Insights from the Interns

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I know we are all excited to be finishing up our spring semesters, but before you go make sure to check out all the work that has been done over at the UM FLAT. After a long winter and busy spring we are proud to announce the completion of our Native Plant Garden!

Over the course of the semester, and under the supervision of Mara Menhan, Aimee Kelley and myself have been exploring the basics of urban design and sustainability through the planning and implantation of a native plant garden.

From the basics of nature journaling, to the principles of garden design, our sketches became more detailed and site maps more realistic. After weeks waiting for the snow to melt and determining species appropriate to the constraints of the space (such as sunlight and soil type), we were finally able to finalize details and begin the ordering process.
At the Fifth Annual Earth Day Celebration BBQ we revealed a small portion of the work that had been taking place over the past few months. Four distinct plots were created- each specific to the conditions of the space and a representation of a Montana environment: such as our classic understory plants in Plot 1.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 8.37.04 AMBy creating inviting pathways throughout the space, foot traffic is now better directed to designated areas such as the studio, back house and garden. A welcoming slate path laid through Plot 4 provides access to the garden, main event space, and the newly built chicken run. Each plot was defined by lining the beds with river rocks and to ensure our dainty plants retain moisture, wood chips were used to subside weeds. With the support of the FLAT mates, and help from students, faculty, and community members our designs became a reality.

Thanks to Claire Emery, my nature journaling developed into more detailed and focused sketches. I began to concentrate not only on the specimen but the place from which it came. By including details such as time, and temperature, and asking questions about the place, I was better able to recall specifics later on. Experimenting with different mediums, such as using shading to create tone, and using repetition to create texture, my sketches more realistic and appealing. Included is an exercise done with Claire, as well as a sketch prior to the workshop, and one using some of the suggested techniques.

With the help of Kelly Chadwick we had a better understanding of the extensive work that is required to prepare an area for landscaping. Understanding the desired usage and maintenance of the space impacted our initial designs, and made us reevaluate the species we chose; taking into account texture, repetition, definition, competition, pollination, and the overall aesthetic flow of the space.

After extensive research, we took our finalized species list to Marilyn Marlar to confirm the plants we had chosen were viable, available and worked well in the desired space, prior to ordering.

The backyard may have changed but the mission of the FLAT remains. So come check out the new Native Plant Garden, cuddle some chickens, meet some new faces, and finish the semester strong!

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(Pictured above is map of the backyard with Plot 1,2,3 and 4 outlined. The beds became more natural and less rigid once lined with river rock.)

Written by: Sophie Hainline
Photos: Mara Menahan

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