Sustainable Landscaping
healthy lawn care
rain gardens



URI Cooperative Extension Outreach Center, 3 East Alumni Avenue, Kingston, RI 02881
(401) 874-2900

The Botanical Gardens are a showcase for sustainable plants and sustainable landscape practices and are open to the public for learning and enjoyment. The healthy landscapes education program highlights many of the existing features as well as the installation of new practices that demonstrate sustainable landscaping.

July 26, 2005

What you will see!

The URI Cooperative Extension Outreach Center (CE Center) completed a renovation of the southwest corner of the gardens. The project provides a new access entrance to the CE Center and gardens and demonstrates sustainable landscaping practices that provide for a beautiful landscape design that also controls runoff and soil erosion from exposure and heavy pedestrian traffic.

Before / pre-renovation, March 2004

The Renovation in progress, April - June 2004

Final Renovation, October 2004

July 2005 Photo Gallery

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Pre-Renovation, March 2004

The southwest corner of the botanical gardens is located near a bus stop and parking area. It contained lawn grass that was exposed to heavy foot traffic and was bordered by a variety of trees and shrubs to the north and east that blocked view and access to the CE Education Center parking lot and Botanical Gardens.

Due to heavy foot traffic and exposure, the lawn grass was weakened and subject to runoff and soil erosion. The lamp post shown at the far right corner of the above photo presents a landscape design opportunity to make this necessary feature more aesthetically pleasing.

Looking from the bus stop and lamp post to the north

The stakes are locating the placement of a planned wooden, roofed structure that provides a shelter for the bus stop area, as well as an attractive new entrance to the CE Education Center. This area was originally blocked by large evergreen trees which prevented view and access.

This is an area where existing shrubs block view into the CE Education Center and Botanical Gardens during part of the year. In establishing a new selection of sustainable plants, it was also desired to incorporate an aesthetic design that maintains view but discourages foot traffic through this and other areas besides the designated entrance. A stone wall and raised bed was chosen for this area.

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The Renovation in progress, April - June 2004

Looking from the CE Education Center parking lot to the southwest corner of the Botanical Gardens. The wooden, roofed structure was installed June 2004. This provides shelter and wooden benches for the bus stop area as well as an aesthetic, designated new entrance to the CE Education Center.

Roof areas are impervious surfaces that generate runoff. Small depressions or basins were created and lined with an assortment of crushed rock and stone on each side of the roof area to collect and infiltrate roof runoff. This helps to address risks of erosion and runoff off of the site and increases groundwater recharge.

An area is being prepared to hold a large boulder. This will serve as a basis for a rock garden or hardscape that will serve to conceal the concerete base of the lamp post. This is a creative, low maintenance way to protect the area from heavy foot traffic and improve landscape aesthetics.

A small stone wall was constructed around the back side of the boulder and cement base of the lamp post. An existing concrete sidewalk and curb was removed and reconstructed around the perimeter of this southwest corner of the Botanical Gardens.

Existing shrubs are being removed to allow for the construction of a new stone wall and raised bed.

The stone wall begins at the stone basin on the north side of the wooden shelter. A Sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) is planted to provide fall foliage (burgundy) as well as clusters of flowers during mid-summer. This tree tolerates acidic soil, dry conditions and full sun which makes it a suitable, low maintenance selection that provides several landscape design benefits.

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Final Renovation, October 2004

The renovation included other practices to help control erosion and runoff from foot traffic and exposure. A split rail fence and gentle berm were installed along the western perimeter to discourage widespread foot traffic throughout the renovation area. Split rail fencing was installed along the southern permiter of the CE Botanical Gardens during 2003 extending to the south side of the new wooden shelter.

The back side of the berm and fencing was mulched to protect against erosion and will be planted to various low growing and low maintenance sustainable plants during Spring 2005.

The remaining exposed areas were stabilized with a Kentucky Bluegrass sod. Kentucky Bluegrass is tolerant of heavy traffic and sod is one way to provide a quick, vegetative stabilization of bare areas, serving as a way to minimize erosion and runoff.

The floor of the wooden shelter contains stepping stones that have been set within stone dust and serves as an excellent example of permeable paving options.

A variety of hostas with varigated leaf color are planted around the base of the Sourwood tree. Hostas are hardy, low growing plants that can soften landscape edges and provide full, interesting foliage during the growing season.

A few inches of compost was added to the top of the boulder and stones surrounding the lamp post and mulched and planted to low growing groundcovers. These groundcovers can tolerate shallow soil and provide greenery year round.

The south corner of the renovation area and shelter has been planted and mulched with native mountain laurel, high bush blueberries, and a variety of other sustainable plants.

The area above the new stone wall has been planted with 'Nikko' Slender Deutzia (Deutzia Gracilis 'Nikko') which is a low growing flowering shrub suited to stone walls and rock gardens. This shrub will spread to five feet in diameter and will cascade over the wall. It contains small white flowers in early spring and leaves will turn burgundy in the fall making it a suitable compliment to the nearby Sourwood tree. The plantings have been mulched with pine needles.

The new entrance and renovation project was dedicated to Cheryl Tefft at a ribbon cutting ceremony for her years of dedication and service in the Cooperative Extension Botanical Gardens. The ceremony was presided over by URI President Robert L. Carothers and URI Plant Science Department Chairperson, Dr. Richard Casagrande. November 2004

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July 2005 Photo Gallery

The Berm has been planted with a variety of low-growing plants, demonstrating an attractive way to prevent erosion.

The Sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) has developed its summer flowers.

A Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) was planted near the southwest corner of the site. This slow-growing tree can tolerate full sun, and is relatively maintenance free. Outstanding cinnamon-colored exfoliating bark and red-scarlet fall foliage offer year-round interest.

A variety of flowering plants add color to the site.

Drip irrigation is used to water some of the plants, helping to reduce water loss caused by evaporation and placing the water effectively at the plant root zone.

The original landscape design concept for this renovation project was provided by Patricia Mullins, URI Landscape Architecture Program.

Special thanks to the following individuals and groups for the generous donation of time, materials, and expertise:

Dr. Marion Gold, Director, CE Outreach Center
Dr. Richard Casagrande, URI Dept. of Plant Sciences
Dr. Brian Maynard, URI Dept. of Plant Sciences
URI Master Gardener Association Volunteers
Students from the URI 101 and Plant Sciences Department classes

South County Post and Beam
Liberty Cedar
Holly Ridge Nursery
Washington County Turf Farm

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