Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Capital Urbanism Lab - New Season of Lectures!

Mark Your Calendars:

As a follow up to the Urban Ecology lecture by the Capital Urbanism Lab, the NCC will discuss specific biophilic city topics in 2016:

The Urban Forest - Tuesday, February 16, 2016 - 06:30 pm (rescheduled)

Planning Communities Near Parks - Thursday, April 07, 2016 - 06:30 pm (cancelled)

Creating a River Culture in the Capital - Wednesday, May 04, 2016 - 06:30 pm (cancelled)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Another great public indoor greenspace in Ottawa

New Currency Museum (Bank of Canada)
Bank and Wellington - access from Sparks Street

One of the indoor atriums that I've always found lovely is the Bank of Canada Garden Court Atrium (that was accessed from the Spark Street side).  Now that the buildings are being renovated, I was wondering what would happen to it.  It was such a lush, relaxing spot for people to enjoy - especially in the winter!  Remember the space where you could see the Yap stone?  It was also a popular spot for wedding photos during the winter months.

The Currency Museum blog explains that the new museum will be in the lower level but it doesn't provide information on how the main floor will be transformed.

From the website: "It is there, beneath the plaza at Bank and Wellington Streets, that the new Museum is planned to be - taking up the east end of the huge former cafeteria including the glass ceilinged ‘waterfall room’, and the large common area where staff events took place as recently as last summer."

The courtyard space on Bank Street looks really wonderful and provides some great public seating - I was wondering what those strange imposing triangle structures they were building in that space were.

Sadly upon doing some further online research, it seems that the Bank of Canada IS considering eliminating this atrium for reasons of safety and space requirements. This 2014 online article from The Cultural Landscape Foundation shares the full story and provides some thought on the need to save this atrium and preserve the architectural integrity and history of the design.

Courtyard Image from Museum website

Image (top) from Oh!Gravity blog

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Indoor Atriums in the City (Ottawa)

Here is a list of great atriums to visit in the winter to get your kick of green and light (especially if it's a sunny day!):

(Temporarily Closed) Sunlife Financial building (99 Bank Street)

There are many entrances to this atrium: through the Starbucks, from all street sides including O'Conner and from its official address on 99 Bank.  Depending on where you enter head towards the center where you'll find a large courtyard area including an elevated spot with a waterfall which gives visitors a great respite from the usual city experience (noise, grey, packed sidewalks).  Great retreat in the winter but it does get busy during lunch hours.

Photo link

Minto Place atrium (407 Laurier Avenue W.)

This indoor spot is well-known for its green living wall.  A popular place with the downtown lunch crowd (so again it can be quite busy mid-day) who likely come for the light and airy peaceful space.  Come on a sunny day as you will get the maximum benefit from the vast glass ceiling and enjoy the large tropical trees placed strategically around the courtyard.  There is access from all sides of the buildings and the atrium is found in the west end.

Photo link

C.D. Howe building (240 Sparks Street)

Inside this popular seventies mall (who remembers shopping at "240 Sparks" and/or going to the movie theatre here?) you can find a small courtyard downstairs with tables nestled beside living trees.  It has undergone a renovation in the past couple of years but still includes both the "Bright" Tree Court and a "Relaxing" Waterfall court.  Some of the anchor stores have moved out including L.C.B.O. and Holtz.  There is access from all sides including Queen Street, Bank Street and even along the Sparks Street mall.  It also has a green roof that has been opened to the public on past Doors Open events.

Photo link

What other favourite green spots do you have in Ottawa to visit in the winter?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Greenhouses in Ottawa (to get your plant fix this winter)

As the weather turns colder and winter starts whispering about its arrival, thoughts turn to warmer climes and tropical getaways!  If you can't get away this winter, here are a couple of places to visit to warm yourself inside and out.  The tropical floral scents alone can elevate your mood:

Tropical Greenhouse (Arboretum) - Free Admission
Maple Drive

This greenhouse "has been recently renewed and replanted with a larger, more diverse collection. The elegant octagonal structure was originally built at Major's Hill Park in downtown Ottawa and moved to the Farm in 1938 to be used for horticultural research. Now a heritage building, it became a tropical garden open to the public in the 1970s."

Open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 4 pm; Sunday 10 am to 4 pm; closed Saturday.

Carleton Greenhouses - Free Admission
Nesbitt Biology Building

This facility is used for research, teaching and display to the general public. The greenhouses hold comprehensive plant collection of several thousand specimens ranging from popular crop species such as corn, soybean, papaya, banana and sugarcane to some quite unusual desert specimens.

Open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 4 pm

Oldest plant: Ponderosa Lemon (California hybrid), 33 years old
Biggest flower: Sun and Sand Hibiscus (Australia): 22 cm wide
Tallest plant: Chorisia speciosa (floss silk tree): 7 metres

Rideau Hall Greenhouses - Free Admission (when open to the public)

The Governor General's greenhouses are occasionally open to the public during special events (not during regular tours).  They were open as part of the Savour Fall event this year (2015) and in 2013 they were open as part of a Garden Gathering event.  Perhaps they might see the benefit of offering a weekend "doors open" to the public in the dead of winter?  ;  )

I'll also be adding to the blog some great indoor atrium recommendations that are accessible to the public - stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Two Cool online resources by Nature Canada!

