- Author: Lanie Keystone
A few months ago, we took you to the “growing heights” when we “hitched a ride” on the International Space Station and saw how flowers and edibles were successfully grown in space by astronaut, Scott Kelly. Now there's news that botanists are “plumbing the depths” of the latest frontier to grow plants underground in Manhattan!
The ultimate goal is to create an under-the-city parkland in an abandoned trolley terminal near the Williamsburg Bridge on the Lower East Side of Manhattan…transforming it into a green space called “The Lowline”. In order to determine how best to achieve the verdant subterranean paradise, scientists are working out plans to ventilate and freshen the air, provide light in a very dark underground space, and develop propagation and irrigation strategies, as well as the landscaping designs needed for a beautiful and viable garden.
To this end, a demonstration lab has been designed and built and funded in large part by a “Kickstarter” campaign which raised over $225,000.00. The demonstration lab is located on Essex St. a few blocks from the underground terminal planned for the final garden site in NYC. To solve the problem of sunlight, a South Korean company, SunPortal, installed a system for redirecting sunlight that they've described as “remote skylight.” A tracking mirror installed on the roof of their building follows the sun across the sky, reflecting its rays into a curved optical lens that looks like a giant periscope. The sunlight is reflected down a series of pipes to three openings in the ceiling of the lab. A 30-foot-wide “solar canopy” of aluminum panels distributes the light to the plants below. Cloudy days? No problem…there's a backup LED light system.
The centerpiece of the lab is a verdant garden with 3,000 plants representing more than 60 species. Among the plants one can view are ferns, mosses tomatoes, onions and garlic and strawberries. Of course, the mint started to take over the garden and is constantly being pruned back! It seems one of the favorites is a scrappy green ash tree that was found growing between two bricks on the rooftop. In June it was relocated below in the demonstration garden and now stands two feet tall in the center of the garden—a real survivor!
More than 80,000 people have visited the demonstration lab—enjoying all the pleasures of a garden: touching, smelling, lingering, even yoga classes and scavenger hunts. An after school program teaches science and math to 2,000 middle school students. While we may not have an underground space here in Solano County—some of these ideas would be a wonderful addition to the beautiful above-ground gardens that we do have. Watch this space for more Lowline Garden news. And, if you initiate or know of some neat activities happening in our gardens right here in our area—let us know and we'll pass them along. Meanwhile, if you're lucky enough to find yourself in New York, do pay a visit to this unique garden—it's free—and definitely way cheaper than a ticket to “Hamilton”!
- Author: Diana Bryggman
I recently took two weeks driving across these United States. I expected to see many plants and trees that I would not be able to identify, and thought I would take many photos that would require later research and identification, if possible. Instead, I found myself marveling at many very familiar plants and the amazing ways they grow and thrive in completely different climate zones. Our route was neither the “typical” Northern, nor Southern route. Rather, we meandered across parts of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, (back through Tennessee), North Carolina and Virginia.
Our timing was perfect for seeing the aspens turning color in Northern Colorado, and for seeing the late summer annuals blooming everywhere else. The wild sunflowers in Kansas were interesting because there were many flowers on each stem. What looked like our native California grape, Roger's Red, flourished along the Missouri River in Kansas City. “Jumping out of the ground” is the only way I can describe these plants. Impatiens, Vinca, Canna, Ipomoea everywhere! Between standard summer rainfall in the Midwest and South and plentiful water for irrigation, our California draught-tolerant plantings look a bit dull in comparison! This weekend's rainfall has given our garden a bit of welcome green and the photos from this cross-country trip will continue to inspire me as I try to keep my autumn garden colorful.
- Author: Toni Greer
How many of you have recently toured our State Capitol? For me it had been many,many years!
While in Sacramento with my husband, (he had a conference and I had a free day), I decided it was time to revisit the Capitol. The interior of the Capitol is beautifully majestic. However for me the grounds are breathtaking! Standing on the top steps of the building gave me a view which I just got lost in. As I was standing staring at the landscape, various gardens and memorials I was lost in my thoughts. I was so lost in my thoughts that I must have had an unusual look on my face. A California highway patrol officer (they are in charge of security for the Capitol building and its grounds) walked over to me and made sure that I was ok. I thanked him and told him that I was just lost in the view from the steps. He agreed that it's a “pretty spectacular” view. I was trying to decide where to go first on the 40 acre Capitol Park.
*Trees from around the world * International World Peace Rose Garden *Civil War Memorial Grove * Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)
The Redwood was planted in 1976 and is called the “Moon Tree”. In 1971 the tree began its life on NASA Apollo 14 as one of the hundreds of tree seeds. This was a joint NASA/USFS project. When it returned to earth, it was germinated by the Forest Service and then planted on the Capitol grounds. It stands as many of the germinated trees do, as a tribute to astronaut Roosa and the Apollo program.
The park loop trail is 1.1 mile long and an easy walk with benches throughout. All dogs must be kept on a leash. It's very wheelchair-friendly and has many paved walkways, shaded trails and pathways. The trees are marked for easy identification, and some with small round brass numbers. I was later to find out what these are for, and so will you. I loved the art and statues throughout.
The history of Capitol Park is interesting, even if one isn't really interested in history.
“An edifice should be constructed…satisfactory of the grandeur of the coming time…surrounded by grounds…with a beauty and luxuriousness that no other Capitol can boast.”
Governor Leland Stanford, 1863
It spans twelve city blocks and contains species of plant life from almost every part of the globe. This park began its life in 1860 and beautification began in 1869. Years later the land was graded and enriched with silt and soil from the bed of the Sacramento River. Eight hundred trees and flowering shrubs were planted, representing over 200 native and exotic varieties. It was laid out in “typical” Victorian style with long lanes between beds of annuals. What is now an area devoted to native California plants was once the Agricultural Pavilion which was constructed to house state fair exhibits from 1884 until 1905. During the early years of the park deer and cattle created such challenges with their wanderings that the park was fenced.
