8, Full sun 4-6' tall and wide
Available from Proven Winners® ColorChoice® growers. www.provenwinners-shrubs.com
president’smessage At Home
ave you ever heard or used the phrase “home away from home”? If you are like me, you likely started using this phrase after you bought a home of your own. Once you had a home, it became a regenerative place, a rescue place, a starting point, and an ending point. In our journeys we may find a new place that seems to hold a portion of those same welcoming and renewing qualities. A place that is almost as genuinely meant for us to claim as our home so that we feel compelled to call it our “home away from home.” As designers, we strive to know our clients in a professionally intimate way so that we can learn what home means to them. For some, it is a sacred and protected space; for others, their idea of home is open and receptive. We become a translator when we offer how the outdoor environment can evoke the emotions and experiences which they seek. It is much like an extension of the phrase “home away from home,” because we can create a space, or a collection of spaces, which they’ll seek as their oasis, therapy, inspiration, and landing. In recent months, we have all experienced how much home we could handle, since where we could go beyond our “four walls” of protection was limited. It is no surprise that during this time homeowners sought something less enclosed, naturally restorative, and emotionally stimulating. Yet the outdoor environment offers a different set of design parameters and opportunities. Perhaps we can inject whimsy with larger-than-life tree necklaces as we saw in the 2012 conference within the San Francisco Bay Area, or we could be inspired by nature by mimicking its processes in creating human-sized nests with spent twigs and limbs such we have seen in the Delaware Botanical Gardens. Each of us could add many more examples of exterior inspirations seen over the years to offer our clients—and I would love to hear from you on these. As we continue to interpret the outdoors as an extended home for our clients, let’s embrace each site’s spirit of place—its genius loci—as we continue to create a new sense of home. E R I C G I L B E Y, P L A
DISCLAIMER: Mention of commercial products in this publication is solely for information purposes; endorsement is not intended by APLD. Material does not reflect the opinions or beliefs of APLD. APLD is not responsible for unsolicited freelance manuscripts and photographs. All printed articles become the copyright of APLD.
thedesıgner EDITOR IN CHIEF Katie Elzer-Peters ART DIRECTOR
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Summer Books BY SUSAN MORRISON
UPDATING A CLASSIC
here are a handful of books on my shelf that I rely on for plant selection and design inspiration, so I was delighted to learn that one of my “go-tos,” Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates of The San Francisco Bay Region, had been reimagined for a broader audience. Gardening in Summer-Dry Climates:
Plants for a Lush, Water-Conscious Landscape (TIMBER PRESS, 2021) by Nora Harlow and Saxon Holt expands
on the original to provide a solid plant guide, beautifully highlighted by Holt’s stunning photographs. The first portion of the book touches on topics important to summer-dry gardeners, such as the growing impact of climate change and adaptive strategies such as rainwater harvesting. Most of the book, however, is a compendium of plants. Each plant includes a thorough description and photo. Best of all is the inclusion of problem-solving plant lists, from trees for small gardens to plants for dryish shade. If you design or garden where summers are dry and winters are wet, Gardening in Summer-Dry Climates is a must-have for your book collection. 14
>>Click bolded titles or book jacket for link to buy
FRUIT TREES FOR SMALL SPACES
evamping ornamental spaces into food gardens has been a trend for some time, but since the pandemic forced many of us to reevaluate how we use our personal spaces, interest has exploded. That’s what makes Grow Your Own Mini Fruit Garden: Planting and Tending Small Fruit Trees and Berries in Gardens and Containers (COOL SPRINGS PRESS, 2021) such a timely book.
Written by Christy Wilhelmi, creator of the Gardenerd website, the author addresses one of the main hurdles to growing your own produce—lack of space.
Wilhelmi’s approach is exceptionally thorough, beginning with selection and siting and touching on important topics such as the correct way to plant and the role of grafted trees for smaller-scale orchards. Also addressed is the ongoing care required for a successful mini garden, including pruning and managing pests and diseases. This comprehensive guide even includes illustrations for tasks such as planting in containers and correct pruning cuts, which those new to small-space gardening will find particularly helpful.
