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How did this botanical garden grow? With the unlikely arrival of a rock-star designer.

The Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf is known the world over for his ability to weave dazzling tapestries of perennials and grasses. In the United States, he has created plant combinations enjoyed by millions: at Battery Park and the High Line in New York and the Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Earlier this month, Oudolf found himself immersed in what may be his most unlikely public project to date, on the outskirts of the little Delaware town of Dagsboro, supervising the transformation of an old soybean field.

A team of volunteers had just finished planting 17,000 perennials and grasses, the first phase of Oudolf’s two-acre meadow at the nascent Delaware Botanic Gardens. If cultural institutions were boxers, the DBG would be Rocky Balboa, an underdog with a seemingly uncrushable spirit.

The 37-acre attraction is due to open in 2019 with a pavilion designed by the San Antonio architecture firm Lake/Flato, a parking lot, a deciduous creekside woodland and, by then, Oudolf’s fully planted meadow of 65,000 plants. In time, the gardens’ completed form will include an enclosed and expanded visitors center, landscaped ponds, more woodland and coastal plain demonstration gardens.

But for now it has just two employees, and its unpaid president, Raymond Sander, concedes that all the funds for the first phase are not yet gathered. Sander is a former federal government executive and among a cadre of business and public sector administrators — many now retired to the beach — who have joined forces with horticultural types to create the garden.

Plant designer Piet Oudolf at his newly installed meadow. Marker flags guided the complex planting schemes for which Oudolf is world-famous. The creekside woodland is in the background. (Adrian Higgins/The Washington Post)

As beachgoers to Delmarva will know, Dagsboro is seen as more a stop along the journey than a destination; it’s about the last inland community you drive through to get to places such as Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island. The garden site is approximately half a mile northeast of town on land owned by a conservation trust that is renting it, at $1 per year, to the little botanic garden that could.

Despite the challenges ahead, there’s no denying the energizing effect of Oudolf’s surprise decision to take it on, or the thrill of seeing Oudolf arriving to direct an army of volunteers on a sunny, breezy day in late summer.

Converting an Oudolf design into a faithfully planted scheme is in itself a logistical challenge. Each of the 17,000 plants — of almost 60 carefully selected varieties (no substitutions, please) — was carefully mapped out in his studio in Hummelo, a town in eastern Holland.

Each planting block was considered in relation to its neighbors. A primary consideration of such herbaceous compositions is the look of their progression through the growing season and beyond. The autumn and winter interest of their dried stalks and seed heads is a key aspect.

All the plants are stored in Oudolf’s portable database, i.e., his memory, and the combinations flow from his explorations on paper with colored pens. The result is an interlocking puzzle. “It’s fantasy based on reality,” he said.

The planting took several days, though the plants had been custom-grown by five nurseries under the direction of Barbara Katz, a landscape designer from Bethesda. Eighty-five percent of the plants are native species, typically improved varieties.

A rendering shows the entry or Rhyne Garden, named for the central canal. (Robinson Anderson Summers Landscape Architects)

Just setting out the plants in their pots required its own method of flagging to avoid unintentional placement. A total of 50 volunteers formed a workforce drawn by the prospect of taking part in an Oudolf project. Some live locally and are among the 300 members of the DBG; the others, horticulturists and nursery growers from up and down the East Coast.

Oudolf arrived three days into the five-day planting. Earlier, the team had placed a grid of stakes and strings over the polygonal beds shaped by a network of paths. Plantsman and designer Roy Diblik had used orange spray paint to mark the boundaries of each planting block. Diblik, himself a noted prairie plant artist from the Midwest, had worked closely with Oudolf on other projects and knows how to convert Oudolf’s intricate plans into actual plant layouts.

Oudolf weighed the installation and declared it correct. “He had about seven comments about the plants, out of 17,000,” Katz said. “I think we knocked it out of the park.”

