Landscape Awards 2015
List of Awardees
Award of Excellence
Award of Excellence
Award of Honor
The Gotto residence property had previously been a cattle ranch with multiple ponds and areas of preserves. The home site was bare sand and weeds with no native plants to preserve. The builder did plant two live oak trees in the front yard and two in the back yard.
First, shrubs such as Needle Palm, Simpson Stopper, Walter’s Viburnum, and Beautyberry were planted to anchor the landscape plan. The landscape was then filled with a variety of flowering plants and grasses and many of these plants were chosen to attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and a variety of pollinators.
As of 2015, there are 63 species of native plants in the landscape. Maintenance includes removal of invasive plant species and pruning. No fertilizer is used and insect infestations are treated with a bio-safe plant spray of vegetable oil, mild diswashing liquid and water.
Award of Excellence
The Florida International University (FIU) Nature Preserve is a 16-acre environmental education facility dedicated to sharing the ecological knowledge about the Florida Everglades with FIU students and the university community. Thanks to significant restoration efforts this facility has developed within the last 5 years to become a key feature of the university campus and a valuable natural habitat. FIU opened its doors in 1972 as a public research institution after the old Tamiami airport closed in 1966. Luckily, the current Nature Preserve land was located between several airport runways and was minimally disturbed, preserving its original soil and geology. Yet, while Tamiami airport was active, trees were not allowed to grow on the property due to interference with planes, making all the trees within the Nature Preserve only about 50 years old. The Nature Preserve was co-founded in 1978 by the Department of Earth and Environment and the Department of Biological Sciences, with faculty from these departments guiding its development. As time went on, faculty from departments such as landscape architecture, anthropology, education, and the honors college got involved as they realized the true value of having this outdoor classroom on campus. Ultimately, the Office of University Sustainability was charged with its management with the creation of a full-time position geared mainly towards the stewardship of the FIU Nature Preserve. This led to the inclusion of the Nature Preserve in the university master plan, safeguarding its future into the coming decades. In 2013, the university wholly embraced the preserve by investing close to three quarters of a million dollars into restoring its facilities.
With hopes to recreate the area’s original structure and function, considerable planning had to be done, most importantly documenting the organisms living within it. A catalogue of species was developed: 265 plants, 110 birds, 46 butterflies, 19 reptiles and amphibians, 9 fishes, and 4 mammals, including several state and federally listed species. Initial restoration efforts began in the 1970’s, but took on a new level of efficiency from the early 2000’s. Restoration work started at the southern end of the Nature Preserve and as staff and budgets grew, restoration efforts moved northward into the pine rockland area and the freshwater wetlands. The current hardwood hammock area entailed goals such as 1) surveying existing plants, 2) removing pre-existing invasive exotic species (mainly Casuarina equisetifolia), 3) planting native trees, 4) maintaining those plants to full maturity, and 5) monitoring plant composition.
The restoration efforts in the hammock were accomplished with great success, with that area being the ecologically “healthiest” part of the preserve to this day. In 2010, restoration began in the pine rockland area. The area had been so overgrown with hardwoods that it was completely indiscernible as a pine rockland except to those with a keen eye. Hundreds of native and exotic trees were dropped and stumps removed mechanically, simulating the role fire plays in this ecosystem. This showcased the existent slash pines and allowed for sunlight and rainwater to hit the soil, enabling many herbaceous species to grow and flower, really bringing attention to our restoration efforts. Since the soil and geology were intact, pine rockland plants moved in without any need for soil amendments.
Management evolved to monitoring for the following: saw palmettos, slash pines, recent plantings, endangered species, and incoming invasive species. Yet, the natural fire regime was still absent. So, in 2016 during Spring break, a prescribed fire was performed in the pine rockland habitat thanks to support from the Florida Forest Service.
This project, while still very much underway has bolstered a lot of university attention. The FIU Nature Preserve is the only university facility wholly dedicated to environmental education. There are 24 interpretive trail signs and about 100 tree tags lining the 1+ miles of trails throughout the preserve. With an approximate 15,000 annual visitors including 3,000 annual attendees to our various programs and events, our work interfaces with many individuals. More than 25 FIU courses from 9 different departments use this outdoor classroom each year, as well as many Miami-Dade County public school groups, local environmental clubs, camp groups, and nearby community members. The Nature Preserve provides many urban residents with an Everglades adventure that they may not have experienced otherwise by eliminating barriers such as travel distance, financial burden, and fear of wildlife/getting lost.
