07-26-22 | Feature

5 O'Clock at Orlando Resort

Located in Florida's amusement park capital, Encore Homes called on SCI Landscape Architects & Planners of Orlando, Florida to create a dramatic sub-tropical environment indicative of Central Florida as well as the Florida Coast with its magical ambiance found in relaxed beachside landscapes on the 300-acre of the Margaritaville Resort.
by Derick Langel, Director of Landscape Architecture, Margaritaville Resort Orlando

Set on 300-acres of lush vegetation, amenities, and located close in proximity to various theme parks, The Margaritaville Resort Orlando called on SCI Landscape Architects & Planners in Orlando, Florida to create a vacation destination that includes a top of the line, high tech, 15-acre waterpark, beach club, hotel, condo complex, and shopping.
Connecting the resort with the lake behind the hotel, the main pools were nicknamed Fins Right and Fins Left as they are a part of the hotels 'Fins up Beach Club'. Fins Right 8,557 sq. ft., Fins Left is 10,465 sq. ft., while the hot tub is 6,000 gallons. The beach entry is stamped white and beige integral colored concrete. The pool deck is surrounded by Foxtail palms and flax Lillie.
A smaller pool called License-To-Chill was designed for Hotel guests only. The pool is about 133,000 gallons. Fins Left and Right pools are only 4-feet deep while License-To-Chill is five feet deep.
Fins Left features turquoise accents that were added to maintain a cohesive design. The two "fins" pools were designed as identical mirrors of each other for speed of construction.
Located in the Beach Club, the firepit is one of the amenities that Cottage owners and Hotel guests alike are welcome to use. It was constructed from dry stacked, brown pre-cast split face concrete units.
The pool deck of Fins Left and Fins Right features 36 cabanas, 450 lounge chairs, and 70 umbrellas. All showers in the Fins Up Beach Club are real Surfboards that were converted to useful outdoor showers. The pools shape was inspired by the surrounding lake's shape. Palm trees complete the space's plantings.
Originally the site of Splendid China* theme park, the H20 Live! Waterpark breathed new life into the site and is now a cutting-edge waterpark that is a part of the Margaritaville Resort Orlando site. Derick Langel, Director of Landscape Architecture for the resort, oversees the waterpark's landscaping to create a cohesive design that is both water sensitive and native to the area.
The Porte-coch??re is lined with Sylvester palms to enhance the guest's arrival to the resort. Plantings include palms, cord grass, and other ornamental grasses mixed with flowering beds and white, "play-grade" sand that are meant to add to the island paradise theme.
Fins Up Beach Club features beach entries into both pools, while white play-grade beach sand lines the space in front of the entry. The pool deck is white and beige integral stamped concrete. Foxtail Palm and Flax Lillie add color and tie the design together. The overall Margaritaville property includes 3,000 palm trees.
To anchor the landscaping, Bismarkia palms were planted on the left while Nitida palms were added on the right. Colored, stamped concrete, illuminated by sconces, accent the tropical design, day-or-night.

Encapsulating Margaritaville's namesake, a Jimmy Buffet song, that oozes relaxation and enjoyment, this resort features a 187-room Margaritaville themed hotel lining a 45-acre, man-made lagoon and an island-inspired apartment complex with 324 units, complete with a dog park and other amenities. There is also a 200,000-sq. ft. retail center right outside the hotel, a 3-acre swimming area with a sandy beach that offers a host of activities like stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking, a 12-acre water park, and a lazy river located behind the hotel. Whatever guests are looking for, this hotel destination is designed to please.

History of The Margaritaville Site
The current site of the Margaritaville Orlando Resort was once the site of a sister theme park to Splendid China Folk Village in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China which was featured in the March 1994 issue of Landscape Architect and Specifier News (
In 1993, the Splendid China theme park opened but struggled for years to attract visitors and closed in 2003. Until August 2015, the dilapidated amusement park sat empty. Encore Homes then bought the land and announced that a
Jimmy Buffet-themed resort would begin construction shortly thereafter.

