Timing of Contemporary Landscape Design

When it comes to landscape, most of us think about being outdoors Image: Contemporary Landscape Design Timinggwhen the sun is out, too. What tends to happen is that Springtime rolls around each year and we all come out of our nests like baby birds ready for first flight. People notice what Winter did to their plants, and Spring cleaning hits. Nurseries respond to this awareness by stocking trees, shrubs, perennials, and ground covers, and most people shop for plants beginning at this time. Contemporary landscape design is actually best approached from a different perspective on time.

While it is undeniably thrilling to join in the fun and energy of the season, it’s advantageous to work with natural timing in the case of your landscape. Spring is blessed with warming soil and air temperatures as well as rain to nourish plants toward blooming and fruiting. Then Summer brings with it a cessation of natural irrigation and often high temperatures. In places like Portland and Ashland, Oregon, established plants either hang on to deep soil moisture by way of their root systems or rely on us to irrigate them from hoses and pipes.

New plants, i.e. those put in during the Spring, are at the complete mercy of humans during their first Summer in the ground. Aspects of permaculture such as thick mulch and ancient irrigation techniques adapted for contemporary landscape design help plants immensely in surviving drought-like conditions. But there is another technique that gives plants their best real chance of making it through their first year.

Fall planting is what I recommend to my clients. When plants are put into the ground at this time of year, they are able to follow their natural cycle of dormancy. They also greatly benefit from the return of the rain, which does double duty in allowing us to relax, i.e. they don’t need us to water them. With the drop in temperature, plants enter their dormant phase. This is when they withdraw their energy from above-ground parts, like leaves if they are evergreen and branches if deciduous. They focus their life force in their roots, where all the seasonal action takes place during this time of year.

Establishing a strong root system allows them to reach deep water in the soil and forge an alliance with mycelial networks that bring them minerals and nutrients otherwise unavailable to a typical pot-bound root ball. The result of allowing plant to do their thing at the right time of the year is much stronger growth in the Spring, which leads to health, resilience, and our favorite, more flowers and fruit. When we intelligently love our plants, they return the favor, so planting in the Fall is a win-win.

In order to plant at the best time of the year, a number of things need to take place beforehand. Features like decks, patios, paths, and water features all need to be installed prior to plantings. One of the most common things I see is people putting the cart before the horse and then having to expend extra energy and cost on corrective action. The best way to prevent this is to have a contemporary landscape design done in Winter rather than Summer, when most people think of hiring a professional.

Working with a designer when other people are holed up watching Netflix or out on the slopes is the best move you can make in assuring that your investment is protected. Even when everyone is out buying plants from the fresh garden center displays you can have your master plan in hand to ultimately maximize your benefit from Nature’s infinite wisdom. I always educate my clients about the importance of phasing for the success of their project. By simply thinking like Nature and getting your contemporary landscape design in the ”off-season,” you can reduce your costs, protect your investment, and reap higher yields in your first year. Your plants, soil, water, and all of the creatures that rely on them for habitat will thank you.

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What Is Renewable Energy?

Biomimicry and Renewable Energy

The planet’s resources are not, let us just say, being utilized image: what is renewable energyefficiently at the moment.  What is renewable energy as opposed to polluting fuels fast-tracked by the current Administration?  Technologies provided by Nature blow and flow freely around the globe.  Geothermal, hydroelectric, and solar are just a few examples of renewable energy sources we already know how to utilize for a variety of our needs.  How can we increase our dependence upon these types of sustainable energy flows?

The natural world offers many lessons and gifts.  With an open mind, we get to peek in on Nature’s mysteries.  Globally many of us are experiencing record high temperatures, rapidly melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and extreme natural disasters.  The string of large hurricanes that pelted the United States recently are an example too glaring to dismiss.  A lot of people lost power to cook, bathe, and heat and cool as well as light their homes.  By now, most of us are aware of the predictions that scientists made of such things long ago, and if we’re honest about what we notice, it’s clear they are happening faster and more frequently.

Most climate scientist agree that the leading cause of climate change is an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.  The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions is the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.  There are several vital signs that indicate this dramatic shift in climate.  We are witnessing ocean acidification, the degradation of precious ecosystems, and the unprecedented extinction of diverse species.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and most climate scientists predict that these trends will continue, even as we make efforts to limit the production of greenhouse gasses.  The IPCC is a panel comprised of over 1,300 scientists from around the world and is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change.  They have conducted extensive research and have outlined sustainable solutions to help mitigate climate change, and are widely considered to be a credible resource on the matter.

image: what is renewable energyNature has, poetically, we might add, corrected many problems over billions of years.  Where we find ourselves after decades of ignoring the scientific community’s predictions is needing to embrace sustainable technologies more immediately.  One of the most pressing needs facing us is the allocation of viable, sustainable sources of energy.  This is one of the greatest challenges we face globally, perhaps due to our neglect of their development.  Luckily, science is now looking to Nature for answers.