Award of Excellence
The native landscaping at Archbold Biological Station’s Learning Center and Lodge fulfills goals for natural beauty, conservation, sustainability, and learning opportunities.
The project site at the Learning Center and Lodge (2.79-acres) and adjacent 0.69-acre Archbold Expeditions Plaza parking is located within the 12-acre campus of Archbold Biological Station, embedded within an 8,840-acre nature preserve. Archbold, a not-for-profit established in 1941, is dedicated to research, conservation, and education (www.archbold-station.org) and is a National Natural Landmark (US Dept. of Interior). The project site was deliberately restricted to land that was cleared pre-1930, and avoided any impacts on the surrounding globally-imperiled Florida scrub habitat.
To achieve 100% native landscaping, 78 species (15 grass/sedge, 54 forb/shrub, and 9 trees), 14,196 plants in total, all native to south central Florida were planted. This created a landscape that neither restores nor replicates the original Florida scrub, scrubby flatwoods, or cutthroat wetlands, but derives inspiration and pays homage to these native plant communities found originally on-site.
Species were selected, and plans customized, to meet the criteria of firewise, elevation, topography, and soil type (Immokalee sand, Basinger fine sand) heavily modified by 3’ of fill (sand), former concrete paving, and construction debris. Species included perennial bunchgrasses and clonal shrubs, designed to hold the ground and resist establishment of invasives, interspersed with annual seeders, to meet the goal of a self-regenerating landscaping that will endure over time.
An Ecotonal Prairie was created to include a gradient from relatively dry soils to a lower area that is seasonally flooded, receiving water draining from higher elevations. It is planted with hydrologically appropriate species depending on slope position, reflecting the concept, a little elevation goes a long way. Areas with shade under louvres or retained trees were planted with shrubs and groundcover adapted to shade such as Beaked Panicum and Carolina Jessamine, the latter screening a west facing window.
For a Seasonal Wetland, retention ponds were deliberately engineered with variable topography, planted with species selected for varying levels of soil moisture and water depths over time. Deepest areas that hold water nearly year-around were planted with White Waterlily, Duck Potato, and Pickerelweed. The slopes received grasses and Frogfruit that grow naturally on seepage slopes. A novel engineering feature, a large, shallow littoral zone, was planted with Baldwin’s Spikerush, (a fine spreading sedge), Whitehead Bogbutton, and numerous other species that can survive moist soils and occasional flooding.
More than 14,000 plants were grown during 2010-12 by The Natives in their nurseries in Davenport, FL. Native Green Cay Nursery donated Slash Pines. Plant establishment required creative solutions to significant barriers. Before and during construction (2009-2011) the site was disked and repeatedly herbicided to be invasive-free. After construction, soils from fill or excavated from the retention pond with pH 6.05 to 7.99, had to be top-dressed with pelletized sulfur to decrease pH closer to native pH 4.5-6.0. Planting holes received a small amount of organic fertilizer with minor nutrients, and plants installed at or slightly above the soil line to avoid rot. PAM 12 Plus was scattered on erosion-prone slopes. The area was mulched with pine straw shipped from a Georgia plantation, guaranteed to be free from invasive plants. After one year of temporary irrigation with aboveground pipes for establishment, the site receives no irrigation, fertilizer, or mulch, meeting our design criterion of a prairie that needs only sun and rain.
A maintenance crew from The Natives still comes 2-3 times a year to spot spray weeds with glyphospate and hand-pulling. Additional Wiregrass were added in 2013 and Archbold planted 144 shrubs in 2014 to replace acid-loving Rusty Staggerbush and Darrow’s Blueberry that died. In future prescribed patch burns may be used for maintenance that mimics nature. Native landscaping was essential for the project to achieve LEED Platinum® designation, the highest award for green buildings, and only the 12th such award for a commercial building in Florida.