Tribune Print Share Text

‘An educational arboretum’

Landscape design for new residence building highlights native Texas plants

Created date

July 21st, 2014
landscape architects

Landscape architect Kenneth Weikal may have Michigan roots, but he couldn’t be more excited to design a project in Texas.

Weikal, who founded Kenneth Weikal Landscape Architecture 25 years ago, has designed outdoor spaces for Erickson Living communities since 1992. He is the landscape architect for Springs’ newest residence building, Willow Ridge, scheduled to open in early 2015.

“I’ve worked at Erickson Living communities in Michigan, and I’m currently working on designs for Tallgrass Creek in Kansas and Eagle’s Trace and Highland Springs in Texas,” says Weikal. “Texas is exciting territory for me because it opens up new landscape and planting options that we don’t have in the northeast.”

Based on his work at other Erickson Living communities, Weikal says residents place a high value on sustainability and native landscapes.

“Native landscapes invite natural flora and fauna, creating an oasis for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife,” he says. “Sustainable practices are important because they lower the maintenance cost over time.” 

‘Quintessential Texas’

To gather ideas for his design, Weikal and his associate Beth Hagenbuch traveled to Austin to visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, taking note of native Texas plants.

“We studied how the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center pulled together collections of flowers, native plants, and architecture to create a quintessential Texas look,” says Weikal. “Our goal is to create that same atmosphere at Highland Springs.”

Toward that end, the outdoor spaces surrounding the new residence building will feature distinct gardens, each highlighting a specific Texas ecosystem.

The Texas wildflower garden on the west side of the building will pay tribute to the Blacklands meadow. This area will include a shade pavilion fashioned from Texas stone, wood timbers, and a metal roof. Native plant communities and stone outcroppings honoring the Mesquite Woods and the Piney Woods also feature prominently in the design. 

“We’re showcasing plants representative of each of these three ecosystems,” says Weikal. “Our goal is to create an educational arboretum where residents can bring their grandchildren.”

Interacting with nature

To encourage residents and their families to linger outdoors, the new design incorporates a grassy area for children to play. An outdoor terrace framed by Crepe Myrtle trees is planned for the north side of the new residence building. And the area between the new residence building and Gardenview Court, an existing residence building, will feature a Texas color palette garden, with circular planting areas.

“The color gardens between Willow Ridge and Gardenview Court will feature a variety of annuals and sculptural spheres that function as bird feeders and bird baths,” says Weikal. “The area is designed for residents to sit and interact with nature.”

Weikal also took into account the bird’s-eye-view of the gardens.

“We wanted to create interesting patterns and shapes in the design so that residents looking down from their apartment windows will see a rhythm and flow to the outdoor space,” he says.