Maine Landscape Architect Elevated to ASLA Council of Fellows

Michael, photographed at Canal Plaza (photo by Christina Wenk for  Maine Home & Design ).

Michael, photographed at Canal Plaza (photo by Christina Wenk for Maine Home & Design).

Michael Boucher, of Michael Boucher Landscape Architecture (MBLA) in Freeport, has been selected for induction into the ASLA Council of Fellows at the ASLA Annual Meeting this November in San Diego. Michael had the following to say about his accolade:

Thanks to our devoted staff and the support of many talented colleagues and collaborators, I am humbled to have been elected to the 2019 ASLA Council of Fellows. I also am grateful to the many wonderful opportunities presented by our fine clients and for my mentors and generous employers along the way.”

Michael is among 22 individuals selected into the 2019 class of the Council of Fellows. ASLA National had the following to say about Michael:

Michael Boucher received his nomination in Works from the Boston Chapter. Michael’s craft is characterized by an ability to skillfully apply clear principles to a wide range of biomes, project scales, and architectural approaches. He strives for all his designs to be not only durable, but to endure in the memories of those who experience them. In collaboration with Canal 5 Studio, he led the extensive redesign and construction of Canal Plaza, which brought new life to an underused and once dreary space in downtown Portland, Maine. Actively engaged in the community, including the Portland Society for Architecture, the Maine Audubon Society, and the Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment, he has also taught in the MIT Department of Architecture as a studio instructor and served as a “reader” supporting thesis students and their advisors. Michael’s simple and restrained designs contribute to the greater conversation about the importance of creating timeless, lasting designs that advance the aspirations of our evolving profession.

Congratulations, Michael!

You can learn more about MBLA’s work by visiting their website and about ASLA’s Council of Fellows eligibility and the nomination process.

Canal Plaza in downtown Portland, Maine - one of Michael’s recent works.

Canal Plaza in downtown Portland, Maine - one of Michael’s recent works.

New! Field Guide to Invasive Plants in Maine 

Author: Nancy Olmstead, Invasive Plant Biologist, Maine Natural Areas Program, Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

Photo: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region

Photo: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region

New! Field Guide to Invasive Plants in Maine

Have you been looking for a handy, portable field guide to help you identify and control invasive plants in your backyard, town forest, nature preserve, or seashore?  The Maine Natural Areas Program, within the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, has just published the Maine Invasive Plants Field Guide, a field guide to identification and control of 46 invasive plants.   

With this field guide in your backpack or pocket, you will be well-equipped to determine if a plant is invasive.  You can then consider how to control it on your property or with your local conservation commission or land trust.  Each species account has detailed information on identification characters, native range, reproductive traits, similar species, and control strategies.  Color photos show plant form and key identification traits. 

The field guide also includes a comprehensive section on how to manage invasive plants, including Integrated Pest Management, prioritization, assessment, control, disposal, and monitoring.  Principles of manual and herbicide control are outlined to help you get started.  You can make a difference through careful invasive plant management which improves habitat for beneficial native plants, insects, and other wildlife!  

The waterproof, compact Maine Invasive Plants Field Guide is available for purchase from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry for $24.95 (plus shipping and tax). See the website of the Maine Natural Areas Program for more information and an order form: https://www.maine.gov/dacf/mnap/about/publications/mipfg.html

For more information on invasive plants, visit: www.imapinvasives.org 

The cover of the new  Maine Invasive Plants Field Guide .

The cover of the new Maine Invasive Plants Field Guide.

Is Landscape Architecture a Shrinking Profession?

It’s back to school time for students and we offer a few sobering thoughts…the profession of Landscape Architecture is shrinking and there are not enough graduates from college to fill the spots that are being vacated by those retiring. With a drop in the national birthrate⁠—last year was the lowest in 30 years⁠—there are less students applying to college and, due to the rising cost of college, more of those students are pursuing trade industries. The other significant issue is that students, parents, college counselors, and teachers do not know much if anything about the profession of Landscape Architecture. So how is ASLA/MSLA helping? How can YOU help?

