February 3, 2011
With winter hopefully winding down (if the groundhog is to be believed), it’s not difficult to think about the warm breezes and beautiful blooms that will return to the stark landscape come spring.
Students in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture’s Junior Design Studio and Horticulture Directed Studies program, have had their minds firmly on thoughts of “Springtime in Paris” for two semesters.
At the 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show, Temple University Ambler Landscape Architecture and Horticulture students will seek to strike a perfect balance between the natural landscape, architecture, landscape design, horticulture, art, and sustainability.
Temple’s exhibit — “Écolibrium – French Traditions/Modern Interpretations” — meshes perfectly with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s 2011 Flower Show theme, “Springtime in Paris.” The Flower Show runs from Sunday, March 6 through Sunday, March 13, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch streets, Philadelphia.
“French gardens provided an innovative message — they were always about looking forward and improving on what had been done before and discovering new ways of growing and maintaining plants. We wanted to get a sense of what the elements and design principals used in designing these iconic landscapes were while at the same time taking a more modern approach,” said Baldev Lamba, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture. “We didn’t want to simply recreate a French garden. The students have developed a design, based on conceptual ‘parti,’ that incorporates elements of the gardens with a modern interpretation, using new materials, new composition, and new messages. Écolibrium is about form reflecting and revealing historical patterns, natural functions, and innovative solutions.”
According to Lamba, the goal of the Écolibrium exhibit is to “promote ideas of sustainability while creating memorable design expressions that are inspired by French garden and French art traditions.”
Inspirations for the design of the exhibit have ranged from the gardens at Versailles, a “a perfectly balanced ensemble of structures, landscape, horticulture, and sculpture,” said Lamba, and the work of artist Piet Mondrian, an important contributor to the “De Stijl” art movement, which advocated “pure abstractions and universality by a reduction of the essentials of form and color.” Mondrian’s work, for example, often consists of white backgrounds, black-lined horizontal and vertical grids and the use of just the three primary colors.
More than 25 students in the Junior Design Studio and Horticulture Directed Studies program have been diligently working on Écolibrium during the fall and spring semester in preparation for the Flower Show. Professor Lamba is coordinating the effort along with Horticulture Staff Supervisor and Adjunct Assistant Professor Grace Chapman and Adjunct Assistant Professor Michael LoFurno.
Écolibrium continues a long tradition in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture of interdisciplinary and hands-on learning experiences that promote a sustainable design approach.
The students are taking a team approach to the project — similar to how a professional landscape architecture firm would approach such a complex task. The teams are comprised of students focusing on: Greenhouse Structures; Water Elements; Woodland and Sunny Parterres; Materials; and Education and Publicity. The student Project Manager for 2011 is Landscape Architecture junior Patrick Whealton.
“The exhibit is about bringing art, architecture, and the environment into balance — traditional and modern, old and new, controlled and natural, sun and shade, open and closed spaces,” said Whealton. “We’ve also focused on creative use of materials — using recycled and repurposed materials wherever we can in a beautiful way that’s in sync with the environment.”
According to Andrew Slot, a junior Landscape Architecture student who has worked with four of the different student teams on the exhibit, one of the important aspects of Écolibrium is developing and educating visitors about sustainable practices while paying attention to the ecology — “why we chose specific plants for specific places.”
“Each area of the exhibit is a small representation of a type of ecology. The exhibit incorporates the largest variety of trees, the largest water element, and the largest structure that have been created for our Flower Show exhibits in recent years,” he said. “Focusing on design/build, creating and working with construction documents, finding the materials, and ultimately building the exhibit is a great experience.”
A walk through the 36-foot by 20-foot Écolibrium exhibit is a walk through well crafted examples of a variety of sustainable approaches to modern garden design that is informed by French garden traditions such as the use of perspective and optical illusion, balancing light and shade elements, creatively designed parterres, and an extensive use of water elements, such as a canal.
Primary sections of the exhibit include a greenhouse complete with green roof garden inspired by Mondrian’s artwork; a sunny parterre and shady — or woodland — parterre; and a canal, which collects water from the greenhouse roof.
“Art and design can be much more than just aesthetically pleasing. The exhibit is an example of a large system, comprised of a series of smaller systems, working together sustainably. The greenhouse and green roof are examples of relating architecture with plant material, which, in turn, relates to the canal as the canal re-circulates water runoff from the roof,” said Landscape Architecture Junior Diana Fernandez, part of the Greenhouse team. “The greenhouse will be an example of a working greenhouse, with examples of worm composting that includes live worms. The canal includes mostly native wetland plants while the woodland parterre includes huge magnolias, flowering plums, and groundcover plants and the sunny parterre will highlight patterns of perennials, magnolias, sky pencil hollies, and mirrors, which will create the illusion of a larger space.”
Students in the Horticulture Directed Studies program have been working for two semesters to ready more than 2,000 individual plants from 110 different species for the Flower Show exhibit, according to Grace Chapman.
