Category Archives: commercial landscape design

Massive Image Post

Keeping up with social media and greeneyedesign’s other pages around the Internet, sometimes updates and posts here become neglected. To change all that, here are some recent drawings and work:

As always, click the image to embiggen

Another client in Great Falls:

A commercial space in McLean, VA:

This is something to pin up and show clients how the design is developing, below are the finished sheets:


Virginia Hospital Center

Several months ago I began discussing with The Virginia Hospital Center the possibility of designing several planting areas scattered around the hospital grounds, difficult, high traffic or neglected areas of opportunity. During the course of those conversations we were offered a fabulous opportunity: Develop & design a new outdoor space at the confluence of three major structures: Between the main hospital building & the Women & Infants health center and above the subterranean Radiation Oncology suites.

click images to embiggen

It is the Oncology Department which is the driving factor in this project;  a new,  state-of-the-art Linear Accelerator (pdf file) and its encompassing support suites are to be built below the space, resulting in a seven million dollar major engineering and architectural change to the facility.

To date, the space seen above has over time become a bit of a catchall in terms of engineering solutions– by that I mean, the outdoor environment has been utilized primarily as a repository and support system for the existing radiation suites below.

Here we see the cooling units for the Cyberknife® suite and supporting equipment. Obviously maintaining optimal temperatures is critical with multimillion dollar equipment, and this space represented the nearest, most cost-effective location.

The raised planter in the foreground is an integral part of the radiation shielding assembly, which consists of several feet of reinforced concrete, lead lining, brick, and of course the several feet of earth inside the planter. The planter’s shape reflects the radiation oncology suite below ground.

A space was opened up at ground level in order to crane in various pieces of heavy, precious medical equipment, and a skylight was seen as a beneficial solution in case repairs or replacements ever had to be made in the future. Unfortunately, it’s been plagued with leaks and has been quite a liability overall.

This much taller planter is part of another suite’s shielding assembly, and again the brick and earth are absolutely critical in terms of radiation abatement. Removing this planter would result in hundreds of thousands of dollars being incurred in additional lead shielding and the structural support required to bear the additional load (around forty additional tons on this small footprint).

Stowmwater runoff is dealt with inefficiently, as a problem to be moved as quickly as possible away from the space.

It strains credulity, but a stairwell (over on the left) pops up into the space as well, a mandatory fire safety element the need for which thankfully will be eliminated with the new construction.

An abandoned door into the space will be removed with the construction, but what of this narrow ‘hallway’? A recent awning removal reveals stained brick which adds to the feeling of disjointed uneasiness.

As patients/visitors drive in, this is what they see from curbside.

Conclusions: This is a fabulous area, rich with the patina of age and full of unique design challenges. In my next post, I will start to lay out our design process, our goals, and how we will achieve them.


Michael Dirr’s Tree & Shrub Finder App for iPhone Reviewed

Manual of Woody Landscape Plants

Anyone connected to gardening, the plant trade, landscape design, and ornamental horticulture knows the name of Michael Dirr. Dr. Dirr’s books are a must have for any serious gardener, in my opinion– so when his Tree & Shrub Finder came out a number of years ago in CD-ROM, I knew I had to have it. It made a wonderful adjunct to his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants and other books, if for no other reason it was a pleasant and entertaining way to peruse the wide variety of ornamentals available to us in this temperate region. To be sure, the interface was a tad kludgy, slow, and I wished for a greater control over search results and the ability to print my plant lists. Nevertheless, I literally wore out my CD (it exploded in the drive one day), and when I sought a replacement I saw that it was out of production (as well as the follow-up DVD).

So it was with great excitement I saw this recent release by Timber Press, Dirr’s Tree & Shrub Finder app for iPhone, iPod Touch, & iPad. It’s not a stretch to say a great deal of the reason why I finally bought an iPhone was this app! Indeed, the purchase was quite worthwhile, and I find myself referring to this app regularly. Gone is the kludgy, cumbersome interface, instead one is greeted a no-nonsense main screen from which a variety of searches may be launched. I appreciate the speed of search results, and especially nice is the ability to email the illustrative plant photos and line art, as well as the simple plant descriptions. One can also quickly build a ‘favorites list’, which I could see being used as a sort of ad hoc client’s plant schedule, set up prior to nursery crawling or client meeting.

Overall, I find this app extremely helpful and well worth the price. It might be fun and useful in future versions if the ability to share information across social media and platforms might be considered: For example, geo-tagging notable examples of specimen trees in the landscape using the app so that others could see them as well, share comments/experience using the plant in question, etc. The tag could link to the tree or shrub’s photo in the photo library with a ‘See this tree in your area here!’ note, or something similar. Champion trees could also be linked through a Google Earth viewer. It could be useful to have the ability to Tweet or share on Facebook selections as well, which would allow for a more broad promotion of the product.