What is ASLA Doing?

ASLA has been working on numerous fronts trying to address the awareness piece. There are ongoing efforts to have landscape architecture recognized as a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field. This would elevate awareness of the profession on par with other STEM fields.  On July 24th, ASLA Career Discovery and Diversity hosted its first partner meeting with the STEM Education Coalition. The Coalition’s mission is to inform policymakers of the role science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education plays in keeping the United States as the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace.

https://www.asla.org/land/LandArticle.aspx?id=56041

In addition, ASLA has recently developed a Back-to-School toolkit that includes a growing collection of downloadable PDFs packed with blogs, videos, exciting topics, and other free ASLA resources to help introduce landscape architecture as a fun and engaging profession. 

That information can be found here: https://www.asla.org/toolsforteachers.aspx

What is MSLA Doing?

Michelle Grover (MSLA Co-Chair) and Amy Segal (MSLA Treasurer) attended the Maine STEM Summit at Central Maine Community College in Auburn on Friday, May 10th, sponsored by the STEM Collaborative. Michelle and Amy had numerous discussions about the profession of landscape architecture with state educational policy makers, students, STEM educators, and organizations that offer STEM internship opportunities.

Michelle Grover (MSLA Co-Chair) and Amy Segal (MSLA Treasurer) attended the Maine STEM Summit at Central Maine Community College in Auburn on Friday, May 10th.

Michelle Grover (MSLA Co-Chair) and Amy Segal (MSLA Treasurer) attended the Maine STEM Summit at Central Maine Community College in Auburn on Friday, May 10th.

What can YOU do?

Reach out to your local Middle and High School about the profession. Show students interested in creating climate change resilient, socially responsible, and beautifully inspiring places how to do it through landscape architecture. Sign up to host a student job shadow, or give a career day presentation about the profession and your work! We have several copies of Your Land magazines, an ASLA publication with a broad and inclusive description of the profession that may be helpful. You can view Your Land magazine online or contact us for copies.

YOU can also publicize yourself, your staff, your accomplishments and your projects more!  We should be taking every opportunity to display our work, talk about why, what, and how Landscape Architects contribute to improving the economic, environmental, social and cultural well-being of Mainers and beyond.

Please feel free to contact Maine ASLA with any questions!

Landscape Architecture Magazine  ( LAM ) has launched   YOUR LAND,     a special print supplement aimed at young readers that provides snapshots of the profession of landscape architecture and examples of several intriguing project types.

Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM) has launched YOUR LAND, a special print supplement aimed at young readers that provides snapshots of the profession of landscape architecture and examples of several intriguing project types.

UPDATE: Katahdin Woods and Waters Management Planning Process

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This past June, the National Park Service held three planning meetings as part of its process to determine future management of the 87,500 acres that comprise the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The meetings were held in three Maine towns; Soldiertown, Brewer, and South Portland. Presentations by Tim Hudson (NPS Superintendent for KWWNM) and members of the planning team reviewed the results of prior listening sessions and provided an overview of the management framework. Following presentations, attendees were broken into smaller groups and asked to consider the work completed and offer comments and concerns. The planning and design team—comprised of The Musson Group (Southwest Harbor, ME) and TJD&A (Yarmouth, ME)—will be working on revisions to the plan over the next several months and plans to have another series of public meetings in the fall. Information on the meetings will be disseminated by the Park Service and the NGOs; Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine Audubon, and Friends of KWWNM.

For an overview of the planning process, the draft materials that were presented at the June meetings, and news about upcoming meetings (when the dates/locations have been decided), visit: https://www.nps.gov/kaww/getinvolved/planning.htm

The Park Service is actively seeking public comment and feedback on a recently released draft management framework that outlines policies for protecting the Monument’s ecological, cultural, and recreational resources. To comment, write to Tim Hudson, the Park Service Supervisor for KWWNM at: KAWW_Superintendent@nps.gov

To sign up for the KWW E-news, fill out the inquiry form in the “Next Steps” section at the following link: https://www.nps.gov/kaww/getinvolved/planning.htm

Image: National Park Service

Image: National Park Service

Fieldbook 2019

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A major benefit of ASLA Membership in the Maine Section of the Boston Society of Landscape Architects is the chance to publish an article in Fieldbook and highlight your work to a broad range of professional, municipal and public groups from Maine to Boston. Over the years Fieldbook has morphed from a basic informative publication to what it is today, a quality collective of articles, information and education delivering innovative and progressive ideas. This is the regional version of Landscape Architecture Magazine!

