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Jepson Bee Workshop

I had the great honor to be invited to the Jepson Herbarium native bee workshop hosted by the Urban bee lab at UC Berkeley. The event took place at the UC Hastings reserve nested deep in Carmel Valley. The workshop had attendance from all over the United States, and even someone from Australia and New Zealand. Most people were entomology researchers, and some museum docents. Photo Jun 07, 9 38 24 AM

The setting was not only magnificent to enjoy but it is also one of the areas with the highest diversity of native bees. About 400 different species can be found there. Keep in mind that there is an  estimated 20,000 different species of bees in the world. California has about 1600. Identifying this bees is no easy task, I learned. But it is important work to keep track of the health of the species.
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The workshop focused on learning to identify native bees and looking at which bees are attracted to which plants. This is helpful to understand what plants to use to support pollination in agriculture and healthy bee diversity. Our time there included lots of lectures about bee identification and the different research that the legendary Dr. Robbin ThorpDr. Frankie, Jamie and Sara are doing at the UCB bee lab. There was also a lecture on how to photograph bees up close by Rollin Coville. I was especially excited about that lecture because it gave me a good excuse to buy a macro lens that I have been dreaming about for years. We spend a lot of time in the lab looking at bees under the microscope but also a lot of time in the field observing and collecting bees.
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It became very apparent to me that this group of bee entomologist had low tolerance for anything non scientific. I asked about the healing properties of native bee venom compared with honey bees and got a what-are-you-talking-about-there-is-no-scientific-proof-for that response. So, for the most part, I kept my spiritual connection to the bees to myself. But I did share some of my apiteraphy success experiences and some people were interested on hearing my “non-scientific” bee stories.
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During out five day workshop, we were guided through the scientific process that they have developed to asses the population of native bees. We placed traps with with soapy water on different color plates in the field at 8′ intervals, and came back to collect the bees after 4 hours.
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We also collected bees with nets in specific plants. One of the research that they are doing is bee/plant relationship, looking at which bees are attracted to which plants.
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We then took those bees back to the lab, most of them were already dead but to be sure they were placed in jars with ethyl acetate/nail polish remover. We then placed them in a tea ball and dried them up with a hair drier to get their hair and wings all fluffy again. high tech!
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Then, the hardest part, pinning the bees. We had to careful insert a pin in the abdomen of the bees and place them with the wings, legs, antenna, etc. extended so they can dry up like that and be identified.
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We specified which bees were found at which plants and line them up so they can keep track. I gather all my bravery to do this work, in the name of science! This was hard enough for me and then one of the bees that I pinned started coming back to life and was moving on the pin. I was terrified. They took the bee away from me and put it on the freezer to make sure it died. They tried to convince me that since bees have no brains they feel no pain. Nice try! I was done pinning bees. There was no sharing circle or any other outlet to express my feelings and emotions with this group of scientist so I just went on a walk and waited outside until happy hour. I needed a drink!
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However looking at the bees under the microscope is really fascinating!!! They are so incredibly beautiful and colorful. Native bees come in all colors, amazing metallic blues and greens, bright yellows, orange, black. They have iridescent wings that go from pink to purples to oranges. They have 3 third eyes! National Geographic did an amazing story called Intimate portrait of bees that show some of this amazing bees up close. Looking at the bees under the microscope kind of reminded me of diving and being suspended in another reality seeing incredibly beautiful creatures. As I looked at them, I kept wondering how do we look to them through those big and tiny eyes.
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Photography by Sam Droege, USGS

