Grasses abound in the public realm.
By Rick Darke
Looking beyond the proverbial garden border, what further
roles can grasses play in our shared spaces: our parks, public gardens,
corporate and college campuses, community open space, streetscapes, highways,
byways, greenfields, and brownfields? Livable landscapes most often result from
a collegial approach to their design and evolution, in which both authority and
responsibility are shared among colleagues dedicated to continuous observation
and the exploration of possibilities.
When thinking about grasses and our modern shared landscape,
there’s perhaps no better place to begin than the parking lot. If parking lots
are here to stay, then we might as well treat them as gardens. Grasses offer
myriad solutions to the typical challenges of parking lot landscapes, since
they can withstand compacted, nutrient-poor, droughty soils, winter winds, and
summer heat intensified by reflection from paved surfaces.
A parking lot on the Bard College campus in
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, demonstrates the appealing practicality of a
mixed planting of local and exotic species that includes Miscanthus sinensis, Schizachyrium scoparium, Panicum virgatum, and
Pennisetum species. Although the Miscanthus and Pennisetum species are not native New Yorkers, the growing season
in this part of the Hudson River Valley is too short for either to produce
viable seed that might pose a risk of invasive behavior in local habitats.
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