EcoScape-a term applied to the original EcoScape garden on the campus at Birmingham Southern College, it contains two words, ecological and landscape. The particular details of each garden change but the essence of the goal is the same. To educate visitors on environmental issues like proper stewardship of natural resources, water quality issues, community gardens, re thinking urban spaces with innovative landscapes, creating habitat gardens and including artistic works throughout each project to further enhance the garden and surrounding neighborhood. For more info on EcoScapes goto www.myecoscapes.org or visit the Southern Environmental Center on BSC's campus.
North Birmingham EcoScape constructed for the Southern Environmental Center, Main Street Birmingham with Help from Wells Fargo and the City of Birmingham, Mayor William Bell, American Society of Landscape Architects, Wade Sand & Gravel and Jefferson County Health Department and the North Birmingham community.
What makes a place livable? This is a personal question. It comes down to several basic fundamentals. Food, water, shelter and aesthetics. In designing public garden spaces I think all three of these components come into play and to eliminate one in favor of another would impede the effectiveness of these places.
IN the North Birmingham EcoScape, Food takes the form of fruiting trees and shrubs eidble to humans but also birds, as well as herbs like rosemary and mint. Water is utilized in the choice of plantings. Xeriscaping is a form of landscaping that uses drought tolerant species throughout that once established require nominal maintenance and water. The added benefit is that alot of our native species are Xeric in their water requirements and by using the contour of the land we can slow water down and have it work for us. Shelter is the use of natural shade from trees to keep cool zones within the landscape and benches offer a place of rest but also green places are cooler than urbanized surfaces like concrete and asphalt helping cool our cities. Aesthetics encompass many aspects of an Eco Scape. From the hand painted signage, with interesting facts and definitions of the components of the scape, to flowering shrubs trees and perennial that brighten the space. Recycled brick and gravel pathways create a nice contrast to the mulched planting areas.
What was once a vacant lot has become an inviting pocket park near a re emerging commercial district. We need to keep re iventing and re investing in our 'played out' urban spaces. It is a smart way to grow and evolve and I am proud to be part of this process.
The property is at 2619 30th Ave. North Next to the Wells Fargo bank.
Seven Springs EcoScape-The Powderly neighborhood has a deep history and the springs in this area were once a stop for horse drawn carriages on their way into Birmingham. The springs produce a creek called Nabors Branch which empties into Valley Creek. Residing within this creek is an endangered species called the Watercress Darter or Etheostoma Nuchale discovered by Dr. Davenport and Dr. Howell. The land surrounding the spring is owned by Faith Apostolic Church and the Bishop Heron Johnson together with Wendy Jackson of Freshwater Landtrust and US Fish and Wildlife worked to preserve the habitat of this unique fish. The Southern Environmental Center asked me to come up with an EcoScape plan for this site which included the use of limestone boulders to buffer the spring from parked cars and also control runoff from the surrounding paved areas. Gravel and native plantings act as a natural filtration system trapping pollutants yet allowing drainage to still occur. A recent addition was completed creating a brick walkway and viewing platform, adding native plants, orchard trees and shrubs and several large canopy trees enhanced the spring area. A decorative, nature inspired arbor with a replica of a darter graces the entrance above a darter mosaic. Church goers utilize the EcoScape on special occasions or after a service and with the additional landscaping and fruiting plants the possibility to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Ecoscape The word Eco Scape is actually 2 words in one combining Ecological and Landscape. Designed as teaching landscapes these environmental works of art are part community garden part urban park. When I first met Roald Hazelhoff who directs the Southern Environmental Center, I had no idea I would be part of such good works. I first began landscaping out of necessity as a way to earn a living at something i was good at. To me the real joy of what I do is in creating something special that the client considers an asset to their property and the neighborhood. Whether it is building an herb garden they could derive nourishment from or planting native shrubs and perennials to create a habitat garden for butterflies or migration birds. Someone had an idea or vision and I worked to fulfill that.
So it was with the first EcoScape at Princeton Towers for Baptist Medical Center where a Healing Garden was proposed. The notion of a garden as an oasis, with abundant blooms and edible plants to harvest from, fragrance filling the air from a variety of sources with artwork placed throughout to enliven the imagination. We began with the old pea patch, removing a cyclone fence and increasing our square footage. Princeton towers is an elderly care facility and we interviewed the resisdents to learn their gardening histories so we could tailor the plant selections somewhat. One resident remembered using catmint to make tea another always had fresh tomatoes. Other edibles included:blueberries, apples, blackberries, muscadines, basil rosemary and oregano.
