The city of Buffalo does spectacular things with gardens, especially in small urban yards. Our ubiquitous gardens have put us on the map as the largest garden walk in the country and also been the inspiration for gardening books and articles. We are graced with the historic Olmsted Parkway System from the 1800’s which serves as host to some of our greatest cultural landscape assets.
Gardens in this city do great job, but sometimes it can inspirational to see how others are interpreting the same medium. This article is to share some of the amazing things other people and cities are doing with plants and highlight some that have already been done in Buffalo.
The Flower Parade in Zundert, The Netherlands has been hosted every year since 1936 and has continued ever since with a parade of mesmerizing floats made entirely of Dahlia flowers.
In 2015 the parade commemorated Vincent (Willem) van Gogh, their most famous resident in . The Post-Impressionist painter was born in the city in 1853. Although he suffered from mental illness, his last series was of the irises he saw every day in the inner courtyard of the St. Remy Asylum. Prior to that period of his life he painted cherry blossoms, almond blossoms, sunflowers, flowering orchards and often included cypress trees. Although one float (2015) may look a porcupine at first glance, it’s an interpretation of pencils which are essential tool for most artists.
Floral designers and artists in Detroit have applied their skills to use abandoned homes as a canvas. This creative method of horticulture and floral painting offers a unique means to historic preservation even if on a temporal level. Increased usage in other parts of the city might propel an interest in an abandoned home, the lot and/or the neighborhood it resides within. Although not all buildings can (or should) be saved, seeing them wither in the most graceful way possible may lead to closure for those who may be emotionally attached to a structure.
We have seen similar artistic efforts brought to life in the Old First Ward (see here). People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) also promoted an initiative of this nature on the West Side in order to beautify the Five Points neighborhood and call attention to the potential of abandoned homes. Artists painted flowers and other designs on boards, and then covered broken windows.
In a more abstract interpretation of using plants as a creative medium, London based artist Rebecca Louise Law suspended 30,000 live flowers in the atrium of Bikini Berlin Shopping Garden. The deconstructed floral arrangement was “designed to be an inviting, enchanting celebration of the outdoors and of spring color...” according to Law. She continued by saying “We decided to name the sculpture simply, ‘Garten’ the German word for garden, in keeping with the simple, understated post-war design statement made by the Bikini Berlin building itself.”
The show is open until May 1, 2016 in case you have plans to be in Berlin to see how 775 years of history has a wonderful relationship with contemporary art.
French botanist and creator of the vertical garden Patrick Blanc, has been splashing his creations onto vertical surfaces for years, and stunned people with his Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden exhibit in 2012.
Adding his trademark upward splashes to Pont Max Juvenal overpass in 2008, (Aix en Provence, France) Patrick turned a bland concrete overpass into a traffic calming device within a work of art. He also proved that plants and urban environments work well together so there is no need to dislodge them from each other.
In close proximity to Buffalo is the floral clock of Niagara Falls which has used horticulture as part of its tourism appeal since 1950. Recognized as one of the largest floral clocks in the world, it measures 40 feet wide with a planted area 38 feet wide. Every year the face of the clock is filled with 15,000 to 20,000 carpet plants and colorful annual planted in unique designs.
In progressive urban planning discussions, horticulture is viewed as an important catalyst for improving urban health. Whether it’s replanting trees, creating a tree canopy (such as NYC Million Trees program and Re-Tree WNY), growing community gardens, seed bombs in vacant lots, and planting fragrance gardens used to improve mental health, plants play an important role in any city.
With the revitalization of Buffalo, using plants as a critical design element rather than an afterthought will help improve public awareness that cities are more than just architecture. The people who live in them, along with their physical and mental health, are equally as important.
Lead image, “Bubblegum” by Gerard van Erk, Jack Nouws and Brian Boot / Photo © Omroep Brabant. Flower Parade 2013 www.thisiscolossal.com/2013/09/corso-zundert-flower-parade-2013
Image 2, Flower Parade, 2015 http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/09/flower-parade-zundert/
Image 3, http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/10/flower-house/
Image 4, Berlin Photo credit, Bikini Berlin Building
Image 5, France Artwork and photography by Patrick Blanc
Image 6, NYC Author’s photo. New York Botanical Gardens, Bronx, NY, Orchid Show 2012
Image 7 Floral clock: Niagara Falls Tourism
Final image: Author’s photo (and urban garden). Black Rock, 2015
Still want more? Check out this short animated film about plants reclaiming NYC: