Edmonds Backyard Habitat Tour

This past weekend I attended the Puget Sound Bird Fest in Edmonds, Washington. Part of the schedule was a wildlife habitat demonstration garden as well as a tour of five backyard habitats. The demonstration garden was the first stop and has it’s own story which I will post separately about soon. This post will focus on the five very different backyard habitat gardens I visited.

Edmonds is a small town, just north of Seattle, which sits on the Puget Sound in Snohomish County and is probably the best known as the residence of travel host Rick Steves.

While the yards were all quite dramatically different, they each offered the essential habitat requirements of food, water, shelter and a place to raise young. Among the lessons that can be drawn from these gardens is how to balance an interest with habitat. In two cases the interest was horticultural, a…

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Seattle University Campus Habitat

Seattle University sits on 48 acres in the middle of Seattle, a five minute walk east from the middle of downtown. It’s in between the First Hill and Capitol Hill neighborhoods and is surrounded by hospitals, medical centers, stores, restaurants and housing. The campus has had a long commitment to sustainability dating back to the 1980’s when the college hired Ciscoe Morris, who is now a local gardening expert and celebrity. Ciscoe ended pesticide use by releasing beneficial insects on the campus which was successful and in turn launched an entire pesticide-free program. The success of the landscaping program spilled over to other sustainable practices such as an award winning recycling program, also begun back in the 1980’s. More recently the campus has seen LEED certified building, Built Green building, a composting program, solar power, electric vehicles, and a multitude of other green practices.

In the…

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A Tale of Two Courtyards

These two courtyards are in my neighborhood in Seattle and present dramatically different landscapes. One is in the center of a U-shaped, tall building and faces north while the other is a short building with an L-shaped courtyard and opens NW. The first one has minimal trees, only small ones in the courtyard and entrance while the second has large trees that cast heavy shadows over much of the courtyard. The first is full of flowers, some native plants and some minimal structural plants of hedge-type plantings. It’s a really lovely space that most people may miss because it’s elevated from the street level. The second courtyard is also elevated, with a locked gate, but it’s not at all lovely. It seems very barren, with only a few varieties of plants, nothing of color and most the plants are heavily trimmed.

From a design perspective there’s no competition, the first…

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Floating Habitat Islands

What started as an artists sketch four decades ago has now become a working product. In 1970 artist Robert Smithson, perhaps best known for his ‘Spiral Jetty’ earthwork, created a sketch showing a tugboat towing a vegetated island on a river and called it “Floating Island“. During his lifetime he was never able to see the idea realized, but in 2005 a team was able to create the island and it toured the shores of Manhattan. There’s a great multimedia feature from the NY Times about the construction of the piece. The islands 30′ by 90′ surface had ten trees, several large rocks, shrubs and turf over bales of hay and soil.

Artist Lynne Hull came up a similar idea titled ‘Bird Barge‘ but on a smaller scale and adding a habitat element to it. Her barges are…

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Interview:: Project Nighthawk

(Photo via:: Project Nighthawk (NH Fish & Game Dept. (1 of 2 patches), Hazen Drive, Concord, NH. Nest patch in 6’x6’ frame, (smaller than the suggested 9’x9’ size) on top of pad. Large 1½ stone may be too big for nighthawks. Note shade structure. Photo by Mike Marchand.)

The Nighthawk is a bird that used to be abundant throughout the US but has been in decline in recent years. There are many potential reasons for this, among them is a change in the construction of roof tops. Nighthawks have been known to nest on roofs with gravel tops, but since most roof construction is now tar, they no longer nest on roofs. There are several reasons for this:  the heat of black roofs, the flatness causes eggs to roll around, and black roofs provide no camouflage. One project, in New Hampshire, is conducting a study to see if they can…

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Wildlife Hi-Rise

The Wildlife Design Competition from the Holbeck Urban Village in Leeds has just closed and the winners will be announced next month. This is the second year of the competition and before the winner is announced, let’s take a look at last years winner. A wildlife high-rise skyscraper was the winner last year by Garnett Netherwood Architects. The 40′ tall structures are made with reclaimed building materials and sit along a canal. The tower is aimed to provide habitat from all kinds of fauna including butterflies, bats and birds. The judges liked the design and said the following about it:

The Urban Takeback design had the right balance of ambition alongside a sensitive understanding of the local environment. Also, its high visibility gives it potential to be a focal point for engaging and attracting the community.

However, the design is entirely conceptual…

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