“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”
The Willamette Valley Regenerative Landscape Coalition (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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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
We successfully raised $3400 in community donations to install a permanent interpretive display to inform visitors about the principles of regenerative landscaping and the particulars of the planting. This image can be viewed at the top of this page. Thank you to those who contributed to this fundraising!
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.
… 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