Friday, February 17, 2012

God is in the details: a Pine matrix

According to Wikipedia, the idiom "God is in the details" expresses the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly; i.e. details are important. And with this phrase, I couldn't agree more.

Patterns fascinate me; whether naturally occurring, mathematically based, or both. In professional practice I’ve had to come up with patterns to show the relationship between different landscape elements such as different varieties in a rose garden planting, or different sizes of stone in a hardscape design. A successful pattern creates beauty and balance, with a degree of randomness.

Recently, I worked on a large-scale screen planting, made up of three different varieties of Pine trees; Loblolly (Pinus taeda), Virginia (Pinus virginiana), and Shortleaf Pines (Pinus echinata). The three varieties were chosen for visual interest as well as insurance against environmental problems (e.g. a pine beetle that prefers Pinus x).

The nearly thousand pine tree saplings were obtained from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry. With a 30% expected mortality rate, the area forester recommended a plant spacing of no less than 6’ on center and a planting ratio of 2:1:1 Loblolly, Virginia, and Shortleaf, respectively.

This adds up to a lovely grid of trees reminiscent of a Christmas tree farm. However, the client wanted a more natural and less industrial-looking screen planting. The solution: a pattern that could be replicated throughout the specified area to create variable spacing and arrangement of the three species.

The design began with 6’, 7’, and 8’ diameter circles drawn randomly, overlapping ever-so slightly. Then 7’ circles were drawn over each center point creating an arbitrary plan of overlapping circles and voids. A 30’x30’ section was extracted and developed into a color-coded plan that would be easy to flag, rotate, and replicate in the field.

As with a lot of planting plans, some adjustments had to be made on site due to topography, existing trees, and with care to avoid any spacing closer than the 6’ minimum. Thus exemplifies either how complicated a simple tree planting can be made by a Landscape Architect or as I believe the true importance of detail.

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