According to the IPCC, one of the most effective ways to mitigate change is to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.  What is renewable energy?  As we mentioned above, well-known examples of renewable energy include solar and wind power.  But there is a new approach being added to the scientific community’s tool kit.  Biomimicry is a new science based on the imitation of natural structures and processes.  Using it, scientists are proposing that we can get what we need energetically speaking by only producing it from natural sources.  This means we would model our technology after Nature itself.  With this method, we have the opportunity to create amazing new ways to produce and store renewable energy.

When we ask ourselves what is renewable energy, now we have much more at our disposal in answering this question creatively.  Biomimicry allows us to harnesses the best processes found in Nature to create new technologies for human use and application.  Less resource focused and instead more process and structure based, this approach expands the playing field.  The tools of the new science can be used to solve some of the biggest challenges we as a species face today.

When applying biomimicry we examine Nature in three ways:  as a image: what is renewable energymodel, as a measure, and as a mentor.  Using nature as a model, we study forms, systems, and processes as inspiration for creating sustainable solutions.  As a measure, we use ecology as a benchmark to understand and apply standards set by nature.  Using Nature as a mentor, we seek to discover what we can learn from Earth herself.

Scientists have already employed biomimicry to create advanced technology that generates and stores energy.  Let’s investigate some of the methods they have used.

Humpback whales are known for moving through water with grace, control, and precision.  The Humpback whale has flippers with a row of curves along their edges, called tubercles.  Tubercles not only reduce turbulence, but also reduce drag and increase control of the whale’s fins.  Scientists have replicated this concept and applied it to create fans and wind turbines that harness energy.  During the process of studying how the fins of a Humpback whale work to help it swim with grace and finesse, the scientists discovered that scalloped blades can produce more energy with more efficiency and can also be utilized in locations previously ruled unsuitable due to low wind speeds.  Talk about awesome!

image: what is renewable energyAnother advancement in wind energy was inspired by the hummingbird.  Hummingbirds are natural masters of energy efficiency, capable of flapping their wings between an astounding 50-200 times per second.  One company has re-designed the shape of their wind turbine blades to model this.  They used biophysics to analyze the motion of the hummingbird and were able to convert from linear motion to rotational motion as a result.  This new wind turbine flaps its blades into the wind like the hummingbird wing as opposed to spinning like traditional wind turbines.  The change in the pattern of the blades creates energy from both upward and downward motion, maximizing efficiency and reducing drag.  This enables better performance in high winds and allows the turbines to be more closely grouped together.  Multiple blades can even be stacked on a single pole for increased efficiency.  This knowledge is a huge asset for the design of future wind farms.

Scientists have also made advancements in hydropower inspired by seaweed.  A company based in Australia has been mimicking seaweed and other species of underwater plants to create energy from the motion of the waves.  The BioWave project aims to produce grid-quality energy globally.  BioWave devices are also lighter than the conventional designs of the past, as well as being less expensive and easier to install.  Talk about efficient!

Of course, it isn’t enough to just consider what is renewable energy.  Storing energy remains one of the missing links needed for the expansion of renewable energy technologies.  Without a way to store electricity and heat that is generated, renewable energy is less image: what is renewable energyadvantageous than fossils fuels in regards to price and performance. Fern leaves are being studied to produce technology for energy storage.  Leaves are nature’s best power stations; they have shown us how to capture and store energy from the sun efficiently.  The leaves of a common native Oregon plant called the Sword Fern are covered in densely woven veins.  Their veins are used to capture and store energy as well as transport water throughout the plant. Scientists are borrowing the intricate fractal design visible in this plant to create a new type of electrode that can increase the capacity of existing solar storage technologies by 3,000%.

These are just a few of the advances scientist are making in creating sustainable and regenerative energy sources by mimicking the patterns found in Nature.  For millions of years, the natural world has organically developed patterns and processes that have evolved and adapted to the changing conditions on Earth.  Nature has generously provided us with a blueprint for the creation of sustainable technology that works harmoniously, is more efficient than fossil fuels, and is less likely to have a negative impact on surrounding ecosystems.  Over the years, most of our society has lost their connection with the natural world.  We have become dependent on unsustainable sources of energy that are destroying the planet we luckily call home.  This is why it is imperative that we continue to pursue new ways to develop technology in harmony with Nature.

