On Monday, the Saugus Iron Works planting design came full circle. I met the Branching Out Field Team at the site for their week-long ‘Resource Protection and Pest Management’ task – as known as, the goose-deterrent garden. Adrienne, the Field Team Coordinator; and Innocent and Ashley, Field Team Leaders; structured the day so that the Branching Out team would learn about the site’s history and contribute to its stewardship.

Branching Out approaches each of their projects fully prepared and provides time for reflection. I enjoyed joining them for their Safety and Stretch Circle in the morning before heading down to the site. We also took time in the afternoon to practice mindfulness and reflection. (We sat in the shade, exercised our minds with some writing, and took a few minutes to consider how we were feeling in that very moment.)

I helped to introduce the project and our goals for the week. This was the final week for the Branching Out Team, so by now they have already worked with a planting plan and schedule. We tested them to read the plan and come up with a plan of approach. They chose to start with installing the wire fence and spacing flags. Without much prompting, the team divided tasks and tools and began to make the design a reality.

After joining them on a tour of the Iron Works where we learned about the process of iron production and the industry, we returned to the site and I gave them a quick lesson on the plants that they will be planting. I had a lot of fun introducing each plant and seeing if they could, as detectives, determine the species from the clues I offered.

When I left Saugus that afternoon with excited anticipation to see the final product by the end of the week, I began to reflect the entirety of the project. Only weeks earlier, I had exchanged emails, drafted a design, determined a plant schedule, and navigated through some issues; and now, it is real. I also left confident in the team to make independent choices about the site and the design. That is the beauty of landscape architecture: there is design intention and design execution, and they do not have to be identical. The Saugus River buffer planting was designed in an office in the middle of downtown Boston; therefore, even with all the research in the world, the real experience of the site remains a mystery. (For example, only the person installing the fence knows where rocks are underground, and they must adapt the installation to the constraints of the site.) I trust the team to recognize the design’s intent and, when faced with issues, adapt.


On Thursdays I saw Marc, and he updated me on the progress at Saugus. He told me that the Branching Out team decided to move the fencing into the middle of the planting beds in order to mask it from view. I was glad to hear that they came up with that solution and that re-installation went smoothly. I cannot wait to visit Saugus in a few years to see how the buffer garden matures and evolves.

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