The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority has chosen Mossop + Michaels Landscape Architects as recipients of a grant for research and development using ecological landscaping strategies on properties it maintains within the city. The goal is to produce trial demonstrations of vegetation that will increase the beauty of the neighborhood and provide options for management to reduce the cost of mowing the properties. For more on the basics of the program(its way-cool), check out the link below.
Pastorek Habitats, LLC has been in consultation with the firm, assisting with the technical aspects of these designs, so that they will be acceptable to the City’s vision and beneficial to the neighborhoods in which they exist. The idea is to reduce the mowing frequency while encouraging colorful swaths of flowering plants to cover the ground between the mowing.
This idea really breaks through the barrier when it comes to large scale naturalized urban landscaping in this part of the country, but especially in Louisiana. These are important questions that need solid answers. What, for instance, does Detroit do with its square miles of open abandoned residential lots. What does New Orleans do with 40,000 blighted homes and houseless properties? What approaches work and are ecologically functional and visually pleasing? Cities across the nation are searching for these very answers.
These are the answers we’re after. It will be a wonderful experimental trial which will hopefully produce a working model that NORA can use.
Drive any one of the interstate highways in Louisiana this time of year and you’ll see miles and miles of colorful vegetation along the highway edge. Yesterday on my way to and from class in Baton Rouge, I passed millions and millions of blooming wild onion plants that colored the roadsides white, with painterly splashes of bright yellow non-native Ranunculus and lavender-purple of Salvia lyrata. In a late April, drive I-55, from Hammond, Louisiana to Jackson, Mississippi and you’ll see, the whole way, a golden yellow floral carpet of the much-worthy perennial Senecio tomentosus. But look and enjoy it in a hurry because the gang mowers of the DOTD will mow it down, usually at peak bloom. Drive interstate 20 between Jackson and Meridian, Mississippi from May to July and see the meadow-like beauty of Erigeron stigosus stretching from one side of the state to the other. This is beauty within our grasp. We should harness it for the benefit of the public good, don’t you think?
The questions we hope to answer are the same ones Wes Michaels and I have been pondering for the last few years while teaching the Urban Meadows class at LSU. How do we design colorful landscapes in the urban context that are biologically substantial and horticulturally significant, yet economically feasible to establish and manage? How do we use some of the ideas of James Hitchmough and Nigel Dunnet, blend them with what we know of restoration with native flora to build models of color for the common citizen to enjoy?
How do we take the bits and pieces of restoration technology, add and subtract odds and ends of horticulture to create beautiful landscapes that cost very little to manage? That is the question we intend to answer. Wish us luck!
above: the simple beauty of Erigeron philadelphicaus reigns in the disturbed soils of Louisiana. …click on the photos to enlarge
Erigeron philadelphicus, Philadelphia Fleabane, in a vase for my wife Candi, with the sweet-fragrant Rhododendron ‘Koromo Shikibu’ and R. austrinum. Fleabane is a great cut flower.
above: drifts of Ranunculus and White Clover emerge from a mowed landscape after winter has passed.
above: Wild onion covers the landscape with the subtleness of milky white in late March in the Central Gulf Coastal region. Beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder.