Working On The Brightside

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Published on: Aug. 15, 2012

retired) and Mark Grueber in 2008. Building on the basic idea of teaching people to “plant the right tree in the right place,” the plan expanded into developing a site that would demonstrate the benefits of a functional and sustainable landscape. Perry Eckhardt, then a Conservation Department community conservationist, was added to the team and the concept of the demonstration garden and learning center was born.

With the expertise of SWT Design, a St. Louisbased landscape architecture firm, the concept was fashioned to re-create microcosms of ecosystems found in Missouri. Using plants that are native to Missouri wetland, glade, prairie and woodland habitats, visitors to the garden learn more about the site conditions where certain plants thrive. Although the soils in most suburban and urban landscapes have been dramatically altered due to development, homeowners can find areas of their yard that have conditions similar to a wetland, glade or other habitat. When a gardener understands how to match plant species to the habitat where that plant is naturally found, they create a functional and sustainable landscape.

Plants that are matched to their natural growing conditions reduce the need for supplemental watering, fertilizers and pesticides. Traditional landscapes often include exotic plants and vast expanses of turf grass, which require a great deal of resources. While some may like the artificial appearance of a green lawn, it provides little, if any, benefit as wildlife habitat. The seeds and berries produced by native plants are important food sources for a variety of birds and mammal species. Many insect species also depend on native plants for food. Hence, the presence of native plants in urban landscaping is essential to maintaining the natural biodiversity of our region.

Technology and Technique

Beyond the wildlife and aesthetics, the garden’s design tackles the huge issue of stormwater. For years, the prevailing stormwater management strategy had been to capture, pipe, and almost immediately send runoff downstream. Erosion, flash flooding, water pollution and lost aquatic habitats have resulted. To combat this problem, permeable pavements, cisterns and rain gardens were installed so that not one drop of rainwater leaves the site to enter the city’s sewer system.

This type of design is called Low-Impact Development (LID) and it uses engineering strategies and natural processes to manage stormwater as close to the source as possible. Because this project provides important public education on techniques that improve water quality and reduce stormwater into

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