The landscape for the new campus will soon begin to take shape, thanks to Kansas City landscape architecture firm Vireo and landscape architect Brett Spangler. Spangler is leading the project, including incorporating over 60 species of trees, shrubs, perennials and other plants into the campus’ grounds. Additionally, there will be over five acres of native grass plantings across the first two phases of the campus.
Not a hard task for Vireo, which has integrated native plantings into dozens of projects across the Kansas City metro region. The new campus landscape will greet associates and guests with graceful prairie grasses and a variety of native bloomers. It will be a landscape that tips its hat to the rolling prairie our nation’s pioneers may have first experienced while traveling west.
“We looked to the potential native vegetative communities of the region for inspiration, which led to a plant palette with a heavy emphasis on ornamental grasses (prairie grasses, in particular) and other drought-tolerant plants. We also paid attention to the existing neighborhood landscape for any landscape precedents. For instance, the area has regularly used the Bald Cypress as a street tree. So, you will see Bald Cypress as one of the many trees along roadways throughout the campus,” said Spangler.
Groups of oaks, lindens and many other trees will be sprinkled throughout the campus to provide shade within the parking areas, along walkways and at the building entries. The perimeter and edges of the campus will have less formal, more naturalistic planting areas.
As you near the buildings, you will see the landscape transition to be more formal in the planting arrangements to respond to the building architecture and pavement patterns.
The parking lot has shade trees evenly distributed to provide adequate shade and create a comfortable environment for associates as they park and walk toward the buildings. The substantial number of landscaped islands also allows the opportunity to provide visual relief from the pavement and cars. The smaller islands mix and match shrubs, perennials and grasses to provide variety throughout. The large, central island serves as a “landscape oasis” with stretches of prairie grasses between groupings of oak trees. The concentration of oaks and grasses will be reminiscent of the oak savannas which are one of the rarest plant communities on Earth.
The overall landscape scene is designed with a year-round, forward-thinking approach to adapt to the seasons. Trees, shrubs and perennials were selected to address the ever-changing Kansas City climate and provide seasonal interest throughout the year.
“There will always be something unique and of interest in the landscape,” said Spangler. “Whether it’s the early pop of color from spring bulbs, to the recognizable blooms of coneflowers or the dramatic colors of the trees and prairie grasses in the fall, there will be evolving color, textures and forms in every season.”
Similar to Cerner’s mantra, the right data to the right person, Vireo aims to put the right plant in the right location. Vireo anticipates that some new plantings may struggle in certain locations and other areas where the plantings will flourish. The design team will continue to review the plantings each season and monitor activity in order to make any needed modifications for future phases.
It was also important for Spangler to make smart initial plant selections that would be low maintenance for the Rosehill Gardens team that will care for the first phase. Every plant was considered not only for its ornamental qualities but also for its adaptability and need for minimal resources (less fertilizer, less water, etc).
Spangler said the main challenge on the property is the large site, but he’s excited at the vast variety of trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses that will be used.
“Given the scale of the site, the design team considered KCMO’s robust landscape requirements as a boon to the landscape design of the campus. For instance, the city requires one tree for every five parking spots, which reinforced the team’s goal of consistent tree canopies across the parking lot,” Spangler added.
He also explained that some trees will have to be located and shipped, based on availability in the nurseries. There are a few trees specified which may not be popular in this region yet, but all are adaptable and should be considered for use in commercial landscapes.
“It’s been fun to work on this landscape and have the opportunity to use as much diversity as we did on this job. It’s refreshing. It’s going to be a very visually appealing landscape,” said Spangler.
By the Numbers:
(Calculated with information from www.americanforests.org and www.epa.gov)