Planting in a Post-Girls Gone Wild World

(with apologies to Thomas Rainier and Claudia West authors of ‘Planting In A Post-Wild World’)

For those inclined towards plants and the natural world, Las Vegas is not the first city in America that comes to mind. While not the Sodom and Gomorrah it once was, it is a city full of people – 42 million visitors a year – and lots of noise. It is VERY LOUD.

It is still a gambling, booze, and silicone-enhanced tits and ass town but millions of families flock to ‘The Entertainment Capital of America’. Some of those families do wander away from the casinos. Some even venture out to see the real show. To the west and the north-east, are Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area and the Valley of Fire.

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The Aztec Sandstone rocks are vibrant orange-red contrasting with the gray limestone that is a product of the Keystone Thrust Fault. It is a geological wonder.

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Aztec Sandstone is a Lower Jurassic geological formation of primarily eolian lithified sand .

Back in Las Vegas, there are interesting things happening. Vegas has a park. The Park designed by !melk, a landscape architecture and urban planning company based in New York.

A 5-acre boulevard of verdant dreams, this first park in the city is destined to be one of the most visited parks in the world. And it’s not bad, not bad at all.

Opened in April this year, The Park will eventually be a small woodland under-planted with native or desert-adapted plants. There are lots of oaks, Rock Oak (Quercus buckleyi), Texas Live Oak (Quercus fusiformis), and Cathedral Live Oak (Quercus virginiana ‘Cathedral’), providing a growing and necessary shade canopy in the fierce sun and heat.

The fast-growing Evergreen Ash (Fraxinus uhdei), native to Central America, will become a large tree, changing the feel and look of The Park in a short time. X Chitalpa tashkentensis, a hybrid between the cigar tree (Catalpa bignonoides) and the desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) adds a little color with its pale pink flowers.

IMG_7720.CR2Underneath the trees is a mixture of Agave; Weber Agave (Agave weberi), Octopus Agave (Agave vilmoriniana) and Agave americana to name three; Dalea greggii,  Toothless Desert Spoon (Dasylirion quadrangulatum), Silver-leaf Cassia (Cassia phyllodinea), and Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa), a shrub with white flowers and silvery puffs of fruit heads. There are over 7,000 plants in the garden.

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What is particularly striking is Marco Cochrane’s ‘Bliss Dance’, a 40-foot high dancing woman. Formed by steel tubing covered in steel mesh and lit by nearly 3,000 LED lights, she is part of Cochrane’s Bliss Project.

He describes the project thus,  “These sculptures are intended to demand a change in perspective… to be catalysts for social change.  They are intended to challenge the viewer to see past the sexual charge that has developed around the female body to the human being.  They are intended to de-objectify women and inspire men and women to take action to end violence against women, thus allowing both women and men to live fully and thrive. Forty feet tall, Bliss Dance depicts a woman dancing, eyes closed, expressing her joy, her energy, herself… even though it may not be safe to do so.  She is brave, strong, powerful, riveting.”

She is.

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Author: urbanehorticulture

A native of England a U.S. citizen for the past 30 years, I have worked in the garden world as a director and designer for over 35 years. I am best-known for my groundbreaking designs at Chanticleer, an estate and “pleasure garden” in Wayne, PA, where I worked for 20 years. Career Highlights I started my gardening life at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, England, where I was trained as a gardener. I worked in three other gardens in the UK, notably Portmeirion in Wales, Bateman’s in Sussex, and Cliveden in Buckinghamshire. At Bateman’s, I was responsible for the restoration of the 17th-century garden. I came to the U.S. in 1981 and was director and chief designer of Chanticleer in Pennsylvania for the next 20 years. I transformed a moribund private estate into one of America’s most exuberant, romantic and flamboyant gardens. Its glorious 47 acres have been celebrated by gardeners and horticulturists from around the world and, based on my designs, it continues to draw international visitors every season. After twenty years creating Chanticleer, I became vice president for horticulture for the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden and, in 2006, was appointed director of the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, Canada. While pleased to be in Canada, my heart yearned for California and in 2008 he was appointed executive director of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden. After a successful period in northern California, he returned to his home near Santa Barbara, CA where I operated my own design-consulting business. In 2012, I was lured back east by The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (founded in 1827) and appointed director of its private estate and garden, Meadowbrook Farm. I was commissioned by PHS to design the central feature for the 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show, the third major exhibit I have designed for PHS over the years. Among numerous other responsibilities, I have been a member of the board of the Fairmount Park Conservancy in Philadelphia and a founding member of the business advisory board for the Flora of North America Project. I have designed gardens in Chicago, northern and southern California, and throughout the Northeastern United States. I have also been a consultant to the Garden Conservancy and to Botanic Gardens Conservation International, as well as serving on the horticulture advisory committee of Lotusland in Santa Barbara, California. I have been the Advancement Advisor for the Flora of North America Association and am now traveling the world researching, interviewing, and photographing for a book on gardens around the world. Books & Awards My n first book, The Encyclopedia of Perennials, was published in 1992 by Facts on File. I also contributed to 1001 Gardens to See Before You Die (Barron's Educational Series, 2012) and The Gardener’s Garden (Phaidon Press, 2014). In 2003, I was awarded the Professional Citation for significant achievements in public horticulture by the American Public Garden Association. In 2007, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society awarded me its prestigious medal for Distinguished Achievement. I currently live in the Bay Area, California.

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