2019 will bring two editions. The first, to be released in May, will cover the 2018 BSLA Design Awards. The second edition coming out in fall will focus on exciting projects and happenings within our professional community. Last year, Maine ASLA Members were lightly represented and the goal is to help fill the pages of this larger publication with the incredible work that is happening here. The overall theme chosen to guide the content is “Landscape as Public Forum”. Who has a voice and how is it expressed in the public process? How are landscape architects and designers leading the way?

Proposals are now being accepted for articles. Don’t miss this great opportunity as an ASLA member of BSLA. Please submit a brief summary of your ideas to Gretchen Rabinkin at gretchen@bslanow.org


We. Are. Here.

Article by Dan Danvers

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Venturing into the professional world after college can be a scary transition. In the field of Landscape Architecture, many recent graduates may choose to begin the challenging journey towards professional licensure. Upon graduation, landscape designers may work for landscape architects, contractors, engineers, or at nurseries while simultaneously preparing for their licensure exams. Each of these paths provides skills and experience that guide an individuals creative process, style, and knowledge of construction management functions.

Maine ASLA is partnering with Boston ASLA to help Maine emerging professionals work towards becoming licensed landscape architects. This will include webinars, study events, social gatherings, and open conversations about the benefits of licensure.

This month, I spoke with three local landscape architects to ask them about the beginning of their career.


Will Conway – Sebago Technics, 40 years of professional practice

Did you have any work experience during college related to Landscape Architecture?

Yes, I was a landscape contractor doing designs and labor.

What did you learn from that experience that shaped your future ventures?

I learned about plant massing from an aesthetic point. Many installations we did were done by landscape architects so I studied their plans to learn their style and their plant selection. (Arizona)

What was your big break?

Moving from Arizona to Georgia. It was a completely different area; types of projects were different. My mentors were totally different and were guiding me differently.

What was your first job out of college?

Small firm that was founded by two of my professors. The things they taught me in school continued into practice. One was my strongest mentor who spent the most time with me.

Was there a notable turning point in your career?

Yes, when I moved from a purely landscape architecture company to a multi-disciplinary firm.

Do you have any recommendations for emerging professionals starting out?

Pursue experience through employment, not further education. In other words, if you spend two years out of college in an office you’ll grow exponentially more than if you move straight to grad school.


Steve Thompson – Terrence J. DeWan and Associates, 6 years of professional practice

What made you gravitate towards Landscape Architecture?

Started with an initial interest in architecture. In high school, we had drafting classes which led to finding landscape architecture. I worked in landscaping and wanted to push it further.

Did you have a job that related?

In high school I worked for a garden nursery and high end horticulturalist. I didn’t have an office job during and after college and worked landscape construction instead. I did this two summers and after graduation I worked in a high end garden exposing me to the horticultural side of things.

What did you learn from that experience that shaped your future ventures?

A basic understanding of what goes into design decisions and seeing the outcomes quickly of many decisions.

What was your first job out of college?

Fine gardening contractor in Cambridge, MA formed by Gregory Lombardi – essentially a maintenance company to support the Landscape Architecture installations. Senior year of college it paid off big to help support the professors doing extracurricular deliverables for the focus.

Has there been a notable turning point in your career?

I became excited about visual impact studies with our firm and working with clients to help them make decisions. I really felt like my work truly mattered to a lot of people over all.

Do you have any recommendations for emerging professionals starting out?

Build relationships with as many local Landscape Architects as you can. If you choose to pursue a college degree, or move forward professionally, don’t loose contact.


