Category Archives: Featured Story

08 Mar

Top 5 COLUMNAR TREES to plant for privacy.

Hi, I’m landscape architect Mary Deweese, principal of Acorn Landscapes in St. Louis Missouri.  I design gardens and landscapes and I’m frequently asked what trees are good in narrow spaces, to provide privacy without taking up a lot of lateral space.  This is a list of some of my most trusted columnar (tall and skinny) trees.  These all work well as a single specimen but they can all also be planted close together for a tall privacy screen hedge.

Click on the name of the plant to open a new window with detailed information and photos from the Missouri Botanical Garden, Washington University or other trusted source.

1. Kindred Spirit Oak - Quercus x warei ‘Nadler’ - a great narrow oak that only grows about 6′ wide but gets over 30′ tall.

2. Armstrong Red Maple Acer x Freemanii ‘Armstrong’ - this is one you see planted in many parkways and parking lots. You see them there because they are reliable in harsh conditions but have a great narrow form that not only provides privacy when planted close together in a row like a hedge, but stays narrow and upright as to not interfere with driveways and cars.

3. Shawnee Brave Bald Cypress - Taxodium distichum ‘Mickelson’ – I love the texture and shape of this cypress.  It looks like an evergreen but it sheds it’s needles in winter, hence the ‘bald’ part of it’s name.  Really does well if you have a wetter area.

4. Green Giant Arborvitae – Thuja ‘Green Giant’ – this is a wonderful screening evergreen that stays relatively slim.  It needs consistent moisture and mostly full sun for best performance.

5. Sky Tower Ginkgo – Ginkgo biloba ’JN9′ SKY TOWER - I love Ginkgo’s because of their unique leaf shape and bright yellow color.  This is a great columnar variety.  Ginkgo’s tend to be awkward or uneven looking when young (like an awkward teenage phase), but as they mature they become more regular and even shaped.

 

23 Feb

Top 10 Deer Resistant Plants for St. Louis Missouri

Hi, I’m landscape architect Mary Deweese, principal of Acorn Landscapes in St. Louis Missouri.  I design gardens and landscapes for people who live in places where deer eat EVERYTHING!  This is a list of some of my most trusted deer resistant plants.

Click on the name of the plant to open a new window with detailed information and photos from the Missouri Botanical Garden.  If you need some new Deer Resistant Plant inspiration for your yard, read on.

10.  Contorted Filbert - really cool form and winter interest.

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9. Allium – (picture above) – great perennial that likes sun and soil on the dry side.

8.  Forsythia – Native shrub that is almost indestructible.  Yellow spring blooms. It can be a little wild looking, so not the best for a star placement, better off to the side or back of your yard.

7.  Korean Boxwood – Evergreen that gives any landscape some structure and winter interest.

Caesars Brother Siberian Iris by Landscape Architect Acorn Landscapes in St Louis Missouri

6.  Siberian Iris – (Pictured Above ) Loves sunny wet areas, but can also take part shade…if you have a wet spot you want reliable deer resistant flowers, these are great.  They slowly spread and make great cut flowers.  Actually, all Iris are very deer resistant.  You can choose bearded Iris or even from several native iris species.

5.  Pennsylvania Sedge – Great Native shade groundcover.

4.  Lady Fern – Lovely texture for shade, foliage may decline if not watered during the later part of summer.

3.  Ornamental Grass – Most grasses are very deer resistant.  This is a common one seen in St. Louis.  This is great in sunny areas and they help in areas where soil erosion is an issue.

2.  Groundcover St. Johns Wort – Nice foliage texture spreading groundcover.  Comes in green or a bright chartreuse color.  Bonus yellow flowers sporadically in summer. (Shown in picture below, the groundcover in the foundation planting bed)

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1.  Blue Spruce – Lovely in full sun areas, the small ‘globe blue spruce’ variety is great for front foundation plantings. (‘Globe’ variety shown in picture above making nice foliage color contrast with the groundcover St. John’s Wort)

 

 

28 Jan

Remembering Luther Ely Smith Park – Arch Grounds – St. Louis Missouri

Design by Mary Francois Deweese - Landscape Architect, Acorn Landscapes. Initial planting day volunteers from The East Central District Garden Clubs of Missouri, May 2003

Design by Mary Francois Deweese – Landscape Architect, Acorn Landscapes. Initial planting day volunteers from The East Central District Garden Clubs of Missouri, May 2003

Last week I found out that Luther Ely Smith Park was removed in preparation for the new Arch-grounds redevelopment project in downtown St. Louis. I’ve known for some time that this garden was to be destroyed to make way for the new pedestrian connection to the Arch, but knowing that it is actually now just a part of history has motivated me to publish this account of when it was designed and installed. This project was awarded an ALSA design award, and will always be a project that I am very proud of. I hope you visited it during its time, I know there are many pictures that include the garden, including wedding shoots and family vacation photos. What follows is the original submission I used for the ASLA award, along with several photos from 2003 and 2004.

