Feature Article - November 2003
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Ground Rules

From berms to xeriscape, landscaping ideas to please your patrons and your budget

By Kimberly Tobin


When laying out your landscape plan, here are some general ideas to keep in mind:

GROWTH RATE—Select plants that mature at the appropriate rate so their heights don't run into each other and compete for space.

COLOR—Select plants and trees in variable shades of the same color that will complement, not compete with, each other.

MAINTENANCE—Less upkeep often means a more attractive, cleaner look. Native grasses and turf are usually easier to maintain than hedges and beds.

HISTORY—If your site warrants it, use history to highlight or theme a space to increase appeal and attract patrons.

SPACE ENHANCEMENTS—Install courtyards or resting nodes to broaden linear space; use benches to accent trees.

FUNCTIONALITY—Choose materials that look good and serve a purpose, whether it's to soften the elements, hide or enhance a view, provide seating, circulate traffic, or provide a play aspect.

AMENITIES—Understand the needs of your visitors and add features to accommodate them.


Beyond berms and fountains, landscape elements that hint at a site's origins can make it more unique and draw more visitors. Often the history of a particular area is a great foundation for an outdoor theme or aesthetic touches.

For example, in Grand Prairie, Texas, Parkhill Park sits atop an area that was once farmland. Its agricultural beginnings led to the subtle use of a prairie theme when landscape architecture firm Schrickel Rollins & Associates designed the park's exterior. Large tractor-tire track marks are laid out in a type of concrete relief that cuts right across the park's parking lot. Barn-like structures serve as restrooms and concession stands and the use of ornamental grasses mimics what the prairie would have looked like in years past.

"What we're trying to do is tie into the environment or culture of the place and pick up on historical aspects," says Suzanne Sweek, registered landscape architect, associate and project manager with the Arlington, Texas-based Schrickel, Rollins and Associates.

Sweek's firm also worked on The Splash Factory, an interactive fountain and waterpark, also in Grand Prairie, that tapped into the fact that in the 1940s during World War II, many aircraft workers were centered in the area. To highlight that site's history, Sweek's firm used a subtle industrial theme that incorporated the use of galvanized and corrugated metal accents throughout the park.

In Washington, Utah, The O.H. Nisson Memorial Park was built on land that had an open canal running through it. The canal, which was carved out of lava rock 100 years ago by pioneer settlers, was still in tact and leak-free when Columbus, Ga., firm French & Associates decided to not only leave it in but use it as a theme for the park. The firm incorporated a working water wheel, which became the park marquis.

"It really draws your eye down to the facility," says French & Associates' Jackson. "The park, which sits near a main road, is below road level and would be hard to see without the wheel, which is at road level. The park is always packed and is heavily used."