George Workman – Geoworks+Design, 38 years of professional practice

Did you have any work experience during college related to Landscape Architecture?

During undergraduate school, I had a minor in Arboriculture and worked landscaping.

Did you learn from that experience in a way that shaped your future ventures?

The things that were important to me at the time were being outdoors and art. Being an arborist, I was able to climb trees with chain saws which was a cool experience.

What was your big break?

Big breaks come and go- you have one or two. Some only have one. I was a part of others big breaks as they went through their careers. I was a project manager for Kings Cross project in London. Was Lori Owens right hand designer for a while working in Spain. Moved on from that and taught at Temple University, UPenn, and as a design instructor for UPenn Arboretum.

What was your first job out of college?

Out of UMass undergraduate program I worked for SWA. Being fresh out of school I did a lot of drafting and was the only one in the office from New England. I was doing a lot of planting plans; work they didn’t have large budgets for (field reconnaissance etc.…) Due to the recession, they were hiring younger staff and we were plugged with a lot of responsibility.  

Came to Maine and worked with John Mitchell and Terry Dewan, worked with Michael Boucher.

Applied to Grad School and went to Harvard GSD, got in on a 3-year program to develop an affinity for creative design on a budget.

Was there a notable turning point in your career?

Moving from standard landscape architecture to design build landscape architecture through three recessions and the different roles I had to take for each. The nature of a landscape architect’s relationship with engineers began to change after the last recession.

Do you have any recommendations for emerging professionals starting out?

Get a job and learn everything you can. Your career depends on what you want to do. Pick your Path. I’d say, pick a trend and follow it. Follow your ambitions and never stop learning how to assert yourself as a landscape architect.


Tools for Conceptual Designers: Too many, or too few?

Article by John Gutwin of Pepperchrome

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Tools must fit the task...

The thought process of conceptual design is quite different from that of design documentation. One explores possible alternatives making a series of decisions which lead us someplace new, while the other sets those decisions in stone crystalizing the chosen alternative into a legal contract guiding construction. Both involve drawings, but are on opposite ends of the flexibility/precision spectrum.

It makes sense that a single method or a single software tool is unlikely to be optimal for both tasks. I’m certain you have wrestled with the question of the best tool for the job and have a pattern that works for you and your office. Let’s face it, all computer tools are enormously complex. They can impede the design process rather than enabling it. Learning to use any one package with proficiency takes a substantial investment of time and energy. The investment in learning time far outweighs the dollar cost of software.

In my experience using any software package can be a delight or torture depending on 2 things. The first is the fit of the tool to the task at hand. The second is one's familiarity and practice with the toolset. Stumbling about in more than one half learned software package, each with a different user interface, is a nightmare scenario to avoid. If you are tasked with both conceptual design as well as design documentation, a single software tool is probably too few. Juggling too many is probably unrealistic as well. When I was a young professional I expected computer software by now to mature to the point where even the most powerful software would be as easy to use as markers, but it’s not. Markers and onion skin may stick around forever. The key idea is to be so familiar with your tools that they disappear while you are designing.

Conceptual Design Toolset

If the task at hand is conceptual site design, then the toolset needs certain abilities to fit that task. We will ignore design documentation for the moment.

Basic

  • Layers with transparency for a clear view of the ‘base’

  • Strokes of various widths

  • Filled areas

  • Scale

  • Geometric constraints

Basic sketching on inexpensive tracing paper enables all these attributes using pencil, pen or marker along with a scale and template as extras.

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Attractive designs and attractive renderings can result, but a more robust toolset can leverage and amplify your efforts. Leverage and power come from refined reuse. Computer tools make some nice effects easy.

Digital Step 1

  • Text

  • Symbols (stamps, blocks, components)

  • Line and fill styles

  • Images

All of us old-timers remember using press on lettering, chartpack tape, and symbols photocopied onto clear adhesive sheets as the analog to modern computer tools. Historically speaking, in the 1990’s CAD software was just starting to gain traction, but it was Photoshop 2.5 in 1992 that enabled us to do things that were very hard to do before. We could create a rendering of a scene that looked like a photograph through photo editing.

