Field Report – August 2007

Development to be first five-star rated green community in Texas
The community, called Fiore, will be built according to the standards set by Austin’s green rating system focusing on conservation of energy and natural resources. Bryan Jordan, head of development for Vicinia, the company developing Fiore, says construction is set to begin this summer and should be complete by mid-2008.

The project has evolved over the past year following the success of Agave, a three-star development Vicinia built on the same property.

The real estate industry’s previous focus on location and price is giving way to new methods to judge the value of property. “Now when you’re building you have to do something different,” Jordan says. “You have to find out what’s important. Before it was just price, but now it’s more than that. Green building is really taking hold.”

According to Jordan, houses are sold based on the square footage of living space. With Fiore, the developers are maximizing the use of space both inside and outside the home.

“We’re spending about four times the amount on landscaping for Fiore, with decorative walls, outdoor fireplaces and other features,” Jordan says. “We’re creating actual living space, whether it’s outdoors or indoors.”

The entire Fiore development of about 150 homes has been designed around a common green area 40 feet wide in the center of the neighborhood, which features carefully designed landscaping to foster social interaction and environmental responsibility. In an area where homes previously sold for $140,000 to $170,000, houses in the Nine Sixty Nine development sell for $250,000 to $300,000 because of their design, Jordan says.

Stephen Oliver, principal of CasaBella Architects and lead designer for Fiore, says the contemporary, unique design of Fiore is practical as well. The designers worked around a 12-feet-wide utility easement and narrow lots between 40 and 50 feet wide. The utility easement, re-created as a park and pedestrian lane, became the focal point of the entire development.

“Instead of just being about services, why can’t it become an amenity that brings the community together and everyone can enjoy?” Oliver says.

Each home in Fiore has been designed to back up to the park, which still functions as a drainage easement. Instead of spending family time in private backyards, residents share a common green space. “That whole backyard idea is redefined and completely turned on end,” Oliver says.

Residents have community, public space in the park, semi-public courtyard space shared by two homes (such as a shared set of steps or gate) and private space by turning on a path toward one house or another. Residents benefit from the opportunity to spend time with others in the community while maintaining some outdoor privacy.

Designers wanted to ensure people walking through the linear park would be aware of changes in textures and materials, and they included milestones, such as gates and walls, to give a sense of place throughout the park, which includes many natural, indigenous plants.

Architects included distinctive landscaping features with specific uses to set the tone for the park, creating elements of surprise, as well as features and objects to frame views.

Features a garden, playground and hike and bike trails. “People can spend time together in a way that other communities may not offer,” Oliver says.

The project was designed with people in mind, rather than beginning with the idea of the car, the street and the garage. The success of projects like Fiore could reflect the beginning of a cultural shift in development policy and land planning. “It won’t be just about ‘green’ anymore,” Oliver says. “It will be how we work, how we live and how we play.”
~ Lori Creel

Scotts introduces salt-tolerant seed
After 10 years of breeding Pure-Seed Testing, along with Scotts Turf-Seed and Scotts-Landmark Seed, unveiled “Sea Spray,” the first seed propagated seashore paspalum hybrid, at its 25th Annual Field Day in Raleigh, North Carolina, on June 14. The company developed the naturally salt-tolerant seed mixture in an effort to solve problems in coastal areas, such as drought, pests, weeds and boggy conditions.

“This environmentally friendly grass adapts well to salt water,” says Greg Freymuth, salesman for Scotts Turf-Seed. In fact, putting up to 6,000 ppm of pure rock salt in a drop spreader will control weeds for this species, and patches can be filled in with up to 200 pounds of salt per acre. “You just have to make sure to flush the salt out later with water,” Freymuth says.

The grass, which grows easily in sandy to heavy clay soils, can withstand short-term inundation – a plus for regions prone to hurricanes or monsoons. Sea Spray also lies dormant in most areas in the winter, rather than dying out completely, but will die when soil temperatures drop well below freezing for long periods of time.

Initially developed for use on golf courses for greens, tees, fairways and roughs, Freymuth says Sea Spray has the potential for residential use. “The problem with introducing it to homeowners is that you can’t over-water this grass for long periods of time or over-fertilize it.” If this occurs, the grass will be more susceptible to pathogen attack.

Sea Spray handles drought well and is typically more resistant to diseases. According to Freymuth, scalping Sea Spray will cause it to turn brown and not return to its original luster for three weeks. A rotary mower seems to do best with this type of grass, as the grass must be kept shorter than 2 inches or seed heads will begin to show.

In the United States, Scotts believes the grass will do best on the East Coast, from Virginia to Florida.
~ Barbara Ibrahim

GreenCare for Troops needs more volunteers

The GreenCare for Troops program through Project EverGreen, now beginning its second year, aims to help military families with members deployed overseas by matching them with a landscape contractor in their area who volunteers to provide free lawn and landscape maintenance services for one year. About 1,000 landscape contractors are currently involved, but the program is looking to add more this year to meet the demand. For more information or to volunteer, visit the Project EverGreen Web site at this site or call (877) 758-4835.

BASF Turf and Ornamentals publishes pest management guide
A guide to help nursery, greenhouse and turf management professionals with pest management is available free from BASF Turf and Ornamentals. The guide addresses fungicides, herbicides and insecticides, with information and charts that show side-by-side overviews of primary target pests, chemical group, active ingredients, trade names, restricted entry interval and use sites for each product. Professionals can order the guide at

Hardscape North America to take place in Nashville
The 2008 Hardscape North America show will be February 28 through March 1 at the Nashville Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The event will include more hands-on training courses and contractor training seminars, as well as indoor floor demonstrations and additional outdoor demonstrations.

The Attachments Idea Book
Landscapers use a variety of attachments for doing everything from snow removal to jobsite cleanup, and regardless of how often they are used, every landscaper has a favorite attachment.
Attachments Idea Book Cover