PLANTS FOR SOUTHERN LANDSCAPES
andscape design professionals in USDA Hardiness Zones 6–11 have a valuable asset with Plants
in Design: A Guide to Designing with Southern Landscape Plants (UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA PRESS, 2021).
This unique book by Brad E. Davis and David Nichols includes 500 Southern landscape plants organized into 15 categories, with recommendations for uses in smaller applications such as courtyards and walkways as well as larger projects such as parks and streetscapes. With focus both on plant characteristics and growing requirements as well as design principles, Plants in Design offers a comprehensive resource to aid the Southern landscape designer in creating beautiful, functional, and well-designed outdoor spaces. Bonuses include plant lists for those challenging applications and recommendations for interior plants—the former being an obstacle that every designer faces, and the latter being a design opportunity that many design professionals are more frequently embracing. With almost 600 pages and 1,700 photographs, Plants in Design could be the one-stop resource for designers in Southern climates.
>>Sign up for the Summer-Dry Newsletter here
Designing Virtually From Home BY JENNY PETERSON
few minutes into a conversation with Elizabeth P. Montgomery of Boxhill Design, it’s obvious that this woman has a lot on her plate. A few more minutes into the conversation, it becomes apparent that she’s able to accomplish it all by staying organized and sticking to a system that works for her. Take virtual design, for example. Elizabeth states that her Tucson, Arizona-based design and build company offered virtual design services to its clients before COVID-19 became a reality, and unsurprisingly saw an increase in the demand for it after March 2020. So while Elizabeth did have a system in place, she began to prioritize and streamline it to the advantage both of her clientele and her company.
Elizabeth P. Montgomery of Boxhill Design
How did she do it? “I thought of all of the steps necessary to create a design in-person,” she explains, “and then I broke down every step into a bite-sized piece and asked myself how I could accomplish the same thing virtually.” To this end, she created a flowchart to help her visualize each step and how one leads to the next—not altogether surprising for a designer!
A broad and empty expanse of terrace turns into a magnificent outdoor entertaining space. A virtual design process was used for space planning, furniture placement, and accessories styling, and for the simple yet dramatic plantings.
P H OTO G R A P H S BY E LIZABETH P. M O NTGO M ERY
business She’s quick to add that this does not work for every client nor can every project successfully be completed virtually. “I first have a phone call with the potential client, and if I know right away that their project is not a good fit for virtual design, I tell them immediately,” she says. “And after the phone call, I send them a design questionnaire that further qualifies them not only as a client, but as a virtual client. If they are not able to complete a questionnaire, they are not likely a good fit for my company and me.” Elizabeth has found that the best candidates for virtual design are tract homes, new builds, homes with blank slates for a landscape, and clients who need design services specifically for outdoor furniture, décor, and styling.
The most difficult—if not impossible—projects to design virtually are historic homes or homes that simply have many landscape issues or demands. “Those tend to just have too many considerations to properly address virtually,” Elizabeth says. “And it’s not wise to try and force it.” Admittedly, the virtual design process does require more legwork from the client in terms of taking/sending appropriate images and measurements of the space, and Elizabeth adjusts her virtual design fees accordingly. If a client project is close enough in proximity, she will complete an in-person site visit herself, either with the client masked and socially distanced or on the phone while she’s walking around. Although her company completes many of the installations that were designed virtually, Elizabeth’s virtual designs can be handed off to any installer. She includes a Zoom meeting or a FaceTime call with the contracted installer to address plant placement and any other issues or questions that might pop up. Elizabeth has a few tips for designers who are interested in offering virtual design to their clientele. First, decide how and where you will “sell” this service. 18
An intimate alcove is another opportunity to create a relaxing retreat.
Will it be on your website? Can a potential client “order” this service from there, or do they need to call or email you? Then decide exactly what your virtual design will cover and describe it clearly on your site. Will you offer different types of virtual design or packages? “I offer a couple of different virtual services, including furniture design and what I call ‘Designer for a Day,’ ” she explains. “The latter is a 2.5 hour consult and is perfect for DIYers—and it’s been pretty popular.” Finally, she stresses that it’s imperative to set expectations for this unique process with your client so they know what to expect and how things will be completed. “Know what you do best as a designer,” Elizabeth advises, “and do not waver from that in your virtual design process. It’s too easy to say ‘yes’ to everything, thinking virtual is ‘easier,’ and then realize later that you can’t pull it off. Be clear with yourself and with your clients, and virtual design can be a huge win-win for everyone!”
PH OTO G R A P H S BY E LIZABETH P. M O NTGO M ERY
Teenagers cleaning up the abandoned lot at Mariners Harbor.
Teenagers Ne 20
The abandoned lot at Mariners Harbor, Staten Island, before the community clean-up.
ed Parks Too ➸
PH OTO G R A P H S © F R IENDS O F M ARINERS H ARBO R
inthefield B Y WA M B U I I P P O L I T O
live in New York City where there are many public parks, and when I’m on my daily work jaunts walking through Manhattan, it’s always a pleasure to see so much green. The trees, the riot of colorful street planters, the little triangular corner parks with benches where city folk can relax and take a breather . . . it’s all so wonderful. Often I sit for a few minutes in one of these parks and enjoy an iced drink while writing quick notes between client visits. There are always so many interesting-looking people about, all taking a few minutes to soak in the sun, surrounded by old trees and pretty planters. We can all agree green spaces in urban settings are vital for our well-being. After a hard day’s work, there’s nothing like leaving the hugger mugger of Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and entering Battery Park with its wavy Amsonia and majestic Platanus to sit by the water and watch the ships sail by before I take the ferry home.
People are often surprised to hear that I never go to Central Park. It’s a beautiful landscape, for sure, but its history of exclusion resulting from Olmstead’s inelegant views on race sticks in my throat. It took an enormous amount of work to clear I also don’t go there because so and prep the lot before it was safe and usable. often when I have walked through Central Park, my “mum/mom energy” and antennae have been on high alert, especially when I’ve encountered groups of minority teenagers. I am always afraid that when they are roughhousing and being loud—as all teenagers experiencing primal hormonal changes are wont to do—a police car will appear, and the gangly teenage group will be separated and asked to move on. Where to? In the other boroughs—especially Brooklyn and Queens—it’s the same thing, and uptown in Harlem, it’s worse. The heavy park policing, mostly of minority teenagers, many of whom live in surrounding apartment buildings with limited—if any—green space, is a problem that I have concluded cannot be fixed until a new type of neighborhood green space is envisioned and implemented in urban metropolises 22
➸ P H OTO G R A P H S © FRIE NDS O F M ARINERS H A R B OR
inthefield such as New York City. Teenagers can play in fenced basketball courts, they can hang out in apartment building lobbies, they can “move along” through city parks and not linger in the greenery, but where can urban teenagers of color go just to be annoying—like all teenagers worldwide—without having their natural hormonal drives policed? What sort of green spaces do these kids need where they can just be? Mariners Harbor community members appear with state assembly member Charles Fall.
Last year, quite by chance, I became the designer for a small garden in the Mariner’s Harbor neighborhood of Staten Island, a place with a large population of African American and new immigrant homeowners. It’s a borough where the Black presence dates to the 1600s. Here in my little island home are Black folk whose family progenitors arrived with the Dutch in the 1670s. Yet, though these African Americans are members of some of the oldest American families, their children are the most heavily policed in public parks, with no access to spaces where they can just be with and feel nature. At the small neighborhood garden I am about to begin designing, there are no police. The land has always been an unused Department of Transportation lot, one whose ownership and records were lost long ago in city archives until the community, tired of the trash and weeds accumulating in it, sought to turn it into something they could use for their benefit. The nonprofit Friends of Mariners Harbor is now in charge of the lot, and prior to bringing me on, the group worked to create the semblance of a park or garden. What has been so interesting for me when looking back at the organization’s history is seeing how teenagers of color have been actively involved by cleaning up the space, manning tables during community events, and just hanging around and roughhousing in the safety of their neighborhood. Is it different for them because the homes around the lot are owned by their families? There are no apartment buildings around. Why do they feel safer in that lot than they do in city parks, and why have they worked to make this space their own? Not too far from this location is the new Heritage Park, a beautiful waterfront location with native plantings where one can sit and watch tugboats sail by. The park is full of history. On the Staten Island’s website, I read that the park “… has its be24
PHOTOGR A PHS © FR I EN DS OF MA R I N ER S HA R BOR
ginnings as a Native American trail, before becoming a battleground during the Revolutionary War, and then a center of the anti-slavery community before the Civil War.” That’s beautiful. But the first thing I saw when I walked into the almost always empty park was a police car at the far end. Even I, a mum arriving with my husband and little child, immediately felt uneasy. How would a gaggle of teens from the Mariners Harbor neighborhood feel, tumbling into Heritage Park looking for a place to be teenagers? There are parks for dogs, there are some parks with “little kid areas,” and all other city parks and public spaces are ones in which adults can relax. We adults generally know how to behave in these public spaces: don’t talk too loudly on your cell and if you do, keep it to a minimum; don’t play your music loudly; don’t get into a physical altercation. But where are the public spaces designed for the 12- to 18-year-old youngsters who are going to be loud, who are going to push and shove one another, and who are definitely going to play their music loudly and yell at one another? Who is designing for them? How can city planners and police departments allow for areas where these children can just be, in a healthy way? Teenagers need access to green spaces where they can develop unpoliced. They should have landscapes that allow them to linger, not ones in which they are forced to “break it up” and “move along.”
Every garden has the potential to be a sanctuary to those who are stewarding it.
Creating Sanctuary BY JESSI BLOOM
EXCERPT FROM CREATING SANCTUARY © COPYRIGHT 2018 BY JESSI BLOOM, PHOTOGRAPHS BY SHAWN LINEHAN. PUBLISHED BY TIMBER PRESS, PORTLAND. USED BY PERMISSION OF THE PUBLISHER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
t has been said that when we heal the earth, we heal ourselves. The process of taking your sanctuary ideas off the page and beginning to shape your space to match your vision may involve some restoration work, and this work can be restorative to you, too. If the space is full of diseased or overgrown plants or has been paved over with asphalt or concrete so that the earth can barely breathe, you must first and foremost take care of restoring the earth to an ecologically robust state. This chapter assumes that at least some aspects of your backyard ecosystem will need to be >>Get the book! Click here restored to health, even if you don’t need to start from scratch in the creating your sanctuary garden. The steps in either case are the same:
STEP 1: CLEARING OUT THE SPACE The first step in creating a sacred space is clearing it of anything that might keep you from feeling calm and at peace there. I recommend taking some time to evaluate the space with fresh eyes, as if seeing it for the first time. Take notice of anything that’s not needed or that’s visually
P H OTO G R A P H BY S H AW N LINE H AN
bookexcerpt distracting. This includes plants that are sick and materials that may be in the way of creating the space you envision. Bothersome objects can include old fencing, knickknacks, chipped old pots, or containers that are mismatched. Remove anything that will make you feel like you should be taking care of it, fixing it up, or otherwise dealing with it instead of meditating or relaxing. I often find that when my clients live with a space for a long time, it becomes hard for them to imagine what it could look or feel like without all those familiar-but-ramshackle plants or objects. As you evaluate each object or plant, ask yourself when the last time was you stopped to enjoy it—or even noticed it. If you can’t answer, clear it out.
