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Profile: Pam Smith — Landscape Manager, Don Showman Park

Leslie McGuire, managing editor

Pam Smith, Landscape Manager, Don Showman Park. Photos courtesy of Don Showman Park

PGMS Honor Award winner, Don Showman Park offers a little for everyone year round. Pam Smith, manager of the Park’s grounds management team ensures that visitors will make a repeat visit by incorporating ‘Dynamite’ crepe myrtles, mass plantings of Knock-Out roses, yaupon holly, pond cypress, gulf stream nandina and asian jasmine, and many others into the landscape.


At the main entrance to the Don Showman Park in the city of Farmer’s Branch, one of seven bronze pieces is complemented by a mixed planting of ‘Graffiti’ penta, purple oxalis, sprengeri fern, ‘Hamlin’s’ dwarf fountain grass, ‘Cabaret’ miscanthus, ‘Gulfstream’ nandina and Eve’s necklace. The annual color is changed out spring and fall. A slow release fertilizer is applied at planting. A dry creek pools under the children fishing and visually flows to the opposite side.

In the lawn area, weeping love grass surrounds another bronze. This ornamental grass requiring trimming only in late winter protects the sculpture from park users.

‘Dynamite’ crepe myrtles provide an intense red color during the heat of the growing season. Light pruning is done in the winter to enhance the shape of the tree. Valuing the winter silhouette, the crepe myrtles are not topped.

Pam Smith has been with the city of Farmers Branch for 12 years. She is the Park Landscape Manager of this park as well as over 20 parks and city facilities. She and her staff of 25 maintain in excess of 300 acres of city property. A crew of four full time workers and three seasonal workers have primary responsibility for Don Showman Park, but they take care of other city properties as well. Their equipment includes a reel mower for the athletic field, plus three additional mowers for mowing the grounds, a couple of weed eaters and line trimmers—and standard hand tools. The maintenance budget for Don Showman Park is approximately $80, 000 which includes salaries

Don Showman park is a ten-acre, multi-use complex. It consists of the Farmers Branch Community Recreation Center, Don Showman pool, a t-ball field, a football field and two playgrounds. It is centrally located within the city and is a hub of activity year round. The most recent improvement to the park was the building of the 60,000 square foot Farmers Branch Community Recreation Center, which opened in 2004. The landscape was designed by the staff and installed by a contractor. The maintenance of the entire park is performed in house by the Parks division. The old center was taken down and the pool completed in 2005.

This site plays host to a myriad of athletic events including Little League baseball, youth football, basketball and volleyball. Aquatic activities include swim lessons, scuba lessons, kayaking lessons and free swim. An all day summer camp is held for 350 children and the site is home to numerous community and civic activities.

On the opposite side of the walk, the dry creek terminates at the base of another Eve’s Necklace and Dwarf sabal palms, sprengeri ferns, liriope and lemon lollipops placed among boulders complete this planting.

Once a full-sized baseball field, this field was converted to a t-ball field when the Community Center was built. It is 419 Bermudagrass. A subsurface drainage system helps keep the fields playable.

A bank of Knock Out roses provides season long color in front of the swimming pool area.

Don Showman Park is one of the most fully utilized parks in the city offering something for everyone on a year round basis. Part of the task Pam Smith takes on is keeping the park plantings filled with color as each season changes. The amount of use and traffic the site receives is the biggest challenge. The athletic fields are used heavily during the seasons. The pool is the only public pool in the city and the Community Center is open year-round. Both create scheduling and clean-up issues. With five acres of turf, .75 acres of display beds and 4.25 acres of paved areas, the full time staff of four is assisted by 3 seasonal workers.

The north side of the park comprises athletic fields. The football field is 419 Bermudagrass. The fields are mowed three times per week at 3/4-inches with a gang out front hydraulic mower. To relive compaction the fields are aerified monthly during the growing season. 6.5 pounds of nitrogen is applied annually.

The turf in the lawn areas is common Bermudagrass, which is mowed weekly during the growing season and maintained at a height of 2 inches using mid mount zero-turn rotary mowers. Three pounds of nitrogen is applied annually.

Within the pool area, hanging baskets soften the presence of the shade structures. Drip irrigation minimizes the amount of hands-on attention needed. A slow release fertilizer keeps the plants looking their best season long.

With minimal deck space available in the pool area, much of the sitting and lounging is in the turf area. Pool staff works with the maintenance staff by removing pool furniture each evening at close so that the turf can be irrigated properly.

To maintain the proper depth of fall surface, the area under the swings is worked weekly.

The other components of this park are playgrounds and a swimming pool. Hardy red oleanders line the walkway between the playgrounds and the swimming pool while providing summer color. As a gathering place for youth, it is not surprising to have skateboard activity, so to prevent damage to the brick planters, deterrents have been added along their edges.

On the south side of the Community Center building where there is a tremendous amount of reflected heat, altheas and dwarf yaupons were planted for their ability to flourish in the harsh environment. Trees and shrubs are fertilized in the spring and fall with an organic fertilizer. The young trees are trimmed to maintain the proper shape and allow the sunlight needed for any turf below them to filter through. To maintain the pyramidal shape, the Nellie R. Stevens hollies are trimmed three times per year.

One of the biggest challenges was created when the landscape beds were excavated and the native clay created a swimming pool effect. To minimize the negative effect, a mix of 50 percent compost and 50 percent expanded shale was tilled into the existing clay at a 1:1 ratio. The use of the expanded shale helped provide the much needed space for air even when the soil was saturated. The landscape grew in very quickly and had an established appearance after the second season.

A walk behind aerifier is used to relieve compaction throughout the lawns of the park The plugs are left on site. The mulching mowers will chop the plugs up and they eventually disappear.

The traffic from the Community Center out to the football field was resulting in a worn path through the turf. Rather than putting in a concrete sidewalk, large sections of flagstones were installed to eliminate the worn path.

One of the arreas around the building was originally planted with Indian hawthorne and Asian jasmine. However, foot traffic soon decimated these plants and a flagstone landing was created to accommodate the traffic.

Flagstone was a natural choice as stone edging, and the boulders already in place made a much more natural and workable design.

Maintaining such a popular and highly visited site has its own problems and rewards, as Pam Smith well knows. But by making adjustments, it has been possible to keep Don Showman park not only beautiful, but highly usable as well

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October 23, 2019, 10:04 pm PDT

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