 Out in the field we collected nectar from different flowers to measure the sucrose level, this gives us more information on why different bees are attracted to different flowers. We can also see how some flowers release all the nectar and pollen at once while others do it at intervals throughout the day or at a certain day after opening.
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The flowers get covered with a paper bag early in the day so the bees can not take the nectar. We then remove flower petals gently to reveal nectar at the base of the flowers and we collect the nectar from the flower using a microcapillary pipette. The nectar is then released onto the prismatic surface of a pocket refractometer and with that we get the sucrose results. It was not as easy as it sounds….
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Turns out pollination is not just bees going from flower, it is a lot more complicated than that. Pollination is a multifaceted, complex relationship between an enormous diversity of plants and animals. And not all bee pollination happens in the same way, some bees carry pollen on their legs, soma carry it on their bellies, and some bees vibrate as they approach the flowers to release the pollen.
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The Clarkia unguiculata  is one of such flowers. It has eight long stamens, the outer four of which have large red anthers. The stigma protrudes from the flower and can be quite large. It also moves as the days progress as you can see on the picture above. On the first day the stigma is low but by the second day the stigma curves up. A specific type of native bee is attracted to this flower, it lands on the flower and it vibrates onto the stigma, the vibration releases the pollen from the four outer anthers. Once the pollen gets released other bees, such as this bumble bee can collect it and move it around. There it was, in front of us, the oldest love affair in the planet, pollination.
IMG_8212I realized that the beauty of this phenomena, weather we see it trough a scientific or a spiritual lens, is our
ability to witness the magic of it. Life happening, transforming, unfolding in front of our eyes.
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In deep gratitude to the Berkeley bee lab team for inviting me to this exciting week filled with bees, science and magic! With honey in my heart!

“Life without wonder is not worth living.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel

ASLA-NCC has announced their 2015 Awards Recipients.

We are excited to announce that BASE has received an Honor Award in the Research, Planning, Analysis, and Communication Category for our work on the El Monte Urban Agriculture Initiative and a Merit Award in the Parks, Recreation, Trails, and Open Space Category for our work on the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County!

Congratulations to all who were recognized!

El Monte Urban Agriculture Initiative

El Monte

 

NCC-ASLA - Merit Award - El Monte - website

 

Children’s Museum of Sonoma County

CMOSCNCC-ASLA - Honor Award - CMOSC - website

 

 

 

 

Our Children Museum of Sonoma County project got published in Landscape Design Magazine in China.

Check it out:

Landscape Design - Cover

 

Landscape Design - Page 94-95

 

 

Landscape Design - Page 96-97Landscape Design - Page 98-99

 

Landscape Design - Page 100-101

 

 

Raise the Queen!

It is not every day that I meet a bee priestess at her bee sanctuary. But it just happened, in the South Point of the Big Island of Hawaii! Through a magical synchronistic set of circumstances I was able to find and meet a Melissae sister Alison Yahna.


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We connected for a few hours, and under the buzzing of her kitchen hive we entered into the “Hive zone” where time and space became ethereal. We both recognized each other from another time through the shared stories and visions that we have received from the bees, shamanic journeying and dreams.


kitchen hive

It is always a sweet reminder that I am on the right path when I find bee sisters with whom I can connect in this way. It is together that we are reconstructing the comb that holds the forgotten stories of the path and the medicine of the hive. We are the new archetypes creating the modern day mythology of the Melissae. As I sit and write this I got a very special book in the mail “The Song of Increase – Returning to Our Sacred Partnership with Honeybees” by Jacqueline Freeman. It is hard to focus and write this because I just want to finish reading this amazing book. It is, as if I’m writing and reading the same story. The book is yet another confirmation and I will include some of the bees voices from the book in this post.

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My trip to Hawaii was partly fun and relaxation and partly research and exploration both professionally and spiritually. I have been working on a plan to create a bee sanctuary, a place to honor, protect and learn from the bees. This is a vision (a task) that was given to me by the bees. Hawaii keeps coming up as a place to explore for this project.  I visited a few farms and talked to many farmers while I was there. They all reported the same, the bees are dying. Similar to the bees in the main land, the bees in Hawaii are suffering from the Varroa Mites. But the island has also been hit with two recent invaders, Nosema ceranae, and the small hive beetle, which have further exasperated the disappearance of the bees in the Big Island. Nosema is a type of fungus that can shorten the bee’s life span by about one week.  The small hive beetle has spread to hives around the island and is responsible for the loss of thousands of hives on the island. It lays its eggs in the hives and as the larvae develop, they eat everything in the hive leaving a slime, which renders the hive unlivable for the bees. This happens really fast and bee keepers have to be on a constant search for the beetles checking the hives every four days or so, which is really time consuming and hard to do.

