Monday, June 16, 2014

Mass Plantings in Public Spaces

By Mike Unser

On a recent Sunday I headed down to our local farmer's market and was absolutely thrilled to see that the City of Olympia had incorporated irises into its landscaping design at the public plaza that was constructed in conjunction with the new home for our city's Hands On Children's Museum. This great museum started in a small storefront downtown before moving to a larger space near the Capitol campus. The visitors just kept growing and they kept expanding until finally being given the funds to build a permanent home near the Olympia waterfront, just a few blocks from its first home.  It is a huge hit with kids of all ages and has won numerous awards.

Along with the museum, the city constructed a public plaza across the entire front of the property. What a work of art it is! It is filled with sculptures and nestled into the landscaping, mosaics underneath and even a flowing 'creek' that kids can play in. 

The planting focus was on water-wise plants, and along with many native species they have planted large masses of a single variety of bearded iris. This really shows the power our favorite flower can have in urban design.

 There are dozens of very large clumps spread across the entire area. The large masses and repetition make for a very striking show and the color carries well over a wide area.

 This area has been ripe for development for decades, and I hope the city will continue to incorporate irises as more projects come into their own over the years. If you get to Olympia in the springtime be sure to stop by and see the blooms. 

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