Motivated scientists are taking the lead with a clear vision based on an understanding that reestablishing our connection with Nature and with each other is at the root of healing the issues that plague our planet.  It is our hope that the human race will continue to invest in renewable energy globally and begin to transition away from the use of fossil fuels entirely.  If we expand the question what is renewable energy to ask natural poets like the Humpback whale, hummingbird, and seaweed to show us how we might gracefully swim in the great flows of energy naturally coursing throughout our precious Earth, we can survive and even thrive.  We might not even need Trump’s fossil fuel plan!

Guest writer:  Shanita King, Editor: Jadene Mayla

Landscape Design Near Me

I usually try to be in several places at once.  Well, at least mentally; that is, I am usually multi-tasking.  When I am working on a bigger project, I sometimes have to stop and take a breath.  This clears my head and I can then focus on the project that most needs my full attention anyway.  This is more often than not landscape design near me.

For me, it can be the most enjoyable to work with local clients, because I have the option to meet with people in person.  Over the years, my landscape design clients have kept me intrigued with a diverse range of properties and needs.  I’ve traveled all over the Portland metro area and Washington state, and I’ve worked remotely in California, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico.  So I really like it when I can spend time with them at their site and get a feel for what they love about their property.  Why they bought it and what they want to do on it are some of my favorite on-site questions to discover the answers to.

Years ago I worked for another firm; for about two years I held online design meetings, but what I didn’t expect was to be in the position of rescuer.  Many of the clients assigned to me by the firm were near ready to leave.  I provided attentive customer service and project management along with what I was there to do (design their landscapes), and it solved the problems they had been having with the firm.  I eventually found out (from a client!) that the firm was going under for, you guessed it, bad project management and customer relations.  I was never paid about $4,000 for projects I had completed, and I heard sad stories from a lot of clients the firm could have helped.

That experience made an impression on me:  it drew out my natural gifts of empathy and highlighted the importance of being present with people.

So I like to be the “landscape design near me” for prospective clients, not only because I have an understanding of their local area by living there, too, but because I know what customers feel like when a firm Landscape design near me: Portland to Ashland, Oregonisn’t their to see their project through and deliver the plans that were promised.  I have the ability to design in other states, based on my professional training, experience, and knowledge.  But living in Ashland, Oregon, now after 12 years in Portland means that I can go out and visit a plant I may not be familiar with.  It’s a lot more fun than just looking at someone else’s write-up in a book.

A lot of the plants that grow in the northern part of the state also grow down south.  Over an extra month of sun and almost 50% less rain in the Ashland area mean different stresses and requirements for the plants that can be grown in both regions.  For example, Asclepias speciosa or Showy Milkweed is a valuable plant because of its vital role in the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly.  In Porlandscape design near me raises property value and attracts butterfliestland, I found it difficult to protect it from receiving too much water and to find enough full sun exposure for this precious pollinator plant.  In Ashland, however, it’s much easier.  I even saw a patch expanding from one resident’s gate along the bike path.  The city unknowingly mowed it down, but a month later it is almost as tall as it was when it was cut down.  I was delighted to witness a Monarch flitting above it as I rode to the Goodwill to conduct a treasure hunt.

If I was a homeowner, investor, or developer, I would want to easily be able to find the best landscape design near me just by typing those basic words into my favorite search engine.  But since I’ve been a designer for 13 years now, I am glad to be of service here in Southern Oregon, where things grow a little differently and sustainable water utilization is much more needed.  Natural water conservation and purification is, after all, something in which I specialize.

For more information on how you can transform your property and increase its value up to 15% through the use of sustainable design, click here.


Why You Need Whales And Wolves To Stabilize Climate For You

Can You Stabilize Climate?

image: wolves stabilize climateI don’t know about you, but I don’t have the capability to stabilize climate on a grand scale (so far beyond 55 acres).  I can’t add appropriate levels of organic nutrition to the ocean where needed and at the right time.  Like you, I also don’t have the time to guide wild deer and elk populations away from overeating young forests before saplings have a chance to regenerate.  (I can specify deer-resistant buffer zones, but that’s another story.)

Continue reading Why You Need Whales And Wolves To Stabilize Climate For You

Permaculture has the power to stabilize global climate.

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