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Regenerative Garden Planted in Corvallis’ Central Park

By Owen Dell | December 29, 2020

“The world gives us so very much. It gives us our life. All of our
neighbors — the ants, spiders, salmon, geese, sharks, seals,
cottonwoods, chestnuts — are doing the real work of keeping this
planet going. Isn’t it time we did our share?”
–Derrick Jensen, from “Endgame: Resistance”

Central Park planting frog
Wee frog joined the planting.

The WVRLC is always on the lookout for ways to bring the principles of regenerative landscaping into the real world. In mid-2019 a tree was removed in Central Park in Corvallis, leaving a 700 square foot spot of land open for new uses.  Located across Monroe Avenue from the entrance to the main public library, the vacant plot was the perfect place for a demonstration regenerative landscape. WVRLC approached the City with a proposal for the design and installation of an exemplary planting to be provided at no cost to the public.

Given that most of the WVRLC members are well known to the staff of the Parks Department, with solid bona fides as designers, our offer was taken up with enthusiasm that matched our own.

After all, how many regenerative demonstration gardens are there in the world? Perhaps we have something truly unique in this one.

Jeff Ard was first on the scene
Jeff Ard checking the plant list.

DESIGN: A design team formed quickly. The design process began in November 2019 with a visit to the site, a bit of measuring, and a conceptual plant list. Next came much discussion, eventually leading to a proposed design (below).

Conceptual Design
WVRLC Central Park conceptual design
Mike Peters
Mike Peters delivered plants and soil amendments.

 

We wanted to create something that could easily be replicated by home gardeners, using plants that are readily available and easy to care for. We also endeavored to include some native species, and to create a tiny ecosystem that will be friendly to pollinators and other wildlife. We planned for density in order to achieve as much carbon capture and sequestration as possible. And of course, we wanted it to be beautiful.

 

 

“One thing that struck me is that none of these plants are ‘special’ or ‘miracle plants’.  They’re regular landscaping plants, but the fact that there are so many of them is going to make a difference.”

Erik Swartzendruber, Gaia Landscapes, Inc.

Erik in mask
Erik Swartzendruber, WVRLC founder.

The design passed muster at the Parks Department, and so we were free to begin the quest for funds. The First Alternative Natural Foods Co-op donated $500 for plant materials. The Benton SWCD Soil Quality Program contributed the remaining funds for plants, soil amendments, and other necessary supplies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

wood chips for mulch
Laura Alcorn, Corvallis Parks & Rec, delivered a load of wood chips for mulch.

Members of the design team located the plants through a local brokerage service, and sourced the other materials needed. The Parks Department ground out the old tree stump and also supplied wood chips for mulch.

 

 

 

 

 

“Everyone enjoys beautiful plants and gardens; the wonderful thing about this small garden is that it demonstrates some of the other things plants can do, while still being beautiful.”

Signe Danler, OSU Horticulture Instructor, Surrounds Landscape Design

Erik and Signe with plants
Potted plants were arranged according to the conceptual design.

PLANTING DAY: On October 30, 2020, nearly a year after the idea for it germinated, it was time to make it all real. Rain threatened but did not arrive with much sincerity, and that made for a more pleasant time for all. Of course, COVID-19 kept us masked and distant, not an easy task in such a small space. But the day went well, with shifts of workers rotating in as needed. We had thought the work would take a couple of days, but we managed to wrap it up in just one, with cleanup and the loading of tools taking place well before dark.

 

“It’s so gratifying to see the results of what a small group of people can do when they work together as a team toward a common goal”.

Jeff Ard, Landscape Designer, Owen Dell and Associates

a poster with oak leaves and a sprout next to vertical measuring stick from $0 to $3000 showing we raised $3000SIGNAGE: We will install a permanent interpretive display to inform visitors about the principles of regenerative landscaping and the particulars of the planting. Good displays don’t come cheap, though, and we are grateful to our community, members of which have donated $3000 so we can build a beautiful and informative display. Thank you, contributors!

 

Owen Dell after the plant
Owen Dell happy to be cleaning up after a day of planting.

THE FUTURE: We’re really looking forward to spring. No doubt, everyone involved with this project will find their way to Central Park as soon as the weather brings the plants to life. We’ll have a temporary sign in place by then. We will continue designing and fundraising for a permanent sign.

Over 2,500 years ago the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu reminded us that small acts have a way of ramifying out into the larger world, and we hope that this one is no exception. It will bring a new awareness of the importance of landscaping to members of our community and beyond. Please visit the garden when you’re in downtown Corvallis with a few minutes to spare, and of course let us know if you have comments, questions, or thoughts. And remember, DO try this at home.

That’s the whole point.

Enjoy!

… Realized in one man, fitness has its rise;

Realized in a family, fitness multiplies;

Realized in a village, fitness gathers weight;

Realized in a country, fitness becomes great;

Realized in the world, fitness fills the skies.

And thus the fitness of one man

You find in the family he began,

You find in the village that accrued,

You find in the country that ensued,

You find in the world’s whole multitude.

How do I know this integrity?

Because it could all begin in me.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Many thanks to everyone who worked on and who supported this project in so many ways:

Willamette Valley Regenerative Landscape Coalition (WVRLC)

Erik Swartzendruber, Gaia Landscapes, Inc.
Owen Dell, Landscape Architect, Owen Dell & Associates, LLC
Jeff Ard, Landscape Designer, Owen Dell & Associates, LLC
Signe Danler, OSU Horticulture Instructor, Surrounds Landscape Design
Mike Peters, Sustain-O-Scapes
Colin Danler, volunteer
Teresa Matteson, Benton SWCD

City of Corvallis Parks and Recreation Division

America McMillian, Park Operation Specialist
Steve McGettigan, Parks Operations Program Coordinator
Laura Alcorn, Seasonal Parks Crew Worker
Jude Geist, Parks Division Manager
Josh Hopkins, Parks Division Supervisor

Financial support for plant materials and supplies

Emily Daniel, First Alternative Natural Foods Co-op, Brand Manager
Benton SWCD, Soil Quality Program

Read more on the principles of regenerative landscaping.
For more information about WVRLC, email regenlandscape@gmail.com

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About the Author

Owen Dell

Owen Dell, RLA, ASLA is an award-winning, internationally admired landscape architect, author and educator. He is the principal of Owen Dell and Associates, LLC, in Corvallis, Oregon, specializing in sustainable landscape architectural services. Owen has been part of the landscaping profession since 1971. Owen lectures around the country and internationally on sustainable landscaping and related topics. He is the author of “How to Start a Home-Based Landscaping Business” and “Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies.” Owen has also been a regular contributor to many national and regional horticultural publications including Sunset Magazine, Fine Gardening, and others. For 5 years he was the co-host and co-creator of the popular Santa Barbara television series, “Garden Wise Guys.” Owen is a member of the Willamette Valley Regenerative Landscape Coalition (WVRLC). Search the BSWCD website to learn more about WVRLC's projects!

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