" To plant trees is to give body and life to one's dreams of a better world " Russell Page

Monday, November 26, 2012

Vegitecture - Green Wall Project in Barcelona

After the last post about the absurd tree chopping I can bring some really nice novelties from Barcelona too!
I don't know you, but I'm getting a bit bored with the current green walls frenzy... I still think that Patrick Blanc has done some incredible work, but there are more and more not so great "clone projects" around the world which frankly do not have the same result.
Some seem just plain and forced copies - I mean, Blanc is a true botanist and the plant choice he uses is very fine tuned to the specific growing conditions. In many other cases I see a lot of virtuosism but no real "mini ecosystems" - just plain vertical planting...
Besides that I suspect that the real and true maintenance costs are in both cases quite high...

But recently I came across a different kind of green wall project which I found extremely interesting.
The project dates from 2011 and is the work of Barcelona based studio Capella Garcia Arquitectura S.L.P.

More than a green wall of tiny little plants stuck in a supporting felt structure, this is a real construction that consists of a self-supporting galvanised steel structure, fixed parallel to the existing blind wall of an urban building. The structure is a nine stories construction, accessible via a staircase which enables the maintenance of the plants.

 More than a green wall, we are talking about a sort of green vertical garden. An example of "vegitecture" a hybrid between architecture and employment of living and diversified plant material.
The project has been promoted by the Barcelona City Council, in order to offer an aesthetic solution to an area affected by demolition of a building at the confluence of two trafficked streets.

From the first to the eighth level,  flower-trough modules are arranged perimetrally, on two distinct levels on metal platforms. These can be reached, with restricted access, from the ground floor by way of interior steps. This convenience of access is precisely what differentiates this structure from other vertical greenery, maintenance and replanting of which always has to be done from the exterior using elevating platforms, making the process a difficult and expensive one requiring specialised labour.

Besides the aesthetic results, which I find to be very urban and pleasant, this type of green wall treatment, offers an effective environmental benefit.
It works as a noise and dust particle absorber, it contributes to micro climate regulation and offers a valid shelter to a diversified choice of insects (good bugs) and birds, contributing though to promoting biodiversity inside the urban areas. As a matter of fact, nesting boxes are also integrated.

Water consumption is minimised by means of an automatic programmed drop-by-drop irrigation system with controlled drainage and automatic dosing of fertiliser.

The project still being relatively recent, I am very curious to see how it will develop in time and if the plants will succeed in colonising successfully the whole structure. On the whole I think that it is a very smart way of dealing with urban green spaces and I would love to see it applied and declined in many other versions.


Friday, November 16, 2012

The Shamefull Tree Mutilation

This morning I intended to write about trees, but I thought about Quince trees - those lovely grandma trees I'm particularly fond of...
But a horrid chainsaw noise diverted my attention! And what I saw out of the window, was the periodical show of tree massacre. 
For incomprehensible reasons (at least for sensitive and nature caring beings)  every year the local municipality sends out a hoard of workers who systematically mutilate all urban trees.
The lacking of criteria in doing so is quite appalling - there is no checking for old, sick or fragilised branches - there is a systematical chopping off of all vital branches. What they leave behind is a mutilated stump, sad and gruelling to look at.

But the most important thing - at least to me, is that by doing so, far from regenerating or cleaning the trees, they irremediably weaken them to the point of shortening their life.

Urban trees have a pretty difficult life anyway. They are true survivors in a hostile environment, poor to almost non existing soil, scarce water and loads of contamination. Yet their benefits are enormous, let aside the aesthetical side, those trees filter the air, retain particles and dust, regulate air humidity, cool down the temperature, offer shade and sight protection, create effective noise barriers and provide a shelter for birds and insects. Yet, in order to reward them for these services, we regularly mutilate them in this way...

It should be said that by eliminating the entire crown, the tree is forced to balance out the crown-root proportion by killing back a considerable part of the roots. Thus the whole structure is enormously fragilised and becomes a true danger in case of heavy storms and winds - which alas are more and more frequent.
This treatment is inflicted especially to big trees - the ones pictured are plane trees, whereas the Celtis australis next to them, have escaped so far...

One could object that in spring those trees will thrive again and rebuild their lost branches...
Well, yes, those poor amputated stomps will sprout again, but the result will be quite poor. The quality of the new wood will be much poorer than the previous, slowly built one, since the tree will force itself to regenerate as quickly as possible. It will desperately need new leaves in order to feed itself so the new - hastily build branches will be long and weak, with wood much less compact and healthy.
Furthermore, a weak tree will be prone to pathogens which afflict especially our street trees, like fungus and insects, causing them further damages.
In economical terms we face not only the costs of the barbaric chopping but on longer terms the cost of removing irremediably sick and dead trees and replacing them with others which will receive the same treatment.
So I ask myself where the benefits of such mutilations are? 

Is it a lack of forestall and botanical knowledge to be blamed? A lack of environmental awareness in the municipal offices paired with hard driven beliefs that this type of action will give the citizens the feeling that they do their jobs? I frankly don't know...

The only thing I'm sure of, is my sense of frustration and shame when I look at those poor mutilated trees. I feel like asking them for forgiveness for such stupid and blind behaviour of fellow humans.

Can we hope in future for a respectful treatment of those majestic living beings called trees which are so much more than a pole to attach one's bicycle and an instant loo for our dog?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Open that bag!

Since quite a few of us are still toying around with bulbs and seeds, here are some absolutely delicious bulb packaging ideas I found on Pinterest...
If the plant shop next corner would carry those sachets I would probably buy anything - even fire engine red tulips (which do really not fit into my planting scheme) by the load...





Such adorable tags - even if the laser cut probably makes them quite pricey! But the font is gorgeous and they would look great for just divided roots and perennials.


This DIY template is great for making lovely seed and bulbs sachets to store for next season or more to the point, give away as presents for gardener friends!

The shown pictures are not mine and the credits are those that I found on Pinterest.