01-08-18 | Department
The da Vinci Academy Learning Garden
Landscape Architecture by DRAW Landscape Studio

By Dan Rhodes, ASLA, DRAW Landscape Studio, and Alli Rael, LASN


Dan Rhodes, ASLA, from DRAW Landscape Studio, provided the pro bono design of the learning garden at The da Vinci Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The design process spanned about 9 months from conception to the start of construction. In addition to the design, mulch and native grass seed were donated by local producers C & C Sand Co. and Western Native Seed. Heidrich's Colorado Tree Farm Nursery provided discounted plants, while the school district provided irrigation reconfiguration and tilling of the planting beds. A paver path was sponsored by several members of the school and community.

In June 2016, a teacher at The da Vinci Academy in Colorado Springs put up a flyer with a sketch to generate ideas for a garden at the school. Dan Rhodes, ASLA, of DRAW Landscape Studio, whose three children all attend the school, saw it and offered his services.

"It was initially a traditional vegetable garden," said Rhodes. "It then blossomed into a 1.5 acre learning garden that was previously unusable space."

The garden is arranged according to the ecological life zones of Colorado and the Pikes Peak region, and is further organized by grade levels. Smaller enclosures create an opportunity for the intimate space required for reflection, learning and exploration.

The kindergarten sensory garden (moonshine yarrow, royal purple smokebush, lamb's ear) encourages interaction. A solar garden draws on natural systems such as wind, light and water. A butterfly garden (butterfly bush, salvia, black eyed Susan) makes use of native Colorado plants to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Native grasses mimic the Colorado prairie with the use of short, medium and tall grasses, including blue grama, switch grass, and Western wheatgrass.

In addition to the design being pro bono, the garden has been installed entirely by volunteers from the school and community. "It has given the project a DIY feel and look, rather than a professional finished appearance," said Rhodes, adding, "I feel confident that we're progressing in the right direction."

As seen in LASN magazine, December 2017, Stewardship.

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