Big Picture: Water Wise at Heritage Hills

February 22, 2018 -  By

Location: Lone Tree, Colo.
Company: Designs by Sundown

Heritage Hills is a gated community of luxury homes located south of Denver. In 2013, the community’s Metro District began a renovation project to reduce overall water use. Designs by Sundown sought to educate residents that water-wise and sustainable landscapes didn’t mean that lush, green streetscapes, medians and monuments were being replaced with sparsely planted mulch beds.

The team produced designs that included green yet drought-tolerant turf areas and attractive xeric planting beds.

It redid the planting beds, reused existing rock and preserved mature evergreen and deciduous trees. The firm ensured that pop-up sprayheads were converted to high-efficiency rotating nozzles and that subsurface and drip irrigation were used where appropriate.

The project earned Designs by Sundown a 2017 Grand Award from the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Awards of Excellence program.

Upon entering the gated community at Heritage Hills in Lone Tree, Colo., homeowners and guests are now greeted by a drought-tolerant, yet colorful and vibrant, landscape that stretches from gate to gate.

This “before” photo shows the dated and monochromatic look of the landscape, with only grass, trees, a few shrubs, lots of junipers and very limited seasonal color beds.

The new look of medians, streetscapes and monuments at Heritage Hills.

During the first phase of the project, the previous grass that went from street to back wall was entirely ripped out and replaced with smaller sections of drought-tolerant water saver grass.

This long island shows a mixture of new trees and xeric plantings along with some established trees from before.

Previously, there would have been nothing but grass and trees in this photo. Now, there’s a combination of planting beds and grass along with existing trees.

Lawn areas are important to this family and pet-friendly community. The new design used drought-tolerant grass instead of the previous water-thirsty Kentucky Bluegrass.

This median island shows an assortment of drought-tolerant perennials such as Russian Sage and Coneflowers, known to be colorful, hardy and trouble-free. Designs by Sundown’s plant selection and “right plant, right location and correct water application” were critical to the process.

The Designs by Sundown team used four main methods to reduce water: 1) reduce turf square footage; 2) replace existing turf with drought-tolerant turf species; 3) modify the infrastructure of the existing sprinkler system with water-saving solutions; and 4) incorporate xeric plants into the design.

Continuing down the road, one finds a different selection of drought-tolerant plantings. Hyssops, Spirea, nine bark, knock-out roses and more provide blooming plants throughout the growing season. Preserving all existing trees and adding a few new trees mix the old with the new.

Fresh mulch not only freshens up all the medians and streetscapes but is healthier for plants, retains water and reduces runoff as well.

Heritage Hills is now a planted and irrigated landscape that the community is proud of and represents the sustainable mindset and direction of the residents.

Designs by Sundown was able to produce conceptual designs to help the board and the community visualize what the final outcome would look like. This comprehensive design of the entire community guided the entire process, phase by phase.

Photos: David Winger

LM Staff

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