At that time, CAD software was pretty dull looking with lots of graphical limitations. The only attractive renderings were by hand or with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. The modern versions, including their open source equivalents Gimp and Inkscape are more refined and capable but have remained the foundation of 2 dimensional graphics.

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These 4 programs, Photoshop/Gimp for raster graphics, and Illustrator/Inkscape for vector graphics, also fit the task of conceptual design as they intentionally mimic pencil, pen and marker tools with added leverage of symbols, line and fill styles and images. I group these raster and vector programs together as there is crossover in their tool-sets with each having some capacity for the other. They also share a lot of user interface elements making it reasonable to be proficient in both.

Digital Step 2

  • 3D

  • Lighting/Environment

  • Presentation - multiple viewpoints

Since our experience is in 3 dimensions, we design with 3 dimensions in mind. Designers who sketch out conceptual design with marker often draw a plan view and an elevation siew side by side while considering scale and proportion. Computer tools leverage 3D thinking first by unifying the plan and elevation drawing effort, and second by making viewpoint switching fluid and potentially effortless.

The following diagram lists drawing/modeling/rendering tools that vary from flexible and suggestive on the left to precise and rigid on the right. The drawing tools vary from easy and intuitive near the top to difficult with a steep learning curve near the bottom. This is just my opinion and are only relative to each other rather than any specific measure. The 2D tools are in white text with the 3D tools in black text.

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The most intuitive 3D program in the diagram is Sketchup. It maintains the idea of using a pencil to draw out shapes, and does a marvelous job of snapping to axis and key points like corners and center points without issuing specific commands making some 3d modeling tasks effortless. There is still a learning curve for more advanced features, and it not well suited to freeform curves. It is often used as part of a conceptual design process.

Rhinoceros 3D is not focused on simplicity, but it is well suited to freeform curves as well as general 3d modeling. It is highly precise, but the user interface is more intuitive than Autocad 3D. It is still a stretch for conceptual design unless you are very familiar with it.

Both Sketchup and Rhinoceros 3D are modelers and include only basic shadows and rendering characteristics. To prepare presentation renderings in a realistic style additional software is needed. Lumion fills the gap by importing your models and providing an enormous library of entourage including plants, people, and cars. It’s game engine techniques allow fully rendered environments like beach, desert or mountain and the ability to move through your scene in real time. You arrange your model(s) created in an outside program along with the plants and other elements into a scene from which you produce snapshots and moving videos. Lumion does not stand alone but teams well with modelers like Sketchup, Rhino, Revit, Archicad or Vectorworks. It’s subscription pricing is expensive, but it’s ease of use makes it a good fit for conceptual design.

Vectorworks Landmark is designed to be a complete end to end software package for site design by Landscape Architects. There is no question it covers the construction document end with power, leverage and a touch of grace and ease of use, but although I have not used it, the feature list does not seem to have freeform sketching tools. I don’t think you start there until you have a pretty good idea of the shape and basic geometry your design is going to take. Like Autocad, it’s roots are precision drafting. Revit falls in the same camp of a highly leveraged precision modeler intending to make construction documentation effortless.

The group of 3D modeling packages designed for the entertainment industry include 3dsMax, Lightwave, Blender and Cinema 4D. These are multi-purpose modeling/rendering software that include at least one render engine for producing polished images and animation. These each are very complex with the capability of producing any graphic you can imagine. They are often used for architectural illustrations of completed designs. The odd thing is that some of their characteristics give them a fit to conceptual design as well. The first characteristic is their extreme flexibility. They contain many tools for organic freeform shaping. The second characteristic is a range of rendered output available from suggestive to realistic. Their main downside is the steep learning curve.

