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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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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