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When I meet with Allison we talked about this issue and she reported that she has lost a lot of her hives to the beetles. She thinks the shape of the hives is a big contributor to the problem because the beetles can easily hide in the square boxes. She is working on transitioning her hives to round hives – sun hives and has a business plan to create sun hives as they are currently not available in the US. She is seeing wild hives build on the open air. Hawaii is warm enough that bees dont need the box and she thinks this helps them protect from the pests because there is no place for them in the open air hives.

We also talked about the larger complexity of why bees are dying. Yes, the systemic pesticides (Neonicotinoids) applied indiscriminately to all plants, edibles and ornamentals, are weakening the immune system of the bees. Yes, bees are unable to survive the pest that attack them. But all that, in a way, is a symptom of the larger problem. We have lost our sacred relationship with bees.

Bee-Prosperity-by-Greg-Spalenka

In ancient times, humans planted a garden and bees pollinated it and made it fertile. Humans approached bees with reverence and looked at them with a certain consciousness as if they were divine gods on earth. Humans loved and honored bees. This was a common theme on all ancient civilizations. In Greece, the priestess of the oracle at Delphi were known as the Delphic Bees – The Melissae, they gathered around the Omphalo  (a hive shaped stone) for guidance and psychic knowledge.  In the bees words through Jacqueline Freeman “Pollination is much more than fertilization. The act of pollinating moves reproductive forces and, at the same time, enlivens the ether…The hive is a beacon of light where work and love go hand in hand. To the nature spirits, each hive and each bee is wrapped in light. The sound of an industrious hive is so full of life that it feeds the soul. Hives are sources of  spiritual nourishment for the kingdom of nature’s spirits and places of deep reverence. Nature spirits come here and recharge and rejuvenate themselves.”

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Today, bees are being exploited in an abusive, unsustainable and broken agricultural system. They are shipped from monoculture to monoculture, sprayed with pesticides, feed sugar water or even worse high fructose corn syrup, treaded with chemicals and they are feared by the majority of people. But mostly bees are not allowed to swarm and queens are being raped and artificially inseminated to keep certain genetic traits that make them easy to control and manage. In commercial hives queens are replaced every year and old queens are killed. However queens can live up to 6 years and it is the scent of a queen that keeps a hive together. Alison worked with the queen breeders in Kona, they are one of the largest queen breeders in the country, producing about half a million queens from a few dozen drones sperm through artificial insemination. The message Allison got from the bees while she was there was “Raise the Queen, Raise your own inner Queen!”

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In the words of the bees through Freeman “Each Queen’s scent differs from the next by her story…This scent surrounds us and speaks to us every day telling us how loved we are and, in return, we want nothing but to honor them by being in service to the queen…When beekeepers replace a Queen we grieve inconsolably in her absence and then a stranger is thrown into our midst…This new Queen who smells of foreign land, does not know our ancestors, the elements, nor the natural history of our sisters and brothers. Our true Queen is gone and without her our family line is empty.”

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Swarming is also a very important part of the hive, it has been controlled and denied in commercial bee keeping and discourage by bee keeping associations for hobbyist bee keepers. Swarming is how bees naturally reproduce and adapt to the environment and change their DNA. In Alison’s words “swarming is how bees infuse their species with vital energy from the cosmos.” New queens go out and mate with 12 to 20 drones taking all of their sperm. This gives the queens a wide diversity of genetical traits to adapt to changes.

