Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How to Live Green with a Nature Based Outlook and the Wonder Resource: Hemp

My outlook is entirely nature based. Every thing I do I see from the vantage point of how this affects nature, will it harm?, will it help?, will it work within the laws of nature? I seek solutions that will work with nature’s laws.

For instance, my main thought when I think about buying something (which I try to limit to only real needs) is, how natural and safe for nature is this product? So, products that are biodegradable, recyclable, or are made from natural plant materials are always preferable to me since they work within nature within nature’s system and will not simply end up in a landfill further polluting the planet.

This is one of the main reasons that I use in my own life and promote the use of hemp and the many products from it in body care, foods, clothing, bags, paper, and so on. Hemp is very easy to grow and grows so dense that weeds are shaded out, meaning less or no pesticides or herbicides are needed as is typical for many conventionally grown crops. Hemp actually helps to rebuild the soils health through shading and the buildup of organic matter. And hemp has many uses that make it a valuable crop for farmers. Hemp’s environmentally friendliness is the reason that we sell many hemp products (and many others) at our green store: Green Harmony Living (see

Roland's Websites:
Green Harmony Living
Green Harmony Design

Green Harmony Tours

Plants as Renewable Resources Exhibit at the Progressive German Federal Garden Show (BUGA)

Every two years at the Federal Garden Show in Germany, called BUGA, there is an exhibit organized by the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection that showcases plants as valuable renewable resources. Outside there are many rows of various crops organized by industrial categories like dyes, pharmaceutical, foods, textiles, oils, fuels, and so on. Inside the pavilion the various plants are shown with their respective end uses. For instance, hemp is always a major example displayed here, growing outside, and shown inside usually shown with the hemp door panels used by some car manufacturers like Daimler as well as other uses.

There are many other plants that may be used as renewable resources for our industrial society. This exhibit and the garden shows are truly remarkable and you will surely not see anything like them here in the US. This progressive attitude by the German government and its citizens, as is showcased at their garden shows, is the reason that I started organizing ecotours to Germany every two years to coincide with the garden shows. This ecotour visits some of them most cutting edge sustainable design and living concepts in architecture, garden design, urban planning, product design, transportation, and so on. The next ecotour is next year in August 2009. To learn more, please visit:

Roland's Websites:
Green Harmony Living
Green Harmony Design

Green Harmony Tours

Sustainable Gardening: Dead Trees Are Just As Important As Live Trees

During the bare, bleak winter season I am again reminded of the importance of dead trees in the landscape. It is during this time when all the leaves are off the trees that the sky becomes prominent and clear from the summer haze that any still standing dead trees are more clearly seen. I imagine most people consider dead trees, especially tall ones, to be an eyesore at best, and at worse, to be a severe hazard for fear of falling over. Because of this neatnick and fearful outlook most trees that die become wood chips before the blink of an eye.

I think this is a real shame and I am recommending that people leave dead trees standing where it is safe to do so. Dead trees are a natural part of our planet’s ecosystem and many plants and animals have developed over millions of years to rely on this habitat as a place to live, for food, and for shelter. The most recognizable benefit is to woodpeckers who need dead and mature live trees for their survival. Dead trees house beetles and insects that the woodpeckers need for food, and they use their strong beaks to carve out a hollow space in the trunks that makes a great home for them. I know I have enjoyed watching woodpeckers many times as they peck at the trees and fly about. I don’t want to imagine a world without them, for they are a beautiful sight!

In our garden we have three rather tall dead pine trees that attract many birds, including woodpeckers. We decided to leave these trees since they are not endangering anybody and they are very valuable to the ecosystem. I also think dead trees present a striking architectural and sculptural element not found in any living elements. Dead trees are, like boulders and mountains, nature’s sculptures that make landscapes beautiful. Unlike anything else, dead trees provide a direct connection between the sky and the earth that helps us understand both realms.

So, the next time you suddenly have a tree die in your garden, please consider letting it stand. If you are the least bit observant, you will be amazed at how much new life it will bring to your garden!

About Roland Oehme: He is a landscape architect specializing in beautiful, bold, edible, sustainable, and wildlife friendly garden design. To view his portfolio, please visit

Thursday, October 23, 2008

2009 Adventure Ecotour of Germany

20-30.August.2009 - Adventure Ecotour of Germany 2009: Discovering the Baltic Coast, Berlin, and Saxony’s Secret Green Architecture and Gardens

Join eco pioneer, Roland Oehme for an Incredible Experience of Germany's Sustainable Lifestyle!

We Offer Personalized Small Group, Carbon Offset Tours. Our tours emphasize Germany's wonderful progressive design sense as seen in its amazing garden shows, parks and gardens, sustainable architecture, transportation, beautiful pedestrian oriented towns and cities, and many other examples of sustainable living.

Come Join Us Next Year, 2009, to See the Unique German Federal Garden Show (BUGA) in Schwerin!

The German Federal Garden Show is the Olympic of garden shows as it only happens once every two years in a different city in Germany. Unlike the many temporary garden or flower shows in the USA or England, this horticultural extravaganza in Germany takes years of planning at all levels of government and the relevant private sector in order to build a permanent park for the city's residents to use forever.

The next German Federal Garden Show will take place not until 2011, so you won't want to miss next year's tour in 2009!

For more info and to signup:

Roland's Websites:
- Sustainable garden design - Organic products for your green & healthy lifestyle - Adventure ecotours of Germany

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

German Book of Wolfgang Oehme's Life - Just Released Jan. 2008

Wolfgang Oehme is my father, so I am honored to help spread information about his new book. So please read on.

Announcing the new book: Between Garden Grasses: Wolfgang Oehme and his Extraordinary Gardens in the New World by Stefan Leppert.

Green Harmony Living feels privileged to be the exclusive US retailer of this unique, just released German language book about Wolfgang Oehme's life and work as a preeminent landscape architect. Hot off the press in January 2008, this book chronicles the professional journey of Wolfgang Oehme. From his childhood in war torn Germany, to his postwar forays around Europe, to his giant leap to the east coast of the US, to his remarkable solo career designing gardens, to his highly successful partnership with James van Sweden with their landscape architecture firm Oehme, van Sweden & Associates, Inc., and ultimately to his successful solo projects in his German homeland and the US.

The books 144 pages are packed with 225 impressive photos of people, dreamlike gardens, drawings, Wolfi plants, and much more. The books' many photos make this book a worthy show book for your coffee table, even if the German language is not in your lexicon.

You may order this book and learn much more about Wolfgang Oehme at his official website

Wolfgang will personally autograph your copy if you wish, and shipping is free!!!

Wolfgang Oehme Foundation:
Each purchase of this book supports the Wolfgang Oehme Foundation. This foundation is committed 1) to supporting the maintenance of the numerous public gardens in Towson designed by Wolfgang, 2) to educating the public on Wolfgang’s style of bold, natural, and sustainable garden design, maintenance, and horticulture, and 3) to establishing a large public garden, like Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, that will physically convey Wolfgang Oehme’s unique vision of bold, natural, and sustainable garden design, maintenance, and horticulture.

Where Are the Bike Lanes and Trails in Maryland???!!!

Dear One Less Car!

I believe wholeheartedly in the mission of your organization. I am a bicycle advocate and rider and feel the biggest need right now is more places to ride safely in the state of MD. Where I live in Towson there aren’t any bike lanes or trails so bike riding around here is a challenge because it doesn't feel safe and many roads simply aren't suitable for bikes b/c of the high speed, the lanes are too narrow, and/or the roads are too busy. The rest of Baltimore County and for that matter, the state of MD, is lacking in bike facilities like these where one can ride safely. There are of course a few notable exceptions such as the Northern Central and the B & A Trails that are great but are too few in number and too far away from where I live. We should have the bicycle infrastructure in place that allows everyone in this state to be able to get on their bike at their home and bike to anywhere they want whether it is to go shopping, to work, to the bank, the post office, to the movie theater, and so on. And they should be able to do so on a safe network of onroad bike lanes and offroad bike trails throughout the state.

The image above is a view of the excellent bike trail around the Amber Lake at Bitterfeld, Germany. We certainly can learn much from the many beautiful bicycle facilities in numerous European countries.

Does your group ever lobby for the state or local jurisdictions to construct more bike lanes and/or bike trails? If yes, please tell me more about this. If no, why not, and do you have any suggestions for how to go about doing so?

Best regards,

Roland Oehme, RLA
Landscape Architect
Green Harmony Design

Why Are Humans Making Toxins That Kill Us and All Other Living Things?

Hi Roger!

I am glad to hear that you understand how toxic insecticides are and don't want to use them. I never use insecticides in my work. I find that they are unnecessary and there are better alternatives. Some people think that a little poison is not so bad. They think that sometimes it is necessary to use toxic chemicals to kill the rascals! I have concluded that this short sighted thinking is what will bring humanity to its demise. People need to realize that a little poison here and a little there adds up to a lot when looked at the whole US and when looked at over the decades. I just read an article in the Sierra Club’s magazine, Sierra, Jul/Aug 2008, “Songbird Swan Song: Do your food miles trample bobolinks and warblers?”. The article blames pesticides used all too frequently in Latin America countries on food crops that us Americans buy, as the chief reason songbirds have declined. Many of the songbirds that we see during the summers in the US overwinter in Latin America and the pesticides kill outright many of these birds decreasing their populations and threatening their existence.

Another reason to not use toxic chemicals that concerns us humans more directly can be summed up in one word: cancer. We know what causes cancer, mostly toxins in the environment that we come into contact with, and toxins in the foods we eat, and yet we are still looking for a cure. The cure is to stop making these poisons in the first place, and this will only happen when enlightened people like ourselves stop buying and using toxic stuff.

Europe has recently enacted a sweeping new chemical law that requires chemical manufacturers to prove a substance is nontoxic before it can be sold. This law is the opposite of regulations in the backward thinking US policy that requires a chemical to proven as hazardous before it can be removed from commerce. Hopefully, the lure of selling to Europe’s large market will compel American chemical companies to produce nontoxic chemicals in the future. This certainly highlights how big business rules the US’s policy and not the elected (supposed) leaders in Congress.

Regarding the Japanese beetles, a few of them is nothing to get alarmed about. Just pick them off and smash them in your hands or stomp under your feet. Using an insecticide is never necessary for these beetles. Insecticides don’t discriminate; they kill everything they come into contact with, including humans, perhaps not right away but over time as with cancer. If you have a fish pond you can feed them to your fish. Just throw the Japanese beetles into the water, the fish will see and eat them. If at some point you do have many Japanese beetles, the traps work the best. I definitely would not use the soil stuff, b/c it sounds like it works against all grubs, and there are native grubs that have a right to live and benefit the environment.

To a healthier, natural world!

Roland Oehme