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Show #16/4003. A Landscape That Is Nothing Short Of Presidential

Summary of Show

Insight Into The Site

Mark Langdale first joins Eric. Mark is the President of the George W. Bush Foundation. And this is the site of the newly constructed GEORGE W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL CENTER. Mark provides some details and insight into this amazing site. It is, as mentioned, recently completed and on the campus of Southern Methodist University. It's a 24 acre site that consists of 2 buildings, one of them is the 13th Presidential Library and Museum.
For More Information Click here

Landscape Architect

First Eric wants to know a little about Herb. Herb has a Landscape Architecture degree from Penn State. Herb has always had an interest in ENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE APPROACHES to landscape and at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates he has had the opportunity to integrate sustainable systems into projects. That has ranged from managing water to the appropriateness of plant material selection on different projects. This site is a fascinating project, Herb has been involved with it for years.
For More Information Click here

President And Mrs. Bush Provided Direction

President and Mrs. Bush provided a tremendous amount of DIRECTION. Their love of native Texas landscape called for very ambitious sustainable objectives. Two of the components are achieved through native habitat recreation-recreation of native plant communities, prairie and woodlands plantings-and water conservation, which is one of Texas, and much of the U.S's., most critical environmental issues.
For More Information Click here

Managing Storm Water Runoff

With thunder clapping in the background Herb explains that when dealing with large, urban sites STORM WATER RUNOFF can often be one of the greatest challenges. And it was one of the elements that Herb took into account with this design. He talks about some of the specific systems put in place here. They saw water management as essential and importantly a great opportunity to educate. Herb and his crew have developed a multifaceted approach to address storm water starting at the parking lots.
For More Information Click here

Stone Seep

Herb next talks about the STONE SEEP. It is part of the whole system of purifying the water before it makes it down into the cistern. It's a wonderful piece of hardscape, one of the great hydrological innovations on this project and works in conjunction with the rest of the bio swale. The rainwater they're collecting on the western and northern portion of the property is stored in a gravel reservoir. The outcropping is reminiscent of a typical Texas landscape.
For More Information Click here

Environmental Design

Eric next meets Mark Simmons who works with the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Texas. Mark tells us a little about himself. He is the Director of Eco Systems Design Group. They are a group within the Wildflower Center that does ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN and environmental consulting, they work with landscape architects and as well they are involved with scientific research.
For More Information Click here

Restoration Process

Eric wants to know what the RESTORATION PROCESS might look like? It's not difficult but does require a slightly different approach from conventional horticulture. The primary reason is that prairie plants have evolved over a long period of time. When prairie restoration started about 15 or 20 years ago people would put a lot of species in and expect them all to do well. People quickly found they didn't. What one must do is put all the species in but change the proportions. Think of a prairie as sort of a dynamic landscape, one must push it in the correct direction. That's the trick, it is more dynamic than, say, a bed of petunias.
For More Information Click here

Plant Species

Mark shows us some of the SPECIES THEY'VE PLANTED at the Presidential Center. They're in the middle of a great stand of Blue Bonnets. Of course Blue Bonnet is the Texas state flower. Blue Bonnets are amazing plants, they grow all around the world-South America, Greenland, Africa, etc. But what is so fascinating about them is their ecology. These plants do great after a fire. This is a species that has evolved with fire.
For More Information Click here

Native Turf

There has clearly been a renaissance in the use of native plants the past few decades but perhaps the final frontier is NATIVE TURF which is quite new. In fact the lions share of the breeding work that has gone on with turf grass has revolved around recreational fields. When most think turf, centipede, bermuda or St. Augustine come to mind but the turf here is very special. In Mark's research they have found that lawns are getting a bad reputation because of their water, fertilizer and pesticide requirements.
For More Information Click here

Rose Garden

One of the most unique features of the Presidential Center is the scale model of the oval office. The oval office in Washington, of course, looks out onto the ROSE GARDEN so they felt they needed to design a Rose Garden here. But there aren't nearly as many roses here as there would be at the Oval office in D.C. They wanted to use the same scale but when it came to plantings they took into consideration the concept of using natives.
For More Information Click here

 

LINKS:

George W. Bush Presidential Library And Museum
Home - The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Herb Sweeney, Senior Associate-Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.

Mark Simmons, PhD. - Eco Systems Design Group
Meet The Team - Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Another Article About Mark
Webpage Feature - Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Omni Ft. Worth Hotel
Fort Worth Hotels | Downtown Fort Worth, TX Hotel - Omni Hotels

Plant List

 

16/4003. A Landscape That Is Nothing Short Of Presidential

Complete Write Up

In this Episode GardenSMART goes behind the scenes of a garden that is nothing short of Presidential. This garden has a truly unique design and plant pallet. It's a don't miss show from Texas.

Mark Langdale first joins Eric. Mark is the President of the George W. Bush Foundation. And this is the site of the newly constructed GEORGE W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL CENTER. Mark provides some details and insight into this amazing site. It is, as mentioned, recently completed and on the campus of Southern Methodist University. It's a 24 acre site that consists of 2 buildings, one of them is the 13th Presidential Library and Museum. This show was produced before the dedication of the building which occurred April 25th, 2013. All the living Presidents will attend and at that time the Foundation will gift the Presidential Center to the American people as a repository or future home for the George W. Bush Presidential records. The 2nd building is the home of the George W. Bush Institute where President Bush and Laura Bush will continue to be involved in policy issues that they are interested in through the private sector and through philanthropy. Robert Stern, the Dean of Architecture at Yale University, designed the building but additionally they hired Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Landscape Architects at the beginning to partner with Bob Stern to design the Center Complex. It consists of a 24 acre site that has been turned into a native plant demonstration project. It is a 15 acre park and will be the largest park in University Park City. It will be available to S.M.U. students and visitors to come explore and learn about how one would use a native plant pallet to create a sustainable and long-term viable garden. The landscape theme, if you can call it that, is a Texas native prairie restoration. This is something that Laura Bush has always been interested in. They have a ranch near Crawford Texas called Prairie Chapel Ranch. They have had it since 1999 and she has always been involved in native grasses and wild flower restoration there and the passion for that topic has translated to what has been done on this site. Eric thanks Mark for the introduction, he's anxious to see more so off he goes.

Eric next meets Herb Sweeney. It is a cold, rainy and blustery spring day in Texas. Although it made filming a little more difficult, it was perfect weather to show the water management systems Herb has implemented. Eric thanks Herb for joining GardenSMART and Herb thanks Eric for the opportunity to show off the project and site.

First Eric wants to know a little about Herb. Herb has a Landscape Architecture degree from Penn State. Herb has always had an interest in ENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE APPROACHES to landscape and at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates he has had the opportunity to integrate sustainable systems into projects. That has ranged from managing water to the appropriateness of plant material selection on different projects. This site is a fascinating project, Herb has been involved with it for years. Herb's team took a vision Laura Bush had and integrated it into a challenging urban site. At the onset of the project they were involved with Mrs. Bush and the architects to initiate site planning. Mrs. Bush was committed to the Presidential Center being a good neighbor and not just a setting for the buildings but as well an open space or park for the neighborhood, for S.M.U. students and for visitors alike. Part of that vision was sustainability.

President and Mrs. Bush provided a tremendous amount of DIRECTION. Their love of native Texas landscape called for very ambitious sustainable objectives. Two of the components are achieved through native habitat recreation-recreation of native plant communities, prairie and woodlands plantings-and water conservation, which is one of Texas, and much of the U.S's., most critical environmental issues. This project addressed not just how to manage water but importantly how to manage storm water. With that as a background Eric and Herb are off to see more.

With thunder clapping in the background Herb explains that when dealing with large, urban sites STORM WATER RUNOFF can often be one of the greatest challenges. And it was one of the elements that Herb took into account with this design. He talks about some of the specific systems put in place here. They saw water management as essential and importantly a great opportunity to educate. Herb and his crew have developed a multifaceted approach to address storm water starting at the parking lots. We look at the parking lot at the very north end of the site. They capture all of the surface runoff from the pavement areas, then direct that water runoff to the bio swales which they then convey to the south portion of the site where it settles in a wet prairie area. It is a low lying area that then infiltrates a 250,000 gallon cistern. The cistern additionally collects surface runoff from other areas of the site. For example, they collect the building roof water and cooling tower blow down water, that runoff is directed to the bio swales where it is reused for irrigation. All of these water management techniques result in more than a 50% reduction in potable water usage.

Eric wants to know how a bio swale works? A bio swale is a low lying area that collects water and is composed of a specialized grouping of plants that are adapted to wet and dry conditions but are also adapted to filtering out pollutants and contaminants. As well the swale has planting soils that are engineered so that they are able to store water and move water down through that profile.