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Alison told me that bees reflect the consciousness of humans. To them, we are the gods of this planet and our thoughts are physical and real. The situation of bees is a reflection of the situation of humanity. Bees don’t need to be cured with chemical treatments. We agree that bees should be let alone, treatment free. She thinks the most important thing we can do is send love to the bees, change the thought pattern away from fear and move into reverence and love for the bees. It is through love that we all elevate our vibration and well being. One of my teachers, Laura Bee, director of the College of the Melissae also speaks about keeping treatment free bees, let them do what they know what to do and adapt. She has taught me the power of visualization and prayer with and for the bees. We must create a new level of collective consciousness where we see bees as goddesses again. Elevating their status will help them heal and do their work which is needed for our own wellbeing. We must work together.

Alison has created a bee sanctuary in the South Point in the shape of the flower of life. This sanctuary is a place to honor the bees, portal, an energetic grid and has been created only for bees not for humans. This is a place for the bees to gather strength and carry the new restored way of thinking and caring for bees. She hopes that this sanctuary will be replicated all over the world. This sanctuaries will be anchor points from which the planetary shifts will be moving into a higher vibration.

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2015 is the year we raise the queen, build bee sanctuaries/temples and spread the love for the bees! More than ever our commitment to building healthy environments for pollinators is at the front of our work. We are working not only on the design and creation of pollinator gardens and sanctuaries but also on education and advocacy for pollinators. We are excited for all the projects that will be happening this year and for new partnerships and collaboration with many sacred sites in which we will build bee sanctuaries. Stay tuned and let us know if you want to build a bee sanctuary in your land.

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In the words of the bees through Freeman ” This is the gift we bring: Complete, sacred Unity in body and spirit. To be in the presence of spirit, to simply sit and “be” in such presence, can offer the opportunity to be transformed by it. This, we offer you. Come sit. Be with us. Drink in the Unity as you would fresh rain. We offer our gift with great joy and love!”

Blessed bee!

During my time at BASE thus far, I’ve been given some unique opportunities – whether it be helping to build a parklet organized as a corporate team-building exercise, building some burly benches, developing marketing materials, or creating some fun designs and renderings. However, one of the most interesting opportunities has been learning about pollinators.

Patricia and Andreas capturing a swarm back in April

Patricia and Andreas capturing a swarm back in April.

Patricia’s interest in and advocacy for bees (as well as other helpful pollinators such as butterflies, moths, or hummingbirds) has opened my eyes to many different issues of which I was not previously aware. Some of these include the disappearing honey bee populations, the importance of educating people about the benefits of pollinators, the widespread use of pesticides in agriculture and ornamental planting.

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Patricia pointing out the bee larvae and checking for mite damage.

Many of these issues also affect our work as landscape architects. At BASE, we strive to incorporate plants that attract and allow pollinators to thrive. But as a discipline we can be doing more to specify plants that have been grown organically and free of pesticides.

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Busy bees.

We’re lucky enough to have our very own living laboratory, the Algarden Urban Farm, only a few blocks from the studio where we can go to test out new ideas. Having this resource so close has meant walking over on lunch breaks or in the evenings to harvest fruits, vegetables, and herbs, do some weeding, establish new planting beds, or tend to the bees. Patricia has three hives of honey bees who live at the garden and help to pollinate it so we can all enjoy the wonderful produce. Prior to joining BASE, I had no knowledge of beekeeping, but I’ve been able to accompany Patricia to the garden to help out with and learn more about her bees. I’ve been able to don the bee suit, smoker in hand, and help capture a swarm, establish a new hive, introduce a new queen, and check for mites.

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The bees feeding their larvae and working on the honey.

It’s been fun learning about the different types of bees and their role in the hive, how and when to harvest the honey, and how to establish a new hive.

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The bees in their hive.

I never would have imagined all of these different experiences would be possible in a landscape architecture firm, but am learning that they are also inherently important to the field.

The Kinder Play Yard at the German International School of Silicon Valley in Mountain View is now complete!

This project had a quick turnaround – we began with the design in May and construction was completed in September. Whew!

Of the designated Kinder Play Yard area, half had to be  left open for the fire truck access so we turned it into a painted pollinator trike path. In the remaining space we incorporated a cushy artificial turf outdoor classroom space, a tipi, a play structure, a pirate ship, playful mushroom stumps, a sand pit with a water trough, raised vegetable planting beds, and planting for pollinators.