Great job Timber Press!

Gorgeous Containers

Although their website is sorely lacking in aesthetics, the containers certainly are not. I was introduced to Duracraft garden planters through a good friend (and excellent designer) Jason Dengler of Wildwood Landscapes.

Let’s be honest; the vast majority of ‘fake’ planters and outdoor containers look just that: Fake. Fiberglass, blown plastic, various concrete castings, they all can look pretty awful and none of them age well. Duracraft containers are a notable exception: They are bonded fiberglass and resin castings in which the gel coat is completely suffused with metallic powders (such as bronze). The end reult being a gorgeous metallic finish which does not scratch off, peel, flake, delaminate, etc. AND which patinas over time in the same ways a solid bronze piece would. While not inexpensive, they’re substantially less expensive than worked or poured bronze. I’ve spec’d these now for several designs and they are just wonderful additions. Here are some of my favorites:

Century Square

Century Planter

Fluted Vase

Basket Planter Box

Lion Jar

R.R. Wide Rectangle Planter

Fluted Urn

Tuscan Urn

@National Wildlife Foundation Headquarters

After my weekly business networking meeting I headed over for a full day of landscape restoration on the grounds of The National Wildlife Foundation‘s headquarters in Reston, VA. Arriving early, I was met with an army of organizers and support already on site and raring to go. Clearly, a great number of people did an enormous amount of preparation work before this day, some of whom I will try to mention below. Several knowledgeable horticulturalists took the time to color-code
everything in the landscape: Pink stays put, Yellow gets yanked, Purple
stays but gets pruned back. Simple but very effective:

Below, Al Short of HPI gives us marching orders, while the lovely and talented NWF
Chief Photographer Susan McElhinney beams. The lady between them is
Julianne, I’m so sorry I didn’t get her last name but she was verve
personified, I really enjoyed meeting her as well. She worked like a dog and eradicated several nasty stands of Raspberry canes– bloody, hard work.

Looking down from the bridge, over a waterfall and the large pond far below:

While certainly beautiful, the Cattails are unwelcome as they quickly dominate and set up an aquatic monoculture– indeed one cannot even see the pond at all. Note the far end, where Al set up several very large portable water tanks to temporarily hold a portion of the pumped-out water, as well as create a holding space for any desirable aquatic plants which could be saved and replanted after cleanup. Below, looking the other way up the water feauture, one can see the view is totally obscured by more overgrowth of Salix and other less desirable plants:

For the entire day scores of volunteers, contractors, and designers pulled thousands of pounds of weedy biomass, all of which was placed in an onsite, 30 yd. rolloff container to be sent to Loudoun Composting for recycling (thank you to Loudoun Composting for donating their services as well!)

Above, a lovely underutilized native, Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). Learn more about Boneset here.

One serious challenge we faced was an absolutely daunting crop of Chinese Lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata). Lespedeza is highly invasive and unfortunately was brought in when the original meadow seed was planted– illustrating the absolute importance of insisting on high quality, pure seed mixes when establishing meadow designs. This plant completely dominated the meadow. The only possible solution is eradication and replanting– I suggested soil solarization and a safe system of re-establishing the appropriate plant combinations in the spring of 2011. I’ll have more about this later, but it looks promising and I do hope to assist further in this area of the restoration.

Above, Chinese Lespedeza, close up and in context.

I’ll also have a ton of ‘after’ photos shortly– I became so filthy that holding my camera was just out of the question, so I’m relying on the excellent documentary work of Susan McElhinney, who covered everything from start to finish.

You are welcome! Thank you for letting me be a part! I look forward to more restoration work very soon.

greeneyedesign Gives Back: Helping The National Wildlife Federation

Recently I was approached by Albert Short, President of Harmony Ponds in Fairfax, VA. Harmony Ponds is one of the premier water feature design/build/maintain firms in the Midatlantic region; Al’s projects include the fountains and other water features for the largest expansion to date of the Virginia Museum in Richmond, as well as the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC.

Al asked if I would be interested in donating some time & materials for a worthy cause: renovating the grounds of the National Wildlife Federation Headquarters in Reston, VA. Once a gorgeous and environmentally savvy landscape, it has fallen into a bit of dishabille: The towering and exciting waterfall, stream, and large pond are all almost completely obscured from view by volunteer trees and shrubs, as well as the designed native vegetation.

Heck yes! I will be there all day tomorrow, October 21st working the business end of a pair of loppers ( and tree spade, shovel, pole pruners, etc) and lending advice wherever it’s needed. It looks like we will have a small army of volunteers, both professionals like me as well as from the ranks of the NWF membership and donators. Should be fun!

The Settlement Group

Recently the owner of The Settlement Group approached me to address a– how should I describe this charitably– woefully neglected exterior for one of their branch locations in McLean, VA.

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.