There was a circular pathway planted alternating between English Elm and California Fan Palms. They then used that pathway as a carriage path and walking path between the Capitol and Agriculture Pavilion. This was of interest to me as I was wondering about the few palm trees. The last major park renovation was between years 1948-51 which was during the building of the Capitol Annex. To my sadness, some of the “heritage” trees have been lost due to age and storm damage. Sixteen championship trees are listed on the Urban Forest Ecosystem Institute's California Register of Big Trees” I didn't know there was such a thing!
The memorials which are significant events in California are:
*Civil War Memorial Grove * Life-sized statue of Father Junipero Serra * California Vietnam Veterans Memorial * California Veterans Memorial * International World Peace Rose Garden *Firefighters Memorial *Peace Officers Memorial (several trees were planted to honor men who either served in the Justice System or in law enforcement -three bronzed 9' figures keep watch over the memorial- 1880's county sheriff, 1930's state trooper and 1980's city patrolman). A Deodar Cedar, Common Horse Chestnut, Coast Redwood are just three of many.
However, there are many more memorials and gardens that one must see, in my opinion. While on my journey through the park, I discovered the Camellia Grove, Cactus Garden, Memorial Grove, Grinding Rock, Capitol Kitty (yes, actually after a kitty that called it home this park), and the State seals, just to name a few.
There is more to follow with my next blog-Part 2!
- Author: Launa Herrmann
Several mornings ago I sat outside enjoying the chatter of quail scurrying along the fence top. As I savored my cup of coffee and perused the newspaper, an article title caught my attention. I wondered if the topic was rain. It wasn't.
Instead the text was about the trendy practice of “forest bathing” — “immersing yourself” in the woods or in nature. Nowadays I guess lots of people pay lots of money for a quarter mile guided walk over three hours in duration just so they can “forest bathe.”
During this mindful meditative walk, you follow a forest therapist who points the way. Meanwhile you absorb the surroundings — noticing tree bark, feeling wind, hearing sounds and paying attention to each rock on the path. In return for your financial investment of up to $160, you get something that's good for you — a lower heart rate and blood pressure reading along with less stress.
Common sense tells me that we already know that engaging with greenery is good for us psychologically, mentally, physically and spiritually. I mean, where have these bathers been all their lives? Sequestered in a windowless basement?
Frankly speaking, I'm so glad I grew up outside — down and dirty making mud pies, poking sticks into ant holes, eating sour grass and chasing lizards. Immersing myself in nature is not something I purposely do or pay someone for, but part of who I grew up to be. An outdoor girl to the core. Someone who plays with pots and talks to plants.
In California, we gardeners get it. We get the sheer amazement that anything at all survives the summer's heat. We get the simple joy of spring seeds sprouting through soil. And that's probably why most of us can't wait to inhale the aroma of dusty leaves washed clean by fall's first shower. Immersed? Already I'm on tiptoes counting clouds, anticipating rainbows, ready to rain dance. I can almost hear the plop, pitter-patter, splash-splatter. And I imagine you can too.
- Author: Lowell Cooper
As with any new adventure, I experience a combination of nervousness and excitement – in equal amounts. To continue from my last blog, after taking down the two large but unmannerly trees I had been growing for many years, I was faced with a large empty space. I noticed that it didn't take long for my feelings to change about the whole situation. At first I was in mourning. Missing the trees really captured me: being annoyed at my neighbors for wanting their view back, and resenting having to live with such bare brown dirt after the lushness of large and prosperous trees. After a couple of weeks I decided that there had to be a better solution than selling our house or burning down our neighbors. I began to see the open expanse as a blank horticultural canvas.
My wife and I scoured the neighborhood and the town to see what was appealing in other landscapes and would fit ours. Flowering trees, bushes, succulents of all sizes, big bushes, etc., etc. We finally honed in on where to start – the first paint stroke on the blank canvas: crepe myrtle, dynamite red. By formal name: Lagerstroemia indica 'Dynamite'. Our local nursery endorsed our choice. Once we had a starting place, the necessary infra-structure made sense: we had to empty the space of remaining plants which all of a sudden didn't fit the plan any more. It was necessary to install a drip system for irrigation, rework the rocky surface to even out the slope, cover the ground with a weed blocker and mulching chips. All of a sudden a whole bunch of steps seemed clear. Though I lost sleep about all these steps getting done, it really gave me substantial empathy for what a farmer must go through on fresh ground. However, as a very small-time player in this horticultural venture, I was relieved that food for my dinner table was not at risk. One step at a time. The major learning for me has been the resources available and how imperfect they are. For instance, the zone mapping has USDA specs and Sunset specs. They both hone into my general neighborhood, but don't inform me of how my microclimate will affect the crepe myrtle – wind, soil and heat. There is plenty of advice about how large the hole has to be to accommodate the trees, but with clay and rocks to get through, it seemed to me the proper implements might include t.n.t., not just a shovel. And the disconnect goes also to fertilizer and amount of water. Even at my local nursery which I trust to not be totally driven by profit, the caveat is ‘it depends'. So, when it comes right down to it, there good suggestions abound but they have to be tempered with experience with the plant itself.
So, it seems to me that every planting experience holds adventure at many levels with the unknown. Judgment and attentiveness, I discover, must be combined with willingness to make changes in the initial formulas. Planting for pleasure requires a scientific attitude even more than pure science. Using the available resources and knowledge and then being willing to have them proven wrong under the variable (and at timers unforgiving) outdoor environment.