STEP 2: IMPROVE THE SOIL Healthy soil is rich with life and abundant in biodiversity. One teaspoon of healthy soil contains more microbes than humans on this planet (according to soil-net.com). But most of the building sites we encounter in residential or suburban areas have been stripped of that soil long ago, to be replaced with compacted fill or soils damaged by chemical use. To take care of the earth in your sacred space, you must start with the soil and heal this ecological layer so it can function. It can take thousands of years for healthy soil to be created naturally, but you can also build healthy, rich topsoil through these organic practices: ■ MULCH, MULCH, MULCH. Use organic matter and biomass — straw,
leaves, manures, and wood chips — to build the topisoil layers. ■ COVER THE GROUND WITH PLANTS. A disturbed ecosystem will grow
pioneer species as a way to heal the soil naturally. Gardeners generally know these as weeds, and they can be left as a ground cover, or you can choose the plants for that job. ■ TREAD LIGHTLY. The compaction caused by foot traffic alone can be very
damaging to your soil as you try to rejuvenate and repair it. You can use a method known as sheet mulching to quickly transform the look and health of your space. Cover the earth with a biodegradable material (cardboard and burlap are my favorites) to smother grass or weeds. On top of the material, add another layer (or two or three) of organic matter. Over time the underlying grass or weeds will decompose and enrich the soil. 28
Sheet mulching is a great way to build soil and prepare new spaces.
STEP 3: MANAGE THE WATER Water is an essential element for all of life and thus is sacred. It nourishes the plants and can provide habitat for precious fauna. You want the sanctuary you create to use water responsibly and to use only as much as necessary. You also want to ensure that the space will not ad pollutants to the water, whether it be sediments in runoff or pesticides and fertilizers that are carried into the underground aquifer. To work with any site, to honor its natural ecological cycles and help plant life thrive sustainably, it is important to understand its hydrological state throughout the seasons. First study how much rain falls naturally. Then ask yourself how you can capture and use that water to nourish your plants and the fauna that are invited into the space or may be passing by. ➸ PH OTO G R A P H BY SH AW N LINE H AN
A simple water system with catchment and rain garden is a great addition to gardens. Rain gardens should be placed at least 10 feet away from the building’s foundation.
I LLUSTR ATI ON BY MI A N OLT IN G
bookexcerpt ….. As you think about managing water in your garden space, consider what happens to the stormwater if it is beyond the site’s capacity to absorb it. You can use catchment methods such as barrels and cisterns to collect rainfall off of roofs or impervious surfaces. You can also create rain gardens, depressions in the landscape that collect water and slowly release it back into the soil.
STEP 4: PROVIDE WILDLIFE HABITAT Sanctuary should extend to all of the earth’s inhabitants. If your goal is to live in harmony with your environment, it is essential that you consider the needs of all other being that will pass through a space you consider sacred. Birds, bees, lizards, nematodes, and a million more life forms all have their jobs and do their part in keeping the ecosystem balanced. ….. Providing habitat for wildlife will make your sacred space that much more fulfilling and meaningful. Be sure to include these elements: ■ NATIVE PLANTS. Plants adapted to a specific place are going to attract the fauna
adapted to that place and require less care than plants imported from elsewhere. This makes for the most resilient ecosystem. ■ BIODIVERSITY. The more plant species you have in a space, the more resilient
your landscape will be and the more insect and animal species will benefit. ■ WATER. All living things require this essential element. In times of drought or
freezing conditions, it becomes especially important for all fauna to have access to clean drinking water. ■ SHELTER AND NESTING SITES. All critters need a place to raise their young.
Insects need debris and biomass, pollinators need plants to feed from, and bird parents need a safe home to raise a new generation. Be sure to leave the leaves! ■ ROCKS. Insects and amphibians can find homes in piles of rocks.
