Celebrating Earth Day

This week in North Philly Notes, we celebrate Earth Day with a handful of recent Temple University Press titles about nature and the environment.

2470_reg.gifIn Defense of Public Lands: The Case against Privatization and Transfer, by Steven Davis
Debates continue to rage over the merits or flaws of public land and whether or not it should be privatized—or at least radically reconfigured in some way. In Defense of Public Lands offers a comprehensive refutation of the market-oriented arguments. Steven Davis passionately advocates that public land ought to remain firmly in the public’s hands. He briefly lays out the history and characteristics of public lands at the local, state, and federal levels while examining the numerous policy prescriptions for their privatization or, in the case of federal lands, transfer. He considers the dimensions of environmental health; markets and valuation of public land, the tensions between collective values and individual preferences, the nature and performance of bureaucratic management, and the legitimacy of interest groups and community decision-making. Offering a fair, good faith overview of the privatizers’ best arguments before refuting them, this timely book contemplates both the immediate and long-term future of our public lands.

2474_reg.gifSinking Chicago: Climate Change and the Remaking of a Flood-Prone Environment, by Harold L. Platt
In Sinking Chicago, Harold Platt shows how people responded to climate change in one American city over a hundred-and-fifty-year period. During a long dry spell before 1945, city residents lost sight of the connections between land use, flood control, and water quality. Then, a combination of suburban sprawl and a wet period of extreme weather events created damaging runoff surges that sank Chicago and contaminated drinking supplies with raw sewage. Chicagoans had to learn how to remake a city built on a prairie wetland. They organized a grassroots movement to protect the six river watersheds in the semi-sacred forest preserves from being turned into open sewers, like the Chicago River. The politics of outdoor recreation clashed with the politics of water management. Platt charts a growing constituency of citizens who fought a corrupt political machine to reclaim the region’s waterways and Lake Michigan as a single eco-system. Environmentalists contested policymakers’ heroic, big-technology approaches with small-scale solutions for a flood-prone environment. Sinking Chicago lays out a roadmap to future planning outcomes.

Gone_Goose_SM.jpgGone Goose: The Remaking of an American Town in the Age of Climate Change, by Braden T. Leap

Sumner, MO, pop. 102, near the Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, proclaims itself “The Wild Goose Capital of the World.” It even displays Maxie, the World’s largest goose: a 40-foot tall fiberglass statue with a wingspan stretching more than 60 feet. But while the 200,000 Canada geese that spent their falls and winters at Swan Lake helped generate millions of dollars for the local economy—with hunting and the annual Goose Festival—climate change, as well as environmental and land use issues, have caused the birds to disappear. The economic loss of the geese and the activities they inspired served as key building blocks in the rural identities residents had developed and treasured. In his timely and topical book, Gone Goose, Braden Leap observes how members of this rural town adapted, reorganized, and reinvented themselves in the wake of climate change—and how they continued to cultivate respect and belonging in their community. Leap conducted interviews with residents and participated in various community events to explore how they reimagine their relationships with each other as well as their community’s relationship with the environment, even as they wish the geese would return.

Ecohumanism_and_the_Ecological_Culture_SM.jpgEcohumanism and the Ecological Culture: The Educational Legacy of Lewis Mumford and Ian McHarg, by William J. Cohen

Lewis Mumford, one of the most respected public intellectuals of the twentieth century, speaking at a conference on the future environments of North America, said, “In order to secure human survival we must transition from a technological culture to an ecological culture.” In Ecohumanism and the Ecological Culture, William Cohen shows how Mumford’s conception of an educational philosophy was enacted by Mumford’s mentee, Ian McHarg, the renowned landscape architect and regional planner at the University of Pennsylvania. McHarg advanced a new way to achieve an ecological culture―through an educational curriculum based on fusing ecohumanism to the planning and design disciplines. Cohen explores Mumford’s important vision of ecohumanism—a synthesis of natural systems ecology with the myriad dimensions of human systems, or human ecology―and how McHarg actually formulated and made that vision happen. He considers the emergence of alternative energy systems and new approaches to planning and community development to achieve these goals.

Latinx_Environmentalisms_sm.jpgLatinx Environmentalisms: Place, Justice, and the Decolonial, Edited by Sarah D. Wald, David J. Vázquez, Priscilla Solis Ybarra, and Sarah Jaquette Ray.
The whiteness of mainstream environmentalism often fails to account for the richness and variety of Latinx environmental thought. Building on insights of environmental justice scholarship as well as critical race and ethnic studies, the editors and contributors to Latinx Environmentalisms map the ways Latinx cultural texts integrate environmental concerns with questions of social and political justice. Original interviews with creative writers, including Cherríe Moraga, Helena María Viramontes, and Héctor Tobar, as well as new essays by noted scholars of Latinx literature and culture, show how Latinx authors and cultural producers express environmental concerns in their work. These chapters, which focus on film, visual art, and literature—and engage in fields such as disability studies, animal studies, and queer studies—emphasize the role of racial capitalism in shaping human relationships to the more-than-human world and reveal a vibrant tradition of Latinx decolonial environmentalism. Latinx Environmentalisms accounts for the ways Latinx cultures are environmental, but often do not assume the mantle of “environmentalism.”

