Last fall I had the idea of doing something nice for the rather boring and minimalist plantings outside my office. The building itself is great-an 85k-square-foot former railway signal factory (circa 1904–6) that has been repurposed into a mixed use complex including our offices, residential units above, banquet spaces, a yoga studio, a bar, and an inner courtyard that had previously been completely hidden from public view because all the windows were bricked over. I love my office; it’s one of the coolest places to work in town.
However. The few planted areas (aside from the courtyard, which is green and beautiful) are pretty dismal. There isn’t much green space in front, as this is in an industrial streetscape; gardens start to appear behind us on the residential side streets. The triangular planted areas in front of the complex are filled with a few shrubs, daylilies and hostas, with-considering how small the spaces are-an overabundance of bare mulch. I found out why this was when I decided to perk things up a bit by adding 100 daffodil bulbs, tightly planted on either side of the central shrub (some kind of serviceberry, I think). My spade was impeded by a black barrier underneath the mulch. I saw that it was everywhere and tore enough away so that I could get the bulbs in. The soil underneath came away in large heavy clumps; I broke it up as much as I could with my shovel, and piled it back on the bulbs, hoping they’d be able to get through it. (Of course, I do not own this space, our company leases here and we have no responsibility for the landscaping.)
The daffs did come up this month, and I guess they only served to remind my boss of how dismal the rest of it is, so we are completely redoing the bed with the landlord’s permission. I’ll get to that later. The thing is, why landscape fabric? I saw weeds come up through it so it can’t be that-anyway, they had piled mulch on top of it, which works just as well and benefits the soil in the process (though not when it’s on fabric). Shouldn’t this crap be outlawed? It suffocates the soil, probably acting as a better barrier to water and oxygen than weeds. Who does this? Why do they do it? How can we stop them?