Rethinking the American front yard: a workshop

Photo of Levittown, with front yards
It is high time we rethought the front yard space

If you are interested in both the history and evolution of the American front yard and rethinking how we design and use this historically purely aesthetic space, please join us for an interactive and collaborative workshop on April 20 @ 1:00 p.m. at the machinaloci space in South Berkeley. Co-led by James Rojas of Place It!, Trena Noval and Ann Wettrich of Fieldworks Collaborative, and Carol Mancke of machinaloci.

To RSVP, click here.

New artifacts, new ruins

Bug hotel and habitat for solitary bees in the Netherlands.
A bug hotel in Hoofddorp, Netherlands

We like to think of how bug hotels might become contemporary artifacts. If many generations from now someone came upon this structure, in the middle of a clearing – or perhaps amidst woods, if we know anything about plant succession – it would be in some state of decay, with plants growing within and out of it, and they would have to deduce what it meant and what it was for. If they did their sleuthing well, they would surmise that despite a propensity for humans at that time to work against the forces of nature, there were perhaps a small few who in their own odd and idealistic ways tried to push the tide in the other direction, and so they created these structures, to house the little critters being crowded out by so many greater forces. Or perhaps by that time these critters had won, and thus this bug hotel was only a remnant, a thing they no longer needed, as the world had once again become theirs?

Bug hotels

bug wall, bug hotel, landscape design, habitat, pollinators, bees, colony collapse

One of the biggest shifts in landscape design and creation in the past decade has been a move away from creating spaces that are exclusively for humans or exclusively for wildlife and towards making spaces that accommodate for both. Enter the bug hotel, or bug wall (shown above). These structures not only serve as sculpture and structure within the landscape but double as habitat for all manner of bugs, amphibians, and other little critters. They also give the effect of a new kind of human artifact that says much about the turbulent but hopeful times we are living in. For an exhaustive look at bug hotels around the world, click here. For information on construction, click here.

Monarch zoo


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.

Creating a monarch loop


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!