Untitled-1.jpgThe Winterthur Garden Guide: Color for Every Seasonby Linda Eirhart
Intended as a guide for the everyday gardener, The Winterthur Garden Guide offers practical advice—season by season—for achieving the succession of bloom developed by Henry Francis du Pont in his garden. This handy book highlights the design principles that guided du Pont and introduces practical flowers, shrubs, and trees that have stood the test of time—native and non-native, common as well as unusual. Lavishly illustrated, with new color photography, this handbook features close-ups of individual plants as well as sweeping vistas throughout. Whether addressing the early color combinations of the March Bank, the splendor of Azalea Woods, or the more intimate confines of the Quarry Garden, The Winterthur Garden Guide presents the essential elements of each plant, including common and botanical names; family origins and associations; size, soil, and light needs; bloom times; and zone preferences—everything the gardener needs to know for planning and replicating the “Winterthur look” on any scale.

Color for Every Season

This week in North Philly Notes, we feature a post by Linda Eirhart, author of The Winterthur Garden Guideabout the March Bank, which flowers in the winter. 

The calendar just now says March, but the March Bank at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library near Wilmington, Delaware, has had flowers in bloom since January. Henry Francis du Pont began planting bulbs in the woodland to the north of the family home in 1902. The area is called the March Bank due to its historic flowering time in March.  The display features the minor bulbs, snowdrops, winter aconites, snowflakes, squills and glory-of-the-snow.

March_Bank_by_Lois_Mauro resizeDu Pont planted thousands of these bulbs in large drifts in the style of the “wild garden.” The planting style was promoted by nineteenth-century British gardener and writer William Robinson.  In his words, the term “is applied essentially to the placing of perfectly hardy exotic plants in places and under conditions where they will become established and take care of themselves.”  With a little care over the past hundred years, the bulbs at Winterthur have multiplied to create a spectacular display.

March_Bank_3_by_Lois_Mauro resizeOn the March Bank, giant snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii, is the first to flower, with its lovely white petals with green markings. A close look at this simple flower reveals a variety of thin, wide, long, puckered or possibly even doubled petals. The common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, begins to flower slightly later and extends the white display. It also deserves a closer look for the detailed differences in the flower forms.  The different species and cultivars can provide color from fall through March.WS02 Calanthus nivalis

Color, to du Pont, was a “vast field in itself” and, in the garden, “the thing that really counts more than any other.” By 1962 du Pont had been gardening for sixty years, and the Garden Club of America had recently named him “perhaps the best gardener this country has ever produced.” At Winterthur, he created a garden of surpassing beauty that in its complexity and coherence is a marvel of ingenuity. Plants bloom almost continuously throughout the year, with outstanding areas of color coming into focus in a well-planned sequence. In turn, each area melds seamlessly with its neighbors to form a unified whole. Such sequencing and continuity did not come about without a great deal of work and planning.

WS06The spring snowdrop display is brightened with the yellow of Amur Adonis, Adonis amurensis, and winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, both with round, multi-petal flowers that resemble large buttercups.  Adonis will spread slowly in the garden, but winter aconites are vigorous growers that readily self-sow once established. Avoid planting them by smaller more delicate spring plants that they might smother.

To heighten and extend the yellow display, du Pont chose Japanese cornel dogwood, Cornus officinalis, an understory tree whose yellow flowers begin to shine while the giant snowdrops and winter aconites are still flowering.  As the snowdrops and aconites fade, this dogwood’s flowers will continue to bloom while the March Bank transitions to a brilliant carpet of blue.

Chionodoxa forbesii

Chionodoxa forbesii

Primarily responsible for the blue phase is the glory-of-the-snow, Chionodoxa forbesii, which covers acres on the March Bank and throughout the garden. This small bulb grows well in both the woodlands and in the lawn.  In some areas, Siberian squills, Scilla siberica are planted with it and overlap somewhat in flowering time. Early daffodils, Narcissus, add a soft yellow sprinkling among the waves of blue.

Winterthur GardenAs spring progress, Virginia bluebells, poeticus daffodils, ostrich ferns and hosta will cover the dying foliage of these early bulbs and create wonderful displays for late spring and summer. Though these displays cover acres at Winterthur, you can apply the concepts of the “wild garden,” successional bloom and layering plants to gardens of all sizes. Consider a small drift of snowdrops to brighten the winter entrance to your home or planting glory-of-the-snow in your lawn to create a sea of blue.

Du Pont experimented in the Winterthur garden for more than sixty years. The Winterthur Garden Guide shares the plant combinations and design principles that have stood the test of time.

 

 

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