Katz had befriended the garden’s director of horticulture, Gregory Tepper, and when they discussed the plan for the meadow in early 2015, she said, “ ‘Why don’t you aim for the top, somebody like Piet Oudolf?’ and he literally burst out laughing.”

Later, Katz connected with Oudolf on Facebook, and he expressed an interest.

When Sander mentioned Oudolf’s response to the project’s landscape architect, Rodney Robinson, “Rodney said, ‘If you get Piet Oudolf to do a meadow, you’ll have people come to Delaware who don’t even know where Delaware is.’ ”

Oudolf first visited the site in October 2015 — he was in New York attending to other projects — and slowly, deliberately, decided to take it on. Why? He said he saw the possibilities of it and was drawn to the fact that it would be public. He has worked on sweeping private gardens for wealthy clients, but he prefers his work to be seen. “People call me at least once a week for a project,” he said. Most are turned away. “I’m a one-man office.”

Right after planting, butterflies and bees could be seen alighting on the flowers, including a variety of ironweed named Iron Butterfly. In two or three years, the plants will mature into a foaming sea of color and form.

When I arrived, Oudolf was fussing with a central viewing mound. It was too low and the shoulders not quite right. After it was reshaped, we stood atop it to survey the newly planted beds, fluttering with marker flags. Tepper explained the role of the little hill, rising just a few feet above the meadow soil. “It allows people to not only see all the different colors and textures, but the movement from the breeze,” he said.

Later, walking the site alone with Oudolf, the rock star from Hummelo turned to me and said: “The garden scene here is small. But so much energy. It’s unbelievable.”

@adrian_higgins on Twitter

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Check out a few Treasure Valley fall gardening classes

Saturday, Sept. 23

Focal Points in the Garden: 10 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Discussing how to direct and draw your eye with plants, art, fountains, sculpture and more. Free, but RSVP at 208-995-2815 or

Saturday, Sept. 30

Spice your Garden with Seasonal Layers: 10 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Sharing tricks of selecting plants to provide a succession of interesting combinations. Free, but RSVP at 208-995-2815 or

Saturday, Oct. 7

Winter is Around the Corner: 10 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Tips for preparing your garden for the winter and adding a little winter interest. Free, but RSVP at 208-995-2815 or

Saturday, Oct. 14

Fall Pop and Curb Appeal: 10 a.m. at Madeline George Garden Design Nursery, 10550 W. Hill Road Parkway, Boise. Ideas for adding pizzazz to your home for the holidays and beyond. Free, but RSVP at 208-995-2815 or

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Garden calendar for the week of Sept. 24-30

Sunday, Sept. 24

Fascination of Orchids: One-of-a-kind show and sale featuring a large assortment of orchids from growers around the world. Admission and parking are free. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. South Coast Plaza Village. 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa. 800-782-8888 or

Wednesday, Sept. 27 

Staghorn Ferns: Learn about the exotic and incredibly ornamental staghorn fern.   Attendees will also divide and place one on a wall mount to take home.  All materials supplied. Preregistration required. $40-$50. 9 a.m. Sherman Library Gardens, 2647 Pacific Coast Highway, Corona del Mar. 949-673-2261 or 

Saturday, Sept. 30

Our Favorite Flowering Shrubs: Landscape General Manager Tim Fiskin will discuss his favorite flowering shrubs, as well as design ideas, installation tips and maintenance practices. Free. 10-11 a.m. Roger’s Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar. 949-640-5800 or

Urban Landscape and Garden Education Expo: Learn from gardening industry vendors and water agencies how to reduce landscape water use and ultimately save money. Other activities include presentations; demonstrations focusing on topics such as composting, irrigation and container planting; and exotic-fruit tastings. Free. 9 a.m.-2 p.m. 7601 Irvine Blvd., Irvine.


