Books & Essays
The Southern Frontier: Landscapes Inspired by Bartram's Travels
Telfair Books 2011
Bartram's Living Legacy: The Travels and the Nature of the South
Mercer University Press 2010
The Presettlement Piedmont Savanna: A Model For Landscape Design and Management
Description of Topic
Savannas and savanna-like landscapes are of high aesthetic value to humans and, when in a "natural" condition, are often ecologically rich. Once covering a large percentage of the Piedmont, generally on the uplands, savannas or savanna-like landscapes gave much of the presettlement Piedmont woodland landscape an open appearance, with trees widely spaced amidst a ground cover of grasses and forbs. Whether resulting from conditions on the extreme ends of the moisture gradient, from the influences of human and/or naturally caused fires, or by grazing and browsing animals, this ecologically rich and culturally valuable landscape persisted to various degrees for hundreds and potentially thousands of years. Even though the post-settlement European methods of land use caused presettlement savanna landscapes to all but disappear from the Piedmont, these landscapes can still be of value as aesthetically preferred and ecologically sound models for landscape design and management.
In order to understand the history, composition, functions, and aesthetics of the Piedmont savanna, I will in this thesis examine descriptive historical information, especially that of early explorers; savanna remnants found in the region; the ecology of nearby tall grass prairies and savannas; general savanna properties; human landscape preference; and Piedmont ecological history.
The application will consist of a restoration design and management program for a demonstration of a Piedmont savanna landscape located at the South Carolina Botanical Garden in Clemson, South Carolina. The program will consider restoration design goals, inventory of site features, restoration design issues, site preparation, site installation, management goals, management units, objectives, strategies, methods, and management implementation and monitoring. A site inventory/analysis, a mass/space plan, a planting design plan, a management zones plan, and lists of potential species will be included.
Need for Research
Different types of savannas are common in today's southern Piedmont. These savannas are manifest in the manicured lawns and specimen trees of suburbia; the perfect rows of pecan and peach orchards; the summer-mown sward and trimmed trees of road right-of-ways; and in the landscapes of private estates, corporate properties, and public parks designed in a manner reminiscent of the English pastoral landscapes of Capability Brown two centuries ago. Though they are widespread and seemingly aesthetically preferred, these landscapes are often expensive to maintain in terms of labor, fuel, fertilizer, etc.; they are usually ecologically impoverished; and they often fall short of their aesthetic potential. In the interest of making these landscapes viable over time by reducing resource input and increasing ecological and aesthetic value, it is necessary to find a better model for their design and maintenance. The historic Piedmont savanna may serve as the best model. In the Piedmont of today, however, very little exists to give popularity to the concept that there is or was a native savanna or that it is an appropriate regional landscape. This is because the native savanna is neither a part of the present landscape, nor understood as having been part of it in the past. Historical misconceptions about the presettlement landscape result in poorly informed landscape decisions. In this thesis, I will attempt to expose these issues in addition to exploring the aesthetic and ecological properties of the Piedmont savanna in order to provide an informed model for landscape design and management.