Tag Archives: sustainability

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The Rain Guy’s Summer Travels

This summer ‘The Rain Guy’ took a trip to check out some interesting projects that were happening in New York and Chicago. He first stopped by New York City’s High Line which opened up its second section between West 20th and West 30th Streets on June 8, 2011.

The High Line

View of High Line

The High Line is a linear park built on the former elevated freight railroad along the lower west side of Manhattan. The park takes the concept of a green roof to a whole new level. The multiple layered ‘living roof’ includes pourous drainage, gravel, filter fabric, subsoil and topsoil, allowing everything from small perennials to full grown tree’s to grown high above the streetscape. Parts of the park are also designed to re-circulate water and there are future plans to harvest rainwater from the roofs of nearby buildings. The High Line Project is a great example of how sustainable landscape ideas can be successfully used to create unique and beautiful spaces.

Bird houses on the High Line

After visiting New York, The Rain Guy was then off to Chicago to participate in Aquascape Inc.’s sustainable outdoor water feature build at Shedd Aquarium. The pond, stream and wetland installation was devised to serve as a hands-on training event for Certified Aquascape Contractors to learn the latest innovations and applications of sustainable landscape solutions. The design philosophy of this project was to incorporate the native flora and fauna while emulating a native Illinois stream.

Contractors working together at Shedd Aquarium

The Rain Guy worked with contractors from across the continent to install a 30’ x15’ pond, which included a 1,500 gallon reservoir, allowing the feature to operate for extended periods without rainfall. Along with a 50-foot long stream and waterfall system, the project included an oversized wetland to provide water filtration while also creating a unique aquatic habitat. The water feature will serve as one of the aquarium’s exhibits. It will also help educate visitors about the importance of native habitats and how we can make a positive impact on our environment.

Completed Water Feature

Completed Water Feature before Landscaping

To learn more about these places check out the links below:

High Line

http://www.thehighline.org/

http://www.asla.org/sustainablelandscapes/highline.html

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/04/ny-high-line/cook-photography

Shedd Aquarium

http://www.aquascapeinc.com/index.php?page=news&n_id=63

http://www.sheddaquarium.org/

http://www.houzz.com/photos/31584/Shedd-Aquarium-Water-Feature-landscape-chicago

Converting Lawn to Meadow

More and more people are becoming environmentally conscious and looking for ways to become greener.  One way we can all make a difference is by decreasing the amount of lawn we have on our property. Our society has created an unsustainable monoculture of grass that requires annual fertilizing and constant watering during the hot summer months. Not to mention the harmful pesticides we use to keep a weed free lawn inhabitable to most insects and the noise and air pollution created by weekly lawn mowing.

Taking this monoculture landscape and transforming it into a diverse native meadow provides many benefits to our environment and local ecosystem. Meadows are low maintenance, needing to be cut only once or twice a year, and require little to no fertilizers or pesticides. Meadows also create a wonderful ecosystem helping to sustain wildlife. Native plant species provide food for insects that then help feed amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds.

The grass varieties we usually see in our perfectly manicured lawns are often a non-native species with a shallow root system. These shallow roots limit the amount of water and nutrients absorbed and why we so often have to throw on the hose to keep our lawns from browning out. Native meadow plants on the other hand have developed extensive root systems allowing them to be drought resistant and able to find the nutrients they need without our help.  These roots are also powerful soil stabilizers that can be used on sloped areas were lawns are difficult to maintain. Below you can compare the different species and their root system. The first plant to the left, Kentucky Bluegrass, is a commonly used grass species.

 

Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) Illinois Native Plant Guide

Meadows can act as pollutant filters unlike the typical lawn that does little to absorb excess fertilizers, pesticides and other contaminants. This excess is instead washed away with the rain and ends up in our waterways destroying aquatic habitats. Wet meadows strategically placed in a storm water system can provide a filtration barrier, absorbing those contaminants that have run off lawns and imperious surfaces, before it reaches our waterways.

To create a sustainable meadow requires planning and time. The need to have a good understanding of the site conditions and to know what type of habitat would thrive best in those conditions is critical to a successful meadowscape. It will take several years to develop a mature meadow, although with the right plant selection one will see beautiful flowering plants within the first season.  The most fantastic part about meadows is their aesthetic diversity. Each season brings with it new color, texture, and movement.

Meadow Fall Colors and Textures

Resources:

Urban & suburban Meadow by Catherine Zimmerman

http://www.peoplepoweredmachines.com/faq-environment.htm#environment

http://www.gardeninggonewild.com/?p=12945