“Preparing plants for the Flower Show is an intense process. The students have to closely examine each plant’s life cycle, how they grow, when they will bloom, and under what conditions while also keeping the plants healthy and protected from pests and disease — it’s a great opportunity to learn how to troubleshoot and come up with creative solutions,” said Chapman. “We are one of a handful of exhibitors that force their own plants for their exhibits. Each year, our goal is to display the highest quality plants that we can and the students are always challenging themselves to try new things and new plant material.”
Horticulture junior Chelsea Mahaffey said she decided to enter the Directed Studies program to further her interest and skills in public horticulture. Working on maintaining and coaxing the plants to flower and bloom for the Écolibrium exhibit, she said, “is a perfect fit for my interests.”
“The Philadelphia Flower Show is one of the largest events highlighting public horticulture every year. I think one of the primary goals with our exhibit is education. I want the visitors to learn something and be able to apply it to their gardens at home — I truly think that should be the goal of every garden anyway,” she said. “There is a lot going into this year’s exhibit and it highlights many different topics, from sun tolerant plants and sustainable greenhouses to green roofs and water management. I never realized how much work goes into just one Flower Show exhibit. By working on this project, I’ve learned so much a design, growing, and even what goes into ordering plant material. It shows on a grand scale what horticulture and landscape architecture is all about.”
Écolibrium, Chapman said, will showcase a wide variety of plants, from herbs such as tri-color sage and red veined dock to water plants such as lilies, papyrus, bald cypress, and juncus.
“The Greenhouse will include tropicals, such as lemon and kumquat trees and dwarf pomegranates while the green roof will give students the opportunity to play with patterns and get more creative with the types of sedums we’re using and work with new cultivars that will exhibit interesting colors,” she said. “For the students, one of the benefits of working on the Flower Show exhibit is that they come across plants that they might not learn about in the classroom and it helps them to expand their plant knowledge. For our visitors, we try to be realistic in the plants we chose — we want to use ‘ordinary’ plants in new ways that inspire them to try new things in their own gardens.”
According to Lamba, every part of the exhibit “has a particular application that could be used in someone’s yard.” The greenhouse — a traditional staple of royal gardens used to extend the growing season — can be used to similar effect in small urban spaces, he said.
“This small enclosed space can be used year round to grow fruits and vegetables. We really wanted to stress the idea of sustainable applications,” he said. “For our water canal, for example, we didn’t want it to just be a visual part of the exhibit, we wanted there to be a sustainable element to it. In the parterres, visitors will find some excellent examples of what kinds of plants to use if they have a lot of sun or a lot of shade.”
The 2011 exhibit, Lamba added, also incorporates materials Temple has never used in a Flower Show exhibit before, such as “plastisoil.” Developed by Temple University Professor Naji Khoury, the material is a mix of recycled plastic that remains porous and allows numerous colors and patterns to be added into the design.
“It’s a perfect example of sustainable materials that can be quite attractive. We’re also using ‘papercrete,’ which is being developed by Jon Price, Structural Engineer, for our storage structure and some of our flower beds, which is comprised of used newspapers and has a similar consistency to adobe construction,” Lamba said. “The greenhouse is being built from salvaged wood and we’re also incorporating mushroom wood from mushroom farms in Lancaster.”
Lamba said Écolibrium is a multi-sensory experience “that we hope will appeal to all five senses.”
“My goal is to have visitors stop, look, think, feel, and be inspired to learn about these new sustainable ideas and use them in their own gardens,” he said. “We want this exhibit to stay with them long after they’ve left the Flower Show.”
For more information on “Écolibrium” contact 267-468-8108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Philadelphia International Flower Show, presented each year by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) is the largest indoor event of its kind in North America, welcoming more than 300,000 visitors a year.
Temple University Ambler has a long and illustrious history with the Flower Show, taking home “Best in Show” awards in 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2010 and prestigious honors from the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania in 2004 and the Horticultural Society in 2006. In addition to Best in Show in the Academic Educational Category in 2010, Temple University Ambler’s exhibit was also awarded the prestigious Bulkley Medal of the Garden Club of America, the American Horticultural Society Environmental Award, and the Philadelphia Unit of the Herb Society of America Award.
Building upon a rich history of environmental teaching that dates back nearly a century, Temple University Ambler is home to the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. The degree programs are a unique blend of disciplines, providing students with the design and plant background necessary to succeed in any aspect of the Green Industry.
The Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture at Temple University Ambler, part of the School of Environmental Design in Temple’s College of Liberal Arts, is committed to excellence in ecologically based education. The department’s goal is to train leaders in the art and science of horticulture (A.S., B.S., and certificate programs) and landscape architecture (MLArch and B.S. programs). The programs provide students with knowledge and understanding of the environment so that they can improve the quality of our urban, suburban, and rural communities.
For more information on the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture programs at Temple University Ambler, visit www.ambler.temple.edu/la-hort. For more information on the 2011 Philadelphia Flower Show, visit www.theflowershow.com.