Travels in Landscape Architecture
By Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA Associate, LEED
AP, Greenroofs.com Publisher
do you get when you cross a landscape in the sky with an ecological
designer, greenroof website publisher, and an international flight
attendant? Why, a column entitled “Sky Gardens ~ Travels
in Landscape Architecture” of course!
Stuttgart, New York, Machu Picchu, Athens,
Mexico City, Seattle, Amsterdam…
Welcome to the ramblings of my unique
bird’s eye perspective of the world, as I continue to visit new
cities and noteworthy landscape architecture projects ~ both at
ground and greenroof level.
Sky Gardens Update
- Almost Famous in the ATL
month I was contacted by a PBS television producer from Boston regarding
taping a segment for The Victory Garden, "America’s oldest
and most popular gardening program" series. She explained they would
be visiting Atlanta in a couple of weeks to tape for a show on small
space urban gardens, and wanted me to help her highlight area residential
greenroofs. She found my project photos and read about my
design for a converted warehouse in downtown Atlanta turned artist
studio/oriental medical arts practice/two story loft residence greenroof
on our website in
Greenroof Projects Database, and wanted to visit 3TEN HauStudio
if possible. Well, I'm no marketing major, but I recognized
a marketing opportunity right away and happily agreed.
PBS was planning on filming on a late morning Thursday the first
week of April at 3TEN HauStudio, so I suggested they make the most
of their time and for us to meet at Saul's Nursery at "The Swamp"
location first since they have been supplying plants for greenroofs
for years now and have a great almost 4-year-old extensive greenroof
of their own which, when in season, blooms profusely. Click
here to see the project in detail. They loved the idea,
because after all, The Victory Garden is first and foremost a program
about people and plants, and what better setting than a nursery
with such a wide variety of colorful and varied plant material?
So we planned to meet Thursday morning there at 8:00 a.m. and then
proceed to Diane's, a 15-minute drive.
Here is an interesting up and coming regeneration area in the middle
of an older historic district - Castleberry Hill - full of artist
studios, funky eateries, loft condos, barber shops, a huge U-Haul
on one side and a homeless mission shelter on the other - multi
use is the name of the game here. I hardly ate for a couple
of days just thinking about being on TV, like I needed to have 10
pounds added to my frame, but reality set in and so I had no recourse
but to get into action. I quickly realized I not only had
to figure out what to wear, but I had to get "my" greenroof in shape
for TV! This 2001 urban eclectic design was based on an Asian theme
of rather defined spaces of semi-extensive plants juxtaposed by
expanded slate (substituted for the desired but heavier gravel)
beds, representing land and water and "confined" by wood and plastic
Design in April 2003, Photo by Linda S. Velazquez; Right:
Owner Diane in July, 2003, Photo by AJC.
Organic Encroachings and "Maintenance
is in the Eye of the Beholder"
Well, four and a half years later plus a very busy and highly creative
owner who actually enjoys the uninhibited exuberance of nature had
resulted in a rather unstructured look for her greenspace that says,
"You can't keep me in!" Kind of like a teenager yearning for
freedom (I'm a mother of three, so I know). Thank goodness that
Diane has humored me with visitors over the years and didn't mind
my coming over to "primp and prune" - and weed, replant errant sedums,
remove a couple of dead plants and some thatch, etc. As an
ecological designer I certainly can appreciate the organic look,
but this was just too earthy and not enough Japanese for the desired
effect of the space. It had been over a year since I had visited.
Believe it or not, fate was on my side and the week before a student
from Gwinnett Tech - Cloud Conrad - had contacted me about volunteering
for a current project of mine, the Alpharetta Environmental Park
Greenroof Pavilion (GA), and so she agreed to come and help me weed
here as well. You would be surprised at what we found that
was not designed to be there! Countless dandelions, oxalis,
maple seedlings, various grasses, moss, and very interestingly,
Fragaria virginiana - Common Strawberry.
Cloud Conrad, a Greenroof Enthusiast; Photos by Linda
We pulled out all the weeds and tree
seedlings of course, but kept the moss and strawberry because this
attractive groundcover with dainty yellow daisy-like flowers is
native and offers small red edible fruit to boot. The birds
just love them, and are probably responsible for planting them there,
although the wind could have blown them up and in, too, I suppose.
Artist Diane says she has had quite a few experiences with a range
of birds here - from hawks and songbirds to doves - who have made
the little 670 sf greenroof home, or a least a vegetative corridor
along their way through the otherwise green-less cityscape.
The doves actually had a nest on their adjacent deck, and two babies
could be found sitting and cooing daily within the greenroof for
almost a year. The other end of the spectrum involved a fearless
hawk who could also be found perched atop the deck railing looking
for prey, at ground and greenroof level...
Semi-Extensive Plants Revisited
So Cloud and I worked a whole afternoon, the Tuesday before the
shoot, and we could have worked some more. The producers decided
to come the next day instead of Thursday to get some "B-roll" without
me since they also had a meeting scheduled at the Atlanta Botanical
Gardens after Diane's. They felt Saul Nursery would be a perfect
backdrop to our short segment since they had all the greenroof plants
right there, in particular the many species of sedums and other
succulents common in extensive greenroof applications. See
the photos before and after, April 4, 2006, compared to the earlier
photos above for a sense of how aggressive certain of these plants
can be - in particular the Sedum tectractinum - but I was told by
Bobby Saul that this is pretty much its southern limits in terms
of cold hardiness. But beware - this plant is not for the
faint of heart here in the Atlanta area, and certainly outperformed
the other four species.
HauStudio Design "Before" in April 2006 early in the
morning, Photos by Linda S. Velazquez.
Aside from weeding, we also spent a
lot of time repositioning stray sedums that had escaped their boundaries,
but the Dianthus, creeping phlox, and regular and dwarf mondo grasses
had spread but were relatively well behaved. I did, however,
hardily prune the woody Serissas, which had grown a lot bigger than
expected in the 5" average growing medium. The original trailing
rosemary had long ago failed during the first season, probably due
to over watering, and this time I repositioned some variegated sedge
located in the center island to the lowest point, near the drainage.
HauStudio "After" in April 2006 late in the afternoon,
Photos by Cloud Conrad
For ornamental value and a reinforcement
of the Asian feel, two dwarf crepe myrtles had been set within the
original mostly green design, and they were very healthy and had
just set buds for June display. The owner Diane says most
visitors love these tiny 18" and 24" crepe myrtles the most with
their delicate bright pink flowers and oriental branching structures
which provide winter interest in an otherwise evergreen setting.
HauStudio after some maintenance; Left: the larger crepe
myrtle in creeping phlox;
I had also planted three species of
dwarf conifers - blue star juniper, Japanese cedar, and Hinoki cypress
- and I was happy that all eight plants were all faring well.
All they needed was some very light pruning of brown interior leaves.
For a look at this project in more detail, please see its
profile in The Greenroof Projects Database
from the raised deck; Photo by Cloud Conrad
Victory Garden Shoot
I was early on that Thursday morning, waiting for the PBS crew -
but surprisingly enough (not really to those of us who live here),
they got a little lost with our Atlanta street "layout" - seemingly
easy, but no, they maneuvered many curves, mysterious numbering
systems, street name changes and continuances of names even through
city blocks, rivers and streams. Finally, they arrived, and
it was a true joy to meet the four: Executive Producer Laurie Donnelly,
recent Emmy Award winning Camera Man Joel Coblenz (he won last weekend
for The Victory Garden), Associate Producer Deborah Hurley, and
the Host, Michael Weishan. I really thought I'd be nervous,
but I wasn't. I can honestly say I had a fantastic time, and
the Saul Nursery reps, Karen Stever and Tam, were true professionals,
The PBS Crew: L-R: Deborah, Michael, Linda, Laurie and
Joel; Right: Linda, Michael and Karen.
Laurie set us up, and we paced our steps,
changed direction because of the morning light, removed leather
coats because all of the sudden the earlier crisp air melted into
the more recognizable southern humidity, and we kind of went over
what we would discuss. It was actually very exciting!
Yeah, we had to do it a few times, first because we went too long
- I don't know who rambled more, Michael or I - but then each of
us messed up and started laughing, so we had do do it again.
I only wish the various Delospermas and Sedums were in bloom - only
a few were feebly attempting to open so early in April. See
the flowering photo below from summer 2005 and the one I took late
in March 2006.
Seasons of the Saul Nursery Greenroof, Left: Photo by
Bobby Saul, 2005;
Right: Photo by Linda S. Velazquez, 2006.
The premise was for us to be casually
walking over to the greenroof shelter, address the concept briefly,
and then walk over to the adjacent table and show some of the appropriate
plants using my Greenroofs.com birdfeeder as a demonstration model.
My friend and fellow University of Georgia School of Environmental
Design alumna Shelly Cannady, who also contributed to the 3TEN HauStudio
design, built it for us using scrap wood to resemble a typical classic
Athens, GA structure. She recycled two plastic meat containers
for the planting inserts in the pitched roof line, so I took advantage
of this and showed the two different types of greenroof systems:
one preplanted as representative of a modular system and one showing
the waterproofing, drainage, growing media, and other typical extensive
plants used in a conventional layering system.
Nursery Greenroof and birdfeeder demonstration for the
PBS series The Victory Garden; Photo by Linda S. Velazquez,
More Atlanta Greenroofs
Well, I'll probably be on air for all of about about two minutes
and hopefully they'll include footage of 3TEN HauStudio, but in
any case it certainly was fun and an opportunity to highlight a
couple of Atlanta's residential scale greenroofs. We have several
non-residential extensive and intensive greenroofs here, a few educational
ones and most notably Atlanta City Hall (2003) below - click
here for more info.
City Hall, April 2006: Left Photo by Bill Brigham,
City of Atlanta;
Right, Photo by Janet Faust, JDR Enterprises.
A couple of current high profile projects
under construction include: the Southface Energy Institute Eco Office
which will have two greenroofs and should be finished by October
of this year and the 40,000 sf Gwinnett County Environmental & Heritage
Center, which will have a total of four greenroofs and is expected
to be planted by the end of April. Look for their project
profiles here soon in The Greenroof Projects Database. Saul
Nursery co-owners Bobby and Karen Saul also have a small greenroof
over their own pool pump house, see
here. Check out the other area projects by searching
either by city or state.
Look for this Victory Garden episode show # VGAR3012 on Georgia
PTV: Saturday, May 20, 12:00PM; WPBA: Saturday, May 20, 8:00 AM,
or depending on your local PBS schedule. And remember what
they say, the camera adds 30 pounds, right?
Publisher's Note: See
column which highlighted the Atlanta area from June 2003
Linda is founder and publisher
of Greenroofs.com, a greenroof design consultant, and has been a
Delta Air Lines international flight attendant since 1979.
All opinions expressed in this column are exclusively those of Linda
S. Velazquez. Delta Air Lines neither contributes to nor endorses
this column or website. (And, Yes, she is still flying.)
Linda went back to school and
received her Bachelor’s of Landscape Architecture degree from the
University of Georgia in 2000. She received her LEED™ Accredited
Professional designation in August, 2004, and welcomes your comments;
contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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