Examples of virtuous urban landscaping?

Following up on this thread:

I would be curious to read about some, if any, examples of virtuous urban landscaping. In particular, I refer to informal green spaces, urban meadows left to grow and host wild species, urban forests, protection of urban micro and megafauna, maximization of ecosystem services and so on.


This NGO runs the nursery which supplies me with lowland fynbos.



@egordon88’s garden from another topic?


This is a good time of year to brag about my habitat. I’m approaching 1,100 animal species using iNaturalist. I implement as many best practices for invertebrate conservation as possible and try to mimic the natural landscape with my plant choices.


Not sure if they really count as urban landscaping, but I came across the wild cemeteries idea when I was back in England some years ago and love it.


Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord is a good example of working with the plants that already thrive in urban places (not attempting to reimpose a pre-urban vision of ‘native’ wilderness), while restoring important ecological functions in a former industrial space https://placesjournal.org/article/landschaftspark-duisburg-nord/

There’s also Natur Park Südgelände in Berlin, where plants were allowed to reclaim old rail infrastructure, and through succession created a functioning forest https://gruen-berlin.de/en/projects/parks/natur-park-suedgelaende/technology-urban-nature


From when I began blogging
I was enchanted by this - butterflies along the former Berlin Wall written in
(for those who need to - right click on Chrome for translate to English)


I would be remiss if I failed to mention the ABQ Backyard Refuge Program, which is an initiative to steward pollinator habitat in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and surrounding areas: https://friendsofvalledeoro.org/abq-backyard-refuge/


I don’t see why not try that, wildlife can only benefit from it.


This is a good place to start. Even if you don’t live in NA there are good ideas here - https://homegrownnationalpark.org

I’ve also been thinking of an artist who used to cut patterns in fields that would have normally been mowed flat. Think of the opposite of a ‘crop circle’. The artist would cut the grass so that it left national symbols, sports teams logos, charismatic animal shapes, etc. visible from above. Many grounds crews left the art in place. Pollinators benefited and people still felt their public places were being cared for.


We are letting a lot of our yard go back ‘wild’, that is outside of any city lawn rules. A good idea I got (since we are a little leary of fire so close to house) that rather than burn, we are doing an early spring high mow. Keeps the fast trees down, allows for the native grasses and wildflowers, by somewhat mimicking a control burn. So far so good…lots of wildflowers and grasses coming back.


Sometimes yes, and preserving still-wild or minimally disturbed environments is obviously important. But often the environmental conditions created in urban environments bear little resemblance to the pre-urban state. Everything from soil composition, compaction, heat island effect & air quality can mean that plants that may have once thrived in a place are no longer the best adapted to thrive there without intensive & expensive management. Meanwhile, the cosmopolitan species that already grow in cities & industrial land have shown they can do so with basically no help from us at all.

Peter del Tredici is one botanist who is often beating this drum - this article of his does a better job making the case for “celebrating the botanical diversity of cities” than I could: https://placesjournal.org/article/the-flora-of-the-future/

e: To be clear, I’m not trying to argue no one should try to maintain indigenous plants in their lawn or garden - I certainly do that as well, and there’s many benefits to doing so. But Duisburg-Nord, for example, is 180 hectares. Trying to extirpate introduced spontaneous plants just wouldn’t have been a realistic option there.

Restoring Ecological Awareness
From the beginning, principles of ecology and sustainability guided the design and implementation of this new landscape. Remnants of demolished structures were reused in planting substrates, recycled concrete, or new paving materials.
Creative ways were also found to treat runoff on site and integrate resulting new physical forms in the overall design. Most important has been the transformation of the Emscher River, which runs through the park from east to west. Previously, the river had served as an open sewer channel. The new design culverts and diverts wastewater, while converting the Emscher into a collector for pretreated runoff and rainwater.
Significantly, Latz + Partners decided not to convert this reclaimed industrial channel into a pseudo-naturalistic, romantic, meandering waterway—as proposed by conservationists and other groups. Nevertheless, they managed to reestablish its ecological functioning as habitat for aquatic plants and wildlife. Platforms extending out over the water also make this new environment accessible to park visitors.
In contrast to these highly designed interventions, other large areas of Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord were treated in ways primarily intended to reduce maintenance costs and keep energy inputs low. Disturbed soils on site often have high concentrations of slag, cinder, and the remains of coal or coke. Such extreme biological conditions have resulted in “natural” vegetation growth that reflects the site’s industrial history. Moreover, over the years, seeds from all over the world were introduced along with industrial shipments, leading to a great present variety and mix of native and exotic species—as many as 450 neophytes. These plants now appear at many early stages of natural succession.


I loved that article!

I can’t find it now, but in his day, Euell Gibbons did a foraging demonstration in an urban renewal area of San Francisco. A recurring theme in his writings was that what we think of as “pristine” or “wilderness” areas are among the poorer places for foraging; that wild edibles are in much greater abundance and variety on the fringes of civilization. One of the reasons for this is that many of the wild edibles were not always wild. If you can obtain access to Stalking the Wild Asparagus, you will see that a large percentage of the species he wrote about there are nonnative in North America.


Ribwort plantain, a cosmopolitan weed here, is one of the medicinal plants in Culpeper’s Herbal. No longer used for medicine, it is a ‘weed’.

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