By Nicholas J. Staddon
Imagine looking out at barren induhtrial and urban landscapes where all you see are buildings, cement and asphalt.
Or imagine a newly constructed residential neighborhood consisting only of stucco, sidewalks and roads.
Imagine living day after day in such dismal places and how they of affect your mind, your emotions, your ii.vell-being.
Studies indicate such environments have long-term harmful effects on human beings, causing them to suffer physically, mentally and emotionally. They feel isolated, cut off from nature and society.
However, when you frame these environments with your landscape designs, you do more than simply acid shades ()fgt.= and spladies of color. You make people feel human.
That is why the work of landscape architects and designers is more vital than ever.
The industrial/comercial/hotel benefits
Science acknowledges that people working in green environments are happier, healthier, more relaxed and more productive.
Today's landscape architects and designers are creating living frames of gardens,. trees, shrubs and flowers that transform the hard edges and cold facades of buildings and hardscapes into welcoming sanctuaries from a hectic world. Here people can sit and relax, smell the flowers if you will, observe animal life, plop under a shady tree to stare up at the sky or socialize in a setting that fosters to and community spirit.
In dense urban areas, landscape professionals are finding unusual locations for their plantings, such as filling small plots with interesting foliage and textures. For workers who can't or won't) leave the building to explore outside, forward thinking designers bring the landscape to them by expanding garden views that can be seen through windows and building atriums inside buildings.
Previous issues such as correct soil, irrigation, drainage and the right plant mix are becoming things of the past, allowing landscape architects to design rooftop gardens, where possible, in major cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas and Chicago.
As a result, employers are discovering that people who work in green environments are happier and more relaxed. As a result there is less employee turnover and fewer sick days.
When you think of landscaping this way, it becomes an investment, not a cost. It's the frame around the picture.
The residential benefits
Plants also have the amazing ability to bring communities together. As cities increasingly become denser, as suburbia moves from four houses per acre to 16 or more condos per acre, as backyards and garden plots shrink, the selection of plants you recommend are vital to creating year round interest. In addition to flowers, foliage and textures, you can provide evergreens in soothing green shades and hedging plants for privacy and security. In areas where water is still in short supply, using the latest irrigation methods allow homeowners to enjoy grass lawns. In addition, newer, more drought tolerant varieties are gaining in popularity, which provide a green solution for many designs.
There is even documented evidence landscapes can actually reduce neighborhood crime. Gardens and yards encourage people to congregate outside and socialize with their neighbors. They take a greater interest in their surroundings and pride in their communities. These factors alone assist in lowering local crime rates as citizens become more observant of their surroundings.
And, of course, a green environment adds tremendous curb appeal and contributes to raising property values.
As farming practices become ever more intensive, our communities become the highways and byways for birds, animals and pollinators as they find refuge in industrial environments and home gardens. Instead of going out and looking for nature, nature is coming to them, which helps them feel more connected to their environments. Everyone knows plants are essential to the air we breathe, removing carbon dioxide and replacing it with oxygen. Because plants, shrubs and trees "clean" the air, they help fight pollution and smog.
What is not so well known is the growing interest in horticultural therapy in which plants are specifically used in healing patients. According to ongoing studies, patients who have undergone major invasive surgery or severe depression can heal up to 50 percent faster if they come into contact with greenery. The emotional lift hospital patients experience as they walk or are wheeled through a garden also helps the healing process. Care facilities for the elderly are now adopting the same levels of practice and interest in plants and gardening activities to help their patients maintain a positive attitude.
The "green" movement is no longer trendy—it is morphing into a cultural shift that, increasingly, people want to be part of This places an enormous responsibility on landscape professionals to produce environments that fill the human need for greenery, beauty, fragrance and tranquility that offer natural meeting places where people can congregate, that fulfill their emotional need for belonging.
Nicholas J. Staddon is "The Plant man" for Village Nurseries Wholesale, a specialty grower for landscape professionals based in Orange, California