Before You Go - January 2012
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Going Green
Historic Gardens Earn Green Star Award

By Deborah L. Vence

We go to parks, playgrounds and recreation areas for leisure walks, to spend quality time with family or just to embrace nature a little more than usual.

Do we really take the time, though, to notice the overall appearance of our parks and playgrounds and recreation areas—the beauty of the landscaping; the rich green grass; the tall, leafy trees; the intricate details of plants and flowers and their arrangements, etc.?

Such details are what the judges with the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) look for when choosing the winners in the Green Star Awards competition. The PGMS is an individual membership society of grounds professionals dedicated to advancing the grounds management profession through education and professional development. The majority of PGMS members are institutional grounds managers who work for organizations such as colleges and universities, municipalities, park and recreation facilities, office parks, apartment complexes, hotels/motels, cemeteries, theme parks and landscape management companies.

"The PGMS created the Green Star Awards to bring national recognition of grounds managers for sites that are maintained to a high degree of excellence. It's basically a recognition program … of top-level maintenance and management of particular sites. And, there are several categories that you are able to apply for," explained Mark Feist, assistant director of facilities management at American University in Washington, director-at-large with PGMS and the chair for the PGMS Green Star Awards 2011.

Recently, the Biltmore Estate Historic Gardens in Asheville, N.C., received the highest honor—the Grand Award in the Park, Recreation or Playground category of the society's 2011 Green Star Awards competition. The site was honored during the society's 2011 Awards Dinner held Oct. 28 in conjunction with the School of Grounds Management & GIE+EXPO that was held Oct. 26 to 29 in Louisville, Ky.

The Biltmore Estate Historic Gardens encompass 75 acres of individual gardens, as well as the three-mile Approach Road and the areas west of the house designated the Deer Park and Lagoon. Horticultural experts continually work to preserve the original vision for the gardens and grounds, including the All-America Rose Garden that features more than 250 varieties.

"We have a panel of judges and a chairperson who, once a year, collect the applications from various categories, a very systematic judging method that has been developed. The entries are primarily in four major categories: turf management, overall landscape, the challenges and the budget," Feist said. "Certain sites, because of the amount of use they receive, would be one of those challenges; and how a manager deals with the various aspects as far as allocating labor materials to meet those challenges."

Feist noted one particular feature that was impressive about Biltmore Estate.

"It is a fairly new feature within their landscape. They created a summer annual tapestry. And, there's a lot of planning that goes into creating the impact of detail, [kind of like] an oriental carpet. It's all done with plant material," he said. "The special challenge there is that they have very little turnaround time where that area has to be planted—from start to finish. It's quite impressive as far as the work that was done.

"The other one probably was [about] more naturalized areas and their planning, having plant material in bloom year round," he added. "So, their design intent of naturalized garden areas was impressive as well in having a feature of the garden year-round as far as the planting was concerned."

The Green Star Awards competition offers three levels of awards: a Grand Award, an Honor Award and a Merit Award, Feist said, explaining that each applicant submits a package presenting their sites.

"It's a PowerPoint in which that particular site is judged. So, there are specific requirements in that package. We ask for various slides and descriptive narratives that go with those slides. And, it's for the overall beauty of the site, the crew at work. That's where a number of these challenges show up, and an overall picture of the actual manager on that site. And, there is also other information regarding the site, [which] becomes the basis for the judging."

The Green Star Awards program brings national recognition to grounds maintained with a high degree of excellence, complimenting other national landscape award programs that recognize outstanding landscape design and construction. This year's program acknowledged the nation's top grounds in settings ranging from resorts and institutions to athletic fields. Overall, PGMS presented six Grand Awards, its highest honor, as well as seven Honor Awards and two Merit Awards in seven categories of competition. A complete list of winners can be found at:

"The Green Star Award is presented at a banquet. So, all of the award winners are recognized at the conference … it's a nice event as far as recognizing the recipients," he added.