Submitted by emudata on Tue, 06/05/2018 - 06:45

This letter is to update everyone on the current status of The Living Landscape Function Calculator being developed by Environmental Metrics Unlimited (EMU).

I met with my advisor, Tivoni Devor of Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC) on Friday May 18, 2018. The timeline we were under with UAC was to have a six month fundraising period to promote the idea of the function calculator, raise money and build support.

We had set an initial goal of $15,000 dollars by May 13, 2018. We were able to raise $2600, with pledges of support from sponsors of an additional $2500.

Even though this is short of the financial goal, we were able to find support for the project, and develop interest in the Horticulture community. The financial goal was principally to ensure we could raise enough money to continue the project, which we did. UAC feels we have shown sufficient organizational ability and manifested interest by the community to continue our efforts.


To recap the project:

The long term goal is to develop a metric database, with metric values for each plant in 21 categories as laid out in the Living Landscape.

In my conversations with various parts of the industry I have found universal interest in developing a database of this type. What I have also found is that it is difficult for people to become engaged because there is nothing for them to see, work with, or use.

The current idea that I have suggested to some of our development partners is to launch a binary version of the database. This was suggested by Amy Highland at Mt. Cuba Center. The table as it was published is basically a yes/no table. Either a plant is a winter source of food or it is not. This easily converts to a zero or one value.

I have already prepared a version of the table with this data. The next step would be to get an estimate from a web developer for the cost of putting this version online. We could also use this as an information/promotional vehicle, offering a video explaining the upcoming advancements in the database, and how it can be used.

We could start by putting the database up on the EMU website, or make it available to our two current sponsors, North Creek Nursery and Cavano’s Nursery. We could charge a onetime join up fee to use the database as a fundraising stream. If other growers would like to link to the site then they could also contribute toward the development of the table.

We are also now prepared to apply for grants, which generally have a longer timeline to develop.

We are also going to launch something along the lines of a GoFundMe campaign, with specific short-term goals, such as a dedicated laptop for EMU.


Current Goals:

1)      Confer with Doug Tallamy, Rick Darke and the publisher, Timber press, to build consensus for the project going forward. I spoke with Doug on 5/25/2018, he approves of the binary database concept, and suggested we expand to include the other five databases to cover the entire US.

2)      Confer with our principle industry supporters, Cavano’s Nursery and North Creek Nursery, as to their input for the next step. Specifically, do they support the concept of the binary version? Spoke with Steve Castorani on 6/4/2018, North Creek is supportive of the binary version and will discuss it with their website developers Clarity Connect.

3)      Contract with a web developer to create the online database and website, and get a time and cost estimate.

4)      Secure funds for the release of the binary version.

5)      Develop a strategic plan for short and long term funding. Including grants, such as HRI and other sources.

Taylor Pilker of Cavano’s wrote a letter of support for the function calculator that reads in part: “A few years ago a trend began in the use of native plants leading to many questions from our landscape customers; now those questions are not as much of origin but what does a plant do? The designers know native plants work. But why do they work and how do I show my customer how they work. The calculator provides a tool for solving that problem.”

There are many developing databases online to aid in the selection of native plants.  Steve Castorani reports that he, “recently had a meeting with NWF and they are in the final phase of putting together a robust website for a native plant finder. They are well on the way. Audubon is working on a similar format.”

Clearly there is broad interest and need for a comprehensive and robust database that would provide not only appropriate native plants by zip code, but also information of function, adaptability to site conditions, and plant community relationships, among many other vital characteristics. As Doug Tallamy has said, the Living Landscape Function Calculator will be a game changer for the Horticulture industry, as well as educational, governmental and homeowner applications.

We thank everyone who has contributed funds, ideas, guidance and support to this project. We are now on our way to the development, publishing and promotional phase of this exciting project. I look forward to collaborating with all of you, and to expanding our circle ever further.

Christopher Sohnly

Executive Director; Environmental Metrics Unlimited      May 28 - June 4, 2018

Submitted by emudata on Sat, 03/10/2018 - 20:03
Native plants, Environmental Metrics Unlimited, Master Gardeners

We had folks of all ages, some experienced, some newcomers to seed starting. Through their generous contributions, we raised $280 for Environmental Metrics Unlimited. Lots of fun, and many plants started for spring planting. Thanks to all Penn State Extension staff and Anna Herman for hosting us!

Submitted by emudata on Sat, 03/10/2018 - 19:55
Native plants, Environmental Metrics Unlimited

We had our second Native Plant Seed Starter Workshop, hosted by the Master Gardeners at the Penn State Extension office, 675 Sansom Street, on March 8, 2018. 18 brave souls came out despite the snow storm the previous day.

