Tagged with "Sustainability"
We’re pleased to welcome The Green-Wood Cemetery as the latest partner in our Pathways to PRFCT program, a network of diverse public gardens and parks managed for health and well-being, beauty, biodiversity, and sustainability.
Located on 478 acres in Brooklyn, NY, this National Historic Landmark is a sanctuary in the city—for both humans and wildlife. Under a canopy of more than 8,000 trees, the cemetery is a resting place for luminaries such as artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, journalist and politician Horace Greeley, and the first Black woman doctor in New York, Susan Smith McKinney Steward. It’s also a cherished oasis of peace and beauty for New Yorkers and visitors alike, and thanks to a dedicated team of horticulturists, who are working to create a climate-resilient landscape, it’s a haven for birds and other wildlife, too. Birdwatchers flock there during spring and fall migrations.
As the horticulture team adapts to our changing environment, they’ve adopted four initiatives focused on trees, invasive insects, meadows, and grasses:
Green-Wood’s collection of trees showcases an array of native oaks, hickories, American beech, tulip, sweetgum, and sassafras trees (including one of the oldest and largest in New York state). To help protect these “veterans,” some of the oldest in Brooklyn, Green-Wood practices retrenchment pruning, which mimics a tree’s tendency to reduce its canopy as it matures. They are also diversifying their native tree population, and planting hundreds of bare-root trees, which tend to be stronger and healthier, more energy efficient, and easier to plant.
To further protect their trees, Green-Wood has joined forces with the US Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture, and New York State Department of Environmental Protection to identify and track invasive insects. The collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service led to a discovery of a new beetle species in 2019. The same genus as the emerald ash borer, this beetle feeds on stressed beech trees and trees of the Rosaceae family. Through their invasive insect scouting program they are taking steps to help safeguard our urban forests.
They are also actively converting acres of traditional lawn into native meadows, which provide food, shelter, and breeding ground for wildlife. Last year, they teamed up again with Larry Weaner and Associates (the firm has designed other meadows at the cemetery) to create more than an acre of “experimental memorial meadows.” Divided into six sections, each one is seeded with a different mixture of native grasses and wildflowers. The horticultural team will closely monitor the new expanse, collecting data on the life cycles of each plant species, the number and variety of weeds that appear, and note the overall aesthetic to “identify plant species and their combinations that thrive with minimal maintenance and do not obstruct the monuments.”
Climate change heavily impacts urban environments, causing higher temperatures, frequent extreme rainfalls, and longer periods of drought. As a result, the growing season for turfgrass is longer, which means more mowing, while invasive warm-season grasses are rapidly spreading. Working with experts in sustainable grassland management and turf at Cornell University, Green-Wood is incorporating new seed mixes with slower-growing and drought-tolerant varieties, adjusting the frequency and height of mowing, and reducing soil disturbance.
We look forward to following Green-Woods progress and learning from these and other initiatives.
Green-wood’s urban grassland initiative focuses on 403 acres of turfgrass. Photo by Art Presson. Top Photo by Stacy Lock.
Perfect Earth continues to expand our Pathways to PRFCT program, a network of diverse public gardens and parks, managed for health and well-being, beauty, biodiversity, and sustainability. I’m happy to announce that Wethersfield Estate and Garden in Amenia, New York, is our newest partner. Conservation has been at the heart of the 1000-acre estate since it was established by the late Chauncy Stillman more than 80 years ago. He helped shape modern farming techniques by enhancing soil health, reducing soil erosion, and promoting water conservation. Today, the estate features an elegant Italianate garden with more than 20 miles of trails and over 400 acres of woodlands. Upholding that spirit of conservation, the horticulture team is now designing flower displays so there’s always something blooming for pollinators, planting more natives, especially keystone species, and removing invasives on the property. They’re also saving resources, limiting watering to establishing new plants and in times of drought, and retaining biomass on site. We’re especially pleased to welcome them because Perfect Earth's Toshi Yano helped revitalize this garden as their director of horticulture from 2019 to 2022, starting many of these methods. We hope you will visit to see the beautiful results of these nature-based practices.
Photo by Ngoc Minh Ngo.
Founded by renowned textile designer, author, and collector Jack Lenor Larsen (1927-2020), LongHouse Reserve is a 16-acre integrated environment in East Hampton, NY, devoted to the ever-changing interactions between nature, art, and people. It has committed to toxic-free gardening and embraced nature-based practices and programs. LongHouse empowers visitors of all ages to see and think in new ways, and to incorporate art and design into their lives, invoking an ongoing act of creation in a healthy space.
LongHouse is reaffirming and energizing its commitment to embrace nature-based practices, offering a place for respite and recharging in a garden that will flourish without chemicals or harm to nature. Their pesticide-free lawns are healthier for their visitors and the environment. LongHouse also has a closed-loop system, keeping all biomass on-site—look out for stick piles and sculptures made of plant material. In addition, they are helping the community reduce stress and anxiety by offering special programs that help visitors reconnect with nature, such as forest bathing in quiet wooded areas and gentle yoga on clover-covered lawns.
Photos by Philippe Cheng. Courtesy of LongHouse Reserve.
I am writing this on Dec 21, the winter solstice. The shortest day, the longest night, the cusp of reawakening, the time of reckoning. The traditional time to share gifts to reinforce relationships and make sure that our future is bright. But, the gift thing is not what it used to be. Neither is the future.
Rather than the ancient version; thanking, praising, and gifting the earth to ensure that the systems that sustain us will be reborn as the days grow longer, we have turned our back on nature and share gifts between ourselves. Gifts that celebrate our ability to give, our personal resources. For mother nature, not much to celebrate: it’s all at her expense. Ouch, naughty, not nice.
Let’s do some seasonal reckoning. How is this working out?
We have achieved something no other species has managed to do: In our attempts to take total control over nature, we have “put nature firmly back in charge”* The result? We are facing some serious challenges.
Does this sound scary for the future of us? Yes and no. What if we look at it as a fantastic gift? What if Nature is handing us some plain language about being nice to her, hoping we will get the message before things get too messy, and step into the future with her? What if this is the message we will finally get? It is a very big gift. Can we reach out for it? Can we embrace the natural world, without fear, and with a dedication to cooperation? We have all we need to do it: reconnecting with the wisdom of the past and blending it with up-to-the-moment science. We probably can ensure our species’ health and happiness without harming earth’s complex systems.
The gift of the future is right outside your door. There is so much there for you, it’s all in how you take, and how you give.
Your year ahead. Naughty or Nice?
*with a nod to Marcia Bjornerud and Elizabeth Kolbert
If you need the naughty future spelled out for you:
A dense, delightful and endlessly surprising book, well worth the deep dive:
To ease your conscience about the gifts you feel obliged to give:
It’s Fall and here comes the Plant Biomass -- leaves, twigs, tumbling grasses, and the last of the fluffy seedheads. Biomass is all the organic stuff your property makes and, in the PRFCT world, gets to keep…all for itself. Plant biomass provides habitat for insects and adds decomposing matter, which makes healthy soil, which feeds healthy plants, which makes more biomass. That’s the way of the food web loop.
We are all hearing about Leave the Leaves, so while we are figuring out how to do that, why not just do it all, and close the loop: save ALL your biomass? Imagine: No biomass sent to the landfill; no fertilizers, mulch, or compost bought in. Nothing your property makes is treated as garbage. Total harmony, perfect balance, major good for the planet, and for you.
Leaves alone can be a challenge to manage, and they degrade quickly, what about the longer lasting stuff: Twigs, branches, even whole trees; how to find a place for them? ARTFULLY!
Leaves: Chop (when dry!) with a mower and leave as many as possible on the lawn. Next batch can go into planting beds, chopped or not. All the rest – compost. Chopping does damage to insects tucked in for the winter, like Fireflies and Luna Moths, so please do keep that in mind.
Twigs: Make habitat piles as ephemeral art. Wrens and Thrushes especially like having such places to hide from predators and nasty weather.
Every place’s pile has its own personality. The bigger a garden, the more biomass it makes. The more habitat it hosts.
Branches: Get them chipped and use them for garden paths and for smothering difficult weeds.
Get inventive! Every fall, every fallen branch, every invasive shrub cut down, a new opportunity.
Trees: Log piles make great dividers and screens, plus habitat for native bees, chipmunks, and snakes. Yes, you really do need snakes, they eat voles.
Stumps: The heart of a Hügel, (the hill in HügelKulture) PRFCT Earth style. Place stumps and funky logs in a shallow hole. Cover with twigs, sod/soil, leaves, compost, whatever needs a place to decompose. Wet it all down well. Plant a cover crop, or finish with an imaginative use of biomass, like more twigs, or leaves. The stump, deep in the center of it all, emanates moisture and feeds the biome. Artful decomposition.
Meadow and Flower Bed Cuttings (late spring): Haystacks! So many wonderful ways to make them– old sticks can get used up inside…also handy for smothering weeds.