Ely Luther Smith Square National Parks Garden
Located in front of the Old Courthouse on 4th Street, adjacent to the Gateway Arch.
Installed Spring 2003

Garden Design by Mary Francois Deweese - Landscape Architect, Acorn Landscapes. View from the Observation Deck of the Arch August 2003

Garden Design by Mary Francois Deweese – Landscape Architect, Acorn Landscapes. View from the Observation Deck of the Arch August 2003

Overall Project Summary – This project is located on National Park Service
Grounds as part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and consisted of a planting and border design for 5 existing planting beds. The intention of this project was to create a relatively low maintenance garden with low continuing costs (perennials vs. annuals), while creating a highly dramatic and colorful urban garden to act as a centerpiece greenspace complimenting the importance of the Gateway Arch and historic St. Louis Riverfront.

Luther Ely Smith Garden Design by Mary Francois Deweese - Landscape Architect, Acorn Landscapes. View from the Observation Deck of the Arch Spring 2004

Luther Ely Smith Garden Design by Mary Francois Deweese – Landscape Architect, Acorn Landscapes. View from the Observation Deck of the Arch Spring 2004

Special Factors and Significance – This is a highly visible and prominent garden area adjacent to the Gateway Arch, which is seen by almost 4 million visitors to our city each year, and is very significant to the visual appeal and perception of the City by visitors and residents alike. In the past, the St. Louis City Government partially funded the popular yearly planting of Tulips and Cannas in the garden, but, do to budget constraints, they were no longer able to participate in funding or maintenance of the garden. The responsibility then fell solely to the National Park Service. With budgets tight, the National Park Service was interested in finding a solution that was both cost-effective, and beautiful. The park service had an initial budget to buy plant materials, which they received in part from a special grant titled “The 2003 National Parks Volunteerism Enhancement Program” sponsored by Allegra and the National Parks Foundation. The answer to the rest of the garden’s expenses was to involve the community in a volunteer effort to minimize cost. The park was designed, planted, and is maintained by volunteers from Acorn Landscapes, The East Central District of the Garden Clubs of Missouri and the National Park Service. Another special factor was the desire to use mainly perennials in order to reduce the ongoing yearly cost of the garden. The challenge was to make a perennial garden as colorful and eye-catching as the more costly annuals had been in the past.

Luther Ely Smith Garden - Mary Francois Deweese Landscape Architect, St. Louis, Missouri. View of the garden towards the Old Courthouse, September 2003

Luther Ely Smith Garden – Mary Francois Deweese Landscape Architect, St. Louis, Missouri. View of the garden towards the Old Courthouse, September 2003

 

Role of the Landscape Architect – As a member of one of the volunteer organizations, Mary Francois Deweese was asked to volunteer as both the Landscape Architect and co-leader of the volunteer effort. Over 40 individual volunteers have participated in the project to date. The LA not only designed the project, but also participated in the coordination of the volunteers and supervised the initial planting and installation of the beds, in addition to taking part in numerous maintenance efforts as well.

Historic view of the garden designed by Mary Francois Deweese - Acorn Landscape Architecture - View towards the St. Louis Arch, September 2003

Historic view of the garden designed by Mary Francois Deweese – Acorn Landscape Architecture – View towards the St. Louis Arch, September 2003

Project Concept – The LA’s concept for the design was to apply a bold modern approach to historical French gardens, which would respect the heritage of the site (originally a sunken French garden constructed in the 1920′s), while incorporating the modern geometry of the Arch and a contemporary plant selection with a creative flair. With this approach, the garden itself becomes a piece of contemporary living art. The geometry of the Gateway Arch is reflected in the beds as asymmetrical intersecting arched bed edges, creating patterns on the ground that can be seen from the surrounding buildings and from the observation deck of the Arch as well. From the street level, the gardens assert a vivid color scheme, largely reliant on foliage, for three-season vegetative appeal.

View from atop the Adam's Mark Hotel, May 2003 - Design of Luther Ely Smith National Park Garden by Mary Deweese - Landscape Architect, Acorn Landscapes. Winner of an Award of Merit ASLA St. Louis Chapter.

View from atop the Adam’s Mark Hotel, May 2003 – Design of Luther Ely Smith National Park Garden by Mary Deweese – Landscape Architect, Acorn Landscapes. Winner of an Award of Merit ASLA St. Louis Chapter.

The garden is themed in vibrant monochromatic beds of yellow, red and blue/purple. During the winter, the bed edges themselves hold visual interest. In addition, linear beds along 4th street were planted with ever blooming roses to add both aroma and bright color. The plant materials were chosen to completely fill each border layout to out-compete weeds and lower the maintenance chores. The borders were designed to be poured-in-place concrete, which will keep the plant materials from spreading into adjacent areas. At this time, the borders are concrete stepping stones, and the proposed second phase was to install the permanent concrete will commence when funds permit.

So, back to today…I’ll miss seeing this garden and feeling the connection to this park that I had when the garden was there.  I have fond memories of going down there on Saturday mornings with my garden club friends and weeding and caring for that garden.  We not only grew plants in that garden, we grew friendships.  Sometimes, when we make room for progress, we lose a little of what we once had.  Farewell Luther Ely Smith Garden!