Herb next talks about the STONE SEEP. It is part of the whole system of purifying the water before it makes it down into the cistern. It's a wonderful piece of hardscape, one of the great hydrological innovations on this project and works in conjunction with the rest of the bio swale. The rainwater they're collecting on the western and northern portion of the property is stored in a gravel reservoir. The outcropping is reminiscent of a typical Texas landscape. The water is slowly released or seeps from the face so after a rain event it will extend the duration of water in the landscape which then sustains moisture loving plants. Are there any of these ideas we can use at home? Many of these ideas are transferrable on a smaller scale. How they approached the parking areas, for example, slowing the water, mitigating it as it runs off of pavement surfaces through the use of stones and selection of plants that are appropriate for those wet conditions, those ideas can be used in a small landscape integration. Rain gardens are also effective ways to manage water.

The guys next talk about plant selection for this landscape. Eric feels they've done a wonderful job of creating something that's very natural, with rolling hills and beautiful wildflowers. Herb feels a regional landscape, contrary to what many might believe, can be quite varied. Here they looked at large eco types or plant groupings such as Blackland Prairie and Post Oak Savannah or the Cross Timbers Forrest and focused on components that were transferrable to what is a relatively small urban landscape. Certainly smaller in comparison to bigger systems, because it's not always practical to create an enormous area. Often the scale just doesn't translate and what they've done here is to put it in a more concise context borrowing where it makes sense and of course utilizing a lot of native plants. It has pieces similar to a large expansive prairie. They have taken cues such as how water is addressed with bigger plant communities, with wet prairie plantings in low lying areas, but also included are plantings that adapt to periods of inundation, such as today with all the rain. They can also handle extended periods of drought. They wanted to make sure this wasn't just a collection of pretty plantings. So they collaborated with the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center on restoring ecological functions to the site and Mark Simmons will address that in more detail. Eric thanks Herb for his insight into this beautiful Center, he has done a wonderful job here.

Eric next meets Mark Simmons who works with the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Texas. Mark tells us a little about himself. He is the Director of Eco Systems Design Group. They are a group within the Wildflower Center that does ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN and environmental consulting, they work with landscape architects and as well they are involved with scientific research. It's a place that has all those functions. They base their research program on questions that arise through their consulting. So, if there is an area they find a little new, because a lot of this is very innovative, they can then go and find money for scientific research, then feed that back into a particular design or even spread it and teach it to new landscape architects and students. Many of the consulting jobs they are involved with deal with prairies and the restoration of prairies. Mark explains - the prairie system is the quintessential central north American landscape. It comes all the way down from Canada to Texas even partially into Mexico. In Texas it's a little more unusual because they have the convergence of other eco regions, deciduous forests and desert and Gulf prairies. They all converge here which means they have a huge palette of species. This is a very diverse system, one of the most diverse in North America. But the trouble is that a lot of it has gone under the plow. These prairies systems, especially the tall grass prairie has great soil so it has been good up till now. Where at one time there were 20 million acres of Blackland Prairie, which is Texas tall grass prairie, today there is less than 1/10 of that left so it's largely gone. It's been quite a challenge to find ways to bring it back but this is a prime example of bringing back a prairie inside a city.

Eric wants to know what the RESTORATION PROCESS might look like? It's not difficult but does require a slightly different approach from conventional horticulture. The primary reason is that prairie plants have evolved over a long period of time. When prairie restoration started about 15 or 20 years ago people would put a lot of species in and expect them all to do well. People quickly found they didn't. What one must do is put all the species in but change the proportions. Think of a prairie as sort of a dynamic landscape, one must push it in the correct direction. That's the trick, it is more dynamic than, say, a bed of petunias. Many of the sites where Mark consults are larger settings than this site, the Presidential Center. Eric wants to know what maintenance is like, especially with a larger site? The hard part of planting prairies is getting them set up. What one must watch for is subspecies getting out of hand, even worse are the invasive species. But once the system is established they are relatively easy to maintain. But it does require that one know their species, know what you're looking at and for. For many, initially it's confusing but once educated he's found it's not that difficult and they've found that at that point one doesn't need as much input as even with a traditional lawn. A traditional prairie like this may only need to be mowed once a year, even once every two years. An alternative is a prescribed fire. Remember that's how prairie systems evolved, under the pressures of drought, fire and bison. We can't necessarily introduce bison, often can't use fire but we can certainly mow. That's really all one needs to do. Of course, like any garden, one can manipulate it if you want certain species or if you want certain portions of more attractive species.