Blender deserves special mention because of it’s rapid transition from unimportant oddity to serious contender. It is an open source project funded and developed by many volunteers and contributors and is completely free to download and use. It still has a steep learning curve but with the emergence of the most recent version 2.80 (still in beta) it is a bit easier than it used to be. It also includes a feature unique to Blender called Grease Pencil designed for 2D animation but functions in 3D as well. It operates like writing on your computer screen with a grease pencil, but the marks stick to 3D space and are edited like 2D paint programs. Keep an eye on that for the future. I think it may become a useful tool for conceptual design, particularly with a general purpose modeling and rendering toolset waiting in the wings.

Lightwave also gets special mention as I chose it for my own illustration work years ago based on the high visual quality of it’s built in render engine. It works for conceptual design as well as modeling and rendering for me because of familiarity after years of use. The following images show a pocket park designed and illustrated with Lightwave.

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Recommendations

If you exclusively use markers on onion skin, I recommend you explore the leverage that can be gained by learning a software tool. If you only use 2D in conceptual design, I recommend you explore a 3D option. However, if you use everything listed, you might want to dial it back a little and focus on proficiency over depth. Conceptual design requires an open mind to explore possibilities. You know you have arrived when the tools disappear and the focus is only on the design.

People [Happenings]

Periodically MaineASLA’s newsletter will provide a feature focus on ASLA member landscape architects’ endeavors in their “spare” time outside the office. Many volunteer their time and talents to support community goals and initiatives, and to generally make Maine a better place.

Libbytown Streetscape

Libbytown Streetscape

Nick and Caitlin Aceto of Aceto Landscape Architects (ALA), an ideas-based, Portland design studio have been rolling up their sleeves, getting involved, and working closely with their home neighborhood association (Libbytown, Portland District 5) in Portland.

Primary among their efforts have been:

  • Leading community visualization and concept generation for a revitalized Congress Street corridor. Refining and giving shape to ideas rooted in the “Case for Growth” initiative in 2017, ALA looked at remediating I-295 impacts, reclaiming “lost” lands, and creating a vibrant urban environment.

  • Envisioning Dougherty Field park improvements. In 2018, ALA's concept for an adventure playground at Dougherty Field helped the neighborhood access more than $130,000 in CDBG funds.

Dougherty Field Playground

Dougherty Field Playground

Are you an ASLA member with a project that  you would like featured?  Please send us (info@maineasla.org)  your summary and a few photos to be considered for future newsletters!

Bar Harbor Streetscape Makeover

Story by: Larry Johannesman, ASLA and MaineDOT Landscape Architect

Story by: Larry Johannesman, ASLA and MaineDOT Landscape Architect

Construction is wrapping up this spring on the two-year old Bar Harbor project and will be ready for the summer tourist season. MaineDOT, the Town, the Village Improvement Association, the National Park Service and other community partners all contributed to transforming the corridor to promote better traffic flow and make it safer for all users. Major streetscape improvements were also completed for pedestrians and bicyclists. The Route 3 construction followed recent wayfinding signage improvements throughout the downtown by the Town in partnership with the Acadia All-American Road – one of Maine’s Scenic Byways.

Bar Harbor Map

Significant changes can be seen in the Hulls Cove area. There’s a new sidewalk for people to make their way safely on foot to Acadia National Park and enjoy the spectacular open ocean views on the way.   

new sidewalk

The narrow, steep grades above Hulls Cove created design challenges. The historic Hulls Cove Schoolhouse road frontage property was completely wiped out and new retaining walls, fencing and a garden were put back. Across the street, to avoid a significant bank cut and save trees, the steep bank was protected with a rockery slope using local granite.

local granite rockery slope

The spectacular bluffs area directly alongside Acadia National Park will now have a wide shoulder for improved pull-off parking to enjoy the ocean views. Brown painted guardrail was used instead of the standard shiny galvanized.

pull-off parking

Closer to downtown, the new 10’ wide multi-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists replaces the wrinkled, failing, narrow sidewalk. The new path will allow safe, easy movement on foot or bike back and forth between the large hotels and downtown. There’s new sidewalk on the other side of Route 3 and both sides will have new Island Explorer bus stops. Native plantings will be used along the path in front of College of the Atlantic to screen campus parking and a few small buildings. Many of the trees removed to make room for the path will be replaced with disease resistant elms and other native trees.

