Landscapes of the Month: Caring for a Prestigious College Campus - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Landscapes of the Month: Caring for a Prestigious College Campus

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Located near the heart of the American federal government in Washington, D.C., about five minutes from Union Station and a twelve-minute walk from capitol hill sits the Georgetown Law Center. The client’s intent for this project was to maintain a landscape that reflects the history and prestige of this institution while balancing the need for a peaceful, reflective outdoor space for students and faculty to study and relax in.

In order to keep the landscaping surrounding Georgetown Law Center maintained, the client hired Ruppert Landscape, located in Laytonsville, Maryland, to take on this project.

Due to how well Ruppert Landscape has been able to maintain this landscape, they received a Gold Award in the 2022 Awards of Excellence.

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

“Having a project recognized by an association like NALP instills our organization and employees with a sense of pride,” says Daniel Derrow, area manager at Ruppert Landscape. “It’s a great validation that our team’s hard work and dedication to our customers’ projects is on par with other top companies in our industry.”

In order to achieve the client’s goal of a relaxing outdoor space, there is high standard of maintenance for the flower beds, trees, pots, and turf. This includes care of over 2,200 annuals, 700 perennials/grasses/shrubs, 1.5 acres of turf, over 15,300 square feet of bed space, over 50 trees, and irrigation system management.

The urban heat island of downtown D.C. stresses plant material and turf, requiring frequent watering and close monitoring of the irrigation system.

The high degree of foot traffic also presented a challenge to maintaining the integrity of the turf.

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Since the location of the project is in the middle of D.C., parking a truck and trailer was incredibly challenging. Also, during the pandemic, the college utilized outdoor spaces as classrooms. Therefore, all maintenance had to be performed so students’ classes would not be disturbed.

Additionally, due to the high profile of the campus, it is regularly visited by high-level government and military officials who give guest lectures and attend graduation ceremonies, so the campus must be in “company’s coming” condition at all times; on top of that, the crews ended up performing double the amount of pruning that they would normally do for a site of this size to keep it in perfect condition at all times.

“With D.C. banning gas-powered leaf blowers in early 2022, we had to purchase new battery-powered equipment, which is not as powerful,” Derrow says. “As a result, we need four batteries per blower, and we lose just over one hour a day during leaf-blowing season due to the less powerful equipment.”

To address the issues, the crew leaders check in with the lead engineer upon arrival before maintenance begins to set expectations and assign any additional duties.  Ruppert Landscape also regularly proposes and performs enhancements, which include tree installations, sod, seeding, seasonal color, power washing, hardscape repairs, paver installation, minor irrigation upgrades, drainage repairs and more.

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

In order for a proposal to be approved, enhancements must not only enhance the site’s curb appeal but must also serve a functional purpose. Due to the vast amount of mature plant material on site, Ruppert’s crews also perform extensive tree pruning and removal and replacement of aging plants to help revitalize the campus.

The irrigation team performs seven regular services per year: spring startup, winter shutdown, and five inspections. Since the irrigation system is continuously aging, Ruppert is expected to respond within 48 hours to repair any line breaks or broken heads. Prior to outdoor events on campus, irrigation must be modified to avoid tents, stages and high-traffic areas.

“We have a six-person crew that maintains the property on a weekly basis,” Derrow says. “This allows us to efficiently perform our work with minimal impact and disruption to the campus. Then we also have support from our enhancement team for seasonal color and other special projects, as well as our irrigation team who visit monthly to monitor the system and ensure it is running efficiently.”

In total, a typical visit for Ruppert Landscape’s crew is roughly 20-30 hours per week, depending on the amount of pruning that needs to be completed.

Interested in participating in the Awards of Excellence? Be sure to enter your projects by July 10, 2023.