Perhaps Your Most Important Partners – The Plant Growers

Crataegus crus-galli – ‘Inermis’ image: Johnson’s Nursery, Inc.
Crataegus crus-galli ‘Inermis’
image: Johnson’s Nursery, Inc.

Maybe it can be attributed to our agrarian heritage here in the upper Midwest, but in your Design-Build PPN co-chairs’ world, plant material – and we mean great plant material – is critical to the impact and success of our projects. Knowing who to source from and the quality of their products are critical to our happiness and to your client’s satisfaction. So we thought it might be good to dig into this a bit and share some of our experiences. As always, we encourage your comments about what has worked well for you in your practice.

Plant material is available everywhere. From huge nationwide wholesale growers, to “Ma & Pa” tree farms and specialty sources focusing on one category of plant material, the landscape architect’s choices are endless. When we are in “design mode,” it might be fair to say that we most likely already know who we will use to purchase our trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, natives, aquatics, etc. Those potential sources carry the varieties being specified and they also may have the level of quality that best suits your project’s budget and meets (or exceeds) the expectations of you and your client.

Though the sources are many, there are some reasons to use discretion when sourcing your plant materials. Let’s look at some important characteristics of good growers and how to best select your nursery supplier partners:

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 4

Figure 1: Subdivision entrance planting design using a native and adapted plant palette image: design and computer model by David Hopman, ASLA, PLA
Figure 1: Subdivision entrance planting design using a native and adapted plant palette
image: design and computer model by David Hopman, ASLA, PLA

Part 4: Contemporary Native and Adapted Plant Palette

The rise in research and the popularity of using native and adapted plant palettes can be traced to the work of the Colorado Water Board in the early 1980s. They coined and copyrighted the term ‘xeriscape™,’ a combination of the word “landscape” and the Greek word “xeros,” which means dry. [1-2] Other terms have been created for similar approaches in other areas. In North Texas the term used by the North Central Texas Council of Governments is ‘Texas SmartScape™.’ According to their website, the program is designed to “Conserve water and save $Money$ on your water bills; beautify your home and local environment; attract native butterflies, hummingbirds and other wildlife; and prevent / help reduce storm water pollution!” [3]

The native and adapted plant palette has made a large improvement to the environmental cost/benefits ratio of using plants for ornamental horticulture. The prime driver has been water savings, a subject that many people can relate to, including people who are not focused on other environmental issues or who may be primarily looking to save money and reduce maintenance. The gardening approach using this palette is flexible and can even approach fine gardening standards while using far less resources. The focus of designs using these plants is usually still discrete monocultures, or ‘drifts,’ of single species of plants using unity and contrast techniques derived from traditional principles. There has been a trend in recent years towards more naturalistic intermingled plant combinations using this palette as well. It has been very well promoted by government, industry, the design community, and academia, thereby hastening the adoption of this important innovation. Plants that were very hard to find and very expensive a few years ago can now be found at very low prices in many big box retailers.

The native and adapted plant palette is currently the state of the art when it comes to a proven and commercially-viable environmentally friendly strategy for selecting plants. It is the one that the most forward thinking landscape architects and garden designers use. Some of the tenets have even been written into landscape ordinances in drier parts of the United States. It is flexible, cost effective, and there is ample information easily available to train designers for success.

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Favorite Places Around the World, Part 2

Shisen-dō Temple, Kyoto, Japan image: np&djjewell via Flickr
Shisen-dō Temple, Kyoto, Japan
image: np&djjewell via Flickr

In a 2013 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), the questions focused on the theme of favorite spaces. Throughout the survey, a few locations were consistently mentioned, with nearly all of the most popular responses located here in the United States. But now, we’re setting our sights farther afield: the best places to see abroad. Looking beyond Italy and France, which were the most popular countries among the international responses, there were numerous favorite places located elsewhere around the world:

North and South America

  • Machu Picchu, Peru
  • Uvita, Costa Rica
  • Old Quebec, Canada
  • Quetico Provincial Park, Canada
  • Mount Royal Park, Montreal
Barcelona skyline from the Montjuic viewpoint image: Alex DROP via Flickr
Barcelona skyline from the Montjuic viewpoint
image: Alex DROP via Flickr


  • Kew Gardens, England
  • Hidcote Manor Garden, England
  • Hyde Park, England
  • Sissinghurst Castle Garden, England
  • Studley Royal Park, England
  • The Alhambra, Spain
  • Park Güell, Spain
  • Barcelona’s waterfront, Spain
  • Alcázar Gardens, Spain
  • Lübeck’s marketplace, Germany
  • Santorini, Greece
  • Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
  • Keukenhof Gardens, the Netherlands
  • Piet Oudolf’s nursery, the Netherlands
  • Jungfrau Mountain, Switzerland
  • Stockholm’s Woodland Cemetery, Sweden
  • Peterhof Palace Gardens, Russia

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Kids to Parks Day School Contest

Kid’s free fishing event image: USFWS photo by Larry Jernigan via the Every Kid in a Park media kit
Kid’s free fishing event
image: USFWS photo by Larry Jernigan via the Every Kid in a Park media kit

The National Park Trust Announces an Expanded Kids to Parks Day School Contest

May 21, 2016 is National Kids to Parks Day and to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, now 100 schools will win grants!

This national contest—open to all under-served public, public charter, and private schools across the U.S.—aims to empower students to create and plan their own park experience by inviting them to submit proposals for a Kids to Parks (KTP) event at a park in their community. With help from the National Park Service Centennial Challenge fund and other support, the National Park Trust (NPT) is looking to award 100 schools with park scholarships of up to $1,000. Schools should implement their KTP event during May 2016, but exceptions will be made to accommodate school schedules. This contest also supports the President’s Every Kid in a Park initiative to get every 4th grader to a park this school year! The deadline for entries is Friday, March 4. Winners will be announced Friday, March 25 on the NPT website.

If you know a teacher or school that wants to get Kids to Parks, please share this information with them today. Volunteer to help them with their event by talking to students about landscape architecture and how we design great parks like the one they are visiting. This is a great way to interact with future landscape architects and expand understanding of our profession! Don’t forget to post on social media using #KidsinParks, #Landarch, and #NPS100 to show your support and broaden our reach.

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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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