It is a controversy which has galvanised Canberra public opinion: namely, what is it with all the weedy-looking plants along the light rail corridor on Northbourne Avenue? Are they really meant to look so unkempt and scrubby?
Landscape architect Michael Reeves has just two words of advice for those quick to criticise: "Be patient."
Outbreaks of near-apoplexy have occurred on social media forums, with critics describing the look as "scrubby", "weed-infested" and "unbecoming of the main thoroughfare of our national capital".
One critic even demanded the Floriade team be brought in by the ACT government to plant flowers and rectify what was described as an "expensive eyesore".
Waving gently in the autumn breeze, the native grasses in the median strip on either side of the rail tracks are growing tall and drying out, ready to cast their seed to the wind as nature intended.
For such an important entry into the city, the appearance is terrible.Braddon business owner
And it's that dry, weed-like appearance of the seeding grass which has people fuming.
As part of its 20-year project agreement, Canberra Metro is required to deliver and maintain a fully landscaped light rail corridor along stage one. It is responsible for "a successful landscape outcome", and the cost of maintenance is included in their contract.
When queried about public criticism, Transport Canberra said it was "undertaking a rolling program of maintenance and has identified some areas where re-plantings will occur as well as targeted weed removal".
Mr Reeves said the design would become apparent over time as the slower-growing trees - with over 1200 trees procured for stage one - lifted their limbs higher and throw shade over the project's 2 million grasses, sedges, forbs (herbacious flowering plants) and flowers procured from local specialist providers.
What's happening now, he says, is the fast-growing grasses are dominant because they are exposed to maximum sunlight.
"In five to 10 years, as the tree canopy grows, it will begin to cast shade over the plants below, the native grasses, the flowers and the herbs and forbs," he explained.
"What we will see then is with less exposure to sunlight, the rate of the growth in the plants which are dominant now will slow, and the planned balance in the design will begin to emerge."
He encouraged motorists stopped in traffic to "look out the window and admire the detail; there are 35 species of plants. Blue Wahlenbergia, yellow Chrysocephalem and the white Leucochrysum albicans wildflowers can be found among the grasses".
"What has been planned for the Northbourne Avenue corridor will evolve and change as the trees grow and the grasses and wildflowers change emphasis in the shade," he said.
It's almost two years on since the red trams accepted their first public passengers.
The final bill for Canberra's much-vaunted light rail project from Gungahlin to Civic came in May 2019, and was described by the government as "affordable and sustainable" at $675 million.
The original light rail contract described the landscaping of the Metro project as "a key consideration".
Landscape architects DSB designed the verges and in its overview, it described how "plant species selection was predicated on the ability of plants to seed and become self-sustaining" within their habitat, with minimal maintenance.
Transplanted from envirocells and pots were a variety of grasses but dominating and growing prolifically and self-seeding are Eskdale grass, described as a hardy, drought-tolerant blue-green native which forms tussocks.
One Braddon small business owner, who declined to be identified, described the landscaping of the Northbourne corridor as a "disgrace".
"For such an important entry into the city, the appearance is terrible," she said.
"When the plantings were first made, we were prepared to give the landscapers the benefit of the doubt, hoping that once the shrubs and grasses matured and became established the appearance would improve.
"But it [the appearance] has only got worse over time. I drive it [Northbourne Ave] almost every day and it now just looks like weeds growing there."
However, Mr Reeves defended the design and the choice of plants, pointing out the intent was to create a "regenerative native grassland visual effect" and this "takes time to mature and reach its full expression".
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