Not that I want to go off on a rant but….let me get something off my chest this week. This has been building up for many months now, but a recent trip to the Fraser Valley to tour nurseries brought it to the surface.
It’s wasn’t the trip itself that set me off, it was the evening walk around the hotel where I stayed in the Walnut Grove area of Langley. The amount of commercial development near the intersection of Highway 1 and 200th Street during the past few years has been phenomenal. New retail and residential complexes have been erected and, of course, these buildings require landscaping as part of the contract to build.
As I strolled up and down 88th Avenue trying to decide where to eat that evening it became painfully evident that the landscaping for many of these developments was certainly very low on the priority list of the builders. Shade trees were dead or dying in some cases, shrubs were in poor condition, either because they weren’t healthy to begin with, or they had been improperly installed.
With each block I became more disgusted and by the time I had settled on sushi for dinner I had the genesis for a column worked out in my head. I’ve since been gathering evidence here in the south end of the Okanagan Valley and I can tell you that it’s not pretty out there in the parking lots and on the boulevards.
I could give you the specific locations of the offenders and list the numerous transgressions but I’ll spare you the details. Those of you who own the properties know who you are.
It is a requirement that landscaping is installed when a commercial or residential building is finished, but why is it so poorly done in so many instances? Trees that have sparse canopies and bends in their trunks, shrubs that are substandard in size, landscape designs that are completely devoid of any originality, mulch that is far too thick piled up around the base of plants, and this is just in the beginning when the job is installed.
As the months go by it becomes evident that maintenance of said landscape is not happening, as the weeds begin to grow and plants deteriorate either from poor planting practices or improperly programmed irrigation systems. It’s sad and there are too many examples to count.
For those who develop commercial buildings I’m only asking that the landscaping becomes more than an afterthought to be rushed through as cheaply as possible after the construction is completed. City inspectors should hold developers to the standards set out by the British Columbia Nursery and Landscape Association and should make sure that the plants are properly sized.
There are some very nice landscapes out there however. When the designer dares to be different and moves beyond the common juniper/spirea/potentilla mentality and incorporates perennials and ornamental grasses along with shrubs that offer interest for more than one season, and the installation is followed up with regular maintenance, parking lots and boulevards can become so much more than asphalt oceans or plant cemeteries.
There is a responsibility and an opportunity to create within urban spaces, if not Kew Gardens, then a pleasant landscape that helps the building to fit into its environment. I don’t think it’s asking too much for those responsible to take some care when planning the landscaping and to pull some weeds and nurture the plants within that landscape after the job is done.