Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
|A new column featuring experts on native plant design and use|
|Since 1975, Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm Andropogon Associates has been a pioneer in the area of ecological planning and design. At the core of each of its unique projects - from restoring a five-acre oak and beech woodland on the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral to creating master plans for several regional arboreta - is creating sustainable landscapes. Andropogon Associates strives to achieve beautiful places that reflect functional needs, and the firm's strategies consider the individual aspects of each site, from soil and water to people and land-use history. The firm has brought these principles to projects at the University of Toronto; the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens; the Atlanta Botanical Garden; a spa and resort in Nikko, Japan; and to E.I. DuPont Agricultural Products, among others. |
The firm's Carol Franklin addressed a group at the Wildflower Center on May 8 about the necessity of using native plants in landscapes and gardens, both public and private. The noted landscape architect talked to Native Plants about the firm's philosophy.
Q. How do you define sustainable design? Is it different from ecological design?
The word "sustainable" implies actions that only guarantee that the things we hope to preserve will continue into the future. Ecological design somehow implies a richer and more complex achievement. It suggests that designers will begin from a deep understanding of how the world works and will create new "organic" designs for buildings, landscapes, cities, and regions. It implies as well the idea that it is critical to repair the damage we have done and weave the natural world into our daily lives in such a way that both nature and culture benefit. A tall order and one that "sustainable design" - with its "do no harm" ethic - hasn't really tackled yet.
Q. Can a design be truly sustainable without plants?
This means putting back natural plant communities and habitats, not just individual wildflowers or native trees and shrubs. It means recreating the landforms these communities are dependent on, with the appropriate soils and water regimen. Not so easy nowadays, especially in the arid Southwest, which is suffering a five-year drought with conflicting demands for water.
Q. Is there an increased emphasis on ecological planning and design in recent years? Would you say that more institutions in need of landscape design are requesting an ecological approach?
Q. Do different types of projects require a different approach?
In some places, like Rome, the cultural history goes back 2,000 years. Universities share a certain set of problems and aspirations, as do botanical gardens, cities, or corporations, but they are also each located in a different place with different personnel and different financial resources.
Q. Is there a measure of success for sustainable design?
A. The Chinese have recently made a strong commitment to sustainable design. The U.S. Department of Energy has been there working to bring these ideas to the intense and very rapid development of large parts of China, particularly sustainable energy and materials use. There is very little notion of landscape ecology in China today, although they are very interested in and desperately need to apply these ideas to the new towns, etc., they are planning. With the most people, the Chinese have the greatest potential impact on the planet. Sustainability is more critical in China than any other place. When we worked on the Bejing Olympic Park Competition, we were part of a team with the China Center for Landscape Research, which is the largest landscape office in China and owned by the government, as well as the Bejing Garden Center, which has previously been responsible for all the (not very ecological) landscaping in Beijing.