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Grounds and Landscape Management

grounds care, project management

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is grounds and landscape maintenance.

Imagine the pressure of overseeing 10 of the most historic landscapes in the United States — the Smithsonian Institution gardens. 30 million people visit the Smithsonian Institution grounds and museums annually, and considering this level of traffic, there is a great deal to make a strong first impression.

"Absolutely, but it's good pressure," says Barbara Faust, associate director of Smithsonian Gardens, the department responsible for the design and maintenance of the gardens outside of Smithsonian Institution museums in and around the National Mall. "It keeps our standards high. It's certainly difficult to do."

The 57-person department is responsible for managing 83 landscaped acres, as well as 80 acres of undeveloped woodlands. Smithsonian Gardens also offers educational and outreach activities that contribute to the overall visitor experience.

Whether the department is helping construct a security perimeter or acting as garden guards during events such as the 2009 presidential inauguration, Faust and her team play an integral role in the design, maintenance, and operations of the landscapes surrounding the nation's capitol.

Each year, Smithsonian Gardens tackles a range of projects, such as adding to or changing landscapes and hardscape elements in the gardens. Faust, landscape architects, and the grounds and greenhouse managers comprise a panel that reviews plans for these projects. The panel makes certain projects are cost-effective and will not significantly increase maintenance requirements or compromise the experience of those visiting gardens and museums.

"Being on the National Mall as we are, we have to be very careful how we change the look of what we do," Faust says. "We have the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission that review it if it's a really big project that can have an effect on the look."

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