PRAIRIEFORM

Everyday excursions in the urban landscape

Vacant Lands 1

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Prairieform's Vacant Lands Installation in San Francisco's Presidio
A photo of Vacant Lands 1 in San Francisco’s Presidio

Here are the photos from the first Vacant Lands installation, installed in San Francisco’s Presidio as part of the Architecture as Pedestal Exhibition. Thank you to everyone who came by, asked questions, looked, explored, observed. We came up with the idea for the project in 2014, so it’s been a long road from conception to installation, and thus the support and interest were greatly appreciated. Naturally we already have our eyes and mind on the next installation, what it will look like, where it will be, and how you will be able to explore it. Stay tuned. For more info, you may click HERE.

Prairieform's Vacant Lands installation in San Francisco's Presidio

Prairieform's Vacant Lands Installation in San Francisco's Presidio

The science of urban gardening

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There is much talk surrounding urban gardens and their potential benefits to habitat, water conservation, minimizing the heat island effect, and so on. Some of these said benefits are grounded in research, while some are not. There is something to be said for not caring whether every element of one’s garden has withstood the microscope of scientific inquiry, as it is a garden after all, and it is supposed to provide space and time for relaxation and enjoyment and not always a forum for cerebral head-scratching. In any case, if we are to make claims that an urban garden can and does achieve a whole host of goals pertaining to sustainability, a bit of science to back them up would serve the cause well. Enter the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and their new endeavor to create a peer-reviewed guide to urban gardening that offers current gardeners and potential new ones advice rooted in real research and literature on what you can do and not do to ensure that your garden is a true beacon of green goodness and not simply one that has the veneer of being green. This effort to create outdoor spaces that are truly sustainable as opposed to ones that merely present a veneer of sustainability is something we strive to do in all of our work, so this report we could not be more excited about. The initial summary is available to read on their website, with the full, peer-reviewed report to come out in fall. Happy reading, everyone.

Monarch zoo

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Monarch on meadow blazing star

We can’t help but modestly gloat a bit right now, as the monarch loop we had written about a few weeks back is starting to pay off. There are now almost 15 monarchs living in the Joppa Avenue Landscape, hanging out mainly on the Liatris ligulistylis / meadow blazing star, but equally enjoying the Verbena bonariensis / Brazilian verbena, and the Eupatorium purpureum / Joe Pye weed. It’s a veritable monarch zoo, and it flittingly rocks the house.

Sensory evolution and the landscape

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Common damselfly (courtesy of the BBC)

We recently posted on the PRAIRIEFORM website a section of before / after photos of some of the landscapes we have designed and installed. While the photos do indeed give a clear visual retrospective of how the landscapes have filled in and evolved over time, they don’t necessarily include how the sensory experience within these landscapes has evolved over time for the visitor to that landscape. Part of that sensory experience includes scent and fragrance, part of it includes the awareness of movement – particularly the movement of pollinators and insects darting in and out of the landscape. One of the greatest additions of movement to these landscapes has been the damselflies. The petit, perhaps more graceful, cousin to the dragonfly, these slender, brightly colored beings hover delicately throughout the landscape, clasping to blades of little bluestem, or spires of Russian sage, for a little r&r and presumably to scope out lunch. While delicate in appearance, damselflies are succinct carnivores and dine on some of the more nuisance bugs we might otherwise swat. For more information on damselflies and how you can participate in locating hotspots of them, click here.

Creating a monarch loop

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Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), impossibly orange, in a PRAIRIEFORM landscape

Early July signals the blooming of butterfly weed, and, simultaneously, the opportunity to attract monarchs to the landscape. Monarchs lay their eggs on many kinds of milkweed, but we like butterfly milkweed/weed best, as its form is relatively tidy, it requires little to no supplemental water, and the impossible orange of its flowers is almost unreal. In order to attract butterflies to the plant in the first place, they need a source of nectar. Several plants fit the bill for this. Our preferred ones are meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis), Brazilian verbena (Verbena bonariensis), and Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum). With these plants in place, and a milkweed too, you have created a sort of monarch loop whereby habitat and food are provided for the monarch during each of the stages of its life. As the recommended plants lean to the tidier side form-wise, this kind of butterfly loop would not be out of place within a more formal front yard landscape. For more photos of butterfly weed in the landscape, check out our Facebook page. While you are at us, “Like” us!

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