Submitted by emudata on Mon, 02/26/2018 - 07:21
Environmental Metrics Unlimited, Native Plants

Provided with a ready-to-plant 48-cell tray, the ready for spring gardeners choose from a range of native seeds from classics such as Black-eyed Susan to the colorful Purple Love Grass, or Rose Milkweed.

After materials costs, the workshop raised $200! This going toward our short-term goal of $15,000 by May 1st, 2018.

Two more workshops are scheduled. March 8, 6-8 PM, with the Master Gardeners at 675 Sansom St. And March 22nd, 7 – 8:30 PM, in Ambler, hosted by Weavers Way Coop.

Submitted by emudata on Mon, 02/26/2018 - 07:17
Native plants, native seeds, Environmental Metrics Unlimited

To help promote awareness of the use of native plants, Environmental Metrics Unlimited, EMU, hosted its first Native Plant Seed Starter Workshop at Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting (CHFM) on Saturday Feb. 24, from 1- 3 PM.

Ten participants learned about the importance of native plants, as well as how to grow and select varieties. They were able to choose from over 15 varieties of native seeds and planted a ready-to-germinate tray.

Our thanks to Cyane Gresham, and the CHFM Landscape Committee, who hosted the workshop and donated the rental cost of the room to EMU, saving us $100! Our thanks also to Alex and Alyse, Jonathan and Samantha, Carolyn, Linda, Diane D., JoAnn, Nancy and Diane H. for making a contribution to EMU and the earth!

Submitted by emudata on Mon, 01/15/2018 - 20:00
Doug Tallamy

Prof. Douglas Tallamy has supported this project from my earliest efforts in February of 2015. When I updated him on promoting the project at MANTS he responded with this email.

"Sounds like this is going to happen Chris, thanks to your hard work. The garden writer's article should help too.

Keep it up."

Doug     1/13/2018

He also made a $50 donation via our generosity website .

Truly an honor to collaborate with someone so devoted to understanding the natural world we love.

MANTS Baltimore Show

Submitted by emudata on Sat, 01/13/2018 - 08:59
MANTS, Garden Writers Association, Eva Monheim, Louise Clarke

Spent three days at MANTS in Baltimore, promoting EMU. Spent Thursday, Jan 11, at MANTS with Garden Writers Association members and friends, Louise Clarke of Morris Arboretum, Bloomfield Farm Horticulturist; and my former professor of Horticulture, Eva Monheim. Quite an adventure exploring the wide range of products and services with these ever curious and knowledgeable horticultural divas.

We are looking at a Callistemon, an Australian native.

They both are strong supporters of our work at EMU, and we look forward to future collaborations.

Submitted by emudata on Tue, 01/02/2018 - 21:05
Wissahickon Valley Park

Started the New Year with a hike in Wissahickon Valley Park. Ended up in Andorra meadow, warm sun and Big Bluestem. Only 10 minutes from my house.


Submitted by emudata on Fri, 12/29/2017 - 09:06
Tree Tenders, Chestnut Hill, Spruce Hollow Designs

Chestnut Hill Tree Tenders volunteers supported a tree planting at Woodward Pines, a section of Fairmont Park located at Lincoln Drive, West Springfield Avenue and Navajo Streets. The lot had recently lost pine trees and was in need of enhancement. Two trees were planted on November 18th, 2017; as part of the fall tree planting. The trees planted were: Quercus bicolor, Swamp White Oak and Prunus serotina, Black Cherry.

Submitted by emudata on Fri, 12/29/2017 - 08:55
Native plants, Chestnut Hill, Spruce Hollow Designs

On November 19th, 2017; a group of volunteers planted the tree pit design, modified for full sun. Chestnut Hill Community Association paid for the plants and Spruce Hollow Designs provided the site preparation and oversight. The area was fenced to prevent deer damage and signage was added to acknowledge all involved.

The final Plant List used onsite was: One - Ilex verticillata, Winterberry Holly; Ten- Carex Appalachica, Appalachian sedge; Five - Chrysogonum virginianum 'Allen Bush', Golden star or green and gold; Three - Coreopsis hybrid, Coreopsis UpTick™ Yellow & Red; Six - Matteuccia struthiopteris, Ostrich Fern; Six - Dennstaedtia punctilobula, Hayscented Fern; Three - Heuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride', Autumn Bride Heuchera; Three - Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm', Black-eyed Susan; Three - Schizachyrium scoparium - Little Blue Stem.

 Additional plants were added a few weeks later, with the intention that in spring the area will be fully planted as a grouping. Additional trees are also scheduled for spring 2018. Our thanks to Chestnut Tree Tenders, Chestnut Hill Community Association, and all the volunteers involved. Posted December 28, 2017 by Christopher S. Sohnly.