In my quest for examples of low-maintenance, more eco-friendly civic landscapes, two libraries near me were recommended by Scott Aker, head of gardens at the National Arboretum and a former resident of my neighborhood.
So in mid-August I toured the two sites, starting with a library in Laurel, Maryland with a landscape so prominent, it has its own name – Emancipation Park.
Here’s what’s in the park:
Like the library building, the site offers a variety of settings for reading, learning, gathering and meeting. Its numerous sustainable design features make the site itself a teaching tool. Bioretention areas with native plants showcase innovative stormwater management techniques and attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Pervious pavement systems and dark sky-rated lights contribute to sustainability.
Amenities on the park and library grounds include a dog park, a small amphitheater and lawns for performances and the annual Emancipation Day festivities. The amphitheater plaza becomes a splash pad on summer days, activating the space throughout the season. The water park, playground, play mound and basketball court provide a dynamic set of recreational facilities.
More views of the front above and below.
I admire this landscape for performing a variety of eco-services – sure. But I love it because it’s stunning, and so people-friendly.
Don’t be shocked by the turfgrass – artificial, at that. This is the play area just outside the kids section of the library, and I bet it’s heavily used.
Now for what I’m calling a “miss,” sadly, in nearby in Savage, Maryland.
Fortunately for this rant, I don’t know who designed it. I could only find this information about the renovated library, but there’s no mention of the grounds. Even the architect’s project page says nothing about them.
Now for the photos. Above, the very large rain garden along the main road looks great, and I’ll assume it functions as it should.
My complaint is with the entrances and walkways.
So many of these plants are just the wrong ones for such tight, highly visible places.
The furniture and shade are nice, though the grasses are falling on one of the unmovable chairs.
Wrong plant/wrong place example close-up.
This landscape looks like a ecological restoration got planted around a public building by mistake. Better maintenance would help, but staking and more frequent pruning would increase costs without solving the basic mistakes in design and plant choice.
This last photo illustrates something I’m vocal about in my neighborhood, as an advocate for safe, accessible sidewalks. Plants don’t have to be obstructions like these clearly are.
And if you’ve been following the news, you know there are probably ticks hanging on those branches and grasses, just waiting for large mammals like us to pass by and attach to. Sad, but true.