If you’ve checked in at our blog and website lately, you’ve probably noticed a theme...we love working on public green spaces! Last month we featured the Ghirardi WaterSmart Park, which we worked on in conjunction with TBG Partners Inc. and the Texas Coastal Watershed Program. This month we’re happy to showcase a new community improvement project in the East Aldine District of Houston.
The East Aldine District knew that to improve their community, they needed to give their public areas a green makeover. The look of public spaces such as these are proven to have an impact on surrounding property values. When public spaces are improved and well-maintained, the entire neighborhood benefits. East Aldine decided to make a number of aesthetic enhancements, including creating many low-maintenance plantings and hardscape features; that’s where Landscape Art stepped up to help with the project.
Welcome to East Aldine!
The community features multiple intersections and esplanades, but they were mostly just eyesores and wasted space. The community decided that in order to reinvigorate the area, they needed to beautify the public spaces with new landscaping. The goal was to improve the curb appeal and make walking through the community much more enjoyable.
We installed decomposed granite covered garden beds filled with trees, brick path walking areas and edging plus a variety of ornamental grasses, blooming perennials and shrubs that are easy to maintain and can stand up to the Texas heat. All plantings are low-water use in order to conserve resources and keep the areas looking their best.
Trees increase the value of the community by helping to keep the air clean, provide habitat for wildlife, and improve the beauty of the esplanades.
The now clean, precise lines of the pavers combined with the soft beauty of the plantings provide an almost formal garden effect that completely changes the appearance of the area.
A variety of perennials, ornamental grasses and low growing shrubs create a welcoming and engaging scene for passersby.
We think you’ll agree that the changes are magnificent. These once-neglected spaces will now brighten the day of passersby and improve the overall perception of value of the neighborhood. We are always excited to be a part of projects that greatly improve the lives of those who live there! Visit our portfolio page for more photos of this project.
One of our passions here at Landscape Art is being involved in projects that benefit the whole community. Sustainable park projects are a great way to add green space to urban areas and improve quality of life for our residents. The Ghirardi WaterSmart Park is a project we were involved in that we’re particularly proud of.
The Ghirardi WaterSmart Park is an open (passive) park that’s dedicated to teaching local residents how to conserve water on their own properties. The park’s noteworthy features include two cisterns that gather and store rainwater. A pump system pressurizes the saved water and sends it through an irrigation system that replenishes a green roof structure. Additionally, the park includes multiple rain gardens that act as natural filters as they process rainwater runoff through the root systems of a variety of beautiful bog plants. The rain gardens become part detention basin and part bio filter. The entire park serves as an example of what homeowners can achieve in their own landscapes on a smaller scale.
The 3-acre park also includes community garden areas, native plant gardens, play and picnic areas, trails and foot bridges. It’s the perfect place to spend time outdoors with the family or take a daily walk. Gardeners will love the native plant displays. An outdoor theater and classroom area turn this park into an active learning space. Education focuses on how to use native plants in home landscapes and water conservation.
Landscape Art, Inc was the General Contractor for this unique and innovative park. The Houston-Galveston Area Council awards certain projects each year as especially worthy of distinction. In 2014 they awarded this special project for Parks and Natural Areas greater than $500,000 to the City of League City and Landscape Art. And now the Texas Recreation and Parks Society (TRAPS) has bestowed the Innovations in Park and Facility Development Award for WaterSmart Park. What a wonderful accomplishment for a project that is a true treasure for the League City community!
To see more photos of this project, visit our Portfolio Page HERE.
The project was funded in part by the Texas Coastal Watershed Program who will use the park as a testing ground for the various storm water systems that were designed and installed. The results may prove the systems’ effectiveness and inform the way we deal with water issues in the future.
We are proud of our association with such an important project and to have such a beautiful park as the result. It’s also great to know that others share the same commitment to our local community as the Landscape Art family does. We look forward to more community projects in the future!
The revitalization of urban spaces in Houston is a central focus for us here at Landscape Art. When communities and local businesses join together to breathe life back into what were once abandoned spaces, the results are truly beautiful. Community parks hold a special place for us and we're proud to unveil our most recent project, the Mandell Park renovation.
Setting up for the grand opening of the the park, including the community garden, Meredith Gardens
Mandell Park is surrounded by Bonnie Brae, Mandell and Richmond Streets in Houston’s Museum District. The park has an area of 1.22 acres that was originally half residential and half commercial property. The City of Houston purchased the property in the 1980s with the intent of bulding a new public library. However, after finding another location, the site was abandoned and stood as a vacant lot for a number of years.
The ribbon cutting ceremony at Meredith Gardens
In 1992 the neighbors decided to take responsibilty for the site and established an organic community garden later named "Meredith Gardens". The community volunteers have maintained this garden beautifully ever since. Due to it's productivity, the garden has been designated an Urban Harvest Premier Garden. However, the park was really ready for some special attention and a facelift. The city needed help from the community to revitilize the area and so the Friends of Mandell Park came together to help The Houston Parks Board with the project. The Asakura Robinson design firm, the Houston Parks Board and Friends of Mandell Park all agreed that an emphasis on sustainabilty was crucial to the project.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker spoke at the event.
After a truly remarkable makeover, the park now includes an upgraded Meredith Gardens, with a labyrinth of raised masonry planters that will be used as community gardens. Mandel Park is crisscrossed with swales that provide a sophisticated, underground drainage system that doubles as a rain garden with an array of plantings. A recycled shipping container provides on-site storage and is topped with a living “Green Roof”. A large set of composting bins with an ingenious sliding cover enhances the community’s involvement and participation in sustainable practices.
The new community garden beds were designed as a labyrinth of stone planters.
Mandell Park and Meredith Gardens are now transformed into a beautiful community destination. We love seeing how the landscape, gardening and beauty are bringing the community together. Landscape Art is proud to have been the General Contractor for the is project and we’re particularly proud of Michelle Gerac the project manager. Give her a pat on the back the next time you see her. We hope you'll visit Mandell Park soon.
To see more photos of this wonderful project, visit our portfolio page HERE.
Detention basins have become a vital part of flood control strategies in the Houston area. Some communities and architects have developed creative methods of enhancing the basins and improving the community at the same time.
What exactly is a detention basin? Detention basins are areas created to collect excess stormwater and then hold it temporarily. After the heavy rainfall subsides, the water in the detention basin is then slowly drained once the water levels in the city's receiving channels have receded. Retention basins, on the other hand, are created for longer term or indefinite storage of storm water.
Many communities in the Houston area need detention basins in order to be safe from storm flooding; but these areas can often be an unattractive eyesore that is unusable for any other purpose. What do we do with them when it's not raining? Our goal here at Landscape Art is to help turn these eyesore areas into attractive and useable areas for the community, while still maintaining their use for storm water management.
The Westwillow community benefited from such an effort, with the construction of a large, fully-accessible playground and two dog parks inside a large detention area. We worked on the project with architect Michael Murr on this project for the West Harris County Municipal Utility District 11 The result is that an eyesore area, full of weeds and completely unusable, became an attractive, wonderful play area for kids, dogs and even adults. In the case of a dramatic rain event, the basin will fill up with storm water as designed, but the park is prepared to be fully submerged then, after the waters recede, cleaned up and used again and again.
This project also included a second playground, two miles of walking trails and landscaping enhancements throughout the community. This once unuseable detention basin has now become a highlight of the community and a space they can use interactively to enhance their lifestyle. You can see more photos in our Portfolio.
This park is a great example of how smart engineering and design can maximize the look and potential of urban spaces, without losing their original use and functionality. We're proud to have been a part of executing this amazing design and look forward to more innovative projects.
Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of working on some very unique projects within our Houston community. The PGA Tour event held here in Houston is one of those projects and quite an affair. In 1992, Shell Oil became the title sponsor of the PGA Tour event. They knew they were going to need to put on a spectacular show in the landscape and immediately contacted Anita McCormick with Landscape Art to ask for help.
Our first year’s work included decorating the sponsor tents and a small Shell “logo” made from real flowers perched behind the 14th tee box. This project expanded into the construction of a decorative float on the pod at the 18th green.
Creating a floating planted display is both challenging and fun. As you can see here, we have to ferry all the materials out to the float. It's a good thing our crew are also good sailors! It's just these kinds of unique challenges we enjoy tackling in our landscape projects.
Each year, the event displays have become larger and more elaborate. When the tournament moved to its current location at the Redstone Tournament course in 2006 the floral display was taken to a new level.
The modest Shell floral “logo” that we constructed 14 years earlier became a twenty-foot masonry structure behind the tee box of the 18th hole. This is now a permanent fixture that we installed. The pond float at the 18th green was increased to twenty-four feet in diameter and now includes a fountain spray ring around the float, as well as four re-designed Shell logos with bright yellow and red blooms beaming out from the foliage.
We’ve been so pleased to remained involved in the project over the last 22 years and are always excited to see our work featured on live television, in the pages of international publications such as Sports Illustrated, in print media such as the Houston Chronicle and in virtually all the promotional material for the tournament.
We are very proud of our association with the Shell Houston Open and hope that you will enjoy our handiwork whether at the tournament or on television. We hope you enjoy the event!
M.D. Anderson has been a valued client of Landscape Art's for more than ten years. Over that time period, we've completed dozens of projects at the medical complex. Some of our most interesting and rewarding projects have been the installation of their rooftop gardens.
In case you're not familiar with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, it is one of the premier cancer research and treatment centers both in the nation and the world. As part of The University of Texas, they have a mission to eliminate cancer in Texas, the nation, and the world through outstanding programs that integrate patient care, research and prevention, and through education for undergraduate and graduate students, trainees, professionals, employees and the public. They are truly an outstanding organization that has made a huge difference in the lives of both cancer patients and their families.
As you can imagine, patients and families experience trying times while at the center. Creating a spaces where they can get some fresh air and a bit of relaxation was much needed. Our involvment included working on an outdoor plaza on the third floor of the building, as well as the rooftop garden on the eighth floor. The roof garden is a wonderful addition to the facility and has provided a scenic and calm space for patients as they manage their healing process. The garden includes trees, color plantings, a garden path and benches where patients and families can relax. The medical facility also uses this garden to complement therapies, hold support group meetings and also educational programs.
For the outdoor plaza on the third floor, we used a large crane to lift the super-sacs of soil and mulch needed for the planters. Because the eigth floor roof garden was so much higher up in the building, we were unable to use a crane for this project. That meant we had to manually cart all the soil, mulch, irrigation parts and plants through service elevators to the top. You can imagine how many trips that took! The results were very satisfying as patients and the families and friends are able to enjoy a little outdoor beauty during trying times.
There can be many challenges when building a rooftop garden and special consideration has to be given to issues like water management, wind, plant selection and general maintenance when planning the design. But the payoff can be well worth it, especially for a facility like M.D. Anderson. There are many benefits to adding rooftop gardens to city buildings. They can help reduce carbon dioxide levels and improve air quality, especially in the summer. The rooftop garden can also help control temperature in the building by absorbing heat from the building and replacing it with cooler air. Landscape plantings help reduce ambient temperature in urban environments and help catch rainwater. They also create habitat for wildlife. Research has shown that having plants and nature around you is good for your health and can aid the healing process.
While our work at M.D. Anderson and the Texas Medical Center is not as large or splashy as some of our other projects, it is always very satisfying. We're happy to know that our work there can help families and patients have a better experience.
Check out this amazing play center we installed at Bridgepoint Bible Church in Houston. What kid would not want to blow off some steam on that slide?! We put a lot of care into creating a fun and safe playground for the children of the church members. You can see photos of the rest of our installation landscape project at this location here. You can see more of our playground installations here.
M.D. Anderson is one of our oldest customers and one of our favorites. We use the H2B Visa program to secure a reliable, legal workforce, but they are required to leave in the fall of each year. As illustrated in the attached photo, sometimes they really have to leave in a hurry...
Here at Landscape Art, we regularly work on projects that involve master planned communities and neighborhoods. These communities often call for top-notch communial spaces that include plazas, parks, pools, playgrounds, pavilions and sometimes even splash parks. In one of our recent projects, we worked with Carlton Woods Creekside here in Houston to install a beautiful plaza to serve as a gathering space for residences.
Carlton Woods Creekside is the most exclusive gated section in the massive Woodlands master planned community. The neighborhood features the largest custom homes in the area and includes The Club at Carlton Woods and the Tom Fazio designed Championship Golf Course.
The project included clearing a wooded site and then constructing a large sunken plaza. The plaza is enveloped by both stone and brick pathways as well as stone retaining walls. Soft, natural and low-maintenance plantings surround the plaza giving it a lush welcoming feel. The plaza area is even complete with a spray ground feature.
The focal feature of the plaza is a large stately pavilion with a large fountain that overlooks the plaza from one end and mail kiosk from the other. The plaza area is flanked by a bathroom building, making this space complete for community events, ceremonies or just a lovely spot to rest during a daily walk. We even installed a large playground on the opposite end of the plaza. To complete the versatilty of the space, we installed two tennis courts with a seating area and a half basketball court.
As you can see in the photos, the entire area is kept private and secluded by the natural forest that surrounds the park. Nestled in the trees, the area is a perfect place for residents to relax or bring guests.
The project was constructed for The Woodlands Corporation with Bob Bruce as the owner's representative and Mark Grindell as the owner's site representative. Clark Condon Associates was the Landscape Architect and the design team leader, with Elizabeth Gilbert and Sheila Condon leading the charge. Landscape Art was the General Contractor with Andrew Walton as the project manager. D.L. Meacham and Monarch Pools were subcontractors, each contributing significantly to the project.
We've been very busy here at Landscape Art this year and we're couldn't be happier. Here at our new LA blog, we'll be showcasing our current completed or ongoing projects to give our readers a better idea of the type and scale of projects we handle here in Houston and surrounding areas.
Our first project hightlight is the Bridgepoint Bible Church. This thriving church on the west side of Houston wanted to create an oudoor plaza with a fountain and water feature that also served as a baptismal pool. They also wanted to improve the existing play area and create a new larger playground. The style of the church is very contemporary and so the landscape installation reflects this modern style.
The project included installing a significant storm water drainage system to mitigate problems with standing water behind the church. An expansive stone plaza was constructed between two existing buildings including a decorative fountain that can double as an outdoor baptismal. This area now serves as a welcoming site for members to gather and host events.
As you can see, the landscaping and materials complement both the style and colors fo the building. Steel blues, gray and charcoal colors are reflected in the stone work and the plantings. The masses of beautiful blue Agapanthus and white crapemyrtles sofen the contemporary design. The cool color scheme of both the building materials and plantings creates a soothing peacful feel for the space. Despite lush look of the plantings, they are all low-maintenance and well-adapted to the Houston climate.
The existing play area was enhanced and a large, three-level playground installed. The congregation's children now have a safe and incredibly fun playground in which to burn off some steam while their parents catch up with other members. The landscaping concept was to provide a natural feel, so many trees and plants were included around and even within the playground areas. Decomposed Granite pathways connect the various features and a state-of-the-art irrigation control system was installed to update the entire facility. The layout and flow of the entire design perfectly envolopes the church building itself and creates a welcoming environment.
The project was constructed for Bridgepoint Bible Church with Tony Gregory, Karen Gregory and Mark Stewart as the owner's representatives. Clark Condon Associates was the Landscape Architect and Beth Clark was the CCA representative. Landscape Art was the General Contractor with Jason Ward as the project manager. Hoggatt, L.P. and Monarch Pools were subcontractors, each contributing significantly to the project.
Please take a moment to view some of our other projects for institutions and organizations HERE. If yo'd like to receive our monthly E-newsletter with updates on our project work, you can sign up HERE.
For many decades, America’s fruits and vegetables have been harvested by foreign-born, mostly Hispanic workers. Long days of physically demanding work have kept many native-born workers away. Even in the early 1980’s when the economy sank and unemployment skyrocketed to double digits, agricultural work didn’t lure Americans to the fields.
Over the last twenty-five years, a similar phenomenon has spread to other industries. Restaurant kitchens, hotel and hospitality workers, the construction industry and landscape services are now dominated by a foreign-born workforce.
I am the general manager of Landscape Art, a Houston area, landscape construction company. As is the case with most of our industry, our field staff of around 50 is mostly Hispanic and mostly foreign-born.
For the past 15 years, we have utilized the H2B program, which allows us to secure work visas for Mexican and El Salvadorian workers. Under the requirements of the program, we advertise each year in the “Help Wanted” section of the Houston Chronicle and the Texas Workforce Commission. The wage rate is set by the Department of Labor and is currently $10.93.
So…for each of the last 15 years, we have sought American workers first. Each year we receive responses. Each year we conduct interviews. Each year we offer employment to all that show up. After 15 years of trying, we have two American-born workers as a result of the ads. I am very proud of Alex and Roy. They are good workers and solid guys, but we can’t run our company with two field workers.
Two years ago, I visited several Congressional offices in Washington, D.C. with colleagues from the landscape industry along with some agricultural folks. While there, I met a farmer from San Antonio.
He needs around 100 people to work his farm for a couple of months. The labor will be difficult and will involve long hours in the field. Then, he doesn’t need them until the next crop comes in, so they’ll have to move on to another farm, probably out of state. Even if the money is good, imagine the person that would accept this lifestyle. Now imagine 100 of them. Now imagine that every farm in America that grows hand-harvested crops needs 100.
In 1986 Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act. The legislation included a small and, ultimately, deficient guest worker program. Without an adequate legal mechanism, immigration went underground.
Over the last twenty-five years, the United States has adopted an “unofficial”, but massive immigration system. It starts with the overwhelming need of industries that cannot thrive or even survive, without immigrant labor. It includes the undeniable force of immigrant people who wish to better their lives by doing hard work that others won’t. This “overwhelming need” and “undeniable force” have come together to create the present state in America of 11 million undocumented workers.
Our current system is deeply flawed, because it is an “ad hoc” approach rather than a statutory method. The result is that we have no control. We don’t know who is coming in. We don’t know their background. We know nothing about them.
We can do better.
We can institute a guest worker program that protects the interests of American workers by always offering the jobs to Americans first. We can accommodate the needs of farmers, restaurants and other companies, by developing a dynamic guest worker program that is usable and reliable. We can extend to the immigrants both the rights and responsibilities of being an American worker. We can offer American citizens the assurance that we know the people coming to our country and that they are contributing both their labor and their taxes.
The details of the program will come from tedious, but important work in Washington. Many must ponder the particulars of the legislation...but it must be done. We can’t ride without rules. We can’t continue with happenstance as our policy. We can’t allow randomness to determine our workforce.
The details will come from Washington, but the push comes from us. The will to act comes from us. The insistence on intelligent legislation comes from us. We can do better. We will do better.
Please take a look around. We'll be growing a lot in the future so make sure to check back often. We will update our blog monthly as well as send out a month E-newsletter to keep you posted on our projects. Feel free to sign up HERE.