STEP 5: BUILD THE PLANT LAYERS A mature natural landscape typically consists of a layered community of plants, all working together in harmony to support a large, stable ecosystem. Tall canopy trees rise above shorter trees, shrubs, and herbaceous perennials. Ground covers carpet the soi. Vines, tubers/bulbs, and fungi/mushrooms complete the tapestry. ➸ apld.org
PHOTOGR A P H BY SH AW N LINE H AN
Each layer in the garden can provide multiple ecological services as well as aesthetic contrast and beauty.
bookexcerpt A natural community like this does not require a caretaker. Imagine that — no need for weeding, watering, and fertilizing! Isn’t that what you’d like for your sanctuary? If you choose plants appropriate for your sanctuary site and plant them densely to cover every inch of soil, you will create a resilient landscape that will not require a lot of maintenance. ….. Here's a closer look at the layers: ■ WOODY PERENNIALS — trees, shrubs, and vines — have wood structures that
do not die back from yar to year and can live decades or longer. For example, some tree species have a life space of twenty-five to fifty years, while others that grow more slowly and develop stronger wood can live for hundreds of years. Vines climb whatever support they are given, whether fences or trees or trellises, and can produce food for us or provide habitat for wildlife.
■ HERBACEOUS PERENNIALS
Insect hotels can house a variety of insects — especially in the winter months — by offering a range of materials that they would naturally nest in.
generally die back to the ground I winter and reappear bigger and stronger year after year. Some can be short lived (only a few years) and some can live for decades, spreading their tissues and seeds, and growing new plant material every year. This layer includes herbs and medicinal plants as well as perennials vegetables like asparagus and rhubarb. ■ ANNUALS live for one season before setting their seeds to reproduce, and then
they die. Most common vegetable crops are annuals. ■ BULBS have fleshy underground storage structures that persist after the foliage
and flowers have made a seasonal appearance aboveground. ■ FUNGI make up a large kingdom of organisms that are primarily known as
decomposers. These often spore-bearing fruiting bodies are usually over-looked in the world of garden design and creation but can have many uses, including as food, medicine, and fibers.
PHOTOGR A PH BY SHAWN LI N EHA N
BACKYARD PLAY AREAS BY JEANIE AND DAVID STILES
amilies of all ages are rediscovering the great outdoors, including their own backyards. Our lives have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and many of our clients want to be able to entertain their kids at home, teach them about nature, and provide safe, healthy exercise, which is great for children’s independence, confidence, and growth. Spring is the obvious time to think about building structures in the backyard. We might be asked to design and build a studio, office, workshop, treehouse, pool house, garden shed, a complete ninja course—or just a kids’ swing or fire pit for summer cookouts. As designers/builders and authors, we have been devising play areas for many years, and we’ve noticed that families are more interested than ever in backyard playgrounds that can be used year-round. Everyone loves a treehouse—it’s a wonderful place to relax, connect with nature, and enjoy the view. But we’ve found that a treehouse is also a great addition to a ninja course. For one thing, there’s a sense ➸ 36
PHOTOGR A PH BY BY SI MON J UTR AS
This teahouse is perfect for families to enjoy lemonade or tea after swimming.
This gazebo offers yearround enjoyment with its French doors swapped for screens in the summer.
PHOTOGR A PH BY SKIP HIN E
design101 of adventure to be found from climbing even the most sedate stairs to a platform in a tree, and the different perspective it gives to a familiar scene—how much more so when there’s a whole obstacle course down there! It’s the perfect vantage point to follow the progress of kids—or adults—around the circuit and is a ready-made start/finish post for games such as a race against the clock. This kind of event makes for truly memorable kids’ parties. Budget, space, and time are always factors, but it’s also about how the owners might want to use the treehouse. A simple platform is always a big hit with kids and parents, but obviously larger spaces with covered or enclosed cabins offer even more possibilities. Some treehouses are fitted out with chairs, tables, and even sleeping lofts; these are especially great for families to enjoy together and with friends. It’s not unheard of for people to host small dinner parties in their treehouse. Nor does it have to be very high—just 5 or 6 feet off the ground will give that “up in the trees” feeling too. ➸ This Moon Treehouse was designed for meditation and practicing yoga.
