Who is winning in Survival of the Fittest? Testing Urban Landscapes @ Bailey Hill Plaza

by Anita Van Asperdt on July 19, 2016

in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, Sustainable Garden Design, Sustainable Landscape Architecture, Sustainable urban design, Uncategorized, Waterwise Landscapes

As designers, finding solutions is our calling.  As Landscape designers, we do this, among other adaptable media, with plants.  Plants solve LOTS of problems.  Situation after situation will arise that calls for an extensive amount of problem-solving and the joys of seeing harmony where once thrived chaos is more than just a little rewarding.  Its straight-up cool.


Often in urban landscapes, the mere complications of buildings and layers of infrastructure create their own set of challenges.  Wind, water, reflected heat, over exposure, high pedestrian and automobile traffic (just to name a few) make if feel like man vs. plant at times.  Wisely chosen plants will win.  Time and again.  Still, we take risks and roll the dice on occasion.  Its nice to mix it up and let the plants duke it out now and then.  This is a natural thing.  Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom doesn’t dead-head, fertilize, install drip-irrigation systems or flip through plant lists to choose her favorites.  Plants grow, compete, and the ones best suited to the site will ultimately thrive.  Easy.

Bailey Hill Plaza is our little battleground at present, and it is fun to see Mother Nature at work here, even in the midst of a bustling intersection in West Eugene.  With the installation of a green wall grid for vines on the western side of the building, the question surfaces:  what vines will actually grow best?  Key word here:  west.  This is a notoriously challenging location for plants nestled against a wall which will become flooded with direct afternoon sun, in an instant, after having relaxed in full shade all morning.  Ouch!  Even the toughest plants can struggle with this one.

As if that wasn’t enough, any passer-by would be hard-pressed to spot much green at this bustling intersection.  What there is plenty of, is traffic, pollution, and hardscapes galore.  Not the most amiable space for a living thing to call home.  And yet, they do.   More often than we may realize.

Some, as you can see, are quite content with regular, consistent baking each afternoon.

Let’s meet our contenders, shall we?


Planted only a year ago, climbers such as clematis (C. armandii and C. montana var. rubens), passionflower vine (Passiflora caerulea), jasmine (Trachelospernum jasminoides), and purple-leafed grape (Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’) are clammering (literally) for the chance to beautify this commercial blank slate.  As seen below, the jasmine is the least happy the bunch, but the blue passionflower is not complaining whatsoever.  How often does this lovely darling grace the sides of buildings in this town?  Not often enough.

Between the clematis, the deciduous pink climber is out-performing her evergreen cousin, but both are pleased to have their feet shaded by the thriving lavender– arms outstretched in the sun.

Lastly, our purple-leafed grape is quite the colorful show-stopper this time of year.  Although not growing as quickly as its neighbors, the contrast the foliage color against the purple lavender and green vines makes a dramatic presence against the pale cinder block background.  Together, they play nicely.

So often, control is the name of the game in the world of design.  How about designing an element of surprise, freedom, and unpredictability into our traditional recipes for success?



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