Found these online resources last month on Nature Canada website:

Nature Hood virtual tour:

This resource highlights all the great spots for bird viewing in the Lac Deschenes area including waterbirds, shorebirds, aerial insectivores and passerines. It provides indepth information on all the popular spots on both sides including Bates island, Baie Simard and Mud Lake!  Check it out here.

Nature Hood App:

Nature Canada is also encouraging Ottawa residents to become citizen scientists by mapping sightings of wildlife in public spaces!  This includes birds, mammals, herptiles and even insects.  It has a great glossary to help when reporting a sighting and there is also the opportunity to virtually explore the entries that are already there on the map.  This would be fun for a family outing.  Learn more by visiting the website.

And speaking about the Ottawa River - Ottawa Riverkeeper has created a virtual tour for the Voyageur Pathway.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Urban Ecology Lectures (Ottawa)

This year the Friends of the Farm offered various Tree Walks in the Arboretum.  I was really thrilled to hear how popular these free tours were - with up to 100 people attending!  Some of the walks planned this year were on traditional topics including Flowering Trees, Tree Identification, Maple Tree Species and Fruit Trees while others introduced newer "urban ecology" topics such as:

BIRDS AND THE URBAN FOREST - Sunday, May 17, 2015
Tour leaders: Rachelle Lapensee and Owen Clarkin

From the website: "Birds and Trees are inextricably connected. Trees provide food and shelter to many species of birds, while birds act as agents for seed dispersal and greatly influence the relationship of trees with their insect and fungal pests. Come for a tour of the majestic trees at the Dominion Arboretum during the busy spring birding season, and learn more about Ottawa's birds, trees, and their relationships with each other."

TREE FORMS AND SHAPES IN WINTER - Sunday, November 15, 2015
Tour leaders: Owen Clarkin and Bettina Henkelman

From the website: "When the leaves fall, serious tree-watching can begin. Firstly, trees that were often obscured behind the leaves of others suddenly are visible; this is especially true of evergreens. Secondly, individual tree species tend to grow in recognizable patterns, and for deciduous trees this is best observed in winter. Techniques for how to learn tree recognition from a distance will be explained."

Image from Friends of the Farm newsletter

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Eco education in the City

There are many opportunities for youth to reconnect with nature.  This movement has grown in leaps and bounds!  Here are some that I have found in my city, with short description taken from their "about" pages:

Forest School (Ottawa): Forest Schools provide nature-based education where children have the opportunities to build an on-going relationship with the land by learning outdoors in a natural environment for at least a half of their day

SEED Educators: (See Environmental Education Differently) helping teachers incorporate environmental education into their classrooms

Ottawa Nature Collaborative: Facebook group organized by the Early Childhood Professional Learning Community to showcase how to integrate nature into learning based on the Take Me Outside principles

EcoLeadership Program: a Catalyst Mind initiative that helps young people connect with the outdoors for learning, restoration and wellbeing.  They design and lead programs for schools and youth groups.

Nature Canada's Nature Hood events: which are organized to help connect people of all ages to nature right where they live — which, in Canada, increasingly means urban centres.

Photos from: Catalyst Mind, ECPLC and Nature Canada

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

12 Principles to help Plan, Design, Plant and Manage an Urban Forest

Trees in the Townscape – A Guide for Decision Makers

The Tree and Design Action Group shares the collective vision that the location of trees, and all the benefits they bring, can be secured for future generations by influencing the planning, design, construction and management of our urban infrastructure and spaces. They have identified 12 action-oriented principles which can be adapted to the unique context of a town or city to provide a roadmap for trees in a 21st century context.

Found here:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Update on Guelph's Pollinator Park (decommissioned Eastview Landfill site)

I first blogged about this Pollinator Park project in 2012!  Glad to see that it continues to expand!

From the website (Pollination Guelph Planting Sites):

(The) pollinator habitat (is) on the 45ha (112 acre) decommissioned Eastview Landfill site. (It) will be one of the first and largest pollinator initiatives to occur in Ontario, Canada, and internationally. It will also highlight the City of Guelph's commitment to being a leader in environmental initiatives.

The Pollinator Park is a long-term, multi-stage project. Work began in the fall of 2012 and the first hectare was seeded in Fall 2013. We plan to seed another two hectares in Fall 2014 and if we can raise the funds, add two hectares a year in future years.

A bee hotel was added in June 2014 through the "Wild for Bees" initiative, which Pollination Guelph was a site partner in. This initiative is sponsored by Burt's Bees, Sustainable.TO, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, and Pollinator Partnership Canada.

The park borders Speedvale Ave, Watson Road, Eastview Rd

From Guelph Mercury article (written by Chris Seto):

(The) project had to use the herbicide Roundup to get rid of the fescue grass, a species planted to help prevent soil erosion on the mound.