PH OTO G R A P H BY SIM O N JU TRAS
Get a good workout with these asymmetrical monkey bars. These ninja warped walls are different heights for different ages.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
SAFETY ■ GROUND SURFACE—add a deep layer of
bark or rubber mats around play structures. ■ SMOOTH SURFACES—be wary of splinters
and recess any bolts. To avoid splinters, we don’t use cedar for climbing equipment, and we always carefully rout and sand the edges of wooden components. ■ CHOICE OF WOOD—is this play structure
for one generation or two? Do you want a nature theme or a more contemporary style? “Natural playgrounds” using peeled black locust logs are a popular trend today, but be aware that a structure made of round poles will look quite different from the same design built with dimensional lumber. 40
PHOTOGR A PHS BY SI MON J UTR AS
An example of proper tree planting with a visible root flare above the soil line—not buried by mulch.
A treehouse and an adventure course—a perfect combination.
■ HARDWARE—it’s extremely important that all hardware used in the
construction of play or climbing equipment be rated for such use; any old eyebolt or lag screw from the store will not do. The same applies to nets, ropes, and cables. There are knowledgeable specialist suppliers to be found online who will also, for example, splice rope around a thimble (anchoring hardware) for a nominal charge.
DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS ■ STYLE—pick a theme for the playhouse: fort, pirate ship, hobbit house,
fairyland. We have always felt that the perfect treehouse is one built from the very branches of the tree, although this is not always practical. ■ SCALE—the ages of the users matter. Those two five-year-olds might not
need or want 7 feet of headroom; on the other hand, perhaps this is the parents’ chill-out zone (or office) too. When building a treehouse, remember that it will not just be for playing (and maybe working in), but it will most likely also be visible from the house and yard. The outdoor space must complement the house, not overpower it. ➸ apld.org
Kids and adults love this treehouse at the edge of the woods, which is joined by bridges to two lookouts. PHOTOG RA PH BY CHRIS O’B RIEN
Even a simple platform in the trees raises your spirits! PH OTO G R A P H BY JE AN IE ST I L E S
The Hobbit House is nestled into, and at home in, the branches of a tree. A RT IST C R E D IT DAVID STILES , ST IL E S D E S IG N S
■ PRIVACY—how close to a neighbor’s property is the proposed structure?
You need to consider the privacy of both parties. ■ LANDSCAPING—a treehouse or playhouse can easily be merged into the
garden by planting climbing vines like clematis and short evergreens around it as though they had always been there. For the opposite effect, paint the wood. ■ CHALLENGE—play equipment should present a challenge at first yet still be
age-appropriate. A sense of achievement is a good goal. To cater to a range of ages and abilities, we have built asymmetrical monkey bars with an easy and
A rope obstacle is just one part of this Ninja Adventure Course.
Jeanie and David Stiles designing their next treehouse (right).
PH OTO G R A P H BY S IM O N JU TRAS
PHOTOGR A PH BY TOBY HAYN ES
a hard route and a ninja warped wall where one half was 3 feet taller than the other. Activities using rope swings can have a choice of attachment points to vary their difficulty. There’s a certain amount of trial and error when setting up these structures anyway. A design on paper is always a great help but for something as elaborate as a ninja course nothing beats walking—or running—around onsite to envision the best angles of approach and lengths of run-up to the different obstacles. It’s worth taking your time to get this right, especially if you are hiring someone with a Bobcat and an auger to drill twenty or thirty postholes. There’s been a huge increase in the number of people working from home, with many others interested in using their homes as their base for recreation—and that trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. 46
PHOTOGR A PH BY SHA N TI N AGEL A ND MERA L MA RIN O
casestudy LANDSCAPES BRING
BEAUTY AND DIGNITY TO LOW-INCOME HOUSING
BY SHANTI NAGEL AND MERAL MARINO
f you pop your head into the courtyard of a building on 53rd Street, a lush interior garden shared by 86 units of affordable housing in Midtown Manhattan, you are likely to find Ursula parked in her wheelchair amid the flowers and sunshine. Ursula was flooded out of her home during Hurricane Sandy and had to relocate to 53rd Street. She spends many of her days in the shared garden below her apartment, often with her latest knitting project in her lap or with her painting kit. She meets friends for tea or visits with her son when he stops by. We asked Ursula why the garden is so important to her, and she said, “It is a magic place!” ➸ The stream installed here makes the space particularly peaceful and restorative. The fish and birds like it too! apld.org
casestudy We have been designing and maintaining horticulturally exceptional and long-lasting gardens for lower-income New Yorkers for over a decade. By designing and maintaining dozens of properties over the years, we have come to deeply understand the importance of green spaces as a human right and as a profoundly needed resource for sanctuary and peace. The relationship between humans and the natural world is essential for individual health and the strength of communities. We are excited now that science has proven to be true what we’ve always known. We know that trees are talking to one another, that they are sharing resources, and are caring for one another in times of danger. We can learn so much from them! Numerous studies have shown that the proximity to trees to gardens and to open space has far-reaching and deeply essential benefits to our physical and mental health. As New Yorkers weathered the COVID shutdown last year, we had glimpses into the ways privilege and wealth affect our access to gardens and our relationship to the land. Many wealthier New Yorkers endured quarantine in homes boasting green space or, more often, moved completely out of the city to country homes and family properties while lower-income New Yorkers existed between four small walls, often even without access to public open spaces. Can we please take a moment right now to fully understand this great disparity and how drastically different these two realities are? And the very real ramifications these have on people’s lives, health, and futures? ➸ 48
1) Rodgersia, Anemone, Hakonechloa, Hosta, Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance' 2) Polygonatum odoratum variegatum, Astilbe flower 3) Hakonechloa, Hosta, Athyrium niponicum 4) Rodgersia, Anemone, Hakonechloa, Hosta, Athyrium niponicum
4 P H OTO G R A P H S BY S H ANTI NAGEL AND M ERAL MA R I N O
casestudy A lush courtyard in the heart of Midtown Manhattan is a place of refuge and peace.
Steven has been a resident of 53rd Street for over 10 years. In the past, Steven struggled with substance abuse and lost his apartment. He experienced homelessness and lived in and out of shelters and halfway homes for a time. He told us that his move to 53rd Street was “life changing” and that for the past decade he has had a real home. If you are looking for Steven, you can often find him sitting under the grove of dawn redwoods in the courtyard watching the goldfish swimming in the babbling fishpond. Steven loves meeting up with his neighbors for a chat in the garden and is known to take a lot of photos of the fish. In creating these gardens, we predominately use perennial and woody plantings with the goal of creating long-term beautiful gardens that will last for years and years without a ton of intervention and annual additions. We do not exclusively use natives, but we do use them predominantly. Some of our favorite plants in this work include: Cotinus, Ilex glabra, Hydrangea paniculata, Hamamelis, Clethra, Amelanchier, Agastache, Solidago, Asclepias, Anemone, and so many more! 50
PHOTOGR A PH BY SHA N TI N AGEL A N D MER A L MA RIN O
As we continue to live through climate change, we expect to experience more, and more frequent, emergencies. Climate change and the growing crises will affect all of us, but it will always continue to affect historically oppressed populations disproportionally—just the way COVID has shown us. This moment is the time to gather all our resources to build strong and equitable communities any way we know how. This means housing rights, racial equity, voting rights, refugee/ immigration work, food, and farming . . . all of which become climate justice work. How will we bolster and strengthen our communities so they will be able to survive the pressures and stresses of our climate future? And yes, gardens too. We view gardens as an ancient way to transform stress and heal trauma as well as an essential resource for the resiliency of our future communities. We know we will continue to connect as many people as possible to the magic healing properties of gardens and plants, and to build lasting connections to the land. But we need all of you and all our plant family members as allies to move forward into the future. On a sunny spring afternoon as we prepare to move to our next site, Ursula waves to us from her shady corner where she is hosting some friends for tea. She tells us excitedly that one of her paintings she’s made of the garden has made it into a gallery show. We can’t wait to see it!
Restoring the native landscape
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