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Rising to the Challenge

Working feverishly between January 1997 and February 1998, the RTA team of twelve constructed the formal Gray Residence that spans 1.3 acres filled with oaks, palms and yew trees. Designed by Landscape Architect Greg Grisamore, the site consists of different quadrants with connecting axle points; for instance, trees line up on axle lines to form a quad. Precision was the key-- they had to run many string lines and batter boards to keep the angles and lines very precise and tight.
For the Gray Residence, the landscape crew planted mature palms in a combination backfill--60% washed plaster sand and 40% peat moss. A 12" trench was dug for the rootball, set upon a 12' wide base of pea gravel. A 4" perforated PVC pipe was inserted for drainage, and GroPower tablets were included.
In addition, drip systems were used to irrigate the various hedges throughout the residence. Approximately 6,000 feet of Netafim tubing with built-in emitters was installed. The irrigation control timing varies greatly, approximately 20-40 minutes per station. Taylor explains, "The water programming was very complicated, because there were so many valves to control and only so many hours in a day. The drip irrigation alone takes a lot of time-- it provided quite a challenge to program correctly and efficiently."
 The barbeque center for the Roney Residence was a challenge to construct. A combination of stacked stone and red mountain ledger stone were stacked on a 18"compacted earth base. Finished with a granite veneer, the barbeque is reinforced with 16" dowels and 6" concrete rebar strips.

Virtually every Landscape Contractor works in the residential marketplace. Filled with challenges and obstacles, this lucrative segment of the landscape industry offers contractors a chance to shine. Working hand-in-hand with subcontractors, designers and clients, installation contractors are challenged every day to "squeeze into tight corners," "fight inclement weather," and "get it done on time and under budget." Costa Mesa, California-based Richard Taylor Associates (RTA) recently rose to the construction challenges of two residential estates along the Newport Coast.

Working feverishly between January 1997 and February 1998, the RTA team of twelve constructed the formal Gray Residence that spans 1.3 acres filled with oaks, palms and yew trees. Designed by Landscape Architect Greg Grisamore, the site consists of different quadrants with connecting axle points; for instance, trees line up on axle lines to form a quad. Precision was the key-- they had to run many string lines and batter boards to keep the angles and lines very precise and tight. RTA owner Richard Taylor explains, "There certainly was not a lot of room to fudge!" Over 200 roses were selected and planted for the garden-loving clients.

The construction crew brought in the mature plant material on 30-ton cranes; ranging from 15-foot Canary Island Date Palms to 72" and 60" boxed trees, which were balled/burlapped from Oregon. All planting areas were over-excavated and imported topsoil was installed. The construction crew used trenchers and backhoes to prepare for drainage; in fact, some of the inverts were five and a half feet deep. They used Bobcats to maneuver around the tight spaces, when they were planting the small trees, importing the soil or removing the native soil. They also used a combination of hand tools, including jackhammers, for most of the planting, which included a vast array of over 200 roses.

The soil was a mix of site soil for the smaller shrubs and imported mix for the large trees. Although no injectors were needed, the plant materials were fertilized generously. For shrub and groundcover planting, the crew used soil amendments and a one-inch layer of mulch. All of the palm trees were planted on a base of pea gravel in backfill, with a combination of 60% washed plaster sand and 40% peat moss. GroPower Plus organic soil conditioner with fertilizer was used, along with a commercial Bandini fertilizer (mix of nitrogen, phosphorous and potash). Agriform planting tablets were also used to prepare the soil.

Tree Stakes were necessary to secure the plant materials-- ten feet long stakes for the five- and 15-gallon plants, and 12-foot long stakes for the 24" boxes and larger. Single-stake V.I.T. Cinch-ties and double-stake Twist-Braces were used to secure the trees. The crew cultivated all areas to be planted 6" in depth. The trees were set in a plant pit; one tree stake was driven 30" to firm up the soil next to the root ball, and then the pit was backfilled with prepared soil mix. The Marathon Fescue Dwarf Sod lawn was lightly raked to cover the seed, mixed with fertilizer, and then compacted with a 200-pound roller.

