I’m always interested in seeking new places to visit. For me, new surroundings stimulate new ideas to bring home. This year’s travels were no exception. Each contained a populated urban area with a distinctly different approach to connecting people with nature and that got me thinking…
My winter get-away led me to the southwestern region of the US where it’s a short drive to escape the populous Phoenix metro area and relax in the vast expanse of the Sonoran desert. Whether hiking or biking, one can still find solitude to quietly observe a large variety of flora and fauna in an undisturbed setting. A fantastic means to let nature stimulate a personal sense of well-being.
In spring, I ventured to Spain’s Andalusia region to breathe in the temperate Mediterranean climate. I immediately fell in love with the relaxing, social atmosphere created by neighborhood plazas where residents on foot gathered daily (and I mean, daily) to converse among immaculate gardens and fountains surrounded by trees. Cities like Seville have created a wonderful way to weave human-nature connectivity into an urban way of life.
A summer visit to the Marmara and Aegean regions of Turkey was the onset of my fondness for this ancient land and its people. Istanbul, with its 14 million people, is a city where buildings are here one day then rebuilt the next, and green space versus shopping mall construction sows controversy. Not surprisingly, the Bosporus Strait and Sea of Marmara provide the main evidence of natural surroundings.
I love the place where I live in Maryland as much as the places I visit. Of course, it’s no coincidence that Maryland’s urban areas face similar challenges preserving and re-establishing pockets of nature. I feel fortunate to have brought home a new perspective to nurturing a stronger connection between natural plant habitats and our daily lives. My experiences have led me to gather ideas promoting conservation landscaping beyond the use of the standard garden.
Attached are two expansive urban gardens inspired by nature: (1) Chicago’s Lurie Garden at Millenium Park and (2) New York’s High Line. Both are designed by Dutch garden designer, Piet Oudolf, who is known for naturalistic plantings that promote both sustainability and biodiversity. (In my opinion, he is the Frederick Olmsted of the 21st Century.)
By incorporating the basic principles of Oudolf’s (and others) design approach, our community can swap traditional landscaping beliefs for a more sustainable, biodiverse approach. Granted, removing all unwanted existing vegetation is a crucial first step and all living species need care to get established. However, once established there’s no more maintaining lawns, extensive soil modifications, trimming, applying wood-chip mulch, deadheading, staking, removing plant debris, using fertilizer and pre-emergent herbicides, insect paranoia, or watering, watering and more watering.
If you’d like to know more about how you can replicate nature by creating sustainable, bio-diverse natural plant communities in your private or public space, check out Oudolf’s work or send me a reply. I’d love to share my thoughts!
My favorite place: Right here where I live
Take-a-way: There is so much we can do to bring nature into even the most urban of