The garden was paved primarily with crushed gravel which is gentle underfoot and provides nice sounds as one walks around. It also allows for stormwater to slowly infiltrate into the landscape helping recharge groundwater. Raised beds bring the edibles to a more comfortable height as most folks here are over 70 and mobility is an issue for some. This also allows soil quality to be maintained easier. Of course the garden is there to be enjoyed by all and profuse blooms begin in early spring and continue till early autumn. There is even some quince, witchhazel and winter honeysuckle that blooms in january and february as well as foliage plants like sourwood that make this an all season garden.
Artwork abounds here from Heather Spencer's Quilt patterned steel fence and gate at the front, to a sunflower mosaic by Jen Staib and the centerpiece a waterwheel by sculptor Jim Neel. A harvest table that resides beneath a grape vine was a collaboration of Rashid Qandil and Jen Staib. Stonework throughout inthe form of rockeries and raised beds was crafted by myself.
Turkey Creek eco-scape was completed in 2008 and has since matured nicely and Birmingham Southern Colleges green museum educates visitors about the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve and was made possible by the Freshwater Landtrust and Alabama's Forever Wild Program.
Upon visiting the site to be addressed there were several glaring problems. For one the asphalt edge of the road was so exposed that any vehicle driving over it ran the danger of losing its better half. This was casued by excessive use and erosion. The ersosion posed another danger to the creek itself. Runoff from roads and parking lots carries trash and pollutants into the watershed poisoning our drinking water and endangering wildlife. Living within this creek are watercress darters small fish @1 1/2 long who are specifically adapted to their habitats and who are good indicators of changes to their habitat. The Vermillion Darter Ehteostoma Chermockii has brilliant markings and is much like alabamas version of a tropical fish.
So part of the project was beautification the other (more important) part was habitat preservation. The first order of business was to create a new parking area so folks would not use the rutted mud puddle currently in use. State lands was charged with that task and in the process they created a surplus of topsoil and fill dirt both of which i readily used in the creation of a swale and berm system to trap and treat stormwater runoff. The addition of gravel to the parking area made it a porous filter of runoff. Large boulders were added by Jefferson County workers to keep off road traffic out of the new bioswale. Brick set on a gravel base was used to create an entry into the bioswale and gravel was utilized here as well to allow water to passively water the landscaping and allow foot traffic. Native plants like serviceberries, coreopsis, bluestem grasses, yellow jasmine, goldenrod and liatris would grow well in the native soils and help soak up water while adding their unique character to the landscaping helping blend the natural and manmade.
Eco Farm an addition to the Samuelson Eco Scape sited on 2 acres of land adjacent to a tributary of village creek. The land was intensely over grown but was level and the quality of soil was good. I decided to clear the majority of the porperty with a mulching machine and also cut a path for the future Freshwater Landtrust trail. An old state road bed is used as the main path of entry. There are a series of gardens within the larger framework of the farm, an herb garden & pollinator garden greet the visitor upon further entry a series of orchards unwind down the garden paths. Peach apple pear plum and fig trees take root while blackberries blueberries and an entire native orchard will produce fruit over time. In the main vegetable beds a series of rotating crops. A compost demonstration area shows a variety of techniques for composting. Simple wire column allows rain water to soak the compost, while an open pile can be turned periodically. The prefab plastic form is more of a cooking composter and will accelerate the process some.
The wider spaces have cover crops applied like sunflowers and clover and will eventually be given over to more intensive plantings of lettuces, greens, beets, and edible sunflower tubers. A small kitchen garden was planted earlier this year and will begin crop rotation.
Other eco freindly ideas include re using broken concrete from another eco scape project to create low walls and a bench. I frequently re use construction materials such as this to get things done, some call it upcycling which is a recent term, i just call it common cents. Casey Culp artfully built the bench for us.
Rain harvesting is accomplished by rain barrels and swaling or contouring of the landscape. As a demonstration farm eco farm can be visited year round and something of interest will be seen.