The Landscape Architect That Landed in Paradise
SCI Landscape Architects & Planners created the initial tropical paradise vision that matched with the entire Margaritaville Resort-Island theme. SCI elaborated schematic design and design development and REW Landscape Contractor was ultimately commissioned as a Design-build firm. Design-build was the chosen delivery method because of its high speed. REW Landscape already had the Margaritaville Hotel installation contract and was performing very well, so it only made sense to use the same trusted Landscape Contractor that was already mobilized and invested on site.

Derick Langel as a Landscape Architect at the time with SCI Landscape Architects as Senior Landscape Project Manager, conducted day to day inspections on-site full-time, reporting to Mike Fritz, Senior Project Manager for the developer Encore Capital Management and ensured every landscape architecture detail was met; furthermore, after the Resort was completed, he stayed on board with the Developer as part of the Operations Team, ensuring the daily and continued success of the design as small and medium areas need to be adjusted when new on-site design-build projects arise.

Landscape Design Approach
The Margaritaville Resort brand was combined with natural appearing seashore-inspired sand dunes planted with native sea oats and grasses. The dunes are accented with native trees, shrubs, and ground covers in addition to a variety of appropriate palm tree species. Mounded dunes are composed of an oyster shell and native sand 'mulch', creating a strong textural contrast to the native grasses, other plant species and occasional turf lawn areas.

The landscape design also called for a variety of native shade trees and flowering accent trees, affording a diverse canopy and backdrop for the project's extensive streetscapes and other resort components. The organic and unstructured nature of the landscape's design expression is meant to captivate and relax guests while they enjoy the facilities of the resort and reflect on the natural beauty of Central Florida and Osceola County in particular. The project's plant list was largely derived from species referenced in the Florida Friendly Guide to Plant Selections ( and was intended to not only provide an aesthetic, yet durable landscape, but also one that is sensitive to water issues and maintenance requirements.

Water Sensitive Landscape Considerations
The awareness of water needs called for plantings that required minimal irrigation. Native ground covers, grasses, and ornamental native species such as Beach Sunflower, Fakahatchee Grass, and Florida Coontie were used in areas where irrigation can be minimized after the planting beds were established, reducing water volume demand and the number of sodded lawns on the project. The considerable application of large areas of the oyster shell mulch requires no watering whatsoever. Landscape irrigation was strategically designed to specifically provide drip irrigation to further cut down
on water waste.

Overall Landscape Intent
The landscape at the Margaritaville Resort was designed to provide a beautiful resort-forward environment featuring a diverse subtropical palette of plant species suitable to the project's Central Florida setting. Groupings of palm trees together with showy flowering accent trees and shade-providing canopy trees were added to provide an overall landscape unity related to streetscapes, parking areas, and guest amenities.

The Tropical Island theme was maintained with hundreds of trees such as Sabals, Sylvester, and Nitida palms flanking a winding lazy river. Manufactured rock features were incorporated to accent the faux rock of the waterfalls and provide access for irrigation and maintenance. Hardy tropical plant material was chosen from the Florida Friendly plantings such as white Bird of Paradise, clumping types of Bamboo, Oleander, Jasmines,
Cardboard palms, Cord grass, Zamia, Bush Daisy, blue Flag Iris, Bulbine, and Beach Sunflower to name a few.

In December 2018, the new Resort opened to travelers, building off the Jimmy Buffet brand that started from humble beginnings as a locally owned restaurant in Sandusky, Ohio in 1981.

Since then, numerous smaller landscape and rockscape projects meant to improve grading and drainage have been requested by Jim Kunau, General Manager of the Water park. These have been conducted as design-build projects
by Derick, now the Director of Landscape Architecture of the entire Resort and have continuously followed since inception to adapt landscape improvements to the ever-improving water park with internal personnel or with the aid of Landscape Contractors.

Teams List
Faber Design Studio-Architect
Site Concepts International-Landscape Architect
REW Lawn & Irrigation-Landscape Contractors
Derick Langel-Landscape Architect Margaritaville
ADG-Design Build


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