13 May

Part III Ebenezer Howard – A Working Man w/ Dreams

I don’t intend for this blog post to cite all of Ebenezer Howards ideas for a utopian society, there are plenty of authors with a lot more credentials than I who have written extensively about Howard, but I do want to describe the building of the first garden city and how similar Howards’ experience of trying to build a dream in the real world is to my (and others) experiences trying to build a dream in the real world.

Howard had this great plan, a plan he had spend many many unpaid hours creating because he really thought that he had ideas that would be of untold value to the world. So there is our first similarity…I have known a few very dedicated designers, myself included, that have dedicated huge amounts of uncompensated time towards projects that are meant to be “gifts” to humanity…or at the very least, improvements that would help move us in the right directions, socially and environmentally. So at this point in reading Howard’s story, I feel an understanding of the man that I didn’t have when I was younger because I have been, and have close colleagues who have been, in this situation…high hopes, intense dedication, and no meaningful client or financing. Sound familiar?

After years of painstakingly putting his soul into his plans he had to go out and find the people who could actually finance the building of the first Garden City. Time to make this plan a reality!!!!!

Howard was a man who was not very well connected, but did believe he had a lead on an organization that would certainly be interested, if not downright thrilled, with the idea of backing his project….the organized Victorian Radicals, or the “Cooperative” Movement as they were also known. They would certainly be interested, Howard thought, because he was, after all, designing a City to fit all their ideals. (I’m not going to go into their ideals, let’s just say, the cooperative movement and Howards’ plans could not have been more suited to each other)

Surely they would jump at the chance to get on board…and they didn’t even have to pay him for all the pre design concept work (yes, another designer giving up his intellectual property for free…but that’s for another blog post)…he had already done that part.

But guess what…although the people at the head of their organization were convinced by Howards Plans and formally behind him, they could not get the support of the rest of the cooperative movement because the individual chapters of the movement didn’t want to focus on one unified project. They all had their own little projects, chapter by chapter, that they were working on. Now remember, these are people who fundamentally are espousing the importance of COOPERATION!! It makes me think that they were asking themselves “who is this Ebenezer guy think he is anyway? He’s just some guy who has some plans and ideas, we don’t need him, we are doing our own thing. ” Which is not very cooperative of them is it? But, very typical from my experience. It does seem that “cooperation” is an idea that everyone agrees on abstractly, but then the reality so often is more like…sure, cooperation sounds great, as long as everyone cooperates to help me do exactly what I want to do…am I right?

Looking back it makes you want to say…hey…this “Ebenezer guy” is going to be written about for centuries for his ground breaking ideas…don’t you wish you would have gotten on board? But it also reminds me of the fragmented idealists of today, who all have their eyes on their own sub interest, their own backyard, their own small project. It just seems to be human nature, and I’ve struggled with the ramifications of both the pro’s and con’s of this arrangement. It is disheartening though that in 100 years, cooperation still hasn’t found a way to cooperate a large improvement in the foundations of society. When the times get tough I find that the idea of every man for himself is still an overriding force, which of course, goes to the most basic of our essential motivations…fear.

So anyway, I digress…on back to Howard. It was a huge disappointment I imagine, that he now had to solely rely on the investments of the business sector, which, with no balance of support from the cooperative movement, inevitably ended up steering the design away from his ideas of a balance of cooperation and the free market, and towards an end where the financial gains of the few outweigh the needs of the many…the exact situation the Garden City was supposed to correct (and that many of us are still trying to correct).

But what choice did Ebenezer have? He could give up, or he could try to go forward with the project so that the basic ideas of the Garden City could get some mainstream exposure, and he believed that would cause a huge surge of support form the masses. Maybe, he probably thought, maybe the next one, the 2nd garden city will be more attractive to the cooperative movement because he would have by then, he hoped, an example City that, although not a perfect representation of his ideal plan, would have enough of the essence as to create momentum and a progressively better and better Garden City in the real world.

Again, at this point, I have to say, this sounds totally familiar. I can hear my own voice telling a client… realistically, if you can’t do absolutely everything you want to in this fantastic plan, if you at least get it built with one major advance, and if the project is a success financially with that one great environmental benefit, then the next developer that comes along will look at your project as a positive example of what can be done and maybe build on that with something similar because of all the great publicity your project will get, and with something even one step closer to your ideals. If you try to undertake everything in your plan, and you don’t succeed financially, other developers will look at your project and use it as an example of what not to do and will be put off of trying ANY new environmental design integration. One successful step at a time is necessary to help the movement forward, I have been known to say.

How did Howards first Garden City get started then? He did end up having to depend financially mostly on a few wealthy businessmen who dominated the actual construction of the city towards the interests of their own and other business interests. So after getting financial backing, the next thing to do was to hire an architectural firm.

Hope this 3 part series got you interested in Ebenezer Howard and sparks your interest to learn more about his story.

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