Hügelkultur (German, meaning “hill culture” or “mound culture”) is the garden concept of building raised beds over decaying wood piles. Decayed timbers become porous and retain moisture while releasing nutrients into the soil that, in turn, promote root growth in plant materials. As the logs decay, they expand and contract, creating air pockets that assist in aerating the soil, allowing roots to easily penetrate the soil. This decaying environment creates a beneficial home to earthworms. As the worms burrow into the soil, they loosen the soil and deposit nutrient-rich worm castings, beneficial to plants. An earthworm can produce its weight in castings on a daily basis.  

The best decayed wood for a Hügelkultur, according to A Growing Culture, comes from alders, applewood, cottonwood, poplar, maple and birch. Use wood products that have been in the process of decay for about a year (using green, or fresh, wood products will rob the soil of necessary nitrogen). Some wood products, like cedar and black walnut, should be avoided because they produce organisms that negatively effect plant growth.   

Read more at A Growing Culture

Deciduous Conifers 

Metasequoia glyptostroboides (pictured: M.g. ‘Ogon’), the Dawn Redwood, is a fast-growing deciduous conifer, native to the Sichuan-Hubei region in China. Once thought to be extinct, the tree was rediscovered by a forester in 1944 and has recently become available in the garden trade thanks to the efforts of the Arnold Arboretum (Harvard University). In 1948 they sent an expedition team to China to procure seeds from the tree, after which time the seeds were distributed to various universities around the world for growth trials. It is now the only living species from the genus Metasequoia

The tree is very easy to grow and hardy to Zone 5. It tolerates wet and boggy soils, but is also widely adaptable. The Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwoods Preserve established in 1995 in North Carolina is a privately owned 50-acre park dedicated to the re-establishment of dawn redwood trees for the Blue Ridge Mountains. (The preserve is slated to open to the public in 2035.) 

The re-introduction of these trees into a natural habitat has not occurred in approximately 35 million years. Fossils from Metasequoia glyptostroboides can be traced back to the Mesozoic Era (also known as the Age of Reptiles), which makes this a truly unique landscape tree. 

Taxodium distichum (Bald Cypress), is another fast-growing deciduous conifer suitable to wet and boggy soils, hardy to Zone 4. Its native range is the southeastern United States where it grows happily along stream beds and river banks. The pyramidal tree is notable for its “buttresses” which flare out around the bottom portion of the trunk. When grown near the water, large roots called “knees” protrude from the ground on older trees. The wood from the bald cypress is valued for its water resistance and is thus known as ‘wood eternal.’ 

Interestingly, the bald cypress is another ancient tree, boasting 1,700 year-old trees in the swamp lands of Florida, North Carolina, and Arkansas. 

abluegirl:

Living Wall

These vegetated surfaces don’t just look pretty. They have other benefits as well, including cooling city blocks, reducing loud noises, and improving a building’s energy efficiency.What’s more, a recent modeling study shows that green walls can potentially reduce large amounts of air pollution in what’s called a “street canyon,” or the corridor between tall buildings.

For the study, Thomas Pugh, a biogeochemist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, and his colleagues created a computer model of a green wall with generic vegetation in a Western European city. Then they recorded chemical reactions based on a variety of factors, such as wind speed and building placement.

The simulation revealed a clear pattern: A green wall in a street canyon trapped or absorbed large amounts of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter—both pollutants harmful to people, said Pugh. Compared with reducing emissions from cars, little attention has been focused on how to trap or take up more of the pollutants, added Pugh, whose study was published last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

That’s why the green-wall study is “putting forward an alternative solution that might allow [governments] to improve air quality in these problem hot spots,” he said.Compared with reducing emissions from cars, little attention has been focused on how to trap or take up more of the pollutants, added Pugh, whose study was published last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

That’s why the green-wall study is “putting forward an alternative solution that might allow [governments] to improve air quality in these problem hot spots,” he said.

Full Gallery

(via mamisgarden)

malformalady:

The 88-foot-tall tree, a single survivor among 70,000 trees in a forest along the coast in Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture, has been artificially restored in a project to preserve it. Japan marked the second anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that swept through northern Japan, damaging more than one million homes and killing almost 19,000 people.

malformalady:

The 88-foot-tall tree, a single survivor among 70,000 trees in a forest along the coast in Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture, has been artificially restored in a project to preserve it. Japan marked the second anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that swept through northern Japan, damaging more than one million homes and killing almost 19,000 people.