 

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custom water trough

play structure with fun safety surface pattern

play structure with fun safety surface pattern

 

 

outdoor classroom

outdoor classroom being used for a game of tag

 

In the fire lane, we incorporated colorful painted pollinators, and flowers, as well as a dotted trike path, to break up the asphalt that we had to have for the fire truck and create a fun and engaging space for the children to enjoy.

 

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stencils were used to add color to the expansive asphalt fire lane

Looks like these kindergarten and preschool aged kids are loving their new play space!

BASE is working with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to give students greener schoolyards.

After voters passed a bond measure for green schoolyards, the SFUSD has been working with a handful of landscape architecture firms and schools each year to realize small landscape improvements. This year, BASE was chosen to design spaces for Aptos Middle School and Hoover Middle School.

The process began with a site walkthrough of the spaces slated for improvement and by meeting with our schoolyard greening committee at each school to determine their needs. The committees are made up of principals and teachers from each school and two project managers from SFUSD’s Green Schoolyard department. We’ve had a series of meetings over several months where we presented our design concepts, taking the committee’s feedback into account each time. We’ve had some great meetings with a lot of wonderful input from each of the committees helping us to refine the design to meet the needs of the students, teachers, and staff. Both schools were looking to increase planting areas, shade, and provide seating for students to enjoy during lunch and recess.

It’s been an interesting process working within the unknown costs of San Francisco’s booming construction market at the moment.

We will submit the completed construction document set for review by SFUSD at the beginning of December. The project will then go to bid in late February or early March and construction will be completed this summer.

At Aptos Middle School, the project site is a bleak asphalt courtyard used during lunch and recess. The new plan will accommodate seating for upwards of 100 students with raised planters and log seating features. The existing volleyball court will remain and existing picnic tables will be relocated. The asphalt will be painted to add some playful colors to liven up the space.

existing conditions of the project site at Aptos

Existing conditions of the project site at Aptos Middle School.

Anticipated new courtyard at Aptos.

Anticipated new courtyard at Aptos.

Concept Plan for Aptos.

Concept Plan for Aptos.

 

At Herbert Hoover Middle School, the project site is a narrow strip between an expanse of asphalt paving and a towering concrete retaining wall. The new space will incorporate seating for more than 100 students, native planting areas, and vegetable beds. Fun red logs are used as seating features. The design also incorporates an area of the concrete wall to be used as a ball wall by the PE department.

existing conditions of the project site at  Herbert Hoover Middle School

Existing conditions of the project site at Herbert Hoover Middle School.

Hoover Concept Design

The anticipated new space for Hoover students.

Hoover Concept Design Plan

Concept Plan for Hoover.

 

We’re looking forward to providing greener schoolyards for students in the Fall of 2015!

We are excited to share that the Roving Ranger has been featured in WLA Magazine!

The Roving Ranger was chosen as one of 18 projects featured in the 16th edition of WLA Magazine, an online magazine by World Landscape Architecture. This issue showcases varied landscape architecture works from around the world. Check out the pages on the Roving Ranger below and the full issue of WLA16 here.

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The landscape at Casa Blanca, a residential project we’ve been working on in the Oakland Hills, is really beginning to take shape. We were recently on site to oversee the concrete work. Wooden and rebar forms had been complete earlier in the week and the concrete pour began in the early morning while it was still cool and the fog had not yet lifted. It was exciting to see the different concrete colors, finishes, and textures going in. The concrete guys started off with the natural colored concrete steps leading to the house then moved on to the dark, graphite colored concrete in the backyard.

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pouring the front stairs

 

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graphite colored concrete going in

We were really excited to see the guys start with the sparkle concrete. The sparkle finish is achieved by embedding silica carbide once the concrete has been poured and smoothed. After a light sandblasting once the concrete has set, the sparkle effect is visible in sunlight and under night lights. By incorporating alternating bands of  sparkle concrete and regular sandblasted graphite colored concrete, along with an interesting sawcut joint pattern, what would have been a typical driveway is transformed into a plaza-like space for hosting gatherings and parties.

