GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2009 show17
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Show #17/1604
Stormwater Management


Meadow Creek
MARY AND RICHARD FIRST VISIT MEADOW CREEK which to bring the story back to Jefferson, which they always try to do in Charlottesville, is part of his original planning for the University. This is the creek that provided a source of water for the early University and although it looks quiet and peaceful today, in a major storm, it can become a very vigorous and rolling watercourse. When that happens it wreaks havoc on the landscape.

Click here for more info

Cleaning/Storing Water
This is a beautiful space but hasn't always been that way. Six years ago the creek was running in a pipe beneath the ground. The water couldn't get into the creek channel any longer because the ground was saturated and unusable. TODAY THE CREEK GOES ACROSS A WEIR, a dam-like structure, creating a small waterfall, then into a forebay where the sediment that's carried along the stream falls out. The waterfall's function is to aerate the water, it adds oxygen and helps improve the water quality and it's beautiful. After the water goes over the weir and the sediment falls out it then goes over a second weir and into a larger pond which is also a retention basin. This basin is an engineered structure that is designed to store stormwater. So, this beautiful pond in actuality is a place, when it floods, that is designed to store water.

Click here for more info

Parking Lot
The story of stormwater management here begins right in the middle of the PARKING LOT, on the crowned area. The water falls to either side, then when it hits the curb it is introduced to the cuts in the curbing. They allow the water into the low median area. Importantly one doesn't need a parking lot to use this technique. Homeowners could use the idea of curbing cuts on their property. They allow capture of the water before it really builds up. Once the water enters the curb cuts the stone channel in the center of the island allows water to be somewhat aerated and slowed down as it enters the filtration bed.

Click here for more info

Wild Area of Plantings
The water, some coming off the parking lot and across the grass, then onto this sort of WILD AREA OF PLANTINGS, then into a gutter-like structure, is slowed and cleaned. From there it goes into a pipe which takes it to an area we'll discuss later. It's incredible the difference caused by the water slowing. Imagine water coming across the parking lot, then moving down to this area. The velocity would be incredible. Most likely no gutter could handle that task. The plants also do a good job. they're tough and very dense.

Click here for more info

Large Detention Basin
This is the lowest area of the entire water management system. The water that does not get filtered into the ground will come from the parking lot, into the pipe, into the channel and eventually will find it's way to this DETENTION BASIN. This low area is designed to fill up with water in a big storm, then be released very slowly so that it does not cause any damage to the system downstream of this area. There is great plant diversity here. At the top are Acer rubrum 'October Glory' Red maples and some grasses.

Click here for more info

Campbell Hall
Mary and Richard next visit the School of Architecture and an outdoor classroom at CAMPBELL HALL. Here they've used several techniques that would be applicable for most landscape treatments. The roof water is captured and then conveyed to a wall, then out a scupper and into a trough. This method makes water a very visible part of the landscape experience when it's raining. And whether raining or not it looks gorgeous.

Click here for more info

Try This At Home
In this show we've seen 3 DIFFERENT SITES, some on a large scale, some on a small scale but all seem to work efficiently. Mary reports that it is easier to tackle these interventions when they are smaller. If they had waited, for example, to treat all the water at the Meadow Creek watershed at the Arena site, it would have been almost impossible to design anything that created a place for people to enjoy themselves, something that was attractive, a garden like setting. At best it would have been a large engineered structure. She believes the capacity to think on a very micro-intervention scale instead of on a big institutional scale is important to us all. It's a problem we must all address. As water comes off our own roofs, in our gardens, across our driveways, it's something that we can take care of on a small scale.

Click here for more info

 

LINKS:

Garden Smart Plant List

Boar's Head Inn

The University of Virginia

Brown's Subaru

Plants Suggestions for Stormwater Management


Complete transcript of the show.

17/1604.
The raindrop can be one of the most beneficial or the most destructive elements on earth. In this Episode GardenSMART visits the University of Virginia (U Va.), founded by Thomas Jefferson, and takes a look at their innovative rainwater management ideas.
U Va. has a long and solid tradition and history. Cheryl Gomez is Director of Energy and Utilities at U Va. and introduces this show. Cheryl has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and this past May graduated from U Va's Darden School of Business with an MBA. Continuing education is very much in keeping with the whole Jeffersonian philosophy of life being a lifelong learning opportunity. For Cheryl to have the privilege to study here on Jefferson's grounds and to be able to work and study and be with world-class scholars, faculty and world-class students was an incredible privilege. She is passionate about what she does and passionate about the University. One of the things she learned in going through Darden is the reaffirmation of how important it is for her to be able to work for an organization that resonates with her own values. The values for the University are - education, research, healthcare and public service. Those values closely align with those of Cheryl.
Jefferson's academic village was founded by Jefferson as a means of thinking about education in a different way. Here faculty, scholars and students live together, work together, study together and that presents an incredible learning environment. If one looks at all the different pavilions on this campus each and every one may look similar but they're very unique and different. For example, each one has a different style of column, there is Corinthian, there is Ionic, there's Doric Composites and every single pavilion is a slightly different size. The Rotunda was designed by Jefferson replicating the Pantheon in Rome. The Pantheon was an integration of incredible structural engineering expertise for the time, incorporating geometrical similarities, it also integrated some of the philosophical ideals of the time. Jefferson was an incredible innovator and today they try to embrace and embody his vision on innovation when thinking about how to design the facilities and how they lay out the landscaping and architecture in general at U Va. Sustainability is a key concept, a key factor in all decisions that they make. One of the big sustainability issues they embrace is stormwater management.
Mary Hughes is a great person to lead that tour. Cheryl knows we'll enjoy our time with her.
Mary Hughes is the Landscape Architect at U Va. She received her Master's Degree in Landscape Architecture from U Va. then went to the National Parks Service where she worked for a number of years. She returned to U Va. in 1996 as the University Landscape Architect.
Thomas Jefferson designed U Va. and all that work for the University today feel they are stewards of that legacy. That involves not only historic preservation of the buildings but also the natural landscape which he felt was very important. Meadow Creek is an example. The role of water in the landscape and the lives of people was something Jefferson counted as a very valuable resource. In recent years they've had a series of disastrous droughts in the area, which has made them all the more aware of how important water is to sustaining the plants and animals and all the life around us. So, since the 1990's U Va. has been involved in a series of projects that try to focus on the role of water in the landscape, while improving the water quality, storing the floodwater to prevent flooding downstream and also making beautiful places for people to enjoy. And U Va. is considered genuine champions in this country in stormwater management.
MARY AND RICHARD FIRST VISIT MEADOW CREEK which to bring the story back to Jefferson, which they always try to do in Charlottesville, is part of his original planning for the University. This is the creek that provided a source of water for the early University and although it looks quiet and peaceful today, in a major storm, it can become a very vigorous and rolling watercourse. When that happens it wreaks havoc on the landscape. It will cause erosion problems and flooding downstream. So, they needed to devise a means to solve those problems while still maintaining a beautiful park-like landscape.
Top

This is a beautiful space but hasn't always been that way. Six years ago the creek was running in a pipe beneath the ground. The water couldn't get into the creek channel any longer because the ground was saturated and unusable. TODAY THE CREEK GOES ACROSS A WEIR, a dam-like structure, creating a small waterfall, then into a forebay where the sediment that's carried along the stream falls out. The waterfall's function is to aerate the water, it adds oxygen and helps improve the water quality and it's beautiful. After the water goes over the weir and the sediment falls out it then goes over a second weir and into a larger pond which is also a retention basin. This basin is an engineered structure that is designed to store stormwater. So, this beautiful pond in actuality is a place, when it floods, that is designed to store water. One can get an idea about the capacity of flood storage by looking at the terrace of the surrounding landscape where one notices on the hill, Oak trees planted on a second terrace. The water can rise to that level. At the middle, the pond it 12 feet deep, thus this space holds a lot of water. Underneath a stone overlook is an engineered structure that is designed to release water very slowly back into the storm water system underneath the road. The water can be held in this basin for about 24 hours at flood stage. Then over that time it gently and slowly is released into storm pipes so that it doesn't cause a big gush of water into the downstream creek channel which causes erosion. They have turned a real problem into a treasure, a beautiful park-like setting.
Top

Mary and Richard next visit the John Paul Jones Arena and although quite a distance away, they're still in the Meadow Creek watershed area. This is actually the low point of Meadow Creek on the University grounds. From here the water enters the city sewer system. When they built this 15,000 seat arena several years ago they had to be particularly mindful of how they would handle the water falling on the impervious surface (the parking lot) so that it did not cause problems for the city or community downstream. The story of stormwater management here begins right in the middle of the PARKING LOT, on the crowned area. The water falls to either side, then when it hits the curb it is introduced to the cuts in the curbing. They allow the water into the low median area. Importantly one doesn't need a parking lot to use this technique. Homeowners could use the idea of curbing cuts on their property. They allow capture of the water before it really builds up. Once the water enters the curb cuts the stone channel in the center of the island allows water to be somewhat aerated and slowed down as it enters the filtration bed. And, aeration is important. The roughness of the stone surface introduces some turbulence into the flow of the water which adds oxygen and is part of the cleansing process. From there the water goes into the turf and the soil. The soil filters the particulates and the grease out of the runoff from the parking lot, allowing the water to pass into the ground in a cleaner state than when it entered the swell. An interesting fact is that as water moves through the turf and into the soil there are millions, if not billions of microbes that are gobbling up all the pollution, the oil and so forth. It's all a natural process. This area has manicured turf, other grasses could have been utilized. Turf was used here first and foremost because this is an athletic facility and they like the more manicured look of turf. The arena is associated with their other athletic facilities around the University grounds, so rather than a wild native grass look, similar to what we saw at the dell earlier, they opted for turf. But, the process functions exactly the same way, whether turf grass or taller native grass. This was just a more comfortable setting for the Arena. As it most likely would be with a homeowner. A homeowner could have a manicured look and still accomplish the same thing. And that was the point here. One doesn't need to have a wild native landscape in order to have a sustainable practice like this. Regardless of the grasses or plants used this approach is better for the environment, certainly better than the conventional engineering solution.
Top

The two move closer to the Arena. Of course, they must manage a lot of storm water but as well a lot of people are managed in this area. On any given night there may be 15,000 fans congregating here waiting for a basketball game or a concert so they need a large expanse of paved area. Accordingly they've introduced planting beds where the water can run off the pavement and into plantings that will, again, slow down the water and allow it to filter into the ground. The water, some coming off the parking lot and across the grass, then onto this sort of WILD AREA OF PLANTINGS, then into a gutter-like structure, is slowed and cleaned. From there it goes into a pipe which takes it to an area we'll discuss later. It's incredible the difference caused by the water slowing. Imagine water coming across the parking lot, then moving down to this area. The velocity would be incredible. Most likely no gutter could handle that task. The plants also do a good job. they're tough and very dense. They do a good job of trapping the water, slowing it down and allowing it to settle out to some degree and, at least, pass in a manageable state into the inlet. From a design standpoint it also works well. There are manicured areas with trees across the parking lot, water then moves into another manicured area with the Betulud nigra 'Heritage' River Birch, then it moves into this sort of wild area. This is a nice, simple approach any homeowner could incorporate, regardless of the size of one's property. It's manicured but still solves the problems of water runoff. Also important, this area is used more heavily in winter than any other season of the year so it's important that the plants in this area have some winter interest. That's why one sees the Microbiota decussata Evergreens with their exfoliating bark. Richard likes the coarse texture of the River Birch, then the creamy foliage in the wintertime of the Panicum virgatum Panicum, it's wonderful. As well, he likes the Baptisia. It looks good now but the pods in winter will look fabulous, even the seed heads of the Coreopsis lanceolata Coreopsis will look good. 365 days a year this area will look good, and any homeowner can do this.
Top

Mary and Richard go to the other side of the arena. This is the lowest area of the entire water management system. The water that does not get filtered into the ground will come from the parking lot, into the pipe, into the channel and eventually will find it's way to this DETENTION BASIN. This low area is designed to fill up with water in a big storm, then be released very slowly so that it does not cause any damage to the system downstream of this area. There is great plant diversity here. At the top are Acer rubrum 'October Glory' Red maples and some grasses. Moving further down the plants tolerate more wet feet, plants like Taxodium distichum Bald Cypress and Hibiscus are present. These are perfect choices, no matter what size, anybody can do this. Click below for a list of plants suitable for an area like this.
Top

Mary and Richard next visit the School of Architecture and an outdoor classroom at CAMPBELL HALL. Here they've used several techniques that would be applicable for most landscape treatments. The roof water is captured and then conveyed to a wall, then out a scupper and into a trough. This method makes water a very visible part of the landscape experience when it's raining. And whether raining or not it looks gorgeous.
The bio-filtration basin or rain garden receives the water that has come off the roof, then traveled down the channel. The intent is that the upper basin will fill up with water, then go over the weir and into the next basin, then on down a series of terraced pools. The plants, as we've learned take up some of the water, filtered it as it goes into the ground water and hopefully by the end of the progression, most of the water has filtered through the system. The soil is special here. There is a lot of organic matter and that is critical. It's important to get the right soil in these basins because one doesn't want a high clay content because that would trap moisture here for a long time and breed mosquitoes. Thus one wants a soil that will drain in approximately 24 hours. But on the other hand if too sandy it will drain too fast, then plants won't be happy and one won't get the garden effect that's desired in this space. So, one needs a balance of organic matter and highly porous draining material in order to get the right mix for these basins.
Richard is impressed with the intelligent use of water in the areas we've visited. Water is a precious resource and we must protect it. Mary believes that too often in the past we've treated water runoff like a waste product, have gone to great pains to get it out of our sight as quickly as possible, then we bring back potable water to keep our gardens alive. To Mary that is a wasteful process.
Top

In this show we've seen 3 DIFFERENT SITES, some on a large scale, some on a small scale but all seem to work efficiently. Mary reports that it is easier to tackle these interventions when they are smaller. If they had waited, for example, to treat all the water at the Meadow Creek watershed at the Arena site, it would have been almost impossible to design anything that created a place for people to enjoy themselves, something that was attractive, a garden like setting. At best it would have been a large engineered structure. She believes the capacity to think on a very micro-intervention scale instead of on a big institutional scale is important to us all. It's a problem we must all address. As water comes off our own roofs, in our gardens, across our driveways, it's something that we can take care of on a small scale. And, that micro-scale, that micro-approach provides a lot of ancillary benefits, like more wildlife. Here they have seen an increase in the diversity and number of species that enjoy these spaces. And importantly it provides wonderful park-like settings for students and members of the community. The people love the spaces that have been created.
Richard believes that they have utilized a very Jeffersonian approach to the problem of stormwater management. Jefferson would undoubtedly be pleased at the direction U Va. has taken on this issue. Richard thanks Mary for the tour. This show has been most informative.
Top

LINKS:

Garden Smart Plant List

Boar's Head Inn

The University of Virginia

Brown's Subaru

Plants Suggestions for Stormwater Management

   
 
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By Kate Karam, Monrovia

There's really no better time to visit the great public gardens than spring into summer, but why not get off the horticultural highway and see a few lesser known gardens, too! Dotting the country are some truly remarkable places that you may not have heard of but that you need to see. Read more...


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