Botanical Chart: Pollination and Pollinators, University of Wisconsin. 
Celebrate National Pollinator Week: June 17-23, 2013
Flowering plants are intimately tied to wind, water, and especially animals to make seeds and complete their life cycles. Showy flowers, big and small, owe their size, shape, perfume and color to the preferences of critters; insects especially may share any number of blooms from different plant species. This poster illustrates the kaleidoscopic diversity of both the flowers and their pollinators (the astute observer will note that bumblebees love blue).
(Available for purchase from the University of Wisconsin.)

Botanical Chart: Pollination and Pollinators, University of Wisconsin. 

Celebrate National Pollinator Week: June 17-23, 2013

Flowering plants are intimately tied to wind, water, and especially animals to make seeds and complete their life cycles. Showy flowers, big and small, owe their size, shape, perfume and color to the preferences of critters; insects especially may share any number of blooms from different plant species. This poster illustrates the kaleidoscopic diversity of both the flowers and their pollinators (the astute observer will note that bumblebees love blue).

(Available for purchase from the University of Wisconsin.)

American Mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum) 

Look up into the tops of deciduous trees in the dead of winter. See anything interesting? Nestled in the top of this elm tree is a bright green cluster of American mistletoe. It could almost be mistaken for a nest of some sort, but is more commonly referred to as a “witches’ broom.” 

Mistletoe attaches its roots onto the “host” of a healthy tree, stealing valuable nutrients from the tree. (The Greek name for the American mistletoe tree, Phoradendron, translates as follows: phor meaning “thief,” and dedron meaning “tree.”)

How does mistletoe get into a tree in the first place? Since February is National Bird Feeding Month, this seems like an appropriate time to address that question. Birds are the main propagators of the mistletoe crop. They feast on the white sticky mistletoe berries from one tree, then fly off to the next tree, where the birds deposit any sticky berries they might be carrying onto the bark of that tree. The berries adhere to the bark and send out roots within days. Those roots work their way into the tree bark, enabling the establishment of another cluster of mistletoe. 

Today mistletoe is considered an important ecological organism, despite the potential harm it may cause to host trees. The berries are consumed by a number of animals, and the “brooms” are favored by birds (owls and sea birds) for nesting and roosting. In other words, the greater the mistletoe density, the more diverse the wildlife population due to the benefits of food and shelter it provides in woodland and forest areas.  

If the determination is made to remove the mistletoe, the entire limb of the tree must be removed and disposed of. The roots of a mistletoe broom may extend up to a foot along the host limb, so care must be taken in the removal of the branch, and consideration given to the long term health of the tree. Improper pruning will destroy a tree much faster than a mistletoe broom. 

American Mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum

Look up into the tops of deciduous trees in the dead of winter. See anything interesting? Nestled in the top of this elm tree is a bright green cluster of American mistletoe. It could almost be mistaken for a nest of some sort, but is more commonly referred to as a “witches’ broom.” 

Mistletoe attaches its roots onto the “host” of a healthy tree, stealing valuable nutrients from the tree. (The Greek name for the American mistletoe tree, Phoradendron, translates as follows: phor meaning “thief,” and dedron meaning “tree.”)

How does mistletoe get into a tree in the first place? Since February is National Bird Feeding Month, this seems like an appropriate time to address that question. Birds are the main propagators of the mistletoe crop. They feast on the white sticky mistletoe berries from one tree, then fly off to the next tree, where the birds deposit any sticky berries they might be carrying onto the bark of that tree. The berries adhere to the bark and send out roots within days. Those roots work their way into the tree bark, enabling the establishment of another cluster of mistletoe. 

Today mistletoe is considered an important ecological organism, despite the potential harm it may cause to host trees. The berries are consumed by a number of animals, and the “brooms” are favored by birds (owls and sea birds) for nesting and roosting. In other words, the greater the mistletoe density, the more diverse the wildlife population due to the benefits of food and shelter it provides in woodland and forest areas.  

If the determination is made to remove the mistletoe, the entire limb of the tree must be removed and disposed of. The roots of a mistletoe broom may extend up to a foot along the host limb, so care must be taken in the removal of the branch, and consideration given to the long term health of the tree. Improper pruning will destroy a tree much faster than a mistletoe broom. 

Straight from the Stone Age: A Casa do Penedo (House of Stone), was built in the Fafe Mountain region of northern Portugal in 1974 as a family retreat. The two-story house is built between four boulders, and includes a fireplace and built-in swimming pool carved from the stone. There is no electricity in the house, and a wooden ladder acts as a staircase between the connecting floors. 

Beautifully integrated into the mountains, the house sits harmoniously in its surrounding environment, with only wind turbines scattered across the mountain that provide evidence of other civilization.  
Photos: Feliciano Guimarães  
A short-film can be found here, which was made in the summer of 2012.