Elementary, Mr. Martinez

After a mountain bike ride with a new friend, I was near a public project I designed a few years ago as part of an Architect-client project team. Built by one of the countless contractors and people with Martinez in the name!

It was a pleasant day, so I looked at what I could see from my car and cell phone camera (sorry for the blurring).

Lundy Elementary School, approaching the dropoff area and parking, where Chinquapin Oak trees were used – growing more slowly than I expect, but healthy.

I used tough, mostly spineless plants as per unwritten school district policies…near the school, that is. Of course, more priority, time and thought were needed to plan the site, plus to design plantings, than was given.

This utilitarian area is first seen before entering the parking. Texas Sage plants soften it, but I wonder if a a couple small trees might have been added with the sages, to better soften it all? And provide a surprise view of the mountains just past them, instead of revealing all at first glance?
Sotol was one plant with spines, used to great visual advantage in a few areas nearer the building

I stayed in front, not even looking at the plants salvaged and replanted in the (wrongly fenced) arroyo between the school and the street. Most looked good; some died the first winter and growing seasons and should have been replaced.

Also, passive water harvesting of storm water off paving and from buildings was missed here, which would help provide for healthier plantings and lessen runoff, erosion, …

More Desert Willow trees (thornless), but with Deergrass in the root zone, are growing OK. The trio of Texas Mountain Laurel, in the narrow strip along the building, are in need of some pruning but otherwise growing back well after the 2/2011 uber-freeze
a common theme of trees, shrubs with boulders, and accent succulents and perennials

Such themes are often born out of necessity, from time constraints and past successes.

How are schools in your area landscaped? Do you know the process behind how that happens, or the budgets and mindsets that might be at the root?

I encourage you to find out how your money is allocated, and influence it for better!

4 Replies to “Elementary, Mr. Martinez”

  1. All the local schools I have been at are not landscaped well at all. The school you worked at had a lot of foresight to hire you. I think it looks good. And a million times better than anything I have seen around my son’s various schools through the years. On a different note, the original founder of the company I work at, also founded a high end nursery. Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar. The landscaping on campus is rather amazing … many unusual plants and trees. They have a long sidewalk that has orchid trees on either side trained to be a bit of an arbor. When they are all in full bloom… amazing.

    Sorry to hear that about your area schools, but thanks for encouraging me! It’s maturing nicely in a just a few years. Maybe schools are like proper maintenance – the last frontier of better horticulture?

    Interesting on Roger’s Gardens…I need to visit. You might like Big Red Sun in Venice, if you need a nursery diversion on your next 2 hour trip to a MCM furniture sale in that part of greater LA!


  2. Schools in my area begin and end with bermuda grass lawns. Sigh.

    That’s a shame, so much more schools should aim for…ingenuity in a limited budget. Every school, K – 12 – University, should be a public park, not a fenced-in prison of rock or lawn.


  3. That looks wonderful…and designed! My kids school is amazing…landscape though….terrible. :( I hope to help there. When I have time to volunteer. Positions to really make a difference in a childs connection to nature in those years, such as a forward thinking grounds keeper to maintain and expand upon initial design or a horticultural program developer are just not given thought…..it is sad :( more sad…is that teachers do not get paid more!

    Thanks, I hope to wield some influence, but that’s all out-of-my-own-pocket, so… I think the kids are often smarter than adult timelines, or most things adult. Pay – I designed a place for some nice administrators…house in Abq valley, house in Saratoga CA. I just wish the land were always the client!


  4. Most school landscapes are either non-existent or dismal so this one is quite nice. There are a couple of new schools in the area I could take a look at. With our superintendent making $450,000 a year I already know where the money goes. But he has a PHD….

    Fencing the arroyo could bring disaster if debris builds up along the fence. There’s a reason it’s there.

    A science teacher friend in HOU is enlisting me on some quick sketches for that purpose! You are right on salaries vs. money towards the school itself.

    Better ways than fencing, though…restoring the slope would have been better, as there are miles of those arroyos nearby for kids and community to hike down into and explore / learn…wish admins would get this component better. I may have to post on that arroyo.


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