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Just beyond the college on the north side of Route 3, numerous historic granite pillars had to be removed for construction.  As you can see in the photos below, these pillars were disassembled, new footings poured and then rebuilt on the adjacent property preserving a significant landscape element in this part of town.

Maine DOT construction

Near the terminus of the MaineDOT construction project The Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association created a small park at the intersection of West and Eden Streets. The photos below show the park plan and workers installing the pavers for the fountain area and Fire of 1947 Memorial spot. This special spot known as DeGregoire Green will allow visitors and town residents to rest and get back away from the busy intersection. Interpretive signage and benches will be placed along the walkway.

DeGregoire

The "Buzz" is Beautiful

Photos and Story by Larry Johannesman, ASLA

Photos and Story by Larry Johannesman, ASLA

One calm summer morning a few years back, I bounded out the door headed to the car when it hit me. I glanced towards my garden bench and thought STOP!  Do not let this peaceful, lovely “morning moment” pass by as usual.  So, I embraced this odd thought usually reserved for evenings or weekends and sat down on the rickety little bench in my small dooryard garden.

Within just a few moments, as I looked around at the plants, what seemed like a dead silent landscape, was absolutely buzzing with life. Sure, the “Buzz” included the usual wasp cruising by and a bumble bee hovering, but to my amazement there were so many other types of insects flying, hovering, crawling and darting about the plants and flowers all around me. For sure - not a single one of these creatures cared about me.

My Garden Bench

As a landscape architect who cherishes plants, I thought I knew pretty well what many of us are excited about and how the “Buzz” is truly a significant and beautiful thing,  but now I really knew. It was time to do more about planting natives and encouraging pollinators everywhere and in ways I didn’t imagine before. So, with that in mind I wanted to share some information with you that’s helping me do more.

My colleague and MaineDOT Statewide Vegetation Manager Bob Moosmann worked with Heather McCargo of the Maine-based Wild Seed Project and many others to promote greater supplies of native plant seeds and to encouarge roadsides as places for pollinators to thrive.  

Check out Bob’s article in Maine Trails Magazine (February – March 2018, page 53) to learn about the roadside movement happening at MaineDOT.

The effort was primarily to determine native plant species best suited for roadside native plant restoration. The project culminated in a simple, valuable guide which as many plant “guides” go - can be used for other applications we dream up. You can download the guide by clicking here.

Roadside Flowers

Now, I am not an expert on pollinators or native plants, but there’s no question bees and other pollinators are critical to plant reproduction, our food supply and to so many things we love about our landscapes. The “Buzz” on this subject matter can come at us from many angles and a notion like: use only natives to help pollinator populations can be misleading. So, lots of guidance can be found here in the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.

There are many, many places to get native plant species information, but one of my favorites for the way it can take you right down the “that’s an interesting plant rabbit hole” is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website. Click here and go to a page listing native plants suitable for Maine landscapes to pick one you’re not familiar with and give it a test run on a project or in your own garden.

Our newsletter sponsor Pierson Nurseries has a List of Native Plants they sell here in Maine. Try the Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Native Plant Database list or the University of Connecticut’s New England Native plants page to discover a few different plants.

Bee

Another fun and challenging way to engage in discovering the best plants for pollinators is to take a walk in an unfamiliar Maine landscape and use your smartphone to snap photos of mystery plants buzzing with insects. Photos in pocket, we can head back to the office to identify them. An easy on-line plant ID key I discovered is The New England Wildflower Society’s Go Botany - Simple Key. Try it out by clicking here.

I have always marveled at insects, but discovered late in life that this multitude of important creatures are “invisible” to us because we live in a different realm. We are truly connected to them and I’d like to think the questions of What native plants will we use?  and What pollinators are we trying to attract?  will go near the top of our lists to accomplish when we begin to design our projects.

Hopefully, some of the resources presented here are new or prove useful and you might nod in agreement that indeed - The “Buzz” is Beautiful.