Grasses, Sedges, and Landscape Architects

UGA Landscape Planning Short CourseOur Marketing Director, Shannon Currey, recently spent a couple of days with landscape architects at the University of Georgia’s Landscape Planning Short Course. The course is sponsored by the University’s College of Environment + Design, and landscape architects from all over the Southeast attend.

Focus on Function and Design

Shannon was part of the two-day program. She discussed the ways grasses and sedges minimize resource use and provide solutions to site challenges. She touched on grasses and sedges for biorentention cells and bioswales, two common features in green infrastructure. The presentation also included plants for lawn alternatives, green roofs, and meadow plantings. Shannon also discussed the unique design attributes that make grasses and sedges so appealing.

Shannon at UGA
Shannon Currey speaks at the UGA Landscape Planning Short Course.

The conference was held in the Georgia Center, UGA’s Hotel and Conference Center, with presentations in the auditorium. The entire visit was a great experience, and we wanted to give you some of the highlights.

Georgia Center's auditorium
The Georgia Center’s auditorium was a comfortable and spacious venue for attendees and speakers.

New Woody Plants

When you think of Georgia horticulture, Dr. Michael Dirr comes to mind. He talked about his company, Plant Introductions, Inc., and their newest woody varieties. They’ve recently partnered with Bailey Nurseries to bring the plants to market. As always, Dr. Dirr’s talk was very animated, and his pragmatism and years of experience came though.

Dr. Michael Dirr and his new plants
Dr. Dirr describes a range of newly introduced woody plants, along with several that are still in trials.

Green Infrastructure in Houston

Two of the talks were of particular interest for their use of green infrastructure. Matt Baumgarten, an associate with SWA Group, talked about Houston’s Bayou Greenways. This ambitous project has been in the works for 100 years, with the goal of having 60% of residents within 1.5 miles of a greenway. Using a wide pallette of plants, including grasses and sedges, Houston’s waterways are being transformed into beautiful, functional green spaces. Here are two of the projects Matt Baumgarten presented:

  • Bray’s Bayou: Transitioning a 1960s-era program of concrete channelization to a more resilient and naturalized landscape infrastructure.
  • Buffalo Bayou Promenade: Converting a neglected, trash-soaked stretch of waterway into 3,000 linear feet of urban park.
Buffalo Bayou Promenade
The Buffalo Bayou Promenade project in Houston added 20 acres of new parkland to the inner city. Photo from SWA Group’s website.

The other exciting green infrastructure project was also orchestrated by SWA Group. Tim Peterson, principal with the company, described Cross Creek Ranch. The developers of this planned community wanted something different. With SWA, they formed a plan to convert worn pastureland into a showplace for sustainability and sound ecology.

The plan called for a holistic approach to water management. They wanted to create robust native plant communities throughout the site and integrate water treatment into the system. Native grasses are used throughout the plantings, and residents are educated about the benefits of the project’s ecological approach.

Tall Grass Zone
It took a while for community residents to understand the different aesthetic that tall grasses and meadow plantings offer. Signs helped them see the intentionality of the plantings.

To introduce the project, Tim showed an 11-minute video that SWA Group made about Cross Creek Ranch:

Touring the Campus

After the conference, Shannon was treated to a campus tour. Dr. Tim Smalley from the Department of Horticulture showed her the sites. It was a beautiful day, and a lovely time. Below are a few more images from the visit.

The Georgia Center
The Landscape Planning Short Course was held at the Georgia Center, a hotel and conference center on south campus.
UGA Trial Gardens
The Trial Gardens at UGA have provided information on a huge range of annual and perennial plants over the years.
Jackson Street Building
The Jackson Street Building houses the undergraduate landscape architecture program. It includes studio spaces and computer labs with natural lighting and soaring ceilings.
The Founders Memorial Garden & House
The Founders Memorial Garden offers an outdoor classroom. Dr. Smalley uses it for his plant identification classes, as it contains a number of unusual and interesting specimens. It’s also a beautiful garden and a peaceful oasis on the busy campus.
Herty Field Fountain
The Herty Field Fountain stands at one end of Herty Field, UGA’s original athletic field and the site of their first intercollegiate football game in 1892.
The Arch at UGA
The Arch stands at the edge of the campus and is modeled after Georgia’s state seal. A well-known university legend states that any undergraduate who walks under the Arch will not graduate. Dr. Smalley pointed out the grooves worn into the steps around the outside of the arch.

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