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Project Highlight: Gateway Village General Improvement District

The city of Denver uses various improvement districts to construct, improve, and maintain neighborhood and commercial areas. One such General Improvement District (GID) has been created for a section in the large Northeast Denver neighborhood of Montbello, and is called the Gateway General Improvement District (GID). We are happy to have been contracted by The Gateway GID in hopes of helping to revitalize the neighborhood by updating the current landscape and introducing more drought-tolerant, colorful plant varieties for areas around the neighborhood. These areas include street tree lawns, detention ponds, a large drainage channel, and the monument sign area. The nearby green space study, as seen below, analyzes the nearby park spaces, most of which are too far from most homes in the GID to be within walking distance. This posed a great opportunity for us to not only revitalize the outdated and rundown landscape around the neighborhood, but to help create community green spaces, by utilizing the barren and unused detention ponds.

 

 

The streetscapes throughout the neighborhood contain endless amounts of water-guzzling bluegrass, along with landscape beds overflowing, overgrown junipers and bare spots where other shrubs have died. Our design has these streetscapes being updated to replace the existing sod and desolate landscape beds with drought tolerant shrub varieties and rock mulch to reduce irrigation requirements while also providing a cohesive and interesting landscape year-round.

 

 

In the detention ponds around the neighborhood, our landscape designs aim to incorporate a more usable lawn space with pedestrian access, as well as add colorful, xeric varieties of shrubs and trees to the perimeter of the pond at street level to increase passerby interest and beautify the area. These ponds present a huge opportunity to provide nearby families with accessible parks. Two of the detention ponds are located directly across the street from two elementary schools in the neighborhood. These particular ponds presented us with a huge opportunity to not only turn these unused areas into park spaces, but educational learning landscapes as well.

 

We collaborated with Denver Public Schools to incorporate interesting educational elements and various ecosystems that will coincide with lesson plans made by teachers. Ecosystems include a wetland ecosystem where students can do water testing and observe the various birds and insects, as well as a dryland ecosystem featuring drought tolerant, native Colorado plant varieties. Other educational elements include a pollinator garden that will feature colorful shrubs and perennials attractive to bees and butterflies, demonstrating the importance of pollinators.

 

 

A boulder garden can also be found in the new educational landscape designs with an array of boulders showcasing Colorado’s diverse geology. To offer a more structured outdoor classroom, we have designed the detention pond slopes to incorporate an amphitheater with siloam stone slab seating. To top it off, children can follow a concrete pathway painted with the planets from our solar system, down into one of the amphitheaters.

 

 

With the Gateway Village General Improvement District being large in scope, we hope to reach a vast majority of the community at and positively impact them with all of these desired improvements.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects. For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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Project Highlight: Multi-family Community Pool Area Renovations

As the Denver metro area continues to grow in population and our real estate market experiences growing pains, many existing multi-family housing properties have become golden opportunities for renovation and renewal. Here at Outdoor Design Group, we have recently been contracted by several clients to not only bring a fresh look to these common area landscapes, but to incorporate various outdoor amenities and create an extension of usable outdoor living space.

A couple of notable landscape renovations we have been fortunate enough to design were two properties owned by a California real estate company. They appointed us to help redesign the landscape to compliment their building renovations, giving each outdated property a much needed face lift.

The first property, located in Federal Heights, Colorado, is a large complex comprising of several units and a separate leasing and fitness center building. The leasing and fitness center was to be completely remodeled, and the entrance reconfigured. Our landscape design incorporates hardscaping like retaining walls and unique paving surfaces that compliment the updated architecture, and guide users toward the new entrance. Additionally, the numerous low-water plant species were selected and placed throughout the beds to create interest with their distinctive structural forms and colorful habits, which molded with the new modern style the client was striving toward.

 

A 3D rendering of the modern style entrance landscape helped our client to better visualize the space.

 

Attached to the East side of the leasing and fitness center is the community pool area, which was also overdue for a fresh look. In our design, the existing pool was to remain as is, but the surrounding pool deck was modified to be larger with a sleek, colored pool deck coating. A striking modern style gas fireplace was incorporated at the west end and amenities like shade structures, grilling stations, LED landscape lighting and picnic tables provide the finishing touches on the new design.

 

Original concept design.

 

Digital rendering of the final design.

 

The second multi-family property Outdoor Design Group provided landscape design services for is located in Lakewood, Colorado. Its existing pool area was drab and outdated with no extra amenities. Our design integrated a large turf area for games, outdoor kitchen with a pergola, and a gas fire pit, all alongside a brand new decked out pool house designed by a Phoenix based architecture firm. The large bi-fold doors were designed to fully open toward the pool, and create effortless indoor/outdoor living. We welcomed the opportunity to design a space that allowed us to really visualize and get excited about how the space would be used. Additionally, the low-water use plantings surrounding the pool were chosen to provide year-round interest as well as screening from the nearby road.

 

Concept design.

 

Construction on these projects is currently underway, and we can’t wait to see the final results! Multi-family housing projects, both new development and site renovations are a hot commodity here in Denver, and the demand is ever increasing. We love being involved on projects like these, and we look forward to more to come.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects. For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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Project Highlight: The Gardens at Columbine Memory Care

Located in Littleton, Colorado, The Gardens at Columbine is a memory care/assisted living facility on which Outdoor Design Group provided landscape design services. This site was an expansion of an existing assisted living facility onto adjacent property. This new building provides a space for adding memory care services to the facility’s roster of other existing services for senior citizens.

As the new building was being planned for this recently acquired property, we designed the outdoor spaces, walkways and landscaped gardens to surround this new structure. Because the site was not terribly large, and the proposed building sizable in scope, this provided several challenges. From how to fit parking spaces into a small space to designing safe and sound emergency exit pathways, this project was a challenging but satisfying endeavor.

One of the first challenges we had to face was how to provide a working landscape at the east entrance to the building. This entrance is near the other existing building, and is the preferred access point for employees traveling between buildings. The difficulty here was adding an entrance walkway that would transition from a higher elevation parking lot then drop down to a doorway that sits slightly below grade relative to the parking lot. Retaining walls were necessary in this area so we added built in benches at the walls to provide useful amenities along this path. Step lights in the walls provide a soft illumination for this well used pathway.

Prior to construction, the original site was filled with trees, as it had been a large lot with one single family home on it. While some of the existing trees could not be saved due to the scope of the proposed building, we worked with the city and the owner to save as many trees as we could. For example we spent a significant time working and re-working the landscape plan with the civil engineer on the project to reconfigure the entrance drive and parking areas to save several existing trees on the north and east sides of the property.

The namesake gardens are located in the internal courtyard of the project. These outdoor spaces give residents of the facility a charming scene that invites them to go outside and get some fresh air amid the trees, shrubs and raised bed gardens.

Stepping out of the building and into the courtyard, the first of the raised planting beds one encounters is a large circle comprised of  a poured-in-place concrete seat wall that is chock full of colorful perennials, wispy ornamental grasses, low growing shrubs and scraggy boulders.

As you step further into the courtyard, you encounter wooden raised bed gardens where residents of the facility can indulge their gardening bug and get their hands dirty in the soil. These two beds are situated on opposite sides of the courtyard, connected by a concrete walk where the residents can circumnavigate to achieve fresh air and exercise, ensconced in the protective calm of these hidden gardens.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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Dog Tuff African Dogtooth Grass: The Best Turf Grass for Hot & Dry Sites

Do you love having a lush lawn, but hate the idea of wasting water? Do you have dogs who leave unsightly dead spots in your lawn where they’ve urinated? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then Dog Tuff African Dogtooth Grass (Cynodon ‘PWIN04S’) may be the best choice of turf grass for you. Dog Tuff is drought tolerant, resistant to dog urine, thrives is full hot sun, and is soft underfoot. Dog Tuff is a sterile variety of Bermuda grass, so it won’t spread via seeds. Dog Tuff grass was developed by respected Colorado horticulturalist Kelly Grummons. Kelly is working with High Country Gardens, and Plant Select to market this product. Watch this Plant Select video to see Kelly discussing this wonderful product:

 

Kelly has been working on bringing Dog Tuff to market for over ten years. The original parentage for this grass is native to South Africa, where a lush patch of it was found on a ranch. Dog Tuff is a “warm-season” grass, so it does not green up as early as blue grass. However, as Kelly mentions in the video, Dog Tuff needs only a fraction of the water to survive as compared to bluegrass. Dog Tuff grass will grow in many soil types, but it does need full sun (6 or more hours of direct sun). Dog Tuff is rated hardy to USDA zone 5.

We recently provided design services for a public park in Arvada, Colorado, where we incorporated Dog Tuff grass into an area the park. It was planted last year and is doing well. We are excited to have this as part of a park where people can visit and see the grass in person.

If you are planning a new lawn, or if you are thinking about replacing your current lawn with a more drought tolerant type of grass, you should consider incorporating Dog Tuff African Dogtooth grass in your home landscape.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, please visit our website at odgdesign.com.

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10 tips for Choosing the Best Plants for Commercial Sites

The landscaping on commercial sites may be low on a business owner’s list of priorities for their property. But you should not underestimate the positive influence an attractive landscape can have on potential clients. With this in mind, here is a list of ten issues to consider for choosing the right plants to keep your property’s landscaping looking and functioning at its best.

Non-Invasive

Some very hardy plants would be great choices for commercial landscapes if not for their tendency and ability to invade and spread where they are not wanted. This may happen via seedlings or by creeping rhizomes (horizontal underground stems that can send out new roots and shoots). Luckily, here in Colorado and the Inter-Mountain West, our growing climate is challenging for many invasive plants that have ravaged milder climates in North America. However, there are some plants you should never allow to take root in Colorado due to their invasive nature. For a list of plants see: http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/unitedstates/co.shtml; http://www.ext.colostate.edu/ptlk/2041.html

Blonde Ambition Grama Grass and English Lavender

Disease Resistant

Nobody wants to spend extra money or time dealing with or replacing diseased or dying plants. Avoid choosing plants that are easily susceptible to attack from disease or pests.

Long Lived

Along the same lines of replacing diseased plants prematurely, nobody wants to spend time and money replacing plants that live short lives. The cost of purchasing and installing landscape plants is significant, so it is wise to choose plants that will stand the test of time.

Adaptable to various exposures

The location you are planting on your property may currently be in any degree of exposure from full sun to full shade. But conditions may change in the near future. Will a new building or new trees be placed on the neighboring property? Conversely is a structure or tree slated to come down, creating a new pocket of full sun? Picking plants with higher adaptability to various exposures will ensure success for your landscape.

Adaptable to various soils

The soils in my area are typically heavy in clay with a high (alkaline) pH. This is one more challenge to add to the list of issues that face landscape plants. For best success and longevity, choose plants adapted or adaptable to the soil conditions on your property.

Adaptable to variable moisture levels

You may be familiar with desert plants and you may be familiar with rainforest plants. These two extremes of ecology illustrate the wide variability of climate that plants live in. Your landscape likely falls somewhere in between these extremes. However, even in the most average commercial landscape, we might find wide degrees of moisture and irrigation levels. Having plants that can handle these extremes will help ensure your landscapes do well.

Drought Tolerant

Although nearly all municipalities require automatic landscape irrigation, it is good if the plants you specify for a site are truly drought tolerant.

But on the flip side, some plants that are considered very low water plants may be more difficult to establish on a commercial site due to over watering. Many but not all native plants fall in this category. They are more fussy about soils and drainage. They may need to be ruled out of the “set it, and forget it” situation that many commercial clients may seek. But if you have the time or the staff to work with some very low water plants during their establishment time, they can eventually become great components of your drought tolerant landscaping. The easiest plants to use in your landscape will be adaptable to varying soil moisture levels.

A variety of perennials and shrubs adapted to Colorado’s climate.

Not messy or difficult to maintain

Your maintenance crew has enough on their plate with regular landscape maintenance. There’s no reason to increase their burden and your costs by having messy, difficult plants on your property.

Readily available from nurseries (not rare)

If you lose some of your landscape plants due to accidents, vandalism or bad weather, you will likely want to easily replace the missing vegetation. If the plant that needs to be replaced is hard to find, you might have to resort to replacing it with one that does not match.

Attractive/Interesting/Eye-catching

Attract eyeballs and attention to your business by choosing interesting trees, shrubs and flowering plants. Just as having aesthetically pleasing buildings or signage is good for business, eye-catching vegetation and other landscape elements makes good business sense. Choose Trees and shrubs with notable flowers or good fall color.

A Hawthorne tree in spring bloom.

In Summary

If you are planning a new commercial landscape or taking an assessment of your existing commercial landscape, keep these guidelines in mind. They’ll help you avoid potential problems that might repel clients and customers from your property, rather than inviting them in. An inviting landscape on your commercial property is one of the first steps to achieving business success.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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