Irrigation trenches were backfilled with loam and sandy clay. Then, fifty-eight irrigation valves were used for the entire site. Twenty 30-station Irritrol MC automatic controllers and clocks were installed to regulate the 2,500 lineal feet of main sprinkler line. Rain Bird valves with pressure-compensating nozzles, quick couplers and pop-ups were installed throughout the site: four-foot pop-up heads in the turf areas, six-inch pop-up heads in the planter areas.

In addition, drip systems were used to irrigate the various hedges throughout the residence. Approximately 6,000 feet of Netafim tubing with built-in emitters was installed. The irrigation control timing varies greatly, approximately 20-40 minutes per station. Taylor explains, "The water programming was very complicated, because there were so many valves to control and only so many hours in a day. The drip irrigation alone takes a lot of time-- it provided quite a challenge to program correctly and efficiently." According to Taylor, water conservation is achieved effectively on the site because of the properly scheduled drip irrigation methods, "Drip irrigation benefits water preservation and really benefits the plant material."

A wide variety of Kim Lighting fixtures-- uplights, bronze and copper accent lights and small bullets--were installed throughout the project. The entire system is controlled by a touchtone system inside the house that is used for lights and alarms on the entire property.

Currently, RTA has the maintenance contract for both these residences. Three men work twice a week, eight hours a day. In contrast, three men work three and a half hours per week on the Roney Residence. Taylor explains, "On the Gray property, there is just so much to do-- constant mowing and pruning and monitoring of the irrigation system-- these clients demand perfection, as they reside in their gardens daily. But we certainly know what needs to be done-- since we built it!

A different set of construction challenges awaited RTA at the Roney Residence in Newport Beach. Completed in July 1998, this site presented the crew with continuously adapting construction schedules. Designed by Katzmaier Newell Kehr Landscape Architects, this home boasted a combination of Japanese Maples, Azaleas and Camellias.

The landscape team of ten brought in the already mature plant material with Bobcats and small tractors. The existing soil was prepared with a series of amendments and fertilizers, including Gypsum nitrogized redwood shavings and GroPower amendment. In addition, an imported mix of sandy loam top soil was used to prepare the raised planters for plant installation.

The Marathon II Sod lawn was reinforced with Bartron crossroad pavers. Hedges and borders were constructed for screening purposes. Small tractors, along with electric jackhammers and trenchers were used to move the soil and prepare the site for new plantings. A variety of planters were tar coated, filled with a layer of gravel and a layer of filter cloth, and then backfilled with planting soil-- then planted with several species of impatiens. In addition, nine rose varieties-- including Iceberg, Brandy, French Lace, Mr. Lincoln, First Prize, Peace, Tournament of Roses, Sexy Rexy, and Double Delight-- were planted throughout the estate.

"For the extensive hardscape areas, the clients changed their mind as we went," explains Taylor. "We had to constantly adapt our construction methods in the field and schedules to meet their new ideas." What resulted was a relatively free-form, natural design of an integral colored concrete in red mountain flagstone, and brick patterns of Lompoc Stone were carefully installed throughout the site. Concrete retaining walls in a red mountain color-- and finished with a rock ledgerstone veneer-- were installed at both the bottom and halfway up the 2:1 slope. In addition, the intricate barbecue center was a challenge to construct. Taylor explains, "It was very complex to put it all together." A combination of granite countertops, sink, refrigerator, barbecue, and under-counter lighting--the barbecue was constructed of stacked stone and red mountain ledger stone.

Twenty-eight Rain Bird Valves, 18 automatic control stations, and an Irritrol clock control the irrigation on this site. Rain Bird popups and shrub risers were installed throughout the trees and turf, and Netafim drip irrigation line was placed in the containers and hedges.

All of the landscape lighting on this property is low voltage. A combination of Hadco and Kim Lighting fixtures--path lights with a below grade junction box, accent lights, micro floods, and direct burial incandescent lights-- is controlled by two time clocks on the site. The crew installed the low voltage lighting in a conduit, and the transformer inside the sport court.

"Custom residential work is always challenging-- whether you work alongside a landscape architect or work from his pre-made plans," remarks Taylor. He concludes, "These sites especially are both formal and informal. The gardens meander throughout the property, and the combination of plant materials and paving materials we had to work with lends itself to a nice texture and contrast-- yet really requires careful planning and construction methods on our part." lcm


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October 20, 2019, 8:13 pm PDT

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