Everyday excursions in the urban landscape

Cutting through some dogma

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Front-yard prairie planting in Plano, TX

We are never ones for dogma, especially when it comes to landscapes and native plants, which is why we dig this post on the Plano Prairie Garden blog. A bona fide prairie lover, he writes on why prairie gardens are not 100% maintenance free. It’s a refreshing read that acknowledges the grey areas within the quest to infuse more native plants of the prairie into the landscape. Read here.

Vending machine for urban pedalers

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Bike Fixtation vending machine at the Uptown Transit Station in Minneapolis

With Minneapolis earning last year’s honor of most bicycle-friendly city in the nation, it is no suprise that this novel amenity for urban pedalers has just landed in the city. Fix a flat, or buy a power bar – whatever your inner cyclist desires, it comes out of this vending machine. More are on the way. Now, what to do about the fact that the city is still too huge to make bicycling a viable option for all trips? We are looking forward to the Nicollet Avenue tram to at least help out a bit with this conundrum. For more info on the vending machines, click here.

Urban playground, with soundtrack

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We’ve heard so much in the past decade about transforming the once-vacant American city into a place of “live, work, and play” that it’s hard to tell what it much means anymore. If anything, the phrase evokes a muti-story, inner-city image of shopping as opposed to a dispersed suburban one: happy shoppers milling about in front of newly built mixed-use developments that are lined with Quizno’s and Jamba Juice on the ground floors. “Play” then simply equates consumption and nothing much in the way of real creativity. This is perhaps why this art installation in Montreal is so refreshing, as it puts the play back in play, activates a public space, and removes from the equation the need to buy anything. Additionally, your swinging on the swing generates music; swing with friends and in sync, and you create new notes as well.

The artists behind the project, Mouna Andraos and Melissa Mongiat, will be creating a sing-along-themed installation at this year’s Minnesota State Fair. It will be karaoke for the masses, and it will be auto-tuned, so those without perfect pitch – and Ke$ha fans – need not fear. For more info on the event, click here.

Summer light and inner-city bike lanes

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9:00 p.m., Minneapolis, overlooking commuter rail tracks and newly completed Cedar Lake Regional Bike Trail

Slogging through endless months of winter and darkness generally all seems worth it when we reach the solstice and the city is bathed in an uncanny-but-lovely diffuse sunlight come 9:00 p.m. The-early-to-bed city is already early to bed but the light remains and the streets have a calm to them that you associate with darkness. In this particular photo taken on the solstice, we were looking out over the Northstar Line commuter rail tracks and the newly completed final leg of the Cedar Lake Regional Bike Trail, dubbed the nation’s first bicycle freeway. This final leg, Phase III, was expensive and long in the making, due to its having to cut through some of the denser parts of the city, where easements and private property issues abound. Yet, it all seems worth it, when you are able to travel through the city from a completely different vantage point and on two wheels instead of four. Suddenly that many more people can access the Mississippi River Parkway via bicycle instead of car, and we have gone from a city where bicycling was perilous at best, to a city where bicycling as a means of transportation is a real and relatively safe option for a broader swath of people.

Rogue allium

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Mystery allium in PRAIRIEFORM landscape

We have been making a point of incorporating more bulbs – particularly Mediterranean, and dry-landscape ones – into our landscapes to add a shot of ephemeral color in late spring. Allium christophii is obviously one of the picks for the mix; however, in planting them last fall, we were unable to see or realize that not all of the bulbs were alike. Now, there is a late-comer allium blooming in one of the landscapes, and it is shown above in the photo. It’s been described as space-age by some visitors, but we think it will make a good home in the landscape, and the owners think so too. Yet, we still don’t know what kind it is. Chime in, please, and let us know.

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