New Plans for DNR Demonstration Garden

The garden in front of the Utah Department of Natural Resources is getting a makeover. After over a decade of use and a few years of less than optimal maintenance, the Division of Water Resources is rethinking its desires and hopes for the garden.

DNR Landscape in 1990
DNR Landscape in 1991

As a state agency, the Utah Division of Water Resources feels that state facilities, particularly it's own, should have water-wise landscaping. At the same time it sees the opportunity to provide the public with a "demonstration garden". A demonstration garden shows the general principles of water-wise landscaping and ways to practically implement them into actual landscapes. A demonstration garden usually includes signage as well as information materials that the public can take home with them.

DWRe's goal is to make the garden a highly educational, highly walkable, and highly relaxing environment (a daunting task right next to North Temple). This required a massive redesign of the landscape

To this end, DWRe hired a graduate student from Utah State University's Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department to redesign the garden. Sara Sevey, the designer, is pursuing a master's degree in Landscape Architecture and specializes in designing landscapes using water-wise and native plants.

Plants will be grouped as much as possible to represent their natural plant associations. Traveling from west to east, the plants will range from low-desert plants all the way up to montane plants normally found at much higher elevations. At the very eastern edge of the new landscape will be a planting featuring Utah's riparian plants, which can also be more water-efficient than the typical Kentucky Bluegrass lawn. Not only will this design represent natural plant associations, but will demonstrate plants ranging from lowest to higher water-use plants.

Last summer the garden's irrigation system was renovated. After much deliberation, we decided to replace the drip with spray heads in order to actually increase the efficiency of the system. We have fielded a lot of questions regarding our choice to take out the drip tubing that had been installed in 1991. While drip irrigation is definitely a wonderful choice in many cases, it is not a solution that should be applied in all situations. We felt that the random spacing of plants, coupled with constant maintenance issues and complications of running an underground drip system over such a large area, all contributed to the lack of efficiency and water saving capabilities of the old irrigation system.

When redesigning the irrigation system, the space was separated into 17 individual zones. Each lawn area has its own valve, and each specific part of the plantings will have their own zones. As well as having 17 zones and valves, each zone also has its own water meter. This will enable us to track water use in very individualized areas of the landscape, allowing us to conduct studies and water conservation product demonstrations.

A stone pathway will extend throughout the length of the new demonstration garden, giving pedestrians a relaxing reprieve from the hustle and bustle of North Temple. With the addition of permanent structures such as benches and trellises, the demonstration will also hopefully become a relaxing place for DNR employees and the general public to eat lunch, rest, or read a good book.

If you have any questions regarding the new demonstration garden, please contact Molly Waters at 801-538-7254.