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Garden notes: Sept. 19, 2017


Garden workshop 

STOCKBRIDGE – Berkshire Botanical Garden, 5 West Stockbridge Road  presents the following workshop. On Thursday, Sept. 28, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., “Designing The New Perennial Garden.” Instructor Robert Anderson will provide an overview of the major concepts of this movement as well as hands-on experience of practical evaluation and design with herbaceous plants and grasses. Participants will spend time in the garden taking an in-depth look at plants, and lecture time will include examining concepts and examples. A design project will be assigned. Cost for this program is $195, to register go online at

Send items for Garden Notes to two week prior to publication.

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Horticultural Alliance Of The Hamptons Hosts Ken Druse Lecture On Sunday For Shade Seminar

While some folks think of spring when they think of plants and gardens, September is a bountiful month for the Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons.

The nonprofit organization, dedicated to providing both members and the public with information and knowledge about gardening on the East End, hosts a robust schedule of events this month culminating on Sunday, September 24, with the Karish Seminar, named for founding member and generous donor Paul Karish. One of two major annual fundraisers the 30-year-old organization holds, it’s a great day to get to know HAH. Whatever one’s level of gardening—amateur, professional or admirer—guests are sure to learn something from the Karish Seminar as well as enjoy the lush landscape of the East End.

The day begins with a self-guided tour of three gardens, all echoing the theme of the day: Shade Gardening in the Age of Climate Change. Afterward, the Karish Seminar will be conducted by natural gardener Ken Druse, a celebrated lecturer and award-winning author and photographer, who will shed light on ways to beautify a shade garden, as well as speak on the importance of having one.

The Smithsonian recently accepted “The Ken Druse Collection of Garden Photography,” and The New York Times dubbed Mr. Druse the “guru of natural gardening,” following the release of his first book.

“My first large format illustrated book was called ‘The Natural Garden.’ I was presenting a relaxed, naturalistic style that was not a descendant of formal European garden design,” said Mr. Druse from his home in New Jersey. “It took our North American climates into consideration—especially our hot summers. ‘The Natural Shade Garden’ and ‘The Natural Habitat Garden’ followed that book.”

Gardener, writer, photographer: Mr. Druse chuckles at the description of Renaissance man being applied to him.

“Well, I’ve been sculpting and painting, too,” he said with a laugh. “I’m flattered and happily accept the description. I think that these days we need a bit of a Renaissance, a rebirth in America. Perhaps we all should do as many good things as we can and in as many ways.”

Alicia Whitaker, a board member of HAH since the early 1990s, is responsible for booking the Karish speakers.

“I’m a home gardener, self-taught, but fairly knowledgeable, as are many of our members,” she said. “We look for speakers and topics that we know will be highly attractive to our members that are, in some way, special”

You could say Mr. Druse was a “natural” choice.

“I suppose I have always been interested in this type of gardening—learning from plants and the environment, planting in partnership with nature,” he said. “I suppose it began when I was a kid playing in the dirt with my toy trucks in the backyard, seeing seedlings, birds, butterflies and the creatures in the soil. But, I think it all began with the plants.”

Ms. Whitaker is thrilled to have him.

“Ken Druse is a well-recognized gardening expert who also has the gift of taking wonderful photographs and writing beautiful and useful books. He’s also unafraid to tackle topics such as climate change—those of us who are gardeners can see that things are different in our lifetime,” she said.

Mr. Druse concurred. “We’re facing some extreme challenges these days, and we want to adjust our garden practices. We want to find cool shelter—either discover these places or create them,” he said. “My talk will be ‘The New Shade Garden: Creating a Lush Oasis in the Age of Climate Change.’ Even on Long Island’s East End, summers are getting hotter. We need to conserve water and our precious soil. We have to be stewards of the land as well as gardeners.”

Ms. Whitaker said, “Ken’s most recent book is about shade gardening at a time of climate change, and the topic has resonated with our members. Many of us start a garden that is more or less in full sun and then things grow—especially shrubs and trees—turning our formerly sunny patch into one with significant shade. The plants that do well in shade are different from those that do well with a lot of sun, and the challenge is to find a way to use foliage colors and textures as well as flowers to make a shade garden beautiful.”