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adding the sparkle!

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Andreas excited to help apply the sparkle

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finishing it up

Check back again soon to see how the construction continues to progress! The planting, fire pit, raised planting beds, and recycled concrete gabion walls will be going in soon.

 

 

 

The International Garden Festival, hosted by the Domaine de Chaumont-Sur-Loire, is an exposition of 25 gardens which takes place each year from April through November. In order to determine the designers of the gardens, the Domaine holds a juried competition. This year, the theme of the competition was the 7 Deadly Sins and each competitor or team created a garden design or art installation submission in response to the theme.

Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Domain de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Chateau de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Chateau de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Stables at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Stables at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

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Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire, overlooking the Loire River Valley

View of the Chateau and village across the Loire River

View of the Chateau and village across the Loire River

My Master’s project advisor and professor at Kansas State University, Jessica Canfield, entered a personal submission to the Garden Festival competition last fall. After the jury narrowed their selections and conducted brief interviews, Jessica learned her submission, Green Without Greed, was selected as one of the gardens to be built and shown in the Festival. Each entrant is responsible for determining who will construct the garden and how it will all come together. Jessica then began tracking down all the necessary building materials and gathering a construction crew. I joined the construction crew at the beginning of the year and in mid-March we set off on a fantastic adventure.

We spent two weeks at the Domaine in order to construct Jessica’s garden. Accommodations and food were provided on site and only a short walk from the Green Without Greed plot. Jessica’s design challenges and mocks the typical American lawn, which uses many precious resources to achieve the perfect shade of green. Two tones of artificial turf create a “quilt,” which serves as the “lawn,” while a gazing dome acts as a substitute for a water feature and berms serve as a play and seating feature.

 

Green Without Greed - completed garden

Green Without Greed – completed garden

Turf "Quilt"

Turf “Quilt”

 

One of the most interesting aspects of the whole experience was seeing all the other plots in various phases of construction. Some of the gardens were designed and built by large landscape architecture firms with dedicated professional construction crews, while others were individual artists, architects, or landscape architects on their own or with small crews, and some were even student led teams.

 

one of the completed gardens

one of the completed gardens

one of the completed gardens

one of the completed gardens

one of the completed gardens

one of the completed gardens

one of the completed gardens

one of the completed gardens

one of the completed gardens

one of the completed gardens

one of the gardens under construction

one of the gardens under construction

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one of the gardens under construction

one of the gardens under construction

one of the gardens under construction

 

We also enjoyed touring the interior of the Chateau and learning of its history, as well as exploring the Domaine grounds which feature many different gardens and art installations. Additionally, we were able to do a brief tour of landscape architecture sites in Paris at both the beginning and end of our incredible journey.

Chateau de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Chateau de Chaumont-sur-Loire

interesting detail along the Chateau tour

interesting detail along the Chateau tour

gabion wall at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

gabion wall at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

permanent installation at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

permanent installation at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

permanent installation at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

permanent installation at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

along the Seine River, Paris

along the Seine River, Paris

Parc de Bercy, Paris

Parc de Bercy, Paris

la Coulée Verte, Paris

la Coulée Verte, Paris

la Centre Pompidou, Paris

la Centre Pompidou, Paris

Parc de la Villette, Paris

Parc de la Villette, Paris

Parc de la Villette, Paris

Parc de la Villette, Paris

Parc de la Villette, Paris

Parc de la Villette, Paris

interesting fence at Parc de la Villette, Paris

interesting fence at Parc de la Villette, Paris

Parisian alley

a Parisian alley

You can read more about the Green Without Greed construction process and crew through Jessica’s blog:

http://greenwithoutgreed.blogspot.com

For more information about the Domaine de Chaumont-Sur-Loire International Garden Festival:

http://www.domaine-chaumont.fr/en_festival_festival?cat=3&expandable=0