Louisville landscape designer and horticulturalist Tracey Williams has some innovative ideas about setting up water-wise gardens in urban areas, which she will share at The Arboretum's Founders Lecture Series event March 27.
With a bit of thought and careful planning, city dwellers can do a lot to better use, conserve and keep pollutants from rain water as it splashes on our roofs, percolates through our land, and flows across pavement, flushing with it litter and chemicals, and finally entering the water supplies.
Think of green spaces on rooftops, balconies and vertical walls that use environmentally friendly and efficient watering systems, and plants that are well adapted to survival in those conditions. That will give you a general idea of what Williams' Louisville-based business Greensleeves Design has accomplished in the past 20 years.
"As more people live and work in cities, I'm deeply committed to the idea that we can effectively grow food close to where it is needed, cool and clean the air, fight pollution and manage stormwater problems through careful planning and a wide variety of different planting projects," she says.
A few of those ventures include the creation of gardens at Waterfront Park Place, Brown-Forman, and St. Francis School, all in Louisville.
Another of Willams' projects, The Green Building, earned platinum LEED certification for its adaptive reuse of an historic, mercantile building in Louisville's East Market Street district, employing sustainable, earth-friendly features.
Williams planted low-growing, drought-tolerant sedums of various colors on the rooftop. In addition to modulating indoor temperatures, the green roof garden absorbs some rainfall, with overflow going into rain barrels and a detention basin, resulting in a slow release of moisture to native trees and grasses like river birch and river oats at ground level.
Williams has also engineered a vertical garden wall inside a covered loading area at the rear of the building. A piecework mosaic of metal wire grids and white support squares into which hydroponic-type nutrients are delivered to shade-tolerant plants, the living foliage is growing to cover the surface in hues of emerald and jade.
"My work involves bringing elements of the natural landscape into the urban environment," Williams says. "By carefully preserving the existing green spaces and the urban tree canopy, and by carefully planning new green infrastructure, we can improve the urban environment and provide habitat essential for a varied and diverse ecosystem."