Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden

Entry with interactive fountain image: Lisa Horne

Entry with interactive fountain
image: Lisa Horne

Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden: A New Design Typology

After seventeen years in the making, the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden opened in the fall of 2013. With a $63 million construction budget, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens had transformed the eight-acre site along White Rock Lake in the northern part of the grounds into something new that merged typologies. The adventure garden fuses seventeen educational interactive displays with lush native or adapted plantings and water features. It is part botanical immersion and part outdoor curriculum.

An entry plaza, small amphitheater, and generously sized café placed adjacent to the garden entrance easily accommodates school groups. Through the whimsical metal entry gate with the state flower and butterfly is a plaza with a lively at-grade fountain surrounded by shade structures and seating.

A water narrative starts at the entry and continues throughout the site. One of the unique challenges to the site is a significant grade change. The design turns this into an advantage with generously sized water features flowing from the entry to the edge of the property by the lake. The Cascades allows a close up view of water as it falls.

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Favorite Places Around the World, Part 1

St. Peter's Square image: Alexandra Hay

St. Peter’s Square
image: Alexandra Hay

In a 2013 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), the questions focused on the theme of favorite spaces, and throughout the responses, a few locations were consistently mentioned—with nearly all of the most popular places located here in the United States. But now, we’re setting our sights farther afield, highlighting the best places to see abroad according to PPN members.

Italy and France dominated across the board, and were at the top of the list among the favorite iconic spaces, designed spaces, and absolute favorite places outside the US. Specific sites in each country that were mentioned multiple times include:


  • Piazza del Campo, Siena
  • Piazza San Marco, Venice
  • Piazza del Popolo, Rome
  • Spanish Steps, Rome
  • St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
  • Parco dei Mostri, Bomarzo
  • Villa d’Este, Tivoli


  • Versailles
  • Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris
  • Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris
  • Jardin des Tuileries, Paris
  • Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
  • Place des Vosges, Paris
  • Vaux-le-Vicomte, Maincy

Here are a few of the reasons why Italy and France were such powerhouses among the international responses.

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WILA Interview Series: Mentorship, Part 1

image: iStock © frankwolffnl

image: iStock © frankwolffnl

“The Mind is Not a Vessel to be Filled, but a Fire to be Kindled”

The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN)’s focus for 2015-2016 is an interview series developed around being women landscape architects, life/work balance, and mentors. The WILA PPN’s co-chairs and officers developed a set of 17 questions, then searched out willing landscape architects and began the interview process. The following is the first of two posts on the topic of mentorship.

Women & Mentors

Two of our WILA PPN interview questions focused on women’s experience with, and serving as, mentors throughout their careers. One common theme was that mentoring or being mentored is not a particularly formalized process in most firms. The resulting experiences with mentoring or being mentored were very broad, from understanding appropriate office attire, to the sharing of technical knowledge, to focusing on career advancement.

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ASLA at the International Builders’ Show

"Ask a Landscape Architect" at ASLA's exhibit booth image: shawn balon

“Ask a Landscape Architect” at ASLA’s exhibit booth
image: shawn balon

This January, as part of Design & Construction Week® (DCW) in Las Vegas, NV, NAHB’s International Builders’ Show® (IBS) hosted their annual “mega-event” that brought together more than 110,000 builders, general contractors, remodelers, designers, flooring professionals, as well as product specifiers from around the globe. Throughout the three-day event, attendees discovered an expansive universe of products and innovative concepts designed to enhance their businesses, design thinking, and living environments.

For the twelfth year, ASLA was on hand to exhibit and advocate to create a stronger presence for landscape architecture professionals. Along with our exhibit booth, we had the opportunity to work with local ASLA chapter members from Nevada, Arizona, and San Diego to create activities throughout the show. As part of the Design Studio, we participated in specialized seminars and activities alongside single-family and custom builders, multifamily and commercial builders, remodelers, architects, interior designers, and land planners.

The following is a quick overview of the sessions in which we participated:
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Arbori(culture): Art & Ecology

An interior view of John Grade's Middle Fork installation at the Renwick Gallery image: Alexandra Hay

An interior view of John Grade’s Middle Fork installation at the Renwick Gallery
image: Alexandra Hay

The speaker at a recent event at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC, was not an artist, curator, or art historian, but an arborist. Gregory Huse, Arborist and Tree Collection Manager for the Smithsonian Gardens, focused on John Grade’s Middle Fork installation in his talk, entitled “The Crossroads of Art, Nature and Ecology.” The piece consists of a tree, suspended sideways from the ceiling. Taking up the entire room, the sculpture is simultaneously massive and airy, moving slightly as visitors walk around it and shot through with light, evoking the dappled look of sunlight filtered through a forest’s leaves.

The Renwick Gallery, part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, reopened in November after an extensive two-year renovation with the exhibition WONDER. Middle Fork, in addition to installations by Maya Lin, Patrick Dougherty, and Janet Echelman, is one of the nine pieces included in this exhibition, which has drawn record crowds.

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 3

Peter Walker, FASLA, stands in front of his redesign of the UT-Dallas Campus featuring exotic turf and tree species. image: David Hopman

Peter Walker, FASLA, stands in front of his redesign of the UT-Dallas Campus featuring exotic turf and tree species.
image: David Hopman

Part 3: The National Green Industry ‘Utility’ Plant Palette

The next step forward in moving towards a better balance of aesthetics, environment, and ecology has flourished since the latter part of the 20th century with the introduction of better adapted plants by the national horticulture industry. These are the ‘workhorses’ used by landscape architects to cover large areas of ground in landscape development and to provide the structure and spatial definition desired for landscape designs. They are hybridized species of turf, groundcovers, annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees that are rarely indigenous to the areas where they are planted. The massive scale of the areas in the United States covered by these plants makes them the primary target for the aesthetically qualified native polycultures that are the subject of this series. Turfgrasses alone cover over 63,000 square miles—about the size of the State of Florida—and may be the largest irrigated crop in the United States. [1]

As in part 2 of this series on fine gardening, the priorities of the companies and the plant palettes they produce are revealed by examining the search functions on their websites. These websites show what the companies want their customers to look for and, significantly, what is missing from the thinking that is reflected in the plant palettes produced.

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Event Lighting Made Easy

LED lighting image: Reinders, Inc.

LED lighting
image: Reinders, Inc.

Many of us design-build practitioners occasionally find ourselves being asked by clients about providing holiday or event lighting design work, and the installations of said lighting. Recently, we had a request that spurred a challenge for us to implement lights for specimen trees. With a bit of research, we discovered some product data that might be helpful when future lighting requests arise.

Our company had a request from a client to provide decorative mini-lights for specimen trees that are located far from their driveway entrance. This also meant that it was far from any electrical outlets. With this challenge in mind, an area supplier introduced us to a really slick system for tying strings of LED lights directly into the wiring infrastructure of existing low-voltage or LED lighting systems. This allowed us to fill nearby ornamental trees and large shrubs with white or colored lights, by tapping right into adjacent cable from a path light or up-light, using quick coaxial couplers as the interface mechanism.

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