I used to despair of ever seeing really interesting commerical landscape design in Alaska. Instead of interesting, imaginitive, or evocative landscaping, most of the stuff seemed to be gas station design on a grander scale. Not so in the last few years. I have been pleasantly suprised by some recent designs, one of which I will share today (blurry drive-by photo of west side, below).
When I first noticed the landscaping at 188 Northern Lights, a recently completed office building in midtown Anchorage, I just about ran up onto the curb with the car. There were boulders set into the sidewalk (on the north side), interspersed with plantings. And the plantings! Unusual choices for the 49th state. Wow. I'd like to see more thoughtful designs like this. Planting tall, narrow varieties (to avoid the maintenance nightmare of trying to wack things back down and into size in a tight urban space) was smart. Also, ornamental grasses were utilized, one of my favorite groups of plants. The inflorescences were left to stand over the winter. That flat out stunned me. I thought for sure a "clean-up crew" would cut everything back, thus ensuring minimal winter interest. From my observations, onamental grasses are still unusual in residential landscapes up here, but in commercial landscapes, there are almost non-existent.
The plantings at this building are (my best guess): Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Overdam', Rosa glauca, Populus tremula 'Erecta', and Hemerocallis 'Stella D'Oro'. I realize many people think daylilies are gas station plants, but they are still unusual in Alaska. In the interest of full disclosure, there is a small patch of turfgrass on the south side of the building. That disappointed me a bit. As all Alaska gardeners know, the southern exposure is a treasured piece of real estate. However, the rest of the design is smashing so I can overlook one generic choice. Drive by and enjoy it some time (the northwest corner is pictured below).
Hopefully, this is the start of a trend in commercial landscape design here in Anchorage. I'd call it the "Making an Effort" trend. Hope springs eternal, right?