The Eastview Landfill was decommissioned in 2003 after collecting the city's garbage since 1961. For the past 10 years it sat empty, gathering various weeds and invasive plant species. Some flowering species grew out of its clay, rocky soil, but the field hasn't been much of a hot spot for wildlife.

Since 2009, Pollination Guelph has had its eye on this open space as a potential haven for bees, butterflies, birds and native plant species, but it needed to raise enough funds to be able to act on its plan. This year, the charitable organization reached its goal of raising $15,000 – the amount it cost to prep and seed one hectare of land – and was able to sow the seeds of a variety of native species.

These species include coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, milkweeds, Indian grass and several others. The first flowers are expected to appear in the fall, with the majority of the bloom occurring in 2015.

The site will have to be monitored and mowed every couple of years to ensure it isn't overrun by invasive species.  (Burning isn't an option above the methane gas producing landfill.)

Elaine Williams, executive director of Wildlife Preservation Canada, said her organization joined up with Pollination Guelph earlier this year. She hopes the pollination park will become a healthy sanctuary for various species at risk, including the meadowlark and the bobolink bird. She said once the park is more established, it may even be a good place to reintroduce the endangered rusty patch bumblebee.

P.S. Check out my latest "urban wild" nature blog: Wild. Here. (2016 update)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Time to Frog Proof your Yard this Spring (swimming pools and window wells)

From an old 2009 Ottawa Citizen Article worth repeating:
The lives of tens of thousands of frogs, toads and salamanders could be saved each year if homeowners made a few simple changes to their homes and yards, says an Ottawa biologist.  Dan Brunton said backyard swimming pools are particularly deadly, and he has found up to 10 dead amphibians in the filter of his neighbour's pool before.  "The simple thing was they just couldn't get out," Brunton said.  "There's a wonderful commercial opportunity in here. Somebody make a nice little floaty ramp. You just leave it there and the critters climb out of your pool every morning."  A green frog trapped in the filter earlier this week was luckier than most — it was still alive when Brunton visited the pool to demonstrate the problem to a CBC reporter this week. 
While Brunton was renovating his home recently, he discovered another problem for amphibians — window wells. "The day these were put in two toads were found dead the following morning," he said, pointing at his own below-grade basement windows.  Brunton has now built gravel slopes in the wells so toads and other critters can climb out — something he encourages other homeowners to do.  "Since we've put this simple, simple little ramp in there, not one more animal has died in this thing." 
Fraser Veitch, a spokesperson for Benson Pools, a company that sells pool equipment and services, said it's fairly common for frogs to get trapped in pools, but people aren't always sure what to do when it happens.

Someone has now created that device to rescue frogs (and other animals including mice) from pools called the Frog Log. Here is a You Tube video showing the product in action: Frog Log (U.S. Company)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sustainable Option for Garden Path

Brilliant sustainable landscaping idea by local company Moneca Kaiser Design Build.

An outdoor mosaic pathway using off-cuts from a local granite company.  Close-up below.

All photos by MKDB.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Urban Wild "Express" - Bird Tornado (Atlanta Beltline)

Interactive Art Work on the Atlanta Beltline by Dorthy O'Connor and Craig Appel

Photo by Romanlily

(Location details from her photo page: eastside trail, near Ralph McGill - not far from Two Urban Licks)

Video (see it in action)

Info from video page:
The over population of homeless pets is a problem that plagues both the city of Atlanta and the entire Southeast. In 2013, Fulton County Animal Services took in 9,225 animals. The tornado-like mechanical sculpture O’Connor and Appel have created contains 365 birds, each bird representing 25 animals, which is the average daily intake at the shelter during a typical year. Tornado symbolizes a destructive force that can be overcome if more people get involved and help to break the cycle.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Gardens That Heal

Chicago Botanical Garden is hosting its Annual Seminar on "Gardens that Heal: A Prescription For Wellness" on May 13, 2015.  Even reading just the topics makes me smile:

- History of outdoor space in hospitals. Recent evaluative research on healing gardens. Precedents drawn upon by designers of healing gardens, including medical diagnoses.
- Designing for a Deeper and More Intimate Connection with Nature: Interaction Pattern Design
- Attention Restoration
- The Healing Gardens at the Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital
- The Benefits of Restorative Gardens and Healing

They also have a Horticultural Therapy Certificate program!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

NCC Urbanism Lab: Ecological Urbanism (Ottawa)

Just found this on the NCC website:

The National Capital Commission (NCC), in partnership with the Embassy of France, is pleased to present a stimulating discussion about ecological urbanism. This is an approach that "considers the city with multiple instruments and with a worldview that is fluid in scale and disciplinary focus. Design provides the synthetic key to connect ecology with an urbanism that is not in contradiction with its environment."

The panel will consist of the following experts:

The discussion will introduce the concepts of ecological urbanism as a philosophy and theory, as it is known in the Canadian context. Our French guests will then share their knowledge and experience from a theoretical and practical perspective, including the notion of éco-quartiers and green architecture. As planner and steward of Canada’s Capital, the NCC strives to incorporate innovative thought leadership to continue to creating a truly world-renowned capital.

NCC Capital Urbanism Lab Event was held December 2014.  (Too bad I found out about this event after the fact!)