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Stretching the Status Quo: Native Garden Design for a Campus Building

Posted By on 10 April 2013 in analysis, native planting, site planning + planting design |

Stretching the Status Quo: Native Garden Design for a Campus Building

The Samuel T. Dana Building is a Gold LEED-rated building on the University of Michigan’s Central Campus. Home to the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) this facility seeks to educate about the importance of the environment–not only to students enrolled in the School, but also the greater community.

One way that SNRE does so is by taking education outdoors, and maintaining a native garden in front of the building, rather than the standard grass lawn. Being planted back in the early 2000’s, the landscaping was in need of a face lift. My planting design studio took on the task of redesigning the Dana Native Garden, providing the Dean of the School and other University officials with a slew of possibilities for the space.

Check out the native planting design I proposed below… click on each image for a larger view! 


Planting Plan for the Samuel T. Dana Building

Dana Garden Plan


Design Goals:

+ Sustain Building’s LEED-rating and provide educational opportunities through the use of a Michigan native plant palette that is: appropriate for garden conditions, aesthetically appealing, easily maintained, affordable.

+ Maintain two distinct natural communities (woodland on southern side, prairie on northern side), allowing for continued use of existing signage and educational programming.

+ Visually weave communities together by mirroring similar species & creating large contiguous movements

+ Design spaces for variety of speeds and scales, evoking a diversity of experiences for both garden users and passers-by (bold masses and movements for bikers, runners, speed walkers; intricate plantings around gathering spaces where people will gather; outdoor classroom sheltered from hustle-bustle of campus commotion).

+ Create “cared for” curb appeal to increase acceptance of native landscaping by the University community.



design concept


Soils + Sun-Shade Analysis:

site analysis











 Plant List:

plant list


 Maintenance Recommendations Provided to Client:

+ Regular watering of newly established vegetation: during the first growing season, use a sprinkler (with approx. 80’ spray) once per week to water new plantings with at least three hours of water per area

+ Prescribed prairie burn: to aid in eliminating perennial weeds & stimulate growth of prairie species, a controlled burn should be conducted during spring (late March or early April) , and repeated every other year

+ Bi-annual Garden Workdays (Spring & Fall) should be institutionalized within SNRE (through SASLA & Student Government) to engage students, staff & faculty in the continued care of the garden (e.g. hand pulling weeds, planting additional individuals, re-mulching as needed)

+ Hand harvest Southern Blue Flag Iris flowers in Spring, for Dean Miranda’s desk