In terms of challenges with shade gardens, Mr. Druse looks at it this way:

“I think that in many ways gardening in the shade is easier than gardening in the bright open sunlight, and unless you are growing flowers for cutting or edibles, cool sheltered gardens could be a relaxing passion,” he said. “Since shade gardens are not subjected to hot sunlight, watering needs are greatly reduced. We want to plant self-sufficient ground covers instead of wood mulch and always choose the most sustainable methods to reduce stress on the environment. We’re all told to stay out of the sun as much as possible, and that’s another reason to retreat to the shade.”

The gardens chosen for the event were selected for their shade.

“We found the gardens by networking with some of our members, which is the way we typically find gardens for our tours,” Ms. Whitaker explained. “We typically like to have a mix of professionally designed and owner-designed gardens and look for ones that are maintained to a high standard.”

Mr. Druse looks forward to imparting his advice to amateur and professional gardeners and those who just want to have a lovely day.

“We all want to do what we can to help our planet and leave the earth as good if not better than we found it,” he said.

The event will continue with a reception, book signing and a plant sale featuring curated shade plants from Glover Grown Perennials, with selections guided by Mr. Druse’s list of recommended shade plants.

Check-in begins at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 24, at the HAH Library, in the lower level of the Bridgehampton Community House, and the self-guided shade garden tour runs from 10 a.m. to noon. The Ken Druse lecture is at 2 p.m. at the Bridgehampton Community House auditorium, followed by the reception and plant sale from 3 to 4 p.m. Admission is $125 per attendee. More details and the schedule of events can be found at Pre-registration is required.

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blancas moran designs a family house in mexico city using natural stone and timber

the AA315  single family house, designed by architect blancas moran, is located in the west of mexico city and is part of a third generation of architectural interventions in a residential neighborhood created in the 1930’s. when the client acquired the plot, a 1950’s house occupied the center of the site, however, once evaluating different scenarios, the client decided to demolish the existing building and commission a new project. after the demolition of the existing building, the  60 year old trees surrounding the previous house were revealed, dictating together with the orientation of the plot, the L-shape of the project.

the entrance corridor



blancas moran decided to exploit the condition and agreed with the client to design a house that could open and live as much as possible to the green exterior, aiming to create a garden with a house instead of a house with a garden. the architectural brief is organized in three levels. the first level features the social  areas ( living room, dining room, family room, terrace, toilet, kitchen and lobby), the second includes the private areas (master bedroom, small bedrooms, guest room, TV room) and the basement has the services (laundry room, garage, gym , technical areas).

garden façade at night



all the programs featured on the first level are open to the garden. only specific areas like the dining room, the family room and the kitchen require a specific degree of privacy. the house’s main staircase is located in the double height corner of the L-Shape serving as a connection between the social and private areas of the house. the second level takes advantage of the L-Shape to divide the private areas into three sections. the left  wing is occupied by the master bedroom with a bathroom and dressing room, the right with is occupied by the two smaller bedrooms and the TV room and the corner of the L-shape includes the stair lobby and guest room. this arrangement guarantees the privacy of the bedrooms and creates a meeting point for the family in the crossing of the two wings. 


the master bedroom’s en-suite bathroom

the defining staircase

entrance corridor

since the clients requested low maintenance materials for the house, the architects decided on natural stones and timber in different degrees of character

the dining room

the bridge between the bedrooms


garden façade during the daytime

pool terrace at night



project info:


project: aa315 house  – single family house
location: mexico city, mexico
project team: alejandro bernardi gallo, beatriz peschard mijares, abel blancas morán
photographs: rafael gamo 
lighting design: luz en arquitectura
structural design: alonso asociados 
landscape design:  entorno taller de paisaje
woodworks: grupo hagan
completion: 2017



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lynn chaya | designboom

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Local community things to know and do for the Pasadena area for Sept. 18, 2017 – The Pasadena Star


Free garden designers event

Armstrong Garden Centers will hold a meet-the-designers event at 10 a.m. Sept. 23 at the La Canada and Monrovia stores.

