Around the backside is even worse, with two enormous cracking Bradford Pears leaning out precariously over the old drive-through roof, broken and pruned branches from older hack jobs laying in parking spaces, and ivy slowly strangling everything. The general mood or feel of the surrounds is depressing and invites crime, littering (note throw-away pizza box above), and vandalism. I would hate to think of the liability connected to some sort of car damage or personal injury associated with a failing tree. The bare mulched beds have heaved up over time because of root growth of whatever shrubs grew there previously, as well as many years of shredded hardwood mulch being piled in layer upon layer until the soil level is now considerably above the height of the curb. Stormwater runoff sheets across the surface, carrying with it mulch & debris into the parking area, clogging stormdrains and making a mess. Without vegetation near the foundation, water has a much smaller chance of staying onsite and percoating into the soil below, further loading the storm sewers and carrying surface pollutants (pollen, exhaust fumes, petroleum, etc.) directly into the Chesapeake. Without crucial foundation plantings, the building bakes in full sun, the walls and roof have no respite of shade nor do they benefit from any mitigation of the heatsink effect from the surrounding black asphalt– meaning cooling costs are substantially higher.
click for humongous version
With such a limited grounplain in which to work, tree & shrub selection is critically important. Drought tolerance, heat tolerance, and mature sizes which will never overwhelm the planting area nor the building itself are all key factors in plant choices. The blackline drawing above shows the entire space treated as a harmonious whole, while still respecting the surrounding region. The idea is to stand out as brilliant, not glaringly different. The groundplain is covered in low growing, drought-tolerant Sedums, which will not mind being occassionally trampled by passersby
Should the client care to further layer the groundplain later, there are a myriad of flowering bulbs and annuals which can be rotated in seasonally.
It’s important that shade be created as soon as possible to help counter the asphalt heat island effect, create shadowlines across the building, cool the interior, and as an added bonus in this case create a small haven for local wildlife and songbirds. For this, I’m selecting Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’, aka Apple Serviceberry, and outstanding cultivar of our native Serviceberry. Considerations such as handicapped vehicle ingress & egress (no lower limbs hitting vans, for example) and year round variety are important in such a small palette.