Is Your Professional License Safe?

Wisconsin State Capitol / image: Wikimedia Commons

If you haven’t noticed, professional licensure for Landscape Architects is on the chopping block in several states. Wait! What? Why?

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) published a report in November 2016 entitled “Fencing Out Opportunity” with the subtitle “Occupational Licensing in the Badger State”—less of a report and more of a fictional assassination of our profession of Landscape Architecture!

Let’s start at the beginning—the report author, Collin Roth, targets professional licensure as a job-killing evil that keeps non-licensed citizens from earning a living, drives up consumer costs, and believes that anyone can fulfill the duties of a Landscape Architect. Now, take this “report” in front of several eager state legislators, and we have a real problem here.

Earlier this year, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker included policy in his biennial budget proposal that would create a legislative council to review all professional licensure in the state for standards to grant the license, continuing education requirements, and the economic impacts that the license has on the state economy. During budget deliberations, the WI Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) stripped policy items from the budget, including this one, as they should. Including policy items in the biennial budget precludes public hearings and floor debate—not a good way to govern a state! However, in Wisconsin, when a policy issue is stripped from the budget, it becomes a ‘Bill.’ A Bill needs sponsorship in both the Assembly and the Senate before it can be assigned to a committee for consideration and public hearings. A junior legislator hoping to score brownie points can sign on as sponsor of the Bill, and now we have a serious threat to our occupation!

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Making the Most Impact with Your “Build” Relationships

image: LandWorks, Inc., Chris Miracle, PLA, ASLA
image: LandWorks, Inc., Chris Miracle, ASLA

Whether in the residential or commercial design-build landscape sectors, there are some great ways that landscape architects can enhance and bring more value to our working relationships with architects, builders, and clients – especially in the “build” process of our projects. The following are a few suggestions that may help you, and as always, feel free to share any comments and suggestions that you might have with fellow landscape architecture professionals.

Here is a list of tasks that are in no particular order – some are big and some are rather minor – but keeping these in mind in your project management will show your design-build team partners that you care a lot about the details!
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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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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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Stewards of the Land

Neighborhood Strong Plantings image: Tim Garland
Neighborhood Strong Plantings
image: Tim Garland

After pondering various topics of interest in our field with Chris Miracle, Design-Build PPN Co-Chair, and reflecting upon my experience as a landscape architect, both in the pure design field and now in the design-build industry, I had an epiphany on an important subject to be discussed. I believe that as we move forward in our professional careers, we need to reflect back to the father of landscape architecture, and the works of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Central Park, his iconic piece of work, was and is currently a true treasure. If we distill down the concept of Central Park, it was a response to a strong social need at that time in the history of our country. Somewhere along the course of his career and the spawning of landscape architecture, the narrative of landscape architects being stewards of the land became prevalent. I would like to take a few moments and reflect on this concept of stewards of the land, and stewardship in general.

As landscape architects in the design-build sector of our industry, stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. One of our largest resources is the landscape, and as landscape architects we truly are the stewards of this land.
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Texture in the Garden

Colocasia esculenta (see below for description) image: wikimedia Wildfeuer
Colocasia esculenta (description below)
image: wikimedia Wildfeuer

One of the best attributes of a well-designed garden is the use of texture in the selection of plant materials and hardscape materials. A well textured garden should photograph just as good in black and white as it does in color. In this post, we would like to highlight some plant materials that provide both punch and softness – all adding deep textural interest to make the landscape “reach out” to the visitor.

Big and Bold

One tree that has some significant foliage impact is Magnolia tripetala, the Cucumber Magnolia. It’s long tapered and creamy colored flower petals are not as showy as the blooms of some of its cousins in the Magnolia family, but its rugged growth habit, large size, and lush foliage is a real attention getter. The Cucumber Magnolia also adds a much sought after tropical feel to a northern garden.

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Dry Stacked Stone Walls

Natural Drystack Rubble Stone Wall with Mortared Cap image: Chris Miracle
Natural drystack rubble stone wall with mortared cap
image: Chris Miracle

From the rolling countryside of Ireland to the mountains of Kentucky, the craft of building dry stacked stone walls has a rich history. Hand crafted stone walls dating back hundreds or even thousands of years can be found around the world. They are usually mortar-less, built of local stone, and reflect each area’s vernacular architecture and cultural heritage.

Dry stone walls are built for many reasons. Some hold back significant amounts of earth, allowing railroads, highways, and buildings to be constructed. Others form the foundations for bridges or provide protective armoring for shorelines. Some are stacked as fences to delineate property limits and others are created for a sense of enclosure and can make a strong architectural statement.

Just within Wisconsin alone, we are truly blessed with a dizzying array of native stone to choose from for our dry wall constructions and would like to share some images and information with you. These projects highlight the dry stone wall building craft as well as the wealth of material riches that there is to choose from. We also invite you to contribute information through words and images including cases where dry stone walls solved a landscape architectural need in your area. Were there any special techniques or unique stone products used to complete the construction project?

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Difficult Summer for Wisconsin Green Industry

My lawn has been a light golden-brown for over a month now
My lawn has been a light golden-brown for over a month now
image: Jay Gehler

In Wisconsin, like much of the US, the weather is making headlines – way too hot and way too dry. When was the last significant rainfall, maybe in late April?  Weatherman report the rainfall level is seven inches below average. That coupled with the extreme summer heat has significantly impacted the Green Industry in the Upper Midwest.

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Rethinking the Lawn

image: Walnut Ridge Grounds Care
image: Walnut Ridge Grounds Care

Water for landscape and lawn use may not be as critical an issue in other parts of the country as it is in the Western states, but the use of fertilizers and pesticides, electricity or gas to mow, and labor to care for lawns are universal issues. If you’re thinking of retrofitting an existing lawn, your options for design are many, but you still have the starting point of: “What to do to get rid of this big green carpet?”

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