The event will feature an opportunity to meet with a garden design expert. Armstrong’s team of designers will give an overview of available services, show off portfolios of previous work and answer general landscape design questions.

No registration required.

For more information on Armstrong Garden Centers and gardening tips, visit


Public hearing on water rate changes

Pasadena Water and Power will hold a public hearing regarding upcoming water rate changes at 7 p.m. Sept. 25 the Pasadena City Council Chambers.

PWP wants to update residents on two important water rate-related changes being proposed: A new water rate structure — how it charges for water; and adjustments to water rate — the prices it charges.

Customer input and feedback is requested at the Pasadena City Council public hearing.

The Chambers are at City Hall, 100 Garfield Ave.

For more information, go to


City seeks community photos for inaugural contest

The city is holding its inaugural “photography contest” now through 30 and invites all Duarte residents to participate.

Photographic submission must capture an image that best represents the city: landscapes, architecture, people, and more. Photographic submissions must be both emailed to before 5 p.m. Sept. 30 and shared on Facebook/Instagram by using the hashtag #DuartePhotoContest.

The first-place winner will receive a one-year membership to the Duarte Fitness Center and a $50 gift card. The second-place winner will receive a $25 gift card and the third-place winner, along with the other two winners, will have their photo featured on the city’s social media platforms.

The winners will be announced at the Oct. 10 Duarte City Council meeting at 7 p.m.

Winners must submit proof of Duarte residency (i.e. by bringing a utility bill), before Oct. 10. For more information, go to or call City Hall at 626-357-7931, ext. 267.


City celebrates Community Day at Fair

Temple City will celebrate its community at the Los Angeles County Fair on Sept. 21 at the Fairplex in Pomona.

A community member will be honored during the “Heroes Ceremony” at 3 p.m. followed by a community parade starting at 5 p.m. around the fair with school bands, community members and more.

The Los Angeles County Fairgrounds are at 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona.

Temple Citians, past and present, are eligible to receive a discounted $8 entry fee for the city’s Day at the Fair, by presenting a special coupon at the gate or use a special code when buying tickets online.

For the coupon or code, go to the city’s website at

For more information, call the Parks and Recreation Department at 626-285-2171, ext. 4510.

To buy tickets online, go to

— Staff reports

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Houston garden centers pull together

Since late August, citizens of Houston, Texas, and the surrounding area have been attempting to recover from the fallout of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 Atlantic hurricane that struck Texas’ Gulf Coast on August 26.

Harvey was the first Category 4 storm to strike the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004, with the last Category 4 storm to strike Texas being Hurricane Carla in 1961, according to ABC News. The storm has caused more than 80 confirmed deaths and up to $108 billion in damages, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Though a grim picture has been painted of the affected areas, and many people remain displaced by persistent flooding, several garden center businesses in the Houston area were spared and are relatively intact, but there were many close calls.

Taking stock

Sherri Harrah of the family-owned Plants for All Seasons says the flooding in her area stopped just shy of her business.

“[The flooding] was about a fourth of a mile south of us on the same road. It just stopped,” Harrah says.

Buchanan’s Native Plants also experienced little in the way of wind, rain or flood damage, says general manager Kevin Barry. Unfortunately, several of the company’s employees and customers weren’t quite as lucky.

“The company itself, we did well. We had about a half a million [dollars] in inventory sitting on the lot and lost about $3,000, so it was nothing for us,” Barry says. “Our employees, on the other hand, had a much worse problem. We had two that lost their houses – completely gone. We had one that lost her car, we had one who was renting; he lost everything he had in the rental property. So, we had a lot of employees who were affected, as well as some of our customers.”

Barry added that although sales at Buchanan’s were impacted after the storm, he expects activity to recover as the clean-up in Houston continues.

“As far as sales go, we took a hit when it came to that, of course,” he says. “We probably lost $100,000 in retail sales, but with the way we’re based in Houston, [we’re in] what I like to the ‘Money Belt.’ We’ve already seen our sales surge again. Within the last week, we’ve already picked up $30,000 back. I don’t expect us to take a huge hit in revenue for it.”

Major flooding mostly bypassed Nelson Water Gardens, but severely impacted the surrounding neighborhoods, says President Rolf Nelson.

“[There was] minor damage that was more from a bit of wind and rain that got through a portion of the roof,” Nelson says. “It really could have happened in a thunderstorm. We didn’t get the tremendous winds, just never-ending rain. Now, we couldn’t get to our business for a number of days because all the roads were flooded where I live. We were shut down for a week, basically.”

Also read: A tour of 5 independent garden centers: Highlights from The Fall Event’s bus tour of five Houston-area plant retailers.

Reaching out

Although these garden retailers had enough on their plate while recovering from Harvey’s impact, each took it upon themselves to lend a hand to their markets in their own ways.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, Plants for All Seasons has been offering soil and mold remediation classes and demonstrations, in an effort to equip Houston citizens with the knowledge to help their lawns and gardens recover from the flood.

“We just did a Facebook Live video on soil remediation after the flood,” Harrah says. “I did one on mold remediation. So, it kind of opened the door to other ways to help … and get our name out there too. Houston is huge, and [customers] might google something about mold remediation or what to do with your landscape after floods and they’re going to be directed to us, so it was kind of a way to open peoples’ eyes to us, too.”

The leadership at Buchanan’s took it upon themselves to help remedy the disruption and chaos inflicted on the garden center’s customers and neighbors through fundraising for home repairs.

“What we did, when we opened [Sept. 2], we threw together a fundraising event and we donated 100 percent of the proceeds to charity and we were able to give about $10,000 in cash to a local charity,” Barry says. “In addition to that, we took each of one of our employees’ needs one by one, turned around and went out to Home Depot and spent three or four grand out there. We kept that confidential with each one of those employees, but we’ve given out about $20,000 so far, and we’re still giving.”

Nelson took a hands-on approach, taking family and employees out into flooded neighborhoods in small, personal watercraft to help stranded people.

“We checked on the [store Aug. 30], but then we went out and had some folks we were able to get out of their neighborhoods,” Nelson says. “We have canoes and jon boats, and we spent our time doing that for a couple of days. My son and I, on that Tuesday, went in to help get an elderly couple and their neighbors out of their neighborhood with our canoe. The next day, two more guys who work with us [brought their] jon boats and joined us. We did a four-man crew going in with two crafts. People need the help, we have guys who are used to hard labor, so we’re keeping that group of people busy and doing some good at the same time.”

Also read: ‘Proud to partner’ – After a devastating flood in Baton Rouge, LA., destroyed the 63-year-old Naylor’s Hardware Garden Center in August, the owner and longtime staff were facing an uncertain future. That’s when Clegg’s Nursery stepped in.

Being ready

There’s only so much that can be done in face of a major hurricane, but experts and survivors alike agree that preparation is key to improving a home or business’ chances of weathering the storm. At Buchanan’s, plans were put into place as soon as possible to batten down the hatches.

“We started four days before [Hurricane Harvey hit], prepping everything. Basically, we carted everything we could and put it into the greenhouses,” Barry says. “What really amazes me when I see stories [about businesses getting hit by severe weather], I always think to myself, ‘Wait a minute. You had a week. Why would you not prepare?’ When they tell you a hurricane’s coming, it’s better safe than sorry – you need to prep. Even if it costs you more and nothing comes in, that’s okay. At least you’re not going to lose a bunch of stuff. If we hadn’t done anything, we probably would’ve ended up losing half of our stock.”

One key to reducing the damage from Harvey was making sure all staff at Buchanan’s were aware of the emergency procedures ahead of time, Barry says.

“The other thing is to make sure your employees have their strategy beforehand, as far as communication, who’s doing what, how are we doing this,” he says. “We had all those systems in place – the only thing we didn’t account for was cell phones going down, which happened.”

As they look ahead to getting their businesses back into working order, Houston retailers expressed their gratitude for solidarity shown by the community in the face of crisis.

“The amount of community outpouring and people helping has been amazing,” Harrah says. ” [It’s] unbelievable. Houston is [one of] the largest cities in the U.S., and you would never know. It feels like a small town.”

“The coming together of a massive number of people to just take care of each other was phenomenal. [People] just stepped in,” Nelson adds. “It was critical that we had all the first responders and the National Guard and everything here, because there were some areas that were just too dangerous to handle any other way. The volunteerism has been phenomenal down here, and hopefully we keep that spirit going forward as we move a little bit further away from the adrenaline and everything happening so quick and we continue to help each other.”

Photo courtesy of Rolf Nelson. Pictured from left to right: Roland Bodden, Peter Nelson and Eddie Albertson, members of Nelson Water Gardens’ design/build team.

Keep an eye out for Garden Center magazine’s October issue for more coverage of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Article source:

Dutch engineer aims high with latest green roof design

AMSTERDAM — Standing between raised beds of plants on top of a former naval hospital, Joris Voeten can look across to the garden, cafe and terrace that decorate the sloping roof of Amsterdam’s NEMO science museum.

Such productivity is part of the urban engineer’s vision for cities worldwide, places where he sees the largely neglected flat tops of buildings doing more than keeping out weather and housing satellite dishes.

Voeten, of Dutch company Urban Roofscapes, says a rooftop garden system he unveiled recently on the former hospital roof stores more rainwater than existing green roofs and requires less power by relying on a capillary irrigation system that uses insulation material instead of pumps to water plants.

Roofs that are adapted so plants can grow on them produce a cooling effect on buildings and the air immediately above them in two ways. The plants reflect heat instead of absorbing it the way traditional roofing sheets do. They also reduce heat by evaporating water.

Voeten said readings taken on a very hot day showed a temperature difference of up to 72 degrees between his hospital garden compared with a roof covered in black bitumen.

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RHS launches Schools Garden Design Contest

Nearly 800 school pupils across the UK will be taking part in a ten-week garden design competition from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) that kicks off next week.

The competition will see teams of 12-14 year-olds develop imaginative designs for a new garden for their school or local community.

Back for a second year, the Green Plan It Challenge will be launched at eight regional events over the next few weeks, from Edinburgh to Bristol.

Dr Mike Maunder, the director of life sciences at the Eden Project and Olivia O’Brien from Growing Underground, London’s first underground farm, are among the horticulture professionals providing pupils with insider tips and inspiration at the launch events.

Each school team of six will also be paired with an industry mentor, such as a landscape architect, head gardener or plant scientist, who will work with them throughout the project and provide an insider’s glimpse into the powerful benefits of plants to people and places.

The groups will choose a space and carry out research before developing their ideas into 3D models. The finished designs will be judged at regional events in December where one winner from each area will be decided by a team of industry assessors.

Last year’s winners included a team from Swanlea School in Whitechapel, East London who designed an inventive balcony garden for people living in inner-city blocks of flats with little outdoor space. Their design was brought to life this summer at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Andrea Van-Sittart, RHS head of community outreach, said: “The Green Plan It Challenge is designed to support young people to develop a host of new skills including teamwork, creativity and problem-solving, as well as providing an insight into some of the fantastic career possibilities within horticulture.

“Schoolgoers are often not aware of the importance of plants to our everyday lives and the project lets them explore this, resulting in some amazing ideas.”

She added: “It’s testament to the industry’s commitment, that over a hundred professionals will be sharing their passion and love for their jobs with the next generation of gardening experts.”

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