Mark shows us some of the SPECIES THEY'VE PLANTED at the Presidential Center. They're in the middle of a great stand of Blue Bonnets. Of course Blue Bonnet is the Texas state flower. Blue Bonnets are amazing plants, they grow all around the world-South America, Greenland, Africa, etc. But what is so fascinating about them is their ecology. These plants do great after a fire. This is a species that has evolved with fire. In fact that is probably why they became the state flower because when there were wild fires, miles and miles of Blue Bonnets would come back. And they come back in good years as well. They are so plentiful that one can see them from airliners. They are beautiful, Eric certainly understands why they are so popular. This area has goldenrod coming up as well as galardias. Galardias are extremely drought tolerant and much seen in Texas as well as many other states. Typical Galardias are bright red and orange but some native Texas Galardias will be white, even purple. Those are not as available in the trade but beautiful nonetheless. They also have coriopsis which is a super tough plant and it works well here. They have also planted daisies. They flower a little later in the season and are very drought hearty, plus easy to grow. One can almost throw seeds as you are passing through and they will grow. They have a plethora of native salvias in this part of the country. They are interesting because they are diverse, a huge range of colors, everything from blue to white, even some scarlet colors. Primrose is another startling plant. With its soft pastel pinks that are blended with more assertive colors like dark purples they contrast beautifully with the Blue Bells, combined with deep red salvias it makes for a stunning show. Almost every color one can imagine is represented here. The primrose grows in sync with Blue Bonnets, their colors play off one another, they're very complimentary. Indian Paint Brush and castileja really set it all off.

There has clearly been a renaissance in the use of native plants the past few decades but perhaps the final frontier is NATIVE TURF which is quite new. In fact the lions share of the breeding work that has gone on with turf grass has revolved around recreational fields. When most think turf, centipede, bermuda or St. Augustine come to mind but the turf here is very special. In Mark's research they have found that lawns are getting a bad reputation because of their water, fertilizer and pesticide requirements. There are a lot of lawns in Texas that aren't doing well in the summer because of lack of water, water is indispensable for their success. So rather than trying to develop a new lawn they went and looked at native grasses with the goal of finding something that would be suitable for turf. They made a blend and have trademarked it, this 9 acres features this new blend. This grass is remarkable, it grows slow, doesn't need much mowing, can go without watering for months, if needed it will go dormant but won't die and it represses weeds. It is a sustainable lawn. As far as soil preparation, Mark recommends a good 4 to 6 inches of a worked soil. The roots will go down a good 10 feet so soil preparation is essential for long term good maintenance. Routine maintenance is minimal. This looks unmowed yet looks beautiful. Eric likes the texture, with dainty seed heads. When mowing don't go below much below 2 inches, it can't be mowed as close as many conventional grasses but it has other sustainability advantages. It doesn't hold up as well with heavy traffic, say a soccer field, as conventional horticultural varieties but it can handle moderate traffic. But in other respects it's a great grass. It's now available from seed supply companies in Texas and they're looking to expand that reach.

One of the most unique features of the Presidential Center is the scale model of the oval office. The oval office in Washington, of course, looks out onto the ROSE GARDEN so they felt they needed to design a Rose Garden here. But there aren't nearly as many roses here as there would be at the Oval office in D.C. They wanted to use the same scale but when it came to plantings they took into consideration the concept of using natives. There are roses here, yet as one looks around they see many of the flowering species we saw in the prairie wild flowers. This garden features some annuals and some perennials, some of the plants will stay and provide color throughout the season but many of the plants, especially annuals, will be switched out throughout the year. Plants like Blue Bonnet and Texas Star can be switched out as they come in bloom, providing color throughout the growing season. There are also some great structural and vertical elements in this garden. They have woodies, Southern Magnolia and of course, Natches Crepe Myrtle. These provide strong white blooming plants and the Magnolia provides fragrance. This is a formal design with zoysia lawn bordered by Youpon Hollies which Mark feels is significantly more practical than boxwoods, which can be tough to grow. The miniature Youpon Holly is heartier than boxwood and importantly native. The oval office in D.C. overlooks the Washington Monument, this view is of the skyline and prairie we saw and discussed earlier. This garden and in fact the whole Presidential Center complex is beautiful.

This beautiful and expansive public garden has used native plants to reflect the unique personality of its home state. How these gardens were built and maintained and how they manage water has been enlightening. Thanks Mark for the tour. We've enjoyed the experience and hope many in our audience will have the opportunity to visit.

 

LINKS:

George W. Bush Presidential Library And Museum
Home - The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Herb Sweeney, Senior Associate-Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.

Mark Simmons, PhD. - Eco Systems Design Group
Meet The Team - Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Another Article About Mark
Webpage Feature - Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Omni Ft. Worth Hotel
Fort Worth Hotels | Downtown Fort Worth, TX Hotel - Omni Hotels

Plant List





   
 
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