A friend recently asked me if I had some favorite trees that I would recommend for planting on school landscapes, that would be like asking if I had favorite park trees, no I don’t…and I don’t have a list of proven performers either. A planting site being located at a school, only tells me something about the uses/abuses one can likely expect on a site, and nothing more. When we choose plants we need to be paying attention to a lot more than that. Many people are intimidated when it comes to choosing trees, there are so many and potentially, they live so long, growing from year to year…all of this tends to magnify the ‘weight’ of our decision. People often look for short cuts because there are so many things to keep in mind when choosing. There are two major questions that need consideration first, the site conditions and design, what will the tree have to put up with and what do you expect? Continue reading
Overall, mine is a sunny warm garden. Like any landscape or garden it is defined or described by its: place, design and plant choices. Where these three all come together, you have a garden. Each one presents itself as, what some might view, a daunting array of options or possibilities.
What exactly do I include under ‘place’? Certainly climate, exposure, aspect, slope, soils and the ‘history’ of gardening and ‘disturbance’ on the site. It also includes the larger surrounding landscape, the context within which it is located and the physical ‘features’ built and natural with which it will be a part. The story of a place is important. Place, is the major limiting factor in a garden. Gardens are also defined by the choices we make. Each choice precludes others. In a very real sense gardening is a process of limitation. ‘If this then not that’. What we need to be aware of is that these, design and plant choices, these limitations, can either work together or compound each other when not made with awareness. When design and/or plant choices ignore place, the gardener must overcome all of the ‘conflicts’ this choice has put in to play, or face ‘failure’.
This little tour begins from the traffic circle at the intersection of SW Montgomery St. and River Dr, by the sign to South Waterfront Park and Garden. It has you walking north along the esplanade in front of the shops and restaurants. It concludes about 900′ to the north at the Riverplace Hotel.
Sometimes it pains me to take walks. I was on my way home from the Imperial Bottle Shop and Tap Room, walking down SE 26th south of Powell Blvd when I came across these four Katsura trees planted in a 4′ wide parking strip, no curb parking with a painted bike lane right next to the curb. Katsura trees 24″ from the bike lane. How is that going to work? Trees grow. Branches extend and caliper up. Branches hit bicyclists and pedestrians in the face and people crash and or break branches. (Yes, I know these can be limbed up over time but we all know how often that doesn’t happen and what are these trees going to look like if all of the branches are cut off of the street side up to 14′ for traffic clearance. Trucks regularly use this street.) And then there’s the whole it’s just the wrong plant for the growing conditions thing. Katsuras grow in the mixed woodlands of Japan with moderate temps and summer rainfall. So that looks like 3 strikes out of 4 pitches. Landscape architects still love these…so do I, but planting them in positions with reflected heat with limited root runs through compacted mineral soils!!!! It’s 90 degrees today, their foliage is stressed even with their water bags filled around their bases. I have seen many more bad examples of Katsura use over the last 25 years than i’ve seen appropriate. If you’re going to plant them plant them in a woodland or along the edge where they will be protected from intense direct sun and make sure they have a long cool root run. This is so wrong. Now we’ll all have to watch these limp along getting by stressing until they die or become so damaged someone removes them. Continue reading
The following is an evaluation I initially did while still working for Portland Parks and Recreation. I’ve edited it a bit and added a few things to make it more current. I think it’s important for people to know what others are doing, what they’ve tried and what were the successes and failures. While kind of long it is still a brief look at the conditions on a few sites that were under my care and my observations concerning their performance. As Downtown area Parks these landscapes are very accessible for those curious to see how these plants have done on the ground. Now, most of you if your gardening is limited to your own backyards will never have to deal with landscapes so large, nor will your growing conditions, specifically your soil, be the same, I thought that it would be interesting to share this anyway, in addition to letting you know where you can come see how these plants can look in a landscape. All were planted small as they tend to better adapt to their sites when small, but some are beginning to mature and show what they can do. Anyway, I view our Parks as a public asset. There are many valuable and important plantings around us, that the public is largely unaware of. Part of my role here is to change this situation through promotions like this and by continuing to work with horticulturist to create some kind